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Asus X99 Pro Motherboard Review: More Memory Multipliers

The first motherboard in our labs to support unofficial memory multipliers, Asus’ X99 Pro quickly became the go-to product for our recent DDR4 roundup. Does the X99 Pro have enough additional features to justify its over-$300 price?

Final Analysis

The value chart is skewed because we tested middle-of-the-pack X99 motherboards first. Were we to subtract the $50 Wi-Fi solution from the X99 Pro’s price, it would rise to 95% of average value. Since the wireless controller can be added on to other products, what makes the rest of this board worth 5% more than its mainstream rivals?

The ASRock X99 Extreme4 lacks a few PCIe pathway switches that it would need to properly support three-way SLI on a Core i7-5820K, but then again, so does the X99 Pro. And both of these boards disconnect that third card whenever a PCIe-based SSD is installed. At least ASRock has the single-port SATA connection as a backup plan.

Though earlier discounts have disappeared, Gigabyte’s X99-UD4 can still be found for $244. What it lacks in third-gen PCIe x4 M.2 support it makes up for in four-way SLI. Not three-way; four way. Even if you were to add Asus’ “Hyper M.2 x4” card to Gigabyte’s board, it would still support three-way SLI. It also lacks the X99 Pro’s PCIe 2.0 lane-sharing conundrum, though adding a PCIe Wi-Fi card would cost you a slot.

If we continue to consider the Wi-Fi card separately, we see that MSI’s X99S Gaming 7 is the only board with both PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 and slot sharing issues to rival those of Asus. Rival doesn’t mean match though. The X99S Gaming 7 only drops its fourth slot for M.2. It still retains three-way SLI support through the third slot, even when a 28-lane Core i7-5820K is installed.

That leaves me with a challenge. How can I recognize my favorite board with an award when it doesn’t live up to some of the capabilities of its cheaper rivals? And why would I say this is my favorite board in spite of its nonsensical slot configuration?

The X99 Pro gave me the best overclocking experience on X99, bar none. And I don't need features like dual-ROM (none) or backup ROM (none). Instead, I care that someone took the time to just make the firmware work. If you overclock too far and crash, the failure is detected and the board reboots at safe settings nearly every time. Even if you screw that up, you can usually just force a power cycle to get the X99 Pro to sense a problem. The firmware guys on this project did things brilliantly two months ago, and that explains why Asus hasn’t needed to publish an update. The same brilliance extends to DRAM overclocking, where the X99 Pro supports more multipliers, higher multiplier and higher data rates than anything else I’ve seen.

The X99 Pro became my favorite in practice because my most recent projects were DRAM reviews. Were I to spend more time thinking about the features I want in my own machine, aggressive DRAM clock would fall far down the priorities list below proper slot function. The X99 Pro would likewise quickly fall down my list of favorites. That’s a harsh answer that even the readers of our “Best Motherboards” article will need to live with when asking “where are Asus’ X99 boards?”

  • StarBound
    The gaming tests shows a socket 1150 cpu, the i7 4790. That can't be right. Are all tests done on a i7 5960X?
    Reply
  • Olla_laif
    Thats one sext mobo.
    Reply
  • DeViL5o5
    yeah, i noticed that too. maybe its a typo.
    Reply
  • Sabishii Hito
    I'm curious as to where the voltage check points are on this board, I know the Rampage V has easily accessible (and labelled) ones.
    Reply
  • Eggz
    I've been hoping since X99 came out that it could offer something compelling over X79 besides a 8-core configuration option. That is, assuming you can either spend $1,100 on a single chip or else have a hook up. DDR4 is too young and doesn't offer the value or low latency of DDR3 yet, though I'm confident it will in time.

    Maybe the next round of Extreme chips will present something better from an upgrade standpoint, at least for those still on X79. But for people still on X58, obviously, it's a different story.
    Reply
  • sosofm
    Why did you test 3 ATX motherboards with Asrock mATX and not the with the big brother Asrock X99 Extreme 4 ?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15053121 said:
    The gaming tests shows a socket 1150 cpu, the i7 4790. That can't be right. Are all tests done on a i7 5960X?
    Yes. The charts were recycled from the reformatted 1150 spreadsheet. And that puts me in a bind because it means if I update this article with new charts, I have to update the previous articles...I'd rather be testing hardware :)

    15056157 said:
    Why did you test 3 ATX motherboards with Asrock mATX and not the with the big brother Asrock X99 Extreme 4 ?
    Because the charts can only hold a certain number of systems, and the mATX tests were newer (newer firmware, which made the 1.25x strap more stable, which allowed addition of the 125MHz+ BCLK test).

    Sorry that we can't retest every single board for every review, but if you look at the Extreme4 review you'll see that everything else (apart from 1.25x strap optimization in firmware) is the same.
    Reply
  • NaqoyqatZ
    Is there really a demand for WiFi on this platform? I can only see a need for that on a min-itx or micro-atx gaming rig that one could take to a LAN party/tournament. Personally, I'd rather have a lower price. You can keep the WiFi.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15058546 said:
    Is there really a demand for WiFi on this platform? I can only see a need for that on a min-itx or micro-atx gaming rig that one could take to a LAN party/tournament. Personally, I'd rather have a lower price. You can keep the WiFi.
    You can use it as a hot spot :) In the other direction, you can move it to another room that doesn't have a cable. Or, you can buy a cheaper version of the board without Wi-Fi.
    Reply
  • loosescrews
    The slot config on this board makes it perfect for 2 GPUs + a high performance PCI-e card. Examples of the third card could include a RAID card, hhhl PCI-e SSD, or 10Gbps networking card. I am been looking for a board like this.

    I still probabally won't buy it because I need dual gigabit LAN. If they had only included another gigabit LAN port or made slot 3 a 1x slot. I don't want to steal lanes from my GPUs for an extra gigabit LAN port.
    Reply