ASUS ROG STRIX X299-E Gaming Review

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  • Author: MAC
  • Date: September 27, 2017

Conclusion

Generally speaking, the first motherboard that we review when a new platform is launched can often be fraught with difficulties. Thankfully, since it has been a few months since the launch of this platform most if not all of the early kinks have been worked out. Because of this we can report that our extended time with the ASUS STRIX X299-E GAMING has been overwhelmingly positive.

Frankly, the only annoyance we encountered was that when pushing things too far when overclocking – be it core clock, cache frequency, or memory speeds – the motherboard wouldn’t auto-recover. And since there is no Clear CMOS button on this motherboard we got intimately acquainted with the location of the old school Clear CMOS jumper. While ASUS has included a power-on button, at this price point there’s no reason not to have a reset and Clear CMOS button too.

The second little niggle is that while RGB LED lighting is not everyone’s cup of tea, if you’re going to add it to a motherboard might as well do it as well as possible. Considering the fact that the Rampage VI Extreme looks like a rainbow explosion by comparison, we think that a little extra lighting should have been added to the X299-E. Something as simple as LEDs under the PCH heatsink or LEDs near the audio PCB isolation line would have balanced out the look, which right now is concentrated to the top-half of the motherboard. Frankly though, considering the fact that this model has three RGB LED headers, this is one area that users can fix themselves if they so choose.

When the LGA2066 platform was first unveiled by Intel it was immediately apparent that the fact that X299 motherboards have to support processors with three different amounts of PCI-E lanes – 44, 28, 16 – would cause a huge headache for motherboard manufacturers. How do you create a motherboard that doesn’t lose half of its features when you install a 16-lane Kaby Lake-X processor. Some manufacturers have succeeded at this delicate balancing act, others not so much. Thankfully, ASUS has done it right. It doesn’t matter if you install a 44-lane Core i9-7900X or a 16-lane Core i7-7740X, all three PCI-E x16 slots are going to remain functional¬†in some way¬†ranging from x16/x16/x8 to x8/x8/x1. The reason this is so impressive is that there’s a few X299 motherboards that won’t even allow x8/x8 when a Kaby Lake-X processor is installed, which makes them worse than any Z270 LGA1151 motherboard.

Aside from the aforementioned failure to auto-recover, overclocking on this motherboard was quite fun. We were particularly impressed with ASUS’ inclusion of per-core voltage adjustments. Having said that, there are certain facts to consider when it comes to overclocking on this platform. These new Core i9 processors can be unprecedented little nuclear reactors when overclocked and overvolted. Specifically, running Prime 95 with AVX extensions can cause power demands to skyrocket to such an extent that the MOSFETs reach their thermal limit and start to throttle. This is an issue that affects every single X299 motherboard on the market right now since Intel didn’t adequately warn motherboard manufacturers that Skylake-X could potentially draw enough power to sustain a small village in the dead of winter. Thankfully, the VRM on the STRIX X299-E can handle the load, it just gets a little too toasty in that one scenario. As a result, all motherboard manufacturers are going to have to start outfitting their HEDT motherboards with much better MOSFET heatsinks. Regarding this latter point, we are happy to report that ASUS have actually taken action and they have created a successor to the X299-E with upgraded VRM cooler and an optional but bundled fan, the X299-XE. Everything that we have said about the -E model applies to the -XE since they are otherwise identical.

Once you accept the heat output realities, overclocking Skylake-X gets a little less scary if you’ve got top-notch CPU cooling. When it comes to actual results, the automatic overclocking feature pushed our i9-7900X to between 4.4GHz and 4.6GHz depending on workload, bumped the cache frequency up by a healthy 300MHz, and it also managed to apply our memory kit’s DDR4-3200 XMP profile. Our Core i7-7740X was automatically overclocked to 5.0GHz, and although there was no cache overclock, it did once again apply our memory kit’s XMP profile. Both of these are excellent results, providing significant performance gains without unduly increasing power consumption. We aren’t going to restate our manual overclocking results – you can check them out yourself – but we were satisfied in every respect.

Another great part of the STRIX X299-E is the onboard SupremeFX audio solution, which not only achieved the second best numbers that we have ever recorded (behind only the STRIX Z270I), but also has headphone amplifiers for both the front and rear outputs. The associated Sonic Radar and Sonic Studio utilities are also genuinely useful, but you do have to be willing to spend some time tinkering with the vast settings.

Frankly, the only thing that gives us pause when it comes to recommending the excellent STRIX X299-E is the existence of the STRIX X299-XE. While the newer model might for retail for about $20 more, it might be worth it if the upgraded VRM cooling really improves MOSFET temperatures. Is it worth the price premium? That’s up to you, and it depends on what Core i9 processor you’re planning to use and whether you’re planning on overclocking. Overall though, the ASUS ROG STRIX X299-E brings a lot to the tablet, and we very much enjoyed our time with it.

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