In the beginning, pretty much all that was motherboardie, twas brandeth with the logo of Intel (if it used an Intel CPU anyway). Then the Lord of Economics commandeth that there would be other motherboard makers, from countries where it was cheaper to manufacture electronics. And Lo & Behold! That was pretty much how the vast majority of motherboards came to be designed in Taiwan; an early pioneer in these biblical days of the 1980s was ASUS, named for the last four letters of the word ‘Pegasus’ (really).
Nowadays ASUS is well known as one of the giants of motherboard-making (among other products); however, it’s also had children. First ASUS created a budget brand – ASRock, in 2002 - and more recently sold its manufacturing arm (named ‘Pegatron’; see what they did thar?), which itself included the ASRock brand. While still interlinked (all ASUS boards are made by Pegatron) they do now operate as individual companies. The younger ASRock has also had a record 2011, becoming the third biggest producer of motherboards worldwide and now hungers for the kind of brand recognition its parent company has. What this means for us is that a) we have another top-notch design house making good motherboards b) it’s supporting top overclockers in order to try to make its mark on the enthusiast community and c) we receive some truly amusing Engrish PR releases, the kind that that you just don’t get nowadays with ASUS, Gigabyte or MSI:
“ASRock is all excited about this masterpiece! To get the best RAID performance, we released the special BIOS which optimized the data sequence of PCI Express!” - William Yu, Director of ASRock Performance RD Dept.
At first glimpse of its press release, this ‘masterpiece’ is a rather impressive feat; Hong-Kong-based overclocker Mad222 used the new Fatal1ty X79 Professional to achieve the highest PCMark05 score to date. This was done with a 5.4GHz overclock on Intel’s top i7 3960X processor using Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) cooling, coupled with a pair of 7970s and 8GB of 2.4GHz memory. However the reality is the actual speeds achieved don't appear to even be near the highest possible ; a record 5.64 GHz having been achieved with the relatively basic Gigabyte X79-UD3 and i7 3930K for example. In fact after looking at the release and attendant specs, the ASRock board’s contribution to this # 1 ranking for PCMark05 (which is an overall PC performance benchmark remember) is likely confined to using the eight available SATA 6Gb/s connectors for eight Corsair SSDs combined via software RAID. While this illustrates the impressive number of SATA 6Gb/s connectors on the X79 Professional, it’s not really earth shattering in overclocking terms. In fact it probably betrays a lack of exotic/extreme Liquid Nitrogen overclocking potential. ASRock goes on to claim that its bundled overclocking software allows anyone to reach 5.2GHz with “near one-button process”. We genuinely hope this is not a feature actually included with the retail software, as pressing that button would (if you do not happen to use said liquid nitrogen (LN2) cooling), basically be either an expensive self-destruct button, or a secondary reset button depending on your luck.
What we do have then is a nicely featured, good quality X79 board, which Atomic hopes to be looking at soon, that possesses all the mod cons and, critically, will fit 99% of enthusiasts down to a tee, all while likely being very good value. As for the zap-kapow-bang overclocking kudos ASRock seeks, it will either have to try a tad harder to cater for the truly extreme LN2 overclockers, or stick to making generally very capable and good value motherboards for the other 7 billion humans knocking around the planet.