Let’s take a look at the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer, a top mid-range socket AM3+ motherboard for AMD FX processors, based on the AMD 990FX chipset.
The portrayed motherboard is part of the Fatal1ty Killer series, which is equipped with a high-end audio interface based on the Realtek ALC1150 codec, which brings professional-grade specifications, and a Killer E2200 Ethernet controller.
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 were not used before and are supported by the FX processors from AMD.
You can see the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor.
The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer comes with three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots and two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.
Two of the PCI Express x16 slots (PCIE2 and PCIE3) always work at x16 speed, and the other slot (PCIE5) works at x4. Therefore, when installing two video cards, place them in the first (PCIE2) and third (PCIE3) slots for best performance.
If you plan to install a dual-slot video card in the third PCI Express x16 slot (PCIE5), you will have to buy a case with at least eight slots. (Computer cases usually have seven.)
The PCI Express x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies.
The Fatal1ty 990FX also comes with an M.2 slot (a.k.a. NGFF), supporting SSDs that use this new form factor. This slot supports SATA-600 and PCI Express x2 interfaces.
[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 1,866 MHz. According to ASRock, the Fatal1ty 990FX Killer supports memories up to 2,450 MHz.
The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer has four memory sockets. According to ASRock, this motherboard supports up to 64 GiB if you use four 16 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. When installing two memory modules, you will have to use two sockets with the same color, 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).
[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). The Fatal1ty 990FX Killer offers five of them. The sixth port is shared between an eSATA port at the rear panel and the M.2 slot.
Four of the SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards won’t block them.
The AMD 990FX chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer offers 10 of them, six located on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. It also offers seven USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel, two available through a header on the motherboard, and one in an A-type connector at the motherboard. The USB 3.0 ports are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1074 chip (rear panel ports) and one EtronTech EJ188H chip.
The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer does not support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format, i.e., eight channels. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC1150 codec, which is an excellent audio codec, providing 115 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. These specifications are good even for the user who wants to work professionally by capturing and editing analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.).
The codec is shielded against electromagnetic interference, and the audio interface is equipped with a TI NE5532 amplifier for the frontal headphone output. The analog audio outputs are independent only if you use a 5.1 analog speaker set. If you install a 7.1 analog speaker set, you will need to use the “line in” jack.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Atheros Killer E2200 chip, a high-performance Gigabit Ethernet controller. Like the codec, this chip is also shielded, as you can see in Figure 5.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse, six USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one eSATA-600 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, an optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
One of the USB 2.0 ports (the top-most one on the stack containing the eSATA port) is a “Fatal1ty mouse port,” which allows you to manually configure its polling rate between 125 Hz and 1 kHz.
The Fatal1ty 990FX Killer 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.
In Figure 7, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer has eight 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 an “8+2” configuration, using a digital design.
The voltage regulator circuit is shown in Figure 8.
The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer uses solid electrolytic capacitors. 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 (P1.00A 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 increment
- CPU Multiplier: From x8.0 to x31.5 in 0.5x increments
- CPU core voltage: From 0.600 V to 1.550 V in 0.0125 V increments
- CPU NB (memory controller) voltage: From 0.600 V to 1.550 V in 0.0125 V increments
- Memory voltage: From 1.250 V to 2.050 V in 0.005 V increments
- Chipset NB voltage: From 1.100 V to 1.400 V in 0.020 V increments
- HyperTransport voltage: From 1.200 V to 1.400 V in 0.010 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer include:
- Socket: AM3+
- Chipset: AMD 990FX + SB950
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT7667F
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Five SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
- External SATA: One eSATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset, shared with an M.2 slot
- USB 2.0: 10 USB 2.0 ports, six on the rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: seven USB 3.0 ports, four on the rear panel, two available through one header, and one A-type at the board; controlled by one ASMedia ASM1074 chip and one EtronTech EJ188H chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- On-board video: No
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC1150 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 115 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Atheros Killer E2200 chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: Yes
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x16/x4), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and one M.2 slot
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2450, 64 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin and one three-pin connectors for the CPU cooler, one four-pin connector for an auxiliary fan, and three three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: None
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: http://www.asrock.com/
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 135.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer is a good top mid-range motherboard for socket AM3+ systems, aimed at the user who wants to build a gaming or multimedia PC based on the AMD FX processor, and does not need fancy features such as lots of extra SATA-600 or USB 3.0 ports, and want to save some bucks to invest on a more powerful video card.
It brings five SATA-600 ports and seven USB 3.0 ports, which is enough for the average user. The slot configuration and voltage regulator are good, even though not at the same level of high-end (and far more expensive) motherboards.
The highlights of this motherboard are the high-end audio interface, which uses one of the best codecs available at the market, and the high-end Gigabit Ethernet controller.
The Fatal1ty 990FX Killer actually brings an excellent balance between features and price tag. In our opinion, it has the features that most users will really use. Only a few enthusiasts will need more than what it offers, and they will have to choose a motherboard that costs at least twice its price.