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
IO Panel
Driver CD
2 Slot SLI Bridge

I am a little disappointed to be honest, given ASRock’s previous tenacity when it comes to box bundling.

Board Features

ASRock X79 Extreme4-M
Size mATX
CPU Interface LGA2011
CPU Support Intel Second Generation Core i7 Sandy Bridge E
Chipset Intel X79
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
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Quad Channel
Support for DDR3, 800-2400 MHz
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe Gen 3 x16
1 x PCIe Gen 3 x8
1 x PCI
Onboard SATA/RAID 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)
Onboard 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
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC898
7.1 Ch HD, Supports THX TruStudio
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
1 x 4-pin Molex CFX/SLI Power Connector
Fan Headers 2 x CPU Fan Header
3 x Chassis Headers
1 x SB Header (occupied)
IO Panel 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
Audio Jacks
BIOS Version 1.4
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.

Overclocking

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.

ASRock X79 Extreme4-M Overview and Visual Inspection ASRock X79 Extreme4 Overview and Visual Inspection
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53 Comments

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  • DigitalFreak - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    I wish PCI connectors on motherboards would die already, especially on the high end. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    I agree with you, but I'm sure the three people who still use sound cards will be here shortly to tell you you're wrong. Reply
  • geniekid - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    I would be one of those people. If you're into amateur music production, you're probably going to need a sound card for various inputs/outputs, and a lot of the cheaper options there are going to be PCI.

    Also, my month-old built HTPC uses the PCI for a wireless network adapter.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    I rumaged around the various PCs I have and the best I come up with is a 6 year old RAID card (still a good one) and a 2 year old TV card

    So time for PCI to die

    Can I have a right angled 24 ATX socket as well
    Reply
  • somedude1234 - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    If you're purchasing a new motherboard and CPU, each of which is north of $200, does the additional cost burden of a PCIe sound card or WLAN card really make that big of a difference?

    I understand that every dollar saved somewhere can be used (more memory, bigger SSD, etc.), but PCIe sound cards and WLAN cards aren't exactly bank-breakers.

    I don't do any serious audio work, so are there any technical reasons (latency or otherwise) that make legacy PCI cards better than their PCIe counterparts?
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    No technical reasons, but many audio production cards (i.e. not the latest Soundblaster) are still only available in a PCI format. Reply
  • Flunk - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    The latest soundblaster IS actually available in PCI-E. If the PCI slots went away everything would be available in PCI-E. There really is no reason anymore. Reply
  • Gnarr - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    no-one who's serious about music production uses a soundblaster.. Reply
  • g00ey - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    That is not true at all, most serious brands of professional audio hardware Reply
  • g00ey - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    That is not true at all, most serious brands of professional audio hardware such as RME, UAD, Apogee, or even AVID/Digidesign dominate their product lines with PCIe based expansion cards and not PCI.

    Also, there is a considerable variety of PCIe to PCI adapters and bridgeboards out there that makes it even less justifiable to put PCI slots on a modern motherboard.
    Reply

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