As more hardware gets integrated into processor packages, it becomes trickier for motherboards to stand out. Some certainly do, though, and one such model is Gigabyte's upcoming X399 Designare EX. Gigabyte's Designare series represents the best of the best from the company's engineering team, and the new board looks to be no exception to that rule.
The X399 Designare EX is an ATX motherboard bearing the AMD X399 chipset. As usual, it has a TR4 socket primed and ready for a Ryzen Threadripper CPU. The board has eight DDR4 DIMM slots, five physical PCIe x16 slots, and steel reinforcement on every single slot. There are three M.2 sockets, all fitted with heatsinks, and the typical eight SATA 6Gbps ports. That's where 'typical' ends with this board, though.
For starters, Gigabyte equipped the X399 Designare-EX with a pair of Intel network adapters. That's not unheard-of on X399 motherboards, but it's certainly welcome. Alongside the Gigabit Ethernet jacks on the rear panel, you'll find a pair of RP-SMA connectors for the onboard Intel-powered 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter. The backside of the motherboard is covered in a back plate that could help shield it from harmful interference. If nothing else, it'll make the board stiffer while you're installing hardware. The I/O shield is integrated into the board itself, something that just makes too much sense.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the X399 Designare-EX is its support for Thunderbolt add-in cards. While the on-board Type-C port is just a regular USB 3.1 connection, there's a special 5-pin header near the SATA ports specifically to enable Thunderbolt support. Gigabyte wasn't clear about whether the board would include the Thunderbolt card or not.
Overall, aside from the networking capabilities, Thunderbolt support, and silver color scheme, this board is pretty similar to the X399 Aorus Gaming 7. That model is available on Newegg for $390, so if you need a seriously nice X399 motherboard right now, check it out. If you can wait, Gigabyte says the X399 Designare-EX should be available in the middle of next month, and expects it to be priced around the $400 mark.