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The Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 is a high-end socket LGA2066 motherboard based on the Intel X299 chipset for the HEDT (High-end desktop) Intel “Skylake-X” and “Kaby Lake-X” CPUs that uses LGA2066 socket. It brings LED illumination, five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, eight SATA-600 ports, six USB 3.1 ports, and high-end audio and LAN adapters. Let’s take a good look at it!
The X299 chipset was released with the new LGA2066 processors, models Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X. These CPUs are on the HEDT segment, which means they are aimed at high-performance desktop workstations, and not for servers.
The main differences between the X299 and its predecessor, the X99, besides the new CPU socket being supported, are the number of PCI lanes controlled by the chipset (24 on X299, eight on X99), USB 3.0 ports (ten on X299 and six on X99), and SATA-600 ports, reduced from ten on X99 to eight on the X299. The X299 chipset also supports Optane memory, that accelerates SATA drives.
From the compatible CPUs launched so far, the Kaby Lake-X models support only two memory channels, and the other ones support four channels. The number of PCI Express lanes controlled by the CPU also depend on the processor model, being 16, 24, or 44 lanes. All LGA2066 CPUs are unlocked for overclocking.
You can see the Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (305 x 244 mm).
Figure 1: Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 motherboard
LGA2066 processors have 16, 28, or 44 PCI Express 3.0 lanes. It allows a high-end slot configuration with a 44-lane CPU installed, but the exact configuration will depend on the actual number of PCI Express lanes.
The Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 comes with five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot. The second and the fourth ones work at a maximum speed of x4, and the second slot shares its lanes with one of the M.2 slots.
The first, third, and fifth slots work at x16/x16/x8 with a 44-lane CPU, x16/x8/x0 or x8/x8/x8 with a 28-lane CPU. If you install a 16-lane CPU, the last slot is disabled and the first and third ones work at x8/x4 speeds.
The motherboard supports CrossFire with up to three and SLI with two video cards, except when a 16-lane CPU is installed.
There are also three M.2 slots. The first and third ones are compatible with SSDs up to 2280 with SATA-600 or PCI Express 3.0 x4 connection, while the second one supports 22X110 drives with PCI Express interface only.
The PCI Express x16 slots are covered by stainless steel shields, that shield against interference, and also improve the mechanical strength of each slot.
Figure 2: Slots
As you see in Figure 3, one of the M.2 slots comes with a heatsink that can be used with an M.2 2280 SSD.
Figure 3: M.2 slot with heatsink
Intel socket LGA2066 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that the processor, not the chipset, defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
These CPUs are compatible with DDR4 (up to 2,666 MHz) memory. According to Gigabyte, the X299 AORUS Gaming 7 supports DDR4 memories up to 4.400 MHz.
One of the highlights of the LGA2066 platform is the support for quad-channel architecture. The Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 has eight memory slots. The motherboard supports up to 128 GiB with this motherboard if you use eight 16 GiB modules.
The quad-core CPUs, however, support only two channels. So, if you use one of these CPUs, four memory sockets will be disabled, and you can install up to 64 GiB of RAM.
In order to enable the quad-channel mode, you must install four or eight memory modules (if your CPU supports it.) When installing four memory modules, you must skip one slot between modules.
There are LEDs between the memory slots, covered by acrylic diffusers, so the memory modules are illuminated when the motherboard is powered on. There are also metal reinforcements at each slot.
Figure 4: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
The Intel X299 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has eight SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The motherboard comes with the eight ports, all of them installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards will not block them. Two of the ports are shared with M.2 slots.
Figure 5: The six SATA-600 ports and the U.2 connector
The Intel X299 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and ten USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 offers four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are eight USB 3.0 ports, four on the rear panel, and four available through two headers.
There are also six USB 3.1 Gen2 ports, four Type A, one Type C on the rear panel, and one at a header, controlled by an ASMedia ASM 3142 chip.
The Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 does not support Thunderbolt or FireWire ports.
This motherboard comes with a high-end audio circuit. It uses a Realtek ALC1220 codec, which offers 7.1 audio with a 120 dBA signal-to-noise ratio at the analog outputs and 108 dBA for the analog inputs. Unfortunately, no more specs for this codec are available. This circuit uses audio-specific capacitors from Nichicon and WIMA, a specific voltage regulator, headphone amplifier, and ESS Sabre 9018 auxiliary DAC. It also supports Creative SoundBlaster 720 software.
The analog audio outputs are independent and use gold-plated connectors. The motherboard also comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output.
Figure 6 shows the audio section of the motherboard.
Figure 6: Audio section
The motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by an Intel I219V chip, and one controlled by a Rivet Killer E2500 chip, which is a high-end ethernet controller.
There is also an M.2 Killer 1535 IEEE802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter with two antennas, which supports Bluetooth 4.1, shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Wi-Fi adapter
In Figure 8, you can see the motherboard rear panel with two low-
noise USB 3.0 ports (yellow,) a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 type C port, four USB 3.1 Gen2 ports (red,) two Gigabit Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi antennas connectors, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
Figure 8: Motherboard rear panel
The X299 AORUS Gaming 7 has two BIOS chips, and support TPM (trusted platform module.) It also offers an “Eco” button (that lowers power consumption), an “OC” button for pre-set overclocking mode, reset and power buttons, and a two-digit display that informs the error code in case of an unsuccessful boot. There is also a “clear CMOS” button.
Figure 9: Buttons and POST display
Besides that, it has RGB LEDs all over the motherboard. The color of the lights and even a flashing pattern can be set in the setup, or by using an application that comes with the product.
In Figure 10, you can see the accessories that come with the Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7.
Figure 10: Accessories
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 has eight phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses an International Rectifier IR35201 controller chip (digital design). Each phase uses one IR3556 IC.
Notice that the motherboard has two EPS12V connectors, but it works fine with only one connected.
Figure 11: Voltage regulator circuit
The Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 uses high-end “10K Black” solid capacitors and all coils on this motherboard are ferrite.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The main specifications for the Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 include:
- Socket: LGA2066
- Chipset: Intel X299
- Super I/O: ITE IT8951E
- Parallel ATA: none
- Serial ATA: eight SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
- External SATA: none
- USB 2.0: four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: eight USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers, controlled by the chipset
- USB 3.1: six USB 3.1 ports, five on the rear panel (four type A, and one type C) and one available through one header, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1074 chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
- Thunderbolt: none
- Onboard video: none
- Onboard audio: Produced by the chipset with a Realtek ALC1220 codec (7.1 channels, 120 dB SNR for the outputs, and 108 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output, and audio amplifier for analog headphones, audio-specific capacitors
- Onboard LAN: two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by an Intel I219V chip and one controlled by a Killer E2500 chip
- Wireless LAN: IEEE 802.11ac Killer 1535 with two antennas
- Infrared interface: no
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (three working at x16/x16/x8 with a 44-lane CPU, x16/x8/x0 or x8/x8/x8 with a 28-lane CPU, or x8/x4/x0 with a 16-lane CPU, the other two ones working at x4,) two M.2 SATA/PCI Express 3.0 x4 slots, one M.2 PCI Express 3.0 x4 slot
- Memory: eight DDR4-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-4400, 128 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: two four-pin connectors for the CPU cooler, and six four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: two BIOS chips, RGB LED lights, overclocking button, POST status display, temperature sensors
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
- Programs included: motherboard utilities and drivers
- More Information: https://www.gigabyte.com
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 400.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.
The Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 is a great motherboard for LGA2066 systems, very complete and robust. Besides the features offered by the chipset, it also brings six USB 3.1 Gen2 ports.
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It has eight memory slots and five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, supporting SLI and CrossFire with up to three video cards, which is more than any you need. It also brings overclocking tools like the power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons, and the POST error code display.
Other highlights of the X299 AORUS Gaming 7 are the high-end audio and Ethernet interfaces, the programmable RGB LEDs around the motherboard, the Wi-Fi interface, and the three M.2 slots.
So, if you’re building a high-end desktop PC for gaming or work, using an LGA2066 CPU, the Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7 is a great deal.