The ASRock X399 Professional Gaming Motherboard Review: 10G For Allby E. Fylladitakis on July 5, 2018 8:00 AM EST
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There are only very few motherboards currently available for Ryzen Threadripper processors. ASRock is the company with most AMD X399 motherboards and they only have three available. Still, ASRock took a more daring approach with their designs and also released the one and only mATX motherboard for Ryzen Threadripper. In this review we will be having a look at their currently best AMD X399 motherboard, the Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming.
The ASRock X399 Professional Gaming, as the name suggests, is a motherboard that is being marketed towards advanced gamers. Although the Ryzen Threadripper (currently) is not an appealing processor for casual gaming, when a gamer also wants to be concurrently downloading, chatting, and transcoding a video in the background while streaming a game online, the many cores of the Threadripper start making sense. The X399 Professional Gaming is ASRock's most featured-packed motherboard, with a very impressive list of specifications. However, with a price tag of $440, the X399 Professional Gaming also is one of the most expensive Ryzen Threadripper motherboards available. We will be seeing if that cost is justified in this review.
AnandTech's AMD Ryzen Threadripper and X399 Motherboard Coverage
- The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 1920X Review: CPUs on Steroids
- An AMD Threadripper X399 Motherboard Overview
- Analyzing Threadripper Thermals: Big Base Cooling Wins
- The GIGABYTE X399 DESIGNARE EX Motherboard Review
- AMD Reveals Threadripper 2 : Up to 32 Cores, 250W, X399 Refresh
- GIGABYTE’s X399 Aorus Extreme: The Threadripper 2 Halo Motherboard
- MSI's New Threadripper 2 Motherboard on Steroids: X399 Creation
- New EKWB Threadripper X399 Monoblocks for GIGABYTE and MSI
ASRock Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming Overview
The ASRock X399 Professional Gaming is a motherboard that has been designed to entice advanced gamers. Even the nickname of the former well-known former esports player, Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel, appears along with the motherboard's name to help with the marketing of the motherboard. However, after having a closer look at the motherboard and its specifications, it feels as if the X399 Professional Gaming is having an identity crisis, which isn't necessary a bad thing.
The design of the X399 Professional Gaming is not in any way extravagant, as one would expect from a top-tier motherboard that is almost exclusively targeting gamers. On the contrary, the aesthetic design is subtle, yet elegant, focused on simple geometric shapes. Onboard RGB lighting is present but is limited around the chipset's heatsink, with headers for additional LED strips. We also spotted very high-quality components, such as the Nichicon solid-state capacitors that account for every single capacitor on this motherboard.
In terms of connectivity, the ASRock X399 Professional Gaming supports up to three M.2 PCIe ×4 drives, one U.2 PCIe ×4 drive, and eight SATA drives. Each of the M.2 sockets have four PCIe lanes with no sharing between them and/or with other devices, except for one of the M.2 slots to be switched with the U.2 port. Using the U.2 connector will disable one of the M.2 ports entirely. It is not possible for two devices to be installed with shared lanes.
A look at the rear panel of the motherboard reveals that the ASRock X399 Professional Gaming has three network interface controllers (NICs), plus the Wi-Fi 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.2 module. Two of the NICs are typical gigabit chips from Intel (211AT) but the third is an Aquantia 10GBASE-T chip, the AQC107. This level of network connectivity is needless for a gaming motherboard and none of the used chipsets are designed exclusively for gaming, it should be noted. The use of three NICs is one of this motherboard's unique features but, on the other hand, this approach does not make much sense for a gaming motherboard. A gaming-specific NIC such as a Killer E2500 would make the motherboard more appealing to gamers, whereas the more expensive Aquantia 10G chip primarily serves other users.
The second feature that stands out is the 11-phase (8+3) power design with a fully digital PWM controller and separated CPU connectors. We will examine the circuitry in more detail in the following pages of this review. The sound chipset is provided by Realtek and is the ALC1220. It supports the Sound Blaster Cinema 3 software and ASRock is using Nichicon's golden audio-specific capacitors to drive the physically isolated audio channels. The motherboard also has a USB 3.1 Gen 2 controller that provides one Type-A and one Type-C port.
We are unsure why ASRock decided to focus their marketing efforts on just gamers with this motherboard. Overall, it feels as if the designer was initially trying to create a reliable and fully-featured motherboard that would be an appealing product for practically every advanced user, not just gamers.
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29a - Thursday, July 5, 2018 - linkThe logical assumption for the Killer NIC love affair would be money.
PeachNCream - Friday, July 6, 2018 - linkI'm not sure its about money. Anandtech has historically acted to avoid financial conflicts of interest and there's Purch oversight these days as well. It seems more of an interpersonal or friendship thing.
It's in the comments of this article where AT's people met Rivet's people that seems like the starting point: https://www.anandtech.com/show/10679/rivet-network...
From there, it's pretty much been site-wide drum beating in every single review where a Killer NIC ends up in a product without data that backs it up, but we're badgered into thinking that because we're gamers we should have an ethernet boner over some OEM shoveling one of Rivet's rebranded NICs and pointless AOL floppy diskette style bloatware on us. I'm guessing it's just that friendships were formed and people kicked off a bromance during the office tour that's since influenced the tone at Anandtech. The part that really irks me is that we've been told before that we wouldn't understand how a Killer NIC works because the matter is too complex to explain...that's been in comments from editors too in the past when we've tried to extract some reason for the bias. I know it's possible to explain this to technically-savvy AT readers because there are articles that have tackled more complicated for that same audience. Comments from editors like those are a cop-out for never finding a way to actually show there's a measurable real world benefit that justifies why Rivet Networks even exists today beyond it providing the industry with a supposed premium ethernet and wireless brand since there's an fairly pointless up-market version of every other component. It's just a shame this happened because lots of us otherwise still believe that Anandtech is an otherwise good site with useful, in-depth articles. I just wish they'd either publish proof or turn the dial back a few notches on Killer NIC commentary.
PeachNCream - Thursday, July 5, 2018 - link"The design of the X399 Professional Gaming is not in any way extravagant, as one would expect from a top-tier motherboard that is almost exclusively targeting gamers. On the contrary, the aesthetic design is subtle, yet elegant, focused on simple geometric shapes."
I think it leans a lot closer to the obnoxious end of the spectrum than you do. Maybe when compared to a RGB-and-dragon/deformed bird-festooned gaming board that MSI or Gigabyte vomited up at a recent computer show it might look toned-down, but for an adult buyer, it this thing still has the stink of gamer man-child. It's only a notch or two away from the top of the volume dial thanks to someone at ASRock sticking "professional" on the box next to a has-been old guy's screen name in the hopes of catching a few workstation buyers.
Arbie - Thursday, July 5, 2018 - linkThis IS understated compared to practically any other enthusiast board. In fact only the extra-pointy heatsink cover could even be called flash. "The stink of gamer man-child"?? You must go insane over the truly glitzy stuff.
PeachNCream - Friday, July 6, 2018 - linkSince you missed it, here's where that was already noted: " Maybe when compared to a RGB-and-dragon/deformed bird-festooned gaming board that MSI or Gigabyte vomited up at a recent computer show it might look toned-down..."
vailr - Thursday, July 5, 2018 - linkWhat's the status of Thunderbolt appearing on AMD motherboards?
Since Intel released the Thunderbolt patents to anyone interested in using it, one would have thought it would be appearing on AMD motherboards by now. Maybe even on an AMD-based "modular Mac Pro 2019", according to some rumors on certain Mac-related web sites.
GreenReaper - Sunday, July 8, 2018 - linkI'm not sure if "released" means "licensed along with a covenant not to sue". Sometimes "free" isn't exactly free.
kgardas - Thursday, July 5, 2018 - linkAnd does it support ECC UDIMMS or not? That is the question. W/o ECC it's really just yet another gaming board. With ECC supports one may see if it's possible to get rid of those silly LEDs and then give it a run...
Fujikoma - Friday, July 6, 2018 - linkWhat is meant by 'comprehensive manual'? My ASRock mobo had an atrocious manual (minimalist at best). No downloadable/printable 'comprehensive manual'. There were even QR-codes that linked to nothing, meaning they still haven't written up what those options are and what they do per each firmware revision. I've ended up relying on support board postings to find out all the various nooks and crannies of the BIOS.
Strunf - Friday, July 6, 2018 - link"Gamers would most likely welcome the replacement of all three NICs with just one with proven gaming performance."
Unlikely... a single NIC would make this board look cheap and not professional at all, it's professional gaming motherboard after all. 2 NICs are a minimum on this kind of price tag.
I would be interested to know where your "proven gaming performance" comes from cause from what I see there's virtually no difference in gaming performance between any NIC and one only comes ahead in very specific cases scenarios like Internet bandwidth limited and torrenting/streaming while playing.