MSI X299 Tomahawk Arctic Intel Motherboard Review: Page 4 of 9
Posted by Damon Bailey on Wednesday, September 6, 2017 - 8:00am
A Closer Look
If you like light colored builds, MSI’s X299 Tomahawk Arctic is love at first sight. The entire PCB, all heatsinks, and PCIe and ram slots are all white, with most of the above have either steel armor on them or metallic accents that give this board a rather aggressive look.
The rear of the board is entirely white and only broken by the silver plate that reinforces the LGA 2066 socket on the front.
As with nearly all ATX sized X299 boards on the market, the top half is pretty well dominated by the socket and accompanying ram slots. The CMOS battery sits just below the socket, and the CPU VRM segment hides under the top white heatsink.
The lower half is mostly PCIe slots and the chipset, but most of the various headers and ports are scattered around the edge here. The heatsink with the MSI logo here hides one of two M.2 sockets, with the second visible just above the lowest PCIe x16 slot.
External I/O on the rear is somewhat light, comprised of four USB 3.0 ports, three USB 2.0 ports, and a pair of USB 3.1 gen 2 10gbps ports. A single Intel powered Gigabit LAN port can be found here, next to the 8 channel audio ports and optical audio output. A single PS/2 keyboard/mouse port sits next to two buttons, one for clearing the CMOS without opening the case, and the very handy USB BIOS Flashback+ button. I love this feature on a motherboard, if you ever end up with a new generation CPU that the board doesn’t support, you can flash the bios with the push of the button without booting, or even installing CPU and ram. Finally, a single vertical M.2 port (E Key) is hiding in the middle for installing one of MSI’s Wifi kits down the road should you need it.
The heart of your build is installed in the large LGA 2066 socket on the top half of the board. Mounting specifications haven’t changed from the older X99 powered LGA 2011 socket, so your favorite air or liquid cooler will work fine here as well.
Both banks of memory sockets are armored with steel. According to MSI, “Steel Armor protects your memory and memory slots from both physical damage and electrical overcurrent by adding extra ground points. But it also ensures a clean data signal for your memory by shielding it from electromagnetic interference (EMI), for a smooth gaming experience.”
MSI also applies the Steel Armor to the main PCIe x16 slots as well. Not only does it shield the signals for maximum performance, but you don’t have to worry about physical damage from large and heavy graphics cards. Ripping the PCIe x16 slot off the motherboard is the worst nightmare a gamer can imagine.
If you were wondering what that little bit of blue was in the picture above, It’s only a protective film over the M.2 slot’s thermal pad. Not only does this system cool your M.2 NVMe SSD, but it also protects it from damage as well under the large heatsink.
Internal connectivity starts with the lower rear corner where the front panel audio header lives. Moving forward from there, we get an RGB lighting header, three 4-pin fan plugs, a TPM module header, a handy physical power and reset button for those bench top sessions, and your front panel I/O connections.
Forward of that, we find two USB 2.0 headers, a Thunderbolt controller plug, the VROC hardware key connector, and two SATA ports. There is also a small switch just above the VRAID1 connector to allow you to swap back and forth between two physical BIOS chips.
Going up the front edge of the board, there is a Turbo U.2 port for enterprise type SSD’s, 6 more SATA 6Gbps ports, a USB 3.0 header, a new USB 3.1 gen 2 type header. Another USB 3.0 header, and finally the main 24 pin power connection.
If we zoom into the top front corner, we see the 2-digit display that not only does POST codes, but also can display CPU temp. Also found here is the EZ Debug LED. Three LEDs show you any issues with either the CPU, RAM, or Graphics systems, as well as a LED to indicate successful boot. Next to these is a dual color LED that quickly shows you if you have a dual channel Kaby Lake-X CPU installed or a quad channel capable Sky Lake-X CPU.
Once installed on the test bench and up and running, we find that each DIMM slot has a white LED to indicate that slot is working, as well as , red LED for each connected fan. Here we also see the red LED lit indicating we have a Sky Lake-X CPU installed. I really like all the LEDs for everything, if you ever had an issue with anything on or connected to the board, it would be a breeze to troubleshoot.