The ASUS STRIX line of motherboards always seem to strike a good balance between affordability, the feature set and design, the latter of which always impresses me with this line of this motherboards. Coming in at the lower end of ASUS’ X299 stack, is the feature sacrifice worth it over higher end boars?
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Amazon (US): http://amzn.to/2u8VZNm
Amazon (UK): http://amzn.to/2sT3cl9
Amazon (Intl.): http://prourls.co/h21n
Aesthetics & Layout:
Taking a look around the board it has all the expected traits of an X chipset motherboard, with a sensible and familiar layout. We of course have the new LGA2066 socket in the middle, surrounded by 8 RAM dimms, four on each side. Here we are presented with the first quirk of this controversial X299 launch. IF you choose to use on of the so-called ‘KabyLake-X’ chips you can only use 4 of these 8 RAM dimms, due to these CPUs only supporting dual channel memory (these CPUs just re-branded 7600K and 7700K chips) In terms of PCIE lanes on this motherboard there are a total of 6 PCI-E slots, all of the gen 3 variety on the following order: X16, X1, X1, X16, X4, X8
Another CPU bound restriciton you might encounter will affect your PCI-E lane configurations, the bandwidth at which these run at is dependent on your CPU, and with the aformentioned 2 lower end chips, which boast just 16 PCI-E lanes some slots will certainly be rednered useless.
Aesthetically this is superb. I would argue that this is one of the best looking motherboard’s I have ever seen. From the sleek, and neutral black colour scheme to dark greey soft-touch dark greay accents I have nothing but praise. ASUS, like MSI, tout the option to ‘Make it your own’ through 3D printing support, but let’s be real here: who really has a 3D printer of their own?!
Storage support is also fairly good on this board, from the 8 SATA 3, 6Gbit/s ports which sit on the right hand side, and support RAID in 0, 1, 5 and 10 varieties, to the 2 M.2 slots on the board. One of the M.2 slots is hidden nicely under the chipset heatsink, the other sits on the right hand side of the board. Unlike other X299 boars there is now U.2 port here, for 99% of people this won’t be a big deal, at all, but a notable point if nothing else!
Front & Rear Panel IO:
IO connectivity is really nice on the board itself and rear IO isn’t bad either. Working from left to right there’s a BIOS flashback button. 2 USB 2 ports, a gigabit RJ45 jack, 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 5Gbit/s ports, the bottom of the 2 supporting BIOPS flashback of a USB stick, a further 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 5Gbit/s ports, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A and Type C port, with 10Gbit of throughput, wifi antenna connection, for which an antenna is included, supporting 802.11AC wifi and Bluetooth 4.2 as seen with the MSI board I looked at previously, linked in the cards section and finally the usual audio stack, with 7.1 audio out and an optical audio out. One thing to note is that the USB 3.1 ports are data only, and not power, which is a shame, as I sight that as a huge advtage to the whole USB C eco system.
An ASMedia controller is used on this board for the USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, both the ports on the real panel and the front panel USB 3.1 connector, which shares bandwidth with the PCI-E x1 slot on the board.
Font panel and on board connections are nicely laid out on this board, and pretty thorough at that. The motherboard has 2 USB 3 front panel connectors, one right angled next to the SATA port, the other upwards facing on the bottom row of connections. There is the previously mentioned USB 3.1 gen 2 connector, powered by the ASMedia controller, and located just above the right angled USB 3 header. On the right hand side of the board there is the standard 24pin motherboard power connection and a 4 + 8 pin CPU power up top, with the additional 4 pins to provide better power delivery for higher TDP CPUs and better overclocking performance. Also at the top, next to the CPU power connection is a 4pin LED header, the placement of which I really like, as an additional port to the one on the bottom. There’s also 2 4pin PWM fan headers up top, one down the side for an intake fan, a further 2 along the bottom for additional intake fans on the front or bottom of the case and 2 more headers just below the IO for exuast fans or a water cooling pump. All of these headers are of the more versatile 4 pin variant, which I like.
At the bottom of the board, where the bulk of connections are, there is the front panel connector pins, for Power, Reset and LEDs, another 4-pin LED header, this of the 5V variety, as a pose to the 12V variety, 2 fan headers (mentioned above) anda USB 2 front panel header. USB 3 is also cateed for with a header down the bottom, there is a fan hub header, Q code (for easy error and boot up diagnostics), a 10 pin serial connector and, finally, HD audio pins, for case headphone and mic jacks.
Next up let’s touch on overclocking. This certainly isn’t ASUS’ flagship OC board, that is for sure. That being said the VRM heatsink is pretty beefy, and looks AMAZING. ASUS frequently tout 5-Way Optimisation on their boards, and this is not different. It will auto OC your CPU and RAM to provide extra performance at stable speeds. The ability to do this through a BIOS or software is a pretty common thing amongst motherboard manufacturers noways.
System Specs: i5 7640k, Cooler Master Seidon 240V, 250GB 950 Pro M.2, XFX RX 480
To measure the performance of this motherboard I comprised a set of 3 tests, 2 synthetic and one gaming, to create an ‘apple’s to apple’s’ comparison to another X299 motherboard I have on hand, MSI’s X299 Gaming Pro Carbon Board. I repeated each test 3 times to ensure the results were accurate. The gaming test I used was Project Cars, running FRAPS to measure the minimum and average FPS through the first 60seconds of an identical race.
MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon: Min: 66FPS, Avg: 97.983FPS
ASUS X299 STRIX: Min: 87, Avg: 97.35FPS
3D Mark Firestrike:
To conclude, this motherboard is nothing other than a fantastic option for an X299 system, providing you don’t want to break overclocking records! The design is just (I’m still in awe!) and the ASUS BIOS and software is as well rounded as ever. X299 hasn’t had the greatest launch, as an eco system, but this ASUS board just does’t doesn’t seem to have been phased with these issues. A great motherboard at a great price, especially compared to the market’s other X299 options.
For the video version of this review please click here.