Computex 2017: Detailing Gigabyte's X299 Motherboards

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     June 2, 2017

With everyone gearing up to launch X299 boards when Intelís new Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors become available on June 19th, we had to drop by Gigabyteís at Computex 2017 to see what they were going to be offering. It turns out that they will have a pretty extensive lineup and they were focusing on their AORUS brand rather than showing off a whole lineup that included both mainstream and gamer-oriented products.

Before I get to explaining three of Gigabyteís upcoming X299 boards, it is important to talk about the AORUS brand they carry. Basically Gigabyte is positioning AORUS to be a direct competitor to the Republic of Gamers series from ASUS. These designed with gamers in mind but that doesnít necessarily mean they are expensive since there will be a wide range of price points being addressed from mid-level all the way up to ultra premium motherboards. There are also many common features across the AORUS lineup so even some lower priced offerings will get pretty awesome features.

So letís start things off right at the top with the X299 AORUS Gaming 9 which will be Gigabyteís flagship.

Understanding this motherboard is pretty simple: the X299 chipset is Intelís premium consumer platform and the Gaming 9 is Gigabyteís highest-end motherboard in their X299 lineup. That means it has everything anyone could possibly want and then it adds in a bit more for good measure.

Whatís obvious from the layout is thereís five reinforced PCI-E 3.0 16x slots of which two are configured for 16x graphics format, one 8x and two PCI-E 4x slots. That means dual GPUs will always run in by 16 mode while adding in a third graphics card will result in a 16x16x8 lane configuration. That should be more than enough for even the most hardcore user.

The Gaming 9 also shines in the storage department and line many other X299 boards it supports triple M.2 drives which can be combined into a RAID setup via Intelís VROC technology. Each of those slots has an integrated heatsink to insure the drives remain cool and donít throttle. Gigabyte has also included an add-in card that adapts a single M.2 slot for use as a U.2 connector. This is an odd choice since quite a few of the X299 boards we have already covered have U.2 installed directly onto the PCB.

A few other things that should be mentioned is the Dual LAN provided by Killer Networks and Intel chips, wireless AC networking, onboard headers for additional digital RGBW strips and onboard diagnostic LEDs.

One area where Gigabyte takes much pride is in the audio department and the X299 AORUS Gaming 9 takes onboard sound to the next level. It has an audiophile-grade ESS Saber DAC which provides studio-grade 32-Bit, 384kHz audio processing, Realtekís ALC1120 codec and an integrated TXC precision audio oscillator. Thereís more features just on the audio level than we can go into here but the end result should be an awesome experience.

Of course there RGB LEDs everywhere, from the PCI-E slots to the AORUS logo over the chipset to the DIMM slots and even the rear IO panel. That chipset logo is actually edge lit and etched into a piece of acrylic so it can easily be removed and replaced with a 3D printed part that carries the design of your choosing. Thereís even a few secondary strips thrown in for good measure over the various VRM heatsinks. The Gaming 9 takes things a step further by offering Digital RGBW LEDs on those heatsinks around the CPU socket. This means they can be better controlled and offer smoother transitions than normal LEDs since they have an additional pure white channel.

The backplate isnít something we typically focus on but thereís something unique about this one. It isnít the fact this one is already built into the board since ASUS already did that with the Z270 boards. Rather, this is the first weíve seen with an integrated acrylic piece integrated into the backplate which is used to reflect an edge-mounted RGB LED light. The result is awesome to see in person.

The X299 AORUS Gaming 9 also integrates a massive backplate that is supposed to reinforce the PCB and even provide additional cooling for onboard components. Gigabyte feels like this will provide much more than good looks since it will never really be seen. With components like GPUs, air coolers and other items becoming heavier this base plate is supposed to stop PCB flex in its tracks.

So thatís a broad overview of the Gaming 9 and there are actually a lot of features we had to leave out since there are so many of them! But what about the other boards in this lineup? Those are more about whatís being taken away compared to the flagship board rather than anything else so letís get on with those right away.

Well this is the X299 AORUS Gaming 7 and on first glance it looks exactly like the Gaming 9 but there are a few pretty key differences. While it maintains the exact same PCI-E layout, server-class PWM components, RGB zones, high end audio setup and general connectivity, this motherboard strives to offer 95% of what its big brother does but at a lower price.

But what does it sacrifice? Well, only one of its M.2 slots has a heatsink cover, thereís no lit acrylic I/O shield and that full metal backplate for PCB support has been eliminated. The Gaming 7 also drops the U.2 support which is a bit surprising but since the Gaming 9 requires an add-in card for that connection, we guess this is understandable. However, weíd still like to see its inclusion on what promises to still be a pretty expensive motherboard.

Believe it or not, those are the only differences between the Gaming 9 and Gaming 7 that are worth mentioning. Personally, I think this board will end up being extremely popular provided Gigabyte prices it well but since we donít know how much these boards will cost, that could just be a dream. However, there may actually be a good argument for picking it over the Gaming 9 and using the money saved on upgrading other parts of the build.

While the Gaming 9 and Gaming 7 are pretty close to one another in terms of features and even their overall look, the same canít be said about the X299 AORUS Gaming 3. The other two boards can be considered direct competitors against alternatives like ASUSí RAMPAGE series whereas this one seems to firmly target the lower priced STRIX series. That means it will cost much less but still be loaded with features gamers expect.

Letís start right at the top with the PCI-E slot layout and capabilities. Well they havenít changed one bit and still have the capability to run triple cards at 16/16/8 speeds along with dual 4x slots. The difference here is only the two primary 16x slots have metal reinforcement brackets and have RGB illumination. Speaking of RGB, the Gaming 3 simply has much less of it.

The largest cutbacks have come on the connectivity front. This motherboard doesnít have a front panel USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C connector like the other two, it only has two rear USB 3.1 Gen2 ports and thereís only two NVMe PCI-E x4 M.2 slots of which neither has a heatsink. Meanwhile thereís also a single Intel LAN port but then again some would say that the lack of a Killer networking card is actually beneficial. The audio department has been stepped back as well since it lacks the ESS Sabre DAC and higher end components but thereís still audiophile-grade capacitors and OP-AMPS.

The only other board in Gigabyteís lineup we werenít able to cover was the X299 AORUS Ultra Gaming which is basically a mid-point product thatís meant to bridge the gap between the Gaming 7 and Gaming 3. It is basically a Gaming 3 with one additional M.2 slot, the ability to run a front panel USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C connector and three more USB 3.1 Gen2 rear ports.

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