A CLOSER LOOK
The rear IO includes 8 USB ports, four are USB 3.0 through an ASMedia ASM 1074 hub and the other four are USB 2.0. These ports features ESD protection under ASRock’s Full Spike Protection. Below the USB 3.0 ports between the dual Intel NICs (2x Intel I210AT) there is a clear CMOS button. There is also an eSATA 6Gb/s port which is tied to the S_SATA3_3 port.
Taking a close look as the audio configuration of this motherboard, we can see it features ASRock’s Purity Sound 2. It is a 7.1 channel HD audio solution with content protection and supports DTS connect. By using Nichicon Fine Gold series audio caps, two TI N5532 amplifiers, and PCB isolation along with EMI shielding, ASRock ensures great sound playback with low noise whether you connect to the front or rear panel sound jacks.
The SATA IO section shows 12 x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 1 x SATA Express port, 1 x M.2 (PCIe Gen2 x4 & SATA 6Gb/s) socket, and 1 x SATA DOM port.
Now for a breakdown of the controllers for each port and which ports are shared with what. Ten of the SATA 6Gb/s ports are tied to the Intel chipset while two are tied to a Marvell SE9172 controller. Of those ten ports only six support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. The Marvell SATA controller allows for RAID 0 and 1 with a Windows OS only. All support NCQ, AHCI, and Hot Plugging. The SATA DOM port is shared with the S_SATA3_2 port and the SATA Express 10 Gb/s port is shared with the SATA3_4 and SATA3_5 ports.
The M.2 socket is shared with the S_SATA3_0 port and if it is occupied by a SATA type M.2 device the SATA port will be disabled. If an M.2 PCIe device and SATA Express device are used at once the M.2 socket will downgrade to x2 mode. It also supports M.2 devices up to 110mm. There are some tradeoffs here and there, but overall the storage connectivity options are great.
The inclusion of the two PLX PEX 8747chips alongside the X99 chip demanded the active cooling solution. The small fan on the south bridge heat sink isn’t too loud, however, it still produces a little more noise than our case fans do.
In terms of the PCIe layout, it is pretty straight forward. Each PCIe slot with the clasp on the end supports PCIe 3.0 x16 bandwidth when used with a graphics card and the others support x8. Taking a closer look at the lower layout of the board we can see that the bottom half has quite a few front panel connections as well as some handy headers available for use.
On the left side there is the front panel HD audio connector, chassis intrusion header, one of the two 4-pin power connector to feed more power into the PCIe slots if needed, a COM port header, and dual front LAN LED connectors. On the right side there are two USB 2.0 headers, the front panel power LED, HDD LED, power & reset connectors, speaker connector, three SATA SGPIO connectors, SATA DOM power jumper and header as well as one of the 3-pin fan headers. There are also power and reset buttons on board along with a Dr. Debug LED which are very helpful when troubleshooting issues.
Now, it is time to analyze the top section of the motherboard. First we will start with the DRAM configuration. For optimal performance you are going to want either four or eight sticks. When using four, they are to be plugged into the black DIMM slots as shown below.
Once we remove the VRM heatsink, it reveals the 12 power phase design with premium 60A chokes that ensure smooth power delivery to the CPU and allow for great overclocking potential for those with unlocked CPUs. We can also see the use of multiple Nichicon 12K platinum capacitors throughout the top section.
The 8-pin CPU power connector is located on the top center of the board. Moving to the top right corner we can see the positioning of the 3-pin and 4-pin CPU fan headers. Below them is the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) connector, the 24-pin power connector, two USB 3.0 headers, and another 3-pin fan connector.
Looking directly under the CPU socket we can also see another PCIe power connector, a USB DOM port, and the CMOS battery. A clear CMOS jumper is also to the right of the battery.
So far we can see that this motherboard brings a lot of workstation/server features to the table. From the inclusion of the DOM ports, support for 128GB of ECC RAM, to seven PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, this board looks promising. The layout of this motherboard shows that ASRock has put a lot of thought into this design. However, since this The SSD Review, we have to wonder, how does it really perform on the storage front? Continue on and let’s find out!