ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme X399 Review
ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme X399 Review. We’re going to check out the ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme X399 motherboard. This is a Threadripper board which I’m using in my new PC, I’ll cover what’s on offer as well as the problems I’ve had with it so far that you should be aware of before buying. Inside the box there’s quite a lot of components, starting with the motherboard itself.
Under that there’s a box that’s full of extra items, including a brace for the graphics card, a 10gbit network card, the DIMM expansion card, SLI bridges for two, three, and four way SLI configurations, a fan hub, two antennas for the wifi, and a USB stick containing drivers as well as heaps of additional cables for just about everything. This is an E-ATX board, it’s 30.5cm by 27.7cm and I’ve installed it into my Thermaltake View 71 case. Let’s start by take a closer look at the rear IO.
The IO shield is attached to the board, so no need to install that first. From left to right, we’ve got BIOS flashback and clear CMOS buttons. Next there are three connectors for the included WiFi antenna. After that there are 8 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A ports which are colored blue, and a built in gigabit ethernet port. There’s two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, one is Type A and coloured red, while the other is a type C port, as well as an optical SPDIF out, and your usual audio outputs which light up with LEDs.
Now let’s checkout the rest of the board. Along the top from left to right there’s a water block connector, RGB header, and in the top right corner there’s a CPU fan and CPU opt header. Working down from here along the right hand side of the board there’s two 8 pin power connectors, physical power on and reset buttons which were nice to have while troubleshooting, 24 pin power connector, and a USB 3.1 gen 2 header with another fan header behind that.
The rest of the IO on the right faces out to the side, we’ve got the USB 3.1 gen 1 header, 6 SATA3 connectors, and one U.2 output. Along the bottom from right to left there’s the usual front panel connectors, various pump connectors for water cooling, LN2 jumpers for liquid nitrogen support, buttons for safe boot, more fan headers, another USB 3.1 gen 1 connector, USB 2.0 connector, addressable RGB header and Aura RGB header, TPM connector, EZ power plug if you’re running heaps of GPUs, and front panel audio connectors, so there’s quite a lot going on. Of course in the center of the board we’ve got the TR4 socket, which I’m using for my 16 core AMD 1950X CPU.
I had a lot of trouble getting the CPU installed, as you may have heard the Foxconn sockets don’t seem to be as good as the Lotes ones. You’re meant to tighten the screws in the order specified, however I had to half turn screws 2 and 3 first, then put my full body weight behind 1 to get it to thread, and I’m not alone with this issue. I eventually got it in, but I was pretty worried I was going to damage the board just installing it, hopefully this will be fixed in future revisions.
The socket is surrounded by the 8 memory slots which run in quad channel that support up to 128GB of DDR4 memory at 2,666MHz with the possibility of overclocking to 3,600MHz. I had difficulty getting above 3,000MHz using my G.Skill TridentZ kit, but that wasn’t on the supported parts list, so if you plan on overclocking make sure you pick supported memory from the QVL as AMD’s platforms seem to be fairly picky with memory. You also have the option of using ECC memory here, a nice touch if you’re running a Threadripper workstation or server.
Towards the right of the memory slots is the expansion DIMM.2 slot. This is an interesting feature, basically you can connect the included add in card into what is essentially another DDR4 interface slot in order to run up to two M.2 drives. These can be 30mm, 42mm, 60mm, 80mm or 110mm in length. I haven’t been using this yet, as there’s also a single M.2 PCIe slot under the metal plate with the ROG logo. This panel also acts as a heatsink for the x399 chipset, and it’s got a thermal pad underneath which comes into contact with the M.2 drive. There’s support here for M.2 drives 42mm, 60mm or 80mm in length.
The RGB lighting also shines through the ROG logo cutout. As for available PCIe slots from the top down there’s PCIe 3 16, 8, 4, 16, 1, and 8 slots. This supports up to either 4 way SLI or Crossfire. The top 16x slot is closer to the CPU socket than other X399 motherboards, so check your CPU cooler won’t overhang the slot like mine does. I’ve got the Noctua U14S cooler, and it blocks out this first slot, preventing me from using it. That’s not an issue for me, as I’m only running one graphics card in the second 16x slot, but if I want to use both of these in future I’ll need to look at changing the CPU cooler to something smaller.
Speaking of PCIe slots, the included 10 gigabit network card will let you boost your network speed as long as your network supports such speeds. It connects using a PCIe 3.0 4x interface, and I ended up putting mine into the otherwise unusable top x16 slot. It’s covered in a heat sink to help cool it, and has some LEDs on top which advise the speed connection. If you have no use for this card I’d probably recommend looking at a different X399 motherboard, as the card itself costs around $140 USD, so it would be adding significant cost to the overall price of the board. I’ll be upgrading my network to 10gbit in the near future, so I’ll definitely be making use of this. While we’re talking about network connectivity let’s dive into the WiFi.
There are two antenna included with the board, the first is dual band and connects to two of the connectors on the back of the motherboard. This one handles 802.11 a, b, g, n, and ac standards over 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies. The second antenna plugs into the third connector, and is for 802.11ad, also known as WiGig, which operates on the 60GHz frequency with speeds up to 4.6GBps. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test this for myself as I don’t have any devices to take advantage of the ad standard yet. Both antennas have stands to hold themselves up, and there’s also support for Bluetooth 4.1 As you may have noticed, the board also has RGB lighting, but I think it looks nice and isn’t overdone.
It features ASUS’s Aura sync, so you can use their software to customize the lighting effects and also synchronize other components, which is what I’m doing here with my G.Skill memory. The lighting is present around the right edge of the board, on the metal plate with the ROG logo, and on the shroud covering the IO. The IO shroud also covers a tiny fan, which you’ll hear spinning up on system boot. Just under that there’s a small OLED panel which gives useful system information.
I found this really helpful during boot when I had problems, as it would print out the error code. While running it will show the current CPU temperature by default, but you can change it to show CPU frequency, fan speed, water cooling information, or even a custom GIF. On the back of the board there’s a nice backplate, not that you’ll see it once installed. I had difficulty installing this into my Thermaltake View 71 case. Although the case does support the E-ATX form factor, the motherboard covers the cable routing grommets, and the backplate comes into contact with the rubber grommets, so I had to remove the rubber from the case so that the board would sit flush against the case.
Once getting up and running the board has worked great, but I did have some issues when building the system as already mentioned, including the CPU cooler overhanging of the first PCIe slot, difficulty installing the CPU in the foxconn socket, and backplate coming into contact with some of the case. These type of issues are only minor, once you work around them you’ll probably be fine for as long as you continue using the system, I haven’t had any further issues since building the system a few months ago.
While building I also had a few different issues with the memory being recognized initially, long story short I updated to the latest BIOS by simply copying the files to a USB stick, inserting it into the BIOS USB port and pressing the BIOS button. It fixed everything for me, so make sure you’re running the most up to date version. The BIOS update process was extremely simple to do this way, I was quite impressed.
So what did you guys think about the ASUS Zenith Extreme motherboard? It’s the most expensive X399 board at the time of writing, and there are definitely cheaper options out there, however in my personal opinion this one looks the nicest and has really useful features and add ons, such as the inclusion of the 10 gigabit network card which I’ll be using.
Be sure to let me know your thoughts down in the comments, as well as what motherboards you’re looking to buy and why? If you found the information in this post useful leave a share, and don’t forget to subscribe for future tech reviews like this one.