Asrock’s $349.99 X570 Phantom Gaming X is a high-end ATX motherboard that’s set to duke it out with other elite-grade AMD X570-chipset boards. Equipped with robust cooling for the board’s built-in hardware and power-delivery components, plus a whole plethora of high-end features, this AMD AM4 board has a lot to offer if you’re serious about trying to squeeze every electron of performance out of your new third-generation Ryzen CPU. Third-gen Ryzen’s relative lack of overclocking headroom notwithstanding, this board provides plenty of other long-haul features that make it appealing to tweakers: dedicated hardware overclocking controls, good in-Windows software controls, mostly tasteful RGB lighting, and even support for Wi-Fi 6 via the Intel chipset of the moment.
Aesthetics & Cooling
Asrock’s X570 Phantom Gaming X motherboard uses an almost entirely black PCB. The board would look rather bland by itself, but most of the PCB surface is covered by super-substantial heatsinks and a rear I/O shroud. The heatsinks themselves have multiple dark shades on them, as well as streaks of red and prominent portions of steel. This weighty thermal hardware gives the board an appealing aesthetic, in addition to improving the cooling efficiency.
To further improve thermal efficiency, Asrock connected the two heatsinks that sit over the board’s 14 power phases with a fluid-filled heatpipe. It also designed the heatsink over the chipset and M.2 slots as one massive unit, instead of the more typical multiple individual ones. (You can see it removed in the image below, the pale-blue thermal pads showing for the three M.2 slots.)
This heatsink design presents an upgrader’s hurdle, though, in that you can’t access the M.2 slots if you have any PCI Express cards installed. The heatsink over these slots is easy enough to remove once you can get to it, though, and this doesn’t present a serious problem. I suspect most folks, even the power users this board targets, will install M.2 drives just once or twice in a board’s lifetime.
Other cooling features on this board include a large metal backplate. This metal mass aids in keeping the back of the board temperate and, just as important, makes the PCB more rigid. Asrock also indicates that the fan over the AMD X570 chipset uses EBR bearings that last significantly longer and provide considerably higher airflow than other fans.
Now, presumably the “other fans” referenced here refer to the standard ones recommended by AMD for the X570 chipset. (The new chipset runs at a higher wattage than earlier designs and requires active cooling.) Although it’s impossible to quantify how much, if any, benefit will come from the increased airflow to the chipset, the increased fan lifespan might actually prove beneficial if you intend to use this board long-term. Whatever the case down the road, the better-rated fan befits a board at this price.
Supplying power to the motherboard will activate RGB LEDs located on the rear I/O shroud, the X570 chipset heatsink (shown glowing purple here), and along the right edge of the board…
These lights will no doubt please fans of RGB LED bling, but I personally can’t decide if I like the board better with the lights on or off. It looks attractive either way, but the lights make the board look a bit too busy for my taste.
Features & Specs
Naturally, the star of the show with any X570 motherboard is the AMD X570 chipset itself, which brings with it a bunch of attractive features, including future-looking, newly emerged support for PCI Express 4.0. (For the moment, that is mostly of interest to potential installers of one of the few initial PCI Express 4.0 M.2 SSDs.) Taking advantage of these features, Asrock equipped its X570 Phantom Gaming X with three M.2 slots that use four PCI Express 4.0 lanes each to enable a maximum of 64GBps of bandwidth for each slot. (These slots fall back to PCIe 3.0 with more ordinary SSDs.) The board also has a plethora of USB ports and excellent networking support.
For starters, you get eight physical USB ports, along with four headers mixed among Type-C USB, USB 3, and USB 2.0. On the expansion-slots front, you get three PCI Express x16 slots (one at full bandwidth, one electrically x8, and one electrically x4), along with a pair of PCIe x1 slots. As for the RAM, the board is equipped with four DDR4 slots that support memory speeds up to 4,666MHz. I also appreciated the HDMI port on the I/O panel, letting you use the on-chip graphics from an AMD A-series APU or a Ryzen G chip in a pinch. Many high-end boards these days omit ports for on-CPU graphics, assuming you’ll install a graphics card.
The X570 Phantom Gaming X also features a well-rounded set of hardware-implemented overclocking and troubleshooting extras, fitting for its target audience. The board has an LED debugging panel mounted at the bottom edge of the board to display error codes. Directly beside this are physical power and reset buttons for using the system on a bench mount or without hooking up power-button cabling. A short hop away is a clear CMOS button, which is useful for recovering from a bad overclock. This board also features a one-button flashing utility; you can update the BIOS by simply inserting a flash drive with the latest version into a USB port on the rear I/O panel, then pressing a button on the back panel.
In addition to the robust 14 power phases that surround the CPU, Asrock also equipped this board with a Dr. MOS controller designed to optimize power regulation, with the aim of improving stability and processor performance. (For more on motherboard nitty-gritty terminology, see our motherboard lingo dejargonizer.)
The audio solution implemented on this board consists of a Realtek ALC1220 audio codec with Nichicon Fine Gold series audio caps and an NE5532 headset amp. This configuration is high-end by today’s big-picture motherboard standards and fitting for a board in this price range. That said, it’s not particularly noteworthy, as essentially all high-end motherboards use a similar design nowadays.
Building Out With Phantom X
Building a system around this board for testing purposes went smoothly enough; I encountered just one stumble near the end of the setup process.
This board features a single header for a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, but it’s poorly placed. Any graphics cards that run the length of the board will block access to this port—and the folks that buy this board are also the folks likely to buy big, high-end video cards.
Vice versa, any cables plugged into the port will prevent you from installing a long graphics card. PCB space is precious, sure, but this port needs to be somewhere else, or even nudged just 5mm up or down to avoid this issue. Alas, it lines up “perfectly” with the primary PCI Express slot.
Beyond the board’s main on-PCB features, a short note about some included extras. In a nice touch, Asrock bundles a half-decent screwdriver with this board. Sure, you can pick up a basic screwdriver set for a buck, but it underscores the premium nature of the board.
Also included is a Wi-Fi antenna for the Intel 802.11ax wireless controller. At the moment, Wi-Fi 6 is nascent, with a few compliant routers on the ground and final Wi-Fi 6 certification just emerging as we wrote this. But this board will be ready for the future, even if most serious gamers will rely on the onboard Ethernet before any wireless solution. The board makes use of Intel’s AX200 network adapter, which is on the initial list of Wi-Fi 6-certified networking solutions. (See our guide, Should You Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6?)
A Brief Look at the BIOS
After booting to the BIOS, you will be met by a bare main page that is primarily a placeholder. I’d have liked to see more system information here. Another idea would be to take the short Tool section, which I will cover below, and move it to the main page. You’ll find yourself always looking beyond this page.
Jumping over to the OC Tweaker section, you will have access to a wide range of overclocking features…
This page has everything most overclockers will want access to, but if you do want additional options you can find several more overclocking-related menus under the Advanced menu, including some AMD-specific Precision Boost Overdrive controls that let you manipulate that in-BIOS.
Next up is a Tool section with four useful utilities. The first of these governs the board RGB LEDs and allows you to set the lighting pattern. The next two tools are essentially the same, letting you overwrite an SSD to permanently remove any trace of data. These are helpful extras if you’re recycling or handing off a small-capacity SSD with sensitive information on it. The last of these utilities is a simple tool to update the BIOS using an image saved on a USB flash drive.
The rest of the BIOS is standard stuff. The H/W Monitor page provides the usual stats and controls for connected fans, and the Boot options don’t warrant much discussion.
Software & Drivers
After installing a fresh copy of Windows 10, I manually installed all drivers and utilities for this motherboard. This proceeded more or less without issue. I had to push some updates to Windows 10 to get the audio driver to install properly, though.
Asrock includes five utilities with this motherboard. None of them is strictly mandatory to install, but most have useful aspects. The only one I’d avoid outright is the 60-day trial of Norton Security, unless you’re fixed on subscribing.
Of the other utilities, the most basic is labelled as “Restart to UEFI.” It does exactly what the name says. This may be useful if you are overclocking and making constant trips back to the BIOS for tweaks, and don’t want to linger over your keyboard, jamming your shortcut key just in time to trigger the BIOS at POST.
Another utility, App Shop, is a platform that you can use to buy new software for your system. That aspect doesn’t thrill, but it also works to keep your motherboard’s drivers updated, which makes it useful enough to install.
Next is Asrock’s Polychrome RGB-control software, which lets you tweak the various LEDs on the board and that of any Polychrome-compliant hardware connected to the system. It’s similar to Asus’ Aura Sync and MSI’s Mystic Light RGB-manipulation schemes. You’ll probably want that.
Last but not least is Asrock’s motherboard utility, which appears as Phantom Gaming Tuning after it is installed…
This software has a wide range of controls for overclocking your system from within Windows, as well as for controlling your system fans. Essentially, this gives it similar controls and functions as the BIOS. In my experience, I’d recommend making these types of changes from within the BIOS itself, but it could prove useful for checking on the system’s operating conditions and testing minor, incremental changes before applying them to the BIOS.
The Complete Sweet-Spot X570?
It may sound cynical, but when you write reviews for a living (especially reviews of the same kind of product over and over), you sometimes hope to find something awry so you have something to write about with gusto. Products that have clear flaws are often easier to write about than products that dodge all the design bullets and do what they’re supposed to.
The X570 Phantom Gaming X—too bad for me, and good for Asrock—falls much closer to the latter kind than the former. Sure, I can quibble about that poorly placed USB Type-C header, and that the all-in-one heatsink over the M.2 slots is a little inconvenient (the one time I’ll ever mess with it), but I can’t find much else amiss on this board. Of course, one could argue, given that it’s more than $300, any motherboard worth those bucks should have very few things that leave you wanting.
Some may grouse that this board lacks an easy mode in the BIOS, but look at it in this light: This is an enthusiast-grade overclocking motherboard. An easy mode is all well and good, but anyone who doesn’t drool over the idea of poking around a BIOS and experimenting with settings shouldn’t be shelling out for a board of this grade. I might also argue why this board commands a $349.99 MSRP, but versus other elite-level X570 boards on the market at the moment, it’s competitive at that price point. (Mind you, Asrock defines a whole other level of elite with its true X570 flagship, the limited-run, $1,000 Asrock X570 Aqua.)
All things considered, Asrock’s X570 Phantom Gaming X has loads to offer dedicated tweakers, with a wide range of features and excellent overclocking controls. How much extra juice you can actually squeeze out of the third-generation Ryzens is a whole other matter, and whether it’s a good value even to try is an argument for a whole other day. But if you want to give it your all, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better-outfitted board as the key component in your core-stretching toolkit.