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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.

Tom's Hardware 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.

Pros

  • +

    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.

Cons

  • -

    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.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.