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Six $200-$260 LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed

ASRock X79 Extreme4

ASRock’s continued effort to provide higher-end hardware without letting this platform's inherent price premium get out of control is easily illustrated in an X79 Extreme4 that has three extra SATA 6Gb/s ports, eSATA, dual-controller USB 3.0 for internal and I/O ports, and a full set of O/C-friendly features.

Those O/C-friendly features include a Port 80 diagnostics display, an I/O panel CLR_CMOS button, internal power and reset buttons for bench testing, and a eight-phase CPU voltage regulator with oversized cooling.

Front-panel USB 3.0 and one of the added SATA ports are found above-center on the motherboard’s front edge for easy reach of front-panel connector cables. Conversely, the front-panel audio cable is located as far away from any front-panel connectors as it could possibly be, at the rear of the X79 Extreme4’s bottom edge. Remaining ports are designed to coexist with up to three double-slot graphics cards, and ASRock even adds an extra space between the board’s two true x16 PCIe slots for additional graphics cooling.

The provision of a full feature set on a low-cost board is never free of compromise, as the X79 Extreme4 has only four memory slots. Although you'd have to decide right away whether to use 2 GB, 4 GB, or 8 GB modules to achieve quad-channel functionality without any option for future memory expansion, low memory prices make this a reasonable production-cost concession in our minds.

This is the first ASRock Extreme-series board in recent memory not to include the firm’s USB 3.0 front-panel bay adapter. We partly credit case manufacturers with making this part unnecessary, as removing it allows ASRock to further reduce cost and pricing.

We would have liked to see more than four SATA cables, however, even though this is probably enough to serve the budget-enthusiast market.

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