The nigh-on £300 Deluxe motherboard is probably beyond the financial reach of most of us when building a PC, but thankfully Asus isn’t confining its X99 efforts to the very highest end of the market. The £200 X99-A may still be relatively costly, but when we’re talking about this almost server-class X99 platform £200 should probably be considered the mid-range price point. And the X99-A will happily slot in between its super high-end Deluxe stablemate and the cheaper end of the market where the MSI and ASRock boards rule the roost.
It has everything that makes the X99 platform such a high-end one – full eight DIMM slot DDR4 support, SATA Express and M.2 PCIe storage connections, multiple x16 PCIe 3.0 slots for multi-GPU builds and proper overclocking support. There’s a host of other checks in the feature list too, including an EM-shielded onboard soundcard, physical switches for EZ XMP settings, and power efficiency features. It even shares the classy stormtrooper white and black finish of its Deluxe sibling. So, while you can call this a mid-range X99 board, you’ll have your ‘value for money’ boxes well and truly ticked by the bulging Asus feature set.
It also has the metrics nailed down in terms of stock CPU performance, keeping pace with the big boys of the X99 world. Asus is using the same bespoke OC Socket in its whole X99 range instead of the standard Intel LGA 2011-v3 socket. This adds extra pins to the layout, meaning it touches connections on the Haswell-E chips the standard socket doesn’t. Asus’ engineers claim this helps provide stable voltages for overclocking, specifically to help with memory performance. In that it rings true as the two Asus boards were the only ones able to cope with Corsair’s 3,000MHz XMP settings and the X99-A posted the highest overclocked Cinebench score behind the X99 Deluxe.
Unfortunately, when it comes to storage performance and gaming speeds, the positivity ends. Overall the PCIe storage performance from the M.2 x4 slot was the weakest of the seven boards we tested, with both random and sequential write performance lagging behind the rest. The gaming performance lapse is the biggest surprise, however. Asus has long been at the forefront of gaming components and, even if only by a few fps, its motherboards generally held the top spots in
any in-game benchmarks.
Over the last couple of years though Gigabyte has pushed past Asus to take the performance lead. Gigabyte takes top gaming honours for this latest Intel platform too, but now Asus isn’t just slipping back to second place; it’s at the bottom of the benchmark list. Asus’s mid-range X99-A is a good value board for an all-round performance PC, especially if you’re looking at getting the most out of your memory and overclocked CPU. But you’re a dedicated gamer trying to squeeze as much performance as you can out of a multi-GPU array, maybe Asus is no longer the go-to choice.