ASRock P67 Extreme4
Always striving for the best apparent value, ASRock loads its P67 Extreme4 with three PCIe x16-length slots and four SATA 6Gb/s ports, plus dual USB 3.0 controllers to address both front and rear panel needs.
Yet, the extra features aren’t completely without at least some minor compromise. The third graphics card slot, for example, is limited to four pathways, while the other two switch from single x16 to dual x8 connections whenever a card is added to the middle slot. An eSATA port is also shared with one of the added SATA 6Gb/s ports, so that builders must decide whether or not to sacrifice eSATA for the sake of an extra internal drive.
A PLX controller keeps onboard PCIe devices operating near full performance levels, while an ASM1083 bridge adds PCI support.
ASRock knows that Windows XP hasn’t been completely abandoned by the gaming market yet, and those few holdouts can get AHCI support during OS installation thanks to an included floppy port. That port comes free via the Multi-I/O controller, while the added-cost Ultra ATA connector is instead removed. We suggested this move a few years ago when Vista’s performance problems made the elder OS desirable, but Windows 7’s improvements have significantly reduced the XP market. The presence of this connector in such an unobtrusive location doesn’t bother us, and the pin cost is insignificant.
There’s very little in the entire P67 Extreme4’s layout that we could criticize, though the bottom-rear-corner front-panel audio connector is still inconvenient for the connections of some cases. More worrisome for those considering a triple-card CrossFireX configuration is that every front-panel cable end will block the insertion of most performance-oriented graphics cards. Determined builders can usually force the card to the bottom by using the side of its cooler to smash front-panel cable ends flat, but we’d rather not tempt fate.
ASRock was the first to respond to our industry-wide pleas for a “universal” front-panel USB 3.0 port, and had already taken us up on the suggestion to include both drive bay and slot panel brackets. The company has further improved the P67 Extreme4’s installation kit by adding a 2.5” drive tray to its front-panel bay adapter.