Just over four months ago during Computex 2017, Intel and its partners announced the X299 platform and associated CPUs. For the first time, we’d finally have parity between the HEDT and desktop platforms from Intel. No longer would the HEDT chipsets be relegated to older technologies while the desktop parts flourished with support for new technologies like Intel Optane and native support for the latest connectivity standards.
The X299 chipset arrived with some controversy, as it appeared that under specific conditions and loads (and on a select number of motherboards), performance could be much lower than expected. This turned out to be related to VRM overheating, but again, it required a very specific set of conditions to trigger this performance anomaly.
As with most things on the internet, this issue was completely blown out of proportion. While there was some truth to the potential power problems that may have arisen when dealing with cheaper X299 motherboards with inadequate VRM cooling, most mid- to high-end boards had no such issue. However, we do live in a world where end users need only read or see a single example of a board behaving erratically for them to castigate the entire platform. Some of the performance issues weren’t even related to the VRM, but the new Turbo 3.0 system Intel was using.
If for some reason you’re still confused or wary regarding the future or stability of the X299 platform, I can assure you that there is little to nothing to worry about. The issues that you may have read or seen on YouTube channels were isolated incidents, and aren’t something you will ever be able to reproduce. Should you decide to buy a motherboard such as the one we have here, you’ll not have any issues whatsoever. In fact, if you were looking to build a powerful workstation or gaming machine that’ll last you many years, I would strongly suggest you start here, with the X299 Taichi.
This LGA 2066 motherboard supports both Kaby Lake-X and Skylake-X CPUs, meaning anything between four cores right up to twelve cores will definitely work on this board. As to how well the 14- to 18-core parts work with it, if at all, remains to be seen. For now, assume that the X299 Taichi works well with every CPU that’s on the market at present – which includes the 10-core 7900X, as that’s what we tested this motherboard with.
Unlike with other gaming or overclocking-centric boards, the X299 Taichi represents a balance between gaming, overclocking and professional grade features. It’s a reasonably priced motherboard, focusing on the basics while trimming down on the excesses such as the Killer NIC. The Taichi gives you Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity out the box. It sports not only the native SATA controller as provided by the chipset, but a secondary ASMedia controller that supports IDE mode for those who wish to install legacy operating systems or other OSes that need controllers with IDE mode in order to install (i.e. Windows XP).
In terms of memory support, ASRock claims DDR4 frequencies as high as 4,400MHz, but you should note that these frequencies are exclusively reserved for Kaby Lake-X CPUs. That said, it’s possible to find a good 7900X (for instance) that has an IMC capable of such DRAM speeds. The issue is that these are few and far between, so there’s really no way for ASRock to guarantee such frequencies when using these CPUs. In my own testing, I couldn’t quite manage 4,400MHz using XMP settings, but had to resort to manual tuning of the UEFI to stabilize 4,266MHz and higher with the Core i7 7740X CPU.
When using the Core i9 7900X, the best frequency I could manage was 4,000MHz – which is still highly impressive, delivering bandwidth figures north of the 100GB/s mark. ASRock is well-known for making motherboards that have some of the highest memory frequency capabilities around, and it’s good to see that this is no different with this generation. This is certainly one capable board, and enthusiasts and gamers alike will feel right at home with it. Just be mindful of some of the BIOS iterations, as not all work as you might expect. Thus far, the pre-1.60 BIOS versions work pretty well and with consistency, but I had some overclocking issues with both the official and the beta 1.60A UEFI versions, which made overclocking more challenging than before.
Where things could be improved with the Taichi is in the missing power and reset buttons. The spaces are physically there and labelled on the board, but the buttons are missing. The POST code LED is certainly useful and something that all boards should have, but it’s unfortunate that ASRock has chosen to forgo the on-board buttons. More than that, there’s no convenient way of resetting the BIOS after inputting settings via the UEFI that render the board unable to boot (getting stuck on 32, for example, or 00). Luckily, the Taichi has an auto-recovery feature, but this won’t always be reliable, especially when tuning memory timings. It’s very possible to get stuck in an endless POST loop as the system struggles to recover. It’s nothing a quick PSU power cycle or CMOS battery removal can’t clear, but it would’ve been even better if you could just press a button to reset things.
As far as complaints are concerned, this is just about the only criticism I have for the motherboard. Other than that, the X299 Taichi is an excellent entry into the market, offering rock-solid performance and a complete feature set that’ll cover all your bases.
Three M.2 slots round out the storage facilities, and I must admit that these are more useful than the U.2 connector which you’ll find on some other high-end boards. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with having this connection type – the issue is that there’s only one drive manufacturer who makes drives for the U.2 connector, and the drives are anything but affordable, nor are they readily available, so the port largely goes to waste. ASRock has instead gone with M.2, for which there are plenty of drives available whose performance continues to improve at a rapid rate.
Audio is taken care of by the latest Realtek ALC 1220 codec, in conjunction with a Texas Instruments operational amplifier. It isn’t anything you’ve not seen before on other motherboards, but that isn’t a bad thing as this has proven to be a capable combination of components. It offers all kinds of features, including DTS Connect, so your audio requirements will be more than satisfied by the Taichi.
As far as X299 motherboards go, there isn’t anything here that’ll lead you to have a negative experience. It isn’t perfect, but much like the name suggests, it finds a good balance between the various features typically found on high-end motherboards. I’m personally partial to the Gaming and OC series from ASRock, but those boards do target slightly different audiences and their pricing reflects that.
If you’re looking for an X299 motherboard and you don’t want to break the bank, this is a good place to start. ASRock has produced a no-nonsense, straightforward motherboard that delivers on every single one of its promises. You’d do well to consider it if you’re in the market.