At Computex last week, ASRock demonstrated two motherboards designed for AMD’s upcoming ThreadRipper HEDT processors. The new platforms are for high-end workstations and designed to support up to four graphics cards though the 60 PCIe lanes from the CPU, over a dozen of storage devices and up to eight DIMMs. To a large degree, ASRock’s motherboards reflect overall positioning of the AMD X399 “ThreadRipper” platform as a premium high-end desktop play, and what to generally expect from makers of mainboards here.

ASRock plans to offer two motherboards for AMD’s ThreadRipper CPUs: the X399 Professional Gaming and the X399 Taichi. The mainboards are based on the same PCB (and the same AMD X399 chipset/socket), but have a slightly different feature set. The ThreadRipper motherboards that ASRock demonstrated at Computex featured an eight-phase digital CPU VRM, which is the feasible limit given the physical space available, but we have no idea the capabilities of the power delivery as of yet. ThreadRipper is meant to be a high performance, high power processor, so undoubtedly the motherboard vendors have built their boards to match. When it comes to the socket itself, it has 4094 pins and is very large (not surprising given its origin). We've seen the socket referred to as SP3r2 and TR4, although the official word from AMD is that it is the 'X399 platform'.

It will be interesting to see whether any motherboard maker manages to design a Mini-ITX mainboard for the ThreadRipper, but we will see. As we understand it, one of the problems with the socket, apart from the dimensions, is its cost to manufacturers that is prohibitively high at this time.

Both of the X399 motherboards from ASRock have eight DDR4 memory slots, but the manufacturer does not disclose speeds, ECC support and other details (although given previous discussions, we expect at least ECC and DDR4-2400). In fact, it does not even reveal the maximum amount of memory supported by the CPU. Though even if the company does know, it's almost certain that AMD wants to hold all of these cards close to their chest for future product announcements.

The X399 Professional Gaming physically has four PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (electrically set at two x16 and two x8) that can support up to four-way AMD CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU configurations, as well as PCIe SSDs. In addition, there is a PCIe 3.0 x1 slot. As for storage options, ASRock has most configurations covered: the motherboard carries eight SATA ports, a U.2 connector, as well as three M.2 slots. To ensure that there is enough power for the latter, there is a 6-pin PCIe power connector right near the SATA ports. As for network connectivity, the motherboard features a 10 GbE port using Aquantia's AQC solution, two GbE headers (enabled by Intel controllers), as well as a 2x2 802.11 Wi-Fi module with Bluetooth. As for USB, there are 10 USB 3.0 ports in addition to two USB 3.1 ports (Type-A and Type-C) on the back panel. Finally, the X399 Professional Gaming has a 7.1 audio sub-system enhanced using Creative Labs’ SoundBlaster software.

ASRock's X399 Professional Gaming and X399 Taichi for AMD ThreadRipper CPUs
  X399 Professional Gaming X399 Taichi
CPU Support AMD ThreadRipper CPUs in LGA4094 form-factor
Graphics

4 × PCIe 3.0 x16 (2 × x16, 2 × x8)
4-way AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI supported

Chipset AMD X399
Memory Eight DDR4 DIMM slots
Ethernet 1 × 10 GbE Aquantia AQtion AQC107
2 × Intel GbE controllers
2 × Intel GbE controllers
Storage 8 × SATA 6 Gbps
3 × M.2 (PCIe 3.0 x4 or SATA)
1 × U.2 (PCIe 3.0 x4)
Audio Realtek ALC1220 (?)
7.1 channel audio with Creative Labs SoundBlaster Cinema 3 enhancements
Realtek ALC1220 (?)
7.1 channel audio with ASRock Purity Sound 4
USB 8 × USB 3.0 Type-A
1 × USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-A
1 × USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C
Other I/O Dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.x, PS/2
Form-Factor ATX
MSRP Expensive Less Expensive

It is worth nothing that we expect the X399 chipset to be as capable as the AM4 X370 platform, which means that some of the features on the motherboard are likely to have shared resources, meaning having one enabled will disable some others. AMD has engineered the CPU to have 60 PCIe lanes for storage and graphics, which will nominally mean most configurations will allow three GPUs (totalling 48 lanes) and three M.2 slots (totalling 12 lanes) although the 10GbE controller will require some lanes as well as the other Ethernet and perhaps a USB port controller or two. Until we see the chipset diagram, it will be hard to tell at this point.

The ASRock X399 Professional Gaming and the X399 Taichi will be available later this year when AMD releases its ThreadRipper CPUs. It goes without saying that the motherboards are not going to be cheap: they are not designed for general consumers and their server origin will have a direct impact on pricing.

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Source: ASRock

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  • DanNeely - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    AMD was similarly aggressive in pricing high end chips 10-15 years ago when they were last competitive with Intel at the top of the stack. They need to offer a large price advantage to counter Intel's status as the default safe choice. Reply
  • beginner99 - Thursday, June 8, 2017 - link

    There will be no 14 cores. Only 16, 12 and 8 due to how the CCX and infinity fabric work. Eg. TR is 2 zeppelin dies which each has 2 ccx with 4 cores each. So 4 ccx total with 4 cores. All ccx need to have same config. So only 4, 8, 12, and 16 configs are possible. Hence 8-core will be at 1800x level (maybe even a bit cheaper) 12 core at $599 and 16-core at $849. There might be higher clocked binned parts in the middle just like with 1700, 1700x and 1800x. Reply
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    I read 1998 around $850, 1998X "more". Reply
  • mdw9604 - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    Solid, inside source has the 16 core retail at $849 Reply
  • solnyshok - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    seems like a typo "It is worth notHing that we expect..." Reply
  • Gothmoth - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    even when x399 cost 30-40% more than x299 boards the overall solution for a 12-16 core system would still be cheaper. Reply
  • bananaforscale - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    "most configurations will allow three GPUs (totalling 48 lanes)"

    That's actually 40 lanes on the mobo. So, three GPUs and three M.2 drives leaves 8 free. Fixpls.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    Could be worded better, but it's not wrong. 48 lines for GPUs allows 16/16/16 or 16/16/8/8 slot configurations. Either setup leaves 12 lanes for other purposes. 8 more for something else without a PLX would either require a 16/16/8 slot setup or 16/16/8/8 with the last slots lanes being shared. Reply
  • LauRoman - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    What is the 4-pin power connector for? Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - link

    More CPU power. A lot of boards for workstation class CPUs have 8+4 or 8+8 CPU power connections. I suspect it's less that a single 8pin CPU connector can't give enough power than that by spreading over more wires they can reduce voltage drop at full load slightly and deliver more stable power to the circuitry making the 1.xV power the CPU itself runs on. Reply

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