ASRock has released seven motherboard models for the new socket LGA2011 platform, heavily betting that this platform will become more mainstream after Intel releases cheaper LGA2011 processors during this year. Let’s take a look at the X79 Extreme6/GB, which comes with three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, five SATA-600 ports, six USB 3.0 ports, and a high-end, add-on sound card called “Game Blaster.”
To better understand the differences between the several socket LGA2011 motherboards released by ASRock, we compiled the table below. The X79 Fatal1ty hasn’t been released yet. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article. “Game Blaster” is a PCI Express x1 add-on sound card featuring a Creative Sound Core3D audio chip and a Broadcom networking chip.
|X79 Fatal1ty||X79 Extreme9||X79 Extreme7||X79 Extreme6/GB||X79 Extreme6||X79 Extreme4-M||X79 Extreme4||X79 Extreme3|
|PCI Express x16||4 (x16/x8/x16/x0 or x16/x8/x8/x8)||5 (x16/x0/x16/x0/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8/x8)||5 (x16/x0/x16/x0/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8/x8)||3 (x16/x16/x8)||3 (x16/x16/x8)||3 (x16/x16/x8)||3 (x16/x16/x8)||3 (x16/x16/x8)|
|PCI Express x1||1||1||1||1||1||0||2||1|
|Audio||ALC898||Game Blaster||ALC898||Game Blaster||ALC898||ALC898||ALC898||ALC898|
|Price||NA||USD 345||USD 260||USD 280||USD 250||USD 219||USD 215||USD 215|
In Figure 1, you see the ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB motherboard.
The ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB comes with three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, and two standard PCI slots. Socket LGA2011 processors have a total of 40 PCI Express 3.0 lanes for video cards. This allows a very high-end configuration for the PCI Express x16 slots, but the exact configuration used will depend on the motherboard model.
The first and second PCI Express x16 slots always run at x16 speed, while the third one always runs at x8 speed.
When installing dual-slot video cards in the first and second PCI Express x16 slots, you “kill” the slot immediately to the left (looking at the motherboard with its rear connectors facing up) of the slot being used. You can install up to two dual-slot video cards using a regular seven-slot computer case, but the installation of a third dual-slot video card requires you to have a case with at least eight expansion slots.
All PCI Express x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA2011 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, which 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 LGA2011 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz officially, but they actually support memories up to 2,133 MHz. According to ASRock, the X79 Extreme6/GB supports memories up to 2,400 MHz.
One of the most important features of the socket LGA2011 processors is the support for the new quad-channel memory architecture, which allows the memory to be accessed in 256-bit mode for higher performance. Since each memory module is a 64-bit entity, four memory modules are needed to enable this architecture. If only two or three memory modules are installed, the memory will be accessed under dual- or triple-channel architecture, respectively.
The ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB has eight memory sockets (four at each side of the CPU socket) and, since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GB, you can have up to 64 GB with this motherboard if you use eight 8 GB modules.
In order to enable the quad-channel mode, you must install four or eight identical memory modules. When installing four memory modules, you will have to “skip” one memory socket. Unfortunately, ASRock used the same color for all memory sockets (black) instead of using two different colors, which would certainly help users detect which sockets to use. Installation must start from the bottom-most socket, i.e., the socket closest to the main power supply connector.
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
The Intel X79 chipset is a single-chip solution which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5).
The ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB has another three SATA-600 ports, controlled by two ASMedia ASM1061 chips. The fourth SATA-600 port provided by the second ASMedia chip is available as an eSATA-600 port on the motherboard rear panel.
One drawback is that the manufacturer used only two colors to identify the SATA ports: black for the SATA-300 and gray for the SATA-600. The manufacturer should have used different colors to
identify to where each port is connected. We think they should have used one color for the SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (which are the ones to the right of the SATA-300 ports, labeled “SATA3_0_1”) and another color for the ports controlled by the ASMedia ASM1061 chip (which are the ones on the far right, labeled “SATA3_A0_A1”).
The SATA ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. See Figure 4. The fifth SATA-600 port uses a regular SATA connector and is located near the main power supply connector.
The Intel X79 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports. Unfortunately, support for USB 3.0 ports isn’t integrated in the chipset yet. The ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB offers 10 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. It also supports six USB 3.0 ports, the four located on the motherboard rear panel controlled by a Texas Instruments TUSB7340 chip and the two available on the motherboard header controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip. The motherboard comes with a 3.5” panel containing two USB 3.0 ports for you to use on the motherboard USB 3.0 header if your computer case doesn’t have USB 3.0 ports with an internal connector.
The ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB has two FireWire ports, one soldered on the 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 the new 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. This motherboard, however, comes with an add-on sound card called “Game Blaster” that we will talk about on the next page. The motherboard has on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs and independent 7.1 analog audio jacks if you decide to use the on-board audio solution instead of the add-on sound card.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Broadcom BCM57781 chip.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with PS/2 connectors for mouse and keyboard, clear CMOS button, optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, four USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 2.0 ports, FireWire port, eSATA-600 port, and independent 7.1 analog audio jacks.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
This motherboard has a POST diagnostics display that shows through a two-digit code which component is preventing the computer from turning on.
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).
Of course, the highlight of this motherboard is its add-on sound card, shown in Figures 8 and 9. It must be connected to a PCI Express x1 slot.
This sound card is based on a Creative Sound Core3D chip (making it similar to the Sound Blaster Recon3D PCIe sound card from Creative that retails for USD 100), which provides CrystalVoice technology for improving the audio quality during audio chats and several other technologies for improving audio. This sound card offers 102 dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for its outputs and 101 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs, with a 192 kHz sampling rate and 24-bit resolution.
Additionally, this card provides a second Gigabit Ethernet port, which is controlled by another Broadcom BCM57781 chip. This chip supports the “teaming” function, allowing you to combine the two Gigabit Ethernet ports for doubling the networking transfer rate to 2 Gbps.
It offers four gold-plated jacks for analog audio connection, optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an internal header for the front audio connection (you must install the audio connector from your case on this header, since the on-board audio is disabled when this card is installed), and an SPDIF header if your video card needs a physical connection in order to provide digital audio on its HDMI output.
In Figure 10, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB has 12 phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), two for the CPU VSA voltage (memory controller), and one for the CPU VTT voltage (PCI Express and DMI interfaces). Therefore, it uses a “12+2+1” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by a CHiL CHL8328 integrated circuit, using a digital design.< /p>
The ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB uses SMD (a.k.a. highly-conductive polymerized or simply Hi-c) electrolytic capacitors in its main voltage regulator circuit. All coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency. The rest of the electrolytic capacitors used on this motherboard are solid, manufactured in Japan.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1.10 BIOS):
- Base clock: From 90 MHz to 300 MHz in 1 MHz increments
- CPU core voltage: From -0.300 V to +0.500 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory controller (“System Agent,” VSA) voltage: From -0.300 mV to +0.500 mV in 0.005 V increments
- CPU VTT (“I/O”) voltage: From 0.950 V to 1.492 V in 0.007 V increments
- CPU PLL voltage: From 1.466 V to 2.535 V in 0.058 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) 1.1 V voltage: From 0.726 V to 1.907 V in 0.063 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) 1.5 V voltage: From 1.500 V to 1.850 V in 0.050 V increments
- Memory voltage: From 1.200 V to 1.800 V in 0.015 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB include:
- Socket: 2011
- Chipset: Intel X79 Express
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6776D
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Four SATA-300 ports, two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5), and three SATA-600 ports controlled by two ASMedia ASM1061 chips
- External SATA: One eSATA-600 port controlled by one of the ASMedia ASM1061 chips
- USB 2.0: 10 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Six USB 3.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard rear panel and controlled by a Texas Instruments TUSB7340 chip, and two available through a header on the motherboard, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): Two ports, one soldered on the motherboard rear panel and one available on a motherboard 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 outputs (disabled when the add-on Game Blaster sound card is installed)
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Broadcom BCM57781 chip, additional Gigabit Ethernet port on the Game Blaster sound card
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: Yes
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (x16/x16/x8, supporting SLI and CrossFireX), one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, and two standard PCI slots
- Memory: Eight DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2400, 64 GB maximum)
- 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, Game Blaster sound card
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asrock.com
- Average price in the U.S.*: USD 280.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
It is clear to us that ASRock is working hard to improve the quality of its products. We were glad to see the voltage regulator circuit of the X79 Extreme6/GB using a high-end design with SMD capacitors, and Japanese solid capacitors throughout the motherboard.
The X79 Extreme6/GB provides many features at a very aggressive price: three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots working at x16/x16/x8 supporting SLI and CrossFireX, five SATA-600 ports, one eSATA-600 port, six USB 3.0 ports, two FireWire ports, and an add-on “Game Blaster” sound card, which provides a digital signal processor (DSP) to improve audio quality and an additional Gigabit Ethernet port. A comparable sound card retails for USD 100, providing an outstanding value to this motherboard. Therefore, the ASRock X79 Extreme6/GB is an excellent option if you are looking for a socket LGA2011 motherboard with the features it provides, at a very competitive price.