PCB Design and Functionality
No wonder that ASRock X58 Extreme has a lot in common with ASRock X58 SuperComputer. However, at the same time we can’t say that these two mainboards have the same design: the new solution boasts a much better layout than its predecessor.
For example, the processor socket has been moved farther away from the top edge of the PCB, at about the same distance from the edge as on many other mainboards. It increases the chances of successful installation of most large processor coolers, the cooling system won’t hit against the system power supply unit or top of the system case, if the PSU is located at the bottom.
ASRock X58 Extreme was made with all newest components. In particular, the eight-phase processor voltage regulator circuitry uses solid-state capacitor and armoured ferrite core chokes. All aluminum heatsinks of the chipset cooling system are fastened with traditional but not very reliable plastic push-pins with springs. However, during work the heatpipes connecting the chipset North Bridge heatsink with the processor voltage regulator heatsink warmed up significantly, which indicates secure contact.
To build an ATI CrossFire or NVIDIA SLI graphics configurations you should use two blue PCI Express 2.0 x16 connectors in the first place. They work at full interface speed and have more space between them, so that even the largest graphics cards cooling systems could fit nicely. The third orange connector is also designed as a PCI Express x16, but the graphics card installed into it can only work as PCI Express 2.0 x4. Moreover, the board is also equipped with two PCI Express x1 and two PCI connectors.
In the lower right corner of the ASRock X58 Extreme mainboard you can notice Power On and Reset buttons together with a POST indicator. Just like ASRock X58 SuperComputer, this mainboard is equipped with a VIA VT6330 controller providing IEEE1394 (FireWire) and Parallel ATA support. It is a very smart solution because most users are more than happy with the functionality of the Intel ICH10R South Bridge that delivers support for six Serial ATA ports and RAID arrays. More SATA ports are rarely needed and even if they are available they are rarely used. However, ASRock X58 Extreme didn’t manage to do without additional SATA controllers. They had to integrate JMicron JMB360 controller that “transforms” one PCI Express lane into one SATA port in order to implement the Powered eSATAII/USB connector on the back of the board. It is a more economical solution than the one we saw on ASRock X58 SuperComputer where they integrated a JMicron JMB362 controller, but used only one SATA ports of the two it provided.
Besides, Powered eSATAII/USB the mainboard connector panel carries the following ports and connectors:
- PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors;
- ClearCMOS button for resetting the BIOS settings;
- Coaxial and optical S/PDIF port and six analogue audio jacks implemented via Realtek RTL8111DL codec;
- Seven USB connectors; Powered eSATAII/USB may also be used as the eight one; four more USB ports are laid out as onboard pin-connectors.
The components layout scheme from ASRock X58 Extreme user manual will give you a better idea of the location of major functional knots:
Once again we see a lot of similarities with the layout of ASRock X58 SuperComputer. For instance, the connectors for front panel buttons and indicators, IEEE1394 (FireWire) and USB are found in a very unusual spot: to the right of the memory DIMM slots. However, there are also a few changes for the better: fan connectors on ASRock X58 Extreme are no longer packed around the chipset North Bridge, but more or less evenly spread out around the sides of the mainboard PCB. Overall, the PCB design of ASRock X58 Extreme mainboard did retain certain unique traits but at the same time became more convenient and closer to classical or standard.
In conclusion to our layout discussion we would like to offer you a summary table with the technical specifications for ASRock X58 Extreme mainboard taken from the manufacturer web-site:
The only difference between ASRock X58 Extreme and its older sister that we found in the technical specs is the use of only one Gigabit network controller, while ASRock X58 SuperComputer had two of them.