ASRock Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming Motherboard Review
When AMD unveiled the ThreadRipper X399 platform back in July it caused huge shockwaves since this was an HEDT platform with absolutely no artificial limitations, superior capabilities, and an attractive processor lineup that was much cheaper than the competition's. When we finally got our hands on this new platform it was clear to us that AMD had successfully delivered a product that would satisfy the needs of the most demanding power users.
Now that the ThreadRipper platform has been available for a few months and has matured a bit we thought it was the perfect time to start testing out some X399 motherboards. Since the first AM4 motherboard that we reviewed was the ASRock X370 Taichi - and it was pretty much perfect from the get-go - we thought we would tap ASRock again and try out their flagship $660 CAD / $440 USD Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming motherboard. While "Professional" and "Gaming" don't intuitively go together, the end result is nevertheless a motherboard that looks fantastic on paper.
When it comes to specs, this model has an 11-phase CPU VRM with top-notch components, four steel-reinforced PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots that support both 4-way CrossFire and 4-way SLI, one PCI-E 2.0 x1 slot, three full-speed M.2 x4 slots, one U.2 connector, and eight SATA 6Gb/s ports. High-speed USB connectivity is fantastic thanks to two high speed USB 3.1 Gen2 ports on the rear I/O panel, one Type-A and one Type-C, eight USB 3.0 ports, two internal USB 3.0 headers, and two USB 2.0 headers for a grand total of sixteen possible USB ports. The only thing missing is that we would have liked to see an internal USB 3.1 Gen2 header to provide next-gen USB connectivity to the front of the case.
While the above specs basically highlight the native features of this HEDT platform - which is to say they are similar on most other X399 motherboards - it is this model's networking capabilities that really standout. First and foremost, this motherboard has a high speed 10 gigabit LAN port powered by a brand new Aquantia multi-gigabit controller that also supports 5 Gbit/s, 2.5 Gbit/s, 1Gbit/s connections speeds. This add-on by itself likely contributes about $100 to the final price of the motherboard. As far as we can tell, this 10GbE LAN port is the principal difference between ASRock's $440 X399 Professional Gaming and the $340 X399 Taichi. Whether you need the higher-speed networking solution will ultimately decide your choice.
Not to be completely overshadowed, there are also two Intel-powered gigabit LAN ports and onboard Wi-Fi in the form of an Intel-based dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi module that supports Bluetooth 4.2. Onboard audio duties are handled by the Purity Sound 4 design that supports Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 3 software. It is based on the Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel codec, linked to an array of Nichicon audio-grade capacitors, and a physical PCB-level audio separation line that protects the audio components from EMI. There is also dedicated Texas Instruments op-amp that serves as headphone amplifier for the front panel headphone jack. While the audio section on this model doesn't have any illumination, there are a few RGB LEDs placed under the chipset cooler. If that is not enough lighting for you, there are also two light strip headers that can be fully controlled from within the ASRock RGB LED utility.
The X399 Pro Gaming features a grand total of five fan headers, which is one or two less than we would consider optimal for high-end maxed out system build. Having said that, they are all 4-pin that are fully controllable via both DC and PWM fan control modes from within the UEFI or the F-Stream utility. Two of the five headers are also of the high amperage variety that can be used to power all-in-one coolers, high speed fans, or water pumps. While we are on the topic of cooling, this model has two sizeable MOSFET heatsinks that are connected via heatpipe, so it will be interesting to see what the VRM temperatures are like under the load from an overclocked 180W TDP processor.
At first glance, this motherboard has just about everything that we could want, so our job now is to see whether it has all been well implemented, how it handles overclocking, and determine if we can justify the sizeable price tag.
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