In our series of X79 reviews, the next boards to face scrutiny are a pair of ASRock boards – the X79 Extreme4-M, one of the first mATX solutions to X79, and the X79 Extreme4, a full size ATX model.  The main interesting point to consider starts with whether the power consumption and heat generation are applicable to the Sandy Bridge-E platform in a mATX format.  With the socket and quad channel memory taking up serious PCB real estate, it is interesting to see how ASRock have tackled heat dissipation issues.  We also compare the Extreme4-M to the Extreme4, its bigger brother.  Both boards offer amazing value in X79 land, coming in at a recommended retail of $224.99 and $234.99 respectively. 

In terms of the initial ASRock release into the world of X79, we are promised five boards ranging from the value X79 Extreme3, the mATX Extreme4-M, to the premium Extreme9.  ASRock have never made an ‘Extreme9’ board before – perhaps they are looking at Gigabyte’s UD9 advertising and wanting some of that.  The other aspect is that typical high end ASRock boards (barring the Fatal1ty editions) are usually priced in the mid range area of other SKU lists, with performance and utilities to match.

A simple comparison between the boards gives us the following:

ASRock X79 Series
  Extreme3 Extreme4-M Extreme4 Extreme7 Extreme9
Release Date Dec 2011 Nov 2011 Nov 2011 Soon Nov 2011
Price $216 $225 $235 $294 $355
Size ATX Micro ATX ATX ATX ATX
Power Phase 5+1 6+2 6+2 12+2 16+2
Memory 4 x DDR3 4 x DDR3 4 x DDR3 6 x DDR3 8 x DDR3
PCIe x16/x16/x8 x16/x8/x16 x16/x16/x8 x8/x8/x8/x8/x8
x16/-/x16/-/x8
x8/x8/x8/x8/x8
x16/-/x16/-/x8
CrossfireX 2x, 3x, 4x 2x, 4x 2x, 3x, 4x 2x, 3x, 4x 2x, 3x, 4x
SLI 2x, 3x, 4x 2x, 4x 2x, 3x, 4x 2x, 3x, 4x 2x, 3x, 4x
Audio ALC 898 ALC 898 ALC 898 ALC 898 Creative Sound
Core3D
LAN Single Single Single Dual Dual
SATA 6 Gbps 3 4 5 7 8
USB 3.0 4 4 4 6 8
USB 2.0 12 10 12 12 12
XFast Software Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Digital PWM Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dr. Debug - Yes Yes Yes Yes

There are some interesting points to make from this table.  For a start, the prices of the entry level boards start to resemble something for the mild enthusiast, especially when considering the cheaper processor SKUs due to ship in Q1 2012.  Each of the boards as we go up the scale seems to offer more in the way of features, especially when considering NICs, SATA 6 Gbps ports, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 – even the Audio jumps from a Realtek ALC898 to a Creative solution on the Extreme9.

One thing that may seem a little odd is the X79 Extreme7, and its DDR3 solution.  X79 and Sandy Bridge-E supports quad channel memory, either in terms of one DIMM per channel or two DIMMs per channel, and thus boards would expect to have 4 DIMM slots or 8.  The X79 Extreme7 has six DIMM slots for memory, so I had to ask ASRock for an explanation of the layout and the reasoning.  Essentially, they wanted to make a board for people who are jumping from X58 to X79, who were using six sticks of good tri-channel memory.  The layout is such that two channels are one DIMM per channel, and the other two channels are two DIMMs per channel.  ASRock assures me there are no compatibility or speed issues.

All the boards are sporting black aesthetics, which is a somewhat detour to ASRock’s blue and white philosophy of old.  As expected, all the boards will receive the range of software including XFast USB, XFast LAN, and the new XFast RAM, some of which we have seen before. 

So without further ado, let us get cracking onto the specifics behind the X79 Extreme4-M and X79 Extreme4.

ASRock X79 Extreme4-M Overview and Visual Inspection
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  • prophet001 - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    b/c this is perfect grammar

    "Also, whats with fascination with older video "
    Reply
  • mischlep - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Minor typo on recommendations page:

    (e.g. currently $219 at time of writing, saving £6) Should be "saving $6".
    Reply
  • zanon - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Interesting review overall. A few comments:
    Page 6:
    You still refer to setup stuff as "BIOS" even though it's clearly (I hope?) UEFI nowadays. Any particular reason for this? Or is it actually still BIOS for real despite clearly saying UEFI on that screen. It's confusing that you use both if you only mean one.

    Also on page 6: "With the XFast RAM software, users can shift certain parts of the OS to the RAMdisk, such as the memory pagefile"

    What. The entire *point* of a pagefile is that all your physical memory is used up and you're now hitting secondary storage. Reducing your main memory in order to make a RAMdisk that you then...use for memory? Nope nope nope.
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I don't understand why you'd want the pagefile in RAM instead of just using the RAM. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    What he said. Some programs require a pagefile. Allocated memory and a pagefile are not the same. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Also, a pagefile can be dumped/saved on shut down. RAM is cleared. Reply
  • Aisalem - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Some of the software will not work properly or will simply crash in some situation if you will have no pagefile enabled. That's why having RAMdisk is very good idea as even if you will have 32GB RAM you still need at least 300MB pagefile on the system to be sure that all software will run proper. Using XFast RAM you simply "cheating" system by creating special partition with only pagefile on it making sure that system is running stable. Reply
  • zanon - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Um, no. Windows doesn't have that crappy a VM system, nor does any other modern OS. While some applications may check for the presence of a pagefile if the authors that wrote them were brain dead morons (you should search for other applications in that case), the OS isn't going to start paging anything out of main memory while there is still free or inactive memory available. It'll only start hitting the VM when main memory is consumed. Leave it to the OS. If you want things to go faster once you exceed your maximum physical main memory, get an SSD. Get an SSD anyway, actually. Reply
  • Wardrop - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Actually, at work I regularly used up all 8GB of my RAM while running VM's and multi-tasking. When that happened, some programs would spontaneously crash and disappear. Re-enabling the page file (only a small 512MB page file) fixed the problem. This was on Windows 7 x64 by the way. I use to always turn off my page file, but now I always keep a small page file enabled for that reason. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    You and Spivonious are so obviously not researched on the matter of using a ramdisk. I suggest you study up before posting, you look like a fool. Reply

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