Z87 Extreme4 Firmware
ASRock changed little in the firmware transition from Z87 Extreme6 to Z87 Extreme4, keeping all of its pre-defined overclocks in place. That made it easy for us to start with its Turbo 4.4 GHz setting and manipulate other settings from there.
A top clock rate of 4.7 GHz at our old 1.3 V setting was impressive, though we’ve since found that AVX-heavy tests push our CPU to its thermal limits at that voltage. Retesting at 1.25 V was successful at 4.6 GHz.
Our DDR3-3000 kit from G.Skill failed to operate at its specified values on this board, though we increased the BCLK setting enough to push a 2666 MT/s data rate to 2746 MT/s.
ASRock compensates high memory ratios with beyond-spec voltage, which we'd prefer not to see. Dropping to the DDR3-2666 memory setting allowed us to reach an actual 1.65 V at a fairly reasonable 1.635 V setting.
Primary, secondary, and tertiary memory timings can be individually changed from automatic to manual mode, allowing users to configure familiar values.
1- the x8x4x4 PCIe controller is a CPU feature in all i5 and i7. All the z*7 chipset does is unlock the CPU feature
2- same goes for multipliers on K-chips: CPU feature locked out by non-z*7 chipsets
3- SATA-6G ports do not really cost Intel any thing extra to put on-chip (little more than a PLL tweak to lock on faster signals), which makes it somewhat of a shame they aren't fully standard
4- USB3 ports do not cost Intel all that much extra either - maybe an extra square millimeter on silicon to upgrade all remaining USB2 ports to USB3
5- the DMI bus can only manage ~20Gbps so it will bottleneck if you attempt to use even 1/5th the total the connectivity available on z87
More connectivity, yes. But DMI lacks the muscle to actually stress that extra IO. As such, it is little more than a glorified SATA port replicator and USB hub.
I almost exclusively use Intel CPUs but it still annoys me how Intel charges extra for trivial things or unlock stuff they arbitrarily locked out just because they can.
In other words, they might be charging for stuff that should be free or should have been included all the way back in the Z68, but past omission doesn't negate current usefullness.
The market is flooded with tons of these Z87 motherboards and it can be very overwhelming researching them. So, hopefully we'll see a few more Z87 reviews from you guys, soon.
Would also like to see some powerful i7 builds built around more energy efficient components. That would be very interesting. Hint. :)
Rather surprised that Biostar had such a good board. Maybe it's time to start considering those boards for future builds.
It is great to see a round-up of the mainstream boards, though, so thanks!
Still does not change the fact that the only reason why Intel gets away with charging $10-15 extra for less than $1 worth of features while the DMI bus lacks the bandwidth to properly support them for people who may actually intend to use them is because they have a practical monopoly which allows them to arbitrarily fragment the market so they can artificially inflate prices.
The main reason most people go with z?7 is the overclock unlock for K-chips. That itself is the biggest joke since it is a completely artificial limitation Intel engineered into their products to enforce co-upselling. As shown with the h87 slip-up, the h87 is perfectly capable of managing multipliers on Haswell K-chips when the K-chip lacks the microcode to enforce the z87 unlock "requirement."
I don't bother with overclocking so this does not affect me... but it still annoys me on the basis of principles and general dislike for hair-splitting for profit.