The full array of Z77 motherboards has already been introduced throughout the industry, and Ivy Bridge is now a mainstay for Intel.
With all the hype and migration, many have forgotten about another viable and arguably better computing platform. Yes, the X79 platform is still alive, and so are Sandy Bridge “E” processors. The Sandy Bridge “E” processors have more computing power over “vanilla” Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge due to the increased L3 cache.
With that said, Ivy Bridge “E” processors are due to arrive 4th quarter of 2012. The Ivy Bridge “E” series will carry the same architecture with a die shrink. It also has more transistor density than its little brother version of Ivy Bridge.
The transistors are Intel’s new 3D Tri-Gate Transistors which operate more efficiently, and Ivy Bridge “E” still uses socket 2011. Until those arrive, the Sandy Bridge “E” are the top performers, and that is what we get to look at today.
In the past two years or so, ASRock has stepped up its game and is now a major player in the motherboard industry.
In addition, ASRock has been dominant with the X79 platform, from the X79 Extreme 3 through the X79 Extreme 9 series. This includes their gamer/enthusiast Fatal1ty series motherboards.
In our opinion, ASRock has one of the most comprehensive X79 lineups of all manufacturers, and now the ASRock X79 Extreme 11 has appeared to shake things up further. The Extreme 11 has seven PCIE 3.0 slots (using the PLX PEX 8747 chip), eight SATA III ports, and eight USB 3.0 ports. This is on top of a boatload of other features as well. Needless to say, The Asrock Extreme 11 is surely built for the enthusiast user.
- Chipset: Intel X79
- Form Factor: E-ATX
- CPU Support: Intel Core i7 processor family for the LGA 2011 Socket
- VRM: 24 + 2 Power Phase Design
- Memory: 8 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Audio: 7.1 CH HD Audio
- LAN: PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Full-size CEB form factor with a ton of room
- Seven PCIE slots
- Fourteen SATA ports.
- Overclocking is a bit tougher
To better understand the X79 platform, I have included Intel’s diagrams for the X79 chipset and the Z77 chipset. They do look rather similar, but there are some distinct differences and two in particular.
The first is the X79 supports the new LGA2011 socket and Sandy-Bridge-E processors, while Z77 is relegated to LGA 1155 socket. The second significant difference is found in the memory, as X79 supports quad-channel memory configurations while the Z77 supports dual-channel memory setups.
Looking closely at the two diagrams below, you will notice that the X79 Chipset supports 40 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 for Graphics which will support up to five graphics cards in 1×16, 2×8, and 2×4 configurations. This can be an advantage over the Z77, which supports only 16 Lanes by comparison.
Intel X79 Express Chipset Platform Block Diagram
Intel Z77 Express Chipset Platform Block Diagram
Packaging and Parts
The ASRock X79 Extreme 11 sports a bold dark grey and gold aesthetic on the box. The front shows the Extreme 11 and ASRock’s 555 xFast feature ( 5 x Ram, 5 x Lan, and 5 x USB speeds) with the X79 platform noted. The look really stands out and can be easily seen from afar.
Moving to the rear, we see a photo of the motherboard and all the features and benefits.
It comes with a bi-fold flap with a transparent window. Viewing the Extreme 11 is breathtaking and may induce you to want one instantly. ASRock has done a nice job with the initial presentation..
Next, we see the included documentation: the Quick Installation Guide, Software Guide, xFast guide, and installation DVD.
And here are the Parts: Six sata cables, SLI Bridge(s), I/o backplate shield, two USB 3.0 trays, rear USB 3.0 bracket, and two SATA 1 to 1 power cable(s).
Now let’s investigate the ASRock X79 Extreme 11 further.
A Closer Look
There are usually a couple of things most look for when choosing a motherboard, like the ASRock X79 Extreme 11 ultimate features and great aesthetics.
We see it all here with the Extreme 11. The Extreme 11 certainly garnishes attention. It has a massive amount of PCIe and SATA slots.
The board is a CEB form factor and measures 12 x 10.5 inches. The layout is well thought-out and certainly spacious. The PCB is black, and the board has black slots giving it a sexy midnight look. It also has arrow-like chromed-tipped heat sinks. This look has been here for a few generations and is a proven winner for ASRock.
Here is the LGA 2011 socket. LGA 2011 is different from socket 1155 as it uses quad-channel memory. The DIMM slots are placed on each side of the socket, and the ASRock X79 x11 supports 64GB of memory overclockable to 2500MHz+.
We also see the VRMs and Dual Stack Mosfet, which has a mind-boggling 24+2 Digi Power phase. ASRock uses Premium Gold Caps (2.5 x longer lifetime), 100% Japanese-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors. Digitally speaking, it looks like an overclocker’s delight.
Moving forward, we see the lower dimm slot area. With the CEB form factor, the motherboard extends in this area, and the 24-pin main power header area has plenty of room.
ASRock adds two dual USB 3.0 ports for both front and rear case connectivity. With more USB 3.0 devices, the added port is welcome. We also see the fan headers to the lower right.
ASRock uses 4-pin PWM (Pulse Width Modulation), and the system digitally takes over. As the system heats up, the motherboard automatically vamps up the fans, and as it cools, the fan speeds decrease. Your fans must have a 4-pin connector for this function to operate.
Up next are the SATA ports; we were astonished to find 14 of them! Yes, you read that correctly: fourteen SATA ports. We also see a large south bridge heatsink for enhanced cooling, more PWM fan headers, USB connectors, and a 1394 connector.
ASRock’s Sound Core 3D brings high-quality audio from Creative Sound. This integrated sound chip is much better quality than your traditional onboard sound. It also comes with TruStudio Pro, which is a package for improving sound quality promoted between THX and Creative.
Overclocking the Sandy Bridge-E on the X79 chipset brings some new features from what we found with the LGA1155 systems. Overclockers still need to rely on multiplier-based overclocking, but Intel has introduced a 2nd intermediate reference clock ratio multiplier called the coarse ratio multiplier. It can play a big role during overclocking on the LGA2011 socket systems. The multiplier allows the user to raise the base clock frequency of the processor and its memory controller frequency.
Lastly, keep in mind that improved CPU cooling and a strong power supply are also required. These new processors are beasts, which also require a strong power delivery setup on the motherboards; don’t skimp and go with the cheapest board or power supply out there.
If you’re investing significant money in the CPU, make sure you complete the rig with the trifecta of a solid motherboard, efficient cooling, and a stable power supply (one that has validation support for the advanced “C” State Protocols, C6, and C7).
With that out of the way, let’s move on to our overclocking results.
- Processor: Intel Core i7 3930K
- Motherboard: ASRock X79 Extreme 11
- Cooling: Custom Water
- PSU: Nexus 1100W
- Memory: 16G G.Skill Trident 2400MHz
- Hard Disk: OCZ 240G Revo Drive
- Graphics: 2 x Radeon 6970
- Case: Phobya WayCoolIT Test Bench
Overclocking our Intel Core i7 3930K was a big challenge in our past X79 reviews. Because it is a retail chip, you either get a good one or don’t. Using our custom water cooling with this board, we were able to boot up to 5GHz. Unfortunately, we could not stabilize over 4.7GHz, so we had to call it a day there. We were still happy with this result because it equals our previous 3930K’s stable overclock high.
All motherboard manufacturers will likely concede CPU Benchmarks within 1% amongst all X79 motherboards. The differences in performance will be in specific features and efficiency improvements, such as the PEX x 2 chips on the Extreme 11.
This feature offers a full 16x in Quadfire or Quad SLI. To see these differences, we will run a few motherboard-specific benchmarks to test the power of the ASRock Extreme 11.
Si Software Sandra (System Analyzer, Diagnostic, and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software, and other devices, whether hardware or software.
As we already knew, the Intel core i7 3930K takes no prisoners in CPU performance. It reaches 169 GFlops, which is pretty darn impressive, coupled with the ASRock X79 Extreme 11.
With all the Ivy Bridge hype, many of us have forgotten about Sandy Bridge “E” processors that actually offer better performance. This is a nice build-up to the Ivy Bridge “E” processors, which are just around the corner but not here yet.
This makes the X79 platform still very viable. ASRock really steps up to the plate with the ASRock X79 Extreme 11, as we saw today. For those seeking top gaming performance, using multiple graphics cards, or if you are looking to lock and load multiple drives in the raid, ASRock has exactly what you’re looking for.
The X79 Extreme 11 has an attractive aesthetic package that is black on black with chrome-tipped heat shields and gold-tipped capacitors. It should easily blend with any build since black goes with just about anything.
Aesthetics aside, features and performance are really what matters, and the X11 has serious prowess. Starting out with graphics support, ASRock uses two PLX PEX 8747 chips that run four PCIE slots in a 16X configuration for NVIDIA Quad SLI and Radeon Quadfire graphics.
In addition, ASRock adds a whopping fourteen sata ports for those looking for mega raid setups. Blend these goodies with ASRock’s 555 X Fast features (5x Lan, 5x USB, 5x Ram), and you have something really breathtaking here. Sure, most do not need all these features, but ASRock’s Extreme 11 hits the high-end performance seeker like a runaway train and cannot be ignored.
Overclocking this platform has always been tough, but we hit 4.7GHz stable with our Intel core i7 3930K. The Extreme 11 uses 24+2 Digi Power Phase, so we did expect a bit more, but our results were still very good.
On the other side of raw board performance, we saw great speeds with both the Sata and SaS ports but only average USB 3.0 speeds.
ASRock’s included X Fast Ram shines; however, with memory speeds that were off the hook at over 8,000Mb/s. X Fast Ram is something to behold for those looking to load games or programs to a virtual drive. Performance was greatly enhanced using your memory as a virtual drive.
When choosing the right motherboard, some may go overboard, and Some may not.
If you’re looking for an X79 motherboard that packs in as many features as possible, the ASRock X79 Extreme 11 is your choice.
The price tag for X79 motherboards is more expensive than other platforms (as it is for Intel Sandy Bridge “E” processors too). Coming in at $599 is not cheap, but Sandy “E” users won’t flinch at the price tag.
If you take into consideration the PEX and SAS chip with increased lanes, $599 is really not bad with all the features the X79 Extreme has under the hood.
In 2023, Intel launched new 13th gen processors, Core i7 13700k and Core i9 13900k. For these processors, you need a good Z790 motherboard. Please read these guides before making any decision.