The art of ( high-end) subtlety

We paired ASUS’ HEDT ROG Strix X299-E Gam­ing moth­er­board with Intel’s lat­est Core i7-7800X Sky­lake-X CPU to see how they fare in this Lab Exam.

HWM (Malaysia) - - LAB EXAM - Text by John Law

With Intel’s new Sky­lake-X and Kaby Lake-X pro­ces­sors now out and about, the cor­re­spond­ing X299 chipset fol­lowed soon af­ter. The new chipset sig­naled the ar­rival of a new gen­er­a­tion of HEDT (High-End Desk­top) moth­er­boards, and soon af­ter, Intel’s AiB part­ners re­leased their own vari­ants of X299 moth­er­boards onto the mar­ket.

Out of all the moth­er­board brands that have gone on the pro­duc­tion of­fen­sive, ASUS is the one brand that is at the fore­front of this new en­thu­si­ast­grade moth­er­board. Not so much for its in­no­va­tive de­signs, mind you, but more be­cause of the sheer num­ber of X299-ready moth­er­boards that the brand has to of­fer.

In this Lab Exam, we’ll be tak­ing a deeper look at the ROG Strix X299-E Gam­ing, one of ASUS’ more gam­ing­cen­tric, en­thu­si­ast-level moth­er­boards, and see if it is wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion.

A moth­er­board for the gamers

Orig­i­nally announced at COMPUTEX 2017, the ROG Strix X299-E Gam­ing is one of many high-per­for­mance moth­er­boards that the com­pany has in store for the in­formed con­sumers and PC hob­by­ists.

In to­tal, ASUS announced seven moth­er­boards at a spe­cial work­shop dur­ing the week-long ICT trade show, rang­ing from the Prime se­ries, all the way down to the ROG Ram­page VI se­ries X299 moth­er­boards.

By com­par­i­son, the ROG Strix X299-E of the lot, so PC gam­ing en­thu­si­asts should take note if they don’t want to spend a large chunk of their bud­get on the moth­er­board. It should also be pointed out that the rea­son the board is con­sid­er­ably less costly than ASUS’ other X299 boards is be­cause the board doesn’t come with as many fea­tures as its that pep­pers the other boards. In a sense, it’s an LGA 2066 ATX moth­er­board (the ma­jor­ity are E-ATX) with just the most bare es­sen­tials.

That be­ing said, the ROG Strix X299-E fea­tures, plus one or two ex­tra added aes­thet­ics to go with it. As an LGA 2066 ATX board, the ROG Strix X299-E Gam­ing is able to sup­port both of Intel’s new Core X fam­ily of CPUs, mean­ing that it ac­cepts pro­ces­sors from ei­ther the Sky­lake-X or Kaby Lake-X lineup. Be­sides the new CPU slot, there are the stan­dard eight DDR4 DIMM slots that sup­port up to 128GB of RAM, with a max­i­mum fre­quency of 4,133MHz.

Move down to the PCIe 3.0 slots, and you’ll see that, like the ma­jor­ity of boards that picked up on the trend last year, they’ve been re­in­forced with bits of metal to pre­vent the slots from sag­ging or slowly ripped out from the board due to the weight of the ex­ter­nal graph­ics com­po­nent. But just to be clear about the lat­ter point: the chances of that ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing to a moth­er­board is highly un­likely, un­less of course, you’re the kind of gamer who is con­stantly car­ry­ing your PC to LAN par­ties (th­ese days, it’d be eas­ier to get your­self a gam­ing note­book), or you’ve for­got­ten to tighten up the screws on the card’s bracket.

Stor­age-wise, the moth­er­board has a to­tal of eight SATA 6 ports in­stalled, but above all else, it also has two M.2 PCIe SSD is a bit cum­ber­some: in order to ac­cess it, you’ll need to phys­i­cally un­screw the cooler shroud that’s lo­cated on the bottom-right cor­ner the moth­er­board. Un­der­neath the same cooler shroud, how­ever, is a ther­mal pad that will ac­tu­ally sit snug­gly on top of your M.2 mod­ule, which can help to dis­si­pate heat gen­er­ated by the stor­age mod­ule (thumbs up to ASUS for that). The sec­ond mod­ule is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, next to port, this one forces you to stand your M.2 mod­ule up­right on the board.

By com­par­i­son, the ROG Strix X299-E Gam­ing is the more af­ford­able model of the lot, so PC gam­ing en­thu­si­asts should take note if they don’t want to spend a large chunk of their bud­get on the moth­er­board.

As the ROG Strix X299-E Gam­ing is also Intel Op­tane Mem­ory ready, th­ese M.2 ports are also ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing the new Op­tane Mem­ory mod­ule. To that end, we also man­aged to test out the new 32GB Op­tane Mem­ory, but more on that later.

Sadly, the moth­er­board is lack­ing in the rear I/O depart­ment, sport­ing only two USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a pair of USB Type-C and Type-A ports, a LAN port, and the SPDIF out­put that is pow­ered by ASUS’ Supre­meFX au­dio tech­nol­ogy. On the plus side, the moth­er­board does come with its own Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth 4.2 mod­ule, giv­ing you the op­tion of keep­ing your PC wire­less (or at least, one less wire to worry about).

Be­fore you ask: yes, not even the ROG Strix X299-E Gam­ing was spared from ASUS’ Aura Sync RGB LEDs, and the com­pany has gone one step fur­ther by em­bed­ding a holo­graphic logo of its name that changes colors, right in the mid­dle of the moth­er­board. Putting the board through its paces We used the fol­low­ing com­po­nents as part of this Lab Exam: • Intel Core i7-7800X (Sky­lake-X) • Apacer Blade 16GB (2x 8GB) DDR4-3000 • Palit GameRock Ge­Force GTX 1080 • Cor­sair RM1000W PSU • Cor­sair H75 AiO Cooler (with High

Per­for­mance Cool­ing Fans) • Plex­tor M6S 128GB SSD • Win­dows 10 Pro­fes­sional As men­tioned ear­lier, we also tested the 32GB Op­tane Mem­ory. To bench­mark it, how­ever, we were required to use a spe­cial Intel Op­tane Mem­ory-ready stor­age, which we’ve listed below: • Sea­gate Bar­raCuda Pro 6.5TB HDD • Intel Op­tane Mem­ory 32GB Our bench­mark­ing pro­grams con­sisted of the fol­low­ing: • PCMark 8 (Home and

Cre­ative Ac­cel­er­ated) • PCMark 10 • Cinebench R15 For the Intel Op­tane Mem­ory bench­mark, we ad­di­tion­ally ran the PCMark 8 Stor­age test, both with the mem­ory mod­ule en­abled and dis­abled, as well as Crys­talDiskMark 5

The 6-core, 12-thread, Core i7-7800X pro­ces­sor fea­tured in this Lab Exam was cour­tesy of ASUS. Need­less to say, we man­aged to over­clock the CPU way pass its de­fault Turbo Boost clock speed of 4.0GHz, up to 4.8GHz with a steady volt­age stream of 1.35v.

Once over­clocked, how­ever, the CPU and moth­er­board pulled far ahead, with the Home Ac­cel­er­ated tests pulling in 5,202 points, and the Cre­ative Ac­cel­er­ated tests scor­ing 8,855 points.

The same story could be seen on PCMark 10, where both the CPU and moth­er­board brought in a score of less than 5,000 points at its de­fault clock speed, and 6,700 points once we cranked up the fre­quency to 4.8GHz. On the Cinebench R15 bench­mark, the max­i­mum score that we man­aged to ob­tain (af­ter over­clock­ing) from the pro­gram’s mul­ti­core test was 1,537 points, and 207 points from its sin­gle-core test.

As men­tioned, we tested the Intel Op­tane Mem­ory’s per­for­mance in two for­mats: dis­abled and en­abled. When dis­abled, the scores on the PCMark 8 Home and Cre­ative Ac­cel­er­ated were rel­a­tively sim­i­lar to when we ran the test on our pri­mary stor­age de­vice. With Op­tane Mem­ory en­abled, it was the Cre­ative Ac­cel­er­ated test that showed a 7,000 points to 7,700 points in an in­stant. But the test that showed the Op­tane Mem­ory’s prow­ess was the Stor­age test. With the mem­ory mod­ule en­abled, its band­width per­for­mance ac­tu­ally jumped from 14.1MB/s to a near 450MB/s.

This moth­er­board has two M.2 ports, and one of them is hidden un­der­neath this heatsink.

The sec­ond M.2 port is next to the 24-pin power port, but you’ll have to in­stall the stor­age mod­ule up­right.

To kill two birds with one stone, we also tested the 32GB Op­tane Mem­ory with this moth­er­board.

Be­hold, the CPU we used: the Intel Core i7-7800X.

The board comes with an 8+4-pin power phase, for that ex­tra volt­age when over­clock­ing.

Sadly, the ROG Strix X299-E Gam­ing doesn’t have as many ports in its rear I/O than we would’ve liked.

Af­ter over­clock­ing the CPU, Cinebench R15 showed a marked im­prove­ment in its per­for­mance.

The PCMark 10 score af­ter over­clock­ing the CPU to 4.8GHz.

The PCMark 10 score be­fore over­clock­ing the CPU.

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