All of the main motherboard vendors have launched a long list of X299 motherboards, aiming from budget to premium users. ASRock has been involved in the melee, with all their product segments providing products to support Intel's Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors. The gaming line is still under the Fatal1ty naming scheme, featuring a vibrant red motif, and at the top of that stack is the $390 ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 motherboard. It touts a 13 phase power delivery, SLI and Crossfire capabilities, and the latest connectivity. ASRock is aiming for a mid-to-high range board to satisfy a wide range of users here. We take it for a spin for this review.

ASRock X299 Professional Gaming i9 Overview

Thinking back a generation or few, one line of boards which helped propel ASRock to be spoken about in the same breath as other popular vendors, was the OC Formula. A board specifically made for overclockers, this is where they put a lot of focus initially in building a robust product and brand, with a set of features directly targeted for a niche set of users. These efforts were supported by ASRock employee a former world #1 overclocker, Nick Shih, to help shape the board design and features.

ASRock also has the “Extreme” line-up of motherboards, built across AMD and Intel platforms, touting stability and sharing some the common features that the more expensive boards had. The Extreme series ranged from the budget models like the Extreme 3, to high-end workstation like boards in the Extreme 11 that boasted extraordinary onboard storage capabilities. This approach helped develop ASRock's name as one of the 'big four' when it came to motherboards, rather than just the low budget player it was designed to be after spinning out from ASRock. For the gaming side of things, ASRock took out a Fatal1ty licence (a pro-gamer from the early 2000s) and applied it to models based on the Extreme line with additional 'gaming' features to produce a gaming line. This included special controllers, such as a specific high-frequency USB port, allowing users to adjust their preferred mouse polling rate in older operating systems such as Windows XP, or the ubiqitous implementation of Killer Network controllers with bundled prioritization software. The Gaming line is a fully fledged arc in ASRock's ecosystem, as the word 'Gaming' is now a driving force in product discovery.

One of the newest members of the Gaming line is the board being reviewed today: the $390 ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9. It is an attempt to place a product in the market as both a professional workstation-class type of motherboard, but with an eye on gaming, hence the inclusion of both 'Professional' and 'Gaming' in its official name. SEO is a wonderful thing, perhaps.

In ASRock's X299 line, the pitch starts with the X299 Killer SLI/ac at $230 at the entry level, to their flagship Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 board we have in hand here at nearly $390. Between those two are the Fatal1ty Gaming X299 Gaming K6 ($249), and the X299 Taichi ($289), with varying upgraded features as we move up the stack. For the Gaming i9, this means upgraded ethernet to 10-gigabit provided by Aquantia's AQC107 controller, additional WiFi, support for three PCIe 3.0 x4 storage drives, upgraded audio, an onboard USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) header, support for multiple GPUs, support for Thunderbolt 3, and a multi-generational BIOS/software package. The Gaming i9 aims to be a well-rounded, feature laden option in the higher-end of the motherboard space.

Performance overall was right around the other motherboards we have tested so far. Depending on which benchmark result is taken it ended up from leading to last, though not by any significant margin either way. It used a bit less power than the MSI board tested and booted a couple of seconds faster, but in many of our CPU short form tests was bringing up the rear of the small pack at default settings, due to some 'overclocking' settings being automatically enabled on the competition by default. As far as overclocking, we were able to reach 4.5GHz using all cores before hitting our temperature limit. The devil is in the details, which will be discussed over the next few pages.

Information on Intel's X299 and our other Reviews

With Intel's release of the Basin Falls platform, encompassing the new X299 chipset and LGA2066 socket, a new generation of CPUs called Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X were also released. The Skylake-X CPUs range from the 7800X, a hex-core part, all the way up to an 18-core 7980XE multitasking behemoth. Between the book-end CPUs are five others increasing in core count, as in the table below. 

Skylake-X Processors
  7800X 7820X 7900X   7920X 7940X 7960X 7980XE
Silicon LCC   HCC
Cores / Threads 6/12 8/16 10/20   12/24 14/28 16/32 18/36
Base Clock / GHz 3.5 3.6 3.3   2.9 3.1 2.8 2.6
Turbo Clock / GHz 4.0 4.3 4.3   4.3 4.3 4.2 4.2
Turbo Max Clock N/A 4.5 4.5   4.4 4.4 4.4 4.4
L3 1.375 MB/core   1.375 MB/core
PCIe Lanes 28 44   44
Memory Channels 4   4
Memory Freq DDR4 2400 2666   2666
TDP 140W   140W 165W
Price $389 $599 $999   $1199 $1399 $1699 $1999

Board partners have launched dozens of motherboards on this platform already, several of which we will have an opportunity to look over in the coming weeks and months. This specific review will cover the ASRock Fatal1ity X299 Professional Gaming i9.

Other AnandTech Reviews for Intel’s Basin Falls CPUs and X299

To read specifically about the X299 chip/platform and the specifications therein, our deep dive into what it is can be found at this link.

X299 Motherboard Review Notice

If you’ve been following the minutiae of the saga of X299 motherboards, you might have heard some issues regarding power delivery, overclocking, and the ability to cool these processors down given the power consumption. In a nutshell, it comes down to this:

  • Skylake-X consumes a lot of power at peak (150W+),
  • The thermal interface inside the CPU doesn’t do much requiring a powerful CPU cooler,
  • Some motherboard vendors apply Multi-Core Turbo which raises the power consumption and voltage, exacerbating the issue
  • The VRMs have to deal with more power, and due to losses, raise in temperature
  • Some motherboards do not have sufficient VRM cooling without an active cooler
  • This causes the CPU to declock or hit thermal power states as to not degrade components
  • This causes a performance drop, and overclocked systems are affected even more than usual

There has been some excellent work done by Igor Wallossek over at Tom’s Hardware, with thermal probes, thermal cameras and performance analysis. The bottom line is that motherboard vendors need to be careful when it comes to default settings (if MCT is enabled by default) and provide sufficient VRM cooling in all scenarios – either larger and heavier heatsinks or moving back to active cooling.

This means there are going to be some X299 boards that perform normally, and some that underperform based on BIOS versions or design decisions. We are in the process of quantifying exactly how to represent this outside of basic benchmarking, so stay tuned.

Board Features and Visual Inspection
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  • ddriver - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    Does it support intel's latest and greatest dual core i3 HEDT cpu? If not - no buy. Reply
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    why test on a stupid 7900X cpu? Reply
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    bring the 16-18 core and show how the dual memory controller is handling the games, after all this is a gaming board .... Reply
  • ddriver - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    Yeah, and don't forget the games that scale up to 16-18 cores. Reply
  • JeffFlanagan - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    For some reason, people feel the need to stream their games on the Internet, so that only leaves 15-17 cores for the game to use.

    It seems like an i5 is still a much better value for a gaming machine since most games use very few cores.
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - link

    the reason i ask is because threadripper reviews all over the net were hammered with the poor gaming benchies en the reason for specifc settings. guess what, no gaming benchies on the HCC designs from Intel that have the same memory disadvantage. Reply
  • OhWhateverOnceMore - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    "i9" ...ok...
    "Professional" ... uh uh...
    "Gaming" ... /r/hmmm
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    Is there an Intel co-marketing kick-back for having a "Gaming" branding? You see it everywhere... Reply
  • oRAirwolf - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    "Curiously, for a motherboard which has "gaming" in the title and having three network ports, we were surprised not to see a Killer Network based NIC which finds its way on to several other gaming motherboards. Network traffic shaping is still possible through software, although Rivet Networks would likely claim they offer an optimized solution if their chip had been used. Perhaps a combination of an Intel GbE, Rivet Networks Killer E2500 GbE, and an Aquantia 10GbE which would have encompassed more of its tarket market."

    Wutness? Why on Earth would you want to see Killer on a gaming board? ASUS has shown through their own testing that Killer NIC's are trash:

    https://rog.asus.com/articles/product-news/tried-a...

    That aforementioned paragraph seriously makes me question the legitimacy of reviews on this site now. It is common knowledge that Killer is absolute and utter trash.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - link

    Oh you beat me to the point here. This is one of very rare times when I'd agree that there appears to be a certain amount of institutional bias at Anandtech in favor of Killer NICs. If you do a search for the string "Rivet Networks" in AT's search box you can find this article from September 2016:

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/10679/rivet-network...

    It looks like that was sort of ground zero for that opinion and it's stuck since. In the comments of that article (disclosure - I was a participant with cynical views of Killer NICs even back then for reasons I make clear in those comments) there was discussion about reviewing and analyzing the E2500. Anandtech has never presented such a review or supplied readers with any data supporting the idea that Killer NICs are somehow superior or worthy of being sought out by consumers. Despite lacking reliable test data, there's still unexplained support in the form of hint-dropped lines like the one you've quoted that imply a certain subset of readers should be seeking out Killer NIC-equipped products or that its somehow unusual that a premium motherboard omits them.

    I find the whole thing does hurt Anandtech's credibility. If there's data that supports a Killer NIC being a better option, gather it and publish it. Don't assert and insinuate without any substantially supportive information to a group of people (gamers in this case) without being able to back up those claims. Killer NICs can be acquired for testing. Maybe Rivet's people would supply a product for testing. If Rivet doesn't or does and Anandtech doesn't test it, then what else do we have to go on? Consumers in the target audience are already broadly suspicious of the benefits Rivet claims Killer NICs offer to the point where it seems almost delusional to boost them in a motherboard review.
    Reply

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