ASRock has been known to us here at TweakTown as producing a more rounded board aimed at the mainstream and value end of the spectrum. Never would we consider putting this motherboard maker into the hardcore and overclocking segments that ASUS, MSI and GIGABYTE has managed to push into, yet ASRock for all their trying are aiming for the top. And why not!
Today's motherboard market is cut throat. To survive you need to either have a unique product or to produce a mainstream product at the cheapest price. ASRock hasn't produced anything unique, but they are able to keep prices down. The ASRock X58 SuperComputer aimed towards the mainstream and extreme users comes to us at a price of $294.99 USD from Newegg and at this price it's one of the cheapest X58 boards out there. But how does it perform compared to the likes of ASUS and MSI? - Let's find out.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
Starting off with the box that the X58 SuperComputer comes to us in, the size tells us a lot. Compared to most X58's being shipped in the oversized boxes, ASRock places their X58 offering in a standard sized box. The front has very little art work. However, the font is semi-holographic that changes colour when aimed at the light in certain directions; a very nice touch.
On the back of the box we are pleasantly surprised with what we see. For a company like ASRock to place colour photos of the board itself where larger tier 1 companies are omitting them, this is a big bonus. Along with the photos of the board there is more information on the boards features and settings; enough to help you make a decision as to whether or not this is the board for you.
ASRock doesn't really go overboard with the documentation and software, but it's more than ample. The single user manual that is included in the box is rather thick with over 100 pages and gives a good description of the BIOS, boards layout and setup as well as the software included on the DVD which covers XP and Vista 32-bit and 64-bit OS's.
As for the additional accessories, the X58 SuperComputer has one of the best out of the box compatibilities we have seen. A total of six SATA data and two Molex to SATA power converter cables make up the list along with an IDE and FDD cable as well as SLI and Crossfire cables, giving the board a wide setup option.
Moving along to the board itself and this is where the big bickies are spent. The board is a 6 layer full ATX PCB measuring 30x24cm. The PCB in colour is a very dark chocolate brown with blue, white and orange slots.
Layout wise, we have a rather interesting setup. On the right hand side of the board, at the very edge we have the 24-pin ATX power connector. Directly below that we have the front panel switch header in orange, a front panel FireWire port header in red and two blue USB 2.0 port headers. This is a rather impressive way to keep the front panel cables up and away from the bottom of the board.
The 4/8 pin EPS power connector is located behind the PS/2 and S/PDIF out audio ports. One thing we found was there is a capacitor in the way of the clip lock on the power connector, so if the 4/8 pin connector has a large plastic lock clip on it like ours did, the cable won't lock in.
Keeping things good is a priority with today's computers which run faster and hotter than previous generations. ASRock has used a heat-pipe that covers the X58 Northbridge and the Mosfet assembly. The Southbridge has its own heatsink which isn't connected to the pipe network, so it is isolated.
Moving along; down the right hand side of the board we see how ASRock has arranged its mass storage connectors. Like most X58 boards, the IDE port and SATA ports are on the right hand side of the board towards the lower end. The SATA ports are stacked to reduce the overall amount of space required to put the ports on the board and are rotated 90 degrees. The IDE controller is run off a PCI-E based VIA IDE/SATA controller chip which gives the board its rear I/O eSATA port.
ASRock has managed to keep the CPU area as clear from large components as possible to allow large after market heatsinks to be installed. To give the CPU a clean power signal, ASRock uses an 8 phase regulation system that uses solid state components rather than the older electrolyte capacitors and copper wound chokes.
Moving to the rear I/O ports, we see that ASRock has done a pretty good job here. They have kept the two PS/2 ports and for its digital audio, an RCA and Toslink S/PDIF output. Two Gigabit Ethernet ports allow for Dual Net setup for increased speed. One of the best features is the eSATA port that is run off the same VIA chip that gives the board its IDE port.
It's now time for a run down on the expansion slots. There are a total of four PCI-E x16 slots for graphics cards. In this group of four there are two blue slots and two orange slots. The blue slots are x16 full speed until a graphics card is installed into the corresponding orange slots, in which case the blue slots are split into x8 slots to give the orange slots 8 lanes. Lastly, there are three PCI legacy slots. It's interesting to note that there are no PCI-E x1 slots on this board at all.
BIOS and Overclocking
ASRock uses the Award Tab BIOS as we like to call it. This BIOS is used by Intel on their reference boards as well as ASUS on all of their current boards, which makes it pretty familiar. But it is a bit daunting at times as there are quite a few different menus for you to go through to find all the overclocking settings.
Under the Advanced tab you will find a plethora of sub menus. Under the Chipset Features menu you'll find all the overclocking relevant settings which are also under some sub menus.
Base Clock (MHz): 133MHz to 300MHz in 1MHz increments
PCIe Frequency (MHz): 100MHz to 200MHz in 1MHz Increments
CPU Voltage: 0.84375v to 1.6v to 0.00625v Increments
DRAM Voltage: 1.53v to 2.451v in various Increments
DRAM CRTL Ref Voltage: -0.06741v to +0.08v in various Increments
DRAM DATA Ref Voltage: -0.06741v to +0.08v in various Increments
IOH Voltage: 1.11v to 1.49v in various Increments
VTT Offset Voltage: +0mV to +300mV in 100mV Increments
ICH Voltage; 1.12v to 1.56v in 0.02v Increments
IOH CSI Voltage: 1.12v to 1.56v in 0.02v Increments
IOH/ICH PCIE Voltage: 1.52v to 1.9v in 0.02v Increments
CPU PLL Voltage: 1.82v to 2.50v in 0.02v Increments
Now this was impressive! - For a board that we wouldn't put into the tier 1 category, it has managed to give us a very impressive overclock of 185MHz BCLK, but it was the fact that we managed to hit 3.7GHz on the CPU (100% stable) which really gave us a good notion about the board.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Processor: Intel Core 17 965 @ 3.2GHz (24x 133MHz)
Memory: 3x 2GB DDR3-1600 Corsair Dominator (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M 80GB SSD (Supplied by Intel)
Graphics Card: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 1GB (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Cooling: Stock Intel cooling
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista X64 SP1
Drivers: Intel INF 22.214.171.1248, Forceware 180.24
Benchmark time and like normal we have our ASUS P6T and Rampage II Extreme boards for comparison. Stock settings are as normal with the 3.2GHz CPU clock using a 133MHz BCLK and a 1333MHz memory divider.
With regards to overclocking, we hit 3.7GHz with the ASRock using a 185MHz BLCK and 1500MHz memory clock, so this should be a good result for the ASRock board. Let's begin testing and see how it pulls through.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
First off, it's EVEREST and ASRock has done a fantastic job with its latest BIOS for tweaking at stock speeds. It managed only by a few points, but was able to beat out the two ASUS boards. When it came to overclocking the Uncore and memory were in perfect sync, which allowed it to keep up despite a slower BLCK.
Benchmarks - Sisoft Sandra
Version and / or Patch Used: 2009
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=en
Buy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Sandra puts the ASRock board in first place at stock and in a tie for second with the P6T at overclocked.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
ASRock manages to get a good win here at overclocked speeds thanks to its higher clocked CPU. 200MHz more gives it quite a few more points and with a high memory clock to boot, it's hard to beat this board.
Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview/>
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.
SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista.
SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.
The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.
SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
SYSmark 2007 awards a win to ASRock at the OC level. The balanced clock speed that the board is running allows for a very smooth score.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Premiere Elements really likes high clocks and memory bandwidth and ASRock here manages the first place victory over the ASUS Rampage II motherboard. It seems that the underdog has all the cards today.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
With its increased CPU clock ASRock dominates 3DMark Vantage and puts ASUS right back in its place.
Benchmarks - Crysis
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.
Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.
In real world gaming the increased CPU clock to 3.7GHz makes it hard for ASUS to keep up.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Power usage on the ASRock board is extremely impressive. There is no doubt a lot of work has gone into this board to get it up to this standard.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboards, this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
The heat generated off this board is slightly higher than the ASUS offerings; however, it's not excessive and would be fine in systems that require little noise generation.
Now, what can we say about the ASRock X58 SuperComputer motherboard other than "WOW!" - This board has really put a bit of a dampener on the likes of the ASUS P6T and Rampage II Extreme. The SuperComputer board puts in enough features for just about anyone (apart from dedicated audio, but we can live without that).
It has FireWire for digital connection, eSATA for high speed external storage and dual Gigabit Ethernet for 2Gbps connection on a LAN. Tie that in with an extremely impressive overclocking result and a rather solid bundle, this board is ripe for the picking at 294.99 USD from Newegg and has both price and power on its side.
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