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The ASRock X58 Extreme6 is one of the most high-end socket LGA1366 motherboards available on the market today, featuring 12 SATA ports (six SATA-600 and six SATA-300), six USB 3.0 ports, six memory sockets, and three PCI Express x16 slots. Let’s check it out.
The portrayed motherboard comes in the ATX form factor.
The north bridge of the Intel X58 chipset provides 36 PCI Express x1 lanes, while the south bridge (ICH10R) provides six more lanes. Because this motherboard has six SATA-600 and six USB 3.0 ports, the manufacturer added a PLX PEX8608 switch chip to add eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes, allowing all ports to be used at the same time without performance drop. On motherboards with lots of SATA-600 and USB 3.0 ports that don’t have a chip like this, performance may drop when all ports are used at the same time.
The first PCI Express x16 slot (PCIE1) always work at x16 speed. The second PCI Express x16 slot (PCIE4) works at x16 when only two video cards are installed in the system, or at x8 when three video cards are installed. The third PCI Express x16 slot (PCIE5) always work at x8. This is a high-end configuration, as usually on X58-based motherboards the third PCI Express x16 slot works at x4 speed.
The first and the second PCI Express x16 slots are placed with two slots between them. This means that you can install a video card that occupies two or even three slots in the first PCI Express x16 slot and you will still be able to use the second PCI Express x16 slot (of course in this case you “kill” one or the two PCI Express x1 slots). The same goes for the distance between the second and the third PCI Express x16 slots: you can install a video card that uses two or even three slots in the second slot and you will still be able to use the third PCI Express x16 slot (of course in this case you “kill” one or the two standard PCI slots).
If you want to install a dual-slot video card in the third PCI Express x16 slot, you will need to have a case with at least eight expansion slots (cases usually have seven).
The PCI Express x16 slots support both CrossFireX and SLI.
As can be inferred from the above explanations, there are two PCI Express x1 slots between the first and second PCI Express x16 slots, and two standard PCI slots between the second and third PCI Express x16 slots.
A peripheral power connector must be installed on the motherboard in order to provide extra current to the PCI Express x16 slots.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1366 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor – and not the chipset – that defines what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
At the moment the integrated memory controller from socket LGA1366 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,066 MHz under triple-channel architecture, however ASRock says the X58 Extreme6 supports DDR3 memories up to 2,000 MHz through overclocking.
One of the highlights of the X58 Extreme6 motherboard is the presence of six memory sockets, and not only four. This allows you to make future memory upgrades without having to remove your current memory modules and, at the same time, to keep the maximum performance possible.
Just to clarify, in order to achieve the maximum performance you have to install three or six memory modules. If you install three memory modules you have to use sockets with the same color. If you install a different number of memory modules the system won’t achieve its maximum possible performance.
On motherboards with only four memory sockets you have a problem: if you add a fourth memory module this module will be accessed at single-channel performance (1/3 of the maximum transfer rate), so for you to add more memory keeping the maximum performance you have to remove your old three modules and install new ones. This upgrade is more expensive than using a motherboard with six sockets, where you can simply add three more modules and keep your old modules installed.
Since currently DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 4 GB, you can have up to 24 GB with this motherboard, if you use six 4 GB modules.
The first, third, and fifth sockets are white, while the second, fourth, and sixth are blue. In order to achieve the maximum performance you should install three or six memory modules in order to enable triple-channel architecture. When only three modules are used, install them in the white sockets, otherwise your computer won’t turn on.
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
The Intel X58 chipset is a dual-chip solution, using the ICH10R south bridge chip. This chip supports six SATA-300 ports (with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10). One of the highlights of the X58 Extreme6 is the presence of six SATA-600 ports, controlled by one Marvell 88SE9128 and two Marvell 88SE9120 chips – each one controls a pair of SATA-600 ports. Only the Marvell 88SE9128 chip supports RAID (0, 1 and JBOD), meaning that only two of the six SATA-600 ports support RAID. The problem is that all SATA-600 ports are white, and there is no easy way to know which of the six SATA-600 ports are the ones that support RAID (we assume that the ports that are controlled by the RAID chip are the first two, SATA3_1 and SATA3_2). We think ASRock should have used a different color on the SATA-600 ports that supports RAID.
All SATA ports are located on the motherboard edge, rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them.
An eSATA-600 port is available, sharing the SATA3_6 connector, so if you connect an eSATA device you can’t use the internal SATA3_6 connector.
This motherboard also has an ATA-133 port and a floppy disk drive port.
This motherboard has “only” six USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and two available through one header located on the motherboard. But this isn’t a problem, since it has six USB 3.0 ports, controlled by three NEC μPD720200 chips. Four of these ports are soldered on the rear panel, and two are available on a front panel header. This motherboard comes with an adapter for you to install these ports on an external 3.5” bay. If you don’t want to have these ports on the front panel of your case you can install them on an available expansion slot, using a bracket that comes with the product.
The X58 Extreme6 comes with two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports, one soldered on the rear panel and one available through a header, controlled by a VIA VT6315N chip.
The portrayed motherboard comes with eight-channel audio, generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec. Unfortunately Realtek doesn’t publish technical specifications for this codec at their website. The X58 Extreme6 comes with on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors, and you can route digital audio to your video card to have digital audio in the HDMI connector using the available “HDMI_SPDIF1” header.
The analog audio jacks are independent, meaning that you won’t need to “kill” the mic in or the line in jacks if you install an analog 7.1 speaker set.
This motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, which is connected to the system using a PCI Express x1 lane and thus not presenting any potential performance issues.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with keyboard and mouse PS/2 connectors, optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports (blue), one Gigabit Ethernet port, one FireWire port, one eSATA-600 port, and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.
Other smaller features available on this motherboard include on-board power and reset buttons, POST diagnostics display (which allows you to identify, through a two-digit code, what is wrong with you computer if it doesn’t turn on), one legacy serial port (you need to buy an adapter in order to use it), and an infrared interface (you need to buy the optical components to use it).
In Figure 8, you can see all the accessories that come with this motherboard.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The ASRock X58 Extreme6 comes with a 10-phase voltage regulator circuit. Of the 10 available phases, eight are used to generate the CPU main voltage (Vcc, a.k.a. Vcore), while the other two are used to generate the voltage required by the integrated memory controller, the QPI controller, and the L3 memory cache (VTT). Therefore, this motherboard has an “8+2” configuration.
The manufacturer added a passive heatsink on top of the transistors of the voltage regulator circuit, which is connected to the passive heatsink of the north bridge chip through a heatpipe.
All capacitors used on this motherboard are solid and the voltage regulator circuit uses ferrite chokes, which are better than iron chokes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The X58 Extreme6 provides several overclocking options. Below we list only the main ones available in the 1.10 BIOS.
- CPU base clock: From 100 MHz to 300 Hz in 1 MHz steps
- PCI Express clock: From 50 MHz to 150 MHz in 1 MHz steps
- CPU voltage: From 0.84375 V to 1.60000 V in 0.00625 V steps
- VTT (memory controller, QPI, and L3 memory cache) voltage: From 1.200 V to 1.900 V in 0.02 V steps
- CPU clock multiplier (PLL) voltage: From 1.82 V to 2.50 V in 0.02 V steps
- Memory voltage: From 1.250 V to 2.065 V in 0.010 V steps
- North bridge (ICH) voltage: From 1.12 V to 1.56 V in 0.02 V steps
- South bridge (IOH) voltage: From 1.12 V to 1.56 V in 0.02 V steps
- ICH/IOH PCI Express voltage: From 1.56 V to 1.90 V in 0.02 V steps
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock X58 Extreme6 include:
- Socket: 1366
- Chipset: Intel X58 + ICH10R
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6775F
- Parallel ATA: One ATA-133 port
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-300 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10), two SATA-600 ports controlled by a Marvell 88SE9128 chip (RAID 0 and 1), and four SATA-600 ports controlled by two Marvell 88SE9120 chips
- External SATA: One eSATA-600 port (shared with the internal SATA3_6 connector)
- USB: six USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard, and six USB 3.0 ports controlled by three NEC μPD720200 chips, four available on the rear panel and two available on one header on the motherboard
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): Two ports controlled by a VIA VT6315N chip, one available on the motherboard rear panel and one available through a header on the motherboard
- On-board video: No
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC892 codec (eight channels, no further technical information is provided), on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, connected to the system through a PCI Express x1 lane
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: Yes
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (the first one always working at x16, the second one working at x16 when two video cards are installed and at x8 when three video cards are installed, and the third one always working at x8) with support for SLI and CrossFireX modes, two PCI Express x1 slots, and two standard PCI slots, PLX PEX8608 switch
- Memory: Six DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to 24 GB, up to DDR3-2000 through overclocking)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, one four-pin connector for an auxiliary fan, and three three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra Features: POST diagnostics display, legacy serial port
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard drivers and utilities
- More Information: https://www.asrock.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 235.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
We were really impressed to see ASRock releasing a motherboard with that many features, especially because this company traditionally focus on more inexpensive products. If you are looking for a motherboard with tons of extra features for your socket LGA1366 processor at a reasonable price, the X58 Extreme6 may be your option. The highlights of this motherboard are its 12 SATA ports (six SATA-300 and six SATA-600), six USB 3.0 ports, three PCI Express x16 slots supporting SLI and CrossFireX modes and a high-end speed configuration thanks to the PLX switch chip used, six memory sockets, on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, and good overclocking options.
If you are a high-end enthusiast that only demand the best in class, you may miss some features, like a second Gigabit Ethernet port with teaming (which allows two Gigabit ports to be joined for a 2 Gbps maximum transfer rate) and a voltage regulator circuit with more phases.
This motherboard is more expensive than regular mainstream models. It is, however, cheaper than models from other brands that carry less features, making it a terrific buy if you are looking for a socket LGA1366 motherboard with so many features.