Gigabyte’s X399 Designare-EX adds Thunderbolt to Threadripper

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.

Comments closed
    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    No bird no thanks.

    • cygnus1
    • 2 years ago

    Any idea what actually happens with that 5 pin header? I mean, thunderbolt is just pcie and displayport muxed together. I would think you’d need a connection from a thunderbolt card to a video card more than you would to the motherboard (besides the pcie slot). Is it extra power possibly? Or is it a single USB 3.1 connection since that can also be muxed in to the thunderbolt too?

      • cygnus1
      • 2 years ago

      AT got a quote out of Gigabyte about it since apparently TB3 support isn’t cut and dry and isn’t actually immediately available even on this board.

      [quote<] Thunderbolt 3 certification requires a few things from the CPU side like graphical output which we haven't been able to do. We expect this will be developed upon through Raven Ridge and possibly get more groundwork down to activate TB3 on the X399 Designare EX. [/quote<] So based on that, I really have no idea what the 5 pin header is. You might think it's a DisplayPort output fed directly from the CPU based on that statement, but Threadrippers don't have integrated GPUs and I doubt the TR4 socket even has pins for GPU output. And if they say TB3 certification requires CPU graphical output, how is it ever going to work with Threadripper?

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    That IO shield is genius. Why aren’t all boards like this?

    Nobody cares about small gaps – every PC case is intentionally full of gaps for airflow anyway.

      • DPete27
      • 2 years ago

      There was a mobo that was announced a couple months ago that had the IO shield permanently attached to the back. I thought the same thing. What’s the point in having it separate all these years?

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    Thunder Thunder Thunderbolt… Ho!!

    It would be better if they could just build it into the board, but it’s a start.

    • moose17145
    • 2 years ago

    I would be very interested in the thunderbolt support of this board, actually….

    Thunderbolt is something that I kind of wish my current x99 board supported…

    BUT… small gripe about an otherwise good machine…

    • juzz86
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<]The I/O shield is integrated into the board itself, something that just makes too much sense.[/quote<] While it's a logical move, fixed I/O shields don't seem to follow the standard I/O sizing and vary slightly by board, meaning on some cases you actually end up with gaps around it on the short sides, or the long sides. It'll be a good thing once they work it out. Growing pains and all. The one on the MIXF didn't fit my EVGA case properly, so I returned it for the Aorus 8 reviewed earlier in the week. EDIT: Also, nice looking board. Wish those VRM sinks were a bit more Finnish, but that's okay.

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      [quote<]Wish those VRM sinks were a bit more Finnish, but that's okay.[/quote<] What didn't you like about the finish?

        • Redocbew
        • 2 years ago

        I would think the finish is painted rather than anodized. Cheaper that way.

        Keep this up and we’ll be seeing heatsinks shaped like Finland on the next round of boards.

        • juzz86
        • 2 years ago

        Finish is good – just lacking fins Bruno, haha.

        They don’t look like they’ll be too effective 🙂

        • freebird
        • 2 years ago

        He meant the VRMs weren’t made in Finland… ; ) If they were made there then the VRMs would both act and look “cooler”…

          • juzz86
          • 2 years ago

          This guy gets it 😉

      • chuckula
      • 2 years ago

      I have a longtime hatred of those tetanus-inducing I/O shields so I’d take a built-in one any day of the week.

        • juzz86
        • 2 years ago

        Agreed mate, for sure – the mind boggles why there is variation though – I/O shields have been a fixed size and quantity for over a decade.

        Hopefully just growing pains.

      • DPete27
      • 2 years ago

      Odd that they can’t size the fixed IO shield properly and yet I’ve never had a problem with any loose shields I’ve ever installed.

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