THUNDERBOLT 2.0 X 2
ThunderBolt 2 provides 20Gbps speeds, compared to its predecessor that was only capable of half that, meaning that a single port can now provide data transfer rates significantly higher than the 1GB/s mark.
Our first look at this was with the LaCie Little Big Disk (soon to be reviewed) at CES where we saw speeds of 1.4GB/s. The Extreme 11 contains two ThunderBolt 2 ports that also allow the daisy chaining of up to 12 Thunderbolt devices, and as well, the connecting of high resolution displays up to 4K.
The Little Big Disk is striking at an important segment of the 4K industry because adequate composition and manipulation of 4K videos requires transfer storage speeds of at least 1.4GB/s.
UEFI AND AUTO SSD OPTIMIZATION
In our opinion, the new ASRock BIOS is the new leader in motherboard UEFI. It looks great, is very easy to use, has the ideal settings preset, and even helps you along if you want to fine tune things just a bit more. It enables even the most novice of users to Ooverclock without fear of system damage. It wasn’t until we did our first SSD benchmark, however, that we realized that ASRock took that extra step for the SSD crowd. They have optimized the CPU C-States (as we detail in our SSD Optimization Guide) so their best use is already set in ‘Auto’ mode that enables much higher performance in SSDs.
Enthusiasts, as well as many of our fellow SSD reviewers, have habitually manually adjusted CPU power saving features for some time in exchange for top SSD performance. Whenever you see benchmark results where the low 4K random write transfer speeds are over 115MB/s, you can pretty much count on the fact that the CPU Power Management has been optimized. Examples of the performance difference are shown our SSD Optimization Guide
THE EXTRAS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN
All in all, the Extreme 11 is the most complete motherboard we have seen to date, but it is not void of extras that could have been included by any means. The most obvious is the inability to connect an M.2 SSD, as they have done with the AMD 990FX Killer motherboard that we also have in hand and will be reporting on very shortly. As much as we understand that companies thrive on revenue through system upgrades, this would have been a great opportunity to future proof what is now the most expensive (and complete) retail motherboard in the industry today.
We would have also like to see the ability to conduct a SSD secure erase in this motherboard, just as we had seen with the Asus Maximus VI. It is a tool within the UEFI of that motherboard and one that we thought could be improved through including it within the motherboards main features that are available within the OS. As much as we have used the ASUS Secure Erase, I can’t count the number of times I cursed at having to exit the OS to use this feature.
We might even go a step further and make that M.2 connector a PCIe X4 although we realize that this will eliminate those M.2 SATA and PCIe X2 owners completely….or we can wait for SATA Express full implementation here. Still, PCIe X4 M.2 SSDs will be all the rage in a few months and it would have taken very little effort to share those PCIe lanes in an either/or situation, just as we saw with the mSATA and eSATA inclusion. It is an interesting thought for future enthusiasts who will experience the predicament of trying to incorporate a PCIe X4 M.2 SSD, as well as four gfx cards in a 4-way SLI/Crossfire mix.
Although this motherboard carries a $500-600 and is EATX which limits its installation ideal significantly, this board has been the easiest we have ever set up, contains more extras than we have ever seen in a motherboard, and we really can’t find any negatives whatsoever. As much as many might think EATX won’t fit into the chassis they might have on hand, it is always worth the effort as we did with the In-Win D-Frame you see here.
This is an ATX only open air chassis and we searched high and low for any other that had fit an EATX mobo into this chassis without luck; not a single article, picture or video anywhere. In our attempt, it fit even better than the ATX in the D-Frame and we think it looks absolutely great. The downfall of course will be the situating of 8 12Gbps, or better yet, 16 SATA SSDs within this chassis but stay tuned!
We have 8 12Gbps SSDs on route as I type away for testing that will be the subject of a further report. Who knows…maybe we can get another to kick in 16 SATA 3 SSDs for testing as well!