Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

ASUS ROG STRIX X399-E Gaming Motherboard Review

The ROG STRIX X399-E Gaming promises to be a lower cost options for AMD’s Threadripper processors. This is a "less is more" approach to motherboard design than the exquisite and expensive ROG Zenith Extreme. The ROG brand has always been a premium brand. With these lower cost STRIX boards, does this remain true?

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Motherboard Overclocking Software

ASUS includes it’s AI Suite III software with the ROG STRIX X399-E Gaming motherboard. The software hasn’t changed in several years now. It gets modified periodically to work with newer CPUs and to sometimes leverage the features of that CPU. Aside from that, the software is the same as it has been ever since I started covering this version more than three years ago. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I feel ASUS got more right than wrong with the utility. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it represents the gold standard for tuning within the Windows operating system environment. I feel there’s plenty of room for improvement but in most respects, it’s a fair site better than what you get from other motherboard manufacturers.

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All the motherboard manufacturers include a variety of software and some sort of suite or package. The included software rarely just does tuning of memory and CPU values. Normally monitoring, automatic overclocking, some sort of automatic BIOS update, RGB LED configuration software, and in many cases some type of RAM drive or some type of software for keyboard macros. ASUS doesn’t do all of that. It does most of that but not all of it. However, ASUS does a lot of other things that the other motherboard manufacturers do not do. Or at the very least, ASUS does some of these things far better than anyone else does.

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Most of the software out there that comes with motherboards tends to separate PC health monitoring from tuning. ASUS didn’t do that. The bottom quarter of the application window is devoted towards PC health monitoring. Information is divided into four categories, each of which can be expanded to provide additional information. From this lower one quarter of the application window you can also set PC health monitoring alert thresholds for things such as temperatures and fan speeds or even voltages. Information is displayed in a sustained and easy to understand format. The application looks very busy at first, but everything is sized appropriately and there is not a lot of wasted space, everything from the general layout to the selected font works very well here. By far, the biggest problem with AI Suite III ‘s basic navigation. When you go into any particular category, you don’t have an obvious way to go back there is no back button. Instead, you have to click on the navigation bar on the left and select another category. This isn’t as obvious as you would think. Navigation bar isn’t really marked as such is just something that looks a little bit different. It kind of fades into the background.

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The main application window provides a lot of information in a quick glance but to really get that much information outside of PC health monitoring, you have to click on a given category and get into it. Even without understanding what the title of each category means their purposes are easy to decipher. What each category does is obvious for the most part. In some cases, the title alone is rather obvious. In others the icon makes the purpose of the category self-explanatory. The title of the TPU menu is an obvious but the information displayed next to it is. The CPU menu is obviously for power savings as it has a hippie leaf indicating some sort of eco-mode. Fan Xpert4 makes sense because the title tells you what it’s for. The Digi+Power control menu, like the TPU menu only makes sense by context.

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The 5-Way optimization menu may not be clear about what it is, but it blinks at the top quarter of the application window. It begs to be clicked on. Once you do, it’s easy to figure out that it’s for overclocking and/or optimization of the system as it relates to performance. What makes AI Suite III so unique is the fact that you can actually guide the automated overclocking process. Scroll through the list of options check off things you want and things you don’t. There are sliders to set things like stress test duration and other variables. You can set thresholds for tuning such as thermal limits or clock speed ranges. Can tell it to use AVX instructions or not. Most applications like this simply have a preset that’s rather conservative. You just click it go. Mortgage you very much but it usually works. AI Suite III gives you actual control over the overclocking process. It allows you to tailor the outcome of the overclocking to your needs. In my experience the software can get within 100MHz or so of a solid manual overclock through the BIOS.

Another area of the software excels at his fan control. You can configure fans through auto tuning, profile presets, or manual control. All fan headers support PWM and DC modes. One unique feature I’ve never seen copied is the ability to rename fan headers locations to anything you desire. Additionally, you can set the actual fan position name within the software. Fan spin up and down time has been altered and renamed to "fan smoothing". This controls spin up and spin down time simultaneously. DIGI+Power control offers power phase adjustment capability. One of the nice things about this menu is that it has information in the right window pane for each of the settings. This gives your description of the setting and how to use it. The turbo app lets you associate performance profiles with specific applications. Lastly, there is the EPU menu which allows you to setup power savings profiles. There are presets to choose from, you can set your own variables.

ASUS Aura

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ASUS Aura utility is used for RGB LED control. The software has been through many changes since it’s inception. However, it hasn’t changed in several months now. I think that the initial LED craze has settled down and manufacturers have all matched each other’s feature sets and evolved their applications to the point where they don’t need to do anything else. You can only do so much with LED’s and the Aura software gives you as much control as I’ve ever seen for RGB LEDs. You can make the colors practically anything you like. One thing I like is the fact that you have actual RGB fields that can be populated with any number between 0 and 255. You can use sliders for this as well, but the number fields allow you to match values between different zones or between different pieces of hardware. Several different visual effects are available each with their own settings.

All in all, I don’t think Aura is any worse than anything else out there. In fact, may be a bit more intuitive and less cluttered due to not being paired with other applications. Aura seems more purpose built than many of the alternatives out there.