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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Not many motherboard manufacturers are releasing new motherboards for AMD CPUs lately, since AMD hasn’t come out with a new chipset since 2011. Breaking this trend, ASRock released the 990FX Extreme9, a high-end socket AM3+ motherboard. Let’s see what this motherboard has to offer.

The AMD 990FX chipset is basically an AMD 890FX chipset with a new name and supports the higher HyperTransport 3.0 speeds (up to 10.4 GB/s a.k.a. 5.2 GT/s) that weren’t used before and are supported by the FX processors from AMD.

So far, ASRock has launched four different motherboard models based on the AMD 990FX chipset; we list the differences between them in the table below. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.

Specification

990FX Extreme9

Fatal1ty 990FX Professional

990FX Extreme4

990FX Extreme3

Form Factor

ATX

ATX

ATX

ATX

Memory Sockets

4

4

4

4

PCI Express x16 2.0

4 (x16/x4/x16/x0 or x16/x4/x8/x8)

3 (x16/x16/x4)

3 (x16/x16/x4)

3 (x16/x16/x4)

PCI Express x1 2.0

1

2

2

1

Standard PCI

1

2

2

2

CrossFireX

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SLI

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SATA-300

0

0

0

0

SATA-600

8

6

8

5

eSATA-300

0

0

0

0

eSATA-600

2

2

1

1

USB 2.0

8

10

10

12

USB 3.0

8

6

4

2

FireWire

2

2

2

0

Gigabit Ethernet

1

2

1

1

Audio

ALC898

ALC892

ALC892

ALC892

Voltage Regulator

12+2

12+2

8+2

4+1

Price

NA

USD 170

USD 140

USD 120

You can see the ASRock 990FX Extreme9 motherboard in Figure 1.

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 1: ASRock 990FX Extreme9 motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 comes with four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, and one PCI slot.

The configuration of the PCI Express x16 slots is shown in the table below. In summary, the first slot always works at x16 speed; the second slot always works at x4 speed. The speed of the PCIE4 slot will depend upon whether or not you have a video card installed in the PCIE5 slot. Therefore, when installing two video cards, install them on the first (PCIE1) and third (PCIE4) slots for best performance.

PCIE1 PCIE3 PCIE4 PCIE5
x16 x4 x16
x16 x4 x8 x8

If you plan to install a dual-slot video card in the fourth PCI Express x16 slot (PCIE5), you will have to buy a case with at least eight slots. (Computer cases usually have seven.)

When installing dual-slot video cards, you “kill” the slot immediately to the left of the slot being used (looking at the motherboard with its rear connectors facing up). This means that you can’t install a dual-slot video card in the second (PCIE3) PCI Express x16 slot, because otherwise you will block the third (PCIE4) slot, which is faster than the second. Therefore, even though this motherboard has four PCI Express x16 slots, only three of them can be used with dual-slot video cards.

The PCI Express x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies.

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 2: Slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

The integrated memory controller from socket AM3+ processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASRock, the 990FX Extreme9 supports memories up to 2,450 MHz.

The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 has four memory sockets. According to ASRock, this motherboard supports up to 64 GB if you use four 16 GB modules.

In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASRock 990FX Extreme9, all memory sockets are black. When installing two memory modules, you will have to skip one socket, i.e., you must install one module in the first socket and the other module in the third socket (and not in the second one).

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]

The AMD 990FX chipset is a two-chip solution, and it is combined with the SB950 south bridge chip. The SB950 chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). This motherboard has two additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip (no RAID support). These two additional ports are shared with the two eSATA-600 ports available, so they cannot be used simultaneously.

The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards won’t block them. The manufacturer used the same color on all SATA ports; we’d prefer if the manufacturer had used a different color to identify the SATA-600 ports controlled by the ASMedia chip.

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 4: The six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset and the two SATA-600 ports controlled by the ASMedia chip

The AMD 990FX chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports. The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four located on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. It also offers eight USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard. The USB 3.0 ports are controlled by two EtronTech EJ188H chips. The motherboard comes with an adapter for you to install two USB 3.0 ports into an external 3.5” bay from your case.

The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 has two FireWire ports, one available on the motherboard rear panel and one available through a header. These ports are controlled by a VIA VT6315N chip.

This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC898 codec, which is an outstanding solution, providing an impressive 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. This means you are able to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) with this motherboard without adding any background noise.

The motherboard has on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs.

The analog outputs are independent, meaning that you don’t need to share any of them when using a 7.1 analog speaker set.

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel WG82583V chip. This is probably the first time we’ve seen a motherboard for AMD processors with an Intel networking chip.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse, a clear CMOS button, a coaxial and an optical SPDIF output, four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA-600 ports, one FireWire port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio jacks.

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel

[nextpage title=”Other Features”]

The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 has a POST diagnostics display, so you can see, through a two-digit code, which component is preventing your computer from turning on.

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 6: POST diagnostics display

It has a legacy serial port, which is available through a header labeled “COM1.” You will need to buy an adapter if you want to use this port. It also has an infrared interface, making it inexpensive for you to add an infrared sensor to be able to use a remote control or to connect devices using infrared technology (IrDA).

In Figure 7, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock 990FX Extreme9.

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 7: Accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock 990FX Extreme9 has 12 phases for the CPU main voltage (VDD a.k.a. Vcore) and two for the CPU VDDNB (integrated memory controller, HyperTransport interface controller, and L3 memory cache) voltage. Therefore, it uses a “12+2” configuration.

The voltage regulator is controlled by a CHIL8328 integrated circuit using a digital design, which is superior to the analog (a.k.a. “hybrid”) design usually seen on motherboards from ASRock.

Each phase is driven by a CSD87350Q5D integrated circuit, which incorporates the “high side” and “low side” transistors, providing higher efficiency than discrete solutions. 

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 8: Voltage regulator circuit

The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 uses solid electrolytic capacitors, and three SMD (a.k.a. highly-conductive polymerized or simply Hi-c) capacitors are also used. All coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency.

If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject

[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]

The portrayed motherboard has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1.10 BIOS):

  • Base clock: From 150 MHz to 500 MHz in 1 MHz increments
  • PCI Express clock: From 75 MHz to 250 MHz in 1 MHz increments
  • CPU core voltage: From 0.6000 V to 2.0000 V in 0.0125 V increments
  • CPU NB (memory controller) voltage: From 0.6000 V to 2.0000 V in 0.0125 V increments
  • Memory voltage: From 1.165 V to 1.800 V in 0.005 V increments
  • North bridge voltage: From 1.108 V to 1.654 V in 0.012 V increments
  • HyperTransport voltage: From 1.210 V to 1.400 V in 0.010 V increments
  • CPU VDDA voltage: From 2.56 V to 2.70 V in 0.14 V increments
  • PCI Express VDDA voltage: From 1.81 V to 1.92 V in 0.11 V increments

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 9: Overclocking options

ASRock 990FX Extreme9Figure 10: Overclocking options

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the ASRock 990FX Extreme9 include:

  • Socket: AM3+
  • Chipset: AMD 990FX + SB950 
  • Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6776F
  • Parallel ATA: None
  • Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) and two SATA-600 ports controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip 
  • External SATA: Two eSATA-600 ports shared with the two SATA-600 ports controlled by the ASMedia chip
  • USB 2.0: Eight USB 2.0 ports, four on the rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: Eight USB 3.0 ports, four on the rear panel and four available through two headers; controlled by two EtronTech EJ188H chips
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): Two ports, one on the rear panel and one available through a header; controlled by a VIA VT6315N chip 
  • On-board video: No
  • On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC898 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 110 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors 
  • On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel WG82583V chip
  • Buzzer: No
  • Infrared interface: Yes
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: Four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x4/x16/x0 or x16/x4/x8/x8), one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, and one PCI slot
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2450, 64 GB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, one four-pin connector for an auxiliary fan, and four three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
  • Extra features: POST diagnostics display and legacy serial port
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
  • Programs included: Motherboard utilities
  • More Information: https://www.asrock.com
  • Average Price in the U.S.: NA

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

If you are looking for a fully loaded socket AM3+ motherboard, the ASRock 990FX Extreme9 may be an excellent option. It comes with eight SATA-600 ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, and four PCI Express x16 slots supporting both SLI and CrossFireX, even though, due to the positioning of the slots, the motherboard only supports three dual-slot video cards.

Highlights of this motherboard also include the voltage regulator circuit, using a digital design; the professional-grade audio codec (110 dB SNR for the outputs and 104 dB SNR for the inputs); and the Intel networking chip, which allegedly achieves higher performance than competing integrated circuits.

It is also nice to see someone releasing new socket AM3+ motherboards, as there haven’t been new releases for this platform for a while.