A couple of weeks ago we took a look at one of ASUS new X99 based motherboards in our X99 Deluxe 2 review. That board was about as packed with features as is physically possible and really is ideal for anyone who wants no compromises on socket 2011-3. Everyone has different needs though and so ASUS have a bunch of other boards available aimed at different consumers. One of the recent releases which is designed with gamers in mind is the Republic of Gamers Strix X99 Gaming. We used that in our Broadwell-E/i7-6900K launch review earlier in the week and now it’s time to look at the board itself. Welcome to our ASUS Strix X99 Gaming Review.
ASUS Strix X99 Gaming Review – Packaging and Bundle
The Strix board arrives in a fairly standard sized motherboard box which lists all the key features of the board across the various sides. Inside we find a decent bundle, everything we need to get up and running including driver cables, product documentation, software disc, SLI bridge, CPU/wiring installation tools, I/O shield, and Wi-Fi antenna.
ASUS Strix X99 Gaming Review – The Motherboard
The Strix X99 Gaming is an ATX board (12×9.6 inch) and ASUS use a black PCB, adding some flashes of colour on the heatsinks and covers with a number of LEDs also built in. Such as those which light up the I/O area and PCIe slot clips. This lighting can be set to various effects (inc breathing, music react, etc) and colours depending on our needs and there is a special header for LED strip lighting.
The board supports CPUs such as the now ageing high-end i7-5960x and brand new Broadwell-E models including the top of the range i7-6950X. As far as memory support goes, 8DIMMs split over 4 channels. A maximum of 128GB of DDR4 can be installed and speeds in excess of 3333MHz are available as is support for XMP.
For key or unique features the CPU socket, which is 2011-3, has received some ASUS tweaks adding in extra pins which enhance Overclocking/voltage/memory performance while retaining full compatibility with all CPUs for that socket. This is improved further by the 8+4pin design and ability to tweak the cache bus voltage for enhanced overclocking (cache bus links CPU, DDR4, system agent and shared L3 cache).
The board also has all the features we would expect from a high-end product such as one click optimisation/profiles, digital power control, water cooling support, strengthened PCIe slots and built-in Wi-Fi ac. Then there is surge protection and higher static tolerance on the LAN socket, overvoltage protection, overcurrent protection, enhanced audio components and extra little touches like the status/debug LEDs.
Looking around the board and starting at the bottom left corner we find a PCIe slot layout which runs from PCIe 3.0 16x though 1x, 8x, 16x, 1x, 8x. This is also the location for the onboard power and reset buttons as well as the enhanced audio hardware. On this board that means SupremeFX (Realtek ALC 1150) audio (and software control panel with gamer focused modes including overlay), Nichicon audio capacitors, shielding, dual headphone amps and capacitor protection on both front and back audio output circuits.
Moving along to the bottom right we have a number of drive connectors which include eight SATA 3, one U.2 (NVMe), one SATA Express and above them, an M.2 slot.
Round at the back panel we start with a BIOS flashback button before finding PS/2, and four USB 2.0. Intel GB LAN (I218V) is up next and beneath that is two USB 3.0 ports. Next up is two more USB 3.0 connectors before we find two USB 3.1 ports with one type-C. Our two Wi-Fi antenna sockets are next and support speeds up to 867Mbps (dual band ac) with the optical and 3.5mm audio connectors finishing things off. Finally, it is worth noting that the bundled Wi-Fi card also supports Bluetooth 4.0.
ASUS Strix X99 Gaming Review – Software and BIOS
As expected ASUS use their advanced UEFI bios on the X99 Gaming and split it into two modes. EZ and Advanced. In the first we get all the key features on one screen, allowing us to quickly and easily configure the board to our needs. For more hands-on users we can move to advanced mode and tweak to our needs. Added to this are various user-friendly features such as the ability to Secure Erase drives or apply overclocking profiles. EZ Tweak is a particular highlight, a couple of quick steps to automatically enhance CPU/memory performance for those who don’t want to get too in depth with the manual settings.
Once in Windows we have a selection of tools available for us, such as one which allows us to configure our network traffic/performance or another for lighting along with a RAM Cache tool. The main software application for the board is AI Suite which allows us to monitor, maintain and tweak the system quickly and easily.
ASUS Strix X99 Gaming Review – Performance
I7-5960X/6900K, ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming, 4x8GB DDR4-2800(Corsair)
i7-6700K, Z170, 2x8GB DDR4-2666 (Corsair)
i7-5960X, X99, 4x8GB DDR4-2800 (Corsair)
FX-9590, 990FX, 4x8Gb DDR3-2133 (Corsair)
GTX 980 Ti OC
Corsair H100 Series Cooler
Corsair AX1500i PSU
Samsung 850 Pro SSD (SATA Testing)
Samsung 950 (M.2 Testing)
OCZ Revodrive 350 (PCIe Testing)
And Samsung T3 SSD (USB Testing)
And as an added bonus, a couple of tests using the brand new Intel Core i7-6900K Broadwell-E CPU:
ASUS Strix X99 Gaming Review – Conclusion
It would be a real surprise if we received a board from ASUS which was lacking in build quality and so it should be no shock that this enthusiast product is built to a high standard. We get enhanced audio (including two amps and dedicated audio capacitors), high-quality LAN from Intel, surge protection, enhanced CPU socket, strengthened PCIe slot, and more.
As far as design goes, all very positive. The slot layout is good, the headers positioned in a way that makes it fairly easy to create a tidy build and the port layout is good, offering all the latest/required connectivity such as USB 3.1, optical audio and GB LAN. The inclusion of Wi-Fi and good lighting effects is a nice bonus… as are some fun stickers that allow us to rebrand our fans/board. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life which are the best…
On the performance front, all very good. The Strix X99 Gaming was able to compete well with the more expensive X99 Deluxe 2 that we reviewed a few weeks ago, each winning a few tests. As that was the fastest X99 board we had tested that makes this a fairly value-packed proposition too. The Strix board also performed very well indeed with the new Broadwell-E based i7-6900K. Support for those new CPUs is great to see on launch day and even the more advanced features such as auto-overclocking worked well with them. For those who want to pair that CPU with a multi-GPU setup there are two 16x slots and one at 8x which should be more than enough for a top notch build when combined with support for DDR 4-3333+ and the latest NVMe SSDs.
Summary: Well priced, packed with features and offers excellent performance with the latest Intel CPUs. A worthy winner of our Gold Award.