Intel LGA1155 motherboard group test: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 review
A very luxurious looking motherboard
I'm starting to get wise to the ways of ASRock, and this Z77 Extreme4 is a very good example of how it produces motherboards. For starters, there's the initial impression you get when the board comes out of the package, which is very stylish and rather impressive. The PCB is dark brown, the expansion slots are black, all of the capacitors are gold in colour, and there are various toys such as the LCD debug display and the power and reset buttons.
Overall, the impression is of a motherboard that looks great and oozes luxurious quality. In fact, there's a degree of inconsistency, as the ports and connectors on the I/O panel are colour coded for ease of connection and so too are the three graphics outputs and the USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and SATA ports.
By contrast, the headers and connectors on the board are all black, with the notable exception of the SATA connectors (grey for SATA 6Gbps and black for SATA 3Gbps), and that doesn't really help when you're delving around inside a PC chassis and you have a covering of dust on the surfaces.
When you take a closer look, you'll see that the three heatsinks on the chipset and power regulation hardware are secured with plastic pop pins rather than a decent set of screws.
Where ASRock really scores is the list of features, as it's hard to point to any obvious failings or weak spots. On the I/O panel there's no FireWire port, but that suits me just fine, because I haven't used FireWire since I owned a DV camcorder at least five years ago. On the I/O panel ASRock provides HDMI, DVI-D and VGA outputs for the integrated graphics. You don't get a DisplayPort output, so ASRock fails to tick that particular box, but in fairness it can be said that DisplayPort is a niche interest.
There are four USB 3.0 ports, with a mid-board header for two more ports, and you also get two USB 2.0 ports with headers for as many as six more USB ports.
In addition to that solid list of features, you get those micro buttons and LCD debug display. ASRock has included its system of dual mounting holes, so you can use either an LGA1155/1156 cooler or an older LGA775 CPU cooler. The latter option probably only makes sense if you have an aged and beloved water cooling system.
The specification of the Z77 Extreme4 is decent, and there's nothing obvious to complain about.
When I started testing the ASRock I found the UEFI setup screen addressed the issue of overclocking in two distinct ways. The first option is the curiously named Advanced Turbo Mode 30, which comes with no explanation and appears to raise the CPU speed to a preset figure of 4.7GHz, but this was no good, since Windows 7 was flaky and failed to work reliably.
The alternative is Load Optimised CPU OC Setting, which has a list of Turbo Boost options that range from 4GHz to 4.8GHz in 200MHz steps. I tried the 4.6GHz setting, which should have been safe enough, but once again Windows refused to behave until I dropped the Turbo speed to 4.4GHz.
• Price: £101.99
• Manufacturer: ASRock
• Website: www.asrock.com