ASRock Z77 Extreme4—Visual Inspection

ASRock are still insistent with bringing the black gold philosophy to its range, as seen here with the Z77 Extreme4 and later with the Z77 Extreme6. The main point you may immediately notice is the size and depth of the heatsinks covering up the power delivery—they are smaller than previous iterations of ASRock boards, and no longer connected via a heatpipe. This is indicative of quite a few boards we are looking at today, due to the low power requirements of the new processors and as a result, the lack of heat produced at stock voltage.

The socket area is relatively clean, especially to the south where we have no large intruding heatsink. The VRM heatsinks however do brush right up against the Intel specifications for the socket area, so you ultimately have only two directions (to the PCIe and towards the memory) in which to play around with big air coolers. The socket area is adorned with five fan headers—three along the top edge of the board and two chassis headers near the top PCIe x1 slot. The other header on board is along the bottom next to the two-digit debug.

The board is actually not a full ATX sized board—from left to right, it measures only 21.8 cm, rather than the standard ATX size of 24.4 cm. As a result this means ASRock do not have to deal with the far right holes in the motherboard for case mounting, and hence why the SATA ports in the bottom right are neatly tucked away. In this corner, we have the six SATA ports from the PCH (two SATA 6 Gbps, four SATA 3 Gbps) and another two from an ASMedia ASM1061 controller (SATA3_A1 is shared with an eSATA port, however). The internal USB 3.0 header is located nearer the 24-pin ATX power connector, perhaps indicating that is for both front case use and rear case use, taking up the space where the first PCIe x1 is.

The chipset heatsink is rather small, compared to Z68 and X79 boards, and is not connected via heatpipe to any other heatsink nearby. On the south side of the board are the standard array of audio and USB headers, along with a fan header and power/reset buttons. It is good also to see the two digit debug on the board as well.

The PCIe layout is indicative of what we will see on many Z77 boards this year, which do not use any form of PCIe lane expansion, such as a PLX chip. In this case, we have an x1, an x16 (x8 on dual card), a gap, a PCI, an x8, another PCI, and another x1. This is some smart thinking, as even with a dual GPU setup there is space for two single width PCIe x1 cards and a PCI card (which contrary to what some people think are still used in reasonable numbers).

Despite the stock image from ASRock looking a little bent on the back panel, we have a typical Z77 arrangement for IO. From left to right, a combination PS/2 port, two USB 3.0 ports (blue), a D-Sub output, a DVI-D output, HDMI, a clear CMOS button, two USB 2.0 ports (black), an eSATA port (red), gigabit Ethernet, two more USB 3.0 ports (blue), and a standard array of audio jacks featuring an optical SPDIF output.

Board Features

ASRock Z77 Extreme4
Size ATX
CPU Interface LGA-1155
Chipset Intel Z77
Power Delivery 8 + 4 Phase
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-2800 MHz
Video Outputs HDMI 1.4a, DVI-D, D-Sub
Onboard LAN Broadcom BCM57781
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC898
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe x16 Gen3
2 x PCIe x1 Gen2
2 x PCI
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x SATA 6 Gbps (ASMedia ASM1061)
4 x SATA 3 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
USB Two USB 3.0 at rear (PCH)
Two USB 3.0 at rear (ASMedia 1042)
One USB 3.0 header (PCH)
Onboard 4 x SATA 6 Gbps
4 x SATA 3 Gbps
1 x IR Header
1 x CIR Header
1 x COM Header
1 x SPDIF Header
Power/Reset Buttons
Two Digit Debug LED
6 x Fan Headers
Front panel audio connector
3 x USB 2.0 headers (support 6 USB 2.0 ports)
1 x USB 3.0 header (supports 2 USB 3.0 ports)
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
Fan Headers 2 x CPU Fan Header (one 4-pin, one 3-pin)
3 x CHA Fan Headers (one 4-pin, two 3-pin)
1 x PWR Fan Headers (3-pin)
IO Panel 1 x Combo PS/2 Port
1 x HDMI 1.4a
1 x DVI-D
1 x D-Sub
1 x Optical SPDIF
2 x USB 2.0
4 x USB 3.0
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps
1 x Gigabit Ethernet
1 x Clear CMOS
Audio Outputs
Warranty Period 3 years from date of purchase
Product Page Link

 

Rather than dump a Realtek NIC/Audio combination on this board, ASRock have gone for a Broadcom NIC. This means either they have struck a deal, or it works a lot better for their ASRock LAN software. ASRock are one of few motherboard manufacturers to state they support HDMI 1.4a on their website specifications as well. As one of the cheaper boards of this roundup, the Z77 Extreme4 actually comes away pretty well in terms of features.

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  • Iketh - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    I'm curious how Skyrim behaves with this Lucid technology, since physics and framerate are linked for whatever reason... (if you disable Skyrim's 60 fps cap and point the camera in a direction that gives you 150+ FPS for example, everything that is moveable nearby starts to rattle and fall off shelves...) Reply
  • Xale - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    Games with their own framerate limits should not be affected, as long as that limit is preserved. They already simply 'pause' internally if the machine is too fast. It might go absolutely crazy though if you do forcefully disable that mechanism. Reply
  • Concillian - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    Am I reading that right? Z75 offers most of what even enthusiasts would want?

    So... why are there a crapton of Z77 boards in here and no Z75s?

    Z75 supports 2 way crossfire / SLI, overclocking, 6Gbps SATA, native USB3.0... these are the features all but a tiny handful of users should be interested in.

    By all rights Z75 should be the definitive chipset for the average enthusiast. Unless I'm missing something major, I hope there is significant attention paid to the Z75 chipset in reviews, because I'm failing to see why any but the most extreme users and those with money to burn would choose the Z77.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    Actually the ones with less money to burn might choose Z77 over Z75 to avoid investing in a huge SSD. The difference between chipset prices are usually small (what the motherboard manufacturer makes out of this is another question entirely). Reply
  • GreenEnergy - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    I find SSD caching to be some desperate dinosaur attempt. Mainly fueled by HD makers. Hybrid HDs are in the same basket. And yes, pick one, Z77 or Z75. The other one makes no sense.

    Z77, Z75 and H77 chipsets are priced at US$48, US$40 and US$43.

    If SRT basicly cost 8$. Then its time for it to go away as the stillborn tech it is.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    The difference is mainly software and development, and should go away. SSD caching is a great idea that, imo, should optimally be on the filesystem level, not on the block level.

    *Looks at OS / filesys developers* (ZFS has some of it)

    And oh, I expect lower end derivatives to come out eventually.
    Reply
  • Nje - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    I was really excited about this motherboard - was kind of disappointed to see it is not part of this roundup. But I guess there will be other tests. Thanks for the preview - I look forward to the benchmarks, particularly if asus' memory technology works well, and if memory bandwidth plays more of a role on Ivy Bridge. Reply
  • Articuno - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    Things like overclocking being restricted to specific chipsets is really disappointing. AM3+ boards are generally cheaper than equivalent Intel boards and they don't lock features like this. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    I suppose it's being done to make power delivery cheaper on these boards. Personally I don't like it either. Reply
  • GreenEnergy - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    I think you should visit Newegg. LGA1155 and AM3+ boards are just as cheap. And CPU wise...its just a disaster for AMD. Reply

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