ASRock Z77 Extreme 4 Reviewccokeman -
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ASRock has been making a case for its products over the past few years, pushing out of the OEM mold much the way ECS has been doing with innovative products and a rabid fan base. Just reading the comments online about ASRock show the company is definitely on the right path to winning the hearts of overclockers. By putting together a strong feature set with increased reliability at a value price point of $134, ASRock is going to gain a lot of traction on price alone. Couple that with strong performance, features and overclocking, and you have a recipe for success. As far as looks go, the Z77 Extreme 4 is a good looking board that is a bit smallish in size at 12x8.6 inches. The layout used on the board works and did not contribute to any fitting issues during installation. ASRock used a black and gold theme that is executed well. Under the lights, the PCB looks brown instead of a jet black that is currently popular, but when tucked away in a chassis it wont be noticed. The signature feature set ASRock brings to the table with this board is its XFast 555 technology that promises that each 5x technology will deliver a 5x gain over boards that do not use the technology. These include XFast RAM, XFast LAN, and XFast USB. XFast Ram creates a RAMDisk to speed up the system. XFast Lan is a network management suite that allows you to set the access priority of programs that access the web, resulting in lower latency for your games and programs. XFast USB is a software tool that can speed up the USB 3.0 performance for attached storage devices significantly, as seen in the ATTO USB 3.0 testing. When run in Turbo mode similar to ASUS USB 3.0 Boost, the read and write speeds take a significant jump in performance, delivering a tangible benefit when transferring large files to an external drive.
Looking at the rest of the feature set, you get much of what comes standard on just about every Z77-based motherboard, from switchable graphics via Lucid Logix Virtu MVP software, Hyper performance and Virtual Vsync, Intel's Smart Response, Rapid Start and Smart Connect technologies, and PCIe Gen 3.0, as well as a few more of ASRock's own goodies. ASRock specific features include a Dehumidifier function for use in humid locations that allows the system to power up from an S4/S5 state to keep the components dry, Online Management Guard used to set time boundaries and lock out internet access to users at set times, Internet Flash to search for and install the latest BIOS updates, No-K OC technology that allows a non K-spec CPU to be overclocked with the push of a button (sadly a lack of non K CPUs prevented testing), an all new UEFI BIOS and Browser, and its AXTU overclocking utility. For the Gamer, you get Quad SLI and CrossFireX support, only by way of dual-GPU cards such as the GTX 690, HD 7990 or last gen models, such as the HD 6990 and GTX 590. That being said, if you are spending two grand on graphics cards, you may not be looking at this motherboard.
When it came time to overclock with ASRock's E77 Extreme 4, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it could pull off the same overclocks as some if the high end boards I have used. It easily delivered a nice 1.2GHz overclock on my Core i7 3770K without any real voltage challenges, with the use of ASRock's Digi Power VRM design and 8+4phase power circuit. Overclocking via AXTU was uneventful in that the utility worked to allow overclocking from within the operating system. Where I had some concerns was with the inability to run my test system memory at its native 2133MHz or even as low as 2000MHz. Voltages, timings, and the latest BIOS did not alleviate the problem. I understand memory incompatibilities and see them from time to time, but with plenty of modules with similar specifications and memory ICs on the QVL list, it is still a surprise. Other than that small hiccup, the board delivered performance to go with its good looks.
All in all, the ASRock Z77 Extreme 4 offers a significant value at $134 when you are looking for a new board for that socket 1155 build. It has a unique set of features that offer a point of difference when making comparisons. Each manufacturer has its own set list and it comes down to how well that list of features is implemented. ASRock did a fine job in implementing its feature set and integrating it with the Z77 standard feature list. Couple that feature set with the good looks and overclocking, and you have a board that would be just as at home in a stock-clocked daily driver as it would in an enthusiast or gaming rig.
- Good Looks
- XFast 555
- Quad SLI and CrossFireX
- Z77 feature set
- UEFI BIOS
- Memory incompatibilities