Earlier, we reviewed the MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC. If you saw it, you've already seen some of our benchmark numbers. We'll present them again here, on page four. Where the MSI board will appeal to gamers, we think the Asus offering will find its best home with power users. Let's take a closer look.
The Prime X299-Deluxe carries forward the history Asus has of taking a bit of a kitchen-sink approach to the Deluxe-named offerings, equipping the board with dual Gigabit Ethernet and a dual-controller Wi-Fi solution that encapsulates 60GHz-band 802.11ad plus dual-band 802.11ac controllers. Yes, you get Bluetooth with that.
And if your needs are a little closer to home, the board even includes two of ASMedia’s latest dual-port USB 3.1 Gen2 controllers for its four 10Gb/s ports. You also get Type-C with that. Asus throws in a DTS license that adds live multi-channel encoding capabilities to the Digital Optical audio output, plus DTS Headphone X for synthesized 3D sound on two-speaker headphones.
The little black section in the center of the board (below the socket) is a tiny, verbose OLED display that scrolls system status messages. The Prime X299-Deluxe also includes the standard features of an enthusiast-class motherboard, such as the power/reset/CLR_CMOS buttons, which may explain why you also get the normal numeric code display along the bottom edge in addition to the verbose panel in the board’s center. We also find the normal Asus features, such as diagnostic LEDs that light up during component initialization and stay lit if that component fails to initialize. And, of course, there’s the MemOK button and EZ XMP switch that lets a builder underclock RAM if it fails to initialize, or overclock it to a manufacturer-programmed profile.
A third ASM3142 controller drives the new generation front-panel USB 3.1 Gen2 header, though users of 16-lane processors (Kaby Lake X) will find that it's shared with the second PCIe x16-length slot. Asus says not to put anything larger than an x4 card in that slot anyway due to bandwidth issues, and that’s far from the end of your woes if your CPU runs out of PCIe lanes. The fourth x16-length slot also shares its HSIO resources with SATA ports 5 and 6 when using either a 16 or 28-lane processor, and the only way to configure your legacy graphics cards for 3-way SLI is to get a full 44-lane CPU. The most recent generation of GeForce graphics cards only does 2-way SLI, and the GPUs are so much more powerful than their predecessors that anyone with the money for a 44-lane CPU will probably be using the most modern graphics cards as well.
Oh, and if you’re willing to settle for x1 slots to handle some of your non-graphics expansion needs, the HSIO resources of those two slots are shared with the Wi-Fi card’s Key-E interface and SATA port 7. Most of those sharing issues should be laid directly at the feet of Intel. From our vantage point, it would seem the company desires the potential profit of its partners selling upscale motherboards to mid-market CPU buyers, without regard for the losses sellers would surely incur as droves of customers attempted to return non-defective products. At any rate, these choices likely dissuaded Asus from using a CPU-fed PCIe hub (such as the PEX8717 switch) to drive the board’s extravagant features.
There isn’t much to complain about concerning layout, as the Prime X299-Deluxe has eight 4-pin fan headers around its edges, a regular RGB header (top edge), plus an addressable RGB header (bottom edge) for WS2812B or WS2812B based LED strips, and a U.2 port that’s disabled by default because it shares resources with the second M.2 slot. All ports and slots are tucked out of the way to avoid conflict with CPU coolers and graphics cards. The first M.2 port is stealthily concealed under a lower extension of the PCH cover, and the only real oddity is that the second M.2 slot is upright, between the 24-pin power header and USB 3.1 Gen2 front-panel header.
Builders still need to keep track of where they're putting things to maximize device support. One reason you’ll probably want to keep the middle slot open is that it makes a dandy place to put the included ThunderboltEX card, which includes both Type A and Type-C data connections and a DisplayPort input for graphics pass-through. It even includes the loop cable to connect your graphics card to its input. And since it’s on a card rather than on-board, builders can choose whether to stuff up the limited bandwidth of the PCH, or connect it directly to the CPU, depending on their graphics configuration and CPU choice.
The Prime X299-Deluxe includes a vertical M.2 screw set and bracket, driver discs, an I/O shield, six SATA cables, an Asus FanX card kit that supports four additional fans and three thermistors, an Asus Q-Connector lead bundler for front panel buttons and LEDs, HB-style and 3-way SLI bridges, a pair of antennas for 802.11ac standard and 802.11ad extensions, and the previously mentioned Thunderbolt add-in package.
MORE: Best Motherboards
MORE: All Motherboard Content