ASRock X79 Extreme4-M and X79 Extreme4 Review – Sandy Bridge-E meets mATXby Ian Cutress on December 9, 2011 12:00 PM EST
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
2 Slot SLI Bridge
I am a little disappointed to be honest, given ASRock’s previous tenacity when it comes to box bundling.
|ASRock X79 Extreme4-M|
|CPU Support||Intel Second Generation Core i7 Sandy Bridge E|
|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|
Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Quad Channel
Support for DDR3, 800-2400 MHz
2 x PCIe Gen 3 x16
1 x PCIe Gen 3 x8
1 x PCI
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)
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|
7.1 Ch HD, Supports THX TruStudio
1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
1 x 4-pin Molex CFX/SLI Power Connector
2 x CPU Fan Header
3 x Chassis Headers
1 x SB Header (occupied)
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
|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.
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.