ASRock X79 Champion Visual Inspection

The best way to describe the Champion at first glance is ‘red’.  The red and black color scheme does stand out a fair bit, although on close inspection we can see how busy the motherboard looks with all the additional components.  The main reason for this is that each component is surrounded by a white box to help the automated machines that place components, so they can line everything up correctly.  This is process and manufacturer dependent, as some of the manufacturers do not need this – in return, there is extra space on board for additional components.

As a result of the Champion naming, we get an E-ATX sized motherboard, giving an extra inch of space from side to side (easiest way to check is look for the ATX case mounting holes).  The extra space allows ASRock to exploit a full array of memory slots for X79, totaling 8 for two per memory channel. The power delivery heatsink is an extended array around the CPU power delivery, the memory sockets and also down to the chipset, all connected via heatpipe in order to maximize the surface area of any additional power draw through overclocking.

The socket area itself is at the limits of the Intel specifications, but the heatsinks are sufficiently low such that all the major air coolers should fit without issue – only by filling up all the memory slots may there be trouble with extended heatpipe arrangements.  The CPU socket area has access to four fan headers within easy reach – one CPU 4-pin above the socket, a CPU 3-pin to the top right on the other side of the memory slots, a 3-pin to the bottom left of the socket between the heatsink and the rear IO, and a 3-pin on the bottom right between the USB 3.0 headers and the memory.  The board has two other fan headers, one 4-pin and another 3-pin, on the bottom of the board.

Along the right hand side we get a series of voltage check points, which is an odd inclusion on a gaming motherboard.  This feature is useful for extreme overclockers using sub-zero temperatures, but this board is not designed for that crowd; I cannot imagine gamers using them.  Below the voltage check points is the 24-pin ATX power connector and a pair of USB 3.0 headers (using a TI controller), one of which should be used with the included USB 3.0 front panel in the box.  In terms of SATA connectivity we get four SATA 3.0 Gbps and two SATA 6.0 Gbps from the chipset (all supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 10) as well as four SATA 6.0 Gbps from a Marvell SE9230 controller (RAID 0, 1, 10).

Despite the voltage check points being in the remit of overclockers only, the two-digit debug, power and reset buttons found on the bottom right of the board are more amenable to a larger percentage of the target audience of the motherboard – they allow for quick debugging or checking that the board actually powers up and on.    Along the bottom of the board we get the front panel header, the front panel audio header, a ‘front 1394’ header (FireWire), two fan headers, three USB 2.0 headers, a COM port and a 4-pin molex connector for additional VGA power.

The PCIe layout is designed to accommodate up to four dual slot GPUs, but also three triple-slot GPUs, such that the following layouts are possible (using the full sized PCIe slots from top to bottom):

ASRock X79 Champion PCIe Layout
  PCIe 1 PCIe 3 PCIe 4 PCIe 5 PCIe 7
Single GPU x16 - - - -
Dual GPU x16 - - x16 -
Tri-GPU x16 x8 - x16 -
x16 - x8 - x8
Quad-GPU x16 x8 - x8 x8

We test both cases in our GPU benchmarks, but it should be noted that in our sample, the bottom slot did not go into PCIe 3.0 when tested, even with the additional power connector at the bottom of the board.  It remained in PCIe 2.0 mode despite the settings in the BIOS.

To the left of the PCIe slots is our audio codec, and ASRock have smartly selected a non-Realtek option in the form of the Creative Sound Core3D, a quad core sound and voice processor that supports EAX1.0 to EAX5.0.  The Core3D also has a Premium Headset Amplifier chip which (as stated in the marketing blurb) provides wider bandwidth, a higher slew rate with lower noise and distortion, and supports up to 250 Ohm headsets, albeit only through the front panel audio header.

ASRock are laying USB 3.0 on fairly thick with the rear IO, bringing the total number of ports on the board to twelve with eight on the rear panel (all powered by TI controllers).  Aside from these we get a pair of USB 2.0 ports (one of which is Fatal1ty Speed Port enabled), a PS/2 keyboard port, a ClearCMOS button, two Broadcom BCM57781 NICs, a FireWire/IEEE1394 port, two eSATA 6 Gbps ports (Marvell 9172 controller), an optical SPDIF output and audio jacks (Core3D).

Board Features

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion
Price Link
Size E-ATX
CPU Interface LGA-2011
Chipset Intel X79
Memory Slots Eight DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB ECC+non-ECC
Up to Quad Channel, 1066-2500 MHz
Onboard LAN Broadcom BCM57781
Onboard Audio Creative Sound Core3D
Expansion Slots 5 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
 - 1/5: x16/16
 - 1/3/5: x16/8/16
 - 1/4/7: x16/8/8
 - 1/3/5/7: x16/8/8/8
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
4 x SATA 6 Gbps (Marvell SE9230), RAID 0, 1, 10
4 x SATA 3 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
USB 12 x USB 3.0 (Controller) [4 onboard, 8 rear panel]
7 x USB 2.0 (Chipset) [6 onboard, 2 rear panel)
1 x USB 2.0 Fatal1ty Mouse Port (rear panel)
Onboard 6 x SATA 6 Gbps
4 x SATA 3 Gbps
2 x USB 3.0 Headers
3 x USB 2.0 Headers
1 x COM Port Header
1 x HDMI_SPDIF Header
1 x IEEE1394 Header
7 x V-Probe Connectors
6 x Fan Headers
Power/Reset Buttons
Two-Digit Debug LED
Post Status Checker LEDs
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
1 x 8-pin CPU Power Connector
1 x 4-pin Molex Power Connector
Fan Headers 2 x CPU (4-pin, 3-pin)
3 x CHA (4-pin, 2x3-pin)
1 x PWR (3-pin)
IO Panel 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
1 x Keyboard PS/2 Port
1 x ClearCMOS Button
2 x Broadcom BCM57781 GbE NICs
1 x IEEE1394 Port
8 x USB 3.0 Ports (TI Controllers)
2 x eSATA 6 Gbps (Marvell 9172)
Optical SPDIF Output
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

As a gaming board, the use of a Creative audio codec on the Champion is a big plus, and the option for dual NICs will be welcomed by some users.  The inclusion of voltage check points is a little odd, as this is not a board aimed at overclockers.  Compared to the ASUS Rampage IV Formula, the ASRock offers more memory slots, SATA ports, more USB 3.0 ports, FireWire/IEEE1394, and dual the NICs, but fewer fan headers, a less obvious PCIe layout, a non-Intel network interface or nothing similar to ASUS Premium Service.  Note that the Formula is also aimed at extreme overclockers and gamers alike, hence it has things like a Slow Mode, LN2 Switch and ROG Connect that the Champion does not.

Fatal1ty: The Person and the Brand ASRock X79 Professional Visual Inspection and Board Features


View All Comments

  • dgz - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    Thresh is making big bucks in other areas. Their latest company provides quality product for big business. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    Warcraft 3 was bigger than Quake 3 ever was, and this is before we eve get into the massive DOTA scene. DOTA in China right now is bigger than Brood War, SC2, CS 1.6, and League Of Legends combined, and any of those individual games dwarf Quake 3 in popularity.

    Grubby hasn't won anything in Starcraft 2 so far, but he's been placing higher with almost every new tournament he competes in and he is a very well liked and respected player. His name on a product would easily help to sell it.
  • dgz - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    While WC3 was indeed big, it was all dota after 2004-2005. You guys know it's true.

    Quake 3 community never consisted millions of players but it remained the ultimate duel shooter for how many years now? How many people drive F1 again?
  • dawp - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    [qouote]The Fatal1ty branded boards were ‘designed by Abit, but game-tested and approved by Fatal1ty’ up until socket 775 and FM2.[/quote]

    don't you mean AM2 there since FM2 wasn't around when Abit was?
  • TeXWiller - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    and ECC support. One might be able to forge workstations out of these. Reply
  • yzkbug - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    Is this you, Johnathan 'Fatal1ty" Wendel? Reply
  • JeBarr - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    Like many high end gaming boards, these two cram on the extra features that almost no gamer would ever use.

    Does anyone think that Johnny Wendel would use even half of the USB 3.0 and Sata III 6.0GB/s ports?

    I don't.

    Would even the most competitive gamer and power-user require such an amount of extra features for their at-home system?

    Probably not.

    I can see the need for extra PCIe x16 slots, for obvious reasons.....but legacy PCI slots on the Pro model is just ridiculous. Give me an extra PCIe 2.0 x1 or x4 slot instead. Get with the times, geez.

    And how about these high end gaming boards with creative audio chip on-board? Right, because everyone knows it's such a great idea to have an audio amplifier mixed in with all the traces. I mean, seriously, just get rid of the extra unused PCI slots and put PCIe slots instead so I can add my own sound card....geez.
  • Tech-Curious - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    Yeah, I would expect a motherboard aimed particularly at gamers to be stripped down on features, with extremely high-quality components supplying the features that are important.

    The review sorta makes that very point, when it compares the Fatal1ty mobos to their Asus analogues -- quality over quantity of features.

    That said, motherboards in general seem to be over-featured, and there is a segment of the market that would (understandably) balk at paying high-premium prices for a motherboard without all possible bells and whistles. But perhaps those two points only tend to suggest that motherboards are a bad fit for a pro-racer-style marketing campaign: motherboards don't tend to contribute all that much to the overall performance of a computer system, beyond a relatively low threshold of quality. Whatever difference motherboards do make tends to be overwhelmed by the performance attributes of other components, and so motherboard manufacturers feel compelled to add features to motherboards to differentiate their products from their competitors'.

    Don't get me wrong: the motherboards reviewed in this article are high-end, performance-oriented parts, but they fit that description in large part because they use a socket-2011 chipset (and therefore they must be paired with a top-of-the-line CPU). That in itself is a bit of a head scratcher, IMO, because there's no compelling evidence to suggest that the LGA-2011 CPUs are noticeably better than the i7 3770k in a gaming context. Where the 2011 platform shines is in heavy-duty high-threaded workloads.

    The long and the short of it is that ASRock's branding an LGA 2011 motherboard around a pro gamer is a little like a car company branding a luxury sedan around Jeff Gordon.
  • dgz - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    Who the hell is this Jeff Gordon guy? Never heard of him. Quite a few F1 and rally guys are used to promote regular cars. Reply
  • JlHADJOE - Monday, February 11, 2013 - link

    Which regular cars? Almost every car I know that has a racing driver's name on it has been pretty sporty.

    Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce Niki Lauda
    Ford Mustang McLaren
    Caterham JPE (Jonathan Palmer Edition)
    Acura/Honda NSX Zanardi Edition
    McLaren Mercedes SLR Stirling Moss

    Subaru Imprezas in Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Peter Solberg editions
    Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6.5 Tommi Makinen Edition

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