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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  • DanNeely - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    A lot more of them do have reasons to be migrated than you'd think. Even 5 years ago I started seeing L shaped cards at the low end ( a tiny strip of PCB along the bracked, and a second for the PCI plug); chopping the 2nd half of the L cuts manufacturing costs by an amount that more than pays for the engineering over larger production runs.

    Devices that need larger PCBs but which have minimal bandwidth needs are an ever shrinking segment of the market. Even when total bandwidth isn't an issue the fact that PCIe bandwidth is dedicated instead of being shared means you no longer need to put as much hardware into buffering to avoid latency bursts when something else is using the bus more heavily.

    Finally, once legacy PCI starts disappearing on a non-trivial fraction of boards total collapse from mainstream devices is inevitable. Once supporting PCIe becomes mandatory it's only a matter of time until redesigning the core chip on the card to be native PCIe instead of PCI and using a PCI-PCIe bridge chip becomes the cheaper option (probably with the next scheduled redesign). While they might initially maintain back compatability with a bridge chip going the other direction; however being doublely niche parts AGP gfx cards from 3 or 4 generations ago is probably a good comparison example. nVidia didn't make any at all, and the handful of ATI 3xxx/4xxx cards went at significant price premiums.

    Eventually it'll end up like ISA; if you're willing to pay a large enough price premium (eg because the industrial/lab equiptment you're controlling costs thousands or millions of dollars to replace) there will be a handful of companies willing to sell you semi-custom boards at a large price premium and technology lag. The last time I looked I couldn't find ISA on anything newer than LGA775, until after intel finally pulls the plug on the last 775. That probably won't be for a while; if you look at their CPU database intel hasn't discontinued its embedded p4's yet, and probably won't file a while. IIRC they typically have contractual agreements to keep embedded parts in stock for a decade.
    Reply
  • darckhart - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    nope. still useful for pci graphics cards for troubleshooting video probs. Reply
  • Blibbax - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    The differences in load power consumption might just demonstrate the margin of error on that test. Worth keeping in mind for other comparisons.

    The other possibilities are that the 5850s use a lot more power when they're a little bit hotter, and that the power circuitry on the M-ATX board is just awful under high load.
    Reply
  • Concillian - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    I was reading through the article and thought I had hit back instead of forward since I had read the page I was reading before.

    After finding all my marbles, I noticed that the article has two sets of Page 2 & 3. page order is 1, 2, 3, 2, 3, 4, 5...
    Reply
  • hal74 - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    I am always disappointed to find an article written by Ian. I know that I'll get an article written by someone who fails at plural vs singular when talking about a company and who doesn't come up with interesting comparison charts. Ian chose to throw in an E350 into the mix and didn't even add any comparisons with an x58, or any other core i7. Also, whats with fascination with older video cards in SLI?

    Is this seriously what people want in an article from Anandtech?
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Usually, I'll let grammar mistakes slide, but when I find multiple mistakes on a single page it really starts distracting me from the material.

    Can we get editors for the articles written by non-native English speakers?
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    And "tenacity" is used incorrectly.

    "...given ASRock’s previous tenacity when it comes to box bundling."

    Does this make sense?

    "...given ASRock's previous stubbornness when it comes to box bundling."
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Yes. It does. Maybe your reading comprehension is lacking. The sentence means that ASRock will not budge when it comes to box bundling.

    Can we get some editors for the comments written by non-literate English readers?
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    "3.2 GiB limit of 32-bit"

    *scratches head*

    I thought 2^32-1 was 4GiB...
    Reply
  • Aisalem - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    using 32-bit you are able to address 4GB but unfortunately you will not be able to use whole 4GB in most of the 32-bit Windows installations, that also depend on the additional hardware you have.
    Now you shouldn't *scratches head*.
    Reply

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