ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional
A trio of USB 3.0 controllers, a pair of high-performance BCM57781 network controllers, and a sharp-looking red-on-black color scheme all set ASRock’s Fatal1ty 990FX Professional apart from similarly-priced competitors. Meanwhile, a large “clear CMOS” button on the I/O panel professes this model’s high-end overclocking intentions.
Spread three spaces apart for better GPU cooling, the top two PCIe x16 slots are both fixed with true x16 pathways to assure the best possible performance in two-way SLI or CrossFire. We didn’t really expect three-way SLI support from a sub-$200 motherboard, so the bottom slot’s four-lane limitation is only a minor disappointment. The slot could potentially be used in a three-way CrossFire configuration, though its modest bandwidth is better suited to high-end storage controllers, network devices, an dedicated GeForce graphics card for independent PhysX calculations, or additional 2D-only displays.
AMD’s SB950 southbridge feeds all six of the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional’s internal SATA 6Gb/s ports. Rather than give us a bunch of extra internal SATA controllers that most builders probably wouldn't use anyway, ASRock decided to try something different by adding a second internal header for a total of four front-panel USB 3.0 ports. Because USB 3.0 cables are notoriously thick and stiff, ASRock smartly places them above the add-in card slots for better clearance.
The Fatal1ty 990FX layout is very good overall, though we did notice a few small issues. For example, the single-sided DIMM latches originally designed to let you pull memory sticks without popping your graphics card out first face the wrong way, and some older case designs lack drive cage clearance for the forward-facing SATA ports. Overall, the port design makes sense because you're more likely to need vertical card clearance, but the potential for conflict still exists.
The most pleasing part of the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional motherboard’s bundle is its inclusion of a full set of six SATA cables, though we also really like the fact that ASRock adds a 3.5” bay adapter for cases that lack a front-panel USB 3.0 connector. Barely visible atop the installation manual are a single SLI bridge and audio patch cable.
ASRock offers a three-year warranty on specific high-end models, including the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional, but has not yet added a list of applicable models to its RMA policy page. We mention that only because we prefer to see our warranty coverage in writing!