X299 Designare EX and Aorus Ultra Gaming Pro are high-end beasts


— 5:00 PM on November 30, 2017

It's getting to be about time for an upgrade, and I'm thinking real hard about Intel's X299 platform for my next build. If you're in the same boat, take a look at Gigabyte's newest motherboards for Core i9 CPUs. The X299 Designare EX is the company's latest showpiece. Meanwhile, the X299 Aorus Ultra Gaming Pro has an ostentatious name, though it's a relatively small update to the already-fancy X299 Ultra Gaming.

First, let's look at the X299 Designare EX. This is a top-tier X299 motherboard that the truly-flush PC builders have been waiting for from Gigabyte. The company says the board can run eight sticks of DDR4 memory at up to 4400 MT/s. The Designare EX has even more robust power delivery than the X299 Ultra Gaming Pro, built with all-digital "server-class" components. It likewise has the same triple M.2 sockets bedecked in "thermal armor" heatsinks. Eight SATA ports round out the internal storage allotments.

On the back panel of the X299 Designare EX, you'll find a pair of Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet ports and antenna connectors for the 802.11ac 2x2 Wi-Fi (also by way of an Intel chip). The Designare EX has a front-panel USB 3.1 Gen 2 connector, but the two rear-panel USB Type-C ports have been upgraded all the way to Thunderbolt 3. We see two DisplayPort inputs that we figure are meant for taking the output signal from a graphics card onto the Thunderbolt ports. There are onboard power and reset buttons, as well as RGB LED lighting and headers. The light show on this board is relatively understated, though.

Now for the X299 Ultra Gaming Pro. On the surface, it looks nearly identical to its non-Pro sibling, meaning it's a pretty standard (if nice-looking) high-end X299 motherboard. Like its brother, it has five steel-reinforced PCIe x16 slots, a trio of M.2 sockets, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports for front and rear panels, and a Realtek ALC1220 codec with Sound BlasterX 720° enhancements. The new model gains an integrated Wi-Fi adapter powered by Killer, as well as upgraded power delivery hardware from Intersil that should be better able to keep up with overclockers.

The X299 Aorus Ultra Gaming Pro has just shown up at Newegg for $349.99 (along with a $30 rebate card). The X299 Designare EX has yet to break cover, but keep an eye out. Once Gigabyte has product pages up, the wares themselves usually aren't far behind.

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