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ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming Review

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Category: Motherboards
Price: $319
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ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming Introduction:

ASUS' Republic of Gamers (ROG) products started as simple way to build a product targeted specifically at the gamer, with features important to gamers that made the ROG boards the Halo board to have if you had the cash to pay the entry fee. ASUS has done a good job of improving the Republic of Gamers' product stack from one that only sat at the top of the hill to one that is available to even the budget conscious buyer. ROG is not just a motherboard line now, with a full set of products from motherboards to video cards, monitors, peripherals, and even complete systems. The ROG product stack is as wide as the day is long and just keeps getting better.

The ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming motherboard is built for use with Intel's Core I7 socket 2011-v3 processors, like the 10 core i7 6950X. By no means a budget board at $319, the fact that this is an Extreme Series processor-based product, it's not that bad overall. Packed full of ROG specific features, such as AURA lighting, Gamer's Guardian, exceptional connectivity, Supreme FX audio, an amazing software suite, and one click overclocking, it's tough to argue with the package that ASUS has put together.

Let's dig a bit deeper into the ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming motherboard to find out if it can live up to the expectations of the ROG brand.  

ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming Closer Look:

The front of the package features an image of the motherboard with the STRIX branding in bold, RGB coloring running diagonally across the box. You know this is an ROG offering by the small logo in the top right corner. Along the bottom you see that AURA lighting is a supported feature, with the board supporting multi-GPU strategies from both the green and red teams. As an X99-based board, the ROG Strix X99 Gaming is built around the Intel X99 PCH and 2011-v3 socket. The back side of the package hits on the basic specifications of the board along with some of the ROG specific features, like SafeSlot, AURA lighting headers, and an exceptional connectivity feature set.

 

 

Inside the box are two layers that include the board on the top level, with the accessory bundle taking up residency underneath. Much like every other ROG offering I have looked at, the Strix X99 Gaming accessory bundle is a significant part of the package with both the documentation and hard parts. You get a user's manual, driver and software disc, data cable labels, fan hub, and STRIX specific decals. The hardware includes six data cables using both straight and 90 degree ends, wire ties for improved wire management, Q-Connector, Q-Shield, CPU installation tool, and a 2x2 dual-band 2.4/5GHz antenna for up to 867Mbit/s* wireless transfer speeds. 

 

 

 

Using an all-black theme with red accents, the board makes a good backdrop for the LED accents on the Q-Slots and the PCH heat sink. Designed for use with Intel's Broadwell-E processors, like the Core i7 6950X, and DDR4 memory, the board uses ASUS' own 2011-v3 OC socket. A plastic shroud covers the I/O connectivity and the Supreme FX sound solution creating a strong visual on the board. The back side of the board is fairly clean, with only an ROG labeled IC and heat sink over the Digi+ VRM components. The ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming is an ATX form factor motherboard that should easily fit in any chassis supporting the form factor.

 

 

First up, we start with the rear I/O area. The USB BIOS Flashback button is at the top, or left in this view. This button is used to flash the BIOS with minimal hardware loaded into the motherboard. Rear connectivity starts with a quartet of X99 PCH controlled USB 2.0 ports paired up with a dual function keyboard/mouse compatible PS/2 port. An Intel I218V-controlled Gigabit LAN port provides your hardwired network connectivity. ASUS has its own LAN Guard protection system using ESD guards to offer up a 1.9X-greater tolerance to static electricity and 2.5X-greater protection (up to 15KV) against current surges. Underneath the LAN port are four USB 3.0 ports. One is controlled by the Intel X99 PCH and three by an ASMedia controller. USB 3.1 connectivity consists of a single Type A and single Type C port.

Wireless network connectivity is handled by an 802.11ac WiFi with 2x2 dual-band 2.4/5GHz antennas for up to 867Mbit/s* transfer speeds that supports the latest MU-MIMMO clients. Wrapping things up are the analog and digital sound output connections for the Supreme FX 8-channel high definition sound solution. ESD Guards have long been used on all of the inbound connection points on the PCB to prevent a current surge from static electricity from taking out any of the installed hardware.

Hidden between the top PCIe slot and the furthest left Q-DIMM slot is a 4-pin high amp fan header that supports fan loads of up to three amps. There are a total of four 16x PCIe slots and two PCIe 1x slots to cover slotted expansion cards, like video cards and PCIe-based solid state drives. Slot 1, 4, and 6 are your PCIe 3.0 slots, while slots 2, 3, and 5 are your PCIe 2.0 slots. Up to 3-Way multi-GPU solutions are supported in the 16x PCIe 3.0 slots when using a 40 PCIe lane processor, like the Core i7 6950X or 5960X. The primary graphics slots are protected by part of ASUS' Gamer's Guardian package called "SafeSlot." A SafeSlot is a PCIe 16x slot used for a primary graphics card that has a metal shield that provides greater shear resistance and retention force.

In front of the PCIe slots and along the bottom left corner of the PCB is where you will find the bulk of the hardware used for the ASUS Awesome Supreme FX audio solution. ASUS uses its isolated circuitry solution to ensure that you get the best possible audio solution without any interference from the electronics on the rest of the PCB, with split layers covering the left and right channels. On the ROG Strix X99 Gaming, ASUS chose to use the tried and true ALC1150 8-channel audio processor covered by EMI shielding. Once again, Japanese Nichicon audio grade capacitors are used to deliver exceptional sound quality out of this 115dB signal-to-noise ratio rated version of ASUS' Supreme FX audio. 

 

 

 

The bottom of the PCB is pretty busy. From the left are the Nichicon capacitors and op-amps for the sound solution, the analog audio front panel audio connection, serial port, AURA RGB LED lighting header, power and reset buttons, and the Q-Code diagnostic LED. That last one is an ROG staple. Next is the TPM header, a USB 3.0 header, and the ROG Extension header for use with multiple ROG accessories. The right side of this connection doubles as a USB 2.0 header to give you the potential to connect up to four ports with the USB 2.0 header next to the ROG connection.

The front panel header is next. You can hook the front panel wiring up directly to the header, or you can use the included Q-Connector for an easier path to installing the front panel wiring. The right hand corner is really packed with one of the PWM fan headers, the 5-pin fan extension card header, CLR CMOS jumper, Thunderbolt connection, EZ XMP switch, over voltage jumper, and a header for use with a thermister for thermal monitoring. Last, but not least, is the M.2 slot that supports PCIe Gen 3.0 x 4 NVMe drive solutions.

 

 

Another PWM controlled fan header starts the connectivity on the right side of the PCB. Storage options include the M.2 slot that supports type 2242/2260/2280/22110 devices and a U.2 slot that supports PCIe Gen 3.0 x 4 NVMe drives. Six SATA 6Gb/s ports and one SATA Express connection are pulled from the X99 chipset  and support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 configurations with Intel® Rapid Storage Technology. The SATA Express port can double as an additional pair of SATA 6Gb/s ports. A second USB 3.0 port is up next and is an uprght connection instead of  being laid over on the side for a smoother look when wiring up the chassis. It is not in a position to interfere with a video card in the top slot, so this really comes down to a preference.

Another pair of SATA 6Gb/s port controlled by the X99 PCH only adds additional drive connectivity. Another of the six PWM or DC mode fan headers is next to the 24-pin ATX power connection. At the top corner is the Mem OK button that can get your system started if you are having memory compatibility problems by running the system through a few algorithms that change the voltage and settings to get a bootable solution with the installed memory. Between the 24 pin power connection and the first Q-DIMM slot are a series of bright diagnostic LEDs that can clue you in to where the boot sequence is seeing a stoppage when you cannot boot the system. 

 

 

The top of the PCB is usually a barren spot with the top of the cooling solution, a couple power connections, and fan headers. That's just we get here with the 4 and 8-pin EATX 12v power connections, as well as the Extreme Engine DIgi+ components under the robust aluminum heat sink. One of the Digi+ VRM controllers sits to the left of the 8-pin EATX power plug with several of the 10K black capacitors that are part of the Digi+VRM circuitry. The three fan headers are designed for specific purposes and are able to be controlled via PWM or DC options in the BIOS. Additionally, they can be managed through ASUS' Fan Xpert 4 software. The left two fan headers are the CPU optional fan header and the CPU fan header, while the right hand 4-pin header is used to support water pumps on the latest AIO water cooling solutions. 

 

 

Eight Q-DIMM slots surround the socket and support quad channel memory packages of up to 128GB of DDR4 3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory. ASUS uses its T-Topology to deliver equal length traces to each slot to reduce electronic noise and provide improved overclocking margins. ASUS uses a special OC socket that includes a few more pins in the socket connected to an ASUS specific circuit to improve DDR4 memory overclocking margins. Additionally, these extra pins help reduce voltage and allow the use of a cache bus voltage again to drive higher overclocking margins. ASUS makes use of an 8-phase all-digital VRM circuit managed by the Extreme Engine Digi+ controllers to provide a clean, consistent power supply to the CPU and DRAM. The chokes use a finned design to improve cooling when the power circuits are hit hardest. Two heat sinks are used to cool the PCH and Digi+VRM. At the top of the board is an angular aluminum part, while the PCH heat sink is flat and features an RGB LED lighting system that is used with the AURA lighting controls to display one of 10 different lighting schemes.

 

 

Visually, the board does not feature all the shrouds and flash out of the box that the Rampage V 10th Anniversary Edition does, but it does put on one hell of a light show once you hit the power button. Let's see how well the ROG Strix X99 Gaming does in the performance and overclocking testing.




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