It's real easy to skimp out on a motherboard when building a new machine. After all, it has a minimal impact on your box's game performance, so why spend a bundle? Prices for X399 mobos are through the roof right now, but Asus is promising to bring the platform down into the range of, well, demigods. The new ROG Strix X399-E Gaming strips off some of the flash and pizazz of the top-end ROG Zenith Extreme model to offer a Threadripper motherboard focused on performance.
All of the things you expect to find on a Threadripper board are present in the Strix X399-E. There are four physical PCIe x16 slots, and the board supports running three of them in an x16/x16/x8 configuration for multi-GPU madness. The eight DDR4 DIMM slots can accept memory clocked at up to 3600 MT/s. There are a pair of M.2 ports—both supporting either SATA or PCIe 3.0 x4 drives—and a U.2 port for further NVMe storage expansion. The board additionally includes a 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter, Bluetooth 4.2 support, and audio ouput from a Realtek S1220A codec and discrete left and right signal paths.
None of that gear is out of the ordinary in an X399 motherboard, but Asus' offering has a few tricks up its sleeve. Like the ROG Zenith Extreme, the Strix X399-E has a small fan to cool the finned heatsink under its I/O shroud. Asus added the ability for system fans to respond to multiple temperature sensors, whether they are connected to one of the the board's six fan headers, or to a compatible graphics card fan header. There are also three dedicated headers for powering water-cooling hardware.
For external hookups, the Strix X399-E has a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports in both Type-C and Type-A formats. An internal header can provide an extra Type-C port. The back panel also contains a BIOS Flashback button that will be useful to overclockers. In fact, this board is a tweaker's paradise thanks to the onboard power and reset buttons, diagnostic LEDs, and wealth of overclocking options in the firmware.
Asus says the board is out now, though we couldn't find it in e-tail. We'd expect it to sell for a much lower price than the $550 the ROG Zenith Extreme currently commands.