Gigabyte X299X Aorus Xtreme Waterforce Review i9 10980XE
Published: 25th November 2019 | Source: Gigabyte | Price: |
At this point we think you need a piece of tape over the top of your monitor to hide the price. Ouch. We'll come back to that in a minute.
Actually before we entirely dispense with the price issue, let's make it clear that this whole setup, CPU included, isn't one that is designed for those on a tight budget. With the motherboard around a grand, the CPU likewise, the GPU much the same, it's a massive amount of performance for a massive price. If you're just a gamer, or if you've many demands upon your purse strings, this isn't the setup for you. It doesn't pretend to be though. This is for people with enormous power-hungry needs that they will utilise most hours of any particular day. If you don't do 3D rendering or regularly edit 4K videos then you're in the wrong place. Or at least accept this is just the stuff of lottery win dreams. With price out of the way let's focus on how the Gigabyte X299X Aorus Xtreme Waterforce compares to the Encore.
If we felt the ASUS board was a little lacking in wow factor then that is not a claim anyone can make against the Gigabyte Waterforce. Sure that massive, RGB, monoblock dominates proceedings and gives you a great point of focus in your system, but it isn't the only area of the Aorus Xtreme that is attractive. We love the simple lighting on the IO section and how it bathes the power phases in a soft glow. The PCB layout is tremendous and makes building the system a totally pain free experience. If you've ever fancied taking the trip into custom water cooling then the Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is a great way to begin your journey. The monoblock just requires a few screws and it's all installed. No fannying about at all. It has the thermal paste and thermal pads pre-installed, because it's designed for this exact motherboard it fits exactly, and it doesn't take a moment to get up and running. Certainly when compared to adapting an air-cooled motherboard. Between the lighting, dominant waterblock, horizontal ATX24 and the like, the Waterforce ticks every usability box there is.
Overclocking performance and indeed stock performance are both excellent. There isn't a lot to choose between the X299 motherboards as you might expect. Modern chipsets and motherboard designs have long since eradicated those enormous performance gaps we used to see, and this is especially true when you're talking about the flagship models in a manufacturers range. The CPU is kept cool, the slots are all braced whether it's PCI Express ones or the quad-channel DIMMs. Gigabyte need a big pat on the back for their power section too, with the 70A 16 stage power never being troubled or left lacking.
If we had one, non-price, quibble it's that the design of the Monoblock seems overly restrictive in the actual flow of water across the VRMs, or total lack of it. We were hoping for 'barely above ambient' temperatures, but instead we ended up with ones which are noticeably warmer than the air-cooled ASUS Encore. We hasten to add they never get hot as such, and we wouldn't think twice about running the motherboard 24/7 with these temperatures. It's just that when you have a waterblock so specifically designed it seems a shame that the power phases don't get the same level of cooling as the CPU, because the CPU temperatures prove that waterblock can get the job done easily. Hopefully a revision will be forthcoming. The VRM's are basically only being cooled by an 'old style' lump of aluminium at the top of the board and clearly not good enough for a board with this kind of price tag. Aftermarket full cover blocks cool considerably better than this.
With outstanding performance and the kind of aesthetic gloriousness that brings a tear to your eye, at a price tag that also brings tears to your eyes, the Gigabyte X299X Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is the ultimate in luxury motherboards for those who have an unlimited budget.