ASRock X58 Extreme3
ASRock produces two USB 3.0-equipped X58 models, but its X58 Extreme3 is the only version to use onboard controllers rather than x1 cards. Like the other boards in today’s comparison, it also includes the future-looking SATA 6Gb/s controller. If you can't find this board online, trying searching for it as the “X58 Extreme 3."
The X58 Extreme3 provides a third x16-length slot, in addition to its two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, but that the third slot is not PCIe 2.0-compliant. The third slot instead uses four of the chipset’s PCIe 1.1 lanes, making it too slow for performance graphics use. This configuration allows two of the chipset’s four remaining PCIe 2.0 lanes to serve the USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s controllers. Yet, while performance considerations limit the X58 Extreme3 to dual-card SLI or CrossFire configurations, at least ASRock puts an extra space between its two full-performance x16 slots to improve airflow between cards.
Priced at only $200, the X58 Extreme3 is one the few “low-cost” X58 motherboards to incorporate bench-top-friendly onboard power and reset buttons, in addition to an overclocker-friendly Port 80 diagnostics display.
ASRock appears to be the only company in today’s roundup to notice that the Marvell 88SE9128 PCIe to SATA 6Gb/s controller also supports a single Ultra ATA interface, as the X58 Extreme3 is the only product to utilize it. The X58 Extreme3 also taps into the keyboard (Multi I/O) controller’s floppy and serial port functions, but neglects its integrated parallel port function. One might argue about the value of any legacy connectors, but we can still appreciate ASRock’s attempt to make the most of the motherboard’s built-in capabilities.
Unfortunately, the X58 Extreme lacks any additional controller for eSATA and instead relies on the same 88SE9128 that provides two SATA 6Gb/s connections internally. The second internal port is shared with the external port, so that using it internally forces the user to sacrifice the rear-panel port.
Another blast-from-the-past is the 40 mm VRM cooling fan, a part that spins at such low speed as to produce almost unnoticeable noise. This particular part could be handy when using cross-flow CPU coolers that mostly miss the motherboard’s sinks, but a higher-airflow fan might be required in highly-overclocked liquid-cooled systems.
The X58 Extreme3 has a few pleasant surprises in the area of cable management, with USB 2.0 and front-panel LED connections at the motherboard’s front-end for easy to reach top-panel bays. Similarly, the front-panel audio cable has been moved several inches from the board’s traditional bottom-rear-corner location, and now resides above the uppermost PCIe x16 slot, allowing easier reach using the short cables that come with some cases. The internal FireWire header is still found at the bottom edge however, though it at least has been slid forward of the bottom PCIe slot.
ASRock OC Tweaker provides a wide enough range of controls to overclock most hardware to its limit, if desired. This begins with “CPU EZ OC Setting” and “DDR3 EZ OC Setting” profiles to assist neophytes in their performance-chasing endeavors.
Scrolling past a fairly complete frequency selection brings us to a similarly-complete voltage control set. Further down the main menus are three registers where custom overclocking profiles can be stored.
The DRAM Timing Control submenu provides a more modest set of timings, but there’s still enough here for most tuners. Individual settings can be left in “Auto” mode if desired.
With two high-bandwidth PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, the X58 Extreme3 requires only a single SLI bridge to serve the needs of most Nvidia users. CrossFire support comes by way of the bridge included with most Radeon graphics cards, while the remainder of ASRock’s installation kit includes six SATA cables, an Ultra ATA cable, and even an old-fashioned floppy cable.