ASRock Z77 Extreme 4 Reviewccokeman - October 28, 2012
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After looking at a fair selection of Z77-based motherboards, you come to the conclusion pretty quickly that performance curves will be relatively flat between motherboards. That being said, you have to then focus on what brings value to the equation with the feature set. This is where most boards differ from each other. ASRock's Z77 Extreme 4 is part of the Extreme series that begins with the Extreme 3 and is now populated up to version 11. Each model moves up the ladder, including additional features and capabilities, along with a higher price point. The Z77 Extreme 4 includes the company's 555 XFast feature set that allows for performance of up to 5x over competing designs. Add in excellent graphics support with up to 4-way solutions from AMD and NVIDIA with the use of dual-GPU cards or 2-way SLI and CrossFireX with two single GPU cards, and you get a pretty potent little beast. The rest of the feature set includes some pretty unique items, such as the Dehumidifier function, non K-SKU CPU overclocking, and a solid built philosophy using Gold-covered Japanese-made capacitors and an all-digital 8+4 power circuit. Pricing is reasonable at around the $134 mark, which puts the Z77 Extreme 4 at the budget end of the spectrum for a Z77-based motherboard. Having seen what some of the competition is bringing to the table, let's look at ASRock's' Z77 Extreme 4 to see if it's ready to eat with the big boys or slink over to the kiddie table.
ASRock has delivered a flashy package that stands out from the crowd with the large 555 XFast logo on the front panel. ASRock's logo and motherboard name adorn the front with a flashy Z77 logo splashed across the top right edge. Support for Intel processors, AMD and NVIDIA graphics solutions, and Windows 7 are across the bottom of the panel. The back side of the package goes into detail on the 555 feature set that touts each feature as being 5x faster than competing designs. XFast Ram, XFast Lan, and XFast USB are all key components in this feature set. Further discussion is found on the Digital 8+4 phase power design that utilizes Japanese-made, gold-covered, polymer capacitors, UEFI Browser, Virtu MVP Hybrid graphics support, and more. Internally, the packaging is much like most on the market with the bundle sitting in a compartment over the motherboard. The motherboard is enclosed in an static resistant bag and is securely held in place by the design of the enclosure.
The bundle of accessories included with the Z77 Extreme 4 is slim, but includes the basics to get the board installed and running with a minimum list of installed components. There are two parts to the bundle: the documentation and the hardware. Documentation includes a user's manual / install guide, software installation guide, a pamphlet for how to set up and use Lucid Logix Virtu MVP software, and information on the 555 feature set. A driver disk includes the software and driver package for the Z77 Extreme 4. On the hardware side, you get a pair of SATA cables, a SLI bridge connection, and an I/O shield. The package is basic and is indicative of the $134 price point of this board.
The flashy packaging sets the expectation that the Z77 Extreme 4 will be up to the task of delivering high performance to go with the 555 XFast feature set. Will the Z77 Extreme 4 be all flash and no substance? The only way to find out is to put the screws to it.