ASRock X58 SuperComputer Motherboard

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Product: ASRock X58 SuperComputer Motherboard
Provided By: ASRock
Price: Find Lowest Price Online

Introduction:

We've quite familiar with ASRock's line of high-performance, bargain priced motherboards.  They typically have a fairly decent feature set, and in fact have more features than some of the more expensive competition.  Today we are looking at their "SuperComputer" mainboard for the Core i7 platform.  This of course is based on the X58 chipset from Intel and packs a whole lot of punch into an amazing package.  If you are looking for a board that is built to handle some sweet overclocking and need room for a graphics card, or two, or three or four, you need to check out this board to see if it's the one for you.  That's right, it has four PCIe 16x double-spaced slots for up to four GTX 285 or four HD 4890 Graphics Cards.  Insane?  I think so.

 Front Of Box
Front Of Box
Back Of Box
Back Of Box

 

The ASRock X58 SuperComputer comes in a large flashy box that is very uncharacteristic of ASRock.  There are a lot of goodies inside as well.  Included in the box is the standard Rear I/O shield, manual, driver CD and Molex to SATA adapters.  Also in the box are a big bundle of SATA cables, an IDE cable and a floppy cable.  ASRock has also included the necessary triple-SLI bridge as well as both long and short two-card SLI bridges.  They also throw in a couple of Crossfire bridges so that you can get your CrossfireX on as well.  Even though the board supports Quad CrossfireX, the bridges included will only set you up for a three-way CrossfireX setup.  It would have been nice if they'd included one more cable.  You'll notice that there are no Rear IO brackets for additional Firewire, USB and such.  If you want those, you'll have to rob some from another system or purchase them separately.

 In The Box
In The Box
 Mobo Bundle
Mobo Bundle

 

First Look at the Board:

This is only the second X58 board that I've got to spend some quality time with - the first being the EVGA X58 3x SLI that we reviewed back in March.  ASRock has two X58 motherboards and the SuperComputer is the most expensive and feature backed board they offer.

 Mainboard Overview
Mainboard Overview
 Back Of Board
Back Of Board

 

The X58 SuperComputer comes with the standard six DDR3 slots that can handle up to 24GB of DDR3-2000 memory.  Of course, you'd need a very fat wallet and some 4GB DIMMs that don't even exist yet.  As previously mentioned, there are an amazing four PCIe 16x slots on board that can run at 16x/8x/8x/8x.  What sets this board apart is that there is a double-wide space between each of these slots so double-slot coolers can work easily.  There are also 3 PCI slots that won't be accessible if you use all of your graphics slots.  ASRock has included 6 SATA ports for internal drives in addition to a powered eSATA port on the rear IO.  If you want to add some extra USB ports, there are five more ports available through motherboard headers, as well as a pair of Firewire ports.  With all the main layout being pretty good, I'm sad to see that there is no CMOS reset button (jumper only), or power and reset buttons.  That's one thing that I loved about the EVGA board and this is definitely missed on this board.


The main 24-pin power connector is located along the right side of the motherboard - out of the way for the most part.  This helps for cable management - especially on cases with bottom-mounted PSUs.  The cooling solution appears a little weak on this board, but we never had any stability issues related to heat when overclocking.  All chipsets and VRMs are a passively cooled and there is a heatpipe between the northbridge chipset and the VRMs up beside the CPU socket. The southbridge and northbridge chipsets are cooled independently.  People who love passively cooled boards will be very happy and if you've got good case airflow I'm sure that you won't have any issues when pushing your system to the max.  There are five available fan headers on this board and this gives flexibility for cooling solutions and many systems will be able to plug in all of the fans and control them through SMARTFan options in the BIOS.

The SATA connectors are all located at the bottom corner of the board and remain out of the way for long graphics cards thanks to the 90° angle of the main SATA block.  There is an E-SATA connector on the rear I/O for a total of 7 SATA ports and this should be enough for most people.  USB and Firewire headers are located in pretty obvious places, and they shouldn't interfere with large graphics cards and should be accessible even after you build out your system.

On the next page we'll take a closer look at the board before we take a look at the specs and features.

 

Closer Look:

As mentioned on the previous page, the cooling solution is pretty well done and while some X58 motherboards use more fans and heatpipes, ASRock has opted for some passive cooling on this board.  While it will likely be used for overclocking and cooler chipsets obviously equal more stable systems, often fans on motherboards are quite noisy and don't seem to last as long as fans on regular heatsinks.  If you have adequate airflow, you should be good.  Not only are the chipsets cooled; the voltage regulators are cooled with a heatpipe and a stack of fins as well.  There is more space between the VRM cooling and the 8-pin power connector on this board than there is on the EVGA X58 and this is a good thing.  You shouldn't have any issues routing your 8-pin cable to the proper connector.

 Mobo Cooling
Mobo Cooling

 

The rear I/O of the ASRock X58 SuperComputer is honestly not that interesting.  It is a pretty standard rear I/O - other than the eSATA connector.  There are both PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors.  Moving on down we find the Digital Audio Out options: optical and Coaxial SPIDF.  To the right of the digital audio outputs we've got the eSATA port.  Next up we've got a set of USB ports that sit under a GB Ethernet port - followed by a Firewire and another two USB ports.  Continuing our journey down the rear I/O we've another USB/Ethernet block that brings our rear USB up to a total of six.  Below these are the standard 7.1 Audio connectors that we see on many motherboards.

Rear IO
Rear IO

 

As we move on to the socket area, there really isn't too much to say.  The socket area is clear of major obstructions and we had no issues mounting a large heatsink on the board.  The cut-away design of the northbridge cooler allows for large heatinks to be installed without issues.  You'll also notice the 8-phase power regulation on this board - pretty much the same power solution found on the EVGA X58 3x SLI motherboard.

CPU Socket
CPU Socket

 

The ASRock X58 SuperComputer motherboard has four PCIe 16x slots spaced apart far enough that you'll be able to install four of your favorite GTX 260, GTX 285, HD4870 or HD4890 cards without any issues.  Of course if you do this, you'll block the other PCI slots, but I guess you'll be happy with 400+ FPS in Mirror's Edge with PhysX enabled.  You'll notice that there are no other PCIe slots on this board so if you want to add a PCIe 1x or 4x device, you'll have to take up one of the longer slots.

Four PCIe 16x Slots Bitches!
PCIe Slots

 

Thankfully the SATA connectors remain out of the way of the tail-end of the graphics cards due to the main block being mounted at a 90° angle and pointing toward the back of the board/front of the case.  This is a great idea on any motherboard and I'm pretty happy about that for sure.  The last couple of things worth mentioning before we jump into the specs and features of this board are the 6 DDR3 slots.  For triple-channel memory action, the modules are spaced with an empty slot separating the three sticks of memory, but if you do decide to drop in another kit and populate all six slots, you'll be happy to know that there is a wee bit of breathing room between the modules.  I've seen other boards that have the RAM sandwiched together, but ASRock allows a little room for airflow. 

 SATA Ports
SATA Ports
 CPU & RAM Area
CPU & RAM Area

 

On the next page we'll take a look at the chipset features as well as the motherboard specifications before we jump into testing.


Intel X58 Chipset Features:

X58 ChipsetThe heart of the ASRock X58 SuperComputer motherboard is of course the X58 chipset and the Intel Core i7 CPU.  We recently reviewed the Core i7 920 CPU and focused on that end of the spectrum and today we are completing the task with the motherboard.  Below are some features and specifications of this new chipset from Intel.

Desktop PC platforms based on the Intel® X58 Express Chipset, combined with the Intel® Core™ i7 processor family, drive breakthrough performance and state-of-the-art technology to performance and mainstream platforms.

The Intel X58 Express Chipset supports the latest 45nm Intel Core i7 processor family at 6.4 GT/s and 4.8 GT/s speeds via the Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (Intel® QPI). Additionally, this chipset delivers dual x16 or quad x8 PCI Express* 2.0 graphics card support, and support for Intel® High Performance Solid State Drives on ICH10 and ICH10R consumer SKUs.

X58 Diagram

Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (Intel® QPI) at 6.4 and 4.8 GT/s Intel’s latest system interconnect design increases bandwidth and lowers latency. Supports the Intel® Core™ i7-965 processor Extreme Edition, Intel® Core™ i7-940 processors and Intel® Core™ i7-920 processors.
PCI Express 2.0 interface PCI Express 2.0 delivers up to 16GB/s bandwidth per port, double that of PCIe* 1.0. It provides leading-edge graphics performance and flexibility with support for dual x16 up to quad x8 graphic card configurations or any combinations in between.
Intel® High Definition Audio Integrated audio support enables premium digital sound and delivers advanced features such as multiple audio streams and jack re-tasking.
Intel® Matrix Storage technology With additional hard drives added, provides quicker access to digital photo, video and data files with RAID 0, 5, and 10, and greater data protection against a hard disk drive failure with RAID 1, 5, and 10. Support for external SATA (eSATA) enables the full SATA interface speed outside the chassis, up to 3 Gb/s.
Intel® Rapid Recover technology Intel's latest data protection technology provides a recovery point that can be used to quickly recover a system should a hard drive fail or if there is massive data corruption. The clone can also be mounted as a read-only volume to allow a user to recover individual files.
Intel® Turbo Memory Intel's innovative NAND cache designed to improve the responsiveness of applications, application load times, and system boot performance. Intel® Turbo Memory, paired with the Intel® X58 Express Chipset, also allows the user to easily control the applications or data in the cache using the new Intel® Turbo Memory Dashboard interface, boosting performance further.
Serial ATA (SATA) 3 Gb/s High-speed storage interface supports faster transfer rate for improved data access up to six SATA ports.
eSATA SATA interface designed for use with external SATA devices. It provides a link for 3 Gb/s data speeds to eliminate bottlenecks found with current external storage solutions.
SATA port disable Enables individual SATA ports to be enabled or disabled as needed. This feature provides added protection of data by preventing malicious removal or insertion of data through SATA ports. Especially targeted for eSATA ports.
USB port disable Enables individual USB ports to be enabled or disabled as needed. This feature provides added protection of data by preventing malicious removal or insertion of data through USB ports.

 

 

ASRock X58 SuperComputer Features & Specs:

  • Intel® Socket 1366 Core™ i7 Processor Extreme Edition / Core™ i7 Processor Supports Intel® Dynamic Speed Technology
  • System Bus up to 6400 MT/s; Intel® QuickPath Interconnect
  • ASRock DuraCap (2.5 x longer life time), 100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
  • Intel® X58 + ICH10R Chipsets
  • Supports Triple Channel DDR3 2000(OC)/1866(OC)/1600(OC)/1333(OC)/1066 (6 x DIMM slots), non-ECC, un-buffered memory, Max. capacity up to 24GB
  • Supports DDR3 ECC, un-buffered memory with Intel® Workstation 1S Xeon® processors 3500 series
  • Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
  • 4 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (blue @ x8 / x16 mode, orange @ x8 / N/A mode) (Double-wide slot spacing between each PCI-E slot)
  • Supports ATI™ CrossFireX™, Quad CrossFireX™
  • Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™, 3-Way SLI™ and SLI™
  • Supports NVIDIA® Tesla Personal Supercomputer with three Tesla and one Quadro graphics cards
  • Dual GLAN with Teaming function : 2 x PCIE Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
  • 6 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID10, RAID 5 and Intel® Matrix Storage), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions (2 SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors can be used as eSATAII connectors)
  • Supports 2 x IEEE1394 ports (one port on back panel, one header on board)
  • Supports ASRock Instant Boot
  • Supports Smart BIOS, ASRock OC Tuner, Intelligent Energy Saver
  • 7.1 CH Windows® Vista™ Premium Level HD Audio with Content Protection, supports DAC with 110dB dynamic range (ALC890 Audio Codec), DTS (Digital Theater Systems) support
  • Windows® Vista™ Premium 2008 Logo Ready
  • Free Bundle: 2 x ASRock XFire_Bridge_3S Cards, 1 x ASRock SLI Bridge, 1 x ASRock SLI_Bridge_3S Card, 1 x ASRock 3-Way SLI Bridge Card
  • I/O Panel : 1 x Coaxial SPDIF Out Port, 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port, 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports, 1 x Powered eSATAII/USB Connector, 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED, 1 x IEEE 1394 Port, 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED, 1 x IEEE 1394 Port

 

 General
CPU - Intel® Socket 1366 Core™ i7 Processor Extreme Edition / Core™ i7 Processor Supports Intel® Dynamic Speed Technology
- System Bus up to 6400 MT/s; Intel® QuickPath Interconnect
- Supports Hyper-Threading Technology
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
- Supports EM64T CPU
Chipset - Northbridge: Intel® X58
- Southbridge: Intel® ICH10R
Memory - Triple Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 6 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 2000(OC)/1866(OC)/1600(OC)/1333(OC)/1066 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Supports DDR3 ECC, un-buffered memory with Intel® Workstation 1S Xeon® processors 3500 series
- Max. capacity of system memory: 24GB
*
- Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
**

*Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® XP and Windows® Vista™. For Windows® XP 64-bit and Windows® Vista™ 64-bit with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.

**Due to Intel® CPU spec definition, XMP DIMMs and DDR3 2000/1866/1600 are supported for one DIMM per channel only.
BIOS - 8Mb AMI BIOS
- AMI Legal BIOS
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU, DRAM, NB, SB, VTT Voltage Multi-adjustment
- Supports I. O. T. (Intelligent Overclocking Technology)
- Supports Smart BIOS
 Audio, Video and Networking
Graphics - n/a
Audio - 7.1 CH Windows® Vista™ Premium Level HD Audio with Content Protection
- DAC with 110dB dynamic range (ALC890 Audio Codec)
- DTS (Digital Theater Systems) support
LAN - PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111DL
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports Dual GLAN with Teaming function
 Expansion / Connectivity
Slots - 4 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (blue @ x8 / x16 mode, orange @ x8 / N/A mode) (Double-wide slot spacing between each PCI-E slot)
- 3 x PCI slots
- Supports ATI™ CrossFireX™, Quad CrossFireX™
- Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™, 3-Way SLI™ and SLI™
- Supports NVIDIA® Tesla Personal Supercomputer with three Tesla and one Quadro graphics cards
Connector - 6 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 5 and Intel® Matrix Storage), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
- 1 x ATA133 IDE connector (supports 2 x IDE devices)
- 1 x Floppy connector
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF header
- 1 x IEEE 1394 header
- CPU/Chassis/NB/Power FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- CD in header
- Front panel audio connector
- 3 x USB 2.0 headers (support 5 USB 2.0 ports)

*2 SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors can be used as eSATAII connectors.
Rear Panel I/O I/O Panel
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x Coaxial SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x Powered eSATAII/USB Connector
- 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x IEEE 1394 Port
- HD Audio Jack: Side Speaker / Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
 Other Features / Miscellaneous
Unique Feature - ASRock OC Tuner
- Intelligent Energy Saver
- Instant Boot
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
Support CD - Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version)
Accessories - 2 x ASRock XFire_Bridge_3S Cards
- 1 x ASRock SLI Bridge
- 1 x ASRock SLI_Bridge_3S Card
- 1 x ASRock 3-Way SLI Bridge Card
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- Floppy/ATA 133 Cables
- 6 x SATA Data Cables (optional)
- 2 x SATA 1 to 1 Power Cables (optional)
Hardware Monitor - CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU/Chassis/NB/Power Fan Tachometer
- CPU Quiet Fan
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore
Form Factor - ATX Form Factor: 12.0-in x 9.6-in, 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm
- All Solid Capacitor design (100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors)
OS - Microsoft® Windows® XP / XP 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit compliant
Certifications - FCC, CE, WHQL


ASRock X58 SuperComputer BIOS:

The motherboard BIOS is probably one of the most boring areas to look at if you're not an overclocker or enthusiast.  Mainstream users will probably want to skip down to the overclocking section to see how easy it is to tweak and overclock this board.  For you hardcore users, check out the BIOS screenshots of the 2.10 BIOS below.  During testing, ASRock updated the BIOS several times, and the last update gave us rock solid results with 3GB, 6GB and 12GB memory kits installed.  We were able to use all of the features advertised without any issues - thanks to the 2.10 BIOS.  Many sections like "Boot Order" have been left out as we simply can't handle that much excitement.  For now, the advanced bios settings will have to keep you happy - and tweaking your RAM, CPU and voltages until your heart's content.

BIOS - Main Screen  
BIOS - Main Screen

 

ASRock uses the AMI BIOS and while this isn't my favorite BIOS to work with, it's still functional and laid out quite well.  Most of the stuff is fairly bland and familiar to you so we are going to jump into some "Advanced" BIOS settings right off the bat.  The X58 chipset brings some new features to the table.  This is due in part to the integrated memory controller.  It also has to do with how the Intel CPU architecture has changed.  Notice the different CPU screen below.

 BIOS - Advanced
BIOS - Advanced
 BIOS - Advanced CPU
BIOS - Advanced CPU
BIOS - Advanced Chipset
BIOS - Advanced Chipset

 

As with all X58 motherboard models I've seen; ASRock is fairly generous with their CPU BLK Frequency.  You can key in any speed from 133MHz to 300MHz while the PCIe Frequency can be keyed in anywhere from 100MHz to 200MHz.  You can leave a lot of the CPU Ratio, QPI Frequency, and Uncore Frequency settings on Auto, but for the screenshot above (and for overclocking) you'll want to be familiar with these and tweak them.


In terms of memory tweaking, there are a couple of different angles to approach from.  By default, XMP memory settings are set to "Auto", but you can select a specific profile if more than one profile is present.  The Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1600 kit we used for this review has two profiles available as you can see below.

BIOS - XMP Memory
BIOS - XMP Memory
BIOS - Memory Speed
BIOS - Memory Speed

 

If you don't have XMP Memory you can manually select your memory speed from the available options of DDR3 800, DDR3 1066, DDR3 1333, DDR3 1600, DDR3 1866 and DDR3 2133 and then go in and set up your memory speeds.  It's nice that ASRock has provided such a wide range of memory multipliers on this board so that you can crank up your fast memory kit without pushing your entire system into the realm of instability.

ASRock has played nice with overclockers as they offer a full spectrum of voltage adjustments and a wide range to play with.  You can certainly damage your hardware with the range they give you so make sure you pay attention to the warnings and take baby steps when tweaking.

  • CPU Voltage -=- 0.84375v-1.6v in 0.00625v increments
  • DRAM Voltage -=- 1.53v-2.451v
  • DRAM CTRL Ref Voltage -=- -0.06741v- +0.08v
  • DRAM DATA Ref Voltage -=- -0.06741v- +0.08v
  • IOH Voltage -=- 1.1v-1.49v
  • VTT Offset Voltage -=- +0mV-300mV in 100mV increments
  • ICH Voltage -=- 1.12v-1.56v in 0.02v increments
  • IOH CSI Voltage -=- 1.12v-1.56v in 0.02v increments
  • IOH/ICH PCIe Voltage -=- 1.52v-1.9v in 0.02v increments
  • CPU PLL Voltage -=- 1.82v-2.50v in 0.02 increments 
 BIOS - Voltage
BIOS - Voltage
BIOS - Advanced IDE
BIOS - Advanced IDE
BIOS - HWMonitor
BIOS - HWMonitor

 

Overclocking:

Most of the overclocking results have been documented in our Core i7 920 CPU review over here.  Just like in the EVGA X58 3X SLI motherboard review, we tried to max out the bus and reduce the multiplier in order to achieve the highest bus possible.  We found our bus speed results to be exactly the same as with the EVGA board so this concludes a bit of our suspicion that the CPU is limiting our bus overclocks.  We still managed to get to 214MHz stable and tweaked out at 220MHz with about 98% stability.  Better cooling or a little more voltage might have made this stable, but we were pushing the voltages a bit as it was.  In order to get our CPU stable, we had to run the CPU voltage at 1.47v in order to keep it up around 1.4v.

CPU-Z Stock
CPU-Z Stock
4242MHz
4242MHz

 

For this X58 motherboard review we thought we'd stick to basics for the most part.  That being said, we tested the Core i7 920 at stock speeds and did some overclocking by trying to reach the highest CPU speed as possible as well as by reaching the highest FSB as possible.  This is the default setup that most consumers will use out of the box and gives a very good representation of how the Core i7 920 performs. Our best CPU scores come from the original Intel Core i7 920 review and although we managed to turn down the CPU multiplier and turn up the FSB a little more, the end results weren't as good as when the multiplier was at stock 21x202 FSB = 4242MHz.

 CPU-Z Mainboard
CPU-Z Mainboard
 CPU-Z Memory
CPU-Z Memory

 

On the next page we'll start testing out the board and dive into the HDD, Audio and Network subsystems before we get into overall performance testing.


Test System Specs:

In this motherboard review we managed to swap out the EVGA X58 3X SLI motherboard for the ASRock X58 SuperComputer and kept the same memory, same hard drives but unfortunately we had to substitute in a Radeon HD4870 in place of the two Radeon HD4850 Crossfire setup.  Because of this, most of the benchmarks can be directly compared as the majority of the review focuses on CPU, memory and subsystem tests.  Please keep this in mind when we get on to the gaming tests that the graphics hardware has been swapped out for a single-card solution instead of the dual-card solution previously.  While the card is more powerful by itself, it will be interesting to see how a single HD4870 stacks up to the two HD4850s.  With that being said, here is our test system breakdown:


EVGA X58
ASRock X58
CPU
Motherboard
ASRock X58 SuperComputer
Memory
Graphics
2x Radeon HD 4850 Crossfire
Radeon HD 4870
Cooling
Hard Drives
2x Seagate 200GB HDD RAID 0
2x Seagate 200GB HDD RAID 0
Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 w/SP1
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 w/SP1
ATI Drivers
9.1 Drivers
9.3 Drivers

 

Subsystem Tests - HDD:

We start off the subsystem testing with some HDD tests.  For the HDTach test below we used a RAID 0 stripe on a pair of older 200GB HDDs.  It's unfortunate that we didn't have any better drives on hand, although you can see the performance is still very good.

 HDTach
HDTach

 

Although the performance is very close, the ASRock X58 actually wins the HDTach performance test as it averages 84.2MB/sec with a 219.7MB/sec burst speed.  The EVGA X58 hit 84.0MB/sec average read speed with a 213.4MB/sec burst speed.  Although the numbers favor ASRock, you'll never see the difference in the real world.

 

Subsystem Tests - Audio:

ASRock uses the ALC890 codec that is technically capable of 110dB signal-to-noise ratio. As you can see with all of the results below although the sound quality is labeled as "HD", you can see that the quality is not "high quality".  Even though it is capable of 192kHz audio, it doesn't do it that well.  The truth is that most people won't hear the difference when plugged into a $50 pair of speakers or $15 headphones, but for those of you that care about audio quality on the integrated audio, RightMark Audio Analyzer results are below.  We tested a few different bit and sampling rates and have posted the chart below for your viewing pleasure.

 RMAA

It's nice to see that the audio quality of the ASRock board is a step up above the EVGA X58 3X SLI.  The audio quality doesn't test as good as a Creative X-Fi card by all means, but the dBA Noise Level and Dynamic range is 10 dBA and 7 dBA better respectively.

 

Subsystem Tests - Network:

One area that we have started testing is network performance.  It is easy for a company to claim great networking features as many users never test them out and are puzzled when they can only transfer files at a mere 250Mbit/sec on their 1000Mbit/sec NIC.  We use iPerf for testing network performance and on this board we tested out both wired and wireless performance.

iPerf

In iPerf, we ran single threaded tests as well as a multi-threaded network test that used five streams at the same time.  Multi-threaded performance always looks better and shows how the network system will hold up when accessed from multiple machines at the same time.  Single thread performance shows client-to-client file sharing performance.

On the next page we'll cover some synthetic benchmarks relating to system performance and memory before we jump into real world tests and gaming.


Synthetic Performance:

To start things off we'll take a look at PCMark Vantage numbers.  This entire system is very similar to the one we built for the Core i7 920 review as previously mentioned and it's very interesting to see how it compares straight across with the EVGA X58 motherboard.  We've dropped out the Phenom and Phenom II performance numbers for this review and compared the motherboards alone with the same CPU installed.  It's a pretty close comparison for the most part, but tests that use the graphics subsystem will be a little off as we had to replace the HD4850 Crossfire setup with a single HD4870.

PCMark

As you can see above, the ASRock board edges out the EVGA board in HDD, Games, Memory and in total score.  On the flip side, EVGA takes the lead on the Productivity, Communications, Music and TV.  The difference favors the ASRock board though and it is the "winner".

To gauge memory performance we used Everest Ultimate and SiSoft Sandra.  These numbers are gleaned from the Crucial Ballistix Tracer 6GB Kit review.  If you want to compare your triple-channel DDR3 performance, you can head on over and grab SiSoft Sandra here and compare away.  Please keep in mind that if you are using a dual-channel kit, your performance numbers will look dismal.

Benchmarking - Everest:

Because there is a lot of system tweaking that goes along with clocking up memory to non-standard speeds, we haven't included any "real-world" benchmarks.  In order to get the memory to run at speeds other than 1066MHz, 1333MHz, 1600MHz or 1866MHz the motherboard bus and CPU must be clocked up in order to achieve these speeds.  As we've shown before the CPU plays a huge roll in benchmark performance and so it's not fair to compare WinRAR compression when the CPU is clocked up 400MHz faster.  Of course the "RAM" will look faster, but in reality the CPU is the one doing the work.  For this reason we use two simply synthetic benchmarks to show memory performance.  How it affects performance in the real-world will depend largely on CPU, motherboard and other hardware bottlenecks so we have to be content with synthetic benchmarks to gain our number metric.  First up is Everest.

 Everest

 

The memory performance of both of these systems is very good, but the EVGA board edges out the ASRock SuperComputer in this test.  In some of the tests, the performance is quite noticeable even though the timings are all set the same at 8-8-8-24 1T.

 SiSoft Bandwidth
SiSoft Bandwidth
SiSoft Latency
SiSoft Latency

 

SiSoft shows memory performance that is basically identical between systems.  The biggest difference is at the overclocked settings and the ASRock takes the lead by 0.58GB/sec.  I think it's safe to say, it's pretty much a draw.  What does take the lead and the cake is the performance over 1821MHz CL8.

 

Finally we take a look at PMCore - a program that calculates prime numbers.  This program is multi-threaded and we used it to calculate 10,000 prime numbers.  The results below are in minutes:seconds.tenths.

 PMCore

The ASRock X58 edges out the EVGA X58 in single-threaded performance, but EVGA brings home the bacon with multi-threaded performance.  No clear winner here.

On the next page we'll carry on with some real-world application tests before we go gaming with this motherboard.


Cinebench and POV-RAY:

It's no secret that 3D Rendering and modeling through programs like 3DStudioMax, Blender and others are very CPU intensive.  Of course with all the stream processors available in today's graphics cards, some of heavy workload is now being offloaded to the GPU, but a good 3D program can bring a system to its knees - especially when rendering lighting effects and very smooth models.  We've put Cinebench 9.6 x64 as well as Cinebench R10 x64 to the test on both the Phenom II and Core i7 systems and threw in POV-Ray for good measure.  All of these programs can be run on a single core, or multiple cores to speed up the work process.

 Cinebench 9
Cinebench 9.6
 Cinebench 10
Cinebench 10

POV-Ray  

The EVGA board dominates the Cinebench 9.6 review, but the ASRock board wins more of the Cinebench 10 tests.  Performance swings back to EVGA for the POV-Ray benchmark.  No clear winner, but the EVGA board wins more of the rendering tests.


Next up we look at a couple of conversion programs - ConvertXDVD from VSO-Software as well as DVDShrink.  Both of these programs support multi-core and were ran at stock speeds only on the Core i7 system.  As you can see, the ASRock X58 setup edges out the EVGA board in ConvertX, but lags a few seconds in DVDShrink.

 ConvertX
ConvertX
DVDShrink
DVDShrink

 

As we carry on through the benchmarks, we stop in for a bit to look at PhotoShop CS2 and DriverHeaven's PSBench 3.0.  Instead of breaking all the rendering and filtering operations down, we've posted the total score.  In both overclocked and stock tests, the ASRock X58 SuperComputer takes the cake and beats out the EVGA board by a measurable margin.

 Photoshop

Finally, we take a look at some video encoding through the x.264 and x.264HD benchmarks.  These programs are multi-threaded and take advantage of fast clock speeds, hyperthreading and a fast subsystem.  It's incredible to see this system crank out HD video encoding at an insane 68.2FPS.   That is just under 3x real-time speeds of a 24FPS HD video.  As you notice below, the EVGA board pulls a few frames per second faster.

x264

As we carry on to the next page, we'll take a look at gaming performance on the X58 EVGA motherboard.


Gaming Performance - Crysis:

As we fire up our actual gaming benchmarks, we thought of several ways to do this.  Ultimately we wanted to use real resolutions and real settings to compare these processors.  Granted if we ran everything at 640x480, we'd see a dramatic improvement on multi-core capable games when running the Core i7 920 with Hyper Threading at high speeds.  The reality is that most gamers that have money for a new CPU don't run at 640x480 and we wanted to see what kind of performance increase you can expect to see with real settings in a game.  We kept all of the settings exactly the same throughout the tests but unfortunately had to swap out the HD4850s for a single HD4870.

We played some Crysis with the latest patches installed.   We used the HOC Crysis Benchmark for our tests and ran the game at 1280x768, 1680x1050, and 1920x1200.  We used the CPU portion of the benchmarking program and tested on both Medium and High graphics quality.

 Crysis

 

Gaming Performance - Far Cry 2:

The original Far Cry games blew us away with its high detailed graphics, incredible field of view as well as amazing water effects.  Far Cry 2 has left me feeling a little disappointed with its overall look as the game has a much grittier look and feel.  That being said, it is still a popular game and it includes a very handy benchmarking tool.  We ran a couple of resolutions with two detail settings to get a feel at how the motherboard affects performance in the game.

FarCry 2

 

Gaming Performance - HL2:EP2, UT3 & More:

As we wrap up game testing, we quickly look at Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Unreal Tournament 3 and the Valve Multi-CPU Particle Benchmark.  Once again, please keep in mind that the graphics hardware has changed between the platforms so results can't be compared 100%.

Gaming Performance  

 

Final Thoughts:

The ASRock X58 SuperComputer motherboard is a high-end solution for those of you looking to build a nice Core i7 system with tons of GPU, Stream Processing, CUDA and PhysX support.  Although ASRock fails to include some IO brackets that will help you take advantage of more USB2.0 and Firewire ports, it does include the bridges for both CrossfireX and SLI systems.  It offers the standard 6 slots for DDR3 and fully supports XMP memory profiles.  This board overclocks very well and has enough voltage adjustments to really screw something up if you're not careful.  Overall, I'm impressed with the layout as ASRock kept the important headers confined to the outer edge of the board.  This is extremely handy if you fill up the system with graphics cards and would normally have to remove some stuff to plug in that extra USB bracket.


In the end, the layout is nicely done, but if you do install four large graphics cards for either SLI or Crossfire, you're going to use up all of the other PCI slots.  I'm sure that you'll be willing to make that sacrifice though if you had three nice GTX 285 cards in Tri-SLI and an extra GTX 295 running your PhysX processing.  It would be a sacrifice I'd be willing to make.


Pros:

  • Full featured board
  • Very good layout
  • 8-phase power regulation for the CPU
  • Excellent overclocking capability
  • Supports Tri-SLI and Quad CrossfireX
  • Passive cooling works well and is dead silent.
  • Four PCIe 16x slots!!

 

Cons:

  • System wasn't perfectly stable until the 2.10 BIOS (RAM compatibility?)
  • No rear USB/eSATA/Firewire brackets.
  • Pretty expensive - $300+

 

 BCCRating

 

I'd like to thank ASRock for sending out this board for us to review.  Please post your comments in the forums at the link below.