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ASRock Z77 Extreme4

Seven Sub-$160 Z77 Express Motherboards, Reviewed
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ASRock takes its recent ambitions to rule the overclocking world seriously in its Z77 Extreme4, putting much of its design effort into the CPU’s voltage regulator. We still find the expected budget-oriented enthusiast feature set, though, and the board’s mid-range price creates enough headroom for ASRock to add extra USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s connectivity to the mix.

The extra USB 3.0 controller accounts for the I/O panel’s two additional ports, and there's one more SATA 6Gb/s port on the rear I/O panel, too. Where's the second port you'd expect to find corresponding to a discrete dual-port controller? It's inside, next to all of the discrete SATA connectivity. In fact, there are actually two ports in addition to Intel's native six, which means that one of those internal ports is shared with the eSATA connector. If you want to hook up external storage, you'll need to leave one of those value-added internal SATA ports open.

In keeping with its overclocking theme, the Z77 Extreme4 retains the rear-panel-based CLR_CMOS button normally found on higher-end products, along with the internal on-board power and reset buttons that make bench testing easier.

A Port 80 diagnostics display aids overclockers by letting them know what part of the boot sequence is responsible, should the system hang.  Above it, a replaceable CMOS IC allows the ROM to be swapped out if its programming is ever completely ruined.

The Z77 Extreme4 sends sixteen PCIe 3.0 lanes to the first x16 slot, while a set of switches allow eight of those lanes to be sent to the second x16-length slot whenever a card is installed there. The second slot is far enough from the bottom edge of the motherboard to prevent most graphics cards from blocking the view of its Port 80 display, and forward-facing SATA ports allow cables to fit under the ends of extra-long cards. Forward-facing ports sometimes conflict with the drive cages of certain cases, but this 8.5”-wide board is narrow enough that you shouldn't encounter an issue, even in the tightest of full-ATX enclosures.

The USB 3.0 header is similarly tucked into a conflict-free zone, right next to the main ATX connector and a hair above the centerline of the top PCIe x1 slot. In fact, front-panel audio is the only header that might cause a problem with any of our builds, since several cases have been manufactured with a cable that’s approximately one-inch too short to reach it. Really, the case vendors are to blame for this, though motherboard manufacturers need to work around it.

While the Z77 Extreme4 should install easily into any of our ATX enclosures, the upward-facing ATX12V latch might make removing the platform a little more difficult. That’s because many cases are designed with an access hole right above this connector to route the cable behind the motherboard tray. Doing so loops the cable over the top of the latch, though. As you might imagine, we've run into problems like that before.

Two SATA cables and an SLI bridge are what come bundled. Anyone who expects more from an ASRock installation kit needs only to look at the Z77 Extreme4’s modest price to see why the firm felt this might be a suitable limitation.

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  • -3 Hide
    SpadeM , July 23, 2012 6:16 AM
    LAN performance .. ISC performance ... USB 3 .. well that's it then.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , July 23, 2012 8:48 AM
    SpadeMLAN performance .. ISC performance ... USB 3 .. well that's it then.
    Tom's Hardware has several controller comparisons, and publishes new ones frequently. So unless you think one of the boards has a broken controller, wysiwyg.

    The things that actually get screwed-up are typically related to the clock generator, multiplier control, memory timings and power options.
  • 0 Hide
    nikorr , July 23, 2012 9:54 AM
    I would place the ASRock and Gigabyte on the top as well : )

    Nice review.
  • 0 Hide
    jaquith , July 23, 2012 11:45 AM
    I always appreciate your Articles! :)  I know how much work you do to get them done.

    You're kidding - Biostar. I guess this article is not about the 'Best Sub-$160 Z77' MOBO's but about the best manufacturers sent you. The cheapest MOBO I recommend for the SB/IB (K) is the ASUS P8Z77-V which pops your 'unique' budget cap depending where you shop; found it here for $159.99 - http://www.gadgetneeds.net/asus-p8z77-v-atx-intel-motherboard/

    Interesting you didn't get an ASUS P8Z77-V LK ~$120 which offers SLI. The ASRock Z77 Extreme4 and Gigabyte Z77X-D3H for the price aren't bad.

    There's NO WAY I'm recommending Biostar in the forum, folks and myself would thing I've lost my mind.
  • 1 Hide
    jimishtar , July 23, 2012 11:47 AM
    It would be nice to see the CPU voltage for every board when overclocking.
  • 4 Hide
    Crashman , July 23, 2012 12:21 PM
    jimishtarIt would be nice to see the CPU voltage for every board when overclocking.
    1.25V
  • 0 Hide
    gorillagarrett , July 23, 2012 12:33 PM
    No peripherals performance tests? Those are the only tests that differentiate those motherboards from each other.

    Would really like to see how the UD3X Atheros Ethernet controller fares against the Intel and broadcom ones.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , July 23, 2012 12:38 PM
    gorillagarrettNo peripherals performance tests? Those are the only tests that differentiate those motherboards from each other. Would really like to see how the UD3X Atheros Ethernet controller fares against the Intel and broadcom ones.
    I'll let the integrated controller guy know you'd like to see those parts compared :) 
  • 0 Hide
    gorillagarrett , July 23, 2012 12:42 PM
    Quote:
    I'll let the integrated controller guy know you'd like to see those parts compared


    Thank you!
  • -1 Hide
    rolli59 , July 23, 2012 1:34 PM
    I would have liked to see the Asus P8Z77V-LK version instead of the LX since it is better equipped.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , July 23, 2012 1:37 PM
    rolli59I would have liked to see the Asus P8Z77V-LK version instead of the LX since it is better equipped.
    It's also mentioned in the article. It was over $160 (at $165) when the comparison was set up.
  • 0 Hide
    nevertell , July 23, 2012 1:44 PM
    Why are there no DCP latency tests ? These differentiate the motherboards
    This is what differentiates them performance wise.
  • 0 Hide
    pacioli , July 23, 2012 3:33 PM
    Wow, Biostar...? I wonder what the longevity of that board is...
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , July 23, 2012 3:36 PM
    pacioliWow, Biostar...? I wonder what the longevity of that board is...
    It's hard to tell, but the last Biostar board I had in a system lasted 12 years before it got dismantled for its entire processor selection being too slow.
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , July 23, 2012 4:17 PM
    Nice to see a Mobo review where the charts are not all identical bars lol. It has been a long time sense the stock performance has had much of any variance between brands, and we are getting much more feature variety as well. I thought as more and more parts became integrated into the CPU that the bars would become more and more similar, and mainstream features would become more and more homogeneous.

    Also, I love the True Studio Pro software, if you are running digital audio it really makes any idea of a dedicated sound card a thing of the past. Every computer I build now either has True Studio Pro with the mobo, or I purchase the MB2 software suite, it makes such a difference if using headphones or quality speakers, and much less buggy that Creative's sound cards and driver issues that we all know and love.
  • -5 Hide
    jamie_1318 , July 23, 2012 4:18 PM
    On-motherboard start buttons are a useless feature. Anyone who could actually use it should know they can just short across the power switch header using any piece of metal.
  • 0 Hide
    delaro , July 23, 2012 4:28 PM
    At this point SATA 6GB, USB 3 and PCI-e 3.o should be a standered and not a side option.
  • 0 Hide
    g-unit1111 , July 23, 2012 4:34 PM
    As good as Asus motherboards are - why do they include such poorly made I/O brackets? Even Biostar and ECS include ones that are better made than Asus does.
  • -2 Hide
    goinginstyle , July 23, 2012 5:06 PM
    Another comment about why the P8Z77V-LK board was not reviewed. I own this board now after a total disaster with one of the boards you awarded so why is it missing? The ASUS P8Z77V-LK was priced at $149.99 when I purchased it and is now $139.99 with a rebate down to $119.99 after a quick check this morning. Based on your comments about the Biostar and ASRock boards having additional features like SLI/CF or additional USB 3 ports it is hard to understand why this board was not reviewed. The P8Z77V-LE is priced at $165 not the LK board. As to the 4-dimm testing, did you try the DDR3-2666 ratio or is the test overclocking the 2400 ratio?
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , July 23, 2012 5:19 PM
    goinginstyleAnother comment about why the P8Z77V-LK board was not reviewed.
    Because it was priced at $165 two months ago when the invitations went out. End of story.
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