Six $200-$260 LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed

ECS X79R-AX Black Deluxe

ECS' X79-based branding is a little strange. Its “Black Extreme” moniker applies to a high-end part labeled X79R-AX, while its “Black Deluxe” moniker goes to the mid-range part officially called the X79R-AX Deluxe. Those official names come from both the company's Web site and the descriptor labels applied to its boxes. In other words, the Deluxe is a lower-end model than the non-Deluxe, and the word Extreme rarely appears on the top-end variant. In order to keep things simple, we’re ignoring the word Black and going by the label’s official X79R-AX Deluxe designator.

Deluxe could refer to the board’s support for four graphics cards, its four rear and two front-panel USB 3.0 ports, or perhaps its quad SAS 6Gb/s connectors. Two of those features are unique amongst today's contenders.

Pathway switches allow the X79R-AX Deluxe to go from two full-bandwidth PCIe 3.0 x16 links to four x8 connectors by sending eight of each grey slot’s lanes to the corresponding white slot. That only happens when the switches detect a card in the white slot, though.

Of course, four-card arrays aren't for everyone, and they may not even be for anyone shopping in the X79R-AX Deluxe's price range. They certainly can't be used if you also want front-panel USB 3.0 support, since the front-panel header is placed too closely to the fourth graphics slot for a card and a cable to coexist. Three-way CrossFire is still a solid possibility, but the slots are most suitably situated to support two really big graphics coolers.

The CPU’s remaining eight lanes of third-gen PCIe are reserved for on-board devices, with four of them providing a communications pathway for the PCH's SAS controller. These are the same ports Intel decided to disable on desktops, and ECS was the only manufacturer to enable them anyway. These must be enabled in both firmware and by Intel drivers supplied by ECS. Mixed tales of triumph and tragedy have been attributed to the use of these ports, and the tragedies are mostly likely related to the fact that Intel decided not to support them.

In the days to come, Intel will introduce the server/workstation version of this same PCH, which will be largely identical to the desktop version, aside from its name. That'll be the product to look to for official Intel SAS support.

The X79R-AX Deluxe officially supports six drives and actually includes six SATA cables. ECS adds a single SLI bridge. You'll need to look to your graphics vendor for a CrossFire bridge.

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  • I like Asrock boards. I have an 880GM-LE mATX and a Z68 Pro3 Gen3 ATX and both are good performance and price-performance wise.
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  • Asrock is dominating both high end and mid range market.extreme3/gen3 1155 is awesome and cheapest pci-e 3.0 sli capable mobo.Asrock FTW!!!
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  • Quote:
    Quite simply, the costs associated with Sandy Bridge-E are higher, in part because of Intel's prices and also because the boards are more difficult to design.


    Since the boards all have vastly superior profit margins, your statement is misleading. Why is everyone too afraid to reveal the truth about motherboard pricing?
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  • ASRock has come a long way!
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  • Would it be possible, in future motherboard reviews, to include a measure of the cold boot (POST) time? This is something that different bioses can be differentiated on, and UFEI offers the potential for very fast boots if manufacturers take advantage of it properly.

    A comparison of the time between the power button being pressed and the installed bootloader starting would be very interesting to me. I was thinking it might be easiest to measure this by having no OS on the boot media and measuring the time to the "please insert boot media" message, but I'm sure you can think of other ways of doing it.

    I'm also informed that on some boards the boot time varies dramatically dependent on whether any Overclocking is enabled, as compared to the stock settings - that would also be worth knowing.
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  • your feature table says the asrock extreme 4 comes with an 8 phase voltage regulator, but the text of article says 10 phase...which is it ?
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  • ASRock = ASUS :)
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  • crisan_tiberiuASRock = ASUS


    not anymore, asrock is no longer affiliated with Asus and is owned by Pegatron Corp.
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  • I wish tom's would do a "best motherboards for the money" or something close to that.
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  • Pegatron sounds like a merger between PegASUS + Megatron (or something like that).
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  • I'd like to see one of these x79 motherboards mounted in a case with a rear mounted 120MM radiator. I'm concerned that the memory slots might be blocked by a thick radiator + 120MM fan inside the case.
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  • Great informative article.

    But I'm wondering why AMD continues the ATI brand on the ASrock motherboard? Seems odd. They had everyone replace the CCC as soon as they rebranded and here we are looking at the ATI logo on the ASrock board.

    Also, even though there is so little difference when comparing boards using the same architecture, why no BF3 in the gaming section of the review? I thought this was one of the games mentioned in the 2012 goals for Tom's when reviewing gaming performance?
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  • I'm looking forward to the review of several z77 motherboards. The x79's are far too expensive.
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  • i realy dont see a reason why i should go for a X79 from my X58 board. even with the next gen vga for AMD is out that say PCI 3.0 compatible, (assume same for the nvidia as well) i can put those cards on my board. so thats leave the quad channel and the more efficien i7 gen 2 cpu's. still will i see a huge FPS gain in games. i dont think so. so i think i can safely leave out this whole year without upgrading my mobo. in fact since i have a i7 950 im actually wating it to go down in the CPU hirearchy one more level.
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  • americanbrianyour feature table says the asrock extreme 4 comes with an 8 phase voltage regulator, but the text of article says 10 phase...which is it ?
    Eight, thanks
    ubercakeGreat informative article. But I'm wondering why AMD continues the ATI brand on the ASrock motherboard? Seems odd. They had everyone replace the CCC as soon as they rebranded and here we are looking at the ATI logo on the ASrock board.Also, even though there is so little difference when comparing boards using the same architecture, why no BF3 in the gaming section of the review? I thought this was one of the games mentioned in the 2012 goals for Tom's when reviewing gaming performance?
    New benchmarks are considered when a new chipset is launched. Keeping the old benchmark means you can compare current results with former results of previous roundups.
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  • I like this review. It's good to see that most of the motherboards perform about the same with nobody sticking out or lagging behind for the most part. There's such a wide variety of prices for the LGA 2011 platform that I certainly didn't want to wind up with an overpriced POS.

    I settled on the ASRock Extreme4-m. I did have to wait for a new BIOS chip to arrive in order to make use of it though. They overnighted one to me last week and I got my system up and running over the weekend. So far so good. I've been quite happy with it now that it's working. I can't say that I've tried the overclocking features.

    wysiwygbillI'd like to see one of these x79 motherboards mounted in a case with a rear mounted 120MM radiator. I'm concerned that the memory slots might be blocked by a thick radiator + 120MM fan inside the case.

    With the ASRock Extreme4-m the memory slots and CPU 8-pin power connectors are very close to the radiator. I went with the Intel liquid cooler for my build. It's a 120mm fan and radiator. I placed these in a Silverstone FT03 as exhaust from the top of the case. It's important to pick out RAM that doesn't have any crazy fins or spikes on it. I went with some Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600 4x4GB that were on the official support list. There is a 4 to 5 mm gap between the RAM and radiator. it is plenty of room for the 8-pin wires to clear without touching the RAM or radiator. It's tight, but it works. I originally was going to buy GSkill RAM that was $20 cheaper, but there's no way the big red fins on those sticks would have fit.
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  • I really wish Tom's Hardware would do more reviews of mid-range components. Especially with Ivy Bridge being compatible with Socket 1155, why wouldn't they do a review on some good z68 boards out now that will do well with Ivy Bridge, if you're looking to get a cheap rig now (G630/G860) and then upgrade later. All this 2011 stuff though are there really that many people that spend $600+ on a CPU?
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  • ubercakeAlso, even though there is so little difference when comparing boards using the same architecture, why no BF3 in the gaming section of the review? I thought this was one of the games mentioned in the 2012 goals for Tom's when reviewing gaming performance?

    I don't blame them for skipping BF3. Since the most recent video drivers I've been having all sorts of issues with BF3. It's the only game on my machine to display a "Something went wrong" error and crash the entire system. I'd imagine it's hard to benchmark such an unstable game. My Extreme4-m, i7 3820, and Radeon 7950 system has no trouble with Just Cause 2, GTA IV, Crysis, and others, but BF3 has this remarkable capability to come up with the most ridiculous of error messages and strange behavior. That game still has issues.
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  • Tiger6kI really wish Tom's Hardware would do more reviews of mid-range components. Especially with Ivy Bridge being compatible with Socket 1155, why wouldn't they do a review on some good z68 boards out now that will do well with Ivy Bridge, if you're looking to get a cheap rig now (G630/G860) and then upgrade later. All this 2011 stuff though are there really that many people that spend $600+ on a CPU?
    Z68 has been covered fairly well, and Z77 will be next. Manufacturers will provide the information on Ivy Bridge compatibility for their Z68 motherboards.
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  • asrock look fast....
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