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ASUS ROG STRIX X99 GAMING Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
With the release of the next generation Intel Broadwell-E 2011-v3 processors - such as the 10-core Core i7-6950X - it should come as no surprise that ASUS would be at the vanguard of releasing second generation X99 motherboards that can take full advantage of these cutting-edge processors. Of course, as Intel did not feel the need to upgrade the nearly 3-year-old platform, motherboard manufacturers have been left in a tight spot as 'older' X99 2011-v3 motherboards only require a BIOS update to be compatible. From what we have been seeing online, many enthusiasts have done precisely that, and many more are thinking about just skipping this 'upgrade' cycle. As a result, in order to cajole consumers into parting with their hard-earned cash instead of just applying a firmware update, motherboard manufacturers have had to devise some unique and creative models.

Out of the numerous ASUS 2011-v3 refreshes, the ROG STRIX X99 GAMING really stands out as it is so chock–full of features that it makes even the recently reviewed MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon look dowdy in comparison. Much like the MSI Carbon, the ASUS STRIX starts with LED enhanced aesthetics, but unlike the competition the STRIX includes new features such as customizable color accents and effects, advanced controller software for the onboard LEDs, <i>and</i> a custom LED header that allows users to not only add more lighting to a system build, but that is also fully manageable via the aforementioned software solution.

This is not to say that the ROG STRIX X99 GAMING is a one trick pony, rather all the expected features are also covered, such as quad-SLI support, an onboard sound solution that has multiple op-amps and an ALC1150 controller, proper full-speed USB 3.1 10Gb/s ports, a four lane capable M.2 port with support for 22110-sized SSDs, and ten SATA 6Gb/s ports. These are all features we have come to expect from a reputable manufacturer like ASUS, but since this is a Republic of Gamer's model the designers and engineers has also included those little extras that make a RoG motherboard a <i>RoG</i> motherboard.

Touches like a U.2 32Gb/s port, an all-digital VRM design capable of handling massive overclocks, an additional 4-pin CPU power connector to ensure unlimited amounts of power on tap for said overclocking, and the ASUS OC socket to ensure that all that power is effectively used by the CPU. There is even dual all-digital controllers for the eight DIMMS, which allows the STRIX to boast DDR4-3333 support. In addition, unlike the even more expensive X99-Deluxe II, ASUS has included an 'armored' PCIe x16 slot that has been reinforced to be able to handle the weight of even the heaviest of video cards.

As you can see, this motherboard may indeed redefine the term 'value-added' for 2011-v3 socket motherboards. However, with an online average asking price of $335 (USD), the ROG STRIX X99 GAMING will have to not only outcompete previous generation X99 motherboards, but also new comers like the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon, Gigabyte GA-X99 Phoenix SLI G1, and even ASUS' own Deluxe-II upgrade. That certainly is one tall order, but if there was a motherboard with the potential to do that it certainly is the STRIX. Needless to say, we have extremely high expectations for this motherboard and anything less than perfection will be a disappointment to us. So let's see if it can indeed live up to the excitement it instilled in enthusiasts when it was first announced!

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


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In a very interesting twist, the ASUS ROG STRIX X99 Gaming shipping container does not look like the typical Republic of Gamers box. Instead, it is an all-black affair that is strongly reminiscent of ASUS mainstream lines like the Sabertooth and Deluxe. This is not to say it is dull or drab compared to the red RoG boxes, but it certainly is more mature looking. Essentially, this is the all grown up packaging that points towards this motherboard being focused on the more <i>mature</i> PC Gaming enthusiast.

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Opening up the box, we can see that the internal configuration is very similar to all previous premium ASUS motherboards. The top half of the inner box holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag, while the bottom half contains the plentiful assortment of included accessories, software discs, and the documentation.

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Overall, the amount of bundled accessories is rather impressive in its depth and scope. There’s a 2-way SLI bridge connector, six SATA 6Gb/s cables, Q-Connector front-panel connectors, premium padded rear I/O Shield, RoG decals, a door knob hanger, accessory installation pamphlet, CPU Installation Tool (CIT), warranty pamphlet, user manual, and installation DVD with software and drivers. On top of these accessories, ASUS has also included multiple stickers in various colors (black, green, and pink), so that if owners so choose they can swap out the orange accents on the PCH and I/O plate. Also included is a 4-pin 'Aura' LED extension cable, on which can be attached an external LED strip (which is not included). Such 5050 LED strips are not overly expensive so this omission is rather curious given the fact that much cheaper motherboards like the BioStar Z170 Racing series does include a LED strip. Having said that, this is not all that important as not everyone will want to add additional lighting to an already well lit-up motherboard!

While the overall accessories bundle is a good one, there is one major disappointment to be found here. While ASUS has included an external magnetic base antenna to work in conjunction with the onboard 802.11AC wireless card, they have not included their latest 3x3 antenna. Instead, the ROG STRIX X99 Gaming uses the same older 2x2 WiFi and Bluetooth model that's been bundled with older motherboards. This is a major oversight and is disappointing to say the least.

Missing LED light strips and 3x3 wireless abilities aside, one thing that is 'missing' is the M.2 to U.2 adapter and the M.2 x4 PCIe daughter card that usually bundled with high-end ASUS motherboards. However, thankfully, in this instance this is not actually disappointing since as we will show you in the next section these features are built directly on to the motherboard. 
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the ASUS ROG STRIX X99 Gaming

A Closer Look at the ASUS ROG STRIX X99 Gaming


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Unlike the ASUS X99-Deluxe II, which comes clad in a white plastic fascia that may be off-putting to some, the ROG STRIX X99 GAMING makes use of a more sensible black-on-black color profile with only customizable color accents added for flair – more on this in a moment. We suspect that the idea of a <i>Republic of Gamers</i> motherboard with more subdued and subtle overall aesthetics than the aforementioned <i>Deluxe</i> may cause a stack overflow in enthusiasts looking for an original design, instead of a mere 'refresh' of a previous model with just a new 'coat of paint' splashed over it to hide its aging looks.

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The STRIX X99 GAMING Gaming on the other hand is a brand new RoG model with 2016 styling and flair. While the board may appear more subdued than its ASUS mainstream counterparts, once you actually turn it on such thoughts are quickly banished due to the numerous colorful LEDs that adorn this motherboard. From the glowing PCIe slot locking tabs to the PCH heatsink to even the RoG-branded heatsink nearest the CPU socket, this model puts on a proper light show. Furthermore, everything is customizable so not only can you tweak your color profile to match your case/GPU/etc, or have the four zones of lighting set to different colors, but you can also turn them off! ASUS even includes different colored stickers to change the orange PCH and I/O fascia accents. The end result is as flexible, mature, and refined a motherboard lighting setup as anyone could hope for. This is LED lighting done right.

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This new feature alone makes the STRIX a noteworthy motherboard, but this model is not just a pretty face. It also has to live up to not only the Republic of Gamers reputation, but also the 'STRIX' reputation. That is one tough path to follow, and it required ASUS' engineers to pull out all the stops. The end result is that this motherboard is filled to the brim with advanced features, switches, buttons, and ports. Perhaps more so than any previous RoG motherboard to date. Even more impressive is how ASUS was able to find room on a ATX (305mm by 244mm) form-factor motherboard for all these value-added features.

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Though it has required a bit of creative planning to do so, this motherboard is extremely well laid out with all the various features easily accessible. Having said that, some of these additional features may not be in their 'usual' location. Thankfully, all the most used features are where you would expect them, and it is less used options that have been rearranged. The downside is enthusiasts will spend more time looking for the right switch or button than they would on previous RoG designs, and in some cases features may end up being blocked or covered.

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For instance, the Power and Reset buttons are not in their usual locations, nor are they their usual 'oversized' buttons. Instead of being along the leading edge of the motherboard, ASUS has not only decreased the two critical buttons to teeny-tiny dots, but they and the troubleshooting 2-digit Q-LED display have been shoehorned near the bottommost PCIe slot. For most users this change will not matter, but they will be rather difficult to use if the last PCIe x16/x4 slot is populated with a dual-slot card. Since few RoG owners use their motherboard on an open test bench, and fewer still will populate all the PCIe slots, this is perhaps not that big a deal. This just underscores exactly how much has been added to the board, and the rather extreme measures ASUS has taken to ensure that they did not leave off anything too important. Overall, we rather have the occasional usage issue with an included feature than have a motherboard not have the feature in the first place.

Before moving on to the rest of the motherboard, there is one other additional feature that ASUS that needs to be highlighted. This motherboard is all about lights and lighting control, and with this in mind ASUS has included a 4-pin 'Aura' 5050 LED light header (just to the left of the power and reset buttons). This 12V 2Amp header can easily power 2-meter-long LED light strips and even control them via the included software. We do wish ASUS had included a small LED strip, but for those who <i>really</i> wish to light up their system this additional header will be very useful.

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Starting at the top most edge of the motherboard, we can see that ASUS has included not only the usual 8-pin CPU power connector, but an additional 4-pin one as well. Needless to say, this motherboard will have no problems feeding even the hungriest of heavily overclocked Intel Core i7-6950X processor's with enough power to satiate its voracious appetite. In testing, the system ran perfectly fine at stock settings with only the 8-pin power connected, so those with older PSU's that do not offer a second CPU power cable need not worry too much. However, whenever possible, we do recommend having both connected to ensure clean and <i>stable</i> power delivery to the CPU.

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The CPU socket area is always the star of the show, and as you can see ASUS has done a very good job in this critical region. There are a few caps that are intruding upon the CPU socket area, but all respect Intel's z-height restriction and should be of little interest - let alone concern - to all but LN2 pot users. What will be of great interest to everyone is the fact that ASUS has used their OC Socket, which has 6 additional pins than the reference socket. As the creator of the OC Socket idea – that other manufactures have copied – ASUS is able to offer much more fine-grain control and monitoring of the CPU.

For example, these additional pins can not only offer extreme overclocking enthusiasts more CPU overclocking headroom, but they can also increase memory overclocking by 'up to 15%'. As expected, this OC Socket does help, and does make things easier than they otherwise could be when dealing with Intel Core i7-6950X processors. Intel happens to agree and some of the original OC Socket tweaks are now baked directly into the CPU microcode, which just shows how innovative the OC Socket design really was and still is. The only thing missing on this model are voltage read points, which would have made monitoring even easier. However, few users will ever breakout a voltmeter, and instead will rely upon the motherboard's rather extensive voltage monitoring abilities. As such, this is a minor issue at best.

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Much like the newly-revised X99-Deluxe II, the STRIX X99 Gaming comes with an all-digital 8-phase CPU power design that consists of BlackWing chokes, 10K Black Metallic Capacitors, and top of the line MOSFETS.

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As we have come to expect, ASUS has opted for their highly regarded DIGI+ controller to manage this robust power subsystem.

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To keep this high performance VRM cool, ASUS has used a rather robust single heatsink design that may not be connected to the PCH heatsink via heatpipe (like on the Deluxe II), but makes up it through shear mass. From our point-of-view, the missing heatpipe is not overly worrisome as this heatsink should easily keep the VRM components cool.

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On the positive side, this heavy heatsink is not only attached via screws, but also uses a secondary metal bracket on the back of the motherboard. This is because ASUS has moved some of the key components of the voltage control subsystem to the back of the motherboard in search for additional PCB room. However, these components are covered by a heatpad and are kept cool by this rather thick backplate.

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Also rear-mounted is one of the RoG branded IC controllers. This does make the back of the motherboard a touch busier than we would prefer, but ASUS has done everything necessary in order to best use all available PCB space.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the ASUS ROG STRIX X99 Gaming (pg.2)

A Closer Look at the ASUS ROG STRIX X99 Gaming (pg.2)



ASUS has not only included three 4-pin fan headers for the CPU cooling (two fan and one 'water pump'), but they have significantly upgraded their already considerably capabilities. Now all the fan headers can handle much heavier amperage loads and have built-in overheating protection, so as to not burnout a header. In addition, all the headers have auto-detection capabilities and will automatically switch from PWM to voltage and vice-versa depending on what type of fan is connected. All three chassis fans also support a new 'Extreme Quiet Mode' - which run the fans at their minimum duty cycle - and which will be of great interest to silent PC aficionados. If all that was not enough, Fan Xpert 4 software utility also allows for complete fine grain control and custom profiles for all attached fans. This level of functionality is all thanks to a new fan controller IC that is easily the most capable one on the market right now.

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The only minor issue we could find is that dedicated Heavy Amp ('H Amp') header - which can provide even more amps than the rest - is at a rather odd location crammed between the rear I/O fascia and the left-channel DIMMs, and just above the first PCIe slot. It still is useable but just not as easily accessible as we would like.

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Nestled between the CPU socket and the first PCIe x16 slot is an interesting little RoG-branded hollow metal block that glows when powered on. This is technically a second heatsink as it does have a heatpad covering some critical components, but as it is <i>hollow</i> its size is very deceptive. We would have much preferred to have seen a <i>solid</i> secondary heatsink and a connecting heatpipe to the VRM heatsink, just as on the Deluxe II. Having said that, it certainly adds a dash of style to the board.

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Flanking the CPU socket area are two banks of 4 DIMMS. Each bank has its own two-phase VRM and an all-digital controller. This combination allows the ASUS STRIX X99 GAMING to boast DDR4-3333 support, and in conjunction with a whole bus load of BIOS options enthusiasts can easily go higher via manual adjustment.

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If you do get any troubles when tweaking (or just first installing) a memory kit, the MEMOK button has got you covered. This feature initiates a memory compatibility tuning process and fixes any memory issues preventing a system from booting up. These are the little touches that makes the STRIX a truly enjoyable motherboard to work with.

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The 24-pin power connector is <i>almost</i> in its usual position, though it has been pushed upwards towards the top edge of the motherboard slightly. To the left of the power connector is the first of four blocks of SATA 6Gb/s ports, which is how ASUS was able to keep the total number of SATA ports at ten, but also include a U.2 port. Next to this block of two SATA ports is the first of two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (AKA standard USB 3.0) front headers. Both this header and the one nearest to the bottommost PCIe slot are connected to the X99 PCH, replacing the need for an aftermarket USB 3.0 controller. As a result, these headers will potentially give better performance than all but one of the USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports on the rear I/O panel – more on this in a moment.

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To the left (or downwards) of the main USB 3.1 Gen 1 front header is the usual block of storage ports. In this instance that is eight SATA 6Gb/s ports and a single SATA-Express port – the 'second' or top SATAe port is blocked off as it is disabled. Considering the fact few users will ever feel the need to use even one SATA-Express port, the 'missing' second one is a non-issue. As usual, if the SATAe port is used the two SATA 6Gb/s port next to it will be disabled as they share bandwidth.

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Unlike on the X99-Deluxe II, the STRIX X99 GAMING's U.2 port is not vertically oriented. Instead, it is positioned just as it <i>should be</I> for ease of use. This U.2 port is a full-speed implementation too, it is connected via four PCIe 3.0 lanes allowing for speeds up to 32Gb/s and it is fully NVMe compatible.

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This model obviously also features a four lane PCIe 3.0 enabled M.2 port. ASUS calls this a 'hybrid' M.2 port, but all this fancy name means is that it supports both NVMe and AHCI drives thanks to electronic connections to both the PCIe bus and the X99 PCH. On the positive side it does support M.2 solid state drives in a wide range of sizes. Everything from ultra-small 2242's (42mm) to long 22110 (110mm) M.2 drives are compatible with this motherboard. Given the recent release of 3D NAND, we expect M.2 solid state drives to become more popular than ever.

Of course, due to lack of lanes – even on 40 lane 2011-v3 CPUs - there are a few caveats to this port. When a NVMe drive is used the U.2 port is disabled, and when used with a SATA M.2 drive two of the SATA ports are disabled. On the positive side, at least the M.2 and U.2 ports do not share bandwidth with any of the PCIe slots. This actually makes the ASUS STRIX X99 GAMING one of the better and sensibly designed motherboards to feature a U.2 and M.2 port.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the ASUS ROG STRIX X99 Gaming (pg.3)

A Closer Look at the ASUS ROG STRIX X99 Gaming (pg.3)


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It is pretty clear to us that ASUS had 2-way SLI and 2-way Crossfire configurations in mind when they laid out the PCIe slots, and they sort of ignored 3-way compatibility. We say this as only the first x16 slot (dubbed 'SafeSlot' – more on what this means in a moment) and third x16 slots are actually PCIe 3.0 x16 slots. The 2nd is electronically a PCIe 3.0 x8 slot, and the bottommost a x4 PCIe 2.0 slot (at best). Interspaced between the topmost and bottommost slots are two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. Due to the inclusion of these PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, users interested in 3-way configurations will have to opt for single-slot cooling (i.e. water-based cooling). In this day and age, the loss of 3-way is not that big a deal as few will ever care to try such a high-end configuration. In return for this odd layout, users only interested in conventional SLI can use massive triple-slot video cards without worry.


As you may have already figured out, the reason the locking tabs on the PCIe x16 slots are clear is because they have integrated LEDs and can light up in nearly any color you wish.

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The topmost PCIe x16 slot boasts what ASUS calls their 'ASUS SafeSlot' technology. Much like other manufacturers 'Armor' technology, this PCIe x16 slot has been significantly reinforced and provides improved resilience in all three axes. ASUS states that it is 43% more durable in the X axis (forwards or backwards stressors), 83% in Z axis (side to side stressors), and 66% in the Y axis (up and down stressors). Furthermore, this SafeSlot is not just a brace of metal 'armor' over the PCIe slot, instead ASUS uses a radical molding process that builds the plastic slot around the metal sub-structure. For AMD Radeon 480X owners, this slot should be more than up to the task of the properly handling its <i>out of spec</i> demands. It is just a shame that this cutting edge, and extremely expensive, technology is limited to only one slot. However, all PCIe slots do feature an improved hook anchor that is more robust than previous designs, so even the non-SafeSlot slots are anything but fragile.

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The onboard sound solution is well though out and extremely capable. It is based a Realtek ALC1150 8-channel audio CODEC that has been paired with protective EMI shielding, as well as Chemi-con audio capacitors, and two Texas Instruments' R45801 op-amps. One op-amp is dedicated to the 'headphone' channel, while the other one is for the surround sound channels. In addition, the whole area is electronically separated from the rest of the motherboard.

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We would have liked to have seen a de-pop switch, more op-amps, and even replaceable socket op-amps, but this is nevertheless a very competent onboard solution. Having said that, we can't ignore the fact that it is arguably inferior to the one found on the recently reviewed MSI X99 Gaming Pro Carbon – a noticeably cheaper motherboard!

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As expected, ASUS has done a very good job of including an exhaustive list of features without overly cluttering the rear I/O area. However, as you will see below, it is not quite perfect.

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The first issue is that three of the four USB 3.0 ports are not directly connected to the X99 PCH. Instead, they are connected to a ASM1074 USB 3.0 controller. This is because ASUS has included more USB 3.0 ports than the X99 natively supports. The downside is that these three USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (AKA rebranded USB 3.0) are potentially slower than the single X99 connected port. That single port that <i>is</i> directly connected is the bottom USB 3.0 port nearest the Type-C port. Unfortunately, ASUS has not color-coded this special port - which also does double duty as the BIOS Flashback port – so take note of it and use this port for USB 3.0 devices than need lower latency and higher theoretical bandwidth.

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Alternatively, you can also use the USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port. This and the Type-C directly below it are connected to a first generation ASMedia ASM1142 controller. It is unfortunate ASUS did not use the more newer and powerful Intel USB 3.1 controller, as this would have also granted the STRIX motherboard ThunderBolt III abilities. The ASMedia controller is still a good option, if somewhat controversial considering the much cheaper ASUS Z170 motherboards use the newer Intel-sourced IC. Also controversial is that this USB 3.1 controller shares bandwidth with the PCIe x4 slot, so when both are used the PCIe x4 becomes an x2. On the other hand, when the USB 3.1 controller is disabled and it becomes a real x4 slot. Neither is an optimal solution.

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Also worth noting is the fact that ASUS has only included a single wired Ethernet port, and they elected to use an older Intel i218v controller to power it. While this may not be one of the newer Intel i219v controllers, it remains a solid option and it is eons better than any 'Killer' NIC available today.

Rounding out the rear I/O panel are the four black USB 2.0 ports, a BIOS Flashback button, a PS/2 port, five analog audio ports, one S/PDIF optical output, as well as the dual wireless antenna connectors. This is a very well-rounded list of options, but one feature that's missing is a clear CMOS button. Overall, while this is a good rear I/O feature list, it is not without its own set of compromises.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
BIOS Rundown (pg.1)

BIOS Rundown (pg.1)


Although the ASUS ROG STRIX X99 is a new model, it does not come with a radical, paradigm shifting BIOS like the first generation X99 2011-v3 motherboards. Instead, ASUS has simply refined and polished what was already one of the best, if not arguably <i>the</i> best, BIOS available to home users. As with the X99-Deluxe II, this is perfectly acceptable to us as neither usage patterns, nor the underlying technology, have changed.

As such, when anyone first enters the BIOS they will be greeted with a colorful and highly intuitive layout. Thanks to the familiar design, there is no steep learning curve and enthusiasts who already know ASUS' layout will be able to immediately get down to business. For novices, who have never had the pleasure of using a modern ASUS BIOS, they too will be in for treat as this is about as good as it gets right now.

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As with previous models, when the BIOS is broken into two separate and very distinct modes: EZ Mode, and Advanced. Lets start with the EZ Mode as this mode boasts a simplified layout and features a mouse-friendly UI that prioritizes ease of use and navigation. It obviously does not have all the functionality of the Advanced Mode, but it is not meant to. It simply gives novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings. However, as with X99 and Z170 motherboards, this EZ Mode also allows anyone to quickly handle more complex tasks without having to first navigate to the Advanced Mode.

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One example of these more advanced features is Q-Fan Tuning, which gives full manual control over all fans attached to the motherboard. Of course, it also includes numerous presets - including the new 'Extreme Quiet Mode' - which actually works surprisingly well thanks to the new fan controller IC and more advanced temperature sensors located on the motherboard. It is worth noting that the dedicated 'water pump' fan header can also be transformed back into a normal fan header with a simple mouse click.

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Also included is ASUS's formidable EZ Tuning Wizard. While it may never actually use the scary to some term 'overclocking', what it does is distill overclocking down to a few questions and a few mouse clicks. The level of overclocking will vary upon the answers provided, but novices can get a very nice boost in performance in a stress-free manner. Frankly, this advanced feature is everything we have come to expect from ASUS and their premium motherboard models.

Overall, this EZ Mode is instantly responsive to your input commands and there is almost no noticeable lag. There are a few transition delays when switching from one section to another, but this is an intentional design feature that makes the UEFI more aesthetically pleasing. This really is a sign of a well-polished BIOS, and ASUS are masters at knowing when to add a pause and when the GUI interface should be instantly responsive.

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Changing from EZ Mode to Advanced mode is as simple as pressing F7, and this second mode is where most advanced users will spend the majority of their time. Like on previous ASUS X99 and Z170 motherboard, the STRIX BIOS not only comes with a My Favorites tab but it comes pre-populated with some of the more commonly used features and options. Naturally, you can add or remove from this list, but it does cut down on some of the tediousness of creating a truly custom list of settings.

The next tab in the BIOS is the Main section, which displays the standard storage devices and some basic system information. This System Information section lists some rudimentary specification info, including the BIOS date & version, the type of processor and the amount of memory installed. You can also set the system language, and an administrator and/or individual User password.

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Next up is the perennial favorite: the Ai Tweaker area. If you plan on overclocking your system at all, this section is where the majority of your time will be spent. Here all of the essential system clock control options and advanced options can be found: CPU multiplier with an all-core and per-core option, BLCK frequency, CPU strap, memory frequency, memory timing options, and all the voltage options. Though this section is not just about the basics and in the hands of experts top-level overclockers can really help push the boundaries of overclocking.

Occupying the middle to bottom section of the Ai Tweaker are the incredible list of voltage options, all of which are easily customizable. However, as with previous generations, there are no drop-down menus per say, and rather ASUS expects you to manually enter any adjustment. Thankfully, ASUS has listened to feedback and they now have included real-time voltage readouts next to all the key system voltages. Brilliant stuff!
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
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BIOS Rundown (pg.2)

BIOS Rundown (pg.2)


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The TPU setting allows novice users to automatically overclock their systems without having to mess around with clocks speeds, multipliers, and voltages. The are two options in this feature, TPU I and TPU II, the latter of which applies a more aggressive overclock. To enable this feature you simply need to select one of the two options, save, and reboot. TPU 1 can even be implemented via Hotkey OC / Ctrl+T keyboard combination during POST. On the other hand, TPU II will only interest those few who feel the EZ Tuning is too complicated but also do not want to rely upon software-based overclocking solutions.

The DRAM Timing Control section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select and change all the memory settings, and each memory channel has its own section, from which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It has just about every memory modifier that an enthusiast or overclocker would need to fine-tune their modules. There's really an overabundance of options and it is quite extensive, albeit maybe overwhelming to novices.

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The DIGI+ Power Control section has a whole slew of advanced power regulation settings for the CPU cores, CPU VTT and VCCSA (system agent/memory controller), and DRAM channels. Though this motherboard is setup well enough so that unless you are really pushing the limits with phase-change or LN2 cooling most of these settings will not really need to be tweaked. This is another sign of a well-polished BIOS.

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The Internal CPU Power Management section is where you can enable or disable all the CPU-specific features like SpeedStep and Turbo Mode, as well as setting the Turbo limits. ASUS have really bolstered this section with an overwhelming array of CPU power tuning settings.

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The Advanced tab is where you can tweak countless settings and enable or disable all of the motherboard's components. There are so many options here that while it is potentially very useful, it may be a little daunting to novices. Thankfully, most people will never need to touch any of these settings, so no need to panic.

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On the positive side, in this long list of options and sub-options is where you will find the RGB LED lighting settings. Here you can adjust the onboard LEDs in a fairly straightforward manner, though for truly advanced control you will have to use the included Aura software that we will take a peak at in the Software Section.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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BIOS Rundown (pg.3)

BIOS Rundown (pg.3)


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The Monitor section is dedicated to the monitoring of the various voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. This whole section is really quite impressive, it has all the essential temperature and voltage readouts, as well as truly excellent and comprehensive fan control functionality named Q-Fan Control. For those that don't wish to do any manual tweaking, the "Optimize All" feature will automatically detect your system's fans and determine their minimum duty cycle in order to reduce noise output.

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The Boot tab is essentially where you set storage device priority, select the boot drive, enable/disable Fast Boot, enable/disable the full screen logo, and ton of other boot settings that can help with the installation or troubleshooting of various OS installations.

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The Tool section gives you access to numerous built-in tools that allow for everything from selecting which BIOS profile to use to flashing your BIOS. Also included is a feature that was first seen on older RoG motherboards: GPU post. GPU post shows which PCI-E slots are populated and in what mode they are operating. This will make troubleshooting GPU and RAID card issues much easier.

ASUS EZ Flash 3 is a built-in utility that greatly simplifies the BIOS updating process. You can easily update your BIOS from a ROM file located on your hard drive(s) or USB flash drive(s). It's quick, painless, and it takes the worry out of BIOS flashing. This BIOS also incorporates an easy secure erase utility for solid state drives, which is a process that not only destroys all the data on the SSD but also helps to restore the drive to its original performance level.

The ASUS Overclocking Profile feature gives users the option to save and switch between BIOS profiles, for example an everyday profile and a benchmarking profile. Not only is this infinitely quicker than manually inserting every setting, but the profiles can be saved and shared among other STRIX X99 owners. Just be sure to know and trust who you obtain your settings from!

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Before you save your settings and exit the BIOS, there is a handy window that lists the changes you made during this session. It's a well thought out and implemented idea.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Included Software (AI Suite III)

Included Software (AI Suite III)

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Regardless of your intended use for this motherboard, the most utilized ASUS program will be AI Suite III. This is a system management utility and it is the hub from which you can monitor system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds.

Although its basic UI has been established for a while, ASUS regularly adds to, and even modifies, its capabilities depending on the motherboard series. For example, this suite's third iteration was launched along with the Z87 motherboards, was refreshed in time for the Z97 series, and is now has been further refined and polished in the intervening generations.

There are six main sections that are the focus of the Ai Suite III utility, and they are all linked to the Dual Intelligent Processors 5. As a refresher, DIP5 refers to two co-processors - the TurboV Processing Unit (TPU) and the Energy Processing Unit (EPU) - that are tasked with for optimizing the system with a focus on either better performance and improved energy efficiency.

The 5-Way Optimization section is where you will find the automatic overclocking feature. There is also the Energy Processing Unit (EPU) power saving or performance profiles, Fan Xpert 3 fan speed optimization status, DIGI+ VRM optimization, intriguing new Turbo App functionality, and some display-only information regarding TurboV Processing Unit (TPU). We'll go into it in-depth below.

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Along the right side of the AI Suite III utility is an arrow that activates a pop-out menu when clicked. Here you find be features like Ai Charger+ and 3.1 Boost. When enabled, i Charger+ allows up to three times faster charging of devices connected to USB ports, while enabling USB 3.1 Boost implements the UAS Protocol (UASP) USB protocol that greatly enhances speeds while also lowering CPU utilization. The EZ Update tool allows users to update their motherboard's BIOS either directly from the internet or from a downloaded file.

At the bottom is a static strip that displays information on CPU and DRAM frequency, real-time voltage and temperatures measurements, as well as CPU and case fans speeds. You can also set safe thresholds for voltages, temperatures and fan speeds as well as setting alerts to warn you of any serious fluctuations. It is essentially a replacement for the Probe II utility.

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System Information just contains a bunch of basic system information regarding your CPU, motherboard or RAM. You can also find you can find your serial number, BIOS version, etc.

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The EPU (Energy Processing Unit) tab is you will be able to fine-tune the various selection of power saving or performance profiles. This is a versatile feature for those who truly care about maximizing energy savings.

The TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) tab is where you can manually adjust the BCLK frequency or CPU strap (100/125/166/250MHz). You will also be able to change the CPU multiplier, either per core or as a group. There are also a vast ten adjustable system voltages. You can adjust all these settings on-the-fly without having to reboot the system, except for the CPU strap since it does cause such a dramatic increase in all system frequencies.

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The DIGI+ Power Control tab is where you will find the power options for the CPU, System Agent/Memory Controller, and RAM. There are adjustable settings for load-line calibration, current capability, voltage frequency, and phase control. There are different power controls for each memory channel since they are independently powered.

The Fan Xpert 3 tab is, as you might expect, where you can fully manage and optimize your CPU and system fans. While there are now a series of four fan presets (Silent/Standard/Turbo/Full Speed), you can also manually adjust the full fan speed curve to your preferences, or simply use the fully automated Fan Tuning feature.

The Turbo App section allows you set custom system configurations for any applications that you want. For example, if you know that your processor can withstand a higher clock speed in a lightly threaded application, you can see this utility to automatically adjust your system overclock every time you open that app, as well as tweak network priority and audio settings.

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The real star of the show though is the 5-Way Optimization section. here is a certain level of fan optimization functionality in this section, but what's really interesting is the automatic overclocking feature. You will have the option of 2 different overclocking levels and 2 different ways of achieving that overclock, depending on whether you have an unlocked processor or not. In testing these options do provide the best, most customized overclocking profile that is also the easiest. The only minor issue is it not as novice-friendly as the Ctrl+T keyboard bootup option. However, ASUS has done a marvelous job at balancing the needs of the enthusiast with that of the average user.
 
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SKYMTL

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Other Software & Utilities

Other Software & Utilities



AURA Lighting Control
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The AURA Lighting Control software utility allows users to control the RGB LEDs that are integrated into the chipset cooler, PCI-E slot clips, audio subsystem, and even any lighting strip that is plugged into the RGB header. The LEDs can be adjusted to any number of different colors and customized to create cool lighting effects. The presets can cause the LEDs to change shades to indicate CPU temperature, pulsate with the beat of your music, cycle through all the colours, fade in and out, flash on and off, colors, statically display one color, and more. There are now nine effects presets, which is a nice increase over the six choices that were offered on previous Aura-equipped ASUS motherboards.


ASUS CPU-Z
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ASUS CPU-Z is a special edition of CPU-Z with a special color scheme and the ASUS logo. This edition is found on the included software DVD or the ASUS website, but it is not yet available for download from CPUID.com, though you can download the ROG CPU-Z version. We recommend that you do this, or simply use the regular CPU-Z app, since this ASUS version is based on an older version that doesn't properly support Broadwell-E.


ASUS Boot Setting
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ASUS Boot Setting allows users to boot directly into the BIOS without having to repeatedly hit delete during the POST screen. It is a pretty hand tool when you are rebooting as often as overclockers tend to do.


ASUS WebStorage
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The WebStorage utility is basically the ASUS equivalent of DropBox. It is cloud computing application that gives users web storage and access to data across many devices. All ASUS motherboard owners get a free 5.5GB of storage, you can buy more or be gifted some by ASUS if you referrer your friends. The web interface is pretty standard and utilitarian. Overall, there is not much to complain about, it's a nice freebie if you choose to use it.


GameFirst IV
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The all-new GameFirst IV application takes up where version 3 left off and turns the dial to eleven. As with the previous generation, the goal of this application is to reduce latency by prioritizing a given application and its networking demands over all other applications via 'traffic shaping' or throttling. However, this new generation has two new tricks up its sleeve. The first is Multi-Gate Teaming which teams the WiFi controller and the onboard NIC to create a new combined connection that has higher bandwidth. Basically, it can use one for receiving and one for sending, or both for either depending on the demands of a given application.

The second addition is Intelligent Mode, which monitors frequently used software and automatically chooses the best connection for its needs. The only catch to these features is the need to be connected to a router both wirelessly and wired, otherwise GameFirst IV will not be able to work its magic.
 
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