ASRock X399 Fatal1ty Professional Gaming Motherboard Review: More Pro than Gaming

The ASRock Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming motherboard (priced around $390) performs just as well as the company's X399 Taichi, but has the added benefit of the 10Gb network controller. This board has some deficiencies from a gamer’s perspective, but would work well for a system that calls for 10Gb throughput and utilization of all the PCIe slots (something most boards can’t handle).

AMD successfully stole the tech communities’ attention at Computex 2018 with the announcement of the Threadripper 2000 series processors. And since the August release of the 32-core behemoth flagship chip, there has been plenty of positive press for the HEDT underdog. In our comparison against the Skylake-X class processors, AMD’s latest ecosystem only lags the Blue Team on gaming performance and motherboard selection, while generally costing a whole lot less per core and thread.

Specifications

SocketTR4
ChipsetAMD X399
Form FactorATX
Voltage Regulator8+3 Phases
Video Ports
USB Ports10Gbps:(1) Type A, (1) Type C
5Gb/s: (8) Type A
Network Jacks(1) 10Gb Ethernet
(2) Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Jacks(5) Analog, (1) Digital
Legacy Ports/Jacks(1) PS/2
Other Ports/Jack(2) SMA Antenna, (1) BIOS Flashback
PCIe x16(4) v3.0 (x16/x8/x16/x8)
PCIe x8
PCIe x4
PCIe x1(1) v2.0
CrossFire/SLI4x / 4x
DIMM slots(8) DDR4
M.2 slots(2) PCIe v3 x4 / SATA3 42/60/80mm
(1) PCIe v3 x4 / SATA3 30/42/60/80mm
U.2 Ports(1) PCIe v3 x4, SFF-8639 (disable M2_1)
SATA Ports(8) 6Gb/s
USB Headers(2) 5Gbps
(2) USB2.0
Fan Headers(5) 4-pin
Legacy Interfaces(1) COM
Other Interfaces(2) RGB-LED, (2) Front panel Audio
Diagnostics PanelNumeric
Internal Button/SwitchCMOS Clear, Power, Reset, Xtreme OC
SATA ControllersIntegrated (0/1/10)
Ethernet Controllers(1)  Aquantia® AQC107
(2) Intel® I211AT
Wi-Fi / BluetoothIntel® 802.11ac WiFi Module
Bluetooth 4.2 / 3.0
USB Controllers
HD Audio CodecALC1220
DDL/DTS Connect✗ / ✗
Warranty3 Years

Rather than cook up a new chipset like the Ryzen 2000 series launches, AMD chose to provide a better upgrade path for users in the field who need the extra cores or features of the 2000 series Threadrippers by keeping the existing X399 chipset and socket in place. For the most part, older vintages of X399 boards were overbuilt for the first-generation parts, but AMD officially supports only stock frequencies for its highest-end WX series processors with some older boards.

The ASRock Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming board shares several similarities to its Taichi brother. In fact, if the facade and aesthetics are removed, both the Taichi and Professional Gaming boards share nearly identical design and component placement across the board. Plastic IO shields, VReg heatsinks and header locations and styles are identical. In short, the only substantial difference between these boards is the inclusion of the Aquantia 10Gb network controller and the populated COM port header on the Professional Gaming board.

But enough about the Taichi; let’s take a close look at the Fatal1ty board. The ASRock Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming provides 10 USB ports through the back panel, which are wired out for eight USB3.0, one Type-A and one Type-C USB 10Gb/s. Five gold-plated analog audio jacks and a SPDIF port enable audio through the Realtek ALC1220 codec. And the board is bundled with the Sound Blaster Cinema 3 suite to leverage Creative’s software stack in conjunction with the ASRock’s audio circuitry and design.

Wireless network connectivity is granted using an Intel AC8265 2x2 802.11ac controller, and standard Ethernet is provided by two tried-and-true Intel I211AT gigabit controllers. The third RJ-45 connector is connected to the star of the show: the Aquantia AQC107 controller which enables 10GBASE-T connections (more on that later). Lastly, what would a Fatal1ty board be without support for a PS/2 port or the inclusion of BIOS Flashback on the back panel?

Moving clockwise across the planar, the top-left quadrant of the board houses the first of five four-pin PWM fan headers and a 4-pin EPS12V power connector. This board utilizes both the 4-pin and 8-pin to power its 8+3 phase regulator topology, with IR PWM controller and Dr. MOS integrated MOSFET drivers. Cooling this Vreg design is the same heatsinks we see on the X399 Taichi, which prove to be sufficient for the lower wattage Threadrippers: Additional airflow is needed when using CPU water blocks for an overclocked WX processor.

Quad-channel DDR4 is supported by default on Threadripper and this board provides support for ECC non-buffered DIMM modules. The right edge of the board houses the 24-pin ATX, 6-pin PCIe supplement power, and the first USB3.0 header. The 6-pin PCIe connector is required for multi-GPU configurations, and fortunately the angled connector helps keep cable management a little bit cleaner. Skipping storage ports for now, the bottom side contains the classic format of front panel headers, two USB 2.0, two 4-pin fans, front-panel audio, and COM port headers. For the overclockers among us, two 7-segment numeric debug LEDs provide Dr. Debug post codes, alongside power and reset buttons.

Storage on Threadripper comes as no surprise. Lots of PCIe lanes means more connections and options for system builders. ASRock opts to provide three M.2 and one U.2 connector for users who want to run both consumer grade M.2 and enterprise-class U.2 drives. However, if U.2 is enabled, the top M.2 is disabled, so don’t plan on migrating any 3-drive M.2 arrays and trying to leverage U.2 at the same time. Eight SATA ports enable standard SATA3 protocols with support for RAID 0/1/10.

Copying the Taichi board layout, the PCIe topology is routed out to four x16 connectors and one open-ended x1 connector. From top to bottom, they are wired as x16/x8/x1/x16/x8, where the larger ports are Gen3 PCIe and the x1 is Gen2. With the Aquantia chip providing 10Gb connections, this system really can leverage multi-GPU configurations without sacrificing Ethernet connectivity or imparting storage controller complications.

Given the “Gaming” moniker, this Fatal1ty product is a stark deviation from the Taichi’s aesthetic, favoring angles, gradients, and heavy use of darker grays and blacks. The X399 chipset is illuminated by LEDs emitting from behind the heatsink, and there are two RGB headers that support LED strips. We feel that the accompanying IO shields and regulator heatsinks make the Professional Gaming board more attractive than the Taichi model. But ultimately, both boards provide similar looks when fully populated.

All things considered, the ASRock Fatal1ty X399 Professional Gaming builds on the Taichi’s success with features that favor the workstation more-so than the gamer. For a gaming board, we would favor more fan/pump headers for water cooling and possibly removing the U.2 and Wifi card to reduce frequently unused features. For a workstation, relocating the power headers and spreading out some of the other components might improve serviceability.

MORE: Best Motherboards

MORE: How To Choose A Motherboard

MORE: All Motherboard Content

Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
No comments yet
Comment from the forums
    Your comment