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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?

Our Verdict

X99 Pro buyers get some of the best firmware in the industry and a bunch of great features to go with it. I find unfortunate that so many of those features prevent other features from functioning.

For

  • Great memory overclocking and excellent O/C failure recovery are hallmarks of enthusiast-oriented engineering. An excellent Wi-Fi card is the X99 Pro’s crowning glory.

Against

  • The lack of PCIe lane switches make the X99 Pro a 2-way SLI board with 3-way SLI potential. PCIe 2.0 slots are also shared with several onboard devices, including some I/O panel USB 3.0 ports and even the Wi-Fi card.

Give Me More (Of Everything)

Back when the platform launched, we noted that X99 motherboards were priced around $120 higher than Z97 boards if you compared add-in features. We also observed that the X99’s additional integrated extras only helped offset the more expensive hardware. Enthusiasts needing to run different data to a bunch of high-bandwidth cards would need the extra PCIe lanes of X99, while those looking to send the same information to multiple GPUs in SLI or CrossFire could get similar results from Z97 by purchasing a board with PLX’s $60 switch.

Even if the price difference dropped to $100, sales of X99 motherboards are highly dependent on power users needing more than four physical cores, more than 20 lanes of PCIe connectivity, four channels of (expensive) DDR4 memory or, ignoring third-party storage controllers, more than six SATA ports native to the chipset.

The X99’s price premium also means that high-end boards, which Z97 buyers might pay $200 for, cost X99 buyers over $300. We’re not talking about premium uber-geek stuff either. The extra features found in this price range typically include a PCIe-based SATA controller or two, secondary network controllers, mildly oversized voltage regulators and extra USB 3.0.

Asus goes one-better in its X99 Pro by bundling Wi-Fi, but at the expense of not adding an extra wired network connection.

Asus X99 Pro Features
PCB Revision1.01Voltage RegulatorEight Phases
ChipsetIntel X99100.0 MHz BCLK99.94 (-0.06%)
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 21CLR_CMOS Button1
USB 3.06Digital Audio OutOptical
USB 2.04Digital Audio InNone
Network1Analog Audio5
eSATANoneOther Devices2x WiFi Antenna
Internal Interfaces
PCIe 3.0 x16 (Core i7-5960X and -5930K)3 (x16/x16/x8) SLI x3, CrossFire x3 M.2 disables x8 slotPCIe 3.0 x16 (Core i7-5820K)3 (x16/x8/x4) SLI x2, CrossFire x3 M.2 disables x4 slot
4-Pin Fan6 (5x PWM/DC dual-mode)3-Pin FanNone
PCIe 2.0 x161 (x4, shares 1x PCIe x1, 1x USB 3.0 controller [2-ports])PCIe 2.0 x12 (1x w/x16, 1x w/Wi-Fi)
FP-Audio1S/PDIF I/OOutput Only
USB 3.02 (4-ports)USB 2.02 (4-ports)
Internal ButtonsPower, Reset, Mem_OKInternal SwitchXMP, EPU (low-energy), TPU (auto-overclocking)
SATA 6.0 Gb/s10 (2x shared  w/SATA-E)SATA Express1 (Uses 2x SATA)
Diagnostics PanelNumericOther ConnectorsCOM, TB_Header, EXT_FAN
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA10x SATA 6Gb/s (Includes M.2, SATA-E)Add-In SATANone
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 10 (Ports 1-6)USB 3.0ASM1042e PCIe ASM1072 Hub
Networking
Primary LANWGI218V PHYSecondary LANNone
Wi-FiBCM4352 PCIe 802.11ac dual-band / BT 4.0BluetoothBT 4.0/Wi-Fi Combo
Audio
HD Audio CodecALC1150DDL/DTS ConnectDTS Connect
WarrantyThree YearsPrice~$310-330

The 802.11ac module is still a $40 part, typically before adding an extra ten bucks for antennas. Thus, anyone who would have bought this module for their build needs only compare the X99 Pro’s other features to those of $260 boards. Yet, we’re always looking for freebies or advanced design characteristics.

One of those advancements—enhanced DDR4 overclocking—had already given us an opportunity to get hands-on with the X99 Pro. Now we’re ready to see how it stacks up against those $260 boards in performance and CPU overclocking before arriving to a comprehensive value analysis.

  • 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