Despite the surprising combination of the compact Micro-ATX form factor and the established X399 powerhouse chipset, ASRock X399M (currently $ 299 / £ 233 on Newegg, with an additional $ 20 / £ 30 rebate to sweeten the deal) provides spot-on performance in accordance with bigger board. And there is a lot of potential for overclocking if that is your thing. However, those who are looking for Threadripper monsters build experience with lots of graphics cards and high-speed storage must look elsewhere.
- Great value for what you get
- Good overclocking potential
- Performance exceeds that of bigger boards
Smaller size means fewer slots and internal ports
- 250W CPU support limited to lighter overclocking
Steering away from the classic X399 mindset, the ASRock X399M Taichi delivers a unique and impressive entry point into the AMD HEDT world. It's also a good value while enthusiasts access to lots of cores in a small form factor.
We have tested the offerings of other X399 motherboards from ASRock, including full-size Taichi and Fatal1ty models, in previous reviews and have seen comparable performance, overclocking, and feature sets throughout the product stack. The last ASRock Threadripper board that landed on our test bench was the X399M Taichi. So when we received the box for the X399M we were initially confused about the size of the board.
On paper, the X399 shouts for additional memory modules, lots of PCIe cards, and many storage connectors to make a monster from a workstation or pro-production production rig. So why do we deliberately choose a product that sacrifices many important components and slots to enter in small cases? To cram Threadripper 1000 and 2000 CPU cores into smaller forms, IO must be sacrificed, without neglecting the power delivery and cooling capability for power-hungry AMD Threadripper CPUs. But ASRock still managed to squeeze a little into the 9.6 x 9.6 inch board space here. First, let's look at the specifications.
- Socket TR4
- Chipset AMD X399
- Form Factor Micro ATX
- Voltage Regulator 8+3 Phases
- Video Ports ✗
- USB Ports 10Gbps:(1) Type A, (1) Type C
- 5Gb/s: (8) Type A
- Network Jacks (2) Gigabit Ethernet
- Audio Jacks (5) Analog, (1) Digital Out
- Legacy Ports/Jacks (1) PS/2
- Other Ports/Jack (2) SMA Antenna, (1) BIOS Flashback
- PCIe x16 (3) v3.0 (x16/x16/x16)
- PCIe x8 ✗
- PCIe x4 ✗
- PCIe x1 ✗
- CrossFire/SLI 4x / 4x
- DIMM slots (4) DDR4
- M.2 slots (1) PCIe v3 x4 / SATA3 42/60/80/110mm
- (1) PCIe v3 x4 / SATA3 42/60/80mm
- (1) PCIe v3 x4 / SATA3 30/42/60/80mm
- U.2 Ports (1) PCIe v3 x4, SFF-8639 (disable M2_1)
- SATA Ports (8) 6Gb/s
- USB Headers (2) 5Gb/s Type-C, (2) USB 2.0
- Fan Headers (5) 4-Pin
- Legacy Interfaces ✗
- Other Interfaces (1) RGB-LED, (2) Front panel Audio, (1) TPM
- Diagnostics Panel Numeric
- Internal Button/Switch CMOS Clear, Power, Reset, Xtreme OC
- SATA Controllers Integrated (0/1/5/10)
- Ethernet Controllers (2) Intel® I211AT
- Wi-Fi / Bluetooth Intel® 802.11ac WiFi Module, Bluetooth 4.2 / 3.0
- USB Controllers ✗
- HD Audio Codec ALC1220
- DDL/DTS Connect ✗ / Yes
- Warranty 3 Years
The sharpness of the ASRock design is overdrive in this forum, no doubt aided by the company's experience of building Mini-ITX boards for more mainstream markets / consumers. At the expense of half the DIMM slot (which still leaves you with four), the socket can be shifted to the rear panel to press M.2 drive which is very important for high performance drives and storage arrays. Also, the PCIe slot is removed or squeezed at the bottom of the board, which limits the placement of the dual-slot graphics card to just two. On the surface, this seems to be no way for serious builders X399. But for the average builder, filling four DIMM slots and two graphics card slots might drive a reasonable development budget limit - especially given the high price of Nvidia's 20-series RAM and GPU. Plus, building SLI / Crossfire is supported more or less today, both by developers and Nvidia / AMD. So maybe we can see ASRock X399M Taichi as the perfect entry-level X399 board?
The X399M sports the same voltage regulator (Vreg) components as the Taichi and Fatal1ty boards, while shifting the alignment of the heat spreader to accommodate the ATX mounting screws and reduced distance of the bend around the DIMM slots. This is a great feature from a raw power delivery perspective, but the same Vreg cooling issues we’ve seen on previous boards are carried over as well. We'll revisit power delivery in our overclocking section, but for the most part, this design works.
With eight USB 3.1 5 Gbps ports (Gen1), two USB 3.1 10 Gbps ports (Gen2, one Type-A, one Type-B), two gigabit Ethernet jacks, five analogs and one digital audio port, PS / 2 port and connection for the SMA Wi-Fi Antenna, the lack of sacrifice for the X399M rear panel implementation should be a relief for content creators or other accessory-loaded users. Although the planar size is reduced, two USB 5Gbps, two USB2.0, one RGB, and five 4-pin fan headers are available on the board which, despite their smaller size, support a full-sized box configuration. This Micro-ATX board is starting to sound more and more interesting.
Other important inclusions for the Taichi X399M are Purity Sound 4 (basically premium audio circuits, capacitors and protectors) and ALC1220 codecs (such as full-size Taichi), built-in Intel AC-Wireless, and overclocking-friendly features such as the power / reset button and Xtreme OC switch.
As mentioned above, the standard X399 inclusion of three M.2 slots is available here, but is arranged slightly differently from the larger X399M board. Also, U.2 stays on the board with the same conditions, such as connecting U.2 to deactivate socket M2_1. Eight SATA 6Gbps ports are available via right brackets, although permission with a smaller chassis can be a problem.
To attract some universal complaints, most of every Mini-ITX review: Narrow spaces are definitely sticking points for some builders. Essential fans and EPS connectors are crammed together, which makes mounting to a smaller chassis even more challenging. The Dr. Debug LEDs shift from the lower right quadrant to the 24-pin ATX header, which may be difficult to see in some board orientations. Power and reset buttons are available, but they are small. Finally, reducing real estate makes the board look a bit boring with the standard "gamer", but the subtle light under the chipset heatsink does provide users with customizable colors.
Usually, we discuss UEFI products on the page itself in the article, but little has changed on the ASRock X399 front here. Those looking for BIOS details must check the Taichi and Fatal1ty UEFI pages to get a closer look at the menus and options.