ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on June 1, 2012


Introduction

The newly released X79 Fatal1ty Champion is the most high-end motherboard from ASRock for the LGA2011 platform. It comes with five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, six SATA-600 ports, 12 USB 3.0 ports, an on-board, professional-grade sound controller (Creative Sound Core3D), two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and more.

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. The “Fatal1ty” motherboards have a special USB port with a higher polling rate for gaming mice.

Feature

X79 Fatal1ty Champion

X79 Fatal1ty Professional

X79 Extreme9

X79 Extreme7

Form Factor

CEB

ATX

ATX

ATX

Memory Sockets

8

8

8

6

PCI Express x16

5 (x16/x16 or x16/x8/x8/x8)

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

2

1

1

1

Standard PCI

0

2

0

0

CrossFireX

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SLI

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SATA-300

4

4

4

4

SATA-600

6

6

8

7

eSATA-600

2

2

2

1

USB 2.0

8

12

10

10

USB 3.0

12

8

8

6

FireWire

2

2

2

2

Gigabit Ethernet

2

1

1+1

2

Audio

Creative Sound Core3D

ALC898

Game Blaster

ALC898

Voltage Regulator

12+2

16+2

16+2

12+2

Price

USD 400

USD 280

USD 345

USD 260


Feature

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 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard. In order to accommodate so many extra features, this motherboard uses the CEB form factor, which has the same length as the ATX form factor (12” or 305 mm), but has a higher width (10.5” or 267 mm vs. 9.6” or 244 mm).

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 1: ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard

Slots

The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion comes with five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots and two PCI Express 2.0 x1 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 PCI Express x16 slots are labeled PCIE1, PCIE3, PCIE4, PCIE5, and PCIE7. The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion allows the configurations listed in the table below.

PCIE1

PCIE3

PCIE4

PCIE5

PCIE7

x16

x16

x16

x8

x8

x16

x8

x8

x16

x8

x8

x8

Even though the motherboard has five PCI Express x16 slots, you can “only” install up to four video cards. As you can see from the table, if only two video cards are installed, install them in the first and in the fourth (PCIE5) slots for 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. Basically, this means that when using the second (PCIE3) PCI Express x16 slot, you “kill” the third (PCIE4) slot, as described in the above table.

If a fourth dual-slot video is installed (in the fifth, i.e., PCIE7 slot), you will need a case with at least eight expansion slots.

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

When more than one video card is installed, you must install an additional power connector to the motherboard, which is located near the fifth (PCIE7) PCI Express x16 slot.

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 2: Slots

In order to properly accommodate the additional PCI Express devices that are on this motherboard (the second Gigabit Ethernet port, the eight additional USB 3.0 ports, the four additional SATA-600 ports, etc.), the board makes use of a PLX PEX8605 switch chip. This chip automatically switches the available PCI Express lanes to the devices that need them. On motherboards with too many PCI Express devices without a switch chip, you need to manually disable devices on the motherboard setup in order to achieve full performance on devices connected to the USB 3.0 and SATA-600 ports when transferring files at the same time.

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 3: The PLX PEX8605 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 Fatal1ty Champion 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 Fatal1ty Champion 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 memory modules. When installing four memory modules, you will have to “skip” one memory socket. On the ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion, the first, third, fifth, and seventh memory sockets are red, while the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth are black. When installing four memory modules, use the red sockets.

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 4: 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 Fatal1ty Champion has another four SATA-600 ports, controlled by a Marvell 88SE9230 chips, supporting RAID 0, 1, and 10.

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 think 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 chip.

All SATA ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. See Figure 5.

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 5: SATA-600 (red) and SATA-300 (black) ports

This motherboard also has two eSATA-600 ports, controlled by a Marvell 88SE9172 chip.

The Intel X79 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports. Unfortunately, this chipset doesn’t support USB 3.0 ports natively. The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion offers eight USB 2.0 ports, two soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. It also supports 12 USB 3.0 ports by using three Texas Instruments TUSB7340 chips, eight soldered on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers. The motherboard comes with a 3.5” panel containing two USB 3.0 ports for you to use on one of the motherboard’s USB 3.0 headers if your computer case doesn’t have four USB 3.0 ports with internal connectors.

The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion has two FireWire ports, one soldered on the rear panel and one available through a header. These ports are controlled by a VIA VT6308S chip.

This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format, using a Creative Sound Core3D audio controller, which 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 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 6: The Creative Sound Core3D chip

The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output. A header labeled “HDMI_SPDIF1” also provides SPDIF output for you to install a coaxial SPDIF output or to route digital audio to older video cards that require this physical connection in order to have digital audio output in their HDMI connectors.

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 that are controlled by two Broadcom BCM57781 chips. These support the “teaming” function, which combines the bandwidth of the two ports for a maximum bandwidth of 2 Gbps if you have compatible networking hardware.

In Figure 7, you can see the motherboard rear panel with two USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 keyboard connector, a clear CMOS button, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, one FireWire port, two eSATA-600 ports, an optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio connectors.

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 7: Motherboard rear panel

The top-most USB 2.0 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.

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 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 8: POST diagnostics display

The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion 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. The portrayed motherboard 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 9, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion.

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 9: Accessories

Voltage Regulator

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion has 12 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 “12+2+2” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by an ISL6367 integrated circuit, using a hybrid design.

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 10: Voltage regulator circuit

The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion uses SMD (a.k.a. highly-conductive polymerized or simply Hi-c) electrolytic capacitors on all voltage regulator circuits, including the memory one. 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 Fatal1ty Champion has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1.20 BIOS):

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 11: Overclocking options

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 12: Voltage options

The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion also allows you to monitor voltages through a voltmeter. You can monitor the CPU (core, VCSA, and VTT) and memory voltages.

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion motherboard
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Figure 13: Voltage monitoring points

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion include:

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

Conclusions

The ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion is the most complete LGA2011 motherboard money can buy. It has five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (although “only” four can be used at the same time) supporting both SLI and CrossFireX, 12 USB 3.0 ports, six SATA-600 ports, a professional-grade audio controller, two FireWire ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a PLX PEX8605 chip to give bandwidth to the device that is requiring performance, 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.

The main problem with this motherboard is, of course, its price. Costing USD 400, it is reserved for a select few who will need all the features it brings and who are fortunate enough to have the money to buy it. For the typical enthusiasts, there are products that offer better cost/benefit ratio.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASRock-X79-Fatal1ty-Champion-Motherboard/1567


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