ASRock X79 Champion Visual Inspection

The best way to describe the Champion at first glance is ‘red’.  The red and black color scheme does stand out a fair bit, although on close inspection we can see how busy the motherboard looks with all the additional components.  The main reason for this is that each component is surrounded by a white box to help the automated machines that place components, so they can line everything up correctly.  This is process and manufacturer dependent, as some of the manufacturers do not need this – in return, there is extra space on board for additional components.

As a result of the Champion naming, we get an E-ATX sized motherboard, giving an extra inch of space from side to side (easiest way to check is look for the ATX case mounting holes).  The extra space allows ASRock to exploit a full array of memory slots for X79, totaling 8 for two per memory channel. The power delivery heatsink is an extended array around the CPU power delivery, the memory sockets and also down to the chipset, all connected via heatpipe in order to maximize the surface area of any additional power draw through overclocking.

The socket area itself is at the limits of the Intel specifications, but the heatsinks are sufficiently low such that all the major air coolers should fit without issue – only by filling up all the memory slots may there be trouble with extended heatpipe arrangements.  The CPU socket area has access to four fan headers within easy reach – one CPU 4-pin above the socket, a CPU 3-pin to the top right on the other side of the memory slots, a 3-pin to the bottom left of the socket between the heatsink and the rear IO, and a 3-pin on the bottom right between the USB 3.0 headers and the memory.  The board has two other fan headers, one 4-pin and another 3-pin, on the bottom of the board.

Along the right hand side we get a series of voltage check points, which is an odd inclusion on a gaming motherboard.  This feature is useful for extreme overclockers using sub-zero temperatures, but this board is not designed for that crowd; I cannot imagine gamers using them.  Below the voltage check points is the 24-pin ATX power connector and a pair of USB 3.0 headers (using a TI controller), one of which should be used with the included USB 3.0 front panel in the box.  In terms of SATA connectivity we get four SATA 3.0 Gbps and two SATA 6.0 Gbps from the chipset (all supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 10) as well as four SATA 6.0 Gbps from a Marvell SE9230 controller (RAID 0, 1, 10).

Despite the voltage check points being in the remit of overclockers only, the two-digit debug, power and reset buttons found on the bottom right of the board are more amenable to a larger percentage of the target audience of the motherboard – they allow for quick debugging or checking that the board actually powers up and on.    Along the bottom of the board we get the front panel header, the front panel audio header, a ‘front 1394’ header (FireWire), two fan headers, three USB 2.0 headers, a COM port and a 4-pin molex connector for additional VGA power.

The PCIe layout is designed to accommodate up to four dual slot GPUs, but also three triple-slot GPUs, such that the following layouts are possible (using the full sized PCIe slots from top to bottom):

ASRock X79 Champion PCIe Layout
  PCIe 1 PCIe 3 PCIe 4 PCIe 5 PCIe 7
Single GPU x16 - - - -
Dual GPU x16 - - x16 -
Tri-GPU x16 x8 - x16 -
x16 - x8 - x8
Quad-GPU x16 x8 - x8 x8

We test both cases in our GPU benchmarks, but it should be noted that in our sample, the bottom slot did not go into PCIe 3.0 when tested, even with the additional power connector at the bottom of the board.  It remained in PCIe 2.0 mode despite the settings in the BIOS.

To the left of the PCIe slots is our audio codec, and ASRock have smartly selected a non-Realtek option in the form of the Creative Sound Core3D, a quad core sound and voice processor that supports EAX1.0 to EAX5.0.  The Core3D also has a Premium Headset Amplifier chip which (as stated in the marketing blurb) provides wider bandwidth, a higher slew rate with lower noise and distortion, and supports up to 250 Ohm headsets, albeit only through the front panel audio header.

ASRock are laying USB 3.0 on fairly thick with the rear IO, bringing the total number of ports on the board to twelve with eight on the rear panel (all powered by TI controllers).  Aside from these we get a pair of USB 2.0 ports (one of which is Fatal1ty Speed Port enabled), a PS/2 keyboard port, a ClearCMOS button, two Broadcom BCM57781 NICs, a FireWire/IEEE1394 port, two eSATA 6 Gbps ports (Marvell 9172 controller), an optical SPDIF output and audio jacks (Core3D).

Board Features

ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion
Price Link
Size E-ATX
CPU Interface LGA-2011
Chipset Intel X79
Memory Slots Eight DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB ECC+non-ECC
Up to Quad Channel, 1066-2500 MHz
Onboard LAN Broadcom BCM57781
Onboard Audio Creative Sound Core3D
Expansion Slots 5 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
 - 1/5: x16/16
 - 1/3/5: x16/8/16
 - 1/4/7: x16/8/8
 - 1/3/5/7: x16/8/8/8
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
4 x SATA 6 Gbps (Marvell SE9230), RAID 0, 1, 10
4 x SATA 3 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
USB 12 x USB 3.0 (Controller) [4 onboard, 8 rear panel]
7 x USB 2.0 (Chipset) [6 onboard, 2 rear panel)
1 x USB 2.0 Fatal1ty Mouse Port (rear panel)
Onboard 6 x SATA 6 Gbps
4 x SATA 3 Gbps
2 x USB 3.0 Headers
3 x USB 2.0 Headers
1 x COM Port Header
1 x HDMI_SPDIF Header
1 x IEEE1394 Header
7 x V-Probe Connectors
6 x Fan Headers
Power/Reset Buttons
Two-Digit Debug LED
Post Status Checker LEDs
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
1 x 8-pin CPU Power Connector
1 x 4-pin Molex Power Connector
Fan Headers 2 x CPU (4-pin, 3-pin)
3 x CHA (4-pin, 2x3-pin)
1 x PWR (3-pin)
IO Panel 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
1 x Keyboard PS/2 Port
1 x ClearCMOS Button
2 x Broadcom BCM57781 GbE NICs
1 x IEEE1394 Port
8 x USB 3.0 Ports (TI Controllers)
2 x eSATA 6 Gbps (Marvell 9172)
Optical SPDIF Output
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

As a gaming board, the use of a Creative audio codec on the Champion is a big plus, and the option for dual NICs will be welcomed by some users.  The inclusion of voltage check points is a little odd, as this is not a board aimed at overclockers.  Compared to the ASUS Rampage IV Formula, the ASRock offers more memory slots, SATA ports, more USB 3.0 ports, FireWire/IEEE1394, and dual the NICs, but fewer fan headers, a less obvious PCIe layout, a non-Intel network interface or nothing similar to ASUS Premium Service.  Note that the Formula is also aimed at extreme overclockers and gamers alike, hence it has things like a Slow Mode, LN2 Switch and ROG Connect that the Champion does not.

Fatal1ty: The Person and the Brand ASRock X79 Professional Visual Inspection and Board Features
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  • scaramoosh - Saturday, February 09, 2013 - link

    I don't get why they release these, he's done nothing in half a decade and no self respecting person who knows anything about hardware would buy because of a so called Celeb name being put on it. It just acts as a warning sign for me... Reply
  • Tech-Curious - Saturday, February 09, 2013 - link

    I admit that I didn't really know who Fatal1ty was before I read this article, apart from a vague recognition that the silly leet-speak moniker belonged to someone in gaming.

    And I agree with your general point, that such branding on a motherboard is silly.

    But all of that said, if the guy really did win $500,000 in gaming competitions, that's a pretty big deal. Now that he's retired, if companies (or, perhaps, their customers) are dumb enough to give him a comfortable living through lame marketing campaigns like ASRock's, then more power to him.

    Wouldn't touch the motherboard with a ten foot pole, but I can't blame the endorser for accepting the check.

    Nice review.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Saturday, February 09, 2013 - link

    The "Fatality" branded mobos are just Asrocks high end models. They are pretty good mobos.

    The issue is the marketing is dumb as are those who buy products based on this type of marketing. Clearly enough Asrock customers voiced their displeasure with the crap marketing of John Boy all over the place as Asrock removed his image from the BIOS and allows people to disable his face on the boot screen too. Owner reviews in any PC hardware forum show a lot of folks unhappy with the marketing - not the mobos.
    Reply
  • Samus - Saturday, February 09, 2013 - link

    I've owned a few Fatal1ty products and all of them have been really good quality, especially the headsets and mice.

    I don't think the guy will put his name on crap. And I don't think companies making crap want his name on their product, since it isn't cheap to put his name on that product and if it backfires, it'll cost them.
    Reply
  • Omega215D - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    The Creative gaming mice with his name on it weren't all that great performance-wise and were pretty much crap compared to stuff from Logitech in those days. The sound cards weren't anything special as well but cost much more than it should. Reply
  • hp79 - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    I had a crap fatality branded geforce 8800gs or something, and it was uber crap. I got this as a repalcement when my 7900gs died. My 8800gs had no fan control, so it was running at 100% all the time. Very loud graphics card. I sold it after couple days.

    I really don't see a point branding it with a person maybe because I don't even know or care who this dude is.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Sunday, February 10, 2013 - link

    I had a Fatal1ty 990FX board in my old AMD rig, was incredibly solid and overclocked like a champ.

    Unfortunately, I needed more performance and decided to go with a Military themed build so went with the Asus Sabertooth X79 board, which other than slightly noisy motherboard fans is solid too.
    Reply
  • aguilpa1 - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    Yea, I still have a Fatal1ty Xfi audio card but I didn't buy because it had his handle on it but because at the time it was the only Xfi model that offered the break out box front panel. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    It tells us that it's a high-end board though. Just as it did for Creative and whoever else. It's like putting Ferrari on a monitor....LOL Reply
  • Flunk - Saturday, February 09, 2013 - link

    I agree. I refuse to buy anything branded with that name on principle. I'm not paying extra just for branding from someone I don't even respect or care about. Hell, I would rather have a Michael Jordan* branded motherboard than a one of these.

    *No, I do not like Basketball.
    Reply

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