ASRock Z77 Extreme4 – BIOS

The ASRock graphical BIOS has evolved from the initial days of Sandy Bridge into a bright blue screen with options we see below.  With a graphical BIOS, there are two things to focus on – presentation and usability.  Not by any great stretch of the imagination, one could design a great BIOS for everyone to use – with an infinite color palette and tools it could look amazing.  However implementing such a system could be tricky, as a BIOS is currently limited to approximately eight megabytes in size.  This has to contain all the initialization parameters for the board, as well as all the BIOS options we get to play with.  I can imagine that should that limit ever increase to 16 or 64 MB, we would have a lot nicer things to look at.

I could wax lyrical about what I want in a BIOS, but as it currently stands, we will never get a work of art or functional awesomeness.  ASRock make a fair attempt, one of the better ones in fact, and it turns out to be easy to use.

The main screen shows the BIOS version, CPU, memory and frequencies.  What would put the cherry on the top would be the CPU voltage and temperatures as well.  If there is room, perhaps some fan speeds (similar to ASUS’ EZ mode) should also be included.  The main screen also has a system browser element, which is a top down view of the board with details on what is plugged in.

Overclocking options are essentially all bunched in one list in the OC Tweaker menu:

Important options like the CPU multiplier and BCLK are plain to see, as well as voltages and load line calibrations.  The ASRock BIOS had no issues in applying the XMP settings on my G.Skill DDR2-2400 kit of memory.

The Internet Flash utility is something new to consumer level BIOSes – ASRock implements this in their Advanced Menu.  If your motherboard is linked via Ethernet to the internet (thus on a network, or via ICS), then it will probe the ASRock servers for the latest BIOS.  It will then be downloaded and applied without hassle.  I really like this feature – it makes my life a lot easier at least!

Fan settings are all controlled in the H/W Monitor screen.  This shows temperatures, voltages and fan speeds, and gives options for the various fan headers on-board.  The main issue I have with ASRock fan options is the fact that they are not clear.  We should have all our options regarding temperatures and target temperatures – instead we get a ‘Level’ system.  This means that ASRock should probably invest in better fan controllers so they can talk back to the system regarding RPM, temperatures and relating these all to sensors on-board.

Software

ASRock’s software has not changed in any major detail since their last outing on X79.  At the heart of the system is ASRock eXtreme Tuning Utility (AXTU), which controls OS overclocking, fan controls, energy saving and XFast RAM.  XFast RAM itself allows 32-bit OS users to unlock memory not found, or 64-bit users to enable a RAMDisk to speed up certain caching utilities in the operating system.

Also from ASRock is the XFast LAN software, which in fact is a licensed version of cFosSpeed with ASRock decals.  This software allows full management of the network facilities on the motherboard – shaping traffic for different functions as well as monitoring tools amongst others.

XFast USB is another of ASRock’s licensed software bundled with each motherboard.  This utility will change the driver from the standard Windows one to one that can implement BOT (Bulk-Only Transfer) protocols.  In reality, this allows for quicker transfers due to less overhead, at the expense of latency.  For bulk transfers, I find that this utility works really well, especially with incompressible transfers.  The downside being that it is only applied to one USB port at a time.

ASRock Z77 Extreme4 - Overview, Visual Inspection, Board Features ASRock Z77 Extreme4 - In The Box, Overclocking
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  • Jase89 - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - link

    Having RAID Option ROM Supported in UEFI as well (people using RAID) is a very good thing ASRock have done with their Z77 series, wonder when Gigabyte will add this feature, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1TbdVtAE9c Reply
  • gramboh - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Just wanted to add that my new P8Z77-V Pro POSTS significantly faster than what Ian experienced in this review, probably due to my configuration:

    Intel SATA: AHCI
    ASmedia USB3: on
    ASmedia SATA controller: off
    Wifi: off
    Onboard sound: off

    My total time from splash screen to Windows 7 Pro x64 login is 15 seconds on a Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240GB. The post is about 6 seconds (hand timing these). It's unfortunately the other controllers add ~14 seconds of POST time.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Hi Gramboh,

    Disabling ASMedia SATA, Wifi and Sound would obviously decrease POST time by quite a bit! As I doubt the majority of non-enthusiast buyers would go into the BIOS and disable what they don't need, I kept the start up sequence the same as default to reflect this.

    Ian
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    A large number of your readers are enthusiasts. Giving both sets of numbers would be beneficial for us. A per onboard device breakdown of boot time would be nice; but probably too much work to be justified. Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    I've added 'POST Quick' to my internal database of testing, with the aim to turn off all I can to observe POST times. Will be applied from the next review onwards, perhaps retroactively if I get time.

    Ian
    Reply
  • AlexIsAlex - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    Awesome, thank you so much!

    Perhaps the manufacturers will pay attention to this too :-)
    Reply
  • Paapaa125 - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    I think most Anandtech readers DO go to BIOS to set things up. I think it is crucial to know if the differences in performance (boot time, benchmarks, power consumption etc) can be minimized just by changing BIOS settings. That would make it a lot easier to buy a new board.

    I have seen reports that some boards don't follow the Intel specs regarding Turbo Boost settings and utilize higher frequency with all cores utilized. This skews the performance results greatly. Those following the specs get worse results - yet they could be configured for exact same performance.
    Reply
  • dananski - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Makes me really glad to have ordered the ASRock, though I wonder how it would be affected by having RAID enabled? My GA-P35C-DS3R takes about a minute to get through POST and RAID screens.

    I am also confused why even the quick one is taking so long. My laptops take less than 5 secs to POST :/
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    ATX just seems like it's for bragging rights, and not even directly so, simply because you'll be able to say you have so many things connected, maybe you even have tri or quad SLI, all in a huge case. Can we get some coverage of mATX boards?

    On another note, something that drives me nuts is the AHCI driver loading at POST. Last time I checked I couldn't find a straight answer, does this loading stage still happen in ivy bridge? Of course you don't have to use AHCI, but it really should be standard and enabled by default. At least for anyone spending this much on a motherboard.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    "Conclusion – Gigabyte MSI Z77A-GD65"

    One more rant lol. Is having all 4 video outputs really a feature? Is this not targeted at people who will be using their own graphics card? In which case they only serve to use up space that could be used towards USB ports or something else that's almost as useful. Remember before P55, 10 usb ports were starting to be the average on a feature filled board, now we have to settle for 6-8. Unless you want to spend top dollar for more.
    Reply

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