Next up in our line of updated/new X99 boards is the ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming motherboard. The Strix nomenclature is new to the ASUS motherboard lineup, but we are certainly familiar with it in the video card world. This board, like its GPU counterparts, appears to combine the power and overclocking capabilities of the ROG line of boards, along with some features to also make it a solid gaming board such as the Intel NIC (not really a gaming feature, but a good NIC is critical) and RGB lighting on the PCIe slot locks and the heatsink. Keep on reading for all the details and the results of our overclocking and performance testing!
Specifications and Features
Listed below are the specifications from the ASUS website for the Strix X99 Gaming. As most X99 boards boast eight slots in the DIMM department, so does the Strix X99 Gaming supporting up to 128 GB of DDR4. Speeds of 3333 MHz (Overclocked) can be reached on this board, and likely more if your IMC and memory can handle it. The board supports both CrossFireX technology as well as NVIDIA SLI both up to 3-Way. The 3x full length PCIe expansion slots break down as follows:
- 40 Lane CPU – x16, x16/x16, x8/x16/x8
- 28 Lane CPU – x16, x16/x8, x8/x8/x8
No PLX chip here folks, all native, all the time!
On the storage front, you have pretty much all you are going to need on a modern PC in the M.2 Socket 3 with M Key (fits types 2242/2260/2280/22110). There is even a U.2 port also based off PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe as well. Just a side note though, you are only able to use the U.2 port or the M.2 port, not both! I’d imagine this is a function of taking over the same lanes on the PCH. From the X99 chipset comes your SATA Express port along with a total of eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports.
LAN connectivity is handled by the Intel I218V Gigabit LAN controller, while wireless support is 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. The Wi-Fi is also dual band (2.4/5 GHz) and supports MU-MIMO. Last, but not least, is Bluetooth 4.1 capabilities.
Audio is managed by the ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC (Realtek ALC1150). The Realtek IC is covered with the Supreme FX labeled Shielding technology helping to keep EMI away. To that end, the board’s analog audio section is separated from the rest of the do-dads on the board also helping minimize EMI. The audio section also contains dual op-amps (Texas Instruments R4580s) to drive a set of headphones, ranging from 32-300Ω, and the front speakers along with using the premium Nichicon caps for a superior audio experience.
There are a total of eight USB 3.0 headers (5x from PCH, 3x from an Asmedia Controller) and there are an additional eight USB 2.0 ports from the PCH. Another ASMedia controller gives us two USB 3.1 Gen2 ports which come in Type-A and Type-C flavors.
ASUS built this board to be fairly theme agnostic with its look allowing itself to be changed by the RGB LED lighting and included heatsink plates. The board also has a port for additional RGB strips if you would like to compliment those on the board already. The onboard controllable LEDs sit in the I/O cover, next in the ROG box in the middle of the board, and the last are found in the three PCIe locks. All LEDs are controlled by the ROG Aura Lighting Control software so you can fit any theme with this good looking board.
I typically do not mention how many fan headers are on the board, however of the six total, one in particular (located Next to the left side set of DIMM slots just above the PCIe slot) is a high amperage header. It can deliver a whopping 3 A (36 W) compared to a typical header supporting up to 1 A (12 W). You can daisy chain in a couple/few fans on this header and have the board control it (via a mix of auto sense PWM or voltage controlled).
|ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming Specifications
Build in Intel® Socket 2011-v3 Core™ i7 Processors
|Memory||8 x DIMM, Max. 128GB, 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
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
** Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
Supports NVIDIA® 3-Way SLI™ Technology
3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 ( x16, x16/x16, x8/x16/x8 mode with 40-LANE CPU; x16, x16/x8, x8/x8/x8 mode with 28-LANE CPU)
|Storage||New Intel® Core™ i7 Processors :
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Support PCIE SSD only)
1 x U.2 port, support PCIe 3.0 x4 NVM Express storage
Intel® X99 chipset :
1 x SATA Express port, Compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
8 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s),
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Recovery Technology*2
|LAN / Wireless / Bluetooth||
Intel® I218V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
|Audio||ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
– Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
– SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
– Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
– Audio amplifier: Provides the highest-quality sound for headphone and speakers
– Premium Japanese-made audio capacitors: Provide warm, natural and immersive sound with exceptional clarity and fidelity
– Sonic Radar II
|USB Ports||Intel® X99 chipset :
5 x USB 3.0 port(s) (1 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
Intel® X99 chipset :
8 x USB 2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, , 4 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
3 x USB port(s) (3 at back panel, blue)
ASMedia® USB 3.1 controller :
2 x USB 3.1 port(s) (2 at back panel, , Type-A + Type-C)
|ROG Exclusive Features||ROG RAMCache
– Aura Lighting Control
– Aura RGB Strip Headers
USB BIOS Flashback
|Back I/O Ports||
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
|Internal I/O Ports||
11 x U.2 port
– 1 x 128 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI3.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 3.0, ACPI 5.0, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 3, CrashFree BIOS 3, F11 EZ Tuning Wizard, F6 Qfan Control, F3 My Favorites, F9 Quick Note, Last Modified log, F12 PrintScreen, F3 Shortcut functions and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information.
|Special Features||5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors5
– 5-Way Optimization tuning key perfectly consolidates TPU, EPU, DIGI+ VRM, Fan Xpert 4, and Turbo Core App
– ESD Guards on LAN, Audio, KBMS and USB3.1/3.0/2.0 ports
– DRAM Overcurrent Protection
– Stainless Steel Back I/O
– Highly Durable Components
– DIGI+ VRM
ASUS Exclusive Features :
– USB BIOS Flashback
– AI Suite 3
– Ai Charger+
– ESD Guards
– USB 3.0 Boost
– USB 3.1 Boost
– Disk Unlocker
– Mobo Connect
– PC Cleaner
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
– ASUS Fan Xpert 4
ASUS EZ DIY :
– ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
– ASUS EZ Flash 3
– Push Notice
ASUS Q-Design :
– ASUS Q-Shield
– ASUS Q-Code
– ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
– ASUS Q-Slot
– ASUS Q-DIMM
– ASUS Q-Connector
AURA: RGB Lighting Control
8 x SATA power cable
1 x ASUS 2-Way/3-Way SLI bridge
1 x M.2 Screw Package
1 x CPU installation tool
1 x Supporting DVD
1 x ASUS 2T2R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n compliant)
1 x Q-connector(s) (1 in 1)
1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
ROG Fan Label
1 x ROG Door Hanger(s)
1 x Extension Cable for RGB strips (80 cm)
|Form Factor / OS Support / Notes||AATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )Windows® 10 , 64bit
Windows® 8.1 , 64bit
Windows® 7 , 32bit/64bi **1 The PCIEX4_1, PCIEX1_2, and USB3.1_EC1EA2 connectors share the same bandwidth. By default, the PCIEX4_1 slot and PCIEX1_2 slot automatically run at x1 mode with USB3.1_EC1 and USB3.1_EA2 enabled for best resource optimization.
*2 These functions will work depending on the CPU installed.
ASUS has a list of many of their features on their website for the ROG Strix X99 Gaming. We touch on a few of them below. With the updates on the X99 platform, board partners are now able to add in the latest and greatest to the existing chipset to spice it up a bit for its new CPU in Broadwell-E processors. The latest connectors, U.2 and M.2 on PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe, are being added as well as getting the benefits of the USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C connectors for even more USB throughput.
ASUS’ focus on board aesthetics and what the market wants has really driven the direction of their market lineup. The creation of the ROG Aura Lighting Control software and adding RGB LED headers/controllers on the board for controlling it, takes some of the clumsiness out of external controllers and wires with a nicely integrated package. You are able to connect standard 12 V 5050 RGB LED with a maximum rating of 2 A) right to the motherboard and have the Aura Lighting Control Software tweak it to your hearts desires.
ASUS puts their own software twist on the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC with their Supreme FX Audio solution. ASUS says “it delivers high-fidelity, near-lossless audio no matter how frantic your game becomes”. It plans to achieve such a thing with its 115 S/N ratio, the shielded design/EMI cover, voltage protected 5 V power, the Texas Instrument dual Op amplifiers, and premium Nichicon audio capacitors to help deliver the aural goods.
The Strix X99 Gaming uses the Intel I218V NIC to deliver you the best gaming experience. ASUS has their GameFirst IV software which optimizes network traffic for “faster, lag-free online gaming” by reducing CPU overhead and offering “exceptionally high” TCP and UDP throughput.
Getting the most out of your hardware used to be left up to those in the know. Now, it can take just hitting a few buttons within their Windows based software suite, AISuite 3. With the dashboard style control panel, you can control just about any feature on the Strix. You can choose between “performance, cooling, stability, efficiency and aesthetics — all via a simple and intuitive interface” says ASUS. I had very few issues with this software in the past. It tells you what you want to know, and lets you control plenty of things to get your fan settings, or overclock where it needs to be.
On this latest X99 board you are able to have the latest in connectivity on your board such as U.2, USB 3.1 type A+C, M.2 22110, and 2×2 WiFi with MU MIMO. About the only thing missing here is Thunderbolt, but, not entirely sure if it will take hold so nothing missed from my perspective.
Last up is the Gamer’s Guardian equipment to help protect the board. Features such as the ASUS SAFESLOT to help protect and support the PCIe slot with reinforced slot and more solder points and Digi+ VRM to help deliver smooth and stable power to the CPU. It has DRAM Over-current Protection; all connection ports and DRAM are protected against overcurrent and short-circuit damage by onboard resettable fuses. A CPU installation tool is included to help minimize the risk of installing the CPU and damaging the socket pins (did that once.. to a review item no less!). Meanwhile, Q-Slot, Q-DIMM, and Q-LED have you covered with locking the PCIe card in, single sided DIMM connector lock, and debug LED respectively.
Retail Packaging and Accessories
The retail packaging is largely a black box with a picture of the Strix X99 Gaming on the front right of it, while ‘Strix’ is written at an angle in a rainbow of colors down the left hand side. The ASUS name and ROG symbol grace the cover along with some high level features such as the Aura lighting, SLI/CFx support, and Windows 10 ready. The back side of the box shows a picture of the board, the rear I/O area, the flexibility in the color scheme, as well as the RGB LED connection among a few other features. Plenty to get you drooling over the possibilities! The sides of this box are more boring than most without even a serial number sticker gracing them.
When you open up the box, you are presented with another box where the motherboard and accessories reside. In this setup, the motherboard is on top in its antistatic bag, while the accessories sit below them and are pictured in the last slide here.
A Closer Look
Our first look at the board shows it’s pretty basic black all around outside of the I/O cover and PCH which, out of the box, sports the orange coloring. Remember, there are four other colors included to replace those existing plates to help with system/theme integration (along with the RGB LEDs on board). It’s a fairly typical setup here with four DIMM slots on each side of the massive CPU socket. The Strix X99 Gaming has a total of four full length PCIe slots with good spacing for dual cards (slots 1 and 3), but get a little tight with slot 4 as the option for the third card. The first slot has ASUS’ SafeSlot technology which intends to provide superior retention and shearing resistance with the metal around the slot and additional solder points.
Nothing too exciting on the back except perhaps the PCIe electrical configuration noting slots 1/3 are x16, while slots 2/4 are x8 (slots = PCIe 16x/full length). There is also a back side support/heatsink on the back of the VRMs as well.
The bottom portion of the board shows the covered SupremeFX audio chip and the Nichicon capacitors on the bottom left corner. The top PCIe slot has the Safeslot on it while the rest do not. I’m a bit surprised at least the second slot didn’t have one as well. The PCIe x1 slots sit between slot one and two, while the second is between slot three and four. Also between slots three and four the M.2 Key M would extend out. It starts under the PCH and ends at the battery. Below the PCIe slots are the basic power and reset buttons as well as the debug LED. The PCH heatsink is small, but effective. If the ‘default’ color on top, orange, doesn’t match your theme, simply switch it out with one of the four included colors, change the RGB LED colors, and voila! Instant theme matching!
The DIMM and socket area shows us the eight total DIMM slots flanking the CPU. There are three fan headers (of six total on the board) located above the left set of DIMM slots. These 4-Pin headers support the CPU, Pump, and CPU Optional. This way you can run a traditional heatsink with two fans, or you can plug in your pump and two fans for control through the motherboard. Above the 8-Phase VRMs are the CPU power leads. An 8-Pin is required, but the 4-Pin is optional (used for sub-ambient overclocking). In the upper right hand corner we find the small MemOK! button to assist with memory overclocking failures or instability. To the south of that sits the 24-Pin ATX power lead. Below the 24-Pin, is a curiously placed set of two SATA ports… separated from its pals down the board in their more typical location about ‘PCH high’ on the board.
The back I/O holds your various inputs and other features. From left to right you have the CMOS reset switch, an old school PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, and four USB 2.0 ports. Next you see the Intel NIC on top of two USB 3.0 ports along with two more USB 3.0 ports next to it. The red port to the right is the USB 3.1 G2 Type-A port with the Type-C below it. Next up is the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module with its gold antenna connections sticking out (antenna included). Last is the audio section with its its five 3.5 mm plugs and SPDIF.
The storage area of the board consists of the new U.2 port along with four SATA 6 Gbps (black) followed by two SATA Express ports (or four SATA ports if you do not use the SATAe). Separated from the rest of these ports via a mounting point on the motherboard and a USB front panel header, are the last set of SATA ports, totaling eight.
The last picture is a closer shot of the socket area showing off its 8-Phase VRM north of the socket under the heatsink.
UEFI BIOS / Aura Lighting
Below is a slideshow of the ASUS UEFI BIOS. It is a bit different than the other BIOS not on the ROG line with its mostly black, some red, theme. You start off in the BIOS on the EZ Mode which presents the information to you in a dashboard like manner. It displays which board, CPU and its speed, as well as how memory capacity and speed in the upper left. Also found on the EZ Mode screen are the fan control and profile screens allowing you to control each of the fans mounted on the motherboard. ASUS includes an EZ System Tuning panel as well to simply hit a button and get more performance out of the CPU. EZ Mode was well put together with essential system status information and functions all on one page.
After pressing F7 to get into advanced mode, you are greeted with a more familiar and detailed setup with your menu items spread across the top. By default you start out in Main. I showed My Favorites first as it holds a lot of the basic overclocking and motherboard functions without getting into the nitty gritty. Beyond that Main is more of a system summary page while Ai Tweaker is where all the overclocking magic happens (more of those in the next slide).
The next slideshow details the incredibly comprehensive Ai Tweaker section for the enthusiast to extract every last MHz out of their CPU and memory. While I can’t say the ROG BIOS is my favorite, it was easy to reacquaint myself to where everything I need (and more) was in the BIOS.
Pictured below is the Aura Lighting Software from ASUS used to control the RGB LEDs on the board as well as any attached with the onboard connector.
Test Setup and Results
|CPU||Intel i7 6950X|
|CPU Cooler||Custom Loop with EK LTZ CPU Block, Swiftech MCP655 Vario,
Swiftech MCR320 + PA 120.2, 3x Yate Loon High @ 1K RPM
|Motherboard||ASUS X99 Strix|
|RAM||GSkill Trident Z 4×8 GB DDR4- 3.2K 14-14-14-34 @ 3K MHz 15-15-15-35|
|Graphics Card||MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G|
|Hard Drive||Intel 750 Series 400 GB SSD|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic Platinum-1000|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro x64 (Fully Updated)|
Cinebench R11.5 and R15
x265 1080p Benchmark (Hwbot)
Super Pi 1M/32M
The graphs comparing motherboard performance are heavily multi-threaded benchmarks covering compression, rendering, and encoding. Per usual, we do not see a big difference in results here everything being within 2% of each other, mostly less than 1%, truth be told.
Moving on to our more synthetic benchmarks for the benchmarking crowd, not much changes here either. All boards are incredibly close again.
Last up in our benchmarking suite is AIDA64 Memory Benchmark. In this test, the results were again pretty close outside of the EVGA FTW K still running away with copy performance.
|AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks – Raw Data (MB/s)|
|ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming||65424||67765||62135||58.1|
|EVGA X99 FTW K||64468||68593||67418||56.5|
|MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon||66568||64543||65491||56.5|
Pushing the Limits
When I cranked down on the board and CPU we have again ended up right where I was with the EVGA board sitting at 4.5 GHz and 1.374 V with the memory sitting at XMP of 3200 MHz CL14. At these speeds we were able to knock out some quick, but hard hitting multi-threaded benchmarks in Cinebench R15, Hyper Pi, WPrime 32M/1024M, and 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme. Voltages held stable with LLC on auto so I didn’t have to mess with that. I am able to boot at 4.6 GHz and 1.40 V but cannot test much with it that is more than single threaded. I couldn’t on any board yet… I think I just need to stop being such a wuss and just give it more voltage. That aside, I wouldn’t worry about the Strix X99 Gaming being the limiting factor in your overclock. It ran Realbench for an hour at 4.4 GHz and 1.343 V, so it is close to being pretty stable.
The ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming really set out to impress both the Gaming crowd with its use of the Intel NIC as well as having control over the aesthetics of the board via the Aura Lighting Control. The boards built in RGB LEDs (don’t forget it has an RGB LED header!) on the I/O area as well as the PCIe latches can play together in any color to support your theme. There are no concerns on the gaming front with the ability of the board to handle up to three AMD or NVIDIA cards in SLI/CrossfireX. The ASUS ROG line has always been synonymous with superior overclocking capabilities and that doesn’t change with the Strix X99 Gaming either. The board will easily handle any ambient clocking and even take you over to the ‘cold side’ without breaking a sweat.
Overall I enjoyed working with the board and looking at it with its pulsing lights, and black and orange theme out of the box (again easily configurable via software). On my sample one of the LED slots wasn’t lighting up, but I am confident such an occurrence is a one off. The BIOS was easy to navigate and find anything I needed to in order to set things up right. There are enough options in the Ai Tweaker to make even the most advanced overclocker happy.
Pricing on the ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming comes in at $338.99 from Newegg.com. This puts the board in company with a board I have on hand, the X99 Gaming Pro Carbon, and happen to own in the ASRock X99 OC Formula. There is some pretty stiff competition in this market segment as the price tends to fetch some great features from all parties for both the gamer, and the enthusiast. The ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming should be high on your list when looking in the $300 range for a gaming or overclocking motherboard.
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)