ASRock’s motherboards have improved by leaps and bounds in recent years and the company has raised the bar of its enthusiast offerings yet again with its LGA2011 motherboard line-up. The X79 Extreme4 is one of two ASRock motherboards we've looked at recently, the other being the X79 Extreme4-M, which is a micro-ATX version of the board you see before you. At first glance it appears that the Extreme4 shares some aspects of its miniature sibling, namely the fact that it has only four DIMM sockets.
This appears to be a major disadvantage, but quad-channel support is still present, and quad-channel memory kits currently consist of four sticks anyway. The likelihood is that you’ll end up with 16GB of RAM, which is enough for most tasks for the foreseeable future. If you think you’ll want to add a second 16GB kit at some point, you’ll need to buy a pricey 4 x 8GB kit, and it’s worth bearing in mind that both ASRock boards have a limit of 32GB too.
The reduced DIMM socket count brings about one advantage though, which is that the Extreme 4 is significantly cheaper than the competition. The next most expensive example is the Asus P9X79 Pro, which costs £230. That’s £40 more than the Extreme4. Apart from the fewer DIMM sockets, the Extreme4 doesn’t lack many features either. It has on-board power and reset switches, a POST code readout, CMOS clear switch and fan-assisted Southbridge heatsink too.
Thankfully the latter didn’t need to spin up, even during our benchmarks, as the minimum Southbridge temperature that would cause it to whir into life is a good 8˚C higher than the maximum reached during testing. There are three SATA 6Gbps ports in total – two via the Intel Southbridge and a further port provided by an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. There are plenty of USB ports too – 12 of the USB 2 variety with an ASMedia ASM1042 controller providing two USB 3 ports on the I/O panel and a further two via a motherboard header.
Looks-wise, we have to commend ASRock for doing a great job. With a good choice of colours, gold capacitors and funky heatsinks, the Extreme4 lives up to its name. Its layout is good too, although the reduced number of DIMM sockets hasn’t increased the space around the CPU socket, meaning it’s still worth avoiding tall DIMMs if you’re planning to use a large CPU cooler.
The Extreme4 is equipped with seven fan headers, and ASRock has had the sense to spread these around the PCB to cater for the numerous places in which case manufacturers like to hide fans these days. There are even two dedicated 4-pin CPU fan connectors, which is handy given that many high-end CPU coolers are equipped with two fans.