ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review

ASRock expend the Z68 line with the new Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 and from first sight it looks the goods. Let's check it out!
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Sep 4 2011 10:16 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: ASRock

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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Even before I took over the Motherboard category here at TweakTown, I'd been using ASRock boards for a while since my VGA and RAM testbeds both used them. ASRock make some great boards, but there was always one little problem with them. Aesthetically they never looked great and considering what a shallow world we live in these days, the overall look of the boards were probably a little bit of a downer for some people.

Jump forward a bit and we got the release of the Fatal1ty line of boards; we saw a shift to those black PCBs with the accents of red. This was a really nice step in the right direction, but in the event you didn't want to be stared down by Fatal1ty in the BIOS, you were unfortunately out of luck when it came to other options.

Jump forward yet again and we have the launch of the new Gen3 series boards from ASRock. When I saw pictures of these boards I was really "Wowed" by the look of them. Before we have a closer look at the board itself, though, we need to check out the package.

Once we've done that we'll move onto the board to see the look up closer while we also cover the features that are on offer. From there we'll move into the BIOS before checking out our testbed today and the overclocking capabilities of the board. Then we're onto the testing side of things to see just what kind of performance we're able to get out of the new Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 motherboard from ASRock.

The Package

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On the new Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 we can see ASRock has moved over to a really large package that opens up and gives us a look at the board. It seems that they've really chosen to lift the overall look of the board with this new Gen3 model as everything just looks better.

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Moving inside the package, we've got the normal line-up of goodies included; Quick Install Guide, Software Setup Guide, Driver CD, I/O Backplate, six SATA cables, two Molex to SATA power connectors and a 3.5mm audio cable.

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Along with those normal extras, we've also got two SLI bridges with one being a 3-way one along with a USB 3.0 front panel and a USB 2.0 / PS/2 header. The latter is a little bit of a weird one, but the board lacks any onboard PS/2 connector so the addition of the bonus pack panel is really nice. If you need PS/2 you can have it, if you don't then you don't need to use it.

The Motherboard

Pulling the board out of the package, we get our first full look at the motherboard and we can see that really black color scheme that is going on with it. What differs to so many other companies who go for the dark color scheme, though, is that ASRock have opted for just a bit of Grey / Silver instead of a really bold color and I think on a whole it makes for a really swish looking board.

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The other bits that really stand out and you'll probably see them a bit better when we move in closer to the board, are the gold caps. ASRock say they offer a longer life, but apart from that they just look great against all the black.

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Moving in closer, we can see our expansion slot setup along with a single Molex connector on the far left used for people who are going down the multiple card path. As for the expansion slots, we've got a PCIe x1 and legacy PCI slot along with five PCIe x16 slots.

Of course, not all these slots run at x16, but thanks to ASRock opting to use the NF200 chip, we get x16 / x16 when using slot 1 and 3 or x16 / x8 / x8 in 3-Way when using slots 1, 3 and 5. PCIe 4 runs at x5 and you can see that by the wiring of the slot and PCIe 2 is a PCIe 3.0 slot which is of course where the Gen3 name comes from.

Unfortunately there's no real way to make use of PCIe 3.0 at the moment, but when we see Ivy Bridge hit us and the next generation of AMD video cards arrive, you're going to be ready to go.

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Moving across the bottom of the board, we've got a HD Audio header, HDMI / S/PDIF header, FireWire, 3x USB 2.0 headers, our LED Debug reader, Clear CMOS button and our front panel header. Just above our front panel header you can also see we've got a power and reset button.

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Turning the corner, we've got a total of ten SATA ports. We've got four SATA II ports which are black and run natively off the Z68 chipset. Next to that, our first two grey slots are SATA III and also run off the Z68 chipset natively. The final four slots are also SATA III, but as the "A1 / A2 / A3 / A4" naming scheme shows, these run off the ASMedia ASM1061 controller.

The Motherboard Continued

Moving away from the bottom of the board and to the top half, you can see our four RAM slots which support up to 32GB of DDR3 RAM ranging from 800MHz DDR to 2133MHz DDR. Around here we can also see a lot of our gold caps that really do stand out and look great.

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Below our RAM slots you can see our main 24-Pin power connector and next to that we've got another header. In this case it's a USB 3.0 one and this position is becoming more and more popular as we see more companies opt for it here instead of across the bottom of the board which is already a very busy area.

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Turning the corner again, we can see our 8-Pin CPU power connector along with our heatsink setup that surrounds the very clean looking CPU area. We again see the gold caps really stand out and they really do look great on the motherboard. Overall, the board does look really good and ASRock has done a great job with it.

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Finally, we move over to the I/O side of things and starting from the left, we've got two USB 3.0 ports running off the ASMedia ASM1042 controller and above that a Gigabit network port running off the Broadcom BCM57781 controller. Connectivity on the board comes in the form of VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.

Moving over again, we've got two USB 2.0 ports, combo eSATA / USB 2.0 port and a Firewire port. We've also got another set of USB 3.0 ports and network port running off the same controller and five analogue connectors and optical out running off the Realtek ALC892 codec.

BIOS

Looking at the BIOS, you're going to see nothing that you haven't seen before from other ASRock boards. The overall layout of everything is just as you'd expect and if you want to get into the overclocking side of things, you'll find everything you need in the OC Tweaker section.

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Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

On the testbed side of things we have to cover the introduction of our new Corsair Force GT 240GB drives. These are SATA III drives and over the coming weeks our machines will be transitioning into the use of these drives. That means for the moment we may see some boards tested with our older Kingston 128GB SATA II drives and others with our new Corsair 240GB SATA III drives.

When it comes to testing, it's going to ultimately impact three tests only. PCMark 7, HD Tune Pro and AIDA64 HDD Read testing. For that reason you'll see in the graphs what type of hard drive was used, albeit SATA II or SATA III. Of course, we'll also make mention of it again in our comments. It's a big enough deal, though, that it of course had to be mentioned and it's going to have an impact on performance in HDD specific tests.

So with that out the way, let's get into the overclocking side of things. Getting into the BIOS and fiddling around with everything, we ended up with a 59x multiplier and a slight bump in our BCLK to 101.5.

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As you can see above, this resulted in our 2600k coming in at 5076MHz or 5.08GHz as shown in our graphs today. This is a nice overclock and the main thing we like to see from boards is that we're able to go past that 5GHz mark. It should yield some strong performance and we'll see just how it went against some of our other Z68 based boards here - the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z and GIGABYTE G1.Sniper2.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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Out of the box the Hyper Pi score on our ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 lines up with the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper2. As always, though, you can see when we crank those clock speeds up we get a really nice boost in overall performance with a nice chunk being taken off the overall time.

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Out of the box we again see that our Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 lines up with our other Z68 boards fairly evenly with very little separating them. You can again see when we hit over 5GHz, though, we see that nice boost in overall performance.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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Thanks to the addition of the SATA III drive you can see our overall PCMark performance jump by a nice little chunk. That is extended even further when we throw our overclock into the mix.

MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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Out of the box we can see performance lines up with the G1.Sniper2 and overclocked we manage to shave a good chunk off our encoding time.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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While USB 3.0 performance lines up with our other boards, we can see that our USB 2.0 performance is a bit stronger thanks to the XFast technology that ASRock implement on their boards. We can see it makes a real world difference when it comes to performance.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Firing up AIDA64 again, we can see that really strong performance boost given from our SATA III drive. You can see our Corsair Force GT SATA III drive is around 50% faster than our Kingston SATA II drives that we've been using for ages.

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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HD Tune Pro also shows us the huge performance increase that's on offer from the new Corsair Force GT SATA III drives over our older Kingston SATA II drives on our other two machines here.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at memory performance, we can see across the board there's no real change at default. It's not until we overclock that we start to see the memory speeds begin to separate themselves a bit.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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We can see at stock there's not a big difference between the boards, but overclocked manages to see a nice little boost in our Performance Preset. Interestingly also was the fact that Metro 2033 saw an increase in performance. We haven't seen Metro benefit from the overclock before; we wonder if it's just the ASRock board, the integration of the NF200 chipset or maybe the PCIe 3.0 connectivity. We'll no doubt see if this trend continues as we test more and more boards with PCIe 3.0. We did double check the results, though, and they were consistently up on Metro 2033 when overclocked.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

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At stock we can see the ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 and GIGABYTE G1.Sniper2 line up fairly close to each other. Overclocked you can see a bit of an increase in power draw, but the figure isn't anything crazy.

Core Temperature

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At stock, CPU temperature was really strong. Overclocked we do of course see a strong jump in heat due to the extra voltage, but overall, 67c isn't a number we'd be worried about.

Final Thoughts

At $289.99 US, this is currently the most expensive ASRock Z68 board on NewEgg. On that same token, it's still a long way off the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z at $359.99 US and the GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7 at $349.99 US and to be honest, we'd expect it to be. We just don't tend to think of ASRock boards in that upper most price bracket.

Compared to those two boards, though, the ASRock falls only slightly in one area, maximum overclock. Both boards have been able to offer us higher MHz on our 2600k. Outside of that, the ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 ticks all the right boxes.

We've got a good overall performing board that is still happy to offer us an overclock of over 5GHz, a number no doubt that most users would probably like to achieve with their own 2600k. We've got a really good bundle on offer that gives us lots of extras. The overall look of the board is fantastic, depending on what you like; this could be the best looking Z68 board on the market with that Black / Gold color scheme that we're seeing.

The addition of the NF200 chip also means that if you want to move past to cards when it comes to video, it's a great option and overall the price is really strong coming in $60 - $70 US cheaper than the competitor boards.

The ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 is just a really good motherboard that also looks really good. With the Extreme7, they've managed to fix up the one thing that I feel has really been holding them back a bit. The overall look!

I can see this being a popular motherboard as it really does hit the mark in all those key areas. It's great to see ASRock finally move away from those boring designs and really start to offer us a high performance board that looks the goods.

The ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 is just a great motherboard that people are going to buy; there's not much more that really needs to be said about it.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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