Hear that rumbling in the distance? That's the sound of Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge-E processor, whose impending arrival has motherboard makers eager to show off their X79 wares. In the wee hours of this morning, an email hit my inbox with a stack of pictures detailing ASRock's upcoming X79 mobos. We don't have a list of specficiations or features to go along with the gallery, but we do have some high-res shots of no fewer than four different models. Let's start with the X79 Extreme9, which looks to be the most exotic of the quartet:
This puppy has eight DIMM slots and five PCI Express x16 slots, although the spacing of the x16s won't allow four double-wide graphics cards to be placed side by side. ASRock includes dual auxiliary 12V power connectors on the board, which packs an even dozen Serial ATA ports. Audio and at least some of the Extreme's network connectivity is farmed out to a PCI Express x1 expansion card that appears to be powered by Creative's new Core3D audio chip.
The Extreme9's unique black-and-bling color scheme is consistent up and down ASRock's X79 line. The capacitors look like little gold teeth protruding from the board.
ASRock ditches the add-in card and two DIMM slots on the Extreme7, which adds some old-school PCI connectivity to its five PCIe x16 slots. The board real estate freed up by removing a pair of DIMM slots leaves room for more extensive VRM cooling on this model. The cooler perched atop the chipset remains unchanged, however. We see the same heatsink pictured on all the boards, and I'm not crazy about the fact it includes a tiny fan. Ugh.
If you're in the market for something less, er, extreme, the Extreme4 drops the number of DIMM slots to four and serves up only three PCIe x16 slots. At least the x16s are spaced to allow three-way double-wide configs. With seven slots in total, the Extreme4 actually has more expansion capacity than the other boards.
As one might expect, things like USB 3.0, FireWire, and external Serial ATA connectivity are standard on all the boards. Each model also gets a two-digit POST code display and a CMOS reset button in the rear cluster.
Want to cram Sandy Bridge-E into a microATX chassis? The Extreme4 M lops a couple of inches off the bottom of the standard Extreme4, losing expansion slots in the process. The micro board can still accommodate dual-double-wide graphics cards, and its four DIMM slots should hit all of SB-E's available memory channels.
I'd love to be able to tell you when these boards will be available and how much they'll cost, but that will have to wait for the X79's official unveiling. In the meantime, you can hit the image gallery below for higher-resolution shots of ASRock's incoming Sandy Bridge-E mobos.