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ASRock 990FX Extreme9

Three AMD 990FX-Based Motherboards For Enthusiasts
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We never thought we’d see one of ASRock’s high-end board at mid-budget prices, but the company surprised us by introducing the 990FX Extreme9 at $160. We thought this must surely be a mistake, but were assured that the price was real. It eventually climbed to $175, dropped to $160 just before this round-up, and is now priced at $190.

Update, 4/3: ASRock tells us that the 990FX Extreme9 is now listed for $160 again on Newegg. This price will be held until the end of April. For $30 less than this board was originally reviewed, its feature set becomes much more attractive, and more in-line with the value message of AMD's FX processors.

Based on its feature set, this board probably should be in the $175 range we saw it at a week ago. Its elaborate 14-phase voltage regulator, two added-on four-port USB 3.0 controllers, extra pair of two-port SATA 6Gb/s controllers, Intel PCIe-based Wi-Fi controller, and even the legacy IEEE-1394 controller seem a little out of place compared the two more mainstream products in today's story. Without question, this board is a premium part.

Four of those USB 3.0 ports and two of its SATA 6Gb/s ports feed rear-panel connectors, bounded by dual-format (coaxial and optical) digital audio connectors, six analog audio jacks, and a CLR_CMOS button.

The other two added-in SATA ports are exposed internally, next to the similarly-premium lighted power button, reset button, and two-digit LED diagnostics display. Doubling up on mid-market expectations, four USB 3.0 ports connect the two internal USB 3.0 headers, which ASRock pioneered at our request.

Keen observers might notice that the chokes on ASRock’s voltage regulator appear tiny; there isn’t much room behind the CPU socket for 14 phases. We're not certain whether ASRock’s 14 phases can out-power Asus’ eight, but as you already know, manufacturers tend toward a larger number of lower-capacity phases to pad spec sheets, even though that's no explicit indicator of power performance.

ASRock also adds an extra set of PCIe switches to its third x16-length slot, allowing the board's bottom slot to support eight lanes of second-gen PCIe. This could be viewed as mandatory by some buyers, since AMD's 990FX chipset doesn’t support PCIe 3.0. This potential boon to SLI flexibility is bolstered by a bundled three-way SLI bridge.

We have no layout complaints and only a few caveats concerning 990FX Extreme9 connector placement. For example, all five fan headers are located near the motherboard’s top and bottom edges. All eight SATA ports point forward to a location that might be blocked by the drive cages of some (typically old) cases. The front-panel audio connector is placed in the traditional location, though the cables of some (typically old) cases are too short to reach its extreme bottom-rear corner. And because the board has two USB 3.0 dual-port internal headers, ASRock appears to think that two USB 2.0 headers are adequate. That last caveat is addressable via separately-available USB 2.0 adapters, when required.

Besides the already-mentioned three-way SLI bridge, the 990FX Extreme9 also include a two-way bridge, ASRock’s fantastic USB 3.0 drive bay adapter with integrated 2.5” drive tray and optional slot-plate, and an impressive collection of six SATA cables.

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Top Comments
  • 27 Hide
    boulbox , April 1, 2013 9:23 PM
    Glad to see AMD getting some love.
  • 25 Hide
    designasaurus , April 1, 2013 9:42 PM
    "if we diminished most of those power differences by not installing Asus' power management software at default settings, the company would have likely matched the performance of Gigabyte and ASRock."


    Don't speculate! Do the tests and add it to the article so we can see what the software packages are actually accomplishing! That's why I read your site, yeah? For hard info that I can't get myself.
  • 12 Hide
    Crashman , April 2, 2013 1:13 AM
    falchardAren't the 990FX chipsets kind old?
    990FX is AMD's current "high-end" chipset for enthusiast-level desktops. AMD occasionally releases new chips (look last fall) and motherboard companies keep updating their selection of products.

    Old chipset, recent boards, any questions?
Other Comments
  • 27 Hide
    boulbox , April 1, 2013 9:23 PM
    Glad to see AMD getting some love.
  • 25 Hide
    designasaurus , April 1, 2013 9:42 PM
    "if we diminished most of those power differences by not installing Asus' power management software at default settings, the company would have likely matched the performance of Gigabyte and ASRock."


    Don't speculate! Do the tests and add it to the article so we can see what the software packages are actually accomplishing! That's why I read your site, yeah? For hard info that I can't get myself.
  • 9 Hide
    bgunner , April 1, 2013 10:25 PM
    designasaurus"if we diminished most of those power differences by not installing Asus' power management software at default settings, the company would have likely matched the performance of Gigabyte and ASRock."Don't speculate! Do the tests and add it to the article so we can see what the software packages are actually accomplishing! That's why I read your site, yeah? For hard info that I can't get myself.

    I totally agree with this statement. The test should have been done and added into the article because this would of been a good representative of the value of the software. I would like to know for a fact if the software was a hindrance to the electrical efficiency of the Asus and Gigabye boards.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , April 1, 2013 10:36 PM
    bgunnerI totally agree with this statement. The test should have been done and added into the article because this would of been a good representative of the value of the software. I would like to know for a fact if the software was a hindrance to the electrical efficiency of the Asus and Gigabye boards.
    At least the power was measured and mentioned, even if it didn't get into the chart.
  • -9 Hide
    bit_user , April 2, 2013 12:08 AM
    AMD's 890FX was an excellent low-cost server platform, in its day. Great I/O, tons of PCIe lanes, 6-channel SATA3, and ECC support. All with boards and CPUs in the desktop price range that were close to being performance competitive with Intel (when they were introduced, at least).

    Now, AMD is just slipping too far behind. Not just on the CPU front, but like how about some PCIe 3?

    I'm waiting for 64-bit ARMs to hit the desktop. That's probably the next truly interesting thing on the horizon.
  • -5 Hide
    falchard , April 2, 2013 1:05 AM
    Aren't the 990FX chipsets kind old?
  • 6 Hide
    boulbox , April 2, 2013 1:07 AM
    Quote:
    Aren't the 990FX chipsets kind old?


    Yes, but not a lot of new things need to be offered anyways. PCIe 3.0 is just a gimmick and doesn't really give much more performance over PCIe2
  • 12 Hide
    Crashman , April 2, 2013 1:13 AM
    falchardAren't the 990FX chipsets kind old?
    990FX is AMD's current "high-end" chipset for enthusiast-level desktops. AMD occasionally releases new chips (look last fall) and motherboard companies keep updating their selection of products.

    Old chipset, recent boards, any questions?
  • 4 Hide
    Onus , April 2, 2013 6:06 AM
    What did I miss? The ASRock has better features, including 3-way SLI, more USB3.0, an abundance of accessories, uses less power (the only positive efficiency), has higher performance, lower VRM temps; but BOTH of the other two got awards? I noted the comment about fluctuating prices, but on features alone ASRock looks like the winner. Surely it wasn't the slightly lower OC...
  • 7 Hide
    Onus , April 2, 2013 6:14 AM
    darkchazz"Three AMD 990FX-Based Motherboards For Enthusiasts"I don't think enthusiasts would want to buy a slow CPU from AMD.

    I think of enthusiasts as people interested in getting the maximum performance from their hardware; regardless of its base level, getting the most out of it. Boards like these which can be tweaked every which way are precisely the kinds of products enthusiasts enjoy.
  • -8 Hide
    Novuake , April 2, 2013 6:39 AM
    Saddest part about the platform is that it feels old and out of date. So little integration... This design is now years old and its their top of the lane. I see nothing new since 890.
  • 0 Hide
    Novuake , April 2, 2013 6:43 AM
    darkchazz"Three AMD 990FX-Based Motherboards For Enthusiasts"I don't think enthusiasts would want to buy a slow CPU from AMD.


    Really? Wow...
  • 0 Hide
    Novuake , April 2, 2013 6:45 AM
    boulboxYes, but not a lot of new things need to be offered anyways. PCIe 3.0 is just a gimmick and doesn't really give much more performance over PCIe2


    I disagree, the whole platform smells of too much power consumption. AMD needs to INNOVATE, not just add more features and drive up power.
  • 7 Hide
    azraa , April 2, 2013 8:03 AM
    NovuakeI disagree, the whole platform smells of too much power consumption. AMD needs to INNOVATE, not just add more features and drive up power.


    I disagree again. Sure the HT is old, but except for a few details, this boards, being updated regularly with their firmwares or even the pcb revisions, are quite good. The power modulation works fine for this quite cheap boards, I mean, check out those overclocks, and they are very conservative. The amount of sata3 ports is excellent, PCI lanes are ok just what you need nothing more nothing less. RAM management seems a bit old, you are correct, but only professionals get value of it, professionals that should be buying extreme Intel setups. For the average Joe editing and rendering, their memory solution is just 1 minute slower, who cares.

    I think AMD doesn't need to innovate, which is quite a prostituted word. They need to improve their technologies further, as they've been doing for the last years, just at a faster pace, without falling into self indulgence, in that i agree with you.
  • 5 Hide
    lilcinw , April 2, 2013 8:16 AM
    It is nice to see my GA-990FXA-UD3 win a Tom's award (even if it is an older rev).

    My only complaint about the board is that the NB or SB, I don't exactly remember which, would cause a thermal shutdown while running Folding@Home 24/7 last summer. It didn't help that a GTX 560 Ti at 100% load was dumping waste heat right on top of it.

    Re-configuring the cooling in my cheap case and down-clocking the GPU got me back up and running.
  • 2 Hide
    ddpruitt , April 2, 2013 8:55 AM
    Quote:
    folks who put in the effort to configure Asus' power management software to their perfect preferences


    I love Asus's power management options, power savings or performance when needed. Although I wish the balanced setting didn't cause problems with OCing and would pile on the juice when needed.
  • 1 Hide
    dsolom3 , April 2, 2013 9:03 AM
    lilcinw, my friend had a similar problem. 2 ways to solve it:

    1. move the GPU down to the second slot, which should drop NB temps by about 5-7 degrees C.

    2. Replace the northbridge cooling solution with an active fan (10-15 degree drop). VRMs also get super-hot, 75C is not uncommon under load. Quite frankly, the NB/VRM colling solution on this board is terrible, and I cannot fathom how it got a recommendation at all given these grievances.
  • 1 Hide
    g-unit1111 , April 2, 2013 9:41 AM
    I have that same Gigabyte board but an older version of it without the UEFI - it still holds up very well even after a CPU upgrade.
  • 1 Hide
    subcutaneous , April 2, 2013 9:58 AM
    OnusWhat did I miss? The ASRock has better features, including 3-way SLI, more USB3.0, an abundance of accessories, uses less power (the only positive efficiency), has higher performance, lower VRM temps; but BOTH of the other two got awards? I noted the comment about fluctuating prices, but on features alone ASRock looks like the winner. Surely it wasn't the slightly lower OC...


    I was left wondering the same thing.
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