AMD’s third-generation Ryzen Threadripper CPUs certainly have made some waves, but Intel’s tried-and-trusted X299 chipset and Core X-Series CPUs aren’t going to give in without a fight. Neither are Intel’s motherboard partners. After a few years on the market, the X299 chipset and compatible processors are still holding strong, and some boards such as Asrock’s new X299 Taichi CLX ($399.99) offer features such as USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 that weren’t available when the chipset was first released. This board also adds support for the 48 lanes of CPU-based PCI Express (as opposed to the earlier 44 maximum) afforded by 10th Generation “Cascade Lake-X” Core X CPUs like the Core i9-10980XE Extreme Edition. The CLX isn’t cheap, but it’s an attractive, stable, and smooth-running platform.
Design & Features
Asrock’s Taichi motherboards all feature a similar aesthetic design that looks a little flashy but not excessively so, and the X299 Taichi CLX is no different. Predominantly colored in black and silver, the ATX board has a conservatively handsome look to it. When unpowered, it would almost look dull if not for the few gear emblems scattered about and a gold fake gear that sits over the chipset. RGB LEDs placed on the right side of the board and over the chipset add some additional flair when the board is supplied with power.
The overall style of Asrock’s Taichi motherboards is among my favorite mobo motifs, and I like the appearance of the X299 Taichi CLX. If you’re a major fan of RGB LEDs, you can add additional lights via two RGB headers (one supporting addressable RGB, and one for 50/50 RGB strips), but personally I like the board the way it is. It comes off as balanced between trying to look professional and trying to look cool.
The board is equipped with 13 power phases and 60A chokes, all of which are bunched up together under one heatsink at the top of the board. To help keep these components cool, Asrock ran a liquid-filled heatpipe from the heatsink above the power circuits over to the rear I/O shroud, where it connects to a larger heatsink.
The X299 Taichi CLX comes equipped with a Realtek Dragon RTL8125AG 2.5Gbps NIC as well as a slower Intel i219V Gigabit controller. The board also has a built-in Intel Wi-Fi 6 chip that can access the Internet at up to 2.4Gbps, which makes the wireless connection almost as fast as the Realtek Dragon Ethernet.
Unsurprisingly, Asrock opted for a Realtek ALC1220 audio codec. This is the most widely used audio codec on high-end motherboards today, and it’s known to work well, rated to a 120dB SNR. Asrock also tossed in an NE5532 headset amplifier that helps to boost sound transmitted to the front-panel audio connector.
There are a total of 10 SATA 3.0 ports on the motherboard. Eight of these are controlled via the chipset, with two additional ports running off an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. This gives you plenty of ports if you have large storage needs, whereas a trio of M.2 Key-M ports will let you connect fast M.2 solid-state drives. The M.2 slots are hidden beneath heatsinks, which keep the system looking clean while also cooling any installed SSDs. This helps to keep the drives from overheating and throttling when writing or reading large amounts of data.
Two of the M.2 slots share a single heatsink that wraps around the top two PCI Express (PCIe) x16 slots. This means that in order to access either of these ports you need to remove any PCIe devices installed here, then remove the two screws that hold the heatsinks in place. The bottom M.2 slot is easier to access, however, as it just wraps around a single small PCIe x1 slot and is less likely to be obstructed by your GPU.
The rear I/O panel of the X299 Taichi CLX has a total of seven USB ports, including two USB 2.0, four USB 3.2 Gen 1, and a single USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port. The last is controlled via an ASMedia ASM3242 and supports an enormous 20Gbps of bandwidth. Also on the rear panel are the usual RJ45 and audio jacks, along with an S/PDIF port, a pair of antenna hookups, and a clear-CMOS button.
This rear I/O configuration would be perfectly suitable for a midrange or entry-level board, but it feels like a bit of a letdown here. A large part of the I/O panel is left vacant, and while everything essential is here, it feels that Asrock could have added more. In particular, this board could really use a button to flash it with an updated BIOS. Sadly this feature, which is almost ubiquitous on high-end motherboards today, is missing from the X299 Taichi CLX entirely.
There are a few buttons on the motherboard itself to boot and restart the system. The reset button is a little peculiar as it is significantly smaller than the power button, and it’s easily missed unless you look closely at the board. But it still works, and that’s what’s important. Right beside these buttons is an “88”-style debug LED, which is helpful for troubleshooting issues during startup.
A Brief Look at the BIOS
Asrock’s Taichi gear-themed BIOS is similar to the one on the company’s TRX40 Taichi motherboard for Threadripper chips (which I am reviewing alongside this one), but it has a few small notable improvements. The main screen of the BIOS just shows basic system information, but a more in-depth look at the hardware can be found on the OC Tweaker tab.
The OC Tweaker page is superior to the one found on the TRX40 board, with information about the system’s target CPU, cache, and memory speed clearly displayed at the top of the page…
The various OC controls are organized into separate folders that are dedicated to CPU, DRAM, Voltage, and FIVR (Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator) configuration settings. This is a nice touch, as the overclocking menu of some motherboards can be a little overwhelming to inexperienced users. Each folder is also cleanly laid out and key settings such as the core multiplier and voltage offset are easy to find.
Under the tools section of the BIOS you’ll find a few useful utilities including one labelled Easy RAID Installer, which can quickly configure your solid-state or hard drives into RAID 0, 1, or 10. There are also tools to flash the BIOS and to securely erase an SSD.
Installing the software and drivers that came with the X299 Taichi CLX went smoothly, though a few issues popped up while trying to run some of these programs. Intel’s Turbo Boost Max Technology app displayed the most bugs, as it completely refused to run—whenever I clicked to open the program, a dialog box popped up to inform me that the ITBM driver was not available, and the program then closed. This is problematic as the system will not achieve its maximum performance without this software running, but it’s unclear if this is a fault of Asrock’s or Intel’s.
The software for Realtek’s Dragon RTL8125AG also behaved strangely, greeting me whenever I attempted to launch the app with a dialog box stating, “Dragon works normally.” Well, that’s wonderful, but what’s the point of the application? At this point I’m unsure. To be fair, it’s possible the software would have acted differently if an Ethernet cable was connected to the RJ-45 port associated with the Dragon NIC.
Other than these issues, the rest of the software functioned without a hitch. Four of the remaining programs stand out: Norton Security, A-Tuning, Asrock Polychrome, and App Shop. I’d recommend skipping the first of these, as it’s simply a 60-day trial. The other three programs have varying degrees of usefulness, however, and you may want to install them all.
A-Tuning is the name Asrock uses for its Windows-based overclocking tools. Usually it’s better to overclock your computer from within the BIOS, but this software also displays information about the system’s hardware. It also gives you control over any fans connected to the motherboard, so it could be useful to have while testing the stability of your system overclock.
If you like to control your system’s RGB LED lights, then you will also want to install the Polychrome app. There’s not much to say here except that it does just that—it gives you direct control over any RGB lights and it works fine. ‘Nuff said.
Finally, the App Shop is essentially just an app store that tries to show you programs that may be useful…
Ordinarily I’d never keep a program like this installed on my own personal system, but it also has a built-in tool to check for BIOS and driver updates. That could be handy, but it’s not really necessary to update your drivers unless you’re experiencing problems, and you can do so manually if problems arise.
Conclusion: Core X in Balance
After thoroughly test-driving Asrock’s X299 Taichi CLX, I can’t really find much to complain about. The rear I/O panel does feel underutilized, but that’s relatively minor, and I didn’t encounter any show-stoppers while building a system and setting up the software.
The CLX also feels reasonably well-priced. It’s certainly not the least expensive X299 motherboard on the market, but it does undercut some competitors slightly with several $500 boards competing for your dollars. The board also has a pleasing appearance, and there aren’t any notable issues with the layout of the components and headers.
I wrote once before that, as a hardware reviewer, I enjoy finding flaws in products—they give me something to talk about and help to spice up my reviews. Products that are problem-free may make for less exciting conclusions, but the X299 Taichi CLX falls firmly into that category. It may not be particularly unique, but it’s a solid performer and a good buy.
Asrock X299 Taichi CLX Specs
|CPU Socket||Intel LGA 2066|
|Maximum Supported Memory||256 GB|
|No. of DIMM Slots||8|
|Maximum Memory Speed||4200 MHz|
|PCI Express x16 Slots||4|
|PCI Express x4 Slots||0|
|PCI Express x1 Slots||1|
|USB 3.0 or 3.1 Ports Onboard (Rear Panel)||7|
|USB 3.0 or 3.1 Ports Supported Via Header||2|
|USB 2.0 Ports Supported Via Header||4|
|USB Type-C Header||Yes|
|Onboard Audio Chipset||Realtek ALC1220|
|No. of Audio Channels||7.1|