Threadripper finds a fancy home in the Asus ROG Zenith Extreme


— 2:00 PM on July 31, 2017

Looming large like an alien spacecraft, Ryzen Threadripper is upon us. The size of AMD's new high-end desktop CPUs cannot be overstated, and such a prodigious processor needs a suitably massive motherboard. In a post on its EdgeUp blog, Asus is showing off its first three Threadripper-compatible motherboards: the Prime X399-A, the ROG Strix X399-E, and the ROG Zenith Extreme. All three are E-ATX platters primed to serve up a cornucopia of connectivity. Let's have a glance at each one.

The top-tier ROG Zenith Extreme is quite possibly the most feature-filled motherboard I have ever seen in 25 years of system building. Eight DDR4 slots surround the TR4 socket, and Asus claims that memory slotted into all eight slots can hit 3600 MT/s. That ninth DIMM slot is for Asus' included DIMM.2 accessory, which lets builders mount M.2 devices vertically. The CPU's power delivery hardware is cooled by a small fan underneath the I/O shield's shroud, and there are more jumpers, buttons, and switches than I care to ponder the functions of.

The ROG Zenith Extreme comes along with support for four-way SLI or CrossFire, three M.2 sockets, an Aquantia 10-Gigabit Ethernet controller, and both 802.11ad WiGig and 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi. You also get an Intel gigabit Ethernet controller for good measure. The audio chip is Realtek's S1220, in this case paired up with fancy ESS Sabre DACs. The board has a U.2 port if you should be of a mind to hook up some enterprise-class NVMe storage. Asus even included a tiny LED readout in the I/O shroud that can display the CPU clock rate or an animated GIF of your choosing.

In contrast, the ROG Strix X399-E is a Threadripper motherboard that mere mortals might be able to obtain—thought it's still a high-class offering. Asus says this board is intended for gamers and streamers, as well as anyone who wants to make a showcase of their PC. Compared to the ROG Zenith above, it loses an M.2 socket, the 10-Gigabit Ethernet controller, WiGig support, and the ESS Sabre DACs. Otherwise, the feature sets appear similar across both boards. Asus unfortunately didn't share a picture of this board, so all we have to go on are the specifications.

Finally, the Prime X399-A skips the Republic of Gamers branding for a slightly more subdued appearance. Asus says this board is aimed at prosumer workstations and intended to be business-friendly. It is fundamentally similar to the ROG Strix X399-E, with the primary change being the loss of any kind of wireless connectivity. That means you still get all four PCIe x16 slots, a pair of M.2 sockets, Intel-powered gigabit Ethernet, and a trio of USB 3.1 ports.

Asus says the ROG Strix X399-E will be available in August, but doesn't say anything about how much it will cost. The prosumer-oriented Prime X399-A will also be available in August for approximately $350. If you simply must have the best, the ROG Zenith extreme is already up for pre-order on Newegg. Lay down $550 for this beast and it could ship as soon as August 10.

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