ASRock X79 Extreme9 LGA 2011 Motherboard Review

Our experiences around here with ASRock haven’t been the best. Though the last one we tested actually did really well. As a result of our great experiences with the Extreme4 we can only hope the ASRock X79 Extreme9 follows suit. The Extreme9 is ASRock's most expensive Sandy Bridge E motherboard, we hope it acts like it.

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BIOS

Like other ASRock boards we’ve seen, and as is the case with all LGA2011 boards I’ve seen to date, the ASRock X79 Extreme9 is equipped with a UEFI instead of the traditional BIOS. This is of course provided by American Megatrends Inc. and is pretty much what you’ll find at the core of all UEFI enabled boards at present. It’s virtually indistinguishable from the one I experienced with the Extreme4. Version P1.90 was used for all screen captures.

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The main tab is what you initially see when you enter the setup utility. Here we see some basic version, CPU and RAM information. The system browser makes this part interesting.

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From here we get an overhead view of the motherboard. All you need to do is mouse over any highlighted section of the board and information about that area will be shown at the bottom. What’s even better is that mousing over a given area also shows you what’s installed there.

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As we’ve seen with most boards going back to the BIOS days, there is a menu bar at the top which shows us several categories. When you highlight any given category, a host of options are presented for each one. Some right there in the root of that menu, some in various sub-menus. The usage of sub-menus varies by manufacturer. As a general rule ASRock doesn’t seem to have too many. Some manufacturers get crazy with these and become difficult to navigate.

The OC Tweaker menu gives us most of our performance oriented settings. The CPU EZ OC Setting is a list of pre-defined presets which theoretically should work. Up to about 4.2GHz-4.4GHz they tend to work pretty well. After that and my luck hasn’t been so good. Moving on we have our CPU ratio, Internal PLL overvoltage setting, OS real-time adjust CPU ratio, Intel SpeedStep, turbo boost power limit active processor cores, host clock override and many more. Our first sub-menu is the DRAM timing control menu. This naturally contains all your settings which are relevant to memory timing. CAS, TRAS, RAS, and command rate settings among others can all be found here. There are two pages of settings so you have a lot to work with. Getting to the bottom of the of the OC Tweaker menu we’ve got our XMP setting and the voltage configuration menu. The voltage configuration menu has several settings you can adjust from VRM protection to CPU Load-Line calibration to PCH 1.5v settings. VCCSA, DRAM voltage, and more can be found in between.

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At the bottom of the OC Tweaker menu are some user default profiles you can create for easy loading or restoration of settings while tuning the system. Next is the advanced menu. This contains a listing of sub-menus each with their own group of settings and in some cases, additional sub-menus. Here you’ll find the CPU configuration menu, north bridge configuration, south bridge configuration, storage configuration, super I/O configuration, ACPI configuration, USB configuration, ME subsystem, and the Instant Flash menu. Moving through them in order, we find the CPU configuration menu first. This menu shows a listing of basic CPU information, CPU ratio, and ratio limit. The ratio setting is actually present here as well. Below that we have values for HyperThreading, active processor cores, No-Execute memory protection, hardware prefetcher, and Intel Virtualization Technology. We also have the CPU power management configuration sub-menu. This contains your SpeedStep, C1E, Thermal Management settings, C-States, PLL overvoltage, and more.

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The north bridge configuration menu has our PCIe link speed and VT-d settings. The south bridge menu has a few more settings. Restore on A/C power loss, Deep Sx, and integrated peripheral settings. This menu allows us to disable onboard LAN, IEEE1394, and even control the LED behavior of the included Game Blaster card. The advanced storage menu has all our SATA and eSATA controller settings. This allows us to enable or disable RAID modes for controllers which support it, and configure AHCI, and legacy IDE modes as well. This menu even shows us a list of detected devices. We can also toggle which controllers are bootable. The Super I/O configuration menu has serial and IR port settings and that’s it.

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The ACPI menu has our suspend to RAM, PS/2 keyboard power on, and USB keyboard and mouse power on settings. The advanced USB configuration menu has your USB 2.0 and 3.0 controller settings. These include legacy USB support for both controllers as well as the ability to enable or disable each controller. For some reason mouse wheel support is disabled in the UEFI menu by default, but that setting is here as well. The ME subsystem menu only displays the ME firmware version. Nothing more.

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Next we come to the hardware monitor. This of course displays the PC’s health information such as temperatures for the motherboard and CPU, as well as fan speeds for all monitored fan headers. Fan speeds are controllable via the settings near the bottom of the menu. For most of the fan headers you can control the fan speed via presets. These are marked as levels 1-4 or full on. The south bridge fan controls are slightly different allowing you to set a target temperature for the south bridge. Over temperature protection is the final setting in this menu. The boot menu is generally self-explanatory. This allows you to configure your boot devices, even going so far as to allow ordering for optical and hard disk drives. Controls for the full screen logo, num-lock, and setup prompt timeout round out this menu. The security menu is the final menu we’ll cover. This is the usual user and supervisor password protection stuff that PC’s have had for at least a couple of decades now.

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That’s pretty much it. The utility is vaguely reminiscent of ASUS’ UEFI. Though this seems more simplified. Slightly less robust when it comes to the overclocking settings, but fairly well put together I’d say. Overall I like working with the ASRock UEFI more than the Gigabyte or MSI offerings, but I still prefer ASUS’ UEFI to all of them. In that regard, ASRock’s similarities in regard to the UEFI are all positive points in its favor.