PCB Design and Functionality
ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional mainboard doesn’t look unusual and its PCB layout is in general very close to classical, but the mainboard has an entire list of various peculiarities.
We would like to start with its powerful voltage regulator circuitry, which works as 16+2 and is built with tantalum capacitors. The board uses a lot of high-quality Japanese solid-state “gold” capacitors (Premium Gold Caps). The heating parts of the processor voltage regulator circuitry are covered with two large heatsinks, which are connected with one another via a heatpipe. They smooth out perfectly short heat outbursts, but their fin profile is pretty low, so they do heat up substantially under heavy operational load. All heatsinks, including the chipset one use reliable screw-on retention. By the way, the board is very heavy not only because of the solid heatsinks. Just like the mainboards from Gigabyte, it uses 2 oz copper layering in the PCB.
Four memory DIMM slots provide quad-channel memory access and can accommodate up to 32 GB of RAM. Just like Asus mainboards, the DIMM slots have latches only on one side, which is a bare necessity these days. In order to fit all expansion card slots onto the PCB, the first graphics card slot had to be moved very close to the processor socket. Therefore, if you are using a large CPU cooler, then installing a graphics card into the first slot may be challenging. In terms of expansion functionality, there are two PC slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot and four PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots. The graphics card slots work according to the same algorithms as those on Asus Rampage IV Formula: the first slot will always work at its full speed (X16; x16/x16; x16/x8/x16 or x16/x8/x8/x8). By the way, the slot latches on the graphics card slots are just as wide and convenient as on Asus mainboards.
The Power On and Reset buttons add additional convenience for work in an open testbed environment. POST-code indicator will help identify the problem during startup. Intel X79 Express chipset delivers support for two SATA 6 Gbps ports and four SATA 3 Gbps ports, and two Marvell 88SE9172 controllers provide another two SATA 6 Gbps ports. The third Marvell controller like that is used to implement eSATA 6 Gbps on the back panel. USB 3.0 support is provided by two four-port TITUSB7340 controllers, which allows to have four USB 3.0 ports on the back panel and add four more ports on the front panel using two onboard pin-connectors.
As a result, the back panel of ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional has the following ports and connectors:
- PS/2 keyboard connector;
- Six USB 2.0 ports, six more are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
- “Clear CMOS” button;
- Coaxial and optical S/PDIF and six analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC898 codec;
- Four USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via TITUSB7340 controller, the second controller like that provides two additional internal pin-connectors for four more USB 3.0 ports;
- IEEE1394 (FireWire) port implemented with VIA VT6315N controller, a second port like that is available as an onboard pin-connector;
- Two eSATA 6 Gbps ports implemented via Marvell 88SE9172 controller, two other same controllers provide another four internal SATA 6 Gbps ports;
- A local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Broadcom BCM57781 network controller).
I would like to mention that there is a special USB 2.0 connector below the IEEE1394 (FireWire) port, which is called “Fatal1ty Mouse Port”. It differs from all the rest by special software that allows increasing the polling rate for this port.
For your convenience, we summed up all the ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional specifications in the following table:
ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional differs from other previously reviewed LGA 2011 mainboards not only by the exotic “Fatal1ty Mouse Port”, but also the presence of the common COM port. Just like some other contemporary mainboards, it has two CPU fan connectors. The unique thing about them is that one of them is a four-pin connector, and another – a three-pin one. As a result, the rotation speed of the processor fan will be adjusted according to the CPU temperature in any case, which is a feature no other LGA 2011 mainboards out there can boast at this time.