Intel’s “Skylake-X” and “Kaby Lake-X” processors were launched this summer, as part of the company’s latest Core X-Series processors for enthusiasts. (For reference, see our analysis of the Intel Core i9-7900X, which is the latest top-of-the-line chip available at the time of writing in late July.) And, predictably, Asus has already released at least seven new boards with the Intel X299 chipset used to operate a Core X-Series CPU. Several of them are available via Asus’ Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand, including our review subject today, the ROG Strix X299-E Gaming ($349.99).
The ROG Strix X299-E Gaming is a gaming-oriented ATX motherboard. While it lacks the “shield” of the Asus TUF versions and the enthusiast capabilities of the heavily spec’d-out ROG Rampage boards, the X299-E Gaming is no lightweight.
If you’re investing this much money, it’s safe to assume that a board like this would see some overclocking activity, so Asus outfitted it with a slew of internal fan headers (and the ability to add support for even more). The motherboard manufacturer also designed a sleek heatsink for your M.2 storage and provided many temperature sensors, one of which is on a cable and can be moved if desired.
While the price of this board could be off-putting to some consumers, it leads to a robust feature set that includes support for both front and back USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, various headers for RGB light strips, and steel-wrapped PCI Express slots. The board often has mounting holes for unique 3D-printed attachments, making it ideal for DIY projects. Let’s take a deeper look at this.
Plan and Functions
Asus motherboards often have a rugged, armored appearance, with dark colors accented by sharp angles and a lot of metal. The ROG Strix X299-E Gaming is a prime illustration of this style, with several heatsinks and metal-braced PCI Express spaces, the latter being a hallmark of a premium-design motherboard in 2017. The board’s rugged reputation would be harmed if it were overburdened with LEDs, so Asus seems to have used some caution in dotting the ROG Strix X299-E Gaming with RGB LEDs.
That’s not to suggest we disagree with the lighting options on the ROG Strix X299-E Gaming. The cover over the standard I/O-port cubes (shown above, tapering down from the upper left edge of the board) has a long, angled sliver of a Lead capable of showing several colors at the same time. It’s elegant and doesn’t distract from the sharp lines that give the cover the appearance of being made from stone.
The only other broad LED on the board is a banner-style light displaying the word “ROG.” It is located in the middle of the board, just above the top PCI Express slot, which should be visible from the majority of PC case windows. And, like the LED on the I/O cover, the ROG LED is compatible with Asus’ Aura Sync lighting program, which allows users to build unique lighting profiles for the motherboard as well as any Aura-compatible hardware. If lighting is your thing, you can purchase memory modules and other Aura Sync-compatible gadgets to produce an amazing light display in your PC case.
Most new-model high-end motherboards have at least one RGB LED strip header. The ROG Strix X299-E Gaming well outperforms it. It has two regular RGB headers (one on top and one on the bottom), both of which will accommodate up to 120 discrete LEDs. The board also has an addressable header, which would be useful for developers using the newly launched Aura SDK beta.
One of the first aspects we found about the ROG Strix X299-E Gaming’s architecture is the lack of lights on the chipset heatsink, which is normally a prime goal for board designers to incorporate LED-bling. If this design decision represents a departure from chipset-heatsink lights, we believe it is due to the fact that chipsets are frequently partly shielded by video cards these days. That was particularly true of the MSI X299 SLI Plus, an X299 board we tested just before this one, which had a heatsink light scheme that was blurred once we added a single bulky video card.
We can live without chipset illumination, but we believe Asus squandered a chance to install a little bling by omitting LEDs for the heatsink above the LGA 2066 CPU socket. (The Core X-Series processors use the latest LGA 2066 socket.) Many PC case windows provide a clear picture of this heatsink.
In terms of the CPU port, Asus kept the region around it surprisingly clear. Four memory slots surround the LGA 2066 socket on each side, with ample room between the slots and the socket to handle heavy CPU coolers with side overhang.
Headers and Ports
The rear I/O panel of the ROG Strix X299-E Gaming is remarkably uncluttered, but it contains the most essential features, including a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C socket. (Type-C is a new oval connector with a reversible connector.) A USB 3.1 Gen 2 Kind-A port (the standard, rectangular type of USB), two USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet jack are all included on the frame. One of the USB ports even functions as a “BIOS Flashback” slot, allowing you to refresh the BIOS without even booting the device. To start the BIOS ball going, put a BIOS update on a flash drive, insert it into the BIOS Flashback socket, and push the BIOS button (at the very end of the I/O panel) for three seconds.
The panel also has connectors for the ROG Strix X299-E Gaming’s Wi-Fi antenna, which sits next to the audio jack matrix. What’s lacking from the image of the I/O panel? For starters, there’s a PS/2 port. Many motherboards (particularly gaming boards) retain a legacy PS/2 port for older keyboards that use it to provide N-key rollover. Serious gamers will check out keyboards with this function (or own an old favorite) in order to press multiple keys at the same time without missing inputs. However, in a 2017 board, we deem this a slight absence.
If you like extras, you’ll enjoy using the ROG Strix X299-E Gaming’s accessories. The lower half of the box was crammed with things varying from semi-necessary (like a high-bandwidth SLI bridge) to unnecessary-but-fun (ROG-branded stickers, anyone). There are also cables. Oh, there are wires.
The ROG Strix X299-E Gaming comes with an RGB-light-strip extension cable, allowing you to launch your (optional) LED strip wherever you like, other than right next to the RGB header on the motherboard. There is also an extension cable for the addressable LED header in the package. The thermal sensor cord, which plugs into a header near the SATA ports, is our favorite. The relocatable sensor may be useful for detecting airflow issues in your PC case. There are also four SATA cables (two with L-shaped connectors) in the package.