Beyond the plethora of Motherboards we would expect from ASRock, also on display were a few HTPC systems from the Core HT, Ion 3D and Vision 3D series.  The CoreHT is a HTPC system based on the Sandy Bridge HM65 chipset using the onboard HD graphics to power a standard BluRay Drive, in a 90W power envelope.  Wifi and 7.1 channel HD Audio with THX TruStudio Pro come as standard within a 2.5L volume.

In terms of 3D, we were treated to the Ion 3D, based on the Atom D525 CPU and NVIDIA GT21x graphics for under 65 W.  The Vision 3D is a beefier model using a HM65 chipset and a mobile i7-2620M CPU combined with GT540M graphics.  There’s no mention of power draw, but we would expect in the region of 120-150W.  The Vision 3D was actively working, and after trying on the glasses at the resolution I didn’t see any issues with output.

However ASRock’s main production is motherboards – the X79 and A75 models were of main interest here.  The X79 Extreme4 was something interesting to look at – we see improved ferrite chokes in terms of power delivery, the PCIe lanes requiring an extra 4-pin power connector for multi-GPU or high end GPU solutions, and a variety of six SATA 6Gbps ports (1 of these are eSATA) and 8 SAS ports.  This is obviously confusing – what exact market are ASRock aiming with this product?

For A75, ASRock’s mini-ITX model is of most interest here – due to the large size of the AMD retention bracket, the DIMM slots are now parallel with the PCIe. The SATA ports are angled towards each other, making HDD cable positioning a pain also.  It would be interesting to have this board in for review at some point. 

The A75M-HVS is the micro-ATX solution, which differs from a lot of micro-ATX I have seen by only have three PCI/PCIe on the board itself, rather than four.  Like the mini-ITX model, the SATA ports are angled into each other, which is a feature I don’t approve of.  There also doesn’t seem to be many fan-headers – I can see two around the socket and one on the bottom – personally, I’d prefer a lot more.

The 990FX Extreme4 also contains some odd design choices. As we have come to expect from the lower-end Extreme series, there are large heatsinks covering the power delivery, but the inclusion of the IDE and Floppy port are more confusing.  I understand that there are distinct legacy applications that require these connectors – but not on an enthusiast product (I have similar issues with the new Fatal1ty series).  Perhaps make a 970X-Legacy with as many legacy features as possible, but don’t try and put them into an enthusiast product.  Also a point of contention is on the bottom right – they are what look like SATA or SAS connectors, in a very odd position.

The expansion of Z68 is continued into the Extreme7 – possibly named to push it above the P67 Extreme6.  Along with the improved ferrite chokes, we have 10 SATA ports and an NF200 chip to increase the PCIe lanes to the five full length PCIe slots.  I was told by the designer that a switch is in place, so that if one GPU is used, the connectors bypass the NF200 chip so we don’t see the 2-3% decrease in performance that it brings.  Though at some point it would be worth testing the following scenario – no NF200 but two GPUs at 8x/8x, or NF200 present with 16x/16x. In most situations (i.e. those where memory to PCIe exchange is low), I would expect the 8x/8x design to perform better, as it doesn’t have that constant 2-3% decrease in performance.

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  • 7amood - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    The micro-ATX design is interesting... really... kept looking at it for some time there.
    Would love to see other manufacturers do the same.

    I totally agree with you regarding the SATA ports.
  • AmineBouhafs - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    I really like the ASRock Z68 Extreme7!

    The ASRock Z68 Extreme4 was kind of "lacking" in features and performance (except for the USB) when compared to the Asus Maximus Extreme-Z but, the ASRock Z68 Extreme7 keeps ASRock back (and ahead if it was my choice) in the 1155-race.

    The ASRock P67 Extreme6 was in danger with the stepping, so that was a no-go for me also.

    Anybody got an idea when the ASRock Z68 Extreme7 will hit the market in Europe and especially Holland?
    But FIVE PCIe x16 slots? I mean come'on, what the *** for?! Talk about overkill!

    "so that if one GPU is used, the connectors bypass the NF200 chip so we don’t see the 2-3% decrease in performance that it brings"?

    Oh please, just to make up 2-3% doesn't justify it for me, I'm sorry.
    They could easily use the space for USEFULL hardware.
    But, I'd really like a shot at that board!
  • JessusChristDoOTcom - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    <quote> But FIVE PCIe x16 slots? </quote>

    The more the merrier. If you start populating the board with PCIe cards like RAID, sound, TV card, etc. then it's all worth it. The fact that you can move your GPU card or cards to different locations of the board while shifting the other cards to other slots in order to maximize air flow or convenience of access just adds the icing to the cake.

    <quote> They could easily use the space for USEFULL hardware. </quote>

    WHAT hardware ARE you talking about? Every extra PCIe slot IS useful hardware. Every extra PCIe slot is precious. I am willing to incur 5% loss in performance in order to gain 2 additional PCIe slots for future add-ons--which is the useful hardware you are must be talking about.
  • Stuka87 - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    Having worked in an engineering environment (CATV RF & Fiber Optics), this is note entirely out of the ordinary. I am somewhat guilty at doing this as well. It typically comes down to time and work load. About once a month I would take some time and re-organize my area, as I did try to keep it clean and organized, it just didn't always happen.

    We also kept around competitors products. Was always interesting to see what manufacturers actually met the specs that they advertised. And sadly, it was only about half.
  • sprockkets - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    " Like the mini-ITX model, the SATA ports are angled into each other, which is a feature I don’t approve of. "

    Doesn't that make it easy to unlatch them? If they weren't, wouldn't you have to unlatch one to get to the other?

    "There also doesn’t seem to be many fan-headers – I can see two around the socket and one on the bottom – personally, I’d prefer a lot more."

    Two onboard fan headers for micro atx not good enough?
  • Goty - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    My thoughts exactly. Sound like the author got up on the wrong side of the bed before writing this article. Either that or he got snubbed by the receptionist during his visit and he's feeling vindictive.
  • Taft12 - Monday, June 13, 2011 - link

    Another "me too" post. Has there ever been a mATX board with more than 2 system fan headers?

    And keen observation about this being a smart way to lay out the SATA ports so that the latch side is facing out on both sides! Probably Ian didn't realize that either, perhaps an after-the-fact editor's note is in order?
  • IanCutress - Monday, June 13, 2011 - link

    Aha OK I see where you're coming from. Regarding the SATA ports, for me, it's a case of fitting them in without having to directly look at them - do you ever have the situation where you try and plug in a USB device to a USB port, it doesn't go in first time, then you turn it around and it still doesn't go in, then you have to actually look for third time successful? With SATA connectors, that's how I feel if they're alternately rotated. It all depends on how often you decide to add/remove drives from your systems I guess, but everyone has or can have a different opinion so it seems.

    Regarding fan headers, my preference is always to be able to fit a Corsair H50 water cooler, and possibly other fans in the vicinity. So I need one header for the pump and two for the radiator fans in the socket area, then having a look at where the other headers are in relation to where fans might be in a case.

  • sprockkets - Monday, June 13, 2011 - link

    OK, but I do that even if they are right cause you can't really tell which way latchless cables are oriented!
  • jabber - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    ....wasted on a logo that really isnt worth anything anymore.

    I refer of course to the THX one.

    Not really a selling point IMO.

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