What's In the Box, Software
Back in the day I remember opening up a motherboard box and finding all kinds of goodies from USB brackets to eSATA cables. These days you are lucky to get the bare essentials for connecting basic hardware to the motherboard, and that's a real shame. Thankfully, Asrock has included a ton of accessories with the X99E-ITX/ac.
Along with the basics -- an I/O shield, driver CD, manual and software manual -- there are also two SATA data cables and a handy little USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter. To sweeten the deal further, Asrock has included a 2T2R Dual Band 802.11ac WiFi + BT v4.0 module with not just an antenna but also the internal antenna extension cables that run from the module to the I/O panel.
Asrock has also bundled that server-grade narrow ILM CPU cooler and a liquid cooling mounting plate.
We're thrilled with what Asrock has included in the package and although some users might need more SATA cables, two out of the box should be enough to get most started.
Over the years Asrock has made a number of improvements to its Windows-based software, most notably they have condensed much of it into a single program which they call 'A-Tuning'. Apart from the typical overclocking options there are fan controls and a system browser for checking on hardware specifications.
Additionally, Asrock has also moved the XFast RAM, XFast LAN and FastBoot software into the A-Tuning utility. There are a few other features such as the Dehumidifier function and Good Night LED.
The software is powerful and easy to navigate.
The only problem we found was that it doesn't scale at all with the Windows 8 DPI function. I set Windows' DPI to 125% on a 30" 2560x1600 panel and unfortunately, the A-Tuning utility won't scale up. Instead you get a blank panel off to the side. Still, the software is usable, despite not looking as nice as it would otherwise.
The first menu titled 'Operation Mode' lets you select either performance mode, standard mode or power saving mode. These modes can be further modified for your needs through the advanced settings.
In the tools section you'll find the acceleration software which includes XFast RAM, XFast LAN and FastBoot. The XFast RAM feature is designed to boost the system's performance by creating a hidden partition with the system memory and then assigning which files should be stored in the RAM drive.
The XFast LAN feature is said to boost the speed of your internet connection. It lets you assign priority levels to certain software, much like you can in most routers. It's a nifty feature but we wouldn't bank on it improving the overall speed of your internet connection.
Next we have Fast Boot which is said to minimize the computer's boot time. The 'Ultra Fast' mode is only supported by Windows 8 and the BIOS must support UEFI GOP if you are using an external graphics card.
There are a heap more features such as OMG, Good Night LED, FAN-Tastic Tuning, Dehumidifier and USB Key.
Possibly the most important section for many users will be the OC Tweaker. While we prefer to do all our overclocking at the BIOS level, the Asrock's software allows for changes to be made without having to reboot.
My only real complaint is about the extremely slow download speeds from Asrock's servers. I spent hours trying to get the A-Tuning utility ver:2.0.250 software, which is only 40MB in size. I tried the Asia, Europe, USA and even China servers -- none delivered more than about 100KB/s and the downloads often failed.