ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 Review
A Look at the Extreme7 Gen3
The cover of the box actually open to reveal the board and some more features. The box looks clean, and like other board has many of its key features advertised on the reverse side.
Next we look at the plethora of accessories, everything you need is included, from a front panel USB 3.0 bay, to MOLEX-to-SATA power connectors.
The accessories include:
- - 1 x ASRock SLI_Bridge_2S Card
- - Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- - 6 x SATA Data Cables (optional)
- - 2 x SATA 1 to 1 Power Cables (optional)
- - 1 x 3.5mm Audio Cable (optional)
- - 1 x Front USB 3.0 Panel
- - 4 x HDD Screws
- - 6 x Chassis Screws
- - 1 x Rear USB 3.0 Bracket
- - 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard + USB 2.0 Bracket
The one that gets me the most, is the PS/2 keyboard/mouse adapter, since the backpanel lacks a PS/2 port, they found a way to provide it.
The board is very easy on the eyes, the gold capacitors are a nice touch on the ASRock board, but do feel a bit overdone. The heatsinks are very big and they craftsmanship is well done. You can see that the PCB isn't that black, it's more of a brown color. This is caused by the copper in the PCB, and is not unique to this board.
The backpanel I/O is pretty busy, from video outputs to USB 3.0 and dual NIC, we can see why the PS/2 port was left out. A lot of users like to see ClearCMOS on the backpanel, so they can clear the CMOS from outside the case, instead ASRock placed it on the board itself, personally we like it on the board.
- - 1 x D-Sub Port
- - 1 x DVI-D Port
- - 1 x HDMI Port
- - 1 x DisplayPort
- - 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- - 2 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- - 1 x eSATA3 Connector
- - 4 x Ready-to-Use USB 3.0 Ports
- - 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- - 1 x IEEE 1394 Port
- - 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
- - HD Audio Jack: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Next we move on to some of the main features this board has to offer, and the hardware behind them.
We really like to see the Port 80H POST CODE display on all high-end motherboards. It’s a invaluable tool for overclockers and system builders. The buttons for power, reset, and clear CMOS are next to each other which is very nice to see, and there is an option in the BIOS to turn off their backlights if needed. The front panel headers aren't color coded, but some of them are separated from the main bank of pins to make placing the connectors easier. We can also see the BIOS ROM which is made by Winbond (like found on the Maximus IV series) it’s a 64MByte chip and it’s removable in case you need to replace it. This board has full UEFI (AMI) capabilities, and we found a few issues with the BIOS, but nothing serious. We do however expect a dual BIOS configuration on a top of the line motherboard, the UD7 and the Maximus 4 Extreme both have dual BIOS as do many entry-level boards nowadays.
The PCH heatsink is very nice; the gold characters are like those on the GIGABYTE UD7. You can also notice there are an astounding 10 SATA ports, the black ones are SATA3GB/s from the PCH, and first pair of grey ports are SATA6GB/s from the PCH, and the last four grey ports are SATA6GB/s from two ASMedia ASM1061. This is the first board in which we see ASMedia SATA6GB/s controllers, the second generation Marvell controllers (SE9172 & SE9182) you find on the Maximus IV Extreme and Z68X-UD7 are actually very good performers and in many cases outperform Intel. In this case ASRock has put a sticker on the Intel ports, saying that they should be used instead of the ASMedia, as Intel provides better performance. With the first generation Marvell SATA 6GB/s controllers, the SE9127/28 we saw the same type of warning from manufacturers.
Three ASMedia ASM1042 (plus each has a BIOS ROM) provide USB 3.0 connectivity, 2 ports a piece for a total of 6 USB 3.0 ports(4 on backpanel, 2 through single internal header). Two BroadCOM BCM57781 provide dual 1 Gigabit NICs, which are teamed through a ASMedia ASM1453 which is a 2:1 MUX/DeMUX it can basically connect them together for teaming. Then we have a VIA VT6315S which provides us with two Firewire 1394a/1394 ports. Moving on we have a nuvoTon NCT6776F which provides SuperI/O capabilities; voltage, temperature, and fan monitoring and fan control. The nuvoTon chip also provides the PS/2 capabilities. Two ASMedia ASM1442T are located next to the backpanel, they level-shift the digital output of the iGPU video into HDMI and DVI.
Here is an excerpt from the manual; you should be able to locate everything:
Then here is the list of the corresponding connections:
Now we were very suprised to find a nice allotment of fan conectors, 7 in total bunched around the board. Now when we say bunch you must be thinking, what? Well if you take a look we see fan connectors right next to each other, in many cases side by side. There are 3 fan connectors very close togehter above the CPU socket, and two in the bottom row of internal I/O connectors. Now going back to the row of I/O connectors, there are just many, from audio connectors to more USB, and 1394A. What we are impressed with is that ASRock has placed the USB 3.0 internal connector on the far edge of the motherboard, next to the memory DIMMs. This position is excellent for a front panel USB 3.0 bay, which is provided in the package.
Now we move onto the spacing between the CPU socket and the memory slots. A lot of users demand extended clearance between the socket and first memory slot, because it’s better for very large coolers teamed with very tall memory module heatsinks. The issue with extending that distance is that it can hurt memory overclocking and performance, as shorter traces result in better signal quality .
Power delivery to all the PCI-E slots is very important when running 4 cards, but when running 3 GPUs it can make a difference in overclocking as well. In most current generation cards, like the GTX500 series, the memory of the card draws power from the PCI-E slot and the GPU cores from the 6/8 pin GPU power connectors. Each PCI-E slot provides at least 75 watts per GPU, so an extra connector is required for 4 graphics cards and recommended for 3.
Extra power delivery to all the PCI-E slots is very important when running 4 cards, but when running 3 GPUs it can still make a difference in overclocking as well. Most current generation cards, like the GTX500 series, use the PCI-E slots power to power peripheral units like the memory, then the GPU cores will get their power from the 6/8 pin GPU power connectors. Each PCI-E slot provides at least 75 watts per GPU, so an extra connector is required for 4 graphics cards and recommended for 3.
Again we see the beauty of the heatsinks. A large heatpipe connects the VRM heatsink to the NF200 heatsink, as that is what this is cooling. the NF200 chipset provides 32 PCI-E lanes no matter its input, in this case the board has the ability to either use the NF200 or to disable it for single card operation. We will cover how that works on the next page.