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Three AMD 990FX-Based Motherboards For Enthusiasts

ASRock 990FX Extreme9

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.