The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Today we have ASRock's top of the line Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 X299 motherboard. The motherboard is targeted not only at gamers as its model name suggests, but also professionals and power users. It has the latest 10Gbit NIC from Aquantia as well as workstation features and a high-quality VRM.
ASRock's X299 Taichi was a very affordable motherboard compared to other X299 motherboards, but the X299 Gaming i9 is in another league, with many other features that make it a premium X299 motherboard.
Let's take a look at what ASRock has to offer.
The Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 offers Wireless AC, dual Intel NICs, a 10Gbit NIC, USB 3.1, USB 3.0, and many SATA 6Gb/s ports.
The Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 costs $389.99.
Packaging and Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 Overview
Packaging and Overview
ASRock has been steadfast with their Fatal1ty line of motherboards and box design. While the box is red and black, the motherboard doesn't have much red built into it. Packaging is high-end, the best ASRock has to offer, and the motherboard is extremely well protected from the elements.
The accessory package includes two WIFI antenna, four SATA6Gb/s cables, IO shield, three M.2 screws, 3-way SLI bridge, 2-way SLI HB Bridge, driver DVD, and manuals.
ASRock put five fan headers on the Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9, and while they are all hybrid PWM/DC mode headers, they don't all offer the same current capability. The CPU fan header circled in red offers up to 1A of output, while the other four circled in blue offer 1.5A. Some of these headers are labeled pump header, and in pump mode, they provide full power for your water pump.
All headers can be switched between DC and PWM modes in the UEFI, and you have excellent fan control in Windows and in the UEFI. The back of the motherboard has a ton of components, and this is to make the front of the PCB look cleaner. Be careful when handling the motherboard.
The IO shield offers two PS/2 keyboard/mouse, two USB 2.0 ports, WIFI antenna, BIOS Flash Back button, Clear CMOS button, four USB 3.0 ports, two Intel Gbit LAN ports, one 10Gbit Aquantia LAN port, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, and 7.1 gold plated audio outputs with S/PDIF out.
The PCI-E lane allotment is complicated just like it is on other X299 motherboards. PCI-E slots (x16) from top to bottom are PCI-E 1/2/3/4. A 44 lane CPU will run they are a maximum distribution of x8/x8/x16/x8, a 28 lane CPU will run them at x8/x0/x8/x8 at maximum, and a 16 lane CPU will run at x8/x0/x4/x0. The PCI-E x1 slot is routed to the PCH through a hub and operates at PCI-E 2.0. The motherboard has three x4 PCI-E M.2 slots, and all of them share bandwidth with the SATA6Gb/s ports. You need to check out the manual to check out what slots/ports will be disabled when the other is in use.
Surprisingly the motherboard only offers a single 8-pin power connector, but ASRock has optimized stuff such as density and copper content so that it can handle over 300W. There is a USB 3.0 internal header right below the 24-pin power connector; a USB 3.1 internal header sits right below the USB 3.0 header.
There is also one right-angled USB 3.0 internal header near the SATA ports. There is a total of 10 SATA6Gb/s ports, eight of them are from the PCH while two are from an ASMedia controller. The motherboard does offer power and reset buttons, along with a POST code display.
One RGB LED header is located at the top right corner of the motherboard, while the other is located near the Clear CMOS jumper near the audio section of the PCB. The motherboard also has a VROC header, as well as two USB 2.0 internal headers.
All heat sinks are screwed on to the motherboard, but a single heat sink to cool the 10Gbit NIC uses pushpins.
ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 Circuit Analysis
The Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 reveals its secrets!
The CPU VRM is in a 12+1 phase configuration, and to be honest, ASRock has stated it is identical to that of the X299 Taichi and one other ASRock motherboard. ASRock decided to give its less expensive motherboards the same VRm quality as their top of the line boards.
There are three Intersil ISL69138 fully-digital PWMs, which offer two rails in X+Y=max7 phases. In this case, it's being used in a 6+1 phase mode. The new PWM is paired with brand new 60A Intersil DrMOS first from Intersil, the ISL99227B and ISL99227F are Smart Power Stages and offer internal current and temperature sensing, which allows them to operate at high-efficiency levels since they have quick and accurate internal feedback loops. ASRock is using 12K capacitors as well as 60A+ inductors.
Six Intersil ISL6617 phase doublers are located on the back of the motherboard and double 6 PWM phases to 12 for the CPU core power rail. Another ISL69138 used to control the memory VRM can be found on the rear of the motherboard.
Each memory VRM uses two Fairchild FDPC5030SG, which are high current dual N-Channel MOSFETs that integrate both the high and low-side MOSFETs. Each set of 8 DIMMs gets two phases for main DDR4 power. We find our second memory VRM and last Intersil ISL69138, which is being underutilized. The one difference between the Taichi and Gaming i9 is that ASRock upgraded the memory MOSFETs on the Gaming i9.
ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 Circuit Analysis Continued
X299-Aorus Gaming 9 Circuit Analysis Continued
A Realtek ALC1220 audio codec is used as the motherboard's audio codec, and a Texas Instruments NE5532 is used as the audio amplifier. Five gold series audio capacitors and physical PCB division help to improve audio quality.
We have seen Aquantia's new generation AQC108 on ASRock's Z270 and even X370 motherboards, but now we see the new 10Gbit NBase-T AQC107 which offers up to 10Gbig, 5Gbit, 1Gbit, and 100Mbit speeds. An ASMedia ASM3142 USB 3.1 controller and ASM1543 type-C switch are used to provide the rear USB 3.1 type-A and type-C ports.
Intel's i219v is used as the PHY to complement the integrated MAC in the PCH to provide one of the 1Gbit LAN ports on the rear IO. An Intel i211AT is used as the second 1Gbit NIC.
Another ASMedia ASM3142 can be found around the internal USB 3.1 header, and surprisingly I also found a Texas Instruments TPS65982 type-C power delivery and switch controller. The use of the TI chip rather than an ASMedia switch chip is not common, the TI is more expensive and offers more features, so this USB 3.1 internal header probably supports higher power modes.
A new chip labeled Flash Back is used to provide the BIOS recovery technology on the motherboard. An ASMedia ASM1184 is a PCI-E hub, it takes in one PCI-E 3.0 port and can output three PCI-E 2.0 ports for the WIFI, x1 PCI-E slot, and ASMedia ASM1061 SATA controller.
The ASMedia ASM1074 is used as the USB 3.0 hub, and it expands the rear USB 3.0 port count. The ASMedia ASM1061 provides two extra SATA6Gb/s ports, but it's recommended to use them for HDDs rather than SSDs.
The ICS 6V41742B is used to enhance BCLK overclocking margins. A Nuvoton NCT6791D is used as the SuperIO and provides PS/2 and system monitoring functions.
The nuvoTon N76E885AT is used as the RGB LED controller on the motherboard. On the rear of the motherboard, we find no less than 12 NXP PCI-E 3.0 quick switches to switch around all the PCI-E bandwidth, there are also bus switches here to handle the crazy PCI-E routing of the new platform.
BIOS and Software
ASRock's X299 UEFI on their X299 Gaming i9 uses a red and black theme rather than gray and black on the X299 Taichi, and this is to reflect the Fatal1ty gaming theme of the motherboard. The UEFI is loaded to the bring with overclocking settings, and it even includes a few built in overclocking profiles made by the famous overclock Nick Shih.
Fan control is also quite substantial and offers both manual input menus and a GUI. Overall, the UEFI is loaded, and most options will automatically increase when overclocking, so make sure to double check input voltage for the CPU if you only set the CPU frequency.
Software includes ASRock RGB LED, F-Stream, Restart to UEFI, and ASRock's Live Update and APP Shop. You also get Sound Blaster Cinema.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9
- CPU: Intel Core i9-7900X
- Cooler: Corsair H110i - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: G.Skill TridentZ RGB (4x8GB) 3600MHz
- Memory: Geil EVO SPEAR (4x8GB) 3200MHz
- 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: ASRock 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: P1.2
The Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 has very dark themed aesthetics, so much that you can barely see it if it's inside a dark case without RGBs.
The top of the motherboard has zero built in RGB LEDs, but there is an RGB header at the top of the motherboard if you want to light things up. Under the bottom of the PCH heat sink are RGB LEDs, and they produce a slight glow.
For the time being, I am testing how each motherboard can overclock the CPU and what settings to change to get a 4.6GHz overclock using AVX with XMP enabled. I set XMP to enable, all cores to 4.6GHz, LLC to level 2, reset input voltage to 1.75v from auto of 2.1v when x46 is set for the CPU multiplier, I also set VCore of 1.225v. Everything worked great.
G.Skill TridentZ RGB 32GB (4x8GB) 3600MHz Kit:
It worked like a charm at 3600MHz.
GEIL EVO SPEAR (4x8GB) 3200MHz Kit:
There was no problem running the GEIL kit at XMP either.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
The ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 is a solid performer. Recently I have seen some interesting changes to the microcode of the new BIOS versions for the X299 platform, and also applications such as AIDA64 totally changing the way they rank tests such as SP FLOPs and IOPS. It's why the new AIDA FPU results are so much different than older ones, and one reason I am phasing out older results as we move forward.
I don't too 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 Gaming i9 has some of the best storage performance, but also excellent network performance with its 10Gbit NIC (I used ASUS's 10G switch). Wireless performance isn't the best, but that's because it uses a 433Mbps solution rather than 867Mbps on other boards.
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, the ALC1220 implementation is solid. 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.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
Excellent performance all around. Temperature increases from idle to load are negligible, and I was shocked that the back of the PCB doesn't get as hot as the front. ASRock has obviously done a great job.
Low to moderate airflow 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).
The backside temperatures are possibly the best I have seen thus far, and this motherboard has the same VRm as the X299 Taichi. There might be a difference in the copper in the PCB and ambient temperature, but I was quite shocked that this board did slightly better, and the Taichi was one of the best boards I have tested thus far.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the ASRock X299 Professional Gaming i9.
10Gbit NBase-T: The X299 Gaming i9 is the first motherboard I have seen with Aquantia's new AQC107 10Gbit NBase-T controller, which allows for speeds of 10Gbit, 5Gbit, 2.5Gbit, 1Gbit, and 100Mbit networking. NBase-T is pretty much universal, so a 10Gbit NBase-T router will support 5Gbit as well, while a 10GBase-T router wouldn't. It's also a new standard that is not only backward compatible but should also usher in a generation of less costly controllers. It also performs up to par.
Strong VRM and Cooling: The use of Intersil's brand new digital PWM and smart power stages (DrMOS based) are only part of the reason ASRock's VRM works well. The amount of copper in the PCB to the fact that the power stages are cooled on both sides and can actively monitor their current and temperature leads to much better on-the-fly optimization and an overall cooler operating VRM. Tests do show that ASRock has done a fine job.
Lots of USB 3.1: The rear of the motherboard has a USB 3.1 type-C and type-A port, but the motherboard also features the internal USB 3.1 type-C header. It doesn't end there, as ASRock has done something I haven't seen before. They used Texas Instrument's type-C controller and power delivery chip rather than ASMedia's (everyone else tends to use ASMedia), the TI chip is more expensive and offers more features. ASRock promises 36W support (12v at 3A) on the internal header, and that is because of the chip.
Solid M.2 Implementation: Unlike many other motherboards where one of the M.2 slots is heavily shared with one full sized PCI-E slot, ASRock has wired all the M.2 slots to the PCH, meaning that you won't have to lose PCI-E lanes if you use all three slots.
Average Wireless AC: While ASRock is using an Intel Wireless AC card, it only supports 1T1R, so it's limited to 433Mbps maximum instead of the typical 2T2R cards we find on similarly priced boards that can do 867Mbps.
Can't run 2-way SLI with a 16 lane CPU: Because of the complicated nature of the X299 platform, this motherboard only supports 2-way SLI with 28 and 44 lane CPUs.
ASRock's X299 Professional Gaming i9 isn't just a gaming motherboard. It's designed for many uses including gaming, but it's also a perfect fit for professionals and power users. The triple NICs, two of which are Intel and one of which is a 10Gbit Aquantia part, offer superior networking capabilities. The motherboard doesn't stop there; it also offers an internal USB 3.1 header as well as two USB 3.0 headers, two extra SATA6Gb/s ports, and a slew of features such as USB BIOS recovery.
One reason I feel that this motherboard is better equipped to be a professional motherboard rather than a strict gaming motherboard is because of the humble aesthetics of the product. The motherboard's heat sinks and PCB are dark and look less flashy, but at the same time, the two RGB headers can be used to light up the house.
Overall, I was impressed with the quantity of features ASRock has packed into the motherboard, and the result is one of the most feature packed X299 motherboards on the market.
The Bottom Line: As the first motherboard to carry the Aquantia 10Gbit NIC along with all the premium features found on X299 motherboards, ASRock's Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 is one of the most feature packed motherboards on the market.
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