AMD's Threadripper is proving to be a potent high-end weapon for AMD, offering more multi-threaded bang for your buck than Intel's Core i9-7900X. While Intel will soon offer even more cores to match, and even better its rival in the core count and performance stakes, AMD has definitely carved out a niche for itself in the high-end desktop market space.
The first board, the ROG Zenith Extreme, is positioned at the top of the ASUS X399 product stack. As is typical with ASUS Extreme motherboards, the aim is to include considerable numbers of features to support the high-end positioning. This means overengineering, extra cooling, overclocking functionality, extra support, and using higher end controllers such as 10G networking through a bundled add-in card. This is one of ASUS’ boards that also implements their custom DIMM.2 slot, which looks like a DRAM slot but actually supports enough PCIe lanes for two additional M.2 drives placed vertically.
The Zenith Extreme is currently one of two motherboards in ASUS ROG X399 range. The Strix X399-E GAMING is certainly more aggressively priced, but lacks many of the features of its more high-end value-added sibling. Amongst them is support for bleeding edge overclocking, for which the Zenith Extreme is expected to be much more accomplished.
For the power delivery, the Zenith uses an eight phase design. This is paired with two heatsinks connected via a heatpipe, spreading the thermal capacity from above the VRM to near the IO. The heatsink near the IO has a finned portion to increase the surface area, and also includes a 40mm fan which sits under the I/O shield. It is designed to spin up only when needed, although based on our testing sample sent by AMD for the Threadripper launch, at max RPM it gets sufficiency loud. Power to the VRM is handled by two 8-pin EPS 12V ports located on the top right corner.
Audio functionality on the Zenith is handled by ROG SupremeFX, which incorporates ASUS’ version of Realtek’s ALC1220 (the ALC1220A) but also comes with an ESS SABRE9018Q2C integrated DAC/AMP for front panel ports, enabling better audio fidelity. By contrast, most Threadripper boards will use the ALC1220 in a custom audio profile, or Creative’s Core Sound3D. The S1220A, ASUS says, is a tweaked version of the ALC1220 by removing some of the unneeded functionality for lower power operation.
For USB, on the rear panel ASUS supports one USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) Type-C port from an ASM3142, one USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) Type-A port from the same ASM3142, and eight USB 3.1 (5 Gbps) ports from the CPU. For front panel connections, ASUS has an onboard USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) header from the chipset, two USB 3.1 (5 Gbps) headers from the chipset, and a single USB 2.0 header which shares connectivity with an ROG OC Panel.
- Chipset AMD X399
- Form factor E-ATX
- CPU support AMD Scoket TR4 (Threadripper)
- Memory support Quad-channel, eight slots, max 128GB
- Sound Eight-channel SupremeFX ALC S1220A
- Networking 1 x Intel I219V Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ad Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
- Ports 3 x M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 32Gbps (1 x PCIe/SATA 6Gbps up to 2280, 2 x PCIe up to 22110), 6x SATA 6Gbps, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C 1 x USB 3.1 header, 10 x USB 3.0 (2 via headers), 2 x USB 2.0 (2 via header), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out
- Dimensions (mm) 305 x 277
- Extras 10Gbit LAN PCIe card, fan expansion hub, WiFi aerials, RGB LED extension cable, DIMM.2 adaptor, 3 x thermister cables, driver USB flash drive.
Ryzen Threadripper will have to battle Intel's new Core i9 (Skylake-X) models that run from 10 to 18 cores with prices running up-towards 2000 USD. AMD launched Ryzen with three primary 8-core models initially, followed by six and four-core models. The Ryzen Threadripper series processors are twelve or sixteen core processors at incredibly competitive pricing.
- The flagship processor is the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, a 16-core product that will get a 3.4 GHz base frequency with the ability to precision boost to 4.0 GHz (!). These processors are SMT, thus ‘hyper-threaded’ towards 32 threads. This processor will retail for 999 USD.
- The Ryzen Threadripper 1920X is the 12-core product, the base clock is a notch higher at 3.5 GHz with precision boost to 4.0 GHz, thus SKU will get 24 threads. This processor will retail for 799 USD.
- Ryzen Threadripper 1900X is being introduced as well. This is an 8 cores 16 threads, 3.8 base frequency and 4.0 GHz boost. $549 obviously since it is on the X399 platform it is benefiting from quad channel memory as well as the 64-pcie lanes.
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