In many ways the X299 motherboards can be considered an evolution upwards from the current X99 platform. Rather than needing add-on controllers for features like high speed NVMe PCI-E SSDs and U.2 connectors, these all come baked in natively. Intel’s Optane will be there too. These Skylake-X processors feature up to 44 PCI-E 3.0 lanes from the CPU itself, not to mention a ton of additional functionality from the chipset. Those 44 lanes don’t provide enough bandwidth for the rumored triple 16x layout some were hoping for but it does allow for 32 lanes to be used for graphics cards while the additional lanes can be split off for a single x8 GPU slot and four lanes for attached PCI-E storage devices.
Even though these ASUS gaming motherboards will come with varying price tags, they will all share some of the same features. For example, they will have built-in WiFi, USB 3.1 Gen2 with Type-C ports, dedicated headers for liquid cooling pumps or fans and of course the Aura Sync technology which allows you to control all of your supporting RGB devices from one software hub. Of course all of these ROG boards will also have their own LED lighting systems too.
Another interesting addition to this lineup is Intel’s VROC technology. When used with an optional ASUS add-in card it allows for stupidly quick RAID arrays with M.2 SSDs. But enough about that, let’s talk about some of the specific boards starting off with the flagship Rampage VI Extreme.
This is one absolutely stunning looking board which has been built with an eye towards gamers and other enthusiasts who have liquid cooling systems. Basically this is the flagship ASUS X299 gaming board and it has every possible feature. That means triple GPU support even though AMD and NVIDIA are moving towards primarily dual GPU setups, a front panel USB 3.1 Gen 2 header, additional PCI-E slots, plenty of other connectivity and a design we’ve all come to know from ROG boards.
Another interesting addition here is the WiFi chip. While most other motherboards either don’t have wireless connectivity at all or use the fast AC standard, ASUS has equipped the new Rampage with Wireless AD. This is a next generation standard that promises speeds of up to 4.6Gbps!
Like we saw with some of the higher end Z270 motherboards from ASUS at CES, the Extreme has dual flow headers that let you monitor the coolant speeds while temperatures, flow data and potential leakage point information can be monitored through sensors placed throughout the custom water blocks.
Unlike many other X299 motherboards, the Rampage VI Extreme has triple integrated M.2 slots that can be used for RAID arrays instead of the optional VROC riser card I mentioned earlier.
While some of these features have been seen on other ASUS products, the Extreme does bring another addition which is a first for us. This is called the LiveDash OLED and it lets you monitor system temperatures, frequencies, and fan speeds right on the board in real time. The dashboard also displays custom messages and graphics to add a little extra flair to your build. It really is amazing but I think it will appeal more to people who run an open build since it will likely be hard to see if the board is installed in a case.
But what happens if you don’t need all of these features and just want to achieve the highest possible overclock? Well ASUS has something else for you…..
Rampage VI APEX
The first time we saw an APEX board was at CES earlier this year and let me tell you, it made an impression then and it still stands out as one of the most unique boards we’ve ever seen. The X299 version continues down the same road with an awesome looking non-standard PCB that’s still compatible with most enclosures but unfortunately ASUS wasn’t able to provide us with images in time
Trust us on this one; the APEX is built from the ground up for overclockers and that means its actual feature set has been reduced in an effort to optimize efficiency and clock speeds above all else. That doesn’t mean simple air or water cooling either since the focus here is on more exotic methods like liquid nitrogen and liquid helium overclocking.
With that in mind, the Rampage VI APEX has just one DIMM slot per channel and can support 64GB of memory versus the normal X299’s 128GB. There’s a reason for this too: less and shorter PCB traces between the slots and the CPU can lead to substantially higher memory overclocks and lower latencies. Those other slots are used for DIMM.2 connections which can be populated with riser cards with M.2 SSDs.
While the APEX is obviously targeted towards extreme overclockers, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few basic features that will help you accomplish basic gaming tasks. There’s USB 3.1 Gen2 with Type-C ports and onboard Wi-Fi too.