Conclusion: ASRock Addresses Our Concerns
Supporting up to four double-slot graphics cards, we really like the X58 SuperComputer's layout and features.
Today’s test also shows that with a recent BIOS update, the new PCB revision 1.05 makes overclocking a breeze. You might not be able to find 1.04 or 1.05 immidiately, given the 1.03s in the channel, but that doesn't mean you're destined to suffer our issues. We have several recommendations for ensuring a smooth experience with these boards and older CPUs.
As always, the easiest way to make sure your hardware survives is to leave it at rated speed and automatically-detected voltage levels. As tempting as it is to chase "free" performance gains, overclocking does open you up to hardware complications. And any time you start tweaking around with voltage, you play with fire (if only a little bit).
Our second-safest recommendation would be to make sure your ASRock X58 SuperComputer motherboard is PCB revision 1.04 or newer. Automatic voltage “droop” compensation by way of the new “Vcore Load-Line Shallow_SLOPE” setting reduces the voltage change between full-load and active-idle conditions to around 2%, reducing the overclocker’s urge to manually compensate for the change. In other words, you're less likely to have your record-breaking overclock hampered by a sagging load voltage.
The third-safest, and perhaps the easiest to adhere to, choice is for the experienced overclocker to set the highest voltage he or she feels is safe, and leave the setting there. Trying to manually dial-in droop compensation is a bad idea. Lower stable overclocking limits are the price owners of these 1.03 PCBs and C0-stepping Core i7s must pay for increased component survival.
Solving The Problem
The X58 SuperComputer really comes into its own if you're able to pair it to a D0-stepping Core i7, though. ASRock's engineers added a feature called Overdrive Offset, which works like a voltage boost to increase stability under load settings that we saw dip significantly with our C0 CPU. Turning on Overdrive Offset turns out to be an asset for running at a "auto" low voltage setting and then getting a "smart" increase as load goes up.
But even if you don't have a D0 processor, the implementation of Vcore Load-Line Shallow_SLOPE in rev. 1.04 and 1.05 PCBs minimizes the need to compensate for Vcore droop manually, which is how we lost three boards.
And so, while we did, in fact, go through a trio of X58 SuperComputers, we know why and we know how to keep our readers from experiencing the same issues. Equally important, we can confirm that the latest revision of ASRock's X58 SuperComputer, along with BIOS rev. 1.90, addresses the Vdroop issues that triggered this analysis. Further, enthusiasts able to get their hands on a D0-stepping Core i7 will have the option to set a low Vcore setting and use Overdrive Offset to intelligently increase output voltage under load.
K9A2 Platinum cannot support Core i7: The ASRock X58 SuperComputer is only ever compared to other LGA-1366 motherboards.
You do get a lot of features, but it's not cheaper than the competition. The big difference is that it supports four double-thick cards, as long as your case has enough room under the last slot.
Yes, Tom's Hardware uses 1.44 to 1.45 volts for testing the overclocking capabilty of its Core i7 920 on various boards. The problem is that set voltage is never actual voltage, and an attempt to get 1.44-1.45V actual voltage would overload the VRM when using traditional voltage-changing methods on version 1.03 boards (and 1.04 with early BIOS). Newer BIOS on 1.05 boards (and 1.04 according to ASRock) allows setting electronic compensation which is much more responsive (than a person is) to changes in load, preventing damage.
Kudos to them for their slot layout though, that is what would cause me to buy their board; much better use than, say, a daughterboard slot for a sound processor which might be good but I'm going to replace anyway (much as I love my Asus Rampage II Extreme, that 'feature' chaps me).
Unsuspecting buyers? I'm pretty sure you can read their warranty where they tell you that manually adjusting settings is dangerous and can void your warranty. Believe it or not, there is actually a reason companies tend to recommend against overclocking their products, because you are taking the product out of its designed specifications.
I don't think any of these ASRock boards are failing out of the box with a stock CPU, and therefore, ASRock has no responsibility to pull or repair these boards. Should Ford re-build your engine cause you used jet fuel instead of regular gasoline?
Anyone who knows enough to overclock their CPU should know that they do so at their own risk.
You know that Rampage II audio riser slot also supports x1 cards: Asus has some nice x1 sound cards.