ASRock X79 Extreme11 Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on August 13, 2012


Introduction

The ASRock X79 Extreme11 is probably the most complete motherboard released so far for the LGA2011 platform. It includes seven PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, eight additional SAS/SATA-600 ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, and a high-end audio controller. The most important feature of this motherboard is the presence of two PLX PEX8747 chips, which allow you to install up to four PCI Express 3.0 video cards truly working at x16 speed. Let’s check it out.

To better understand the differences between the several socket LGA2011 motherboards released by ASRock, we compiled the tables below. 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.

Specification

X79 Extreme11

X79 Champion

X79 Professional

X79 Extreme9

X79 Extreme7

Form Factor

CEB

CEB

ATX

ATX

ATX

Memory Sockets

8

8

8

8

6

PCI Express x16

7 (x16/x0/x16/
x0/x16/x0/x16 or x16/x8/x8/
x8/x8/x8/x8)

5

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)

PCI Express x1

0

2

1

1

1

Standard PCI

0

0

2

0

0

CrossFireX

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SLI

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SATA-300

4

4

4

4

4

SATA-600

10  (8 SAS)

6

6

8

7

eSATA-600

2

2

2

2

1

USB 2.0

12

8

10

10

10

USB 3.0

8

12

8

8

6

FireWire

2

2

2

2

2

Gigabit Ethernet

2

1

1

1+1

2

Audio

Sound Core3D

Sound Core3D

ALC898

Game Blaster

ALC898

Voltage Regulator

22+2+2

12+2

16+2

16+2

12+2

Price

USD 600

USD 370

USD 280

USD 345

USD 245

 

Specification

X79 Extreme6/GB

X79 Extreme6

X79 Extreme4-M

X79 Extreme4

X79 Extreme3

Form Factor

ATX

ATX

microATX

ATX

ATX

Memory Sockets

8

8

4

4

4

PCI Express x16

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

0

2

1

Standard PCI

2

2

1

2

2

CrossFireX

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SLI

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SATA-300

4

4

4

4

4

SATA-600

5

5

3

5

3

eSATA-600

1

1

1

1

1

USB 2.0

10

10

10

12

12

USB 3.0

6

6

4

4

4

FireWire

2

2

2

2

0

Gigabit Ethernet

1+1

1

1

1

1

Audio

Game Blaster

ALC898

ALC898

ALC898

ALC898

Voltage Regulator

12+2

12+2

6+2

6+2

5+1

Price

USD 270

USD 250

USD 215

USD 225

USD 210

In Figure 1, you see the ASRock X79 Extreme11 motherboard. It uses the CEB form factor (12 x 10.5 inches or 305 x 267 mm), which is a little deeper than standard ATX motherboards (12 x 9.6 inches or 305 x 244 mm). Therefore, you need to make sure that your computer case is compatible with the CEB form factor.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 1: ASRock X79 Extreme11 motherboard

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 Extreme11 comes with seven PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, allowing a very high-end configuration, thanks to the presence of two PLX PEX8747 switch chips. Slots PCIE1, PCIE3, PCIE5, and PCIE7 always work at x16 speed, so you can install up to four high-end, dual-slot video cards that will achieve their maximum performance. The other slots work at x8. If more than four expansion cards are installed, only the first slot will work at x16; the other slots will work at x8.

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. If you install a dual-slot video card in the seventh PCI Express x16 slot, you will need a computer case with at least eight expansion slots.

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

The absence of PCI Express x1 slots is not an issue, since you can use PCI Express x16 slots to install “smaller” cards (i.e., PCI Express x8, x4 or x1).

When installing more than one video card, it is recommended that you install the two available peripheral power connectors. One is located near the first PCI Express x16 slot, and the other is located near the seventh slot. See Figure 2.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 2: Slots

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 3: The two PLX PEX8747 switch chips

In order to accommodate the additional features available on this motherboard, such as the LSI SAS2308 chip that controls eight additional SAS/SATA-600 ports and requires eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes, the ASRock X79 Extreme11 has a PLX PEX8605 switch chip to expand the number of PCI Express lanes controlled by the chipset.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 4: PLX PEX8605 switch chip

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 Extreme11 supports memories up to 2,500 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 Extreme11 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 distinguish which sockets to use. Installation must start from the bottom-most socket, i.e., the socket closest to the main power supply connector.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 5: Memory sockets; install four or eight modules for the best performance

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 Extreme11 has another eight SAS/SATA-600 ports, controlled by an LSI SAS2308 chip, which supports RAID 0, 1, 1E, and 10.

All SATA ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. See Figure 6.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 6: SAS/SATA-600 (gray), SATA-300 (black), and SATA-600 (gray) ports

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 7: The Intel X79 chipset and the LSI SAS2308 chip

This motherboard also has two eSATA-600 ports, controlled by a Marvell 88SE9172 chip, supporting RAID 0 and 1.

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 Extreme11 offers 12 USB 2.0 ports, eight soldered on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. It also supports 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. 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 four USB 3.0 ports.

The ASRock X79 Extreme11 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.

Another highlight of this motherboard is the use of a Creative Sound Core3D chip, making the on-board audio of this product similar to the Sound Blaster Recon3D PCIe sound card from Creative that retails for USD 100. This chip provides CrystalVoice technology for improving the audio quality during audio chats and several other technologies for improving audio. Specifications for this chip include 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.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 8: The Creative Sound Core3D chip

The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output. Additionally, there is a header, labeled “HDMI_SPDIF1” which can be used to route digital audio to your video card’s HDMI connector, if your video card required a physical connection for that.

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 either the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks.

The portrayed motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, controlled by two Broadcom BCM57781 chips, supporting “teaming,” i.e., allowing the ports to be combined in order to achieve a 2 Gbps maximum transfer rate, if you have compatible equipment on your network.

In Figure 9, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a PS/2 keyboard connector, 12 USB 2.0 ports, a clear CMOS button, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one FireWire port, four USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA-600 ports, one optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 9: Motherboard rear panel

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.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 10: POST diagnostics display

The ASRock X79 Extreme11 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 11, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock X79 Extreme11.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 11: Accessories

Voltage Regulator

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock X79 Extreme11 has 22 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 “22+2+2” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by an ISL6367 integrated circuit, using a hybrid design.

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 12: Voltage regulator circuit

This motherboard comes with two EPS12V connectors. The motherboard manual doesn’t say when the second connector is required.

The ASRock X79 Extreme11 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.

Overclocking Options

The ASRock X79 Extreme11 has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1.20 BIOS):

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 13: Overclocking options

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 14: Overclocking options

ASRock X79 Extreme11
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Figure 15: Voltage options

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the ASRock X79 Extreme11 include:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

Conclusions

If you want to build the most high-end gaming system in the world, the ASRock X79 Extreme11 is the motherboard you should buy. Thanks to the presence of two PLX PEX8747 switch chips, it allows the installation of four PCI Express 3.0 video cards truly working at x16 speed. On competing motherboards, at least one of the slots will work at x8 speed, if not less.

Another highlight of this motherboard is its storage configuration. Since the eight additional SAS/SATA-600 ports are controlled by the same chip, you can set up a massive RAID0 system with up to eight SSDs or hard drives. On competing products with chips that control only two ports, you can only have RAID systems with two SSDs or hard drives.

The audio section of this motherboard is also high-end, using a Creative Sound Core3D, which is specifically optimized for audio chat, which is great if you play online games with audio chat.

The voltage regulator is also high-end, with 22+2+2 phases and hi-c capacitors.

The only negative of this motherboard is, obviously, its price: USD 600. But if you can afford four high-end video cards and eight SSDs, this price tag may not be a problem.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASRock-X79-Extreme11-Motherboard/1612


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