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ASRock X99 Extreme6/ac Motherboard Review

Featuring the same wireless controller as its closest competitor, ASRock’s X99 Pro adds a second gigabit Ethernet controller and removes a few pathway sharing issues. Have we finally found a value-winning solution for high-end LGA 2011-v3 buyers?

Calculated Value And Final Analysis

The X99 Extreme6/ac costs around $15 less than Asus' X99 Pro, and the largest hardware specification differences are ASRock’s inclusion of dual firmware ROMs (worth about $5-6 after mark-ups), rather than Asus’s included USB Flashback ASIC (worth around $20, according to company representatives). If we take everyone at their word, it sounds like both manufacturers are using the same formula to calculate value. And, because the $40 Wi-Fi card and $5 antenna would need to be purchased separately for the previously-tested ASRock/Gigabyte/MSI models, it looks like anyone on a wireless network gets similar value between those cheaper boards and the 802.11ac-equipped X99 Extreme6/ac. A failure to account for the worth of these features results in a chart that favors whatever is cheapest:

All of those comparisons assume that, apart from a few added features, all of the boards shown are equally desirable. The problem for ASRock’s X99 Extreme6/ac’s is that it faces some of the same slot issues as Asus’ X99 Pro. Plug in three graphics cards on a top-end CPU, add a PCIe-based M.2 SSD, and watch the third card disappear. Use a cheaper CPU with an SATA-based M.2 SSD, and the third card appears but can’t be configured in SLI. Meanwhile, the uppermost PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, which could have donated a few lanes to overcome those issues, doesn’t because it doesn’t have the necessary pathway switches.

Leaving out the switches needed to make the X99 Extreme6/ac run three graphics cards plus a PCIe SSD sounds a little like watering down Champagne with beer. But perhaps I’m being too elitist about these things. After all, an enthusiast can choose to install an SATA-based M.2 card instead, even though the SATA interface is only attached to one 6Gb/s port. Anyone who’s willing to sacrifice that much storage performance is probably also willing to buy a cheaper CPU, and then the third slot runs into the SLI exclusion for four-lane slots.

Remember, those pathways switches are pretty cheap. Both Gigabyte and MSI use them to enable three-way SLI with cheaper 28-lane CPUs on cheaper motherboards. MSI even allows builders to add that lane-consuming PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD while keeping four slots active. Heck, the X99S Gaming 7 allows builders to use a cheaper 28-lane CPU with three-way SLI and a x4 SSD, simultaneously, in an x8/x8/x8/x4 configuration. Of course that board doesn’t have a slot to install a matching 802.11ac Wi-Fi module.

Since ASRock includes wireless networking, I could compare it to the similarly-designed Asus X99 Pro. The X99 Pro costs $15 more, but hardcore overclockers will probably find value in its overclocking advantages. The X99 Pro has identical PCIe 3.0 configuration issues. And while I panned the X99 Pro’s PCIe 2.0 conflicts, the 16-lane slot that causes those conflicts becomes compliant in x1 mode. ASRock’s slot is PCIe x1 anyway.

The X99 Extreme6/ac is a nice motherboard with a few minor flaws that will probably affect fewer than half of its potential buyers, yet anyone who can live with its flaws will find those same flaws, along with better overclocking, in Asus’ X99 Pro.

  • vertexx
    Still looking for the value X99 board without too many trade-offs. What would be helpful for me is a chart comparing the x99 board with the various slot/lane options for the 5820 vs. 5930/5960 CPUs.
    Reply
  • JeanLuc
    You haven't shown any results for the SATA and ESATA throughput, the USB controllers transfer speeds (Intel speeds I would guess are the same across the board but what the 3rd party controllers?).

    Anyone who is buying this will also want to know how good the wireless AC and bluetooth that have been bundled with the motherboard are.

    How good is the sound chip? Can you hear background static when you have earphones plugged in if so how bad? Has the manufacturer made any effort to isolate background noise and how effective are those measures?

    There is so much you have missed in this "review".
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15149683 said:
    Still looking for the value X99 board without too many trade-offs. What would be helpful for me is a chart comparing the x99 board with the various slot/lane options for the 5820 vs. 5930/5960 CPUs.
    Right now Gigabyte has the best lane configuration and slot spacing four four cards, MSI has the best lane configuration and slot spacing for three. Gigabyte has the USB 3.0 header blocked by a fourth card, MSI has the three cards + PCIe x4 M.2 +USB 3.0 configuration nailed (if you care about PCIe x4 M.2). You'll see another MSI board in a review still pending its publishing date.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15149944 said:
    You haven't shown any results for the SATA and ESATA throughput, the USB controllers transfer speeds (Intel speeds I would guess are the same across the board but what the 3rd party controllers?).

    Anyone who is buying this will also want to know how good the wireless AC and bluetooth that have been bundled with the motherboard are.

    How good is the sound chip? Can you hear background static when you have earphones plugged in if so how bad? Has the manufacturer made any effort to isolate background noise and how effective are those measures?

    There is so much you have missed in this "review".
    That's it, I'm asking Adam Overa to find a controller tester :) We should have a collection of standard controller test results to link when discussing the inclusion of these parts on a motherboard.

    Reply
  • vertexx
    15153170 said:
    Right now Gigabyte has the best lane configuration and slot spacing four four cards, MSI has the best lane configuration and slot spacing for three. Gigabyte has the USB 3.0 header blocked by a fourth card, MSI has the three cards + PCIe x4 M.2 +USB 3.0 configuration nailed (if you care about PCIe x4 M.2). You'll see another MSI board in a review still pending its publishing date.

    That about summarizes it - thanks! I'm looking at a 5820k based rig. Long term goal is water-cooled 3-way x8 + PCIe x4 M.2. So, MSI has that configuration down. Shorter term would more realistically be air-cooled 2-way, and my understanding is the MSI is not the best for 2-way air cooled due to the slot spacing.

    So I think I'm looking for a board that can do both a (1) dual SLI x16/x0/x8 + x4 M.2 or (2) 3-way SLI x8/x8/x8 +x4 M.2, all at just above $200.

    The lowest price board I could find that can do this is the ASRock x99 Fatal1ty Pro or OC Formula, both in the $340-350 price range. The Professional happens to have a $40 rebate plus $85 DDR4 combo discount, making this a ~$220 proposition for this board. Tempting......
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157539
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15154249 said:
    15153170 said:
    Right now Gigabyte has the best lane configuration and slot spacing four four cards, MSI has the best lane configuration and slot spacing for three. Gigabyte has the USB 3.0 header blocked by a fourth card, MSI has the three cards + PCIe x4 M.2 +USB 3.0 configuration nailed (if you care about PCIe x4 M.2). You'll see another MSI board in a review still pending its publishing date.

    That about summarizes it - thanks! I'm looking at a 5820k based rig. Long term goal is water-cooled 3-way x8 + PCIe x4 M.2. So, MSI has that configuration down. Shorter term would more realistically be air-cooled 2-way, and my understanding is the MSI is not the best for 2-way air cooled due to the slot spacing.

    So I think I'm looking for a board that can do both a (1) dual SLI x16/x0/x8 + x4 M.2 or (2) 3-way SLI x8/x8/x8 +x4 M.2, all at just above $200.

    The lowest price board I could find that can do this is the ASRock x99 Fatal1ty Pro or OC Formula, both in the $340-350 price range. The Professional happens to have a $40 rebate plus $85 DDR4 combo discount, making this a ~$220 proposition for this board. Tempting......
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157539
    Please consider our first roundup:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/intel-x99-haswell-e-overclocking,3934.htmlIt has 2nd-tier (price-range) X99 motherboards with Gigabyte, ASRock and MSI compared, and it has the PCIe stuff you're looking for. In regards to the 5820K, MSI has "4 (x16/x8/x0/x4*, x8/x8/x8/x4*) *Forces M.2 to PCIe 2.0 x2" What this means is that the fourth slot is shared between M.2 and "PCIe x16 slot 4" I believe MSI's entire X99 range is made the same way, apart from the boards that have a PCIe 48-lane switch.

    So MSI gets you 3-way + an x4 M.2. Most people are only interested in 2 way SLI as a future upgrade, and ASRock does 2-way + an x4 M.2.

    It could be a while before we get down to the lowest X99 pricing tier, but expect coverage of MSI's cheap X99 board in "some other kind of article" three weeks from now.
    Reply
  • Ekroen
    Seems to be good.
    Reply