The impending release of Intel's X299 high-end desktop platform has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry lately. There have been jokes running around the TR Slack of late about referring to it as another buffalo, but the overall reaction was "eh, why bother?" The chipset is out, the socket is LGA 2066, and Gigabyte has four super-fancy boards ready for Intel's Core X-series CPUs. Meet the Aorus X299 Gaming series.
We'll talk about four models in turn, but let's first take a look at all of the common features among them. The high-endness of these offerings is quite visible from the outset, since the boards pack a massive backplate. Depending on the exact model, there are RGB LEDs with Gigabyte's RGB Fusion software running the show. One might find RGB LEDs around the PCIe slots, DIMM sockets, and even on the I/O shield on these boards. Around the back, there are Type-C port and Type-A connectors, and another four USB 3.0 ports. All models also include a total of 8 hybrid fan headers, seven thermal sensors, two headers for thermistors, and a 3A header specifically for juicing up pumps. It's safe to say that even the most affordable model in the series is high-end enough.
The Aorus X299 Gaming 3 couples the features above with two M.2 sockets, an Intel Ethernet adapter, and six-zone RGB LED lighting. Moving up the range, we find the Aorus X299 Ultra Gaming, which we figure represents the "just right" offering in the series. This model also comes with an Intel Ethernet adapter, but it has three M.2 slots and a header for a front-panel USB 3.1 Type-C connector.
The Aorus Gaming 7 gets a little more serious. In addition to the features above, it packs a dual-Ethernet setup with both Killer and Intel Ethernet controllers, along with a Killer 1535 Wi-Fi adapter. The audio section gets a boost, too, thanks to the presence of an ESS Sabre DAC and TI op-amps. As an additional nod to audiophiles, this board has two of Gigabyte's DAC-Up 2 USB ports, which purportedly offer less electrical noise than the regular ones, for the purpose of plugging in external audio gear. Finishing touches on this model include four USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a total of eight LED zones, three M.2 slots with heatsinks, and Gigabyte's Q-Flash Plus functionality for updating firmware without a CPU.
The final model in the series is the Aorus X299 Gaming 9. This version builds on the features of the Gaming 7 model above, but comes with an M.2-to-U.2 adapter and an M.2 add-in card. This model also comes with an acrylic I/O shield with RGB LED lighting, plus a massive backplate reinforcing nearly the full area of the board. Pricing for these mobos hasn't been revealed, but our eight-ball says "not cheap."