ASUS X299-A PRIME & Intel Core i7-7820X Skylake-X Review

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asus prime x299-a io shield

ASUS X299-A PRIME & Intel Core i7-7820X Skylake-X Review

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It’s no secret that 2017 was a rather successful year for AMD and the industry on the whole thanks to the release of the Ryzen 3/5/7 range of processors. Not only did this give consumers multiple options when building a new system or adding additional upgrade paths, but it forced Intel to break their current mould and fight back… thus creating a rather interesting 2017 for all.

In response to AMD’s successful and incredible launch, Intel pushed forward their X299 chipset launch date and here we are, a wave of socket LGA 2066 motherboards hit the market along with the pertaining chips such as the Intel Core i9-7900X, the one that makes up our HEDT test bench. On the bench today is the beautifully presented ASUS X299-A PRIME motherboard with a more clear-cut approach to subtle aesthetics than the STRIX and MAXIMUS models… what’s going on with this pale minty green, white and black contrasting ATX option?

Intel Sky Lake-X

Not only is the ASUS X299-A PRIME motherboard on test today, but we also have the handily priced 8-core Intel Core i7-7820X processor which features a 3.6GHz base clock, 4.3GHz turbo and features 28 PCI lanes which put it on par with AMD’s AM4 Ryzen 7 1700 which due to a chipset limitation, also only supports up to and including 28 lanes in total. With the battle for the top 8-core processor raging well into 2018 and a wave of refreshes expected in Q1, is the PRIME and 7820X the perfect match and does it make more sense from a performance perspective to opt for Intel over AMD? Let’s crack on shall we…

ASUS X299-A PRIME Motherboard Specifications

Core Specifications
Form Factor ATX
CPU Socket 2066
Chipset Intel X299
RAM Memory Support
Memory Type DDR4
Memory Channel Quad (4) [6+ Core] / Dual (2) [4 Core]
Memory Type (ECC) Non-ECC
Memory Type (R/U) UDIMM (Unbuffered)
Memory Speed (Mhz)
  • DDR4 – 2400
  • DDR4 – 2666
  • DDR4 – 3600(OC)
  • DDR4 – 4000(OC)
Max. Memory Capacity 128GB (8x16GB) [6+ Core] / 64GB (4x16GB) [4 Core]
Audio
Audio Realtek ALC S1220A 7.1 HD Audio
Graphics Support
Primary GPU Interface PCIe 3.0 (x16)
SLI Support 3-Way SLi
Crossfire Support 3-Way CrossFire
On-Board Graphics Connectors None
Internal Connectivity
Expansion Slots
  • 1 x M.2, 2242/2260/2280, PCIe 3.0/SATA
  • 1 x M.2, 2242/2260/2280/22110, PCIe 3.0
  • 1 x PCIe 3.0 x1
  • 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16
  • 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x8 Bandwidth)
  • 2 x PCIe 3.0 x4
SATA Support SATA3 / M.2
RAID Support via SATA
Storage Mode Support
  • Intel Optane Memory Ready
  • Intel Rapid Start Technology
  • Intel® Smart Response Technology
  • NVMe Boot (via M.2 PCIe Slot)
  • NVMe Boot (via PCIe 3.0 Slot)
  • RAID 0
  • RAID 1
  • RAID 10
  • RAID 5
Internal I/O
  • 1 x 24-pin (Power)
  • 1 x 4-pin (Power)
  • 1 x 4-pin AIO_PUMP Connector
  • 1 x 4-pin CPU Fan Connector
  • 1 x 4-pin CPU OPT Fan Connector
  • 2 x 4-pin System Fan Connector
  • 1 x 4-pin W_PUMP+ Connector
  • 1 x 8-pin (Power)
  • 2 x Aura RGB Strip Headers
  • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
  • 1 x CPU_OV jumper
  • 1 x Front Panel Audio Header
  • 1 x MemOK! Button
  • 1 x Power button
  • 8 x SATA III – 6Gb/s
  • 1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
  • 1 x Thermal sensor connector
  • 1 x Thunderbolt header
  • 1 x USB 2.0 Header
  • 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Header
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Header
External Connectivity
Network Interface Type Wired Gigabit LAN (10/100/1000)
Network Chip/Modules 1 x Intel® I219V (Gigabit LAN)
Rear I/O Connectors
  • 1 x 10/100/1000 (LAN)
  • 2 x Audio I/O
  • 1 x Line In
  • 1 x Line Out
  • 1 x Mic-In
  • 1 x SPDIF Out (Optical)
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type A
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C
  • 1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button

Intel Core i7-7820X Skylake-X Processor Specifications

CPU Type Intel Core i9
CPU Model 7900X
Socket 2066
Architecture Skylake-X
Manufacturing Process 14 nm
No. of Cores 10 Core
No. of Threads 20
Core Ratio 33 x
Clock Speed 3.3 GHz
Turbo Speed 4.3 GHz
Max. Turbo Speed (On 2 Cores Only) 4.5 GHz
Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 Yes
FSB Speed N/A
QPI Speed N/A
UPI Links/Speed N/A
DMI Speed 8 GT/s
Unlocked Core Multiplier Yes
Unlocked Full Range Base Clock (B-Clock) Yes
Max. Memory Size 128 GB
Max. Memory Speed DDR4 – 2666
Max. Memory Channels 4 (Quad Channel)
ECC Memory Support Not Supported
Intel Optane Memory Support Yes
Scalability N/A
Max. PCIe Lanes Supported 44
Processor Graphics N/A
Base GPU Speed N/A
Max. GPU Speed N/A
Max. GPU Resolution N/A
L1 Cache 10x 32 KB instruction caches,10x 32 KB data cache
L2 Cache 10x 1MB
L3 Cache *See Intel Smart Cache*
Intel® Smart Cache 13.75MB
Voltage
Max. TDP 140W
Thermal Specification
Heatsink Not Included, Sold Separately
Package Type Retail

 

Closer Look

Starting off with the aesthetics of the ASUS X299-A PRIME, the first thing that struck me was the ‘out there’ colour scheme of white, pale washed out green and silver heat sinks on a background of black PCB. This is a bold statement from ASUS, but one I wholeheartedly agree with as not only is it a fresh look, but it looks classy and well laid out.

The ASUS X299-A PRIME features 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, 2 x PCIe 3.0 x 4 slots and a single PCIe 3.0 x1 slot. Depending on the CPU you’re planning on using, there are 3 configurations available on this board which are as follows:

44-Lane CPU-
3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16, x16/x16, x16/x16/x8)
2 x PCIe 3.0 x4 (max at x4 mode)
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1
28-Lane CPU- (Intel Core i7-7820X as featured in the review)
3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16, x16/x8, x16/x8/x1)
2 x PCIe 3.0 x4 (max at x4 mode)
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1
16-Lane CPU-
3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16, x8/x8, x8/x8/x1)
2 x PCIe 3.0 x4 (max at x4 mode)
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1

The PRIME has support for up to 4-way SLI/CrossFireX multi-graphics cards configurations, but please check with your processor as this will depend on the number of lanes available. (Kaby Lake-X processors only feature 16 PCI lanes.)

asus prime x299-a board

The I/O cover and the white stripe across the PCH heat sink are made out of plastic, whereas the VRM heatsink and rest of the PCH heatsink are made from quality metal; metal helps with heat dissipation in systems with good airflow whereas the plastic is virtually for style and design purposes only. The heat sinks themselves are adequate for cooling for all but the most monstrous of overclocks but don’t be fooled by all the scaremongering surrounding the VRMs of the X299 chipset, it’s in certain situations and they hardly relate to real-world scenarios. The VRM design on this board is an 8-phase design with a supplementation of 10K solid capacitors (black) across the entirety of the board. To allow for more power to the CPU and phase, ASUS has included an additional 4pin 12V ATX input on top of the standard 8pin 12V ATX power connector. While not entirely necessary, if you’re planning on overclocking with a Skylake-X processor, this is going to come in handy and should help alleviate some of the pressure on the power supply cables which have been known to sometimes get to warm on boards using just a single 8pin 12V ATX connector.

asus prime x299-a vrm

Concerning storage, the X299-A PRIME has a total of 8 x SATA 6Gb/s ports which feature support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 arrays. Also included are 2 x M.2 x4 socket 3s with both supporting PCIe 3.0 x 4 mode, but the secondary port also supports SATA M.2 drives; perfect for those who haven’t adopted the superfast NVME drives as of yet. This board and the entirety of the chipset (X299) does have support for Intel’s Optane memory if you so wish to use it. It’s worth pointing out that the top PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot fits into this board vertically (slot next to the 24pin ATX power connector) which may not be to everyone’s taste, but this obviously comes down to personal preference.

asus prime x299-a sata

If you want to make the most of the board’s memory capabilities, you will need a Skylake-X processor, otherwise, you’re limited to using 4 of the 8 total presented DIMM slots. For the 6-core and above users, the X299A-PRIME has support for up to 128GB of 4000MHz (OC) DDR4 memory, whereas the latter has support for up to 64GB with the same speeds.

asus prime x299-a ram vrm

The rear I/O features the following inputs, ports, and connections:

1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A + USB Type-CTM
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1
2 x USB 2.0 (one port can be switched to USB BIOS Flashback)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jack(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)

One of the good quality aspects of the X299 chipset is the room for expansion in regards to internal headers. Featured is a single USB 3.1 Gen 2 front panel header as well as a 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 headers which enables an additional 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports in total. For fans of RGB, the X299-A PRIME includes 2 x Aura enabled RGB headers as well as a total of 4 x 4pin PWM fan headers and 2 x headers dedicated to AIO/standalone water cooling pumps.

asus prime x299-a io

Test Setup & Performance

Test Setup

Motherboard: ASUS X299-A PRIME
CPU: Intel Core i7-7820X @ Stock (3.6GHz Base/4.3GHz Boost)
CPU Cooling: be quiet! Silent Loop 240mm
GPU: ASUS ROG GTX 1060 STRIX 6GB
RAM: Ballistix Elite 3000MHz 16GB (2x8GB)
PSU: be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 1000w
OS: Windows 10 Professional x64

In the interest of fairness and to show real-world performance, the processor was left at stock. All of the motherboards and processors seen in the graphs below are set with multi-core enhancement enabled (on supported models) and are at the mercy of the motherboard itself.

Note: The Intel Core i7-7820X processor was tested on the ASUS X299-A PRIME motherboard.

Performance

2D Benchmark Performance

Cinebench R15 CPU - i7-7820X Performance

AIDA64 CPU QUEEN - i7-7820X Performance

AIDA64 CPU AES - i7-7820X Performance

AIDA64 CPU Photoworxx - i7-7820X Performance

AIDA64 Memory Read - i7-7820X Performance

AIDA64 Memory Write - i7-7820X Performance

AIDA64 Memory Copy - i7-7820X Performance

AIDA64 Memory Latency - i7-7820X Performance

3D Benchmark Performance

3DMark Fire Strike - i7-7820X Performance

3DMark Time Spy - i7-7820X Performance

Ashes of The Singularity 1080p - i7-7820X Performance

The Division 1080p - i7-7820X Performance

Thief 1080p - i7-7820X Performance

Total War WARHAMMER 1080p - i7-7820X Performance

Conclusion

Intel’s Skylake-X when it first launched did cause quite a stir with the intended pricing and in the case of the Core i7-7820X 8 core 16 thread model, $600 was quite a jump over what AMD was asking for their Ryzen 7 range of processors (at launch). Is that a testament to overpricing, or something more? I don’t think so, not at least when you consider the impressive IPC performance and the single core performance advantage with the Intel Core i7-7820X. Now while AMD had a very successful launch with their Ryzen processors and their solid AM4 chipset, Intel didn’t exactly have the smoothest ride during the little war of sales between the 2. What option is better, Ryzen 7 or the more expensive Core i7-7820X? Is the ASUS X299A-PRIME motherboard the perfect partner for the Core i7-7820X? Let’s delve in…

Intel Core i7-7820X CPU Benchmark Performance & Design

In our testing suite, the Intel Core i7-7820X 8 core processor performed like a champion in the majority of the testing when raw core power was needed and this is the prevalent factor when looking to jump onto Intel’s Skylake-X architecture. For power users such as video editors, designers and those who frequently make use of programs and applications which harness the power of multiple cores and threads. In tasks like gaming, however, this is where the Skylake-X platform is let down and although small advancements have been made in areas such as IPC performance, the faster and lower cored Intel processors really do reign supreme here when value is factored into the equation; the Intel Core i7-7700K is a particular highlight, although it has now been surpassed by new 6 core Intel Core i7-8700K processor.

Is the Intel Core i7-7820X a good performer? In our opinion and when everything is factored in such as IPC performance, the 8 core 16 thread design, and impeccable memory support, YES.

What’s The Problem?

So, what isn’t good? Well, the segregation between processors in terms of PCI-e lanes is a little tedious to deal with. First of all, if you’re planning on a monstrous set up with multiple graphics cards and intend on adding some NVMe M.2 SSDs, the limitation is most certainly going to be the available amount of PCIe lanes on offer. The Intel Core i7-7820X features 28 lanes whereas the beefier 10 core option (Intel Core i9-7900X) has 44 available. This is a massive jump which does kind of limit users on what processor they can buy depending on their set up. With AMD’s Threadripper launch, it would have certainly make a lot more sense for Intel to go with 44 across their top range of HEDT processors, but I guess this wasn’t meant to be.

Overclocking wise, the limiting factor as always is temperatures and oh boy, Skylake-X does run hot when pushed. Of course, you can de-lid your processor to help alleviate some of the thermal pressure, but this not only invalidates and voids your warranty but without the right tool, it can certainly prove a risky move given the expensive pricing on these processors.

asus prime x299-a chipset

ASUS X299A-PRIME Performance & Design

Touching on the ASUS X299A-PRIME ATX motherboard, it’s the belle of the ball as far as subtle looking X299 motherboards go. ASUS has done a fantastic job, not just with the overall design, but the board looks and feels as premium as it costs ($300). Implemented into the motherboard is a host of features such as an LED debug, onboard power buttons as well an integrated heat sink designed for adopters of M.2 solid state drives. Overall performance is good and we noticed no anomalies which would cause concern; this includes the VRM heatsinks when under load! Of course, if you overclock your processor to 4.8-5.0GHz and try and churn out the power on a processor such as the Intel Core i9-7900X, you’re going to get warm VRMs and unfortunately, that’s just a fact of life. In everyday usage and scenarios, however, ASUS has done a good job making the heat sinks stylish, but functional.

Value

The ASUS X299A-PRIME motherboard is a steal at $290 considering the stylish looks, the solid performance and strong feature set on this board. The perfect pairing on this board for me is the Intel Core i7-7820X which is quite fitting for the conclusion of this review; it’s like they were made for each other or something?

You can pick up the Intel Core i7-7820X processor for around $569 at Amazon US which is rather reasonable considering. The key problem here is the lower priced AMD Ryzen 7 processors which aren’t THAT much behind in terms of multi-core performance and in real-world scenarios, the likelihood of you even noticing the difference between them without knowing what’s under the hood is very marginal indeed. Synthetic benchmarks do tell a different story and it really depends on what you want to purchase, Intel or AMD.

ASUS X299-A PRIME Final Thoughts

The ASUS X299A-PRIME motherboard is the standout highlight of this review and deserves our Gold and Design awards… simply put, the X299-A PRIME motherboard is one of the prettiest X299 motherboards on the market and if you’re not sold with the regular red and black designs, over implementation and focus on RGB, then the PRIME is the motherboard you want!

Play3r Gold Award

awards-design.png

Pros: 

  • Solid design and beautiful aesthetics
  • Plenty of ports, connectors and rear I/O real estate
  • Does have some RGB lighting built in and expansion via RGB headers
  • Good pricing point to make it highly competitive in the X299 market

Cons:

  • None

Intel Core i7-7820X Final Thoughts

Putting final words on the Intel Core i7-7820X processor, it’s a solid option with an IPC performance increase, as well as clock speed bump over the previous Broadwell-E processors and if you’re looking for a good companion for your X299-A PRIME motherboard, then the 8 core 16 thread stalwart on the X299 HEDT platform is a perfect pairing.

We are awarding the Intel Core i7-7820X processor with our Gold award…

Play3r Gold Award

Pros:

  • Increased IPC performance over previous generation
  • Competitive pricing compared to the previous generation
  • X299 platform has matured enough to make it worthwhile since launch
  • Good overclockability for an 8-core processor

Cons:

  • AMD Ryzen 7 isn’t far behind, but comes in at a cheaper price point

Huge thanks to ASUS and Intel for sending in the X299-A PRIME motherboard and Intel Core i7-7820X processor in for review.

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