ASRock Z87 Extreme4 Review

👤by David Mitchelson Comments 📅11-06-13
Closer Look

We’ll now move in for a closer look at the different features found on Z87 Extreme4, starting with the socket area. This motherboard is of course designed to work with Intel’s 4th Generation of processors – Haswell. The socket is LGA1150 but has the mounting holes for LGA115X so if you have a cooler that has been used on another socket such as LGA1155 then it will work fine here too.

Extreme4 uses a 12 phase power design(Digi VRM) and has 8-pin EPS power for the CPU. ASRock have used a dual heatsink design to cool the MOSFETs but these heatsinks are independent and not joined via a heatpipe as we sometimes see. As mentioned previous the heatsink design is low key compared to previous generations and even a little lack-lustre. In true ASRock tradition the Extreme4 features gold sold CAPs throughout which not only make the board look attractive but are made in Japan and promise to deliver stability and long-life.

We are glad to see that ASRock have included dual CPU fan headers next to the memory slots for the latest dual fan air coolers and ALCs.

12 Phase Power Design

Turning our attention to the memory slots – there is dual channel DDR3 support. Extreme4 can accommodate up to 32GB and 2933+(OC) memory.

Also in this region are dual USB 3.0 headers which will give the USB 3.0 functionality at the front of the computer case.

Dual channel DDR3 support – up to 32GB

Further along the motherboard are eight SATA 3 (6GB/s) ports. No longer do we have SATA 2, and since SATA 3 is backwards compatible older SATA 2 devices will work fine anyway, their speed will just be capped. Six of the ports are controlled via Intel Z87 and the other two are via ASMEDIA ASM1061.

Although Extreme4 has dual BIOS there is no switch present on the motherboard but rather a jumper switch to jump from BIOS to BIOS – the pins for this are next to the SATA ports.

A total of eight SATA 3 (6GB/s) ports

ASRock have positioned a large, minimalist heatsink over the Z87 chip which should provide sufficient cooling.

Also running along the bottom edge of the motherboard are the onboard power and reset buttons – these are extremely useful for enthusiasts who are using this motherboard on a test bench. The other features in this area are the battery and LED Debug. LED Debug displays different codes throughout POST and can help identify any problems should they occur. The codes will correspond to the user manual.

Intel Z87 heatsink and features at bottom of Extreme4

Extreme4 has support for many different options when we arrive at the PCI Express area. These include support for 2-way NVIDIA SLI and 3-way AMD CrossfireX.

1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (Running @x16)
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (Running @x8)
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (Running @x4)
2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
2 x PCI Legacy slot

If you want to use a single graphics card the then the best slot to use is the top PCI-E 3.0. Speed will drop depending on the amount of cards used on this motherboard, as per the specifications. ASRock have decided to leave PCI legacy support on this motherboard whilst other vendors are generally choosing to make it redundant. There are’ fors and againsts’ for including these slots on the motherboard but at least the Extreme4 will support older devices.

NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossfireX support

ASRock have equipped Extreme4 with a dedicated audio chip. The audio is based around ‘Purity Sound’. Here is what ASRock has to say about this particular feature:

Purity Sound is a combination of several hardware, software audio solutions and technologies that will satisfy even the pickiest audiophiles. Including 7.1 CH HD audio with Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, 115dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier, TI® 5532 Premium Headset Amplifier which supports up to 600 ohm headphones, cap less Direct Drive technology, EMI shielding cover, PCB isolate shielding and support for DTS Connect.

We’ll cover Purity Sound later in the review.

Dedicated audio via Purity Sound

Lastly we come to the rear IO section, here there are plenty of ports to take advantage of, including the following:

- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
- 1 x D-Sub Port
- 1 x DVI-D Port
- 1 x HDMI-Out Port
- 1 x HDMI-In Port
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x eSATA Connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
- 4 x USB 3.0 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- HD Audio Jack: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone

With Intel Haswell featuring an IGP there are outputs should the user require onboard graphics. Here there are four options to choose from, VGA, DVI, Displayport and HDMI.

The Gigabit LAN (RJ45) port obtains its functionality from the Intel Z87 chipset rather than Realtek which were found on the previous generation of Intel motherboards.

The Rear IO featuring numerous display ports

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