MSI X299 Tomahawk Arctic Review

Written by Antony Leather

September 13, 2017 // 12 p.m.

Tags: #kaby-lake-x #lga-2066 #skylake-x #x299

Manufacturer: MSI 

UK price (as reviewed): £274.99 (inc. VAT)

US price (as reviewed): £279.99 (exc. tax)

With so many new chipsets launching this year, it's been impossible to cover everything, but while Threadripper's summer launch fades as autumn arrives, we're switching back to some Intel coverage for a change. It's a rather good looking board too, as MSI has applied its white arctic theme to one of its latest boards for the X299 chipset.

The X299 Tomahawk Arctic looks fabulous with its generous helping of white, from the PCB to the DIMM slots and I/O shroud. The contrast with the metal CPU socket and steel-clad DIMM slots and PCIe slots looks great, so if you're after an icy clean look for your build then we can't think of too many other options for Intel's high-end desktop platform at the moment.

Of course, there are plenty of other more important considerations than aesthetics and besides, as this is subjective, you may actually hate it. At £274 it's not the cheapest X299 board around and MSI's own X99A Tomahawk cost £35 less when we reviewed it a year ago, when it picked up an Exceptional Award largely due to its awesome value.

Here, though, the aesthetic force is strong, but not overdone, especially as the white lighting is fairly subtle and complements the chilly colour scheme. There's still an RGB LED header on the board should you wish to add your own lighting, and the board packs a decent array of features too if you're leaning towards Core i9 instead of Threadripper.


You get two M.2 ports, with one sporting a large heatsink that adds more white and metal to the equation, although this will be blocked from view by your graphics card. The second slot is at the base of the PCB, but it's a rather more restrained affair than some of the triple M.2 slot-wielding X399 boards we've seen recently, and we're hearing rumours of plenty of upcoming Z370 boards sporting more lavish features too. You get a decent amount of ports, though, with a U.2 port included as well as eight SATA 6Gbps ports.

Furthermore, you get a USB 3.1 Gen 2 header on the PCB as well as Type-A and Type-C ports on the rear panel for some future-proofing. Packing all this into an ATX PCB was no small feat, but we have few if any complaints here, although you could argue the U.2 port is somewhat redundant these days with M.2 having taken over almost completely in the PCIe SSD market. We'd also maybe ditch the RGB lighting header too since this board is going to be all about white lighting, but neither of these features impact negatively on the layout anyway.

We're pleased to see the full complement of overclocking and testing tools with some basic power and reset buttons at the base of the PCB and a CMOS clear button and MSI's take on USB BIOS Flashback on the I/O panel too. The board isn't lavished with fan headers, with only six to offer, but you do get MSI's heavy duty 2A/24W pump header thrown into the mix, while MSI's fan control software and section in the EFI make for an excellent way to control your PC's noise and cooling.

The rear panel is fairly well packed, and while there's no Wi-Fi, you do at least get an M.2 port for this purpose in the middle. Eight USB ports should be enough for most people too, although we can't help but lust over the packed I/O panel on the X299 Tomahawk Arctic's sister board, the X399 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, which has an extra bank of ports.

If you're gunning for a two-way GPU setup, a pair of dual-slot, air-cooled cards will leave plenty of space between them for cooling, although as you can see, this does render many of the ports, including M.2, fairly inaccessible.

Specifications

  • Chipset Intel X299
  • Form factor ATX
  • CPU support Intel Socket LGA 2066 (Skylake-X, Kaby Lake-X)
  • Memory support Quad-channel, eight slots, max 128GB
  • Sound Eight-channel Realtek ALC 1220
  • Networking 1 x Intel I219V Gigabit Ethernet
  • Ports 1 x U.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 32Gbps, 2 x M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 32Gbps (1 x PCIe/SATA 6Gbps up to 2280, 1 x PCIe/SATA 6Gbps up to 22110), 8 x SATA 6Gbps, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.1 header, 8 x USB 3.0 (4 via headers), 7 x USB 2.0 (4 via header), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244 
  • Extras N/A


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