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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  • HangFire - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    It is good to see a USB 3.0 performance test in there. I would like to see another or more, especially something simultaneous- for example, run backup on one port (say, USB 3.0) and stream video from a webcam in another (probably USB 2.0). This test makes a lot of sense in that a user would engage in Social Media while running a backup in the background.

    It would also tell us if the system can maintain a steady webcam image while doing other work, something we would expect a 6-core system to do (if not hobbled by poor USB implementation). The test could be repeated for a port on each USB 2.0 controller on the M/B to make sure each USB port set is as able as the rest.
  • Kane Y. Jeong - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    I appreciate your constructive comment. I will keep it in mind.
  • Stuka87 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Really a great review. I almost wish I would have held out building a new system until these 890's came out with USB3 and such (I built last Janurary). But I have no real complaints about my 790GX.
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Asrock has Asus as it's parent company and I thought that Asrock was supposed to be the low priced/budget branch of Asus. By taking Asrock upscale, isn't Asus just competing against itself?
  • mino - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Not anymore. ASUS spun off it OEM arm (Pegatron) last year.

    And even when they had the same parent company, the design teams were separate since ASRock inception 7yrs ago.
  • blacksun1234 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    ASRock works well on the budget M/B market and try to offer more with lower price for high-end market. If you would like to get "Valued product" at mainstream segment, ASRock is a good choice.
  • mapesdhs - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link

    Very true! I've ended up buying several Asrock P55 Deluxe boards because this
    performs so well (i7 870 @ 4.1GHz), costs very little (less than 70 UKP) and it
    has excellent slot spacing (as with this review board, I really like the 3-slot
    spacing between the 1st and 2nd PCIe slots; I use the 3rd slot for a SAS RAID
    card. At least ASUS has done the same thing aswell). See:

    I'm a tad out of touch with AMD boards atm, but if I was buying an X58, I'd go
    with Asrock's Extreme6; it won't give the best overclocks, but the slot spacing
    again wins it for me. And if I was looking for an AMD board, again I like the
    890FX-Deluxe's slot spacing *and* the fact that it does have a 3rd PCIe slot
    (I notice the ASUS board doesn't). Oh for a board like this with onboard SAS...

  • PCR - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Don't you mean M4A89GTD PRO/USB3?
  • Kane Y. Jeong - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Yes, thank you. Will fix it ASAP.
  • poohbear - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Kane Jeong why didnt you mention in this article how AMD's AHCI driver doesnt support trim even w/ the newest 890FX chipset? Its supposed to be an enthusiast chipset but doesnt even provide a working AHCI driver?? For everyone that owns an SSD, we're completely left in the dark w/ any AMD chipset and SSD combo. Its august 2010, latest 890FX chipset, and on an SSD AMD doesnt even support TRIM w/ their latest drivers. This is unacceptable!!!! You guys need to address this in ANY AMD chipset review, what enthusiast wants a system that doesnt provide SSDs w/ TRIM support??? We're all stuck using MS default AHCI drivers lest we lose TRIM support, its pathetic and way overdue for AMD to provide a working AHCI driver. Please mention this in your reviews cause the vast majority of enthusiasts have SSDs, and an enthusiast chipset geared towards us without TRIM support is a joke.

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