GIGABYTE X399 Aorus Xtreme TR4 Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE expands its Threadripper lineup with its X399 Aorus Xtreme motherboard. This motherboard has a solid, professional focused feature set, and has a lot to offer. We’ve seen some amazing socket TR4 motherboards thus far so the X399 Aorus Xtreme has a lot of competition. We did get to use the Xtreme for a lot of Threadripper testing.

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Overclocking

Given that GIGABYTE’s automatic overclocking software doesn’t really get you very far, I didn’t spend too much time with it. The preset is for 3.7GHz which is achievable via AMD’s Precision Boost 2 and Precision Boost Overdrive modes. Therefore, I didn’t concentrate on that software. However, GIGABYTE’s EZ-Tune software does support it. Whether you use Ryzen Master or the UEFI BIOS for overclocking, the same results are generally achievable. The X399 Aorus Xtreme behaves like any other X399 motherboard in that it takes only a handful of settings to achieve a solid result. In fact, all I had to do was adjust the CPU vCore (1.40v) and set the load-line calibration. This resulted in a stable overclock of 4.2GHz on all cores using my Threadripper 1920X.

The only issue comes down to stability testing when overclocking resulting in lost settings in the UEFI. The system would POST and go into the UEFI and show that the BIOS was reset. Fortunately, this only happened to me three or four times, but I haven’t seen this on any other motherboard. After updating the UEFI BIOS to F4d, I haven’t had this happen in subsequent overclocking endeavors, but I haven’t tried the "bad" settings to see if it still does it. F4d updates AMD’s AGESA code, so things could easily be quite different after the update. Also, there are some notes below concerning memory compatibility and the modules I used.

While running at stock speeds, I saw temperatures of around 114F and 123F overclocked. Usually, these hovered around the 117F range in most load testing. This is incredibly effective and surprised me This was without any active cooling running across the MOSFETs. Ambient temperatures in my office have been somewhat on the lower side lately, but it’s a good result anyway. Obviously, the 2990WX would push this much further and Kyle has some experience with that CPU on this board, so I’ll let him speak to that. This motherboard does have a beefy 10+3 phase power system and utilizes dual 8-pin CPU power inputs so the capability to run that CPU is certainly there. The finned MOSFET cooler design appears to be a good one but I think MSI’s MEG X399 Creation motherboard edges this one out on cooling but in fairness I wasn’t comparing identical CPU’s. The 1920x I had on hand for this test isn’t going to stress the motherboard as hard as the 2950X and 2990WX CPU’s used on the MEG X399 Creation motherboard.

4.2GHz (42x100MHz) DDR4 3200MHz

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When it comes to memory overclocking and compatibility, the X399 Aorus Xtreme proved to be the worst X399 motherboard I’ve seen so far. I have three quad-channel memory kits in my possession for testing couldn’t find a kit that was fully compatible. Keep in mind the modules I’m using are older kits and none of them were expressly designed to work with AMD X399 chipset-based motherboards. That said, I’ve used some of these kits to varying degrees of success on other motherboards. It's also very likely that you won’t be using these kits with your own build so take these complaints with a grain of salt.

Strangely, these kits all detected and set SPD, XMP, and voltages correctly. The problem was that none of these modules would run in quad-channel mode. I even went so far as to pull the Patriot Viper Elite modules out of my own system for validation. Those wouldn’t run in quad-channel mode either. I ended up picking up a set of G.Skill FlareX modules from Kyle. Those modules were the only ones I tested which worked correctly. Those modules ran perfectly in quad-channel mode. Due to having reasonably good latencies, I was able to achieve some excellent Sandra memory scores with them. As always, using compatible modules is key to having a successful build.

It's also worth noting that the G.Skill Flare X kit isn’t a 32GB kit. Its two 16GB kits that use the same part number and specifications across the board. These are also modules that are expressly designed to work on AMD processor-based systems. I’ve rarely had good experiences mixing modules from two different kits even when the part numbers match. Credit where credit is due, these G.Skill modules have been nothing short of excellent with AM4 and TR4 based systems so far.

With the G.Skill modules and the UEFI BIOS update to version F4d, I didn’t have any problems with the UEFI resetting on me or have any trouble dialing in my overclock. All I had to do was set the CPU multiplier, the CPU vCore and enable XMP. That’s it. I changed three settings to achieve a result of 4.2GHz @ 1.425v w/DDR4 3200MHz memory. While the issues outlined above are easily mitigated by using newer RAM and the latest UEFI BIOS, its important to provide this information in the interest of full disclosure. These were the experiences I had and overcoming them was a simple task. Its issues like these that force us to update our testing hardware on a somewhat regular basis and its likely you won’t ever have to go through the same type of issues in most cases.

Conclusions

Dan's Thoughts:

Barring the overclocking and memory issues outlined above, my experiences with the GIGABYTE X399 Aorus Xtreme were nothing short of excellent. The out-of-box experience was flawless and I had no trouble setting up the system for testing. The NVMe RAID configuration was a breeze as was OS installation. The UEFI was easy enough to navigate and the driver installation went off without a hitch.

So, let’s get down to it. Naturally I keep up with the comments and discussions in our forums and there seems to be some confusion over X399, Threadripper and its place in the market. I keep seeing the same comments over and over for each of these socket TR4 motherboards we review. Most of the comments center around the aesthetics of the motherboard and RGB LED lighting. What you must understand, is that while AMD is essentially competing against Intel in the HEDT market, Threadripper and the Core i9 family of processors are very different animals. While they are direct competitors, they differ in one key way. AMD’s motherboard partners have a select few models designed to support these CPUs. On the other hand, there are many X299 motherboards offered by those same vendors which cover a much broader cost spectrum.

What does this mean? It's simple. AMD doesn’t have the same control over its board partners that Intel does. Motherboard manufacturers had to make a choice on what direction it would go with its Threadripper compatible motherboards. The processor is just a processor and since the HEDT processors are largely derived from server CPUs, people seem to be under the impression that these are strictly workstation processors and that their motherboards need to have a more professional anesthetic to them. Think of it this way. X399 and socket TR4 are like a Crossover. A Crossover is a vehicle that’s not quite a car and not quite an SUV. They are typically based on car chassis, but are not strictly cars and appeal to a market that wants to have one foot in each world. The HEDT market is the same way. The hardware may have its origins in the server and workstation world, but it's closer to gaming hardware based on the platforms built to run them.

The X399 Aorus Xtreme is a Gaming / Enthusiast part and a damn good one at that. At this point I’ve seen a lot of, socket TR4 motherboards but only one other "refresh" X399 motherboard. The X399 Aorus Xtreme is every bit as good, and better than the launch X399 motherboards. Now, compared to the MEG X399 Creation, the GIGABYTE X399 Aorus Xtreme has a better name and a better feature set. Unfortunately, the VRM cooling doesn’t seem to be as heavy-duty as that of the afore-mentioned MSI motherboard. I didn’t have a chance to use the same processors on both motherboards so I can’t make a direct comparison between the two. However, Kyle has so I’ll let him speak to that.

In my opinion, either is fine for the first generation Threadripper CPUs or the 2950X. The 2990WX on the other hand, is a beast which is quite demanding. The MSI I believe, is capable of providing more power than the GIGABYTE motherboard and it has better VRM cooling. For the 2990WX, the MSI may be a slightly better option. That said, I think the GIGABYTE is more than capable of running it. I would simply ensure you have enough ventilation in your case to handle it.

At the end of the day, the X399 Aorus Xtreme was an outstanding motherboard with an incredibly impressive feature set. The inclusion of a 10GbE network adapter seems excessive now, but honestly, I believe it’s long overdue. While many people lack the infrastructure to utilize it, there is almost no cost difference between GbE and 10GbE network controllers from a manufacturing perspective. 10GbE controllers can run at 1GbE, so I see no reason not to implement the faster controller.

The onboard audio certainly better than the previously mentioned MSI motherboard’s solution. The ESS Sabre DAC proved to be excellent. GIGABYTE also has the best M.2 heat sink covers I’ve seen so far. Although, the ones on the Designare have captive screws which is a nice touch. I wish the Aorus Xtreme had those.

Ultimately, the current crop of X399 motherboards seems to be shaping up nicely and at this point you need to nitpick over price and specific features in order to differentiate one from another. In any case, if you can afford it, and the extra features appeal to you, the X399 Aorus Xtreme would be an excellent choice for your AMD Threadripper based PC.

Kyle's Thoughts:

Let me start by addressing some of Dan's issues. First is the RAM. I will have him bring the board back and the CPU back to me to see what his issue is with the dual channel RAM only being recognized with three sets of RAM. I only used the one kit that I lent him for test and never had an issue with either the 2950X or 2990WX. These new Ryzen CPUs have been picky about RAM kits since introduction. Since about mid-July compatibility has gotten much better. Still it is an issue. While you might get away with "old" RAM on your new AMD build, don't be surprised if you have issues. All vendors now have "AMD kits" that are tuned for Ryzen CPUs, and this will likely be the way you want to go if you are buying new. That said, I have NEVER seen a compatibility issue that reduced the CPU to two-channel only. I am going to see if Dan's 1950X CPU possibly has issues. We will update here and in the discussion thread when we get all that done.

(UPDATE - 11/2/2018: I did got back and verify that the issue with Dan only being able to run dual-channel RAM with certain sets of RAM, did in fact come down to the RAM, and not the motherboard or processor. That said, this board does seem to be a bit more picky about the RAM kits being used. I would highly suggest buying "AM4" branded RAM, or checking the QVL list and only using DIMMs that are on that list.)

One area that Gigabyte "skimped" on a little bit is with the VRM cooling system. If you compare the Xtreme's cooling to the MSI Creation's cooling, it is night and day, but the MSI is $50 more. Overclocking the 2990WX to 4GHz, I saw VRM temps in HWiNFO up to 101C. Surface temps on the coolers was up to 140F. If you are going to run a 2990WX and heavy workloads with hand overclocking you will need to keep direct airflow on the VRM cooler. It is not a bad system at all, but it is not "Xtreme" either. That said, I would suggest good airflow over any TR4 board. If you don't think you cannot load some power with the Xtreme however, that would not be the case. The pictures below shows the wattage I was pulling at the wall while doing some crazy testing with this board. And the board performed, and I would suggest we were well out of specification. Worth mentioning there is no GPU load on that system, just the 2990WX running with a chiller on it. This was with the system fully heat-loaded running Prime95 with some high vCore voltages.

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Overclocking on this board kept pace with all the other top-end boards we have used to compare it to. Our 2950X Overclocking Review will show you the ins and outs of hand overclocking compared to Precision Boost Overdrive and Precision Boost 2 (PB2 is the stock boost configuration). I am building my own 2950X system and I will be using PBO. Overclocking by hand and trying to lock in 4GHz on eluded me. I could however use the Xtreme and get it stable for about 20 minutes with Prime95 before crashing, which is something to be said. However, if you are going to be using your system for some full-load encoding or rendering tasks, this is not close to stable for those needs. Backing down to 3.9 will get your rock solid stability on my 2990WX. Dialing in our 2950X at 4.2GHz across all cores was not an issue either with the Xtreme.

Using the 2990WX and PBO with 500/480/500 set in Ryzen Master showed 750w to 800w at the wall. You will need a very good PSU. PB2 keeps you inside the 250W TDP rating and pulls about 430W at the wall. Using the 2950X , at 4.2GHz (1.375v vCore) hand overclocked, would pull 550W at the wall. With PBO we saw 410W, and PB2 would give us 300W at the wall.

Precision Boost Overdrive is always "turned on" on the Xtreme. There is no need to go into the UEFI like you do on the MEG Creation. Bring up Ryzen Master, go to your profile, and select PBO. There you will need to set your values. With the 2950X you can set these to your maximums and not worry, but with the 2990WX you can leave these too high and the processor will fail, so you need to pull back on these a little. 500/480/500 is what we used and was stable with our 2990WX. One bug we did find with this board, is if you are running PBO, and reboot the system, Ryzen Master would require that we put in our PPT/TDC/EDC values again. Not that big a deal, but something to be aware of. I figure this will likely get ironed out in future UEFI releases, which Gigabyte seems to be serious about.

The Bottom Line

The GIGABYTE X399 Aorus Xtreme was excellent for us in our testing. There is hardly anything to even nitpick it about. We would have liked to have seen even beefier cooling for the VRMs however. The fact that it has a 10Gb NIC, an excellent sound, excellent stability, excellent overclocking with a power design to back it up, and looks good too. In the realm of high end Threadripper motherboards, this one is however not the most expensive out there. You can purchase the Xtreme for $450 with Prime Shipping. We think you would be very happy with your purchase. The Threadripper motherboard market is stacking up very nicely and Gigabyte is certainly doing its part to make it more attractive.

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GIGABYTE X399 Aorus Xtreme TR4 Motherboard

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