The Lane Games
More PCI Express connectivity is one of the most prominent reasons to buy an LGA 2011-v3-based platform. Lots of CPU cores are important to certain power users as well, but those PCIe lanes and the four-channel memory controller are why the processor interface is so much larger than Intel's mainstream LGA 1150.
This is a motherboard review after all, and it’s easy for those of us who need extra pathways to see that 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0 are twice as many as 20. Intel even says that 2011-v3’s lanes can be divided across five slots, compared to LGA 1150’s three.
But the tech specs get more complicated after that, and the struggle against those complications are where we often see great ideas fall apart. The first problem is that Intel reserves the 40-lane PCIe 3.0 controller for its top two Core i7 models (currently, the -5960X and -5930K). Lower models like the -5820K get a 28-lane controller. Yet, even with only 28 lanes, we should be able to get three-way SLI at x8-x8-x8 and have four lanes leftover for a PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD, right?
|ASRock X99 Extreme6/ac|
|PCB Revision||1.07||Voltage Regulator||12 Phases|
|Chipset||Intel X99||100.0 MHz BCLK||99.94 (-0.06%)|
|I/O Panel Connectors|
|P/S 2||1||CLR_CMOS Button||1|
|USB 3.0||6||Digital Audio Out||Optical|
|USB 2.0||2||Digital Audio In||None|
|eSATA||1||Other Devices||2x Wi-Fi Antenna|
|PCIe 3.0 x16 (-5960X, -5930K)||3 (x16/x16/x8) SLI x3, CrossFire x3 M.2 disables x8 slot||PCIe 3.0 x16 (-5820K)||3 (x16/x8/x4) SLI x2, CrossFire x3 M.2 disables x4 slot|
|4-Pin Fan||2||3-Pin Fan||4|
|PCIe 2.0 x16||None||PCIe 2.0 x1||2 (+1x Mini PCIe, Filled)|
|USB 3.0||2 (4-ports)||USB 2.0||2 (4-ports)|
|Internal Buttons||Power, Reset||Internal Switch||Dual BIOS Selector|
|SATA 6.0 Gb/s||10 (Shares eSATA, M.2)||SATA Express||None|
|Diagnostics Panel||Numeric||Other Connectors||COM, TB_Header, HDD-Saver, USB Type-A|
|Mass Storage Controllers|
|Chipset SATA||10x SATA 6Gb/s (Includes M.2, eSATA)||Add-In SATA||None|
|Chipset RAID Modes||0, 1, 5, 10 (Ports 1-6)||USB 3.0||ASM1042e PCIe ASM1072 Hub|
|Primary LAN||WGI218V PHY||Secondary LAN||AR8171 PCIe|
|Wi-Fi||BCM4352 PCIe 802.11ac dual-band / BT 4.0||Bluetooth||BT 4.0 / Wi-Fi Combo|
|HD Audio Codec||ALC1150||DDL/DTS Connect||DTS Connect|
In unfortunate mimicry of its closest competitor, ASRock doesn’t split the first slot into x8 mode, even when the lanes are needed elsewhere. Perhaps this is a marketing decision. Or perhaps the engineers just wanted to save a few dollars in PCIe pathway switches. At any rate, the X99 Extreme6/ac bears the same three-way SLI caveats as the recently-reviewed Asus X99 Pro. The Core i7-5820K processor breaks three-way SLI capability, and a PCIe-based M.2 drive disables that slot entirely. The good news for those whose hardware choices are unaffected is that—unlike its long-divorced partner—ASRock didn’t screw up the X99 Extreme6/ac’s PCIe 2.0 slots.
ASRock’s always tried to offer its customers a few more features for a little less money, so let’s see what other advantages the X99 Extreme6/ac holds…
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 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.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.