SSDS AND MOTHERBOARDS
It’s no secret that SSDs have been a major force in tech advance and the force in which they’ve impacted could never be covered in a single report. Eyeing the enthusiast or home user alone, SSDs are now a main staple of any PC build. They enable quicker PC start times, increase system performance and reduce scene transition times when gaming. Add to that characteristics such as less heat, less noise, better data protection as well as better battery life for laptop and ultra users.
Motherboard manufacturers have been relatively slow to adapt, and their reasoning that SSD progression just hasn’t slowed enough yet to grab hold, is valid. In just a few years we have seen consumer SSDs progress from the 3.5” desktop standard, to notebook, mSATA, PCIe and now we are about to experience the smallest form factor yet with the newest M.2 standard. Quite frankly, motherboard manufacturers find that just as they have been able to successfully incorporate one standard, the next appears. The fact that we were formerly limited to two Intel ports for full 500+ MB/s SSD performance didn’t help.
M.2 SSD IMPLEMENTATION
Perhaps the most recent example of how fast SSDs are pushing forward was evident in the ASUS Z87 Maximus VI motherboard where they incorporated a M.2 SSD adapter card with their 802.11ac Wifi. Not only did this rush solution only take advantage of a single PCIe lane, bottlenecking speeds at 5Gbps, but also, it could only fit M.2 SSDs of the 2240 size and, even then, installation was a very tricky experience. On the positive side of this, kudos to ASUS for putting that foot forward and being the first as that inspires competition and pushes innovation forward.
ASROCK AND THE MOBO WARS
Remembering a few years back, the top three were Asus, Gigabyte and ASRock, with Gigabyte being the OC lovers’ mobo. ASUS and ASRock have since maintained pace while Gigabytes popularity has declined significantly, MSI now pushing forward and gaining their ground in the motherboard space. Looking back, ASUS and ASRock were replacing their older BIOS with a UEFI graphical BIOS and Giga didn’t seem interested in this tech advance whatsoever. In our regular discussions with motherboard manufacturers, we had been saying for some time that the true leader would be defined by their ability to accommodate growing storage. Examining the ASRock Extreme 11 that we are taking a quick look at today, perhaps ASRock took note.
ASROCK Z87 EXTREME11/ac MOTHERBOARD
A quick look at the Extreme11 is all it takes to realize what ASRock had in mind with this motherboard. 16 SAS 12Gbps ports, 6 native Intel SATA ports, two mSATA and one eSATA port that connect to the Intel ports for top speeds, 2x ThunderBolt 2.0 ports and 12 x USB 3.0 ports make storage a main staple that will accommodate every storage need imaginable. Unlike so many other motherboards that have incorporated mSATA SSDs in caching scenarios, or maybe even as a SATA 2 after thought, ASRock ensures that mSATA and eSATA can be utilized with full chipset performance. No stone was left unturned with respect to storage means with this hardware.
That doesn’t include the long list of extras such as the ability to configure 4-way SLI/Crossfire setups through the 4 PCIe 3.0 x16 slots , 802.11ac wiFi for speeds up to 867Mbps, dual Intel Dual Gigabit LAN Ethernet, 4K compatibility, the ability to connect 3 monitors without the need of a Gfx card, as well as a Wi-SD box that contains 4 additional USB 3.0 ports, a SD card reader, stores the wiFi antennas and can even be used for SSD storage. These are only a handful of the included features.
16 X SAS-3 12GB/S CONNECTORS
This feature alone is a storage guys dream but we have to say that, if you can afford the 8x12Gb/s SSDs that can be accommodated in the Extreme11, you probably aren’t looking at a typical retail motherboard. Through use of the LSI SAS 3008 controller, ASRock can reach speeds of 6.1GB/s through 8 12Gb/s SSDs, or split that with the 3x24R to accommodate up to 16 SATA 3 SSDs. That brings the grand total of system capable SATA 3 SSDs to 22. If you check our LSI SAS 9300-8e HBA Controller Review, you will learn a great deal about ASRock Extreme11 storage capabilities.
6X INTEL Z87 CONNECTORS
Having this many connectors capable of full Intel Z87 performance is great. It has been too long that we have been restricted to two Intel ports, only to have additional SATA 3 ports bottlenecked because of the ASMedia or Marvel chip used to accommodate secondary storage. There is good and bad to this, depending on how you see it.
For instance, there are two mSATA connectors that are capable of full Intel Intel Z87 performance, but to do this, it means that we are tapping into Intel ports 2 and 4. Conversely, eSATA is also capable of full performance but it taps into the 5th Intel port. Simply put, it is either/or with respect to both mSATA and eSATA but this is definitely not a negative whatsoever with 6 Intel ports available.