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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  • Zoomer - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    Construction quality analysis would be a good addition, imo. Perhaps the mobo roundups can be done by a team instead of just 1 person. ;) Reply
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Monday, May 07, 2012 - link

    I am always impressed by the depth of reviews by AT. I can't wait for the mITX roundup!
    P.S. any comment on availability of i7 3770t?
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    http://www.geeks3d.com/20120506/intel-hd-graphics-...

    It turns out Intel's new Windows 8 beta driver (v2729) works for Windows 7 and enables OpenGL 4.0 and OpenCL 1.1 support for Ivy Bridge. Can you try your OpenCL Compute benchmarks on them? Perhaps a OpenGL Unigine run as well to test OpenGL tessellation?
    Reply
  • althaz - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    So glad to finally get a tech site benchmarking POST times. One point of constructive criticism: I realise this would take more time, but ideally it'd be good to benchmark POST times both at default settings AND with everything possible disabled, so that we can get a true comparison between boards. Even with all features disabled, I've come across older boards where there is still 10+ seconds of difference in POST times.

    All in all, thanks for a great review!
    Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    "The ASUS P8Z77-V Pro retails at $225-$235, essentially $100 less than the ASRock Z77 Extreme4" Should be "$100 more", not "$100 less" Reply
  • adrien - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    I really wish 10GbE was on mainstream motherboards but I think you've mixed bits and Bytes here. ;-) Reply
  • Casper42 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    10Gbase-T is a power hog and requires special cabling if memory serves me right.
    DAC by way of SFP+ is too short and too expensive.
    Fiber transceivers cost more than any of these entire motherboards.

    How do you propose they get there?

    There is a Broadcom chip that does 2.5Gbps when connected to a 10Gb switch and 1Gbps on a 1Gb switch. Maybe that's a good compromise
    Reply
  • Metaluna - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    I agree it seems unlikely that 10GbE over copper will ever reach sufficient critical mass to be economical for consumers, especially with wireless standards continually improving. Maybe Thunderbolt is the way forward for small high performance wired SANs in the home? Reply
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Thunderbolt is not the answer, due to limited range. Reply
  • theSeb - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Yep, since MBps is used correctly for the USB 2 and USB 3 charts I was surprised to see 400 megabytes per second over a gigabit ethernet link. :) Reply

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