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Ultimate X79? Five $320+ LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed

ASRock X79 Extreme9

The X79 Extreme9 uses eight memory slots, five graphics card slots with four-way SLI and CrossFireX support, oversized cooling, and Creative’s latest Core3D PCIe audio DSP in its latest push for premium motherboard market share.

Four front-panel and four rear-panel USB 3.0 ports compliment the twelve SATA and two eSATA ports to make this one of the most drive-focused designs we’ve seen, yet the audio/network combo card is the Extreme9’s biggest departure from ASRock norms.

Creative’s Sound Core3D PCIe module is combined with a Broadcom BCM57781 PCIe module on one PCB, complete with a shield running down the center to prevent crosstalk, on a PCIe x1 card.

The need for an open PCI Express slot will restrict the user’s selection of graphics cards however, since some now use coolers that are more than two slots thick. Anyone who wants to use a pair of Asus Mars cards in conjunction with ASRock’s audio module, for example, will find that configuration impossible to accomplish, and even moving to a three-way graphics configuration with familiar dual-slot cards requires the use of an eight-slot case.

Most users will find it easy to get around the X79 Extreme9’s slot restrictions, and the remaining layout is almost perfect. Both USB 3.0 front-panel headers are situated well above the top graphics card, for instance, and all twelve internal SATA ports face forward to tuck their cables behind the drive cages of modern ATX performance chassis.

Realizing the limits most users will encounter with the X79 Extreme9’s slot layout, ASRock includes one three-way and one two-way SLI bridge. Unfortunately, they weren't included in our box, though Newegg’s photos clearly show that buyers will receive these parts.

Six SATA cables are adequate for most high-end builders, and ASRock even includes its famous USB 3.0 bay adapter and 2.5” SSD adapter tray.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.