ASRock has released eight 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. This time we will take a look at the X79 Fatal1ty Professional, with four PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, six SATA-600 ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, and a special USB port with high polling rate for gaming mice.
To better understand the differences between the several socket LGA2011 motherboards released by ASRock, we compiled the table below. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article, except for the X79 Fatal1ty Professional, which is the suggested price announced by the manufacturer. “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||USD 280||USD 345||USD 260||USD 280||USD 250||USD 219||USD 215||USD 215|
In Figure 1, you see the ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Professional motherboard.
The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Professional comes with four 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 ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Professional allows two configurations for its PCI Express x16 slots: x16/x8/x16/x0, if up to three video cards are installed, or x16/x8/x8/x8, if four video cards are installed.
If you are going to install only two video cards, install the second video card in the third PCI Express x16 slot (labeled “PCIE4”), and not in the second one, in order for you to achieve the best performance.
When installing dual-slot video cards, you “kill” the slot immediately to the left (looking at the motherboard with its rear connectors facing up) of the slot being used.
This motherboard allows you to install four dual-slot video cards, which is great. If a fourth dual-slot video is installed, you will need 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 Fatal1ty Professional 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 Fatal1ty Professional has four memory sockets (two 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 32 GB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GB modules.
In order to enable the quad-channel mode, you must populate all four memory sockets with identical memory modules.
[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 Fatal1ty Professional has another four SATA-600 ports, controlled by two Marvell 88SE9172 chips. Both support RAID 0 and 1.
One drawback is that the manufacturer used only two colors to identify the SATA ports: black for the SATA-300 and red for the SATA-600. The manufacturer should have used different colors to identify to where each port is connected. We t
hink they should have used one color for the SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (which are the ones to the immediate left of the SATA-300 ports) and another color for the ports controlled by the additional chips.
All SATA ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. See Figure 4.
This motherboard also has two eSATA-600 ports, controlled by another Marvell 88SE9172 chip.
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 Fatal1ty Professional offers 12 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. It also supports eight USB 3.0 ports, the four located on the motherboard rear panel controlled by a Texas Instruments TUSB7340 chip and the four available on two headers controlled by another Texas Instruments TUSB7340 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 Fatal1ty Professional 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. The motherboard has on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs and independent 7.1 analog audio jacks.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Broadcom BCM57781 chip.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a PS/2 keyboard connector, six USB 2.0 ports, a clear CMOS button, coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs, four USB 3.0 ports, one FireWire port, two eSATA-600 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and independent 7.1 analog audio connectors.
The USB 2.0 port right below the FireWire port is the special “Fatal1ty mouse port,” which has a polling rate that can be manually configured between 125 Hz and 1 kHz. The main problem here is that there is no label indicating the presence of this port. The manufacturer should have used a different color (red) for this port, making it easier for users to identify it.
[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).
In Figure 7, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Professional.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Professional has 16 phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), two for the CPU VSA voltage (memory controller), and two for the CPU VTT voltage (PCI Express and DMI interfaces). Therefore, it uses a “16+2+2” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by a CHiL CHL8328 integrated circuit, using a digital design.
The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Professional 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 Fatal1ty Professional has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1.10 BIOS):
- Clock multiplier: From x12 to x60 (for unlocked CPUs)
- 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 V to +0.500 V 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 1.207 V to 1.806 V in 0.013 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the
ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Professional include:
- Socket: 2011
- Chipset: Intel X79 Express
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6776F
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Four SATA-300 ports, two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5), and four SATA-600 ports controlled by two Marvell 88SE9172 chips (RAID 0 and 1)
- External SATA: Two eSATA-600 ports controlled by another Marvel 88SE9172 chip (RAID 0 and 1)
- USB 2.0: 12 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the motherboard rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Eight USB 3.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard, controlled by two Texas Instruments TUSB7340 chips
- 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
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Broadcom BCM57781 chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: Yes
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Four PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (x16/x8/x16/x0 or x16/x8/x8/x8, supporting SLI and CrossFireX), one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, and two standard PCI slots
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2400, 32 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, one four-pin connector for an auxiliary fan, and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: POST diagnostics display, legacy serial port, gaming USB port with higher polling rate
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asrock.com
- MSRP in the U.S.: USD 280.00
As mentioned in our other articles about motherboards from ASRock based on the Intel X79 chipset, 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 Fatal1ty Professional using a high-end design with SMD capacitors, and Japanese solid capacitors throughout the motherboard.
The X79 Fatal1ty Professional has four PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots supporting SLI and CrossFireX, six SATA-600 ports, two eSATA-600 ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, two FireWire ports, and a special USB port called “Fatal1ty mouse port,” which has a polling rate that can be manually configured between 125 Hz and 1 kHz.
Another advantage of this motherboard is that it supports four dual-slot video cards to be installed. The most high-end motherboard from ASRock, the X79 Extreme9, doesn’t support this configuration, even though it has five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots. You will need a case with at least eight expansion slots if you plan on installing a fourth dual-slot video card.
We think its price is more than right for the features it brings. The only negative point we saw on this motherboard was the lack of a sticker or different color on the “Fatal1ty mouse port,” which would help users to correctly identify it.