ASUS has released an impressive array of X99 motherboards since the inception of Intel’s Haswell-E processors. To date, only one ASUS X99 motherboard has escaped our test bench, but that’s coming to an end as we explore the X99 Pro in this review. This offering is a step up from the X99-A we reviewed just a short time ago and brings a very appealing set of features often reserved for their higher-end motherboards. Could this be the perfect balance between price, performance, and features? Let’s dive in and find out!
Specifications and Features
It doesn’t take long to see ASUS did a nice job outfitting the X99 Pro with many enthusiast-level features and all the latest technologies. Highlights include support for up to 64 GB of DDR4 at speeds up to 3300 MHz (OC) and a plethora of USB or SATA connectivity that’s enough to satisfy the vast majority of users. They even included two M.2 SSD storage options to round things out nicely. For wireless connectivity, we have built-in Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth. We’ll explore most of what’s listed in the specifications table below as the review progresses, but you can see it certainly doesn’t lack for available features.
|ASUS X99 Deluxe Motherboard Specifications|
|CPU||Intel Socket 2011-v3 for Intel Core i7 Processors
|Chipset||Intel X99 Express Chipset|
|Memory||8X DIMM, Max 64GB, DDR4 Up to DDR4 3300MHz non-ECC, Un-Buffered
|Multi-GPU support||Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
Supports NVIDIA® 3-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
New Intel® Core™ i7 Processors
Intel® X99 chipset
|LAN||Intel® I218V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller|
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
|Audio||Realtek ALC1150 8-Channel HD Audio CODEC|
|USB||Intel® X99 chipset
Intel® X99 chipset
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller
|Rear Panel I/O Ports||1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
6 x USB 3.0 (blue)
4 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jack(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
1 x ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module (Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v4.0
||1 x AAFP connector
2 x USB 3.0 connectors supports additional 4 USB 3.0 ports (19-pin)
2 x USB 2.0 connectors supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports
1 x SATA Express connector-gray
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M Key design, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (PCIE SSD only)
1 x TPM connector
1 x COM port connector
8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU Fan connector (1 x 4 -pin)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector (1 x 4 -pin)
4 x Chassis Fan connectors (4 x 4 -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header
1 x Thunderbolt header
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 x EZ XMP switch
1 x System panel (Q-Connector)
1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
1 x DRCT header
1 x MemOK! button
1 x Thermal sensor connector
1 x TPU switch
1 x EPU switch
1 x CPU/DRAM overvoltage jumper
1 x Power-on button
1 x Reset button
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
1 x 5-pin EXT_FAN (Extension Fan) connector
|OS Support||Windows® 8.1 32/64-bit
Windows® 8 32/64-bit
Windows® 7 32/64-bit
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor 12 in. X 9.6 in.|
Exploring the features at a high level, we’ll start with a motherboard overview. The image below gives you a good idea of the layout ASUS implemented.
Just as we’ve seen on all previous ASUS X99 motherboards, the OC Socket finds its way to this iteration. All below images and descriptions courtesy ASUS.
The X99 Pro offers the latest high speed data transfer options with its support for SATA Express and M.2 SSDs. Dual M.2 slots come via a slot on the motherboard and by using the included PCI-Express x4 add-in card.
On the audio side of things, ASUS uses their Crystal Sound 2 solution that’s based off the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC. This audio solution uses Japanese-made audio capacitors and implements shielding and EMI protection.
ASUS HomeCloud is yet another useful suite of programs that allow you to access your PC remotely, stream media, or even turn your system into a home server.
ASUS HomeCloud creates a world without boundaries. It lets you access your PC remotely, stream multimedia content to wherever you want, and manage all your stuff from anywhere — no matter where it’s stored. It even turns your hard drive into private cloud storage, removing worries about storage limits. With HomeCloud, your PC becomes the gateway to your world.
Remote GO! gives you complete control of your PC — even when you’re away from home! Access your forgotten files at home, work on your PC while your are in the traffic or outside. Plus one step to manage all your public clouds or sync files among your PC and devices in a click.
Cloud Go! – Gather your ASUS WebStorage, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Skydrive accounts in one place and even backup to PC at the same time!
Remote Desktop – Easily access and control your PC, anytime and anywhere!
File Transfer – Sync files between your PCs and smart devices with just a click!
Remote Keyboard & Mouse – Control media playback from your sofa!
There are many more features we’ll explore when we take an up-close look at the X99 Pro, but for now let’s get the box on a work bench and have a look around!
Retail Packaging/Accessories/First Look
The packaging is based off the same black and white color scheme applied to the motherboard itself. The front of the box exhibits a large picture of the motherboard with icons along the bottom describing a few of the motherboard’s capabilities. Around back, ASUS does a nice job of describing many of the high-level features and specifications. The box sides are reserved for additional branding and model information.
Lifting the box top reveals the X99 Pro sitting on top and wrapped in an anti-static bag. A cardboard divider separates the motherboard from the accessories found below. Here is the list of included accessories.
Before we take a more in-depth look at the X99 Pro, here are several images taken from various angles. As mentioned before, the X99 Pro uses a black PCB and white highlights that cover the heatsinks, back I/O, and audio areas. With the ever increasing popularity of white cases found on the market, this board would make for a sharp looking build using that color scheme.
The ASUS X99 Pro – Up Close
We’ll begin our detailed look at the X99 Pro by looking at the outer portions of the motherboard. Starting with the bottom-left corner, we find the Crystal Sound 2 audio area along the left side. All the audio components we outlined in the features section above are located here. They can easily be seen by removing the white plastic shield that covers the left side of the motherboard. Other than the shielding, EMI protection, and Japanese capacitors ASUS uses here, there are a couple other unique features. First, the audio left and right channels are given their own PCB layers that should help the quality of the audio signals. Another cool feature is the de-pop circuit that ASUS claims reduces the popping noise you often hear when the system is started or shut down.
Along the bottom-left of the X99 Pro are the headers for the front panel audio, digital audio, fan extension (optional), and COMM port. Just next to those are the onboard power and reset buttons and the post code LED display.
Moving over to the motherboard’s bottom-right corner, we find several more headers at the bottom edge. Here we have the headers for the TPM, the first of two USB 3.0 front panel headers, and two USB 2.0 headers. At the very edge, you’ll see the headers for the chassis wiring. Just above these headers are the TPU, EPU, and EZ XMP switches. The TPU switch can be used for automatic overclocking using core ratio only or by using core ratio and BCLK adjustments depending on the switch position you choose. The EPU switch is used to intelligently moderate power consumption based off the current system load. The EZ XMP switch allows you to set the memory’s XMP profile without having to enter the UEFI BIOS. Located above these three switches is the onboard Socket3 SSD M.2 port.
Turning the corner, we land at the SATA/SATA Express port area and the second USB 3.0 front panel header just above that. All 10 of the SATA ports found on the X99 Pro are native to the chipset, and Raid setups are possible using SATA ports one through six. Just below the SATA ports is a 4-pin fan header.
Moving upward, we land at the top-right corner of the motherboard. Along the right side, we find the last two SATA ports, another 4-pin fan header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, and the MemOK! button. The MemOK! button can be useful when you run into a situation where the installed memory is not compatible. By pressing the button, the system will go through an automatic memory compatibility tuning process in the hopes of finding a bootable setting.
Not much is along the top, other than the 8-pin CPU AUX 12V connector.
The top-left corner has two 4-pin CPU fan headers along the top of the board, which is the perfect location for proper cable management.
Moving over to the left side, we land at the I/O area. Here we see the BIOS Flashback button, a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0, the Intel LAN jack, and six USB 3.0 ports. Farther down, we have the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module and the audio ports.
Moving towards the center of the X99 pro, we can have a look at the PCI-E expansion slot area. There are three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, one PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, and two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots. A 40 lane CPU, such as the i7 5960X, will allow up to 3-way SLI/CrossFireX in a x16/x16/x8 configuration. A 28 lane CPU will also allow 3-way SLI/CrossFireX, but in a x16/x8/x4 configuration. A 40 lane CPU will run a dual SLI/CrossFireX setup at x16/x16, and a 28 lane CPU will run a dual SLI/CrossFireX setup at x16/x8.
The CPU socket area is relatively open and should accommodate most air coolers on the market. As always, a mindful eye on memory height is in order when selecting an air cooler that may overhang the DIMM slots. As far as water cooling goes, I can’t imagine any water block causing a fitment problem here.
From this vantage point, we can see the eight DIMM slots that support up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory. ASUS claims memory speeds up to 3300 MHz (OC) are possible if your CPU’s IMC is up to the task.
The passive cooling solution attached to the X99 Pro consists of a PCH heatsink and CPU MOSFET heatsink. The PCH heatsink has a heatpipe that runs to another heatsink attached near the center of the motherboard. In theory, heat captured by the PCH heatsink should travel up the heatpipe and be dissipated by the heatsink near the center of the motherboard.
Cooling the CPU MOSFETs is accomplished with a heatsink on the motherboard’s top side and an aluminum plate attached to the back of the motherboard. The two pieces are screwed together with the motherboard’s PCB sandwiched between them. There is an additional heatsink attached just behind the I/O area, but it doesn’t actually make contact with any components on the motherboard. From all appearances, it’s there to provide aesthetic value only.
With the heatsinks removed, we can get an up-close look at the 8+2+2 power phase design ASUS used on the X99 Pro. Eight phases are dedicated to the CPU, and each bank of four DIMM slots get their own two power phases. The CPU power phases are controlled by the all digital DIGI+ VRM controller, and each memory bank gets its own DIGI+ VRM controller as well. The CPU MOSFETs are provided by the OnSemi 4C85N, and the MOSFET driver is provided by International Rectifier’s IR3535. The memory MOSFETs are provided by the International Rectifier IR3555, which have the driver integrated into them.
There are several ICs worth mentioning that provide the basis for many of the features found on the X99 Pro. ASMedia provides additional USB 3.0 connectivity by way of their ASM1042AE and ASM1074 controllers. PCI-E 2.0 switching is handled by the ASMedia ASM1440 IC, and PCI-E 3.0 switching is handled by the ASMedia ASM1480 IC.
The Intel I218V LAN controller is utilized on the X99 Pro, which is a favorite among enthusiast users. As mentioned earlier, the Realtek 8-channel ALC1150 HD audio CODEC is used as the basis for the Crystal Sound 2 feature.
ASUS uses a replaceable Winbond 25Q128FVIQ BIOS chip, which is a good thing to have if disaster ever strikes, and it needs replacing. The nuvoTon NCT6791D is called upon to handle the Super I/O functions, such as system monitoring and fan control. The last picture below is of the X99 chipset’s PCH.
The ASUS UEFI BIOS
ASUS does a great job making their UEFI BIOS user friendly, easy to navigate, and understandable. They do their best to appease the novice user, while still keeping the enormous amount of tweaking options enthusiasts and overclockers demand. For quick and easy initial setup, the EZ Mode screen provides many of the settings needed for basic operation. Setting boot priorities, fan speeds, and even some basic system monitoring are all available from here. You can even do some automatic system tuning from here if desired.
By pressing the F7 key, you’ll land inside the Advanced Mode area of the UEFI BIOS. The first area to explore here is My Favorites, which gives you the ability to create shortcuts to your most visited areas of the UEFI BIOS… A real time saver!
The Main section is mostly informational in nature, but you do have your date/time/language options located here.
Moving over to the Ai Tweaker section, we find everything related to overclocking and power delivery to the CPU and memory. The amount of options ASUS provides here can be a little overwhelming to the novice user, but the extreme overclocking crowd will be happy to see them. For the novice user, take solace in the fact ASUS does a terrific job programming their “Auto” settings throughout the UEFI BIOS. You can get quite a bit of overclocking accomplished by simply setting the XMP profile for your memory then adjusting the CPU multiplier and voltage accordingly.
Three sub menus are available in Ai Tweaker that are titled DRAM Timing Control, DIGI+ Power Control, and Internal CPU Power Management. The available DRAM timing options are extensive to say the least and can be useful when trying to get every last MHz from your memory. The DIGI+ Power Control allows the user to fine tune the power delivery to the CPU and memory power phases, including switching frequencies, load line calibration, etc. The Internal CPU Power Management is where you’ll find the EIST, Turbo Mode, and several other options.
Nine sub menus will greet you when entering the Advanced section that deals with system and platform configuration settings. There are a host of settings here that can be viewed by perusing the thumbnail images below. Onboard device settings, CPU configuration, and storage configuration are just a few of the many options available.
The Monitor section is were you get real-time temperature, voltage, and fan speed readings. The highlights in this menu are the Qfan options, which give you a variety of ways to set fan speeds. You can choose any of the monitored temperatures as your target source as you set duty cycle and temperature thresholds that control the fan speed. As far as fan control through a UEFI BIOS, Qfan is tough to beat with all the options it presents.
The Boot section is where all your post behavior options are found. You can set your boot drive priorities from here as well as several other settings you may find useful.
The Tool Section has four useful utilities worth checking out. The GPU Post utility gives you at-a-glance information on devices plugged into any of the PCI-E slots. The EZ Flash 2 utility is the safest and easiest way to update the UEFI BIOS’ firmware. Just copy your file to a USB device, and flash away! The Overclocking Profile feature lets you save up to eight profiles or an unlimited amount to a USB device. The SPD Information utility will provide any JDEC and XMP information programmed into your memory.
The Exit section rounds out our UEFI BIOS tour, which is pretty common stuff with just one twist. When you choose to save changes, a pop-up window appears listing all the changes you have made during the current session. This gives you the opportunity to double check any changes you made before rebooting… Nice touch.
Bundled Software – AI Suite 3
AI Suite 3 continues to evolve into perhaps the best motherboard software suite there is. AI Suite 3’s shining star is its Dual Intelligent processors 5 (DIP5) utility, which provides an extensive amount of overclocking, fan control, and power saving options. You can choose to let DIP5 configure your system automatically using 5-Way Optimization, or take manual control of the process using the TPU feature and the plethora of options it affords. If you decide to use the 5-Way Optimization, you still have plenty of control over the way the automatic tuning is performed. For example, you can have the automatic overclocking stop when it reaches a certain CPU voltage or temperature. Controlling the type and length of the stress test performed after each phase of the process is customizable as well. Another excellent feature found in DIP5 is the Turbo App, which lets you tailor system performance, network priority, and audio settings specific to any application. Once you set this feature up and launch the application, the settings you configured for that application are automatically applied.
DIP5 also includes Fan Xpert 3 for unmatched control of any fan hooked to one of the motherboard’s fan headers. All of the fan control options can be customized specific to each fan’s specifications once you send them through the Fan Tuning process. From there, you can manually set the fan speed based on temperature thresholds using any of the monitored temperatures as the source. You can even assign each fan to the actual location inside your case where it’s installed.
The thumbnail images below will show you the majority of options available within the DIP5 utility. Suffice to say, it provides everything you need for total system optimization right from the desktop.
The rest of the AI Suite 3 utilities are pretty self explanatory by looking at the thumbnail images below. There are a few USB 3.0 tools for charging portable devices, automatically downloading and saving BIOS updates to a USB device, and speeding up USB file transfers. The Push Notice utility is a neat feature that can send system monitoring alerts to a paired mobile device or over the network and internet. System information and version numbers for all the AI Suite 3 utilities can also be viewed by clicking on their respective icons from the main menu.
Benchmarks and Overclocking
|Test System Components|
|Motherboard||ASUS X99 Pro|
|CPU||Intel i7 5960X Haswell-E|
|Memory||G.SKill Ripjaws 4 DDR4-3000 MHz 4X4 GB kit|
|SSD||Samsung EVO 500 GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified|
|Cooling||EKWB Supremacy EVO Water Block – 360 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
|OS||Windows 7 Professional x64|
We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks to test compression, rendering, video conversion, and memory performance. We’ll also toss in some 2d benchmarks as well. We don’t normally see much difference when comparing motherboards, especially when the same CPU, chipset, memory, and GPU are used. To that end, we’ll simply provide screenshots of the stock and overclocked benchmark runs. This basically boils down to a search for any abnormalities the motherboard may exhibit during the benchmark runs. We’ll check these results against other X99 motherboards we’ve reviewed to make sure everything is in line.
With just a couple voltage adjustments and a few modifications in the DIGI+ Power Control area, overclocking the CPU to 4.75 GHz took very little effort. Because we are using DDR4 3000 MHz memory in our test system, the motherboard defaults the BCLK to 125, which all X99 motherboards we’ve seen so far do. So, we’ll use the 4.75 GHz overclock for the purpose of the overclock results below. Once we get to the Pushing the Limits section of the review, we’ll see how much is left in the tank. The stock benchmarks were run with the turbo speed of 3.5 GHz locked down, which is typically how we like to do the stock testing.
Compression, Rendering, and Video Conversion Benchmarks
Cinebench R10 – R11.5 – R15
x264 Pass 1 and 2
PoV Ray R3.73
Wprime 32M and 1024M
SuperPi 1M and 32M
Aida64 Cache & Memory
After spending some time comparing these results to previously reviewed X99 motherboards, the X99 Pro performed admirably and was right in line with competing X99 motherboards. Nothing at all to complain about on the performance side of things!
Pushing the Limits
By manipulating the BCLK and a few voltages, I was able to get suicide runs of wPrime 32M and SuperPi 1M to complete at 4.950 GHz. With the BCLK adjustments in place, the memory ran at 3050 MHz, which is a pretty darn good combination of CPU and memory speed.
From the outset, we were very impressed with the X99 Pro’s performance, features, and versatility. Newegg is currently selling the X99 Pro for $308, which is right in line with competing motherboards offering similar features.
Whether you’re a gamer, PC enthusiast, or overclocker at heart, the X99 Pro can fit your needs and do so nicely. Multi-GPU support, great overclocking, and good looks… Yea, it’s all there.
At the beginning of this review I asked the question – “Could this be the perfect balance between price, performance, and features?” It might not be that in everyone’s eyes, but for the vast majority of people it might just be. If you’re looking for a X99 motherboard that won’t break the bank, but still offers the enthusiast features you want… The X99 Pro definitely needs to be on your short list.