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Pros: This motherboard is honestly probably one of the best motherboards you can buy. Not just from a gimmicky standpoint, but from the actual quality pieces. When you hold this motherboard, it feels heavy. You can feel all the components on and in it. There are a plethora of features, but, I'll go over some of my favorite aspects of the board.
- Depending on your CPU, 28 or 40 PCI lanes. But the PCH controller on the board takes care of the PCIe x1 and PCIe x4 slots, so those won't eat up bandwidth of your 28 or 40 lanes.
- NVMe SSD support.
- "H-AMP" fan header. This allows 3 amps of power through one fan header, which is well more than enough to cool the six Noctua NF-F12 fans in my build.
- The lighting software is simple and easy to use. The LED's also look great.
- Convenient features, that I didn't think I'd need but ended up actually using in the build process. Such as shutting off PCIe lanes, or the on-board power and reset switches.
- Depending on your system configuration, up to 10 SATA-III drives. 11, if you use a SATA drive in the M.2 slot.
- Dedicated header for watercooling pumps.
- Excellent BIOS that are easy to use, and update.
- Plenty of headers for various needs, like multiple USB 2.0 headers and USB 3.0 headers, as well as ROG_EXT, TPM, and the 12+/R/G/B "5050 LED" header, that works with the Aura software
- The drivers come on a USB stick. This was also beneficial to me, as my case doesn't have optical drive bays and I'm not using one.
- Plenty of ports on the rear, and the inclusion of a USB Type-C plug definitely helps "future proof" the build some.
- Unlike some older boards from ASUS with a rear I/O internal cover, this board's is actually metal and serves as an actual supplementary heatsink.
- The rear I/O panel was done quite nicely. It's built into the motherboard, and basically you only mount a rectangle that slips onto the board inside the case for the rear I/O. A very clean look.
- The lighting and software work with my case (Phanteks Evolv ATX TG), as it has built in RGB lighting as well.
Cons: There aren't many, but I'll list some of the small gripes I did have with this board.
- First is the LED's. As much as I love them, by default they stay one when the system is powered off. Also, when the colors are darker, the PCH cover doesn't quite match too well.
- Top top PCIe 3.0 x16 retention clip is very hard to reach ones a full length graphics card is installed. You need to use a thin device to poke at it to set it back to remove a GPU once installed.
- This one is related to the PCIe lanes. While the PCIe x1 and x4 are controller by the PCH, all four PCIe 3.0 slots, two SATA slots, and the NVMe are all controlled through the 28/40 CPU lanes. Utilizing the M.2 slot disables two of the SATA slots, as well as the last/bottom PCIe 3.0 slot. Not a huge deal, but something to be wary of.
- The integrated audio. I haven't tested it, as I have no real need to, but it'd be nice to see a cheaper version of this board without the included DAC/Amp 5.25" device. As I said before my case doesn't even have these bays, and anyone truly serious about audio should really get either a true soundcard or USB DAC (and amplifier if applicable.) It's nice to have higher end audio, but, for those already invested a cheaper option of the board wouldn't hurt.
- Another NVMe/M.2 slot would have been awesome. This board allows for two GPU's running at PCIe 3.0 x16. So, with a 40-lane CPU, you'd obviously still have eight lanes left. Which would be enough for one extra M.2 drive.
Other Thoughts: I'd definitely recommend this motherboard, but on certain conditions I suppose. If you're planning on getting a 28 lane CPU (Intel i7-5820K/i7-6800K), just get a cheaper motherboard. If you're planning on getting something like the Intel i7-6850K and this board, I'd like rather see you get a cheaper motherboard and the i7-6900K. Basically, don't compromise other parts of your build just for the looks and "fun" things this board has to offer. If you plan on running a high end system though, with multiple GPU's, NVMe drives, a few SATA drives, perhaps some obscure PCIe devices other than GPU's... I'd recommend this motherboard. It has all the features you could ask for, and the performance/built quality to match, you just will pay a lot of money for it. The system I'm using should last me quite a long time before I need to upgrade. It's definitely a "gamer marketed" board, but, with it's components and features, I'd say it's realistically the most top of the line board you can get. On a side note, because of my case officially support "264mm wide" motherboard, and this one being 272mm wide, I had to remove the backplate and side-mounted LED piece. The good news is, everything on the board still functions perfectly fine without it. Also, EKWB has released a monoblock kit, for all you watercoolers interested.
- Phanteks Evolv ATX TG
- Intel Core i7-6950X
- ASUS Rampage V Edition 10
- Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 64GB (8x8, 3,200MHz, 15-17-17-35, 1.35V)
- Intel 730 Series 480GB
- Western Digital Black 6TB
- 2x GTX NVidia 1080 Founder's Editions (SLI, obviously)
- Corsair RM1000X
- Full custom watercooling loop using EK hardware, with six LTT Edition Noctua NF-F12 fans
Pros: Over the past four or five years, I've built (in all honesty,) around 30-35 computers for various family, friends, and friends of friends. I've used all kinds of cases, all different form factors and size, but this case is easily my favorite case I've ever worked with and used. There's just something about it's style that gets me. I've even had and used similar cases, with glass side panels, but this one takes the cake for me. It's incredibly modular, without being overly or uselessly so. Between being able to custom mount watercooling pumps in various locations, or the ability to add over five hard drives, to it's multiple easy to use and good looking SSD mounts, and it's water cooling capabilities. The only way I can see myself changing cases from this one in the near future, is if they made a slightly revised version which I'll address in the other/optional segments of this review. For now, a list of my favorite positive aspects of the case.
- 3 included, quiet, 140mm fans
- Plenty of drive mounting options
- An extremely modular system, allowing you to make various types cooling layouts and system lay outs
- Excellent cooling
- Very light for it's size
- Very well built construction
- Acceptably rigid
- Massive power supply support
- Excellent LED integration
- An incredibly simple to use fan controller
- A serious visual eye magnet
- Quality dust filters in the places that matter
- The screw case was far more useful during the build process than I could ever have imagined
- The tinted sections of the glass panels hide the LED strips themselves, only showing the important parts of the PC being illuminated.
Cons: There aren't too many, especially considering I was STRONGLY pushing the boundaries of this case and it's fitment abilities. But here we go:
- The E-ATX support. Though Phanteks says this case supports E-ATX motherboards up to 264mm wide, I really wanted to use the ASUS Rampage V Edition 10 motherboard. I decided to order the case, and see what I'd have to do to make this motherboard fit. I was able to get it fit, which will be listed in the other section, but it required a small sacrifice and some thinking outside the box. I'm not upset about the fact that I willingly ordered a motherboard the manufacturer said wouldn't properly fit, but I'm more upset that they just didn't make the motherboard tray before the angle towards the front 8mm wider. Or, more favorably, the case another 8-10mm deeper.
- Case depth. If the case were just maybe 10mm deeper, or roughly 3/8" deeper than it currently is, that would allow for proper/regular E-ATX board support AND improve radiator support significantly. I managed to fit two 360x26mm radiators in the case. One on the top, one on the front. But to do so, I had to completely remove the top panel of the case (partially a good thing here, as Phanteks made it screw in, and not riveted, so it's easy to mod and take apart the case.) I also had to swap where the front fans and radiator mount to have the other radiator fit in the front of the case. But if the case was seriously just another half inch or deeper from the front to the rear, this would have been easily avoided. Same instance as before though, I knew this going in prior. I'm not mad that I purposely made more work for myself, I just wish they took the extra step to improve radiator AND motherboard compatibility, just by extending the case a small amount.
- No included LED strips
- Phanteks offers a specific 3.5" HDD mount that can mount in the bottom of the case. I needed this due to my layout, and had to purchase it separately for $10. If that were included, it would have been just one more nice amenity and little bit of value.
Other Thoughts: I love this case. So much. I've used and worked in so many cases, but this is my all time favorite as of writing this review. I did run into some problems with fitment, but I knew I'd run into them in the first place. My first issue of fitment was the motherboard. Since the ASUS Rampage V Edition 10 has a side-mounted LED piece, and a back plate (in combination with the cases 264mm wide E-ATX support and angular motherboard tray), I had to do a few things to ensure fitment of the motherboard in the case. The first was removing the motherboards backplate and side LED piece, secondly insulating just that side of the motherboard with some quality electrical tape, and third removing the rubber grommets on the side of the case.
My other big issue came with the water cooling support. The top 360x26mm radiator I first mounted, somewhat loosely, onto the moveable radiator bracket. After that, I took off the case's top panel, moved the radiator as far back as possible in the case, then tightened it down. To mount the front radiator (and have it so the air could easily escape the radiator with the inlet side up) I had to swap where the intake fans and a front mounted radiator would be. Luckily, since my radiator was only 26mm, it fits right where a fan does nicely. This allowed me to use two 360mm radiators. But, if I redid it, I'd recommend a thick 360mm radiator in the front and a 280mm radiator on the top. You will lose some 3.5" HDD bays with this method, as well as have smaller ram compatibility. The other option, would be a 360mm radiator on top, and a 280mm radiator in the front. Both would be good options.
All said and done, I'm more than happy I got this case. The only way I'll change is if phanteks makes a revised/new edition of the case where it's basically the same thing, but half-an-inch to an inch deeper from front to back, and all my problems would likely be avoidable. My system's specs are below, and I hope this helps.
- Intel i7-6950X
- 8 x 8GB Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 3,000 MHz, 15-17-17-35
- Intel 730 Series 480GB SSD
- Western Digital Black 6TB HDD
- Samsung 950 Pro M.2 SSD
- 2 x NVidia GTX 980's
- Corsair RM1000X Powersupply
- Custom watercooling loop using EKWB parts for all of the loop
- Cablemods braided cable-kit
- Cablemods wide-beam LED kit
- 6x LTT Edition Noctua NF-F12 120mm fans
Pros: Amazing little card. Very, very, VERY clear sound. With the right speakers, this card will make you smile with any song you listen to. It doesn't throw off much heat, and doesn't require much power. It has all the important inputs and outputs that you really need, like RCA and 3.5/6.5. The card itself looks very clean and beautiful. Feels better put together than most other add on cards, costing several times more.
Cons: I can't complain much. I'd love to see some updated software for Windows 7/8. Or perhaps, an easier installation method. I had to restart my PC about three times before it finally installed as it should have. But the card really made my listening experience significantly better.
Other Thoughts: I unfortunately had to get rid of this card, but not because I wanted to. The Displayport output on my motherboard had stopped working, and being that it was a Mini-ITX build, I bought a new dedicated GPU to replace the card with so I could still use my computer. If you're thinking about purchasing this card, I'd definitely recommend it, but I'd also recommend waiting. ASUS just released a teaser of a Xonar Essence II and Xonar Essence STX II. So, I'd recommend waiting to see how the second generation compares to the first. As it'll probably have better hardware and possibly better software/sound quality.
With the right equipment and sound files, this card will blow you away. I, by no means, have audiophile gear. But my gear is high-end enough to take advantage of the card. (Klipsch Icon KB-15's + Klipsch Icon SW-350, and Sennheiser HD 800 headphones.) Even if you don't use FLAC, just try and use 256/320k .mp3 files and you'll still notice a difference with the card.
A good addition to an HTPC either in place of a dedicated GPU, when using on-die CPU graphics, or in addition to a GPU.