ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional Motherboard Review

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With Bulldozer on the horizon, now is a great time to think about upgrading to a 990FX motherboard.  We have looked at a number of different offerings from the likes of Gigabyte and Asus, including the awesome Crosshair V Formula which sits at the top of Asus’ range.

Today we are going to look at ASRock’s flagship 990FX motherboard, the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional, which boasts a feature set to rival the Crosshair V Formula.  It also uses a very similar red and black colour scheme that is sure to appeal to many enthusiast users.  Some of the most prominent features are USB3.0 support and SATA-600 support across all six internal SATA connections.

The 990FX chipset is backwards compatible with all AMD’s current Athlon and Phenom processors so you can prepare your system for Bulldozer now.  This means you can spread out the cost of the upgrade as you don’t need to buy the CPU and motherboard at the same time.

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A full list of product specifications can be seen over here

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The Fatal1ty 990FX is supplied in a rather attractively designed box which features a silhouette of Fatal1ty himself.

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The front opens to reveal the motherboard inside behind a plastic window.  The information on the back side of the door details some of the prominent features of the board.

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On the reverse side of the box we find a more in depth breakdown of the specification alongside a large product image of the board itself.  ASRock also include information regarding performance alongside details about some of the other features.

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Like most of the other top-of-the-range motherboards that pass through our labs, the Fatal1ty 990FX is supplied with a very generous bundle.  All the items we would usually expect with a motherboard are supplied, including a variety of manuals and guides and a software CD.  We also find some SATA cables, a 3.5mm audio cable and a USB3.0 box for the front panel.

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ASRock have used a rather fetching red and black colour scheme for the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional which gives it a similar visage to the Crosshair V Formula from Asus.  This consists of a black PCB with an assortment of red and black fittings.

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As it’s name suggests, the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional features AMD’s latest 990FX chipset which is very similar to the previous generation 890FX chipset.  It does include a few extra features, though, with the most important being support for AMD’s upcoming Bulldozer (Zambezi) processors.

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In the centre of the motherboard we find the AM3+ socket which can be easily distinguished from the earlier AM3 socket as it is black in colour rather than white.  Along one edge of the CPU socket there is a substantial heatsink that cools the V12 +2 CPU power phase circuitry.  Power is supplied to the CPU via the 8-pin socket at the top of the board.

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To the right of the right of the CPU socket we find four DDR3 RAM slots which support up to 32 GB of memory running at speeds of up to 2100 MHz, when overclocked.  The 24-pin motherboard power connector is located in the usual place to the right of the memory slots alongside two USB3.0 front panel connectors.  These allow you to connect up to four USB3.0 on the front panel.

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ASRock have all the bases covered with the selection of expansion slots.  There are three PCI Express x16 in total, the top two of which are spaced so that you can install two 3-bay graphics cards.  The third will only run at x4 speed when the other two slots are populated.  They have also included two PCI Express x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots.

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There are six SATA 6Gbps connectors located in the bottom right hand corner of the motherboard, accompanied by power and reset buttons and a debug LED.  Along the bottom edge of the board we find three front panel USB2.0 headers, a front panel IEEE-1394 connector and a front panel audio connector.

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From left to right we find two PS2 connectors, analogue and digital S/PDIF jacks, six USB2.0 ports, two eSATA ports, two RJ-45 Ethernet jacks, two USB3.0 ports and six 2.5mm audio connections.

ASRock include a number of applications on the motherboard CD including trials of PowerDVD, MediaEspresso and Norton Internet Security.  What we’re really interested in is the ASRock specific software that is included.

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The most interesting and most useful inclusion is ASRock’s F-Stream Tuning Utility which lets you monitor various aspects of the system hardware including temperatures, fan speeds, clocks and voltages.  It also lets us adjust the settings for these through the buttons on the left for fan control and overclocking.  There is also an option called Fatal1ty Mouse Port which lets you adjust the polling rate of the USB port to match the mouse, ensuring the best possible performance for gamers.  There is also an ‘Energy Saving’ option which is designed to reduce the power consumption of your system.

There are a few other pieces of software on the CD that are ASRock specific, including ‘XFast USB’ which boosts USB transfer rates.  ‘XFast LAN’ lets us improve the latencies in game by prioritising certain applications.  You are also able to view the data transferring in real time.  There is also an application included which lets you use 3TB hard drives with 32-bit operating systems – you would usually be limited to a maximum of 2TB.

ASRock have chosen to use a UEFI BIOS for the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional which is not dissimilar from that that Asus include with all their latest motherboards.  It doesn’t provide the same one button overclocking options but there is an Automatic OC function which provides settings for various different levels of overclocking.  Other than this, there aren’t really any out-of-the-ordinary features to speak of.

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To test the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional motherboard we are going to use the AMD Phenom X6 1090T Black Edition CPU, combined with the Cooler Master Hyper 612S CPU Cooler.

Test System

Processor: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T
Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional
Cooler: Cooler Master 612S
Memory: 4GB (2x 2GB) Kingston HyperX Genesis 1600MHz
Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 6950
Power Supply: NZXT Hale90 750W
Optical Drive: Samsung B083L Blu-Ray Drive
Monitors: Viewsonic VX2260WM
Boot Drive: Intel 510 Series 250 GB

Software

Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
FRAPS Professional
SiSoft Sandra 2011 SP3
CPUz
GPUz
CPUID Hardware Monitor
Cinebench R11.5 (64-bit)
Cyberlink PowerDVD 11 Ultra
Cyberlink MediaEspresso 6.5
CrystalDiskMark
3DMark 11
PCMark 7
VLC Media Player
Performance Monitor

Games

DiRT 3
F1 2010
Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes from Liberty City
Dead Space 2

All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests across five closely matched runs and averages out the results to get an accurate median figure.

Overclocking

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First of all we tried the automatic overclocking feature of the motherboard which was reasonably effective.  Using this feature we were able to achieve an overclock of 3.8 Ghz but we did have to bump the voltage the motherboard was supplying to the CPU from 1.4V to 1.4375V to ensure complete stability.  We managed to get the system to boot using the 4.0Ghz automatic overclock but this proved unstable, even with a bump in voltage to 1.45V.

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Then we set about trying to achieve the maximum possible overclock with the system.  We had more success when overclocking the CPU using the multiplier rather than the baseclock – the automatic overclock feature only overclocks the baseclock.  While this means the memory isn’t overclocked, we managed to achieve a much more impressive overclock of 4.2Ghz by raising the multiplier to 21x whilst retaining the baseclock at 200Mhz.  We set the CPU voltage to 1.475V for this test.

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Next we upped the baseclock to 210 Mhz, leaving the CPU voltage at 1.475V, achieving a clockspeed of 4.3Ghz.  While our test system was stable at this speed, we were a little concerned about the CPU temperature at this clockspeed so we chose to peg the system back to 4.1Ghz for our benchmarks using a multiplier of 21x and a baseclock of 200Mhz.

Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.

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A solid set of results for the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional with a sizeable boost in CPU score when the system was overclocked.

3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.  We used performance settings for this benchmark.

If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.

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In this test we didn’t see such a large improvement in the scores but we still saw performance improvements when the system was overclocked.

PCMark 7 includes 7 PC tests for Windows 7, combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete PC performance testing for Windows 7 for home and business use.

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In this test we can see how overclocking boosts overall system performance.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.

Sandra is a (girl’s) name of Greek origin that means “defender”, “helper of mankind”. We think that’s quite fitting.

It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.

Native ports for all major operating systems are available:

  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x86)
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x64)
  • Windows 2003/R2, 2008/R2* (IA64)
  • Windows Mobile 5.x (ARM CE 5.01)
  • Windows Mobile 6.x (ARM CE 5.02)

All major technologies are supported and taken advantage of:

  • SMP – Multi-Processor
  • MC – Multi-Core
  • SMT/HT – Hyper-Threading
  • MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, AVX, FMA – Multi-Media instructions
  • GPGPU, DirectX, OpenGL – Graphics
  • NUMA – Non-Uniform Memory Access
  • AMD64/EM64T/x64 – 64-bit extensions to x86
  • IA64 – Intel* Itanium 64-bit

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Screenshots

In all the SiSoft Sandra 2011 tests we saw a good improvement in performance when the system was overclocked.

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and Mac OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.

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A very impressive Cinebench score for the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional, thanks in part to the six cores of the 1090T processor.  We look forward to seeing how the results improve with an 8-core Bulldozer chip installed.

Super Pi is used by a huge audience, particularly to check stability when overclocking processors. If a system is able to calculate PI to the 2 millionth pace after the decimal without mistake, it is considered to be stable in regards to RAM and CPU.

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A reasonable score for ASRock, showcasing the single core performance of the chip and motherboard.

A very important part of overall system responsiveness is down to hard drive performance. We use one of our favourite benchmark utilities Crystalmark X64 Edition to rate the Intel 510 Series 250 GB SSD from the onboard SATA 6GBps controller.

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An impressive set of results for the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional, showing us the benefits of having a motherboard that supports SATA 6 Gbps

Our good friends at Cyberlink kindly supplied the software for our BluRay and conversion tests.

Cyberlink PowerDVD 11 is one of the finest solutions for the BluRay experience on Windows and we found this software to work perfectly with this chipset. We tested with the Blu-Ray Disc of Independence Day.

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We didn’t see a massive performance boost in this test from overclocking but there was a slight improvement.

Many people who have media systems will be familiar with the Matroska (.mkv) file format which is often used for high definition video.  In this test we will be using VLC Media Player to play a 1080P MKV file while recording CPU usage using Performance Monitor.

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In this test there was a better performance improvement in overclocking than in the Blu-Ray test as hardware encoding is not available.

Many people using this system will be enjoying Flash related content so we feel it is important to test with some of the more demanding material available freely online. Full hardware acceleration is enabled.

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Another strong set of results for the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional.

CyberLink MediaEspresso 6 is the successor to CyberLink MediaShow Espresso 5.5. With its further optimized CPU/GPU-acceleration, MediaEspresso is an even faster way to convert not only your video but also your music and image files between a wide range of popular formats.

Now you can easily playback and display your favourite movies, songs and photos not just on your mobile phone, iPad, PSP, Xbox, or Youtube and Facebook channels but also on the newly launched iPhone 4. Compile, convert and enjoy images and songs on any of your computing devices and enhance your videos with CyberLink’s built-in TrueTheater Technology.

New and Improved Features

  • Ultra Fast Media Conversion – With support from the Intel Core i-Series processor family, ATI Stream & NVIDIA CUDA, MediaEspresso’s Batch-Conversion function enables multiple files to be transcoded simultaneously.
  • Smart Detect Technology – MediaEspresso 6 automatically detects the type of portable device connected to the PC and selects the best multimedia profile to begin the conversion without the need for user’s intervention.
  • Direct Sync to Portable Devices – Video, audio and image files can be transferred in a few easy steps to mobile phones including those from Acer, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, as well as Sony Walkman and PSP devices.
  • Enhanced Video Quality – CyberLink TrueTheater Denoise and Lighting enables the enhancement of video quality through optical noise filters and automatic brightness adjustment.
  • Video, Music and Image File Conversion – Convert not only videos to popular formats such as AVI, MPEG, MKV, H.264/AVC, and FLV at the click of a button, but also images such as JPEG and PNG and music files like WMA, MP3 and M4A.
  • Online Sharing – Conversion to video formats used by popular social networking websites and a direct upload feature means posting videos to Facebook and YouTube has never been easier.

For our testing today we are converting a 1.09GB 720p MKV file (44mins) to Apple Mp4 format for playback on a portable device. This is a common procedure for many people and will give a good indication of system power. We are using the newest version of this program.

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In this test we can see some of the real world benefits of overclocking.  The overclocked system saved us a minute when converting an MKV file for use on an iPhone 4.

DiRT 3 was only released about a month ago but has received much praise from gamers and reviewers across the globe.  It is the latest iteration of the Colin McRae Rally series, despite Codemasters dropping the Colin McRae branding.  It supports DirectX 11 which enhances detail and brings a number of other visual enhancements to the gaming experience.

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Some impressive results for the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional with very smooth framerate throughout the test.

F1 2010 is the first multi format high def Formula one title, having been in development for almost 2 and a half years now you can tell Codemasters are not messing around when it comes to releasing the best game they can. F1 2010 is packed with everything, from fine tuning your car setup, practising laps with goals to achieve, detailed stats, various difficulty settings for newbs and pros and even a helmet selection!

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In this test, overclocking our system boosted the gaming performance of the system by a considerable amount.

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City is a standalone compilation of the DLC episodes for Grand Theft Auto IV, containing both The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony on one disc. It was released alongside the DLC release of The Ballad of Gay Tony on 29 October 2009 for the Xbox 360 and released on 13 April 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Playstation 3. It does not require a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV to play, nor is an Xbox Live or PSN account necessary (except for multiplayer).

The engine is still extremely demanding for this game – even months later for the newest hardware. The latest version changes some of the rendering calls and is used partially within the latest Max Payne engine.  We tested the game using near medium settings as displayed below.

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In this test our test system struggled a little but we were still able to stay within our playable framerate limits with stock settings.

Dead Space 2 is a survival horror third-person shooter. The player controls Isaac Clarke from a third-person point of view, looking over the character’s right shoulder. The game features no HUD elements, relying on holograms projected from the player character and his weapons to show information such as messages and ammunition count, respectively. Player health and stasis is shown by a visual indicators located on Isaac’s back. Isaac must fight an alien organism that infects and takes control of human corpses, turning them into “Necromorphs”, mutating their bodies.

Necromorphs must be dismembered as the alien organism controls host bodies via tentacles extending into their limbs. Other, larger types of Necromorphs that cannot be dismembered will often have yellow, glowing pustules, indicating weak spots. Occasionally, when an enemy gets close enough to Isaac, they will grab a hold of him, and the player must repeatedly press a key to fend off the enemy, with failure to do so leading to death of the player character.

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In Dead Space 2 we achieved extremely impressive frame rates even at maximum settings before overclocking.

Overall we are very impressed with the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional motherboard and can’t actually think of anything significant that could be improved.  The red and black colour scheme may not be to everyone’s tastes but on a hardware level it is among the best available.

The Fatal1ty board boasts a wide range of connectivity including USB3.0 and SATA-600 which ensure the fastest possible transfer rates.  One minor complaint we have is that there are only two USB3.0 ports on the back panel whereas most motherboards feature four.  That said, ASRock include two front USB3.0 headers as opposed to the single header that is present on most motherboards. You can always use the included USB3.0 bay adapter ASRock include, but this may not fit in aesthetically with all cases and may well be hidden behind a case door.

One of the most impressive features of this motherboard is the overclocking capabilities.  We were able to achieve 3.8 GHz with our AMD Phenom II X6 1090T using the automatic overclocking function without having to tweak any settings, meaning users of all abilities can benefit from the performance benefits without having to learn a plethora of bios settings.

When overclocking manually, we were able to achieve a fully stable 4.1 GHz without much trouble at all.  We managed to boot at 4.3 GHz but the temperatures were rather high and the system ran into instability after a minute or so of Prime 95.  That said, with better cooling, we wouldn’t be surprised if you were able to achieve a stable overclock at this speed.

Many users will factor in the cost of a motherboard as well as the performance when deciding to buy. The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional is currently available for around £150 which makes it around £30 cheaper than the similarly designed Crosshair V Formula from Asus.

ASrock have reached new heights in 2011, this is the best 990FX motherboard on the market today.

Pros

  • Attractive red and black colour scheme
  • Great for overclocking
  • Easy to use Auto OC functionality
  • Good connectivity
  • Dual LAN connection
  • Plentiful bundle

Cons

  • We still have to wait for Bulldozer

KitGuru says: No doubt, the best 990FX motherboard we’ve tested to date.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional Motherboard Review, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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  • Lewis

    hard to believe that they used to be seen as a ‘budget’ model maker. Great product.

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  • Francis

    Maybe this has been asked before but some people on a forum I visit say they are actually ASUS, is this right?

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  • Dave

    Looking forward to bulldozer, but some figures leaked dont look that impress. if they are right.

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  • Roger

    ill wait until I see some bulldozer reviews before b uying, but this is on my shortlist.

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  • JonBlades

    Hi Francis, they used to be Asus’ “sister” company, but made the break some years ago now.

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  • Jack

    I have a 1090t and ordered this today. if bulldozer is worth the upgrade ill move over !

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  • Trevor

    Excellent again. t hey seem to be on a roll lately with some great products released every week. Im an intel guy, but this is great

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  • Orion

    The only thing that puts me off this product is having to look at his face in the bios! can that be switched off?

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  • thrrur

    How often do they tend to make bios updates? I had a bad time with my last gigabyte board and thats why I moved ot asus as they are more regular.

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  • Procupine14

    Seems to me that ASROCK are really stepping up their game. I currently have two ASROCK boards at home. One of them is about middle of the road and the other is a very budget board running a HTPC. I was very impressed with both boards and they have been running for about 6 months each 24/7 with no problems. Seems to me that both of mine come with pretty cheap looking graphics and UIs but for the feature set vs price you really can’t beat it at all.

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  • Steevo

    You could set a really sh#t clock by AMD CPU releases, intel must be pissing themselves.

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  • Pingback: ASRock A75M-ITX Motherboard Review | KitGuru()

  • Nate

    I am waiting on parts and will be building a system with the Buldozer and this motherboard. I would be happy to post any info on the results of the build if either Henry Butt or his readers are interested. I chose this Asrock board based on features, reviews and price. So far the board seems to be impressive in all catogories.

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  • Nate

    I am waiting on parts and will be building a system with the Bulldozer and this motherboard. I would be happy to post any info on the results of the build if either Henry Butt or his readers are interested. I chose this Asrock board based on features, reviews and price. So far the board seems to be impressive in all categories.

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  • http://www.kitguru.net Zardon

    Hi Nate,

    We would love to hear your views. good luck with the system build!

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