The ASRock Extreme4 is packaged in a sturdy cardboard box which features a number of small feature logos along with a larger graphic which informs us of the XFast technology benefits. Inside we find plenty of documentation, drive cables, SLI bridge, software and an IO shield.
The board uses an ATX PCB which is predominantly brown with black, grey and gold components attached to it. Each of the heatsinks is stand alone with the two larger blocks sitting around the CPU socket. This board has ASRock’s Digi Power VRM Design with an 8+4 power phase layout. Very much standing out from the overall design are the gold coated capacitors which are Japan-made.
Down at the bottom left corner of our board are the add-in card slots and they start with a 1x PCIe 2.0 moving down through 16x PCIe 3.0, PCI, 16x PCIe 3.0, PCI to another 1x PCIe 2.0. When using two cards the larger slots run in 8x mode and CrossFire/SLI are both supported.
Down at the right hand corner we have an LED display to assist with any board issues, on-board power and reset buttons and eight SATA ports. Three use the Intel chipset and are split into 4x SATA 2 with 2x SATA 3 and the additional sockets run off a ASMedia ASM1061 controller. The Intel ports support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 as well as AHCI and hot-plugging.
Further up the board is a standard 24-pin power socket and beside this the front panel USB 3.0 connector which uses the Intel chipset. Next to these are our four memory slots, these are of course split into a dual channel configuration. ASRock support DDR3 speeds well in excess of 2000MHz, officially quoting 2800+MHz with compatibility for all socket 1155 CPUs… upcoming next generation chips are supported too.
Our back panel connectivity is thorough and includes PS/2, 2x USB 3.0 (ASMedia), VGA, DVI, HDMI, 2x USB 2.0, eSATA (ASMedia), GBLAN (Broadcom), 2x USB 3.0 (Intel) and optical/3.5mm audio connectors that use the Realtek ALC898 7.1 channel chipset. A clear CMOS button is also present here.
BIOS and Software
ASRock use a GUI BIOS which is similar to the layout we have seen on their boards in the past. The BIOS is slick, responsive and intuitive with the key enthusiast options found in the OC Tweaker screen which also allows us to save profiles. In addition to the main screens we also have a tool, which allows us to update the BIOS from a USB drive for quick and easy flashes. As an added extra the board can also go online, download the latest BIOS and flash it automatically if we wish.
ASRock bundle plenty of software with the Extreme4 including utilities which add support for 3TB drives, enhanced USB/memory/network speeds and media management/playback but the main application is AXTU. In AXTU we can monitor and control our board from within Windows, tweaking the speeds to our needs.
Finally the Z77 Extreme4 supports Rapid Start Technology (quicker boots), Smart Connect (updates to applications while powered down) and Lucid VirtuMVP (GPU enhancements).
In recent months we have taken a look at a number of Z97 boards, including Gigabytes exceptional Z97X- Gaming G1 WIFI-BK and their more affordable, mainstream Z97X-Gaming 5. Of course when it comes to motherboards there are many needs and budgets which require solutions and so as with their...