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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  • unixfg - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    Maybe you could explain why you think they're wrong rather than just calling them names. They seem to be pretty much right-on regarding the point of having swap/pagefile on disk. Reply
  • twoBitBasher - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    You guys surely must have got more modern drives lying around, especially when Anand is constantly reviewing the bleeding edge!

    I would have liked to see what this board can do. It is for enthusiasts after all, isn't it?
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Benchmark platforms can't change rapidly. When they do you can no longer compare new scores to old. As a result the parts not being compared typically don't get swapped out until obsolete. Reply
  • Thrawn7 - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    I don't consider the thermal throttle to be a bad thing at all. Throttling at 80c+ temperatures is good behaviour. Its a better guarantee for stability when you either have a cooling failure or are too lazy to have good cooling in the first place.

    Clearly these Sandy-E is the hottest overclocking chips ever from Intel.

    Basically, to overclock to the typical 4.7 Ghz range the Intel liquid cooling solution is insufficient. Not that surprising given the performance of that is probably about the same as a mid-range $40 120mm heatsink soluiton.

    To do a decent overclock you'll need a H100 or Noctua D14 at fairly high rpms or better still a real watercool loop.
    Reply
  • etamin - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    I was very impressed with the new ASRock color scheme and heatsink design....until the gratuitous use of "X" labeling distracted me. What a shame. (no need to read review now, it's too ugly to consider buying) Reply
  • karma77police - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    ASRock released BIOS update few days ago for Extreme4 version 1.60 and for Extreme4M version 1.50, which let's you overclock CPU 4.6Ghz for example with very low voltage. They updated C-2 Microcode etc. I am running i7 i3930k on ASRock Extreme 4 with < 1.36V. Temperature does not exceed 60C in Load. I always say reviews are so misleading when it comes to decide what purchase to make. Reply
  • karma77police - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    4.5Ghz with < 1.36V Reply
  • EJ257 - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    The chart say 6xDDR3 slots. Is that a typo or is that actually how it's setup? Reply
  • etamin - Sunday, December 11, 2011 - link

    Yeah, that's strange for X79. But it is 6. There is also a photo of it on the ASRock site. Reply
  • Ryomitomo - Monday, December 12, 2011 - link

    Asus also released USB Boost, which is similar to Asrock USB XFast. I'd like to see USB Boost vs USB XFast in future reviews. Reply

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