The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 motherboard uses a highly attractive black and gold colour scheme. The black PCB and slots are beautifully coupled with gold heatsink accents and capacitors.
The motherboard conforms to the standard ATX form factor, measuring in at 12 x 9.6 inches (305 x 244 mm).
Four DIMM slots offer support for up to 64GB of memory with a frequency of up to 2450MHz. The motherboard’s 24-pin power connector is situated in a convenient location along the upper-right edge; this position keeps it away from the SATA ports, hence making cable management easier.
A pair of USB 3.0 headers is situated adjacent to the DIMM slots. The pair is powered by an Etron EJ188H controller which offers four USB 3.0 ports. As with the power connector, these headers are situated in an ideal location which makes it easy to route USB 3.0 cables to a case’s front panel area.
One slight complaint would be the separation between each USB 3.0 header. Some cases, such as the Cougar Challenger which we review here, feature thick USB 3.0 connectors which have the potential to block neighbouring ports. This is more of a case issue than a motherboard one, but it is certainly something to be aware of.
ASRock positions its Hi-Density 8-pin CPU power connector in the board’s top-left area. The connector is positioned far enough away from the VRM heatsink to make reaching it an easy task.
A trio of fan headers is located adjacent to the CPU socket. There is one 4-pin CPU fan header, one 3-pin CPU fan header, and one 3-pin system fan header. The CPU fan headers can be controlled via the BIOS to dynamically adjust the fan speed, dependent upon the CPU temperature.
ASRock manages to maintain a clean and uncluttered CPU area, despite the 990FX Extreme9’s 12+2 power phase and large heatsinks. The Northbridge and VRM heatsinks are connected via a heatpipe which allows them to assist with each other’s heat dissipating tasks.
Spacing between the CPU socket and DIMM slots is very good; as shown later in the review, our large CPU cooler didn’t interfere with tall memory modules.
Due to the oversized design of ASRock’s Northbridge heatsink, only 6 expansion slots are able to be accommodated on the board, while maintaining the ATX form factor. It would have been better to reduce the heatsink’s size, allowing a PCI-E x1 slot to be positioned in the uppermost location.
This would give users added flexibility with their expansion preferences when using 3-way graphics configurations or dual triple-slot cards.
There are four full-length PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, a single PCI-E 2.0 x1 connector, and a legacy PCI connector. Some readers will complain about legacy support on a high-end motherboard being sold in 2013, but this editor still sees a worthwhile function for the PCI slot: add-on WiFi and sound cards.
The x16 slots’ lane configurations are (from top to bottom): 16 lanes, 4 lanes, 16 lanes, 8 lanes. This configuration leaves three slots between the board’s x16-wired slots which can allow a 1 slot gap for cooling, or dual triple-slot card setups. 3-way CrossFire or SLI will require a case with at least 8 expansion slots, and the patience to remove the bottom card when accessing the front panel connections.
The ASRock 990FX Extreme9 features eight SATA ports, all of which operate at the 6GB/s speed. Six of the ports are provided by the AMD SB950 Southbridge, while the remaining two are running off an Asmedia ASM1061 controller which steals a PCI-E 2.0 lane to power them.
Positioned in a convenient location along the board’s lower-right edge, the right-angled SATA ports should help to make cable management an easier task.
Onboard power and reset buttons are featured on the 990FX Extreme9, both of which sport a built-in LED. This is convenient for testing overclocks or identifying system problems when the board isn’t housed in a chassis.
ASRock’s Dr. Debug 7 segment LED screen displays messages during POST which can reduce the time taken when troubleshooting.
HD audio, legacy port headers, a clear CMOS jumper, the front panel cables connector, two USB 2.0 headers, and the onboard buttons are located along the 990FX Extreme9’s bottom edge.
All of these ports will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to access with a graphics card installed in the bottom PCI-E x16 slot.
A healthy selection of ports is situated on the ASRock 990FX Extreme9 motherboard’s rear panel. The four USB 3.0 ports are powered by an Etron EJ188H controller. An Asmedia ASM1061 controller feeds the two eSATA 6GB/s ports. Gigabit Ethernet is provided by the Intel 82583V controller.
A clear CMOS button with LED is a very convenient addition that allows users to reset their BIOS settings without being forced inside the chassis.
Motherboard rear ports:
- 1x PS/2 mouse port
- 1x PS/2 keyboard port
- 1x Clear CMOS button with LED
- 1x Coaxial SPDIF out port
- 1x Optical SPDIF out port
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 4 x USB 3.0 ports
- 2x eSATA3 (6GB/s) connectors
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN port
- 1 x IEEE 1394 Port
- HD audio jacks (Side Speaker / Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone)
Three attractive, black and gold heatsinks are used to cool the 990FX Extreme9’s VRM, Northbridge and Southbridge. The heatsinks add to the board’s overall aesthetic appeal and, with the slight exception of the large Northbridge design, don’t cause interference issues.
ASRock uses premium power components throughout the 990FX Extreme9 motherboard. Gold capacitors and high-quality chokes should ensure clean power delivery to all of the board’s components.
Some of the board’s main power features are: Dual-Stack MOSFET, Digi Power, 12+2 power phase design and premium gold caps. A CHiL CHL8328 controller is also used.
As outlined by the blue circles in the above image, ASRock equips the 990FX Extreme9 with six fan headers: 2x CPU fan headers (4-pin & 3-pin), 3x chassis fan headers (1x 4-pin & 2x 3-pin), and 1x power fan header (3-pin). Both the CPU and chassis fan headers feature speed control via the BIOS; the power fan header does not.
Fan connector positioning is generally good, with the exception of the lack of header near the IO panel – a position which is convenient for a rear chassis fan.
Many onboard controllers are present on the 990FX Extreme9. Some of these controllers include: 2x Asmedia ASM1061 SATA 6GB/s, 2x Etron EJ188H USB 3.0, 1x Realtek ALC898 HD audio, Intel 82583V Gigabit Ethernet, Asmedia ASM1480 PCI-E lane switch, VIA VT6315N IEEE1394, Nuvoton NCT6776F monitoring, CHiL CHL8328 power control.
There were no problems encountered when installing hardware on the ASRock 990FX Extreme9 motherboard. Generous spacing between the DIMM slots and CPU socket prevents large CPU coolers from interfering with tall memory modules.
Motherboard slots and connectors:
- 8 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x CIR header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x IEEE 1394 header
- 1 x Power LED header
- 2 x CPU Fan connectors (1 x 4-pin, 1 x 3-pin)
- 3 x Chassis Fan connectors (1 x 4-pin, 2 x 3-pin)
- 1 x Power Fan connector (3-pin)
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
- Front panel audio connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
- 2 x USB 3.0 headers (support 4 USB 3.0 ports)
- 1 x Dr. Debug (7-Segment Debug LED)
- 1 x Power Switch with LED
- 1 x Reset Switch with LED