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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  • vegemeister - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    Yes, it is a very important feature. The Ivy Bridge IGP can drive 3 monitors. 4 display outputs means 3 of them are digital.

    Discrete GPUs increase idle power consumption, an as of this post none of them have particularly good open source drivers. Some of us just want lots of screens, good compiz performance, and silence.
    Reply
  • philipma1957 - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I have been building a series of matx htpc/gamer machines.

    I have one with the basic

    Gigabyte GA-B75M-D3H mATX board

    and one with the

    Gigabyte Ga-h77m-d3h mATX board.

    I want to decide between

    the ASUS P8Z77- m pro mobo or

    the ASUS p8z77-m board and

    last but not least the

    Gigabyte Intel Z77 LGA 1155 AMD CrossFireX/NVIDIA SLI DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort Dual UEFI BIOS mATX Motherboard G1.SNIPER M3 .

    I am liking the two builds I did with the lowend gigabyte boards and some intel i5 t2500t cpus I want a better board but I don't have many reviews to go by.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Are most DIY'ers really opting for ATX? Should they? I'd bet most people only plug in a video card and maybe one other card such as wireless or even a tuner. Every other possible need they may have would not only be met by mATX but even ITX is pretty full featured these days.

    You'd think mATX would be what most boards are targeted at, and leaving ATX for extreme builds/bragging rights. It's just like those high end video cards, most people don't buy those, rightfully and importantly so. Those should be the premium prices, and mATX should have a lower price. The focus just feels off.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    You mentioned people want mATX board. There by itself probably means that it can command higher prices, due to higher price tolerance of the purchasers. Reply
  • Caeric - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Enjoyed the review. I still have an old AMD dual core, and I'm considering a new system in the next couple of months so these help a great deal.

    I did find one error in the article, under the ASUS board:

    "The ASUS P8Z77-V Pro retails at $225-$235, essentially $100 less than the ASRock Z77 Extreme4..."

    It should say "...essentially $100 more than the ASRock..."
    Reply
  • Movieman420 - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Curious as to this controllers' performance vs the ever present Marvell controllers. Does it use a pci-e lane or usb3 for it's bandwidth? Reply
  • FozzyofAus - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Great review.

    I'm leaning towards mATX as well for this build as I've never used more than four expansion slots and currently I'm only using 3 (one is USB3 which won't be needed in the new board).

    I'd like to have a bit more room in my current case and the option to reuse this motherboard in a smaller case in future if I upgrade my main rig to Haswell next year.

    Any chance of adding Asrock Extreme4-m to the next motherboard roundup?
    Reply
  • spronkey - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    Sorry guys but this review was a bit average. Comment on the various different controllers used by the motherboard manufacturers but don't offer any kind of review on them?

    The good additions: DPC latency and boot time.

    The missing? Well everything else.

    I was especially hoping for a comment on the VIA audio on the UD3H - it's been a while since I've seen VIA codecs on mainstream boards.

    I'm also amazed that you didn't slam the ASUS board for it's price and lack of features. Realtek 892? On a board that's nearing twice the cost of the ASRock? Seriously?

    No comment on the durability of the boards either? Hrm. No separation in testing of the different controllers on each board?

    A bit lacking, sorry.
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    Perhaps you're commenting on the wrong review.
    As Ian stated multiple times throughout the review, Asus is using Intel NIC's on their boards, in this case, the Intel 82579V.

    Durability is a function of time. Please point out the other motherboard reviews that covered durability.
    Reply
  • spronkey - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    He stated ASUS were using Intel, sure. But didn't get into any details other than stating they exist about the fact that there are multiple USB3 controllers and SATA controllers on each board. No benchmarks comparing them etc.

    In fact does it even mention which controllers were tested?

    And Durability is a function of construction quality and time. It would be nice to see comments on points such as board weight and flex, quality of soldering, quality of components used on the board (according to an electrical minded person on OCN, Gigabyte uses significantly higher rated MOSFETs than other manufacturers), temperatures of chipsets and VRM circuitry. These are things I can't easily find out by reading manuals.
    Reply

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