If you like the look of AMD’s Ryzen processor, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The new Ryzen Threadripper raises the stakes across the board. It’s basically a double-barreled desktop Ryzen shotgun, with up to 16 cores and 32 threads based on the new Zen microarchitecture. The beastly processing power is balanced by more memory bandwidth via quad DDR4 channels, and it’s backed by up to a whopping 64 PCIe 3.0 lanes for multiple graphics cards and ultra-fast NVMe SSDs.
ROG has a storied history with AMD’s high-end desktop platforms; the dedicated gaming division at ASUS started more than a decade ago with the original Crosshair motherboard for Athlon 64 FX CPUs. We couldn’t let Threadripper and its accompanying X399 chipsets pass without developing a similarly muscular motherboard to mark the occasion. This is the ROG Zenith Extreme that debuted at Computex 2017:
Comprehensive cooling for liquid and air
Designed to propel high-end AMD desktops to the next level, the Zenith starts by optimizing everything around the CPU and its beefy, server-style TR4 socket. The board uses the same power solution as the Rampage VI Extreme based on Intel’s competing X299 platform for Skylake-X and friends. This incarnation adds cooling for serious overclocking with a finned VRM heatsink and fan tucked under the I/O shield. The fan only comes on when demand dictates, making it stealthy for day-to-day use.
Cooling improvements extend to liquid loops with a special header capable of monitoring leaks, flow rates, and temperatures in compatible water blocks. You also get standard headers for off-the-shelf pumps, flow meters, and all-in-one water coolers. These are complemented by a comprehensive assortment of fan headers and accompanying enhancements, like auto-detection for 3-pin DC and 4-pin PWM fans, and calibration routines that tune RPM curves based on the individual properties of each one.
The proverbial “Cool and Quiet” mantra got its start with the old Athlon 64, and we’ve really taken the theme to heart. Our motherboard fan controls constantly evolve to give you smarter cooling with quieter acoustics. Recent additions include adjustable hysteresis, which controls how quickly or slowly fans react to brief bursts in activity; and grouping, which lets you bind multiple temperature sensors to a single fan so it can react intelligently to a wide range of workloads. The addition of GPU temperature sensing for compatible graphics cards lets you tailor your cooling specifically for gaming loads that heat up the GPU more than any other component. This capability is especially important considering the Zenith Extreme can hold up to four graphics cards in its structurally reinforced SafeSlots.
The new breed of insanely quick M.2-based NVMe SSDs can overheat when they’re pushed to the limit for sustained periods, which is the last time you want to suffer slowdowns. To help maintain performance under pressure, the Zenith applies cooling to storage as well. Drives in the onboard slot are covered by the substantial chipset heatsink. Two more slots are available in an included DIMM.2 card that stands up drives next to the memory slots. This placement puts SSDs in the path of typical chassis airflow, and the module has mounts for fans up to 60 mm if you want direct cooling.
Take Threadripper to the edge and beyond
Overclocking at the highest levels requires sub-zero cooling with exotic substances. Free pouring liquid nitrogen as smoke billows may not be practical for everyday desktops, but it helps us learn the limitations of the platform and how to get the most out of it. The Zenith Extreme is equipped with several enhancements for life on the ragged edge, including special operating modes for LN2 and multimeter probing points for voltage monitoring. We’ve already used the board to push the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X to 5.37GHz across all 16 cores and 32 threads. That config was stable enough to generate an impressive Cinebench R15 score of 4514. As of August 10, the Zenith Extreme has claimed the top spot on the Threadripper leaderboards with Hardware First Place (HFP) scores across seven benchmarks and a Global First Place (GFP) in GPUPI for CPU -1B. All the scores are listed below along with links to the official submissions.
There are still plenty of options if your overclocking tastes are more conventional. With a single click, its 5-Way Optimization software automatically overclocks the CPU and tunes the cooling based on the unique characteristics of your individual setup. In internal testing with liquid cooling, the auto-tuner successfully cranked a 1950X up to 3.925GHz for all cores, a substantial increase over the 3.4GHz default. Manual tuning coaxed another 100MHz from the chip, pushing the peak clock to 4.125GHz. These results highlight just how good our automated overclocking intelligence is at getting close to the limits of a chip.
Premium upgrades all around
Threadripper’s Moar Bandwidth philosophy extends to the Zenith Extreme’s networking, which is highlighted by integrated Wi-Fi based on the latest 802.11ad standard. For even faster speeds, we include a 10G Ethernet card that pushes throughput an order of magnitude higher than typical Gigabit. The 10G card also supports intermediate 2.5G and 5G standards, so you can step up to faster wired networking gradually.
Customization is one of the best things about building a PC. Thanks to RGB lighting, you can pick any colors you want along with effects that range from tastefully discreet to practically obscene. Our Aura Sync lighting synchronizes an ecosystem of components to harmonize illumination across an entire PC, both inside and out. In the Zenith Extreme, it manifests in diffused LED slashes across the I/O shield and PCH heatsink. We turn off the usual LEDs on the DIMM.2 module to preserve the concentrated illumination our designers desired. A bit of restraint goes a long way in the RGB world.
If you want to light up the inside of your chassis or add glowing ground effects below it, the Zenith Extreme has dual headers for off-the-shelf RGB strips. Like with our new ROG X299 motherboards, you also get a separate header for addressable strips that offer individual control over each LED along the line. Addressable strips open the door to advanced lighting control, and developers will be able to fully harness them with an update to our new Aura SDK. We’re also working with Bitfenix, Cooler Master, Thermaltake, In Win, Phanteks, and CableMod to integrate addressable LEDs into their products, some of which are on display at Computex in Taipei.
The Zenith Extreme enables further personalization through an integrated OLED that can play small animated GIFs, display static text and graphics, and monitor system variables like temperatures and clock speeds. The subtle addition provides one more way to make your build unique and keep an eye on your hardware.
Upgraded audio is a staple of the ROG family; for all but the most ardent audiophiles, our integrated SupremeFX solution is good enough to replace a separate sound card. This latest iteration is based on the S1220 codec, and we’ve specifically focused on improving recording quality to make sure streamers can broadcast crisp, clear sound to their audiences. On top of that, the Zenith Extreme adds enhancements for VR by allowing you to inject our HRTF-based surround emulation effects into audio streams for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
My favorite part of the audio is admittedly a guilty pleasure: color-coded backlighting inside the rear audio jacks. It’s a small detail inherited from a high-end ASUS Xonar sound card, but one that makes plugging in devices much easier in a dimly lit LAN party or the shadows beneath a desk. The integrated I/O shield is another thoughtful touch; you’ll never forget to add it when assembling a system.
ROG rises to the occasion
AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper is a lot of CPU, and the ROG Zenith Extreme brings a lot of motherboard to match. Check out the official product page for more details, and read more about the Extreme and our other Threadripper offerings in the X399 motherboard guide at ASUS Edge Up.
The ROG Zenith Extreme is available now for $549.99 USD and $689.99 CAD. Find it at the retailers listed below, and check with your local ASUS ROG representative for pricing and availability details in other regions.