For new users to the PC industry, or those that migrated towards newer APU platforms, it is worth going back and recalling the AM3+ socket with the 990FX chipset. When the platform was released, it offered several advantages that Intel lacked at the time: a full set of SATA 6 Gbps ports was the main advantage which took Intel another two generations to offer. The chipset, with the right CPU, also offered substantially more PCIe lanes than the mainstream Intel parts which were similarly priced. While the user could have sixteen PCIe 2.0 lanes from an Intel CPU for graphics coupled with eight PCIe 2.0 lanes from the chipset, AMD users had 32 PCIe 2.0 lanes from the CPU for graphics, another six PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes for controllers and four PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes from the chipset. This gave the AMD motherboard manufacturers more bandwidth to add extra ports or adjust their PCIe layout for graphics. Note that this is the latest AMD platform to support SLI, rather than the newer FM1/FM2 platforms that do not.

There are a few limitations on the 990FX chipset worth mentioning. When this motherboard we are testing today was released, PCIe 3.0 was gaining momentum. The only way to add PCIe 3.0 to these motherboards was to integrate a PLX chip between the Northbridge and the GPUs which gave PCIe 3.0 capabilities between the GPUs, but it still limited data transfer between the PLX chip and the CPU to PCIe 2.0. The other limitation was one of cost. AMD platforms have historically been low cost markets, at least for end users, which correlates to a reluctance to expand spending on motherboards. This reduces the market for high end motherboard solutions which might incorporate extra features and controllers, and as a result many AM3+ motherboards were aimed at price/performance rather than feature set.

The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 sits near the top of the stack for feature set, and currently retails for $170. To put that into perspective, we discuss $170 motherboards for Intel’s latest chipsets as a mid-range point rather than the high end.

Also worth noting that because our last 990FX reviews were with the FX-8150 processor, in order to compare to historical data we also used the Extreme9 with the FX-8150 for comparison points.

ASRock 990FX Extreme9 Overview

Visual Inspection

Taking the motherboard out of the box for the first time and there are several items worth noting. Firstly the extended heatsink which covers the 12+2 phase power delivery to the side of the socket and the North Bridge just below the socket. ASRock has placed all the power delivery chokes in a line, and uses a CHIL8328 IC for a digital design. This PWM controller powers 6-8 phases, and thus the system uses multiplexing to get the desired 12 for the CPU voltage.

The socket area has four fan headers within immediate reach – two CPU and one chassis header directly above the socket, and a 3-pin PWR header to the top right of the DRAM slots. The other two fan headers on the motherboard are located at the bottom, one to the left of the 2-digit debug and the other to the right of the power/reset buttons. The socket area uses a low heatsink profile combined with a gap to the DRAM that should allow for large air coolers to be used.

The DRAM slots use double sided latch mechanisms and there is ample space to the first major PCIe slot. At the bottom of the DRAM slots, to the right, are two USB 3.0 headers from an Etron EJ188H controller. At the time this motherboard was made, a chassis may have had one USB 3.0 header, and thus ASRock also includes a USB 3.0 panel in the box.

Underneath this are eight SATA 6 Gbps ports, the top two from an ASMedia ASM1061 controller followed by six from the south bridge. In this situation, with an additional controller, I would have preferred if ASRock had used a different color for the ASMedia ports. Below these is a fan header, the power and reset buttons, and the two-digit debug.

At the bottom of the motherboard is an IEEE1394 header, a COM header, two USB 2.0 headers, an IR header and the front panel headers. Above this is the odd PCIe layout, which combines the 32 PCIe 2.0 lanes from the north bridge with another PCIe 2.0 x4.

The layout is such that the top PCIe slot is an x16, followed by an x1. The second full length slot is a PCIe 2.0 x4, followed by another PCIe 2.0 x16. This slot shares bandwidth with the bottom PCIe slot, whereby if the bottom is populated, they both go to PCIe 2.0 x8. There is also a PCI slot near the bottom.

This means:

Configuration 1: x16/x1/x4/x16/PCI/-
Configuration 2: x16/x1/x4/x8/PCI/x8

Having this layout allows the user to equip the board with three GPUs in the first, third and fourth full length slots. If they are double slot cards, the PCIe 2.0 x4 is left vacant for a sound card, network card, RAID card or other PCIe device. It is worth noting that in terms of audio, ASRock has equipped this motherboard with a Realtek ALC898 codec.

The rear panel uses two PS/2 ports, one for mouse and one for keyboard, followed by a ClearCMOS button and SPDIF outputs. The four blue USB 3.0 ports are powered by another Etron EJ188H controller, and the panel also has four USB 2.0 ports with two eSATA 6 Gbps ports. The IEEE1394 port on the rear is perhaps one of the last consumer oriented motherboard to have this port pre-installed. The Intel NIC on the rear IO might seem a little strange on an AMD motherboard, but this is one of the top line 990FX solutions. The audio jacks round off the set.

Board Features

Board Features
Price US (Newegg)
Size ATX
CPU Interface Socket AM3+
Chipset 990FX + SB950
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-2450 MHz
Video Outputs None
Onboard LAN Intel 82583V
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC898
Expansion Slots 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16/x16/- or x16/x8/x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
1 x PCI
Onboard SATA/RAID 6 x SATA 6 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0,1,5,10
2 x SATA 6 Gbps (ASMedia ASM1061)
USB 3.0 4 x Rear USB 3.0 (Etron EJ188H)
2 x USB 3.0 Headers (Etron EJ188H)
Onboard 8 x SATA 6 Gbps Ports
2 x USB 3.0 Headers
2 x USB 2.0 Headers
6 x Fan Headers
1 x COM Header
Power/Reset Switches
Dr. Debug LED
Front Panel Connector
Front Audio Connector
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX
1 x 8-pin CPU
Fan Headers 2 x CPU (4-pin, 3-pin)
3 x CHA (4-pin, 2x 3-pin)
1 x PWR (3-pin)
IO Panel 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
4 x USB 2.0
4 x USB 3.0
2 x eSATA 6 Gbps
1 x IEEE1394
1 x Intel NIC
Clear CMOS Switch
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

If we were making a high end AMD motherboard for 2014, the extra lanes would be perfect for PCIe storage. Pile on a SATA Express and M.2 x4 slot without losing lanes to other functions. Some native USB 3.0 would be nice, or 3.1 via controllers. PCIe 3.0 support would be a must of course, along with a Realtek ALC1150 or more advanced audio codec. ASRock’s latest motherboards have featured a water-proof/superhydrophobic coating, or small LCD panels to aid in overclocks, which might be something in AMD meets 2014.

AMD’s 5 GHz CPU in Retail: The FX-9590 and ASRock 990FX Extreme9 Review ASRock 990FX Extreme9 BIOS and Software
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  • Daniel Egger - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    > 300W alone for a CPU, holy mother of god. An entire Haswell gaming rig with 750 Ti would probably draw less power.

    Don't know where you got that 300W from but yes, a decent Haswell system with 750 TI will not just probably but definitely draw less power than 300W. Mine takes around 35W idle and up to 120W in games.
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Sunday, August 10, 2014 - link

    The motherboard in the review is $170 not $250. But yes it's a lot better to buy an i5-7 than this chip. Reply
  • edwd2 - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    Will we be getting new FX chips in the future?
    or is it just APUs ...
    Reply
  • Mrduder11 - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    I am not highly invested in either "camp" but I will say this is absolutely embarrassing for AMD. As a gamer, I could never justify purchasing this CPU when using with a dedicated graphics setup. The results show AMD's way off the mark in research and development in their GPU labs. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Sunday, August 10, 2014 - link

    Has little to do with research and development. You can't expect a 28-32nm CPU to compete with a 22nm CPU no matter how hard you try. It would be akin to NV having 28nm GTX780Ti going up against a 40nm HD6970. AMD's biggest problem is no access to the same lithography tech as Intel. Reply
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - link

    Actually it has a lot to do with R&D. An ex-AMD employee said a few years ago that
    AMD's big mistake was making extensive use of automated design tools, resulting
    in a 3rd more transistors, using more power, for less performance. Presumably this
    was cheaper than paying the required talent to do the fine tuning normally expected
    at this level. Either way, this is why BD was so bad, and they've never recovered.
    AMD simply doesn't have the money to do the base R&D, that's the key blockage.

    Ian.
    Reply
  • Budburnicus - Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - link

    Umm, the i5-2500k AND i7-2600K are 32nm CPU's and even at a 4.7 GHz overclock do not even draw HALF the power and are over TWICE as fast! All from a 3 year old SKU!

    The cherry on top of the pile of dog poop would HAVE to be the fact that AMD had to make an R9 290 with a 512 bit memory bus to TRY to keep up with Nvidia's 970 or 980 - and that GPU takes over twice the power as well!

    So YES this has EVERYTHING to do with R&D! Both their CPUs and GPUs are HORRIBLY inefficient!

    And again, process has little to do with it, bearing in mind that the 32nm i-cores are not only 3 years old, but draw well less than HALF the power, and still over 1/3 less at the same 4.7 GHz clock speed, except when an i7-2600K is running at that speed, it is FAR FASTER in EVERY way!
    Reply
  • TeXWiller - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    Who knows, Kaveri brought the three module support for the APUs. The devil is the implementation details and timing. I was little disappointed when they took out the remaining 95W four module chips from the channel. Reply
  • TiGr1982 - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    What do you mean by "three module support for the APUs"? Talking about CPU side of things, all the APUs since Trinity only have 2 CPU modules aka 4 AMD cores. More than that, staying with this Bulldozer-derived CPU tech, APUs won't get more than 2 modules because of the die area and associated TDP and cost issues. Reply
  • TeXWiller - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    See http://support.amd.com/TechDocs/49125_15h_Models_3... page 28 Reply

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