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ASUS X99-PRO Motherboard (Intel X99) Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 2011 in Motherboards | Posted: May 8, 2015 9:10 pm
TweakTown Rating: 92%Manufacturer: ASUS

Packaging and the Board

 

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The box shows off a nice image of the board and some of its better features. ASUS's 5-Way Optimization is also advertised on the front. The board is inside an anti-static bag and there is some foam protecting it as well, which should do a great job of protecting the motherboard.

 

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Accessories are plenty; 6x SATA6G cables, 2-Way SLI bridge, IO Shield, ASUS 2T2R dual band antenna for WIFI/BT, Q-Connectors, Hyper M.2 4x card for extra M.2 support, manuals, case badge, and driver DVD.

 

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I have circled the fan headers on the board. The headers circled in red are 4-pin PWM headers and the four headers circled in blue are 4-pin voltage mode headers (which are compatible with both 4 and 3 pin fans). There is also a header I circled in green, this is for a fan expansion card that ASUS sells, and it allows users to add additional fans. Extensive fan control is available through the UEFI and Windows. The black and white heat sinks paired with the shield over the IO panel and audio sections provide really great aesthetics.

 

The board looks as good, if not better, than in the pictures, and if you want a white themed build, then the ASUS X99 lineup is perfect for you. White is also good because it will go with any color themed build and not clash with other colors. The back of the PCB has a few ICs and a heat sink over the back of the CPU VRM cools down the drivers for the CPU VRM. The audio isolation path is also visible from the backside.

 

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The back panel IO features a 1GBit NIC (Intel), 6x USB 3.0 ports, 4x USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, a 7.1 TOSLINK for audio with S/PDIF out, WIFI/Bluetooth Antenna connectors, and a ClearCMOS button. The shield helps with aesthetics, covering up the silver reflection of the aluminum from the IO connectors.

 

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The PCI-E layout on this motherboard can support 3-Way SLI/CrossFireX with both types of CPUs (40-lane or 28-lane). The first and third PCI-E 16x slots are to be used if you do 2-Way and the last 16x slot can be used for 3-Way. However, the last PCI-E 16x slot is the one that gives 4x PCI-E 3.0 to the M.2 slot for 32Gb/s of bandwidth. The second PCI-E 16x slot is routed to the PCH and supports 4x PCI-E 2.0, not PCI-E 3.0 like the other full sized slots.

 

There is also some sharing going on with the PCI-E 2.0 slots. The first 1x PCI-E slot and the second PCI-E 16x slot (the only PCI-E 2.0 16x slot) share bandwidth with the controller that provides the two USB 3.0 ports below the RJ-45 LAN port. The second PCI-E 1x slot shares its bandwidth with the WIFI/BT card. However, this bandwidth sharing doesn't impact performance, and I don't think it will cause any issues.

 

By default, the system is set to optimize bandwidth for the WIFI/BT and USB ports, which is a good choice since more people will be using those two devices than the PCI-E 1x slots. If you want, you could put a M.2 drive into the Hyper card that is provided, and plug it into the 16x PCI-E 2.0 for a second 4x M.2 slot so you can run 3-Way SLI.

 

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Crystal Sound 2 is ASUS's upgraded ALC1150 implementation with high quality Nichicon electrolytic audio capacitors, amplifier, and PCB isolation. There are 5 white LEDs on the backside of the board to illuminate the PCB divide of the analog and digital domains.

 

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There are 10 SATA6G ports from the PCH, however, if you use SATA Express, then you obviously lose two of the 10 ports. The grey ports support RAID, but because of chipset limitations on all X99 motherboards, the black ports do not support RAID. A single USB 3.0 front panel header is located further up near two of the SATA ports. I really like the location of the two northernmost SATA ports because it is much easier to unplug SATA cables with GPUs installed.

 

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ASUS provides some basic OC features along with some more useful features for novice users. A POST code display, power, and reset buttons are located at the bottom of the board. At the top of the board is a "MemOK!" button which helps with memory troubleshooting.

 

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Located right below the PCH is the 4x PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slot as well as some switches. The EZ_XMP switch will allow users to easily enable XMP without entering the BIOS. The EPU switch allows for power savings to be engaged and the TPU switch allows for some auto overclocking. These features make it easy for novice users to easily change some system settings without going into the UEFI. There is also a header for a ThunderBolt card located above the second PCI-E 16x slot, perfect placement near the slot you would install the card into.

 

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The white plastic shield is held down by four screws.

 

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I removed the ASUS Wi-Fi GO! card for inspection on the next page.

 

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At launch, all ASUS boards had ASUS's OC Socket which features extra pins to allow for better cache overclocking and a reduction in IMC volts for memory overclocking. ASUS was the first to sell motherboards with this socket. The VRM on this board is an 8-phase VRM.

 

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All the heat sinks on the board seem to have a purpose except the one underneath the shield, which seems to perhaps stabilize the PCB or something, as it's not connected to the CPU heat sink and doesn't seem to cool anything directly.

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