ASRock X79 Extreme4-M and X79 Extreme4 Review – Sandy Bridge-E meets mATXby Ian Cutress on December 9, 2011 12:00 PM EST
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|
|Release Date||Dec 2011||Nov 2011||Nov 2011||Soon||Nov 2011|
|Memory||4 x DDR3||4 x DDR3||4 x DDR3||6 x DDR3||8 x DDR3|
|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||
|SATA 6 Gbps||3||4||5||7||8|
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.