How we test
Barely a year after Broadwell-E hit the shelves, Intel is back and looking to secure its defences against the imminent arrival of AMD’s Threadripper CPUs. The latest Core i7 and Core i9 CPUs are cheaper than their equivalent predecessors, and early indications are that 4.6GHz is an easy overclocking target too. First, though, there are a few issues to discuss, as it’s not all plain sailing with the supporting X299 motherboards in these early days.
While we experienced far fewer issues with LGA2066 boards than with AMD’s AM4 launch in March, high power consumption, toasty temperatures, stability issues and slow PCI-E M.2 speeds have been experienced with boards from every manufacturer we’ve tested so far. The lower M.2 speeds compared with Z270 motherboards are reportedly a potential issue with Skylake-X itself, and Asus has raised the issue with Intel – we’ll be reporting further on this problem next month, when hopefully some of these problems have been fixed.
High power draw at stock speed also appears to be an issue with early EFI systems, and we’ve seen at least two boards improve dramatically with new EFIs just as we finished testing. As such, while we’ve mentioned the issues in the reviews, we have no doubt that this situation will improve after a few EFI revisions, and the situation is already better than at the same stage in the X99 platform’s release.
We’ve now updated our high-end desktop test gear to include two Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 480 8GB graphics cards, 32GB of 3000MHz Corsair Vengeance LED RAM and an Intel Core i9-7900X CPU. We use a 500GB Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD to test both the M.2 speeds and the heatsinks included on many new motherboards, using AIDA64 to record the temperature. Along with a 256GB Samsung 850 Pro, we use CrystalDiskMark’s 1GB sequential test to record read and write speeds.
We also use RightMark’s Audio Analyzer software to measure the dynamic range, noise level and total harmonic distortion of the on-board audio. Other test hardware includes a Fractal Design Celsius 24 cooler, Corsair RM750 PSU and Crucial MX100 SSD with Windows 10 installed with the latest updates. Other tests include our RealBench 2015 suite of benchmarks, Terragen 4, Cinebench R15 and Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, along with total system power consumption recorded from the mains.