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ASRock X399 Professional Gaming Motherboard Review

Our latest AMD TR4 Threadripper motherboard review focuses on ASRock's X399 Professional Gaming. Should you buy it? Let's see.

@StevenBassiriTT
Published Mon, Sep 18 2017 10:22 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:58 PM CST
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: ASRock

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 85 IMAGES

ASRock's X399 Taichi was the first X399 motherboard we took a look at, and it not only performed well, but it was also loaded with quality components. ASRock's take on the X399 platform is interesting, to say the least. They are using high-quality parts, implementing solid platform features, but not adding in too many aesthetic features. The motherboards aren't covered in RGB LEDs, although they can be if that's what is needed. The Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming is ASRock's top of the line X399 motherboard, and it takes the quality we saw with the X399 Taichi and adds in more features.

ASRock might as well have left out the "Gaming" at the end of the motherboard's model name, and just called it the professional, but that's too boring for an X399 motherboard. X399 is designed for professional use, and if a professional wants to game on the platform, it's easy to do, so the name actually makes sense.

Let's take a look at how the motherboard does.

Specifications

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The X399 Professional Gaming features dual Intel NICs, an Aquantia 10Gbit NIC, USB 3.1, USB 3.0, SATA6Gb/s, three Ultra M.2 slots, support for up to 4-way SLI/CrossFireX, U.2, and even multiple RGB LED headers.

Pricing

The X399 Professional Gaming costs $339.99.

Packaging and X399 Professional Gaming Overview

Packaging and Overview

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The motherboard's box and packaging are similar to the rest of ASRock's killer lineup. The motherboard itself is packaged slightly better than other high-end ASRock motherboards and is well protected in the box.

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The accessory package includes 4-way SLI bridge, 3-way SLI bridge, SLI HB bridge, four SATA6Gb/s cables, WIFI antenna, IO shield, manuals, and driver DVD.

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All the headers on the motherboard are hybrid DC/PWM mode headers and can be configured in the UEFI. The three headers circled in blue offers up to 1A of current while the two circled in red offer up to 1.5A. The motherboard's aesthetics are surprising for a motherboard in ASRock's "Gaming" series. For starters, there is almost no red in the heat sinks of shields, and that is a good thing, especially for the X399 platform. While the PCB uses a much different silk screen design than the Taichi, it still can offer some style if you want it. The back of the motherboard is bare of components except for POSCAPs.

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The rear IO panel features BIOS Flashback button, PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, WIFI antenna, eight USB 3.0 ports, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, two Gbit ports, one 10Gbit port, and 7.1 gold-plated audio outputs with S/PDIF output.

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Just like almost every other X399 motherboard, the PCI-E slots are hard-wired x16/x8/x16/x8 PCI-E 3.0. A single PCI-E 2.0 x1 slot is located at the center, and there isn't a x4 slot because the Aquantia 10G NIC gets those four lanes from the X399 chipset. There are three x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slots, the topmost one shares x4 with the U.2 port.

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The motherboard features eight SATA6Gb/s ports, all connected to the chipset. There is also a U.2 port and a PCI-E power connector to enhance the amount of power to the PCI-E slots. At the top right corner of the motherboard, we find a MOS_Prochot switch, which ASRock calls a Xtreme OC switch, I think it disables OTP for the VRMs. The motherboard also features dual CPU power inputs, with the 8-pin at the top right corner.

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A second CPU input power connector accepts a 4-pin CPU power plug. Right under the 24-pin connector is a USB 3.0 internal header and an RGB LED header.

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At the bottom of the motherboard, we get another USB 3.0 internal header, power and reset buttons, a clear CMOS button, and a POST code display. There are two USB 2.0 internal headers and another RGB LED header at the bottom of the motherboard as well.

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The motherboard has two HD audio connectors, and they are identical, you only need to use one at a time, but the reason for two is for case cable management. A COM port is located near the audio headers, and that is one feature this board has over the Taichi. The heat sinks are pretty big and heavy, and they should do a solid job of controlling VRM temperatures. The heat sink here for the VRM is similar to that on the Taichi, except it's also cooling the Aquantia 10G NIC.

ASRock X399 Professional Gaming Circuit Analysis

Circuit Analysis

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The X399 Professional Gaming reveals its goods when we remove the heat sinks.

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We get a true 8-phase VRM controlled by an International Rectifier IR35201 working in 8+0 mode. It's a fully digital cutting edge PWM and controls eight IR3555 fully integrated power stages rated at 60A each. While that is all good and dandy, we also need to find high current chokes, and ASRock uses 60A rated ones. The capacitors are tantalum POSCAPs located on the back of the PCB. ASRock also uses a 2oz copper PCB, making it easier to cool the VRM area.

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We find another IR35201 digital PWM, but only three of its phases are being utilized to power the SoC VRM. The SoC VRM uses three IR3555 PowIRstages. Each memory VRM uses a UPI Semiconductor uP1647P PWM to control and drive two SinoPower SM7341EHKP dual N-Channel MOSFETs.

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The second VRM is pictured above and its identical to the other memory VRM.

ASRock X399 Professional Gaming Circuit Analysis Continued

X399 Professional Gaming Circuit Analysis Continued

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The Realtek ALC1220 is rated for 120dB SNR for the main headphone output. The codec also has an integrated amplifier for the headphone/speaker jack, and ASRock added a Texas Instruments NE5532 to amplify the front panel header output. Gold electrolytic audio capacitors are used to improve audio quality, as is a physical PCB divide.

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We find the Aquantia AQC107 NBase-T controller which supports 10Gbit, 5, 2.5, 1, and 100Mbit Ethernet. It is part of a new class of NICs and performs quite well. We find two Intel i211AT 1Gbit NICs on the motherboard as well.

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An Intel Wireless AC 3168NGW 1x1 Wireless AC card is used to provide up to 433Mbps of WIFI. An ICS clock generator is used to enhance clock overclocking; its model number is ICS 9VRS4883BKLF.

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Two Pericom PI3EQX USB 3.1 re-drivers improve USB 3.1 signals from the X399 chipset. An ASMedia ASM1543 type-C switch and CC logic chip are used for the rear IO panel's type-C port. A FlashBack IC provides the USB BIOS recovery feature.

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The main SuperIO is a NuvoTon NCT6779D and provides system monitoring and PS/2 on the rear IO. A nuvoton N76E885AT20 provides RGB LED control, and a drivers and receivers chip (labeled 232GG) provides the COM port header.

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The motherboard features two ASMedia ASM1480 that switch x4 PCI-E 3.0 from the CPU to either M2_1 or the U.2 port.

BIOS and Software

BIOS

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ASRock's UEFI for the X399 Professional Gaming is pretty much identical to that of the X399 Taichi, except for minor differences such as the color theme. We get a red and black color theme with an easy to use layout, and the UEFI is mostly bug-free.

I didn't find any issues, and when you set the CPU to manually OC you have to places where you can input voltage, I just use the one at the top near where you set CPU frequency. Fan control is quite good and menu and GUI options as both available. There is also an EZ Mode, which is for the less experienced users, but it you aren't taken to that GUI by default.

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Software

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ASRock's software suite includes F-Stream, AURA RGB LED, APP Charger, Restart to UEFI, and APP Shop, and Sound Blaster 720.

Test System Setup

Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications

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The ASRock X399 motherboards are quite basic when it comes to in RGB LEDs, you only find them under the chipset heat sink. That being said, the motherboard offers two RGB LED headers, so you can light up if you like or keep things dark if you so choose.

Overclocking

Overclocking Results

CPU Overclocking

AMD's Threadripper platform is quite interesting, as AMD stated the top 5% of Zen dies become Threadripper CPUs. That is a big deal, as that would also mean the CPU should overclock quite high, or at least consistently high.

My best overclock on the X370 platform was 4GHz with 3200Mhz memory speeds after months of BIOS updates, so I will aim for the same here. Most people get limited around 4.1GHz, and I know my 1950X can't do 4.1Ghz stable on all cores without tons of voltage or better cooling.

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To achieve the above overclock I set the CPU overclocking mode to manual, input CPU frequency of 4000MHz and set VCore to 1.325v. I also enabled XMP and didn't mess with any memory settings. I set LLC to level 2, and that seemed to get the job done. The CPU booted into Windows, and temperatures stayed at acceptable levels, although they could have been better if fans on the radiator were at full blast.

CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks

CINEBENCH R15

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wPrime

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AIDA64 FPU

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AIDA64 Memory

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ScienceMark

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HandBrake

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SuperPi 32M

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3DMark: Fire Strike

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3DMark: Cloud Gate

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ResidentEvil 6

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The X399 Professional Gaming 's performance is solid; I didn't detect any issues with the motherboard's CPU, memory, or GPU performance. The three latest motherboards in the charts have the most up to date software version and AGESA code, that's why the performance slightly differs from older boards.

I expect differences like that to even out as we move towards more consistent microcode updates in AMD's AGESA code for this platform. As of now, the motherboard's performance is solid, and there isn't anything to worry about or get excited over.

System IO Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark SATA6G:

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CrystalDiskMark M.2:

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ixChariot Network Throughput:

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The X399 Professional Gaming 's storage performance is excellent, but we expected that as ASRock has always done a nice job tuning M.2 and SATA.

The Zenith Extreme and the X399 Professional Gaming both use the Aquantia AQC107 10Gbit NBase-T NIC, and it does operate near 9400Mbps as it should. Networking performance could be better.

Audio RMAA 5.5:

I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.

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Sound Judgment by Ear: Excellent, and just like the Taichi, we see really excellent frequency response, the best for X399 thus far. There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent

Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption

System power is measured at the wall with an AC power meter.

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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, There is no airflow direct at the VRM

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Full frontal.

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Up-close of the front of the VRM.

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Up-close of the back of the VRM.

The X399 Professional Gaming has the same VRM as the X399 Taichi and uses the same heat sink design. However, the X399 Professional Gaming's VRM heat sink is not only cooling the CPU core and SoC VRMs but also the Aquantia 10Gbit NIC.

We see that topside VRM temperatures aren't much difference, but the PCB temperature on the rear of the motherboard is 3C higher than on the X399 Taichi, possibly due to the 10G NIC (which can get hot). Even at 46C on the rear of the PCB, temperatures were excellent.

What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts

Here are key points about the ASRock X399-Professional Gaming.

What's Hot

VRM Quality: VRM quality isn't just in the components, but also in the cooling apparatus and the PCB. With 2oz copper in the PCB and a hefty heat sink that will handle all those thermal spikes, the X399 Professional Gaming has you covered. However, that isn't where the buck stops. Component quality matters as well, and ASRock is using best in class International Rectifier IR35201 in 8 phase mode with IR3555 60A PowIRstages and 60A inductors to seal the deal.

10G NIC Integrated: As of now, the X399 Professional Gaming is the only X399 motherboard with an integrated 10Gbit NIC. The NIC, from Aquantia, supports 10G, 5G, 2.5G, 1G, and 100M speeds, and will work with the newer switches and routers coming out that features higher speed ports, and it will work with existing 10Gbit infrastructure. Since the NIC is integrated, you will be able to fill up all four PCI-E x16 slots and still use it.

Most Professional: ASRock didn't add in a crazy amount of RGB LEDs, and they designed the aesthetics of the motherboard to be solid and simple. It is easy to match accessory wise since it is mostly gray and black. The looks of the product are fierce, like a well-groomed executive in a power suit.

Storage Options: You not only get all eight SATA 6Gb/s ports from the chipset and three Ultra M.2 x4 PCI-E 3.0 32Gb/s M.2 slots, but you also get the option for a U.2 port. The U.2 header is not that common on X399 motherboards, but considering the workstation mentality of the platform, it's a welcome addition.

What's Not

No Internal Type-C Header: While the X399 Taichi also doesn't have the internal USB 3.1 type-C header, the X399 Professional Gaming is $100 more expensive, and in this price range the majority of motherboards carry the new type-C USB 3.1 header. The real reason the motherboard doesn't have it is that there are no more PCI-E lanes left for a USB 3.1 controller.

Final Thoughts

The ASRock X399 Professional Gaming has you covered at home or even in a professional setting. If you have a boss who tasked you with building X399 systems for professional workstations, they might wonder why the motherboard is covered in RGB LEDs, but that won't be a problem with the X399 Professional Gaming.

On the flip side, if you want fancy lighting in your rig at home, or you have a fun work environment, then the motherboard has you covered with a few integrated RGBs and two RGB headers. While looks aren't that important when we discuss motherboards, I am using them as a symbol of the motherboard's dual purpose role, as a Professional or Gaming motherboard.

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Now, you are probably wondering what the differences between the X399 Taichi and the X399 Professional Gaming are, and they aren't that different. The X399 Professional Gaming has a 10Gbit NBase-T NIC, a COM port, Creative Audio, and a different BIOS skin when compared against the X399 Taichi for $100 more. The truth of the matter is that you will know if the X399 Professional Gaming is for you, and that is because of the 10G NIC. If you see the value in it, then it's worth it, and if you don't, then the Taichi is better for you if you want to stick with ASRock.

Either way, the X399 Professional Gaming is a solid motherboard with excellent features, excellent quality, and solid performance, and that is why it has earned our second highest rated award, above that of the X399 Taichi's Best Quality Award.

TweakTown award
Performance90%
Quality95%
Features94%
Value89%
Overall92%

The Bottom Line: ASRock's Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming comes loaded with a 10G NIC, excellent quality, and solid performance, perfectly complementing AMD's Threadripper CPUs in any build.

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Steven went from a fledgling forum reader in 2003 to one of the internet's brightest tech stars by 2010. Armed with an information systems degree, a deep understanding of circuitry, and a passion for tech, Steven (handle Sin0822) enjoys sharing his deep knowledge with others. Steven details products down to the component level to highlight seldom explained, and often misunderstood architectures. Steven is also a highly decorated overclocker with several world records.

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