After noticing a few empty solder pads on ASRock’s value-awarded X299 Taichi, we said that we couldn’t wait to see the more advanced motherboard that will be based upon the same circuit board. We didn’t need to wait long. The high-end version was already in queue by the time the first review published. The Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 adds an AQtion AQC107 10GbE controller from Aquantia, a front-panel USB 3.1 10 Gb/s header, a second ASM3142 USB 3.1 controller to support the added front-panel header, onboard power and reset buttons, and Creative’s Sound Blaster Cinema 3 audio software. It also loses the cheaper board’s DTS Connect license, since compatible receivers are generally thought of as being home-theater equipment. This is, after all, a “Professional Gaming” motherboard.
Network cards based on the Aquantia 10GbE controller are priced over $200, yet the cheaper motherboard model based upon this circuit board costs only $100 less. That kind of math could have guaranteed the Fatal1ty X299 Gaming i9 the same value award, except that it’s competing at a different market level and we’ve already tested Gigabyte’s competing X299 Aorus Gaming 7. ASRock has a board to beat!
Thanks to its shared PCB, we’ve already extensively covered the Gaming i9’s layout in our ASRock X299 Taichi review. Highlights include the first M.2 slot getting its lanes directly from the CPU, curing the problem of shared bandwidth over the chipset’s four-lane DMI interface while simultaneously destroying the board’s ability to support SLI on 16-lane Kaby Lake-X (Core i7-7740X and i5-7640X) processors. That last part needn’t be a problem, since Kaby Lake buyers can get better value by sticking to the Z270 platforms for which it was designed.
The Gaming i9 gets its own style, with lighted power and reset buttons above the two-digit status code display, differently-shaped heat sinks with the voltage regulator’s being taller and narrower, a small heat sink over the 10GbE controller, and a completely different yet eerily familiar plastic cover over the I/O shield and several audio circuits. The Sound Blaster logo is not backlit, which is somewhat unusual within the high-end market. In fact, the only onboard lighting is under the chipset sink, though case lighting afficionados will still be pleased to find RGB LED headers at the board’s top front and bottom rear corners. Once again I refer to our X299 Taichi review for additional information regarding header and slot configuration.
The X299 Gaming i9’s minimalist installation kit includes HB and 3-way SLI bridges, Wi-Fi antennae, four SATA cables, an I/O shield, drivers, and documentation. Note that the box uses the shorter product name, though the website calls this the Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9.
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