EVGA X299 Motherboards: DARK, Micro, & FTW K Power Design and Specs

By Published May 30, 2017 at 2:59 am
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Following our in-depth first-look coverage of the EVGA GTX 1080 Ti Kingpin card, we now turn to the company’s upcoming motherboard releases in the X299 family. This coincides with Intel’s Kaby Lake X (KBL-X) & Skylake-X (SKY-X) CPU announcement from today, and marks the announcement of EVGA’s continued embattlement in the motherboard market. All the boards are X299 (LGA 2066) to support Intel’s refreshed KBL and new SKY-X CPUs, consolidating the platforms into a single socket type and with greater DIMM support. That doesn’t mean, however, that the motherboard makers will fully exploit the option of additional DIMMs for HEDT CPUs; EVGA has elected to forfeit half the DIMMs on the new EVGA X299 DARK board in favor of greater overclocking potential. We’ll talk through the specs on the new EVGA X299 DARK, X299 Micro, and X299 FTW K, along with VRM design and power components used.

The motherboard lineup does not yet include pricing or hard release dates, but we do know that the tiering will go: Dark > FTW K > Micro, with regard to price.

 

EVGA X299 DARK Specs & VRM Design

evga x299 dark 1

The EVGA X299 DARK motherboard is the flagship for X299, and is a self-advertised “overclocker’s board.” The motherboard runs four fewer DIMMs than its maximum – so 4x DIMM slots – in order to help aid maximum memory overclocking potential. Reducing DIMM count simplifies the traces running through the PCB, as running 2x DIMM per channel increases trace complexity given that each address line has to double its load during overclocking (with 8x DIMMs). With a total of 4x DIMMs, load on the address lines is reduced, and EVGA claims a memory overclock delta of ~200~400MHz in A/B tests (4 vs. 8 DIMM slots). This will theoretically help EVGA in resolving some of its known memory OC issues on motherboards.

EVGA has overhauled its power solution for the X299 DARK board, using an 8-phase core VRM with 1-phase VCCIO and 1-phase VSA. The VRM uses Intersil ISL69138 + ISL99227B MOSFETs for Vcore and VCCIN, with ISL69138 & ISL99140 for the VSA. International Rectifier is the choice supplier for VCCIO (IR35204 & IR3556), and ISL66133 & ISL99227 2-phase x2CH for VDDR. As for other changes, the X299 DARK motherboard uses EVGA’s newest BIOS – which has gone through a bit of an overhaul since X99.

Outside of power components, it’s also worth talking about a few other aspects of the card. The next most visible element is the chipset fan – or apparent chipset fan – that finds itself flanked by a shroud. This fan cools the PCH and forces air into a chamber that connects to M.2 SSDs, theoretically solving the problem that MSI previously created. The challenge, of course, is that Flash controllers want lower temperatures, but the Flash itself tends to do better with higher temperatures; endurance improves on NAND Flash when it runs warmer, opposite most components, while performance improves on controllers when they’re cooler. EVGA’s solution just goes for cooling everything, which should help mitigate or eliminate performance falloff (especially given that consumer use cases should never really throttle, anyway), but will still be faced with the Flash question.

Regardless, an M.2 cooling solution of their own has been added, this one using active cooling. Other solutions exist for the lower tier boards, primarily consisting of a simple-but-functional thermal pad that contacts the motherboard PCB. The fiber glass and copper amalgam that is a circuit-board should do well to act as a heat-spreader. EVGA claims a 15C reduction from the thermal pad solution, with greater promises from the active cooling – we’ll test that internally, of course, but that gives an idea.

Other small items of note include dual seven segment displays, one of which is used for active voltage monitoring, and a re-tooled motherboard form factor. The DARK board features indents for its 24-pin power, 20-pin USB3.x, and 6-pin PCIe GPU power (southwest on the board), useful primarily for cable management and case clearance.

Buildzoid will be analyzing this PCB for us in a near-future content piece.

EVGA X299 FTW K Specs & VRM

evga x299 ftwk

The next board down in the hierarchy is the FTW K model, taking the enthusiast-grade class without going full-on overclocker. The EVGA X299 FTW K motherboard reverts to a full 8x DIMM slots, prioritizing memory capacity over memOC speed, and adds in a few more visual embellishments over the X299 DARK.

The FTW K is EVGA’s first motherboard that commits to the RGB LED trend, hosting RGB LEDs in the IO cover that are software controllable, with additional LEDs in the audio cover, PCH, and VRM. Functionally, the FTW K will run 8x DIMMs instead of 4x, focusing on general users rather than OC-focused users, and uses an 8-phase Vcore. EVGA is running some of the same ISL parts for this motherboard as on the DARK board, opting for an 8-phase Vcore that is identical to the DARK, with a 1-phase VSA and 1-phase VCCIO, also identical to the DARK. Actually, the VDDR VRM is also the same as the DARK – this board uses the same VRM, just different visual and DIMM configurations for a lower cost market.

EVGA X299 MICRO Specs & VRM

evga x299 micro 1

The Micro board is where we’ll spend the least time. EVGA’s X299 Micro is, expectedly, a micro-ATX form factor motherboard that runs 4x DIMMs and supports 2-way SLI, making for a fairly dense board. Wireless AC is included, more for the HTPC crowd, and some of the features of the FTW K have been stripped down.

The Micro board also runs a different VRM design, instead opting for International Rectifier components (8-phase Vcore/VCCIN with IR35201 & IR3556 MOSFETs). The VSA uses an IR35201 & IR3556 single-phase design, with VCCIO using IR35204 & IR3556 single-phase. VDDR is also single-phase x2CH, running IR35204 & IR3556 components.

And that recaps our first round of X299 news, though we’ll have plenty more as we wander the show floor today and the rest of this week. Be sure to follow us on Twitter or YouTube for more coverage. If you like our style of reporting, you can help us directly by buying a shirt or backing on Patreon.

Editorial: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick

Last modified on May 29, 2017 at 2:59 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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