In The Box

Back in the P67 days, if you remember the P67 Extreme4 by ASRock, for ~$160, we got a substantial haul in the box, including a front panel USB 3.0 panel and SSD holder.  No such luck for the low end here, as we have:

2 x SATA Cables
IO Panel
Driver CD
2 Slot SLI Bridge

I am a little disappointed to be honest, given ASRock’s previous tenacity when it comes to box bundling.

Board Features

ASRock X79 Extreme4-M
Size mATX
CPU Interface LGA2011
CPU Support Intel Second Generation Core i7 Sandy Bridge E
Chipset Intel X79
Base Clock Frequency 100.0 MHz
Core Voltage Default, 0.6 V to 1.7 V
CPU Clock Multiplier Auto, 12x to 60x
DRAM Voltage Auto, 1.207 V to 1.806 V
DRAM Command Rate Auto, 1N to 3N
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Quad Channel
Support for DDR3, 800-2400 MHz
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe Gen 3 x16
1 x PCIe Gen 3 x8
1 x PCI
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps, Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
4 x SATA 3 Gbps, Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
1 x SATA 6 Gbps (Controller)
Onboard 4 x SATA 3 Gbps (PCH)
3 x SATA 6 Gbps (2 PCH, 1 Controller)
6 x Fan Headers
1 x 4-pin Molex CFX/SLI Power Connector
1 x HDMI_SPDIF Header
1 x Front Panel Header
1 x Front Panel Audio Header
2 x USB 2.0 Headers
1 x USB 3.0 Header
1 x COM Header
1 x IEEE 1394a Header
Power / Reset / Clear CMOS Buttons + Debug LED
Onboard LAN Broadcom BCM57781 Gigabit LAN
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC898
7.1 Ch HD, Supports THX TruStudio
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
1 x 4-pin Molex CFX/SLI Power Connector
Fan Headers 2 x CPU Fan Header
3 x Chassis Headers
1 x SB Header (occupied)
IO Panel 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
1 x Optical S/PDIF Out Port
1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Out Port
6 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x Firewire
1 x Clear CMOS
Audio Jacks
BIOS Version 1.4
Warranty Period 2 Years

ASRock are starting to use Broadcom NICs on their products, as you will see with the Extreme4 later in this review and the Extreme9 in a later review.  As mentioned in the intro, it is nice to see a high end Realtek Audio Codec in there, even on a mATX board.  On the flip side, with the 4-pin molex CFX/SLI power connector on board in an odd position, one has to wonder whether it is really needed when other boards do not require it.

Overclocking

Over this year, I have had a number of ASRock Sandy Bridge boards through my hands.  On the whole, they tend to overclock well with one button settings, even if not able to overclock to the absolute extreme.  This is usually useful for system builders or amateur users wanting some extra bang for their buck.  But as we have already seen on the Patsburg chipset, these LGA2011 chips are hot beasts waiting to be tamed.  In order to keep everything the same, we are testing the same exact processor on the exact same cooling – the Intel All-In-One Liquid Cooler.

Initial impressions for the X79 Extreme4-M looked good, however it does suffer from various throttling modes to prevent high temperatures.  What I mean by this is that if you set the processor frequency high enough, and the cooler cannot deal with it properly (either it is not a good cooler, or clogged with dust), the system will reduce the multiplier to compensate for temperature.  This is all well and good on the majority of systems, however there was no option to turn it off in the BIOS (think extreme overclocking, or perhaps just experienced users).  So for example, if we set 4.6 GHz in BIOS, it would run at that speed in single threaded scenarios, but in multi-threaded tasks it would reduce back to 3.9 GHz.  Then, as per Intel specifications, the CPU would reduce to stock (3.3 GHz) if it was at full load for a certain time.  There seemed to be no way to turn any of these options off – the last point for 3.3 GHz is usually controlled by a timer stating how long Turbo can be engaged, but ASRock have not offered an option to disable it for ‘safety’.  Each to their own, but it really hurts anyone who overclocks the system.  The only way around this reduction to 3.3 GHz seemed to be to leave the CPU at stock frequencies, then it would only reduce to 3.6 GHz, as per Turbo core rules.  It is rather disappointing.

Nevertheless, I did go through the Auto and Manual OC tasks as usual to see what was possible.  In our Auto tests, we keep everything untouched as much as possible except the one setting.  During our manual OC of X79, we set a CPU voltage limit of 1.4 V for a balance of performance and temperature.

In Auto OC mode, the BIOS offers several options from 4.0 GHz to 5.2 GHz in 200 MHz jumps, with the final three in a red font, showing their ‘extreme’ nature.  I was able to start at 4.8 GHz; however the automatic settings on board gave the CPU 1.54 volts!  This was quite extreme, resulting in throttling almost immediately, but still reaching 83ºC in our multithreaded 3DPM test, with 3.3 GHz scores.

At 4.6 GHz, these issues still persisted, and the CPU was still receiving 1.54 volts.  However at 4.4 GHz, the system seemed stable, even if the CPU was getting 1.48 volts.  No throttling took place, until the turbo period was up and the CPU cut back to 3.3 GHz.

In terms of Manual OC, I set the board to give the CPU 1.4 volts, and rose the Core Current Limit to 500A, to stop as much throttling as possible.  Using this, I was able to reach a 47x multiplier, giving 4.7 GHz.  In the OS, the CPU was recorded as receiving 1.456 volts at load, presumably due to load line calibration.  At full multithreaded load, the CPU would reduce back to 3.9 GHz, and reach 71ºC when under 3DPM.  After the allotted turbo time, the CPU would again reduce back to 3.3 GHz.

For the memory overclock, this was a bit frustrating.  I am currently using a 4x4 GB set of GSkill RipjawsZ (DDR3-2133 9-11-9-28 1.65 V), in which I have had them running at 2752 MHz (even though at silly timings of 13-13-14, but still with 1.65 V) with Llano.  However, it seems the Integrated Memory Controller with my LGA2011 chip is not that good.  While we were able to set our XMP profiles on the memory, the next divider up was at DDR3-2400.  In order to be comparable to XMP, I reduced the timings to 10-12-10-31 2T, but after one successful boot, it failed to get into the OS after many attempts, and thus is not stable.

ASRock X79 Extreme4-M Overview and Visual Inspection ASRock X79 Extreme4 Overview and Visual Inspection
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  • LauRoman - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Considering that inserting a pcie expansion card in a x16 (x8) slot could, on old chipsets/moterboards screw around with your 2/3/4 way sli/x-fire bandwith let's not kill it just yet. Reply
  • ckryan - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link


    Intel chipsets don't have native PCI support anymore. You have to use a PCIe to PCI PLX chip on the motherboard to get the support. That means you're giving up PCIe bandwidth (probably not a big deal), but also PCI support is spotty. I have one SB board (an Intel DP67BG) that doesn't really work with any PCI soundcard (they've not been able to fix this with UEFI updates).

    But at some point you just have to decide that you're going to not use PCI anymore, and people who refuse to replace their old busted sound card or bunk networking device are holding us all back. PCI is terrible, and I'd much have a PCIe x1 slot or no slot at all.

    Wireless adapters are just as cheap in PCIe x1 as PCI, and gigabit ethernet is hamstrung by PCI as it's just not very fast. Soundcards are available from Asus and Creative in PCIe for cheap. I've got a Asus Essence STX PCIe which was more expensive, but why the hell would you buy the PCI version (which was more expensive) in 2011?
    Reply
  • sylar365 - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    My "old, busted" soundcard.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    Got something that sounds better without bloatware available in PCIe? Besides, most audio chips currently being produced and placed on PCIe sound cards still require a PLX chip in order to convert from the PCI standard to use the PCIe form factor.

    IMHO i wish they would kill PCI - AND THEN - make decent sound hardware available for PCIe slots. Admittedly there have been a couple of products in the past couple of months starting to emerge, but FFS it is time to go mainstream with some high quality PCIe sound hardware already!
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Agreed. I have a Creative X-Fi myself, wish I'd gotten the HT Omega instead but it either wasn't out yet or I wasn't that informed on sound cards at the time. PCI slots are still very much needed. I have network cards both GB ethernet and wireless that utilize the old PCI slot too. Reply
  • yk - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    What about HT | OMEGA eClaro 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express x1 Interface Sound Card? Reply
  • Siorus - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Useless. Only one socketed opamp and the surround channels look to be handled by JRC garbage (at least it's a step up from the tin-can-telephone-on-a-chip stuff that Creative dumps on people). I think one of the Asus Xonar PCI-E cards has swappable opamps for every channel but I'm not positive.

    Either way, until I can get that on a PCI-E card, I'll need to keep my PCI stuff.
    Reply
  • twoBitBasher - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    For now I'm still happy that Asrock is sticking with the PCI and the best part is that you can populate the whole board with dual slot graphics and still use the PCI! Most boards have already dumped PCI or implemented it so that if you go SLI or Xfire you are out of luck.

    Try to find decent cards with balanced 1/4" jack outputs and not go external!
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    PCI is what makes a PC. There are hundreds of thousands of different PCI products, and most of them have no reason or need to be migrated to a different form factor. Reply
  • Chubblez - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    The same thing has been said about ISA, EISA, and VLB. Where are they now? Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    They are more dated. PCI came after, and is a variant of ISA. Things are shifting, but many would argue that the slot is still needed. Besides, its cheap as hell to add one. If anything needs to die its PS2. Reply

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