A Closer Look
At first glance at the X58 Extreme3 we see something new and totally different. Over the past few years we have seen the elimination of the chipset cooling fan, and in the Intel P55 motherboard, the elimination of the Northbridge altogether. But during that same time we have seen some really drastic changes in motherboard power supplies, more specifically adding more voltage regulation MOSFETs. MOSFETs get pretty hot and if not cooled they will really heat up the motherboard.
So ASRock reintroduces the motherboard cooling fan, but this time it is on the power supply cooler rather than the Northbridge. Then they add a heatpipe to the NB cooler for additional cooling there.
Layout of the board is different too, some items are in very atypical places because there are so many connectors there nearly isn’t room for all of them. Elimination of the floppy port would help, and though I do occasionally use it, few motherboards still sport the COM1 port. I’ll touch on the misplaced connectors as I get to them.
There are three fan buses besides the CPU and NB fans, which should cover most any application.
I’ve already mentioned the coolers, so not a lot more to say about the CPU socket area. I will mention that ASRock still is the only company I’ve seen that gives you the option of using a CPU cooler designed for LGA 775 in addition to LGA 1366 coolers. I’ve always felt this is very thoughtful, allowing someone upgrading from a Core 2 rig to continue using their CPU cooler.
Many motherboards with three PCI-E x 16 slots have the slots spaced for use only with single-slot coolers. I find this worthless, what decent video card nowadays uses single slot coolers? The X58 Extreme3 gives you plenty of space for multiple video cards with dual-slot coolers. Besides the three x16 slots, which the extra two can be used as x1 slots, you also get a PCI-E x1 slot and a pair of conventional PCI slots.
Following the deluxe nature of this board, ASRock adds their Smart Switches, an I/O and Reset switch are located on the bottom edge of the board, along with a digital POST readout. I haven’t had a lot of boards with this, maybe 4 with it onboard and a few Asus boards with a plug-in readout, but I have been saved several times by being able to know exactly at what point a POST was failing.
Along the front edge of the board we get six SATA 3 Gb/s slots. If you look over by the NB, you’ll see a pair of white SATA 6Gb/s slots. If you didn’t know, though mechanical SATA2 drives don’t saturate even SATA 1.5 Gb/s bandwidth, some of the new SSDs are getting to the point of saturating SATA2’s 3Gb/s. Late last year, SATA 6Gb/s was released, with twice the bandwidth of SATA2. More on that a little later.
Around the memory slots we see the odd placement of some of the board’s connectors…a USB port all the way up here, along with the case header connectors. This caused the 24-pin power connector to be at the top of the board. Actually, I have no problem with any of this, the case header and USB ports should probably always be here for better cable management…and if you are running multiple optical drives, the normal placement of the 24-pin is usually too low on the board.
Ahhh…triple channel memory. I was so afraid that the LGA 1366/X58 would be short lived once the LGA 1156 Core i7 processors proved to be as powerful as the LGA 1366 ones. I realize now that the X58 was waiting on Intel’s 32nm factory to be finished so that the six-core i7 could be built.
The X58 Extreme3 utilizes up to 24 gigs of up to DDR3-2000 memory.
We have a very full I/O panel here, with PS/2 mouse and keyboard, optical and coaxial S/PDIF, five USB 2.0 ports, powered eSATA 6Gb/s, two USB 3.0 ports (more on this later), 1 x LAN, 1 x IEEE 1394, a LED CCMOS switch, and HD Audio.
Ok…five USB ports. Doesn’t sound like enough. If you didn’t know, USB3 ports are backwards compatible to USB2, so we actually have seven USB2 ports. Between that and the four internal connectors, surely that should be enough.
But after having said that, I must admit that PS/2 mice and keyboards are too obsolete to continue their being placed on motherboards, that space would be much better utilized for a pair of USB ports.
Included with the board are four SATA cables, a pair of SATA power adapters, ribbon cables, and an x2 SLI bridge. Bundled with the drivers are Cyberlink’s DVD Suite…both OEM and trial pay versions, and Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi MB trial version.