ASRock X58 Extreme 3 Motherboard

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Product: ASRock X58 Extreme 3 Motherboard
Provided By:
ASRock
Price: Shop ASRock boards here

 

Introduction:

We've become quite familiar with ASRock's line of high-performance, bargain priced motherboards over the last couple of years.  ASRock has made a name for themselves by offering the latest features and reliable components for a good price.  Today we are looking at a refresh called the "X58 Extreme 3" mainboard for the Core i7 platform.  This of course is based on the X58 chipset from Intel and supports the new 6-Core Gulftown CPUs from Intel as well as adding "True 333" to the package.  This board supports USB 3.0, SATA 3.0 (6GB/s) as well as eSATA 3.0.  I'm excited to see if this board has good overclocking capability and how fast the new "333" feature set performs.  Let's dive right in shall we?

Box Front
Box Front
Box Back
Box Back

 

The ASRock X58 Extreme 3 comes in a large flashy box that has recently graced the high-end ASRock motherboard series.  As much as I want to brag on the goodies, they are pretty lean - typical of ASRock.  Included in the box is the standard Rear I/O shield, manual, driver CD and Molex to SATA adapters.  Also in the box are three SATA cables, an IDE cable and a floppy cable.  The baord supports SLI and CrossfireX, but lacks a bunch of the connectors you may need.  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.

Bundle
Bundle

 

 

First Look at the Board:

This is the second X58 board from ASRock that I've got to spend some quality time with - the first being the X58 Supercomputer that we looked at back in June of 2009. Although many of the features are the same, there are some changes and updates to this version.

Board Full View
Board Full View
Board Profile
Board Profile

 

The X58 Extreme 3 comes with the standard six DDR3 slots that can handle up to 24GB of DDR3-2000 memory.  Not included is a huge wallet and a Crucial 24GB DDR3 Kit.  This board has three PCIe slots that can be configured to run at 16x/16x/4x.  Thankfully, there is a double-wide space between each of these slots so double-slot coolers can work easily.  There are also 2 PCI slots and one PCIe 1x slot that won't be accessible if you use all of your graphics slots.  ASRock has included 6 SATA (3Gbps) ports for internal drives as well as the 2 SATA (6Gbps) ports located slightly above the top PCIe 16x slot.  ASRock also provides a powered eSATA 3.0 port on the rear IO.  If you want to add some extra USB ports, there are four more ports available through the two motherboard headers, as well as a pair of Firewire ports.  Although the main layout is pretty good, the location of the SATA 6Gbps ports is a little troublesome.

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:

Those of you that are looking for a completely silent board thanks to a passive cooling solution should look elsewhere as the Extreme 3 from ASRock has a fan over the CPU power mosfet that also cools the northbridge chipset thanks to a single heatpipe.  The northbridge has its own fins as well so the fan probably isn't required for normal operation.  That being said, the fan seems to be very quiet and should add better overclocking potential to this board.  Although the mosfet cooling is located away from the CPU area, some large heatsinks may have mounting issues due to this design.  Make sure you check your clearances before you install a large aircooler.

Cooling
Cooling
VRM Cooling
Mosfet Cooling

 

The rear I/O of the ASRock X58 Extreme 3 isn't really that interesting.  It is a pretty standard rear I/O - other than the USB 3.0 ports and CMOS reset button.  There are 5 other USB 2.0 connectors, 8-channel audio in addition to digital coaxial SPIDF and optical audio outputs as well.  There are both PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors.

Rear IO
Rear IO

 

As we move to the memory slots, we find that they have a slight spacing that should allow a little room for airflow between the modules - even when all slots are populated with heatspreader-laden modules.  The memory sits back from the CPU area and shouldn't interfere with large CPU cooling solutions - unless you are using memory with very tall heatspreaders.  The PCIe slots on the board are double-spaced which allows large cards with large cooling solutions to be used without issues.  This is nice to see.  If you still need a standard PCI slot - you'll have to sacrifice one of your PCIe slots.

 

RAM Slots
RAM Slots
PCI Slots
PCI(e) Slots

 

The main 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.   In order to separate the SATA 3.0 connectors, they moved them up to the middle of the board and they could end up in the way.  If you are using a fast SSD that supports SATA 6Gbps speeds, you'll have to make sure to route things properly to keep everything running smooth.  Really, it's not that big of a deal where they are located, it just seems a little outdated.  The last couple of things worth mentioning before we jump into the specs and features of this board are the power and reset buttons on the board as well as the diagnostic LED.  I've had the diagnostic LED save my bacon on other boards and it's nice to see it included on the Extreme 3.  The power and reset buttons make this board wonderful for a test-bench setup as well as any serious enthusiast.

Buttons And LED
Buttons and LED
SATA3 Ports
SATA 3.0 Ports

 

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 Extreme 3 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 Extreme 3 Features & Specs:

  • Supports Gulftown 6-Core CPU
  • ASRock DuraCap (2.5 x longer life time), 100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
  • Advanced V8 Power Phase Design
  • Supports Triple Channel DDR3 2000(OC)
  • Supports ATI™ CrossFireX™ and Quad CrossFireX™
  • Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™ and SLI™
  • 1 x Powered eSATAIII/USB Connector, 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connector, 2 x USB 3.0 Ports
  • ErP/EuP Ready, Dr. Debug
  • Smart Swith Design : Power / Reset / Clear CMOS Switch with LED
  • Supports ASRock Instant Boot, Instant Flash, OC DNA, Multi-Speed Fan Control, OC Tuner, IES, Good Night LED
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio (VT2020 Audio Codec with QSound), SRN 110dB & Premium Blu-ray audio support
  • Combo Cooler Option (C.C.O.)


 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
- Advanced V8 Power Phase Design
- 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®
- Max. capacity of system memory: 24GB
processors 3500 series*
- 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® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS 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 Legal BIOS
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU, VCCM, IOH, ICH, VTT, IOH/ICH PCIE, CPU PLL, IOH CSI, VCORE Voltage Multi-adjustment
- Supports I. O. T. (Intelligent Overclocking Technology)
 Audio, Video and Networking
Graphics - n/a
Audio - 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection
- DAC with 110dB dynamic range (VIA® VT2020 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray audio support
LAN - PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111DL
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
 Expansion / Connectivity
Slots - 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (blue @ x16 mode)
- 1 x PCI Express x16 slot (white @ x4 mode) (Double-wide slot spacing between each PCI-E slot)
- 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
- 2 x PCI slots
- Supports ATI™ CrossFireX™ and Quad CrossFireX™
- Supports NVIDIA® SLI™ and Quad SLI™
SATA3 - 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by Marvell SE9128, support hardware RAID (RAID 0 and RAID 1), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions (SATA3_2 connector is shared with eSATA3 port)
USB 3.0 - 2 x USB 3.0 ports by NEC MPD720200, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
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
- 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors
- 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
- 1 x TPM header
- 1 x Chassis Intrusion header
- 1 x Power LED header
- CPU/Chassis/NB/Power FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- CD in header
- Front panel audio connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x Dr. Debug (7-Segment Debug LED)
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
- 5 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x Powered eSATAIII/USB 2.0 Connector
- 2 x Ready-to-Use USB 3.0 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x IEEE 1394 Port
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
- 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
- ASRock Instant Flash
- ASRock OC DNA
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
- Combo Cooler Option (C.C.O.)
- Good Night LED
Smart Switch - 1 x Power Switch with LED
- 1 x Reset Switch with LED
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
Support CD - Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), ASRock Software Suite (CyberLink DVD Suite - OEM and Trial; Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi MB - Trial)
Accessories - 1 x ASRock SLI_Bridge_2S Card
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- Floppy/ATA 133 Cables
- 4 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
- CPU/Chassis Fan Multi-Speed Control
- CASE OPEN detection
- 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® 7 / 7 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit / XP / XP 64-bit compliant
Certifications - FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP Ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

 

 

ASRock X58 Extreme 3 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 find out if this Extreme board is extremely easy to tweak.  For you hardcore users, check out the BIOS screenshots of the 1.50 BIOS below.  During testing, ASRock updated the BIOS a couple of times but as we had no issues, we stuck with the 1.50 BIOS to keep performance on the same plane.  Although the board supports SATA 3.0, our test drive from Crucial didn't arrive in time for the review but it will be coming shortly and we'll test it on this board.  As far as BIOS features, 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

 

ASRock has stuck with the AMI BIOS and while it still isn't my favorite, I'm getting used to it and it seems to work alright.  At first glance, you'd assume that this board is geared for the Tweaker as the first tab in the BIOS - other than the "Main" tab is "OC Tweaker".  In this section you have many of the simple overclocking, memory, voltage and profile settings available to you.

OC Tweaker
OC Tweaker #1
OC Tweaker
OC Tweaker #2
 
OCTweak - RAM Speed
OC Tweaker - RAM Speed
OCTweak - Timings
OC Tweaker - RAM Timings

 

 

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-2.0v in 0.00625v increments
  • DRAM Voltage -=-0.964 v-1.999v in 0.015v increments
  • IOH Voltage -=- 1.1v-1.49v in 0.016v increments
  • VTT Voltage -=- 1.2v-1.9V in 1.07v 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 

 

Advanced - CPU
Advanced CPU
Advanced - Chipset
Advanced Chipset
   
Advanced - Storage
Advanced Storage
Advanced - USB
Advanced USB

 

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. 

 

Overclocking:

Just as in all of our motherboard reviews, we tried to max out the bus and reduce the multiplier in order to achieve the highest bus possible.  I soon discovered that this board simply doesn't have the heart to overclock like the ASRock X58 Supercomputer.  With similar settings and voltages, I couldn't get the board to post running faster than 165MHz Bus Speed, and managed to run rock stable at 159 - that is a pretty weak showing for a board that looks like it has a lot of promise.  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
Weak OC
Weak OC

 

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. Sadly we couldn't even reach 3.4GHz stable on this board - and we've managed to hit 4.2GHz with this CPU.

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 ASRock X58 SuperComputer motherboard for the ASRock X58 Extreme 3 and kept the same memory, same graphics but dropped in a 128GB Patriot SSD in place of the aging Seagate drives.  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 some subsystem test, the SSD makes all the difference and these results can't be directly compared.  With that being said, here is our test system breakdown:

 

 
EVGA X58
ASRock X58 SC
 ASRock X58 Ex3
CPU
 Intel Core i7 920 - 2.66GHz
Motherboard
ASRock X58 SuperComputer
ASRock X58 Extreme 3
Memory
 6GB Crucial Ballistix DDR3-1600 Kit
Graphics
2x Radeon HD 4850 Crossfire
Radeon HD 4870
Radeon HD 4870
Cooling
CoolIT Domino A.L.C.
Hard Drives
2x Seagate 200GB HDD RAID 0
2x Seagate 200GB HDD RAID 0
 Crucial 128GB SSD
Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 w/SP1
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 w/SP1
 Windows 7 Ultimate x64
ATI Drivers
9.1 Drivers
9.3 Drivers
 10.6 Drivers

 

 

Subsystem Tests - HDD:

We start off the subsystem testing with some HDD tests.  For the HDTach test below we used a 128GB SSD from Crucial that has been around the block and shows how "dirty" SSD's perform.

HDTach
HDTach

 

You'll notice that HDTach doesn't always give true HDD performance under Windows 7 when using SSDs.  The drive reports a burst speed only 4MB/sec faster than the average read.  This is not accurate as the drive will burst much faster than the read speed.

 

Subsystem Tests - USB 3.0:

We recently used the USB 3.0 features of this board to test the Super Talent Express Drive 3.0 over here.  Please refer to this review for all the sweet USB 3.0 details.  

 

Turbo

 

 

 

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.  However, the hard drives were swapped out with the SSD and this completely changed all of the results from PCMark.  We say 400% performance improvement on the disk tests and almost 100% increase in the overall scores.  With that in mind, we dropped the comparison numbers on this test and merely ran stock vs. overclocked comparisons in the chart below.  PCMark is an interesting beast as one component can dramatically change the overall performance metric.

PCMark Vantage

 

Overclocking yields a modest increase in performance but with a mere 15% overclock we're not expecting anything mind-bending in terms of performance gains here.



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, and at stock speeds the ASRock X58 Extreme 3 wins almost every segment of the Everest memory test.  However, the performance lags when overclocking as the Extreme 3 doesn't have as much headroom and this shows in the tweaked numbers.

SiSoft

 

SiSoft shows memory performance that is basically identical between systems.

 

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 seconds.tenths.

PMCore

 

At stock speeds, the ASRock X58 Extreme 3 takes the lead in both single and multi-threaded benchmarks of PMCore.  Overclocking performance suffers though as the other systems have almost a 900MHz lead on the Extreme 3 system.

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


Cinebench 9.6 & 10 x64:

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.  All of these programs can be run on a single core, or multiple cores to speed up the work process.  The results generated are reference numbers that can be compared across platforms, operating systems and hardware.

 Cinebench 9.6 Cinebench 10

 

Once again, the X58 Extreme 3 manages to take the stock-speed crown in Cinebench 9.6 and 10, but falls behind when overclocked.  If the stock-performance trend could carry on through the overclocked numbers and we could reach 4.2GHz, the performance could be phenomenal.   As it stands - only stock performance is worth getting excited about.

 

Next up we look at a couple of conversion programs - DVDShrink and x.264HD.  Both of these programs support multi-core and while DVDShrink was ran only at stock speed, we pulled out the stops and ran x.264HD at both overclocked and stock speeds.

 DVDShrink x.264HD

 

The ASRock X58 Extreme 3 is showing typical results here once again.  It performs very strong at stock speeds.  As we carry on to the next page, we'll take a look at gaming performance on the Extreme 3 motherboard.

 

Gaming Performance - Far Cry 2:

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 (EVGA X58) for a single HD4870 on the ASRock X58 systems.

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. 

Far Cry 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 Extreme 3 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.  It is a nice refresh to the X58 line from ASRock as it now incorporates USB 3.0, SATA 3.0 (6Gbps) and eSATA 3.0 (6Gbps).  Although ASRock once again fails to include some IO brackets that will help you take advantage of more USB2.0 and Firewire ports it provides enough headers on and off the board to help integrate this board into a nice case with front I/O.  It offers the standard 6 slots for DDR3 and fully supports XMP memory profiles.  Although the overclocking features look pretty robust, the end result is that it doesn't overclock very well - at all.  This is a bit of a disappointment and looking around the web, I see that other reviewers had similar results.  While it may not be geared for the tweaking segment of the enthusiast crowd, those looking for a motherboard with the latest features at a bargain price will have to look hard to find another board that can match the value.  There's no question that it is great value - it's too bad the tweaked performance doesn't match.

Pros:

  • Fully loaded board with SATA & USB 3.0
  • 8-phase power regulation for the CPU
  • Good cooling on Northbridge and CPU Mosfet
  • Supports SLI & CrossfireX
  • 3x PCIe 16x slots for lots of expansion

 

Cons:

  • Poor overclocking capabilities
  • No rear USB/eSATA/Firewire brackets.
  • SATA 3.0 connectors located in an odd place

 

  BCCRating

Silver

 

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.