A Closer Look at the X399 Pro Gaming
A Closer Look at the X399 Pro Gaming
The Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming motherboard has a relatively muted aesthetic that is just a combination of blacks and greys and various metal components, but we like it that way. We did it find it somewhat funny that its rear I/O shroud clearly comes from the exact same mold as the one on the X299 Taichi, but that type of price-saving doesn't bother us at all.
This model is based on the conventional full-size ATX form factor - 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in - so there are no compatibility issues to worry about with any properly designed case. The overall layout is very well-thought-out and there are no critical shortcomings that we can point out. All the numerous connectors and ports are easily accessible and free from possible obstruction. We appreciate the fact that there is a large amount of space between all four PCI-E x16 slots, so there won’t be any issues fitting four dual-slot graphics cards on this motherboard. We are also impressed by the fact that the engineers managed to squeeze all three full-size M.2 slots far away from the primary first PCI-E x16 slot, since this ensures that in most builds the SSDs won't heat-soaked from the graphics card.
When you look at the CPU socket area on any X399 motherboard all you are going to see is...the CPU socket. The TR4 socket with its 4094 pins and large mounting mechanism is downright massive, so large that it almost touches the memory slots on both sides. In fact, it occupies so much space that there isn't even any room for the handful of electrolytic capacitors that you will find surrounding the CPU socket on every other platform for the last 20+ years. Having said all of that, since CPU cooler attaches directly to the socket hardware the restricted space is really not an issue when it comes time to assembling a system.
After we removed the two-piece VRM cooler, we were able to get a good look at this motherboard's VRM area. It features a 8+3 phase CPU power design that utilizes two Infineon IR35201 digital PWM controllers and a total of eleven excellent Infineon PowIRstage IR3555M 60A MOSFETs. The VRM breakdown is one PWM controller and eight MOSFETs for the CPU cores and one PWM controller and three MOSFETs for the SOC (Fabric, memory controller, I/O, etc). The remaining parts are high current 60A power chokes and almost three dozen super-pricey Panasonic tantalum capacitors mounted on the rear of the motherboard. Overall, this motherboard has been built with the best of the best components that shouldn't have any issues handling the elevated power demands of high core count processors over the long haul.
Since ThreadRipper processors can require quite a bit of power - at least when overclocked - ASRock have included one 8-pin CPU power connector and a supplementary 4-pin CPU power connector. Unless you are doing some sub-zero overclocking you really don't need to use the secondary plug, but it never hurts.
ASRock have also added a little switch that they refer to as the CPU Xtreme OC Switch or MOS_PROCHOT1. There isn't a ton of information available regarding what it does, but we can surmise that it disables the VRM thermal throttling (or at least increases the temperature limits) for those who want to do some really extreme overclocking.
The MOSFET heatsinks on the X399 Pro Gaming might not have much surface area, but they are pretty chunky and they are also attached via a fairly beefy heatpipe that helps spread the thermal load across both heatsinks.
In order to test the cooling capabilities of these VRM heatsinks we set our manual overclock (4.1GHz @ 1.30V) and ran Prime 95 for a few hours. We are happy to report that the MOSFET temperatures (as recorded by HWiNFO64) peaked at very reasonable 61°C/142°F, while the heatsinks warmed up to the 43-47°C/109-117°F. This is without any active airflow either, so in a well ventilated case those temperatures might even be lower.
While we are on the topic of cooling, this motherboard has two CPU fan headers and three system fan headers. All five of the fan headers are of the 4-pin variety that are fully controllable via both DC and PWM fan control modes from within the UEFI or the A-Tuning utility. Two of the five headers are also of high amperage capable and can be used to power all-in-one coolers, high speed fans, or water pumps with a maximum current draw of 1.5A (18W).
Since ThreadRipper processors feature a quad-channel memory interface, this motherboard has eight DDR4 memory slots, with each bank of four slots being fed by a 2-phase power design that utilizes Sinopower SM7341EHKP MOSFETs. ASRock have validated this motherboard for overclocked memory frequencies up to DDR4-3600, and for those more interested in capacity than speed it supports up to 128GB of system memory. This motherboard also supports ECC unbuffered memory, which does appear to be working in our brief tests.
Like on all recent ASRock motherboards that we have reviewed, this model's memory slots are clipless on one side, which prevents any clearance issues that can arise between conventional memory clips and the back of any nearby expansion card.
To the left of the 24-pin ATX power connector is one of the two USB 3.0 front-panel headers, which can add two USB 3.0 ports to the front of your case. We would have preferred that one of the two USB 3.0 headers be a Type-C front panel header since that's what upcoming cases are going to increasingly support. To the left of that header is the U.2 NVMe connector, which we will elaborate upon a little later on.
Behind the aforementioned USB 3.0 header is one of the two RGB LED headers, which is where you can plug in any 12V/3A 36W 5050 RGB LED light strip and have it fully powered by the motherboard and controlled by the RGB LED utility.
One of the most impressive aspects of this new platform is the fact that it natively supports three full speed M.2 slots. This is made possible by the fact that ThreadRipper processors have 60 free PCI-E 3.0 lanes, and 12 of them are dedicated towards high-speed storage connectivity. As a result, these M.2 slots have a direct connection to the processor instead of needing to be routed through the chipset like on the Intel LGA2066 platform. Back in October, AMD added support for NVMe RAID, which enabled RAID 0/1/10 across all three M.2 slots and up to ten NVME devices in total. Compared to Intel's restrictive and byzantine Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC) feature, AMD is doing this right.
All three of the M.2 slots have a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gb/s, support SATA/PCI-E/NVMe M.2 solid state drives, and can handle 2280 form factor drives, which are 99% of the models on the market.
This motherboard has eight native SATA ports that support RAID 0/1/10, courtesy of the X399 chipset. ASRock have also included a U.2 NVMe connector that has a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gb/s. Since the U.2 port and top M.2 slot share PCI-E lanes, if you install a PCI-E SSD into that M.2 slot the U.2 port will be automatically disabled.
To the left of the SATA ports is the auxiliary 6-pin PCI-E power connector that can be used in order to ensure that the PCI-E slots get all the power that they require for power-hungry dual, triple or quad graphics card configurations.
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