By now ASRock is a familiar household name for many enthusiasts, noted by generally decent product quality, budget-friendliness, and tendency to equip with innovative, if not interesting, features.  Of course this did not happen overnight, and in the past ASRock's offerings were rather known for experimental features that were rarely seen on other vendors’ products. Boards like 4CoreDual-SATA2/VSTA are prime examples of such endeavors, and these products enjoyed enormous popularity among forum enthusiasts.   Over time, ASRock’s efforts have expanded to cover wider market segments and lately much of the focus has shifted toward high-end offerings on various fronts.  Products like the X58 SuperComputer and X58 Extreme series are a testament of ASRock’s determination to reach the high echelon motherboard market.

With this short background today we’re taking a look at ASRock’s latest and ongoing attempt to tackle the high-end motherboard market: ASRock 890FX Deluxe 4.   In the past ASRock’s portfolio on the AMD platform pretty much remained in budget and mid-range sectors, largely based on IGP-based products.  ASRock attempts to rectify the situation with the 890FX Deluxe 4, a product squarely aimed at AMD enthusiasts and power users.   They even try to one-up the big players by giving more features, while maintaining a reputation of wallet-friendliness.   Whether (or to what extent) ASRock succeed, is what we’re going to find out today.    We are also going to take this opportunity for a short brush up of AMD’s Leo platform and a quick inquiry into Thuban’s performance relative IMC scaling.

Full Frontal - ASRock 890FX Deluxe 4

 

Board Summary and User Experience

 

Though It’s not apparent by looking at the the board’s PCB, from the board packaging we see ASRock is taking a page from ASUS and Gigabyte’s marketing manual and proudly boasting “True 3-3-3” design.  We are being hit heavy by this 3-3-3 slogan these days but it doesn’t mean we can always guess correctly what those 3s are, because they tend to differ per vendor.  In ASRocks dictionary, they apparently refer to USB 3.0, SATA 3, and eSATA 3.  The board itself looks quite similar to X58 Extreme 3, with nearly identical layout and color scheme.   There is no glaring fault in its layout other than the oddly-positioned auxiliary SATA ports at the bottom left corner (more on this later), and the nicely aligned all-solid caps leave the impression the board design was well-planned.  

The board’s cooling is provided by two massive heatsinks covering mosfets and the north bridge.  The two heatsinks are connected via a heatpipe and additional cooling is provided in the form of an optional 50mm x 10mm fan, which can be swapped with the aluminum plate that covers the mosfet heatsink.   It is a rare sight to see a fan on a motherboard these days, but our experience with the fan was surprisingly pleasant.  It keeps the heatsinks cool without making obnoxious noise typical of a fan of this caliber.  The expansion slots are logically placed and overall we think ASRock did a fine job at designing the layout, both in form and in function. (Again, except for the auxiliary SATA ports) 

The Deluxe 4’s performance was in line with ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 board we have recently reviewed, which was expected to a degree.   With memory controller residing in CPU die, there just aren’t many areas where individual board makers can distinguish themselves on performance front.   Nevertheless, we found the Deluxe 4 somewhat lacking compared to ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 in HTT overclocking and memory overclocking when mated with a Thuban CPU.  While those may not matter much for majority of users, extreme overclockers and those who want to tweak the system to the heart’s content might not look too kindly upon these limits. 

The maximum attainable HTT using a 1090T CPU and 8GB of memory was 316 HTT with memory set to DDR3-1684/7-8-7-2T via the 3:8 divider, but the board refused to go into S3 sleep at this configuration.   Another caveat we noticed was the board’s strange “HTT Hole” right around 300 HTT, which is a rare phenomenon on the AMD platform.  The board would boot to up to 292 HTT normally, but it took multiple attempts to boot beyond that, eventually failing to boot at 300 HTT despite our best attempts.  The Deluxe 4 would then slowly regain confidence around 305 HTT, finally reaching its maximum 316 HTT.  The maximum HTT up to which S3 resume functioned normally was 290 HTT.  Memory overclocking was decent but not the best we have seen, the board preferring a 3:10 divider ratio over the 1:4 (3:12) divider.   This made it difficult, if not impossible to achieve the maximum memory overclock we had achieved on ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3.  On the other hand, recovery from failed overclocking on the Deluxe 4 was one of the best we have seen, and we did not once need to clear CMOS during the course of overclocking .  As a matter of fact, we don’t even remember ever having to recycle the power – all it took was a couple of resets for the board to recover.

What concerns us more is the board’s tendency to overvolt the CPU-NB and memory. This is a concern for a long-term reliability, especially for the DIMM sticks specified to run at 1.65V or below.  When left auto or set manually 1.65V, the board will juice up the memory sticks with 1.70V.  This is an absolutely unnecessary move by ASRock, not just because it puts those DIMM sticks in risk without users’ knowledge but because many mainstream DDR3 sticks today are not very responsive to excessive voltages, overclocking-wise.  We will discuss this in detailed BIOS evaluation part of this review.       


User Experience (continued)...
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  • jonup - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Very impressed to see this approach to your testing. I hete when reading an MB reveiw and reach the benchmark section. Same chipsets tend to perform the same. A guess this would be an one-off since in the next review it will be redundant. Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    agreed, nice review. Reply
  • Finally - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    I must say that this review was nice to have, I'm much more interested in the 870 Chipset.
    It's almost identical, except the support of Crossfire, which I have no use for.
    Reply
  • RequiemsAllure - Wednesday, September 01, 2010 - link

    ahh, but on the ASRock 870 extreme 3 Crossfire is supported. Reply
  • SpaceRanger - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    In the article:
    USB 3.0 Performance

    We use Acronis TrueImage Home (v. 10) to make a backup of our installation drive to an external SATA 3.0 Gbps drive via USB 3.0 and compare it with USB 2.0 and SATA 3.0 Gbps transfers. The total data backed up is approximately 20 GB. We could not complete the backup on the 890GTD Pro/USB3 in a consistent manner.

    My Question:

    Why were you not able to complete the backup on the 890GTD Pro/USB3? At the conclusion you state :
    Is it worth $180 when ASUS 890GTD Pro/USB3 is $30 less? We think the difference largely comes down to the board’s selection of components.

    I would call not being able to do a simple backup with the 890GTD enough of a showstopper to not even consider the board. Am I missing something here?
    Reply
  • semo - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    I'm also wondering about the SATA3 performance. An issue was identified here on AT with the new 8xx chipset earlier which slowed down SSDs considerably compared to ICH10 controllers. Has this been fixed yet? Reply
  • Kane Y. Jeong - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Hi,

    Please check Raja's ASUS M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 review here.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2959

    We purchased another retail M4A89GTD Pro/USB3 off the shelf, and still ran into inconsistent USB 3.0 performance. Sometimes the drives lost connections, and Acronis reported error in the middle of backup process. Success ratio to complete the backup was about 30~40%. An alternative would be to purchase M4A89GTD Pro (not Pro/USB3) for $10 less and go with an add-in card. We did not experience this issue on ASRock 890FX Deluxe 4.
    Reply
  • SpaceRanger - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Thank you for the response. So you're advising getting the Pro (not Pro/USB3) instead of the 890FX? Cause Raja's findings would be enough for me to not want to get it. Reply
  • nbjknk - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link


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  • optarix12 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    This is a very nice writeup and relevant to my interests to boot. Thank you for the concise article Kane. Oh, and if you ever figure out why you saw the inexplicable results you should do a part 2! Reply

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