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ASRock X58 SuperComputer
The ASRock X58 SuperComputer motherboard gets its name from the Nvidia Tesla Personal Supercomputer which promises to bring super computing to the desktop. The idea is that you load up a PC with an epic amount of graphics power using three Tesla C1060 cards to shift the computing load from your CPU to the GPUs.
In essence a C1060 is a GTX 280 with 4GB of GDDR3 memory and no graphics outputs. You also need to include a fourth graphics card in the shape of a Quadro so you have somewhere to connect your displays et voila you have your own Super Computer. The key features that you need in a motherboard when building an Nvidia Tesla are support for four widely spaced PCI Express 2.0 graphics slots so the ASRock SuperComputer fits the bill admirably.
Support for Tesla C1060 is limited to Windows XP and Linux with no option for Windows Vista but the major stumbling block is the price as each Tesla C1060 costs £1400. This means that you'll be spending more than £5000 on your new toy which lifts it out of reach of most people. So, being a consumer focussed website we can pretty much ignore the SuperComputer model name.
Once we've taken the Tesla out of the equation we're left with a Core i7 motherboard with four long PCI Express slots and the usual features we associate with the X58 chipset such as six SATA ports with Intel RAID. The SATA ports and single IDE connector are laid down so the cables won't interfere with your graphics cards, which is always a good start.
With so much emphasis on the graphics support it comes as something of a surprise to see that ASRock has supplied no less than three PCI slots. One PCI slot will be blocked by each double slot graphics card but even so the odds are that most people will have one or two slots available for expansion which is very generous.
Likewise, you're most unlikely to use all of the PCI Express slots for graphics so there will be one or two available for PCI Express expansion cards such as a TV tuner, a sound card or, if you are dabbling in the Super Computing, more likely a RAID card.
ASRock doesn't supply any expansion card brackets in the package so you're restricted to the ports on the I/O panel along with the headers for case mounted ports. Everything looks pretty much as you would expect in this department with dual Gigabit LAN, two PS/2 ports, integrated audio with coaxial and optical digital connections, six USB ports, one Firewire and an eSATA port. In fact there is an oddity as the eSATA port doubles up as a USB port (something often seen on notebooks) so there are actually seven USB ports on the I/O panel. The three USB headers on the board support a further five USB ports which is odd as these ports usually go in pairs (presumably the sixth port is being used by the joined eSATA/USB socket - Ed.).
The rest of the layout is quite typical of X58 motherboards although the front panel headers are in an unusual location next to the main power connector. Considering the price of this motherboard we would have appreciated a set of micro buttons for power and reset.