While we’re not sold on the benefits of Broadwell-E as a gaming CPU except for those users who need extra PCIe lanes for multiple graphics cards and storage devices, it seems the industry doesn’t agree. There’s been a major push since Computex of X99 motherboards using the new LGA 2011-v3 socket, a slightly updated version of the X99 chipset that came out a couple of years ago. If you’re looking to build a machine around one of these many-cored beasts, Asus has just delivered its gaming branded board, the Strix Gaming X99. Strix is the sub-brand that Asus reserves for the very best of its Republic of Gamers brands, so you can expect this motherboard to come packed to the gills with gaming and overclocking tech.
Obviously, this board supports the new Intel Socket 2011-v3 Core i7 X-Series, and depending on which one you buy will decide on how many PCIe 3.0 lanes you’ll have access to. Most of them deliver a full 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0, giving you plenty of options when it comes to installing drives and graphics cards, and it’s this benefit that arguably makes Broadwell-E a compelling choice for hardcore PC owners, despite its lower clocks-peed and IPC than today’s 6th Gen Core CPUs.
Asus has made use of such a huge number of PCIe lanes by providing plenty of opportunities to fill them up with data. There are three PCIe 3.0 slots, and thanks to all those PCIe lanes it can run triple SLI x8/x16/x8; even though Nvidia doesn’t recommend anything more than dual SLI with its new GeForce GTX 10XX series. There’s also another PCIe 2.0 x16 lane, along with two more PCIe 2.0 x1. Considering this is an ATX board, the placement of all of these slots is a little cramped; good luck filling them all.
There’s also a stack of room for memory, with a whopping eight memory slots delivering a total capacity of 128GB of DDR4 memory. Asus has rated this to run at a maximum speed of 3333MHz when overclocked, which isn’t too shabby considering just how many memory slots need to run in synch. Asus’ proprietary Aura RGB illumination is also included, which allows all compatible Asus Aura products to use the same lighting scheme, and also reacts to sounds in games. Asus has gone with Intel’s I218-V Ethernet solution, while Wi-Fi is delivered courtesy of Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, which apparently supports MU-MIMO.
Audio is very important for a gaming board, and Asus has used its SupremeFX shielded audio tech here. Asus claim an excellent 115db SNR, which is incredible for onboard audio, and it’s delivered via a Realtek 1150 chip with high-end amplifiers, capacitors and audio shield. It also includes Asus’ controversial Sonic Radar II, software which puts an on-screen “radar” up to show you where gunfire is originating from – in other words, a bit of a cheat.
Once again we see Asus adding an extra pin to the CPU socket for overclockers, which is meant to deliver higher, more stable frequencies. It apparently does so by stabilising the frequency delivered to the CPU. More interesting though is the ability to adjust the cache-bus voltage, which seems unique to Asus products. There’s also a specific water pump header, high-amp fan controllers, as well as an external fan extension header if you’d like to build your own windfarm.
There’s a whole lot of goodies packed onto this board, but perhaps what we’re most impressed by is the price. We expected the Strix brand to come packing a $750 price tag, but Asus has delivered all of this for $565, which is very competitive compared to the competition. It’s pure overkill for most of us, but that’s what the Strix brand is for – while most of us are happy running the equivalent of a Lotus Elise PC, some want a Bugatti, and that’s who this board is aimed at.