ASRock X79 Extreme4 Motherboard Review Take Two

We’ve had some rough experiences with ASRock motherboards since we started reviewing this company's products. So in a HardOCP first, we pit two ASRock boards of the same model against each other and look at matters from another perspective. The perspective of quality and consistency.

continued...

Subsystem Testing

NOTE: For all Subsystem Testing, an Intel Core i7 3930K (3.20GHz) and 4 x 4GB Corsair Vengeance (1600MHz DDR3 9-9-9-24-1T @1.50v) memory modules running at DDR3 1600MHz were used. The CPU was cooled with a home brew water cooling setup consisting of a Swiftech MCR320 triple radiator, 3x120mm fans, Swiftech MCP655-B pump, and a Koolance CPU-370 water block with LGA2011 mounting hardware.

Sound Hardware

ASUS chose to integrate the Realtek ALC898 7.1-channel audio CODEC. The specifications listed on the ASRock website are shown below.

- 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC898 Audio Codec)

- Premium Blu-ray audio support

- Supports THX TruStudioآ™

Just as it was with our original sample audio quality fell within expectations.

Audio آ– Subjective Listening

For subjective listening you want to listen to something that covers a range of sound types. For this portion of the review I went with Five Finger Death Punch’s American Capitalist CD.

CD audio was excellent as predicted.

Audio آ– Microphone Port Testing

The onboard audio MIC-IN port was tested using a Logitech Internet Chat Headset. Spoken words were recorded from the Windows Sound Recorder found under the Accessories folder in the start menu within Windows. The recording was using the highest quality settings available in the control panel for the audio device being used to record.

The recording sample fairly free of distortion but was barely audible. So actually it could have had some distortion I couldn’t hear. Basically the same as the other sample.

Drive Performance

To test the capabilities of the on board USB 2.0 connections, we used an ACOMDATA HD060U2FE-72-USB 2.0/FireWire HDD connected first to the USB port. USB 3.0 functionality was tested using a Super Talent USB 3.0 SuperCrypt 32GB Flash Drive. SATA drive tests were performed using Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX hard drives on all SATA headers. The SATA drives were used for testing in RAID 0 16k block size configurations on all applicable controllers. Testing was also conducted using the same model SATA drives in a stand-alone SATA configuration on all applicable controllers. All drive benchmarks were done using the freely available CrystalDiskMark 3.0 program, run with both 50MB and 100MB sized test sets.

This board like our other identical sample uses the standard C600 series Intel controller and the ASMedia ASM1061 SATA controllers, VIA VT6308 IEEE1394a controller, and USB 3.0 support is provided by the ASM1042 controller.

50MB Test Set

Article Image

Article Image

The 50MB sequential read test was right in line with that of the earlier sample. The Intel C600 series controller in RAID 0 mode gave us the best results overall. Followed by the same controller operating in standard AHCI mode, using its 6G capable ports. USB 2.0 and 3.0 performance was solid, and IEEE1394 performance is about what you’d expect.

Moving into our sequential write tests, we see nearly identical performance across the board with all our AHCI controllers. We see nearly 100% scaling with RAID 0 being leveraged, although not quite 100%. Note that performance between 3G and 6G ports is almost identical. USB 2.0 and 3.0 controllers as well as our Firewire are exactly where t they should be.

100MB Test Set

Article Image

Article Image

In the 100MB sequential read tests, we see amazing performance out of our C600 controller. I’m not sure I trust these readings as they are pretty whacked, but they were consistent in testing between this board and the earlier sample. Additionally these numbers are quite a bit higher than what we usually see, which is why I question them but this is the result I obtained consistently. So again this board behaves precisely like the earlier sample does. Not much else to say about these tests as USB and IEEE1394 numbers are well within expectations.

In our 100MB sequential write tests we see more realistic numbers and they are consistent. Again our C600 series controller in 6G mode is the fastest one tested. IEEE1394 performance falls a bit here, but not too much. Everything else is where I expected it to be and the results are within a few points of what the earlier sample did.

Network Utilization Tests

Hagel Technologies’ DU Meter software was used with Windows Task Manager to determine the performance levels of the onboard network interface. DU Meter was used to measure bandwidth and transfer speeds, while Windows Task Manager monitored CPU utilization on the test system. For the testing, a 750MB Archive file consisting of several compressed WMA/MP3 files was used for the large file transfer, and 750MB worth of MP3/WMA files were used ranging in sizes from 3 to 30MB was used for the small files transfer test. The test was performed using a plenum rated category 5e crossover cable to bypass any traffic, routing or other transfer issues and possible packet loss or corruption that can be caused by a router/switch or hub. The cables were connected between two test machines, one using the onboard NIC(s) of the board being reviewed and the other is an Intel EXPI9400PT 10/100/1000Mbps PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet adapter installed into a test machine using an Intel D5400XS motherboard.

Wireless network testing, if applicable was performed using an AdHoc connection between the review system and my own machine based on equipped with an Atheros AR9002WB-1NG wireless adapter which is integrated into my ASUS Rampage III Black Edition . The control panel used all the default settings save for the AdHoc 11N setting which was enabled on both systems.

The ASRock X79 Extreme4 features the BCM57781 Gigabit Ethernet controller. It is capable of 10/100/1000mbit speeds.

LAN1

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The small files download test gave us a transfer rate of 87.8MB/s on average with a maximum of 103MB/s. CPU usage was a reasonable 3%. As expected our small files upload test took a massive average transfer speed hit. In the end we had a transfer rate of 49.3MB/s and peak of 115MB/s which obviously wasn’t sustained long. CPU usage was a very modest 1%.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The large files download test gave us solid results with our average hitting 97.1MB/s and our maximum was a very nice 102MB/s. CPU usage was quite high though at 6%. The average transfer rate of our upload however was even better at 102MB/s and our maximum speed hit 119MB/s. CPU usage was still a modest 1%. So again we saw identical performance with that of our original test sample.

Test Systems

The following system configurations were used for the Sandra memory benchmark graph, as well as all graphs listed under the Application and Gaming Benchmarks sections:

Article Image

Graphs are labeled as follows: Motherboard - CPU Clock - Memory Clock

SiSoft Sandra 2011

Article Image

Note that all results above were obtained running the installed memory in quad-channel mode.

Here we see extremely close results with both motherboards. Again this indicates that our second sample and the first are as identical as can be.

Article Image

Again we see a tiny variance, but again this isn’t a matter of winning or losing, but rather making sure that both boards worked the same.

Hiper Pi

Article Image

Again we see variance, but these results are virtually identical.

wPrime

Article Image

More of the same.