Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Today we have one of ASRock's second wave X299 motherboards, with improvements mainly made to the power delivery system. When most X299 motherboards were introduced, most of them had one issue; they couldn't easily handle an overclocked Intel HCC CPU. Intel's High Core Count (HCC) CPUs have more than 10 CPU cores, and they can pull over 500W from the motherboard's VRM when overclocked to 4.4GHz or higher.
While many people can overclock their CPUs to 4.4GHz easily, they typically are throttling due to internal protection mechanisms built into the VRM. So, like many vendors, ASRock went back to the drawing board, and they have now released much stronger motherboards designed solely to handle an overclocked Intel HCC CPU.
The Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 XE offers dual Intel NICs, a 10Gbit NIC, Wireless AC, USB 3.1, USB 3.0, and SATA6Gb/s.
The Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 XE costs $422.99.
Packaging and Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 XE Overview
Packaging and Overview
ASRock has totally changed box art for the new motherboard, and it looks a lot more aggressive. The box and packaging are very good quality and will protect the motherboard with ease.
The accessory package includes four SATA6Gb/s cables, two WIFI antenna, 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 XE, all of them are PWM/DC mode headers, but the CPU header circled in red is default PWM and offers 1A of current. The other four headers circled in blue offer up to 1.5A of current each. The motherboard's color scheme is direct and simple; a mixture of gray and black produces an easy to match color theme. There are many components on the back of the motherboard; they are there to make the PCB cleaner on the topside.
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 (red), USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, and 7.1 gold-plated audio outputs with S/PDIF out.
PCI-E slots (x16) from top to bottom are PCI-E 1/2/3/4. A 44 lane CPU will run them at 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. Of course, those are maximum's and other configurations allows you to run the top slot at x16 and other slots are different speeds, so check the manual. 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.
The motherboard has a USB 3.1 type-C internal header and a USB 3.0 internal header. The type-C header has some special sauce; it offers up to 3A and up to 12v (USB Power Delivery 2.0). The motherboard has ten SATA6Gb/s ports, two of them are from an ASMedia controller, the other eight are from the PCH, but some of them share bandwidth with the M.2 slots. There is also a USB 3.0 right angled header.
The motherboard features two 8-pin CPU power connectors, an improvement over the motherboard's predecessor. The motherboard has an RGB LED header at the top of the motherboard as well as one at the bottom.
We get a POST code display, power button, reset button, and a bunch of system headers in the bottom right corner of the motherboard. The motherboard also features two USB 2.0 internal headers and a Thunderbolt GPIO header.
We also get a VROC header, a clear CMOS jumper, RGB LED header, and HD audio header in the bottom left corner of the motherboard. The motherboard also got some beefy heat sinks to better cool the VRMs, and let me say; it is beefy.
ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 XE Circuit Analysis
The motherboard looks great without heat sinks.
The VRM is in a 12+1 phase mode for the VCore/Input voltage and VCCSA. The inductors are rated 65A, and the capacitors are rated 12K. There are three Intersil ISL69138 fully-digital PWMs, which offer two rails in X+Y=max 7 phases. In this case, it's being used in a 6+1 phase mode.
The new PWM is paired with the ISL99227B 60A Smart Power Stages and offers internal current and temperature sensing, which allows them to operate at high-efficiency levels since they have quick and accurate internal feedback loops. 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.
Each memory VRM uses two Fairchild FDPC5030SG, and the VCCIO uses one. They 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, and the phases are controlled by underutilized ISL59138 PWMs.
ASRock Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 XE Circuit Analysis Continued
X299-Aorus Gaming 9 Circuit Analysis Continued
A Realtek ALC1220 audio codec is being used, 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.
A 10Gbit NBase-T AQC107 which offers up to 10Gbig, 5Gbit, 1Gbit, and 100Mbit speeds is present and cooled by its own heat sink. An Intel Wireless AC 3168NGW is used and provides 1x1 (433Mbps) WIFI, which isn't as fast as other 2x2 controllers.
An Intel i211AT is used as one of the 1Gbit NICs. Intel's i219v is used as the PHY to compliment the integrated MAC in the PCH to provide one of the 1Gbit LAN ports on the rear IO.
An ASMedia ASM3142 USB 3.1 controller and ASM1543 is used as the type-C switch and CC logic chip. 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 Texas Instruments chip provides up to 3A and 12v for fast charging according to USB Power Delivery 2.0 specification. 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.
The ICS 6V41742B is used to enhance BCLK overclocking margins. A new chip labeled Flash Back is used to provide the BIOS recovery technology on the motherboard.
A Nuvoton NCT6791D is used as the SuperIO and provides PS/2 and system monitoring functions, and the nuvoTon N76E885AT is used as the RGB LED controller on the motherboard. On the rear of the motherboard, we find more than 12 NXP PCI-E 3.0 quick switches to switch around all the PCI-E bandwidth.
BIOS and Software
ASRock's X299 UEFI on their X299 Gaming i9 XE has a sleek red and black color theme. You get fan control through a GUI with a graph and through a manual input menu. CPU overclocking is separated from DRAM in regards to menus, as are the internal and external voltage menus. CPU current limits are in the CPU configuration menu, right below the AVX2 (256) and AVX3 (512) offset settings.
You will also find an RGB LED display panel under the tools menu. The UEFI experience was easy and had all the settings we needed to overclock and configure our system.
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 XE
- CPU: Intel Core i9 XE-7960X
- Cooler: Corsair H110i - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: G.Skill TridentZ RGB (4x8GB) 3600MHz
- Memory: Geil EVO SPEAK (4x8GB) 3200MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FE - 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: P1.00
The motherboard has very few integrated RGB LEDs, in fact, it only has them located under the PCH heat sink, and produce illumination in a semicircle fashion around the PCH. The motherboard has two RGB LED headers, so you can easily add more color and light.
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 (this was done automatically), reset input voltage to 1.75v from auto of 2.1v (this was also done automatically) when x46 is set for the CPU multiplier, I also set VCore of 1.185v. Everything worked great.
G.Skill TridentZ RGB 32GB (4x8GB) 3600MHz Kit:
Worked like a charm at 3600MHz.
GEIL EVO SPEAR (4x8GB) 3200MHz Kit:
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 XE has all-around decent performance in CPU, memory, and graphics areas. I found some odd results here and there, but those results were only a few points off, which is inside the margin of error. These tests are just to make sure there are no performance issues, and there aren't any here.
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 XE has excellent storage performance, and networking performance on the 10Gbit NIC is excellent, but the Wireless AC card isn't the fastest.
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, very clean implementation of the ALC1220. 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.
Low to moderate airflow 4.6GHz 2.1V VCCIN OCed VRM Thermal Imaging:
Temperature readings are taken at the 80% mark of our 4K overclocked HandBrake 4K encoding with AVX with a 0 offset. These results are excellent; this is one of the best VRMs I have ever seen. Thermal performance is awesome, not only because of the hefty heat sink and top of the line power stage components but also because ASRock is using 2oz copper in the PCB, something I have only really seen on ASRock motherboards these days.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the ASRock X299 Professional Gaming i9 XE.
Revamped VRM Parts: While the motherboard uses some of the best power stage components just like its predecessor, it has a few major upgrades that make a huge difference in overall performance. No matter how strong the VRM components are, they need to be cooled correctly. ASRock got rid of their IO panel shielding, which was just a piece of plastic, and put a huge heat sink in its place. They didn't stop there, they went ahead and upgraded the power delivery system to two 8-pin power plugs, allowing at least 600W into the VRM.
10Gbit NBase-T: Who doesn't want faster LAN? While 10Gbit NICs have been around for a while, it's only recently that controllers that support NBase-T have been launched. The controller used here supports 100M/1G/2.5G/5G/10G LAN, and when newer routers launch in the coming year with 2.5G and 5G speeds, this motherboard will easily support them. The integrated NIC keeps the motherboard future proof.
Lots of Good USB: We don't only find the typical USB 3.1 type-A and type-C ports on the rear, but we also get four more USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear. The internal USB 3.1 type-C header is even more impressive, and I believe this is one of the only motherboards on the market that has a special Texas Instruments chip that allows for up to 12v/3A output instead of the 5v/2A which is more typical.
M.2 Implementation: All the M.2 slots on the motherboard are set up so that you won't lose the M2_1 slot unless you use a 16 lane CPU and want x16 all for one CPU. The other two slots are routed to the PCH and share bandwidth with the SATA ports. Overall, you should get maximum performance with this method, as the CPU is directly routed to the M2_1 slot when using 28 and 44 lane CPUs.
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.
ASRock's X299 Professional Gaming i9 XE is the reincarnation of ASRock's top of the line X299 Professional Gaming i9, and the benefits when using a HCC CPU are plentiful. The major improvements have to do with the CPU power delivery system, and the improvements ASRock has made should allow for an extra 150-300W of easy flowing power to reach your HCC CPU when you overclock it.
If you are going to buy a 12 core or higher core count Intel Core i9 CPU, then you definitely want the XE versions of ASRock's motherboards over the non-XE versions. The motherboard also offers a hefty feature set, and not only with USB. You get four NICs; one 10Gbit NBase-T NIC, two Intel GBit NICs, and a wireless-AC card. While the motherboard doesn't have the most RGB LED capabilities, it is extremely feature rich and should prove to easily handle any CPU overclock or feature requirement you might have.
The Bottom Line: Not only do you get the extremely rich feature set of its predecessor, but you also get great quality improvements when it comes to power delivery, making ASRock's X299 Professional Gaming i9 XE one of the highest quality Intel X299 motherboards on the market.
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