MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC W
THE X299 SPEED DEMON
hen we put the call out for X299 motherboards, we initially asked for entry-level boards for the PC & Tech Authority roundup, with a price point of no more than $400. Unfortunately it appears that no such X299 boards yet exist; this $469 product was the most a ordable we could find. It seems that once again Intel is charging a very high premium for products based on its HEDT (High End Desktop platform) segment. This is in stark contrast to the $300 and even cheaper boards that are Ryzen 7 compatible, making the cost of ownership of the new Core-X series even higher. As you’ll see, the costs rise dramatically, so we’ve ordered the boards in this article based on price – just what does a $469 X299 board get you?
This is a standard ATX sized board, and Asus has gone for a black PCB with white and aluminium heatsinks and I/O shields. Three full length PCIe x16 slots are all steel-reinforced, while another twin PCIe x4 and single PCIe x1 slot are included. Asus has stuck with the standard eight SATA 3 6Gbit/sec ports that are the default for the X299 chipset.
There are also another twin M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 slots, and these are covered by the large cooling heatsink at the bottom of the board. Asus claims that the memory slots can be run at speeds up to and exceeding DDR4-4133MHz, but we only tested at the default speed of our CPU, the i9-7900X, which is 2666MHz. It’s obviously Optane ready, like all X299 boards, and also supports Turbo Boost Max 3.0, but we had major issues getting this to work, and not just on this board.
Asus promises one click overclocking, and we tested the included 5-Way optimisation software. Unfortunately, the board maxed out at 4.3GHz, which is even slower than the promised 4.5GHz promised by Intel Turbo Boost Max 3.0. This was a common problem on most boards though, so it’s obvious there are some kinks to be worked out regarding the new Turbo Boost method.
At the I/O port there are six USB ports, three of which are USB 3.1 Type A, along with another four USB 2.0. There’s also a single USB 3.1 Gen Type-C port, but there’s also a header to allow another on the front of your case, if it so supports it. There is a Thunderbolt header, but no port itself.
Tweakers will appreciate the onboard power buttons and USB Bios flashback button. There’s also a decent range of fan headers, with six onboard. However, it appears only one is suitable for a highAmp water pump.
As for power supplies, like most X299 boards, this comes with extra inputs. There’s the usual 24-pin and 8-pin connections, but there’s also another 4-pin power connector. Obviously this board also supports Asus’ Aura Sync lighting technology, and there’s an RGB LED strip header to attach one if so desired. When it comes to audio, Asus has once again relied upon its customised version of the ALC1220 codec, which it calls S1220A. It’s got all the usual features claimed by other makers – premium capacitors, dedicated PCB audio layers and the like, but in reality sounds much like other ALC1220 boards with enhanced components.
When it came to performance, the Prime-X sat around the middle of the pack. Considering it’s only $100 cheaper than the MSI board though, which showed some rather impressive performance gains, we’d have to question whether saving the $100 is worth it. It’s obvious that Intel has rushed the X299 launch given our issues getting Turbo Boost Max 3.0 to work, but given its history we have no doubt they’ll resolve these in short order. When they do, the Asus Prime X299-A will likely be one of the most a ordable options to enter the Core-X arena, but we’d suggest giving it a little time for the platform to mature.
As one of the most a ordable boards on the market, this will be a temping X299 proposition for those looking for a cheap X299 board. Just be aware it’s still a little rough around the edges, a problem shared by all X299 products.