Great performance at a fantastic price.
We love the lack of bling on this board – it’s a very subtle black design, with no RGB lights automatically engaged when you turn it on. Even better, it delivered some amazing test results considering the price, exceeding that of other, more expensive boards. It’s something ASRock does time and time again, and once more they’ve delivered a board that may be basic, but does the job for a great price.
Like most X299 boards, ASRock has over-specced the power solution, delivering a 13-phase Digi Power solution, which will allow it to both run the upcoming higher-end Core-X chips, as well as deliver better overclocking potential. On the subject of overclocking, we tried the A-Tuning app that is meant to overclock the board automatically, and could only squeeze 4.267GHz out of the chip. Even then, after a short while under a stress test it reverted to 4GHz, like many of the boards. Manual overclocking is definitely going to be the way to make the most of the Core-X series in the near future.
There are four PCIe x16 lanes, along with a single PCIe x 1 physical lane. Like Asus, they’ve stuck with the default eight SATA 3 6Gbit/sec ports from Intel, but have added another two thanks to an ASMedia controller. There are also three M.2 slots, one up from the MSI, and they all sit between the PCIe x16 lanes, which isn’t the greatest spot to keep these high performance drives cool. There’s also no heatsink for these drives included, so a spot of DIY cooling might be in order.
Twin Intel Ethernet connectors are double that of the Asus board, while there’s also integrated support for dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi. ASRock claims it can hit memory speeds of up to DDR4-4400, but we weren’t able to test this. Unlike the other boards, there are just the usual power connectors, in the form of a 24-pin and 8-pin. We’re not sure if this will interfere with running the huge 16 core CPUs on the way, but it’s doubtful.
Sadly there’s no Thunderbolt included, apart from a header for an optional add-in. There are plenty of USB ports though, with twin USB 2.0, one USB 3.1 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Type C, and four USB 3.0 ports.
If you do want to take the disco route, there’s a header for an RGB light strip. We really appreciated the clear CMOS and power buttons on the rear, which make testbenching a breeze. Audio is delivered via the industry norm, the Realtek ALC1220, and once again we see a company making nearly identical claims to how it’s improved audio performance such as EMF shielding and the like. ASRock calls its version of this ‘Purity Sound’, but to be frank, they’re all nearly identical in the real world, until you step up to the very high-end motherboards which use much more expensive audio solutions.
Another feature now found on other boards is USB BIOS flashback; if you corrupt your BIOS, simply upload a new version to a USB stick, boot up your machine and it’ll be repaired in no time. If there’s one area we feel could be improved, it’s the onboard heatsinks. To be frank, they’re rather minimal, and with the Core-X series sucking a load of power through the system, we think ASRock should probably have beefed up the cooling a tad. Having said that, we didn’t encounter any stability issues in around six hours of testing.
Ahhh yes, the testing. This board turned in some rather strange results indeed. It bottomed out on the memory bandwidth benchmark and Cinebench tests, yet smashed the Rise of the Tomb Raider and PCMark 8 Home accelerated benchmark. So in synthetic tests it’s not exactly great, but real-world performance appears to be top notch.
For just $40 more than the Asus board, you get a lot of extra features here, such as the twin LAN and extra M.2 slot. As such, this is our pick for best value X299 board for the moment.