The best Intel X299 motherboards

These are the best choices for Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X!

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Introduction

More than half a year ago, Intel introduced their Core-X processors and the accompanying X299 chip set in the summer of 2017. Since then we've done the necessary round-ups and reviews, but if you're buying a Intel high-end processor, which X299 motherboard should you get? For those who don't have time to backtrack through all of our old reviews, this article lists the best choices for those looking for a motherboard for an Intel Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processor.


X299: Things you have to know

Intel's high-end platform utilizes socket 2066, which can be found on motherboards with the X299 chipset. These X299 motherboards are characterised by many connection options, with many pci-e and memory slots. How much you can use depends on the processor you choose. The X299 chipset does not have a built-in usb 3.1 controller, so for that functionality manufacturers use additional chips, which drive up the price. This also applies to Thunderbolt 3.0: apart from a few exceptions, this interface is not found at all on X299 motherboards.


The Intel X299 chip set

Although there are many processors compatible with X299 motherboards, not all of them are a smart choice. This is because, in addition to this high-end platform, Intel also has a so-called mainstream platform, with socket 1151 (v2) motherboards based on (among other things) the Z370 chipset. The development of these is always a bit more advanced than of high-end products, and since the eighth generation of Core processors with the code name Coffee Lake, a number of processors from the somewhat older high-end platform have been overtaken in quality.

Socket 2066: a lot of processors

So there is a wide range of processors for socket 2066 with the X299 chip set, ranging from the Core i5 7640X with 4 cores and 4 threads, priced at 204 pounds / 230 euros, to the Core i9 7980XE, which with 18 cores and 36 threads passes the counter for 1732 pounds / 1950 euros. We advise against the entry-level processors from this platform, because they do not offer any added value compared to their counterparts for the mainstream socket 1151 platform (more below).

However, the larger Skylake-X processors are worth considering if you often have to process heavy workloads, which require a lot of cores and threads. In addition, it is important to note that Intel has two sets of processors within Skylake-X, the i7 7800X, i7 7820X and i9 7900X with six, eight and ten cores on the one hand, and the so-called high-core count Core i9 models 7920X, 7940X, 7960X and 7980X with 12,14,16 and 18 calculation cores on the other.


The usage of Kaby Lake-X CPUs limits the possibilities of X299 motherboards considerably.

Processor determines possibilities

Although the Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors fit on the same socket 2066, you have to take restrictions into account with the latter series. First, there is maximum support for dual-channel memory: only Skylake-X has a quad-channel memory controller. Therefore, in the case of the i5 7640X and i7 7740X, you cannot use half of the memory slots. Secondly, the number of PCI-e lanes at Kaby Lake-X is limited to 16, while Skylake-X has 28 or 44, depending on the processor model. On many X299 motherboards, a PCI-e lock is therefore unusable when you have a Kaby Lake-X processor in place.

  L3-cache PCIe 3.0
lanes
Memory TDP
Core i9 7900X t/m Core i9 7980XE (Skylake-X) 13,75 - 24,75
MB
44 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
140 - 165 W
Core i7 7800X & Core i7 7820X (Skylake-X) 8,25 - 11
MB
28 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
140 W
Core i5 7640X & Core i7 7740X (Kaby Lake-X) 6 - 8
MB
16 Dual-channel
DDR4-2666
112 W

X299 vs Z370

If you belong to the target group of (semi)professional heavy computing, graphics, 3D rendering, cad/cam, video editing and similar applications, then it is obvious to look at the X299 platform. However, with the advent of the Coffee Lake generation (eighth generation Core) there is also a cheaper alternative for these applications on the Z370 chip set. If you are satisfied with up to 12 relatively fast threads, and you don't need as many PCI-e lanes, you can save yourself a lot of money. Z370 boards are usually much cheaper, require a smaller initial investment in memory modules (two instead of four units are sufficient) and, of course, the processors are generally less expensive.

In addition, the eighth generation of mainstream Core processors generally have a higher clock speed, especially when using Turbo mode, than Intel's high core count-cpu. There are plenty of applications where there is an advantage. In fact, X299 is mainly a sensible choice when your workloads really scale well beyond 12 threads, and only if this outweighs pure clock speed.

Due to the advent of the six core / twelve threads i7 8700 (K), the six-core i7 7800X has become a less attractive choice. If you need a lot of memory bandwidth, threads and pci-e lanes, then on X299 you will actually need at least the Skylake-X i9 7820X, an 8-core, 16threads processor. If, in addition to these things, an even larger quantity of pci-e lanes is required, it is worth looking at AMD's Threadripper processors and the accompanying X399 platform.

Choose the best X299 motherboard

As mentioned before, we have tested (very) many motherboards with the socket 2066 and the X299-chipset; at this moment, 28 of the in total 45 can be found in our price comparison. This has produced a lot of test results, which we presented in the various reviews in graphs and tables. However, we can imagine that you just want to know what the best X299 motherboard is. In this article we answer that question, albeit with a number of different considerations in mind, such as budget and purpose of use. You will also find the recommendations divided into several categories on the following pages.


Also read these motherboard articles on Hardware.Info

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