Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
GIGABYTE's X299 Aorus Gaming 9 is the best GIGABYTE has to offer at launch for the X299 chipset. The X299 Aorus Gaming 9 is part of GIGABYTE's third installment of the AORUS brand (Z270 and X370 also featured the Aorus brand), aimed at being a premium brand that caters to gamers. The X299 Aorus Gaming 9 is an improvement over its predecessors in many ways.
Compared to the Z270 Gaming 9, it looks better due to color and RGB changes and offers sleek M.2 heat sinks, and a modern feature set. I would say the Predecessor to the X299 Gaming 9 would be the X99-Gaming G1 WIFI, which was very high-end and offered the latest in technologies at X99 launch.
The X299 chipset is significantly more connected than the X99 PCH (in almost every way), but it is very similar to the Z270 chipset in regards to connectivity, offering similar numbers of ports and the same DMI 3.0. X299 does, however, offer a technology called Virtual Raid On CPU (VROC), which most motherboard vendors are implementing ports for (by most I mean all). VROC allows you to go beyond the PCH for RAID and allows you to RAID devices connected to it rather than the PCH.
The X299-Aorus Gaming 9 features three M.2 slots, tons of USB 3.1, 3-way SLI support, quad channel memory, support for both Kaby Lake-X and Skylake-X, as well as 127dB SNR audio.
The X299-Aorus Gaming 9 costs $499.99.
Packaging and X299-Aorus Gaming 9 Overview
Packaging and Overview
I received the motherboard at a workshop, so I do not have the original box for it, so this graphic representation will have to do. The packaging of accessories is typical of high-end GIGABYTE motherboard.
The accessory package includes six SATA6Gb/s, a x4 to M.2 heat sink cooled PCI-E adapter (for VROC of course), SLI HB Bridge, M.2 to U.2 converter, Wi-Fi antenna, two RGB extension cables, one digital RGB 5v and 12v splitter cable adapter, G-Connector, two temperature probes, Aorus case badge and two Velcro ties.
GIGABYTE put a heavy serving of fan control on the X299 Aorus Gaming 9 with a total of eight fan headers. The headers circled in blue are PWM/Voltage mode hybrid headers, while the header circled in yellow is a 3A high-output header. The header circled in red is a pump header, but can act like a normal hybrid fan header as well. There are also two external temperature sensor headers circled in green. The motherboard offers a very simple color theme; black and gray. It can either fade away into the back of your case or light up to any color you choose.
GIGABYTE did a nice job of diffusing the RGB LEDs instead of letting them glare into your eyes. I am really happy they fixed this aesthetic choice. They also added in digital RGB LEDs into the IO and audio areas, and it can produce some cool effects. GIGABYTE also decided to join the Shield club, and went ahead and added a metal shield on the rear of the motherboard to protect the motherboard and reinforce the PCB.
GIGABYTE also joined the integrated IO shield club and integrated an RGB infused rear IO panel that looks awesome. It provides two USB 3.0 DAC-UP ports (yellow), two USB 3.0 ports (white one supports USB Flashback functionality as well), a USB 3.1 type-C port, four USB 3.1 type-A ports, Intel LAN, Killer LAN, WIFI antenna, PS/2 keyboard/mouse, and 7.1 gold plated audio ports with S/PDIF optical.
The PCI-E layout is not that simple, the PCI-E slots are physically (from top to bottom) PCI-E x16/CPU, x4/CPU, x16/CPU, x4/PCH, x8/CPU. The top PCI-E x4 slot is routed to the CPU and is not available when using a 16-lane CPU. The only PCI-E bandwidth difference between 40 and 28 lane CPUs is that the second x16 slot operates at x8 higher... For 16 lane CPUs, you lose one PCI-E x4 slot (the top one), and you can operate at x8 in each of the x16 slots for 2-way.
There are three M.2 slots on the motherboard, the middle slot shares all bandwidth with the first PCI-E x4 slot (second x16 physical slot) and it also will not be usable with an x16 lane CPU. However, their public information says that it true, but their pre-NDA slide says that Kaby Lake-X CPUs do a 3-way slot solution on this motherboard, where the M.2 slot would then not be disabled along with the first PCI-E x4 slot.
For the middle M.2 slot or the PCI-E slot it shares bandwidth to offer RAID, you must use a VROC key, but you will be bypassing the DMI bus, so 7Gbps is now possible in a RAID 0 cluster. The bottom M.2 slot shares all of its bandwidth with four SATA ports (ports 5-8).
The M.2 shields GIGABYTE has implemented are actually quite formidable, have weight to them, and make M.2 drive installation really easy by positioning that tiny annoying M.2 screw. There are eight SATA6Gb/s ports supported by the PCH. Four share with one M.2 slot, one shares with another M.2 slot.
An RGBW header is located near two 8-pin power connectors. You want more than one 8-pin connector for heavy duty 10+ core overclocking. There is a USB 3.0 internal header located right below the 24-pin power connector, above a USB 3.1 type-C internal header.
There is a ThunderBolt 3 GPIO header located right between the M.2 metal casing and bottommost SATA port; this connector is also the exact header GIGABYTE chose for their digital RGB LED header, so beware not to insert into the wrong header. The VROC header is located to the left of the clear CMOS button (no Clear CMOS jumper onboard), right above the front panel connectors. A second USB 3.0 internal header is located to its left.
GIGABYTE didn't leave us high and dry when it comes to overclocking features; we do get a POST code display, power and reset buttons, as well as ECO and OC buttons. The X299 platform might be the first to actually benefit from an ECO mode. Two USB 2.0 internal headers are also located on the motherboard.
A mini TPM header sits to the right of an RGBW header. The digital 5v and 12v combo digital RGB LED header sits above the RGBW header. The digital LED header looks identical to the ThunderBolt 3 GPIO header, so be very careful. The motherboard has a lot of lights built into things such as the PCH heat sink, IO shield, and IO covers.
GIGABYTE X299-Aorus Gaming 9 Circuit Analysis
The X299 Aorus Gaming 9 really is quite beautiful.
The motherboard provides eight true phases for the CPU VCore or Input voltage of the CPU. There are other rails as well such as VCCSA. It uses an Infineon digital PWM, the IR35201, in 8+0 phase mode. Each phase uses an IR3556, 50A 2nd generation PowIRstage fully integrated power stage from Infineon.
The VRM also uses 70-76A high current Cooper Bussmann power inductors and 10K FP caps. The VRM required for the CPU's VCore or iVR input voltage at overclocked levels is huge, and this level of quality is excellent. A few of Infineon's new IR35204 3+1 phase PWM controllers are used to control the secondary rail VRMs (like VCCSA and IO), main DDR VRM, and DDR VPP VRM. The secondary rails use IR3553 40A integrated PowIRstage power stages; they are overkill for this job, so they should operate well.
Here we have both main memory VRMs using two IR3553 PowIRstages and an IR35204 each.
GIGABYTE X299-Aorus Gaming 9 Circuit Analysis Continued
X299-Aorus Gaming 9 Circuit Analysis Continued
Okay, bear with me here as the parts list of this very advanced Realtek ALC1220 implementation is intense. Looking up we have the Realtek chip along with some power circuitry, which is mostly for the amplifiers. GIGABYTE looks to have moved away from the OP-AMP sockets. For starters, we get a TPS65151 split-rail converter with +/-, and then also four TPS7A49 ultralow-noise positive linear regulators, specifically made for operational amplifiers in the audio industry, it can even be used to improve upon another regulators' filtering.
One difference between the Gaming 9 and Gaming 7 is the usage of a slightly better digital to audio converter on the gaming 9; the ESS Sabre ES9018BK2M 127dB rated DAC rather than the normal ES9018.
There is also a Savitech SV3S1018A headphone impedance sensor, so there is no need for gain switches. I found three Texas Instruments LME49720 dual operational amplifiers, they can be used as amps, pre-amps, or line driver but here I think they could be used as either. GIGABYTE states that two are used to help isolate the left and right channels, but there is a third that might act as a pre-amp for the OP1622 amplifier.
We get the Texas Instruments OPA1622 SoundPlus HiFi operational amplifier to seal the deal. Filtering is done with both Nichicon Gold series audio capacitors and WIMA audio film capacitors. An NEC relay prevents de-pop, and there isn't a physical PCB isolation line like we are used to seeing. That NEX relay makes it sound like your PC is ticking when shutting down or turning on.
GIGABYTE used both Intel's i219v and the Killer e2500. The wireless LAN comes from a Killer 2x2 wireless AC 1535, which is quite good.
Two ASMedia ASM3142 controllers are used on the motherboard; one for the rear and one for the front. Each one is fed x2 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, so each has 16Gb/s to work with. The rear IO controller provides the type-C port along with a Texas Instruments HD3220 switch and then feeds into a hub.
The Realtek RTS5411 chip is a USB 3.0 hub, and takes one USB 3.0 port and outputs four, or it might take two and produce four, GIGABYTE doesn't specify, but they have enough ports to do it. The Realtek RTS5423 takes in a single USB 3.1 port and outputs to four.
We find a brand new ITE chip, the IT8295FN, which is used for RGB LED control. I assume the new one also supports the digital RGB LED features, so you can independently talk to each LED on the strip. You do need to buy a digitally addressable RGB LED strip for it to work.
A brand new NXP switch is being used, the NXP DBTL08GP053, which supports PCI-E as well as other high-speed signals such as USB 3.1 at 10Gbps. It's a crossbar switch IC, which means it could connect multiple inputs with multiple outputs, so it's more advanced than the MUX/DeMUX quick switches we are used to seeing.
GIGABYTE used this because of the crazy lane count changes, and if they wanted to support all types of switching, they had to use a switch which was more flexible instead of adding many more switches. We also find the IT8951E, the controller we find on GIGABYTE motherboards with USB BIOS flash recovery, known as QFLASH Plus.
Finally, we arrive at the main SuperIO, the IT8686E, and it controls system management functions like monitoring and provides PS/2 for the rear IO. An ICS6V41742A clock generator is also located on the motherboard.
An ITE IT8795E is used to expand fan control operations, and the motherboard offers dual 128Mbit/16MB BIOS ROMs.
BIOS and Software
GIGABYTE's UEFI for the X299-Aorus Gaming 9 is almost a carbon copy of that on their Z270 motherboards, except for the type, names, actions of different settings. In regards to overall look, navigation, menu structure, setting input, custom GIGABYTE modules such as RGB or fan control are all pretty much identical to Z270 and even some X99 GIGABYTE motherboards.
It's a very useful and functional UEFI and offers all the settings required to control fans (and they added a stop setting), control some RGB functions, overclock, or do any rudimentary BIOS task such as change boot order or disable a setting.
Software applications bundled with the motherboard include 3D OSD, @BIOS, BIOS Setup, USB Blocker, Cloud Station, EasyTune, Fast Boot, RGB Fusion, SIV, Smart Backup, Smart TimeLock, Smart keyboard, and VTuner.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE X299-Aorus Gaming 9
- CPU: Intel Core i9-7900X
- Cooler: Corsair H110i - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: G.Skill TridentZ RGB (4x8GB) 3600MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Corsair LS 240GB
- Storage – M.2 Drive: Samsung 950 Pro 256GB
- Storage - USB Drive: Corsair Voyager GS 64GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 900D - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Corsair RM1000 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: ASUS PA328 ProArt 32" 4K - Buy from Amazon
- Keyboard: Corsair K70 LUX - Buy from Amazon
- Mouse: Corsair M65 PRO RGB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Headset: Corsair VOID RGB Wireless - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- BIOS: F6a
The X299-Aorus Gaming 9 might be the most lit motherboard in existence, and in a good way.
I had asked those at GIGABYTE in charge of things such as RGB LEDs, why they had so many RGB LEDs that shined directly out, and weren't diffused, on their Z270 motherboards. They told me that they assumed that the light would be caught under GPUs and air coolers, producing a glowing effect. I gave them an analogy of a lamp on a table, we have lamp shades for a reason, as direct light shining can bother. It's like looking at 20 different tiny flashlights.
We prefer diffused light, and GIGABYTE did diffuse all the RGB LEDs in their new X299 lineup. GIGABYTE also added digital LED control into their motherboard, at least in the IO shield and audio shield, and their demo mode produces some really cool effects, as with digital RGB LEDs you can control each LED individually, including their brightness. You can make one color shot down the motherboard, or fade up and down with more precision, as you see on the picture on the right.
Right now I am going to see how far the motherboard can push my 7900X. The best overclock (or typical one) able to pass my Handbrake 4K encoding benchmark for stability is 4.6GHz with 1.2v VCore. On this motherboard, I used a 1.75v VIN (I always try to make it lower is possible to reduce IVR heat), with LLC level Turbo, and 1.2v VCore set.
For the memory, all I did was set XMP. If you want to save a few degrees, set all the other voltages to normal mode instead of auto, and depending on the BIOS, this might reduce CPU temps by a few degrees, maybe right just where the throttle wall is. The G.Skill kit on the right was used for the 3.6GHz memory overclock.
We are still waiting on more X299 memory kits to arrive, as we only have one on hand and it's running XMP in the CPU section. We have one kit on the way, and more should be on hand soon enough.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
The GIGABYTE X299 Aorus Gaming 9 is a very well rounded motherboard. In CPU, memory, and GPU performance areas the motherboard is quite strong. We are on a very recent version of the UEFI, so the motherboard seems to have all the proper microcode updates. At this point, and as we go further, we won't see too much deviation in the performance of the CPU, memory, or GPU.
I don't take much too much credence into benchmarking the CPU or GPU to see how well the motherboard does, as the difference is almost always within the margin of error. These tests are to make sure performance isn't below that margin, or to see what's going on if it's above.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The X299-Aorus Gaming 9's storage performance in both M.2 and SATA tests are good; there doesn't seem to be an issue, other than 4K reads are a bit lower. I assume there is some power saving mode enabled in the UEFI that makes this happen. Network performance is top notch, that Killer wireless AC card is quite good.
Audio RMAA 5.5:
I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.
Sound Judgment by Ear: Excellent, actually truly excellent when you put on a pair of headphones. GIGABYTE has done a very nice job with the ESS DAC and the amplifications. Although, this design is a big deviation from what we typically get with GIGABYTE (no OP-AMP socket, Realtek over Creative, no physical PCB divide).
There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent
VRM and System Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption
Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption
System power is measured at the wall with an AC power meter.
Note on Thermal Images: In the temperature section, we use our Seek thermal imaging camera to capture the surface temperatures of major components on the board. I look at the VRM and then all other things that light up the screen. If there is something to worry about, then I will state it. Otherwise, I will just show the hotter running parts of the board for fun. Unless some component is over 80-90C, then there isn't anything to worry about.
All systems will act differently, so I will look for commonalities, such as how far from the VRM the heat spreads through the PCB and the difference in temperature between the front side and backside of the PCB. Keep in mind, the majority of the heat from the VRM goes into the PCB as it is a giant soldered on copper heat sink. A larger difference in temperature between the back and front of the PCB points towards a more effective heat sink.
Thermal Testing at Stock Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans above the VRM that cool the CPU cooler's (Corsair H110i) radiator are turned on to high (12v).
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
The temperature on the rear of the motherboard is lower than on the front, which means the VRM heat sink is actually working. Temperatures are quite low, but the heat is spread all over, there must be a good amount of copper in the PCB. Solid VRM, especially at stock, but power savings at idle isn't impressive.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
4.6GHz 1.75V VCCIN OCed VRM Thermal Imaging:
Temperature readings are taken after 40 loops of Intel Burn Test have been run (with AVX). Pictures of the setup are on the Test Setup Page. The two radiator fans (120mm Corsair) of the H110i blow in the general direction of the motherboard and VRM from the side (that is why the right side is slightly cooler in the first pic), so there is airflow (less than a case but more than a test bench with no airflow). Overall, since I already know the temperature readings of other motherboards as I review in groups of four, this VRM is doing really well.
The OC is not enough to make it throttle, but you can compare VRM results from one of my reviews to others, especially for this platform. You should realize there will be a few degree margin of error based on room temp. Part of the reason this motherboard does so well is the heat pipe and extra heat sink slab in the two top images, so far this is the only boards I have reviewed with decent VRM cooling (the heat pipe), although the heat sink design could be better with more surface area.
The second heat sink is only a few degrees cooler than the main CPU one, and it's working as the temperature on the back of the board is 2C lower than that on the front.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the GIGABYTE X299-Aorus Gaming 9.
Excellent Quality: The VRM component quality, all the way from the IR PWM and PowIRstages to the inductors and capacitors, the VRM is top notch. It's a high-performance VRM, and the supporting dual 8-pin power plugs and remote heat sink with heat pipe actually allow you to overclock that 10-core beast, although it still gets quite warm compared to X99 motherboards. The rest of the motherboard also uses high-quality components, from the audio to the backpanel metal shield.
Excellent Audio: One thing that sets the X299 Aorus Gaming 9 apart from the X299 Aorus Gaming 7 is the model of the ESS Sabre DAC, only on the Gaming 9 do you get 127dB. GIGABYTE also added pre-amps for one very nice OPA1622 HiFi amp. Dedicated components were added to improve noise metrics, and a relay to prevent de-pop. The only thing I don't like is the small tick sound the relay makes when turning the PC on and off.
Tons of Fan Headers and Temperature Sensors: As with GIGABYTE's Z270 motherboard, their top Gaming 9 X299 motherboard offers a huge fan control and temperature sensor offering. They have improved upon their previous offering as well, adding small things such as fan stop into the UEFI. Perhaps this is GIGABYTE making up for their previous (pre-Z270) offerings, either way, it's a win for you.
Digital and PWM RGB Lighting: Digital RGB control allows you to control each RGB on the strip independently, both in power and color. It produces some amazing effects and is more precise than what I have seen on the normal RGB strip side of things. Of course, GIGABYTE still provides those in the rest of the motherboard, along with a header designed to support both 5v and 12v digital RGB strips. Built-in RGB LEDs on this motherboard looks great, especially in the IO and audio panels and the IO panel cover itself. You can turn the lights off as well.
Price: At $500 is a pricey motherboard, but it's loaded with features. It will cost more than some of the processors available for the socket, which is a bit disconcerting.
No 4-way: The HEDT platforms from Intel are designed to support all the latest and greatest GPU technologies, but one missing here and on some other X299 motherboards is the ability to 4-way SLI/CrossFireX.
The GIGABYTE X299-Aorus Gaming 9 looks and feels like a very high-end motherboard. It's an excellent performer in many ways and carries high-quality materials and parts. Its design is very flashy, so if you are into that sort of thing you will love this motherboard; GIGABYTE loves their RGB LEDs. I like their new additions, such as the M.2 heat sinks for all slots, the built-in IO panel, and the backside metal shield.
On the PCH heat sink is an interchangeable plastic Aorus logo, and you can even replace this with a translucent 3D printed version (GIGABYTE has provided the dimensions) of your design. It was the first X299 motherboard I got my hands-on, and it has been working quite well since. BIOS updates have provided good improvements when it comes to CPU policy, and I expect changes are we move forward, and as of now, it doesn't feel buggy.
If you have a 7900X, which you just spent $1000 on, and you have an extra $500 left over and want a premium motherboard, the X299 Aorus Gaming 9 might be the right option for you.
The Bottom Line: GIGABYTE's X299 Aorus Gaming 9 is a high-quality motherboard that comes with all the latest features and bells and whistles.
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