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Intel Z97 Express: Five Enthusiast Motherboards, $120 To $160

ASRock Z97 Extreme4

ASRock gives users interested in the latest drive interface their choice between M.2 or SATA-E though traditional chipset connections, and if you don't have a storage device compatible with either technology, you can get similar performance through a couple of SATA ports via RAID.

An ASM1042AE controller adds two USB 3.0 ports to the rear panel, bringing the total to six without sacrificing the chipset-driven USB 3.0 front-panel connector. Two USB 2.0 ports are also seen here, along with VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort display outputs for the CPU’s integrated graphics engine.

Fed by Intel’s i218V PHY, the single GbE port provides connectivity without consuming a PCIe lane, thanks to the chipset’s dedicated networking link.

The Z97 Extreme4 also provides two additional SATA ports via a single-lane PCIe-based controller. Unfortunately, that one lane limits those two attached drives to 5 Gb/s combined throughput. And you’ll not likely use the third PCIe x16 slot for a storage device because it steals four of the CPU’s sixteen total lanes from the second slot when it's active.

If you were building a three-way CrossFire rig or simply adding three cards to support a wall of displays, you’d probably prefer that PCIe 3.0 x4 link to the PCIe 2.0 x4 interface that would have otherwise been available from the chipset. On the other hand, SLI users will find that they need the middle slot to keep all eight of its available pathways.

One of the Z97 Extreme4’s smarter features is a switch allows you to manually select one of two firmware ROMs, rather than relying on the often-unreliable “smart” switching certain competitors use. Better still, the use of socketed ROMs provides cheap insurance against dead ICs.

ASRock is particularly proud of the Z97 Extreme4’s “Purity Sound” audio solution with enhanced headphone amplification and DTS Connect support as well.

The Z97 Extreme4 includes only four SATA cables to serve its eight internal headers, but one potentially-nice added feature is its HDD-Saver cable. Using a bundled application, users can switch power on and off to their storage drives to increase drive longevity, save energy, or reduce noise when the devices aren’t being used.

A rigid SLI bridge is also provided.

  • onover
    The table detailing the motherboard features on page 1 ... Is it just me, or is the text a bit small?
    Reply
  • makishima
    The table detailing the motherboard features on page 1 ... Is it just me, or is the text a bit small?
    I find it small
    Reply
  • Someone Somewhere
    I'd like to see a review on the significance of the 'killer' NICs... I highly doubt they have any difference besides branding.
    Reply
  • SteelCity1981
    so intel it seems doesn't have much faith in their own thunderbolt considering there is no thunderbolt ports on this new chipset!
    Reply
  • H4X3R
    The Asrock one is better. Not everyone will be using XSplit, and as tradesman1 (a moderator on this site) said "I myself won't touch MSI mobos due to the poor QC".
    Reply
  • Crashman
    13285086 said:
    so intel it seems doesn't have much faith in their own thunderbolt considering there is no thunderbolt ports on this new chipset!
    READ PAGE ONE to find out why this chipset has the same features as the previous chipset.

    Reply
  • H4X3R
    Good review :) I am looking forward to the best price:features motherboard review though (extreme6). I have a quick question crashman: Do asrock still use Capxxon caps (or just crappy caps in general). I would like to know the company of the caps if possible, once again, thank you :)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    13285142 said:
    Good review :) I am looking forward to the best price:features motherboard review though (extreme6). I have a quick question crashman: Do asrock still use Capxxon caps (or just crappy caps in general). I would like to know the company of the caps if possible, once again, thank you :)
    I wish I knew. It appears that they get their caps custom-wrapped to get the gold color, and that the custom wrapping only has specifications (no branding).

    Reply
  • tarkhein
    I'd like to see a review on the significance of the 'killer' NICs... I highly doubt they have any difference besides branding.

    Not exactly the most comprehensive review, but here is Asus' take on NICs: http://rog.asus.com/312772014/labels/guides/tried-and-tested-why-intel-ethernet-is-still-better-for-gaming/
    Reply
  • Someone Somewhere
    Of course, they're testing throughput, and latency is what is generally considered to matter.
    Reply