ASRock X58 Extreme
Unlike it’s previously-tested X58 SuperComputer, ASRock’s X58 Extreme is designed to support up to two graphics cards in SLI or CrossFire mode. Both slots receive full PCI Express 2.0 x16 bandwidth.
A third x16-length slot utilizes the four remaining PCIe 2.0 pathways from Intel’s X58 Express northbridge, making it a good place to put a lower-performance graphics card or high-bandwidth RAID controller. Two x1 slots and several onboard PCIe devices are instead tied to the ICH10R southbridge, along with two legacy PCI slots.
That combination gives the X58 Extreme amazing flexibility for expansion among modern motherboards, since so many competing products have sacrificed this seven-slot design. ASRock even made sure to keep the northbridge heat sink out-of-the-way so that a long x1 card can be installed in the top slot, though care must be taken to make sure nothing (such as a resistor) protruding from the back side of a card so placed makes contact with the sink.
With its DIMM slots, both power connectors, and several front-panel connector blocks all moved conveniently towards the top edge, the X58 Extreme might have the most convenient layout we’ve seen in recent years with one exception: the floppy connector is shoved into the lower rear corner. We’re certain that some Windows XP “hangers-on” will lament the need for a floppy to load RAID drivers during OS installation.
Other features include a two-digit Port-80 diagnostics display, power, and reset buttons all located in the lower front corner. Though potentially inaccessible in a completely configured system, these are extremely handy for bench testing. ASRock instead places its CLR_CMOS button on the rear I/O panel, so that it can be easily reached, even after installing the X58 Extreme into a case.
BIOS clock, timing, and voltage ranges can be found on Page 17’s overclocking comparison.
Major frequencies and ratios are adjustable using the “Chipset Settings” submenu of the Advanced tab, though selecting an XMP profile doesn’t seem to change everything it’s supposed to. Profile information display is a handy reminder that can be used during manual configuration.
Enabling the “Flexibility Option” allows the motherboard to disregard memory speed settings. “ASRock VDrop Control” is far more useful to overclockers, as it boosts CPU voltage whenever a heavy load has caused it to sag.
DRAM Timing Control isn’t quite as intricate as some of ASRock’s competitors, though most users won’t need access to anything more than the four primary timings and command rate. More importantly, “automatic” mode for each setting makes it possible to configure only those timings of which the user is familiar.
CPU Voltage can be adjusted at an offset to the processor’s original voltage, or as direct control. The list of controllable items isn’t long, but it still contains all the settings that most overclockers require.
ASRock's X58 Extreme BIOS also allows users to save three separate profiles as “User Defaults.”
ASRock’s X58 Extreme accessory kit is one of the few places buyers can actually see economization at work for this $170 motherboard. Only four SATA cables are included for this six-port motherboard, but ASRock does include an SLI bridge.