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ASRock Z68 Extreme4 Gen3 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review

We check out the more budget friendly Extreme4 version of the latest Gen3 Z68 motherboard series from ASRock.
@ShawnBakerTW
Shawn Baker
Published Tue, Oct 4 2011 12:57 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: ASRock

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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Well, hasn't this whole "Gen3" PCIe 3.0 thing caused uproar with the smack being clearly laid down by MSI and ASRock letting people know that they are the only companies to offer "true" PCIe 3.0 support for the next generation of LGA 1155 processors.

Already we've looked at a couple of PCIe 3.0 boards; the first was the ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 and that's the big brother to the board we're looking at today. The other was the MSI Z68A-GD80-G3. While both are great boards in their own right, the problem at the moment is that nothing can really make use of the PCIe 3.0 capabilities on offer from these boards. Saying that, though, one would argue that if you're interesting in making use of the next generation LGA 1155 chips from Intel and a PCIe 3.0 video card in the future, it's almost silly to buy a non "Gen3" motherboard.

If you want to get in on the "Gen3" action at a good price, though, the MSI and Extreme7 offering might be a little too expensive for you. The Extreme4 on the other hand could be just the board for you. Coming in at a strong price point, it might be the perfect board to get you on the PCIe 3.0 bandwagon and be ready for when PCIe 3.0 capable devices come to the market.

Of course, before we get into the performance side of things, the first thing we need to do is check out the package. Once that's done we'll take the time to have a closer look at the board itself to see exactly what's on offer before we get into the BIOS and check out the overclocking capabilities of the board. Once all that's done, it's time to get into the performance side of things and see what the ASRock Z68 Extreme4 Gen3 can bring to the table.

The Package

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Unlike the Extreme7, the Extreme4 has a little bit of a smaller box; the front gives us the model number and the normal rundown of logos. The back gives us the main details regarding the board itself and a rundown on some of the main features that are on offer.

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Getting into the package, we've got a fairly standard ASRock setup which includes the normal line-up of paperwork, driver CD, AUX cable, four SATA cables, two Molex to SATA power connectors, floppy connector, SLI bridge and I/O back plate.

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Along with the normal goodies, we've also got a dual USB 3.0 header that can be used at the front of your case or with the included backplane can be used at the back of your case. It just depends on where you want to install it.

The Motherboard

The Motherboard

The new Z68 Extreme4 Gen3 board is part of that new look darker setup that we saw out of ASRock in terms of the ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 we looked at. The Extreme7 is a little more stand out with a really cool looking heatsink design. Considering the higher price tag associated with it, though, we'd expect the cooling setup to look a bit meaner. Still, the Extreme4 is a great looking board. Let's move in a bit closer, though, and see what exactly is going on.

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Moving in closer to the board, you can see our expansion slot setup with a single Molex on the far left to help with those power hungry VGA setups. As for actual expansion slots, we've got two legacy PCI slots and two PCIe x1 slots along with three PCIe x16 slots.

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Being a board that supports PCIe 3.0, though, the setup is a little different. With an Ivy Bridge based CPU, PCIe x16 slots one and two are PCIe 3.0. If one card is used it will run at x16, if you opt for two cards you're looking at x8 / x8. The third slot will run at PCIe 2.0 x8.

If you're using a Sandy Bridge based CPU, which you would be at the moment, the speeds of the slots are the same, but they all run at PCIe 2.0 instead of 3.0. Of course, you're only a new CPU away from getting PCIe 3.0 when Ivy Bridge comes out.

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Looking across the bottom of the board, you can see we've got all our main headers. Starting from the left, we've got HD Audio, COM1, Floppy, Firewire, three USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Chassis Speaker and System panel header.

Other stand outs across here include the Debug LED reader above the last USB 2.0 slot and to the right you can see we've got a power and reset button onboard.

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Turning the corner, we can again see those power and reset buttons along with the eight SATA ports that are present on the board. As for the specifics on the SATA ports, we've got four black SATA II ports that run off the Intel Z68 chipset and next to that we have four grey SATA III ones. The two closest to the SATA II also run off the Intel Z68 chipset while the two furthest ones which are labeled as M1 and M2 run off the Marvell SE9120 controller. As always, you want to try and run off the native Intel ports before you move over to the ones running off another controller.

The Motherboard Continued

The Motherboard Continued

Moving to the top of the board, we can see the standard setup going on here. We've got our four DDR3 RAM slots supporting up to 32GB of RAM with speeds starting from 1066MHz DDR and going all the way up to 2133MHz DDR.

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Along with the RAM slots, we've also got our main 24-Pin power connector and we can see a couple of fan headers floating around with one to the left of the 24-Pin power connector and two to the top right of the RAM slots.

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Moving around to the CPU area, you can see we've got our main 8-Pin CPU power connector tucked up in the back corner. Around the CPU socket itself there's no big surprise. It's pretty clean and we've got those fancy new gold caps going on. We can also see the heatsink around the CPU area a bit closer.

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On the I/O side of things we've got a keyboard PS/2 port and two USB 2.0 ports to start off with. Moving across, we've got a VGA and DVI along with a DisplayPort and HDMI to round off the video connectivity side of things. Next up, you can see we've got a clear CMOS button and two more USB 2.0 ports, 1394 Firewire and an eSATA 3 connector running off the Marvell SE9120 controller.

Moving across, we've got two more USB ports, but these are USB 3.0 running off the Etron EJ168A controller. Above that we've got a Gigabit networking port running off the Broadcom BCM57781 controller. To round everything off, we've got an optical port and five analogue ports that run off the Realtek ALC892 codec.

BIOS

BIOS

Firing up the BIOS, you're going to see everything you're used to seeing with the standard UEFI layout going on. You can as always use the mouse if you want, but you'll probably find yourself opting to stick to the keyboard as it just seems to be easier still.

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On the overclocking side of things you'll head into the normal OC Tweaker section of the BIOS if you want to increase the clocks. Really, though, there's nothing too out of the ordinary going on and if you've seen an ASRock UEFI BIOS over the last six months you'll know everything that's going on.

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.

Looking at the testbed side of things, as usual there's nothing out of the ordinary, so let's just get into the overclocking side of things to see how our beloved 2600k went on the Z68 Extreme4 Gen3 today.

Getting into the BIOS and firing up OC Tweaker, we messed around with our voltages and multiplier a little to see what we could get out of the system. At 50x we couldn't get the board to boot, while moving to 48x we could get our system to boot, but BSOD on Windows entry. Moving to 47x got us in Windows, but as soon as we started to do anything intensive, we'd be greeted by that BSOD again.

ASRock Z68 Extreme4 Gen3 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 01 | TweakTown.com

As you can see above, we in the end landed on a 46x multiplier which with the BCLK at 100.54 resulted in a final CPU clock of 4624MHz or 4.62GHz as illustrated in our graphs.

This is a fairly standard area for the mid-range ASRock boards. We saw the Extreme7 go a bit over 5GHz; you can see our Extreme4 came in a bit lower today, though. Still, it's a nice overclock from the default 3.4GHz and should hopefully yield some good performance.

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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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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ASRock Z68 Extreme4 Gen3 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review 32 | TweakTown.com

Looking at HyperPI performance, it lags just a little behind some of our other boards. Having a look at the performance under AIDA64, though, shows everything line up just as we'd expect. As always, we can see that when we overclock there's a strong boost in performance being seen from the board when compared to the stock 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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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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We can see under PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso the performance on our Extreme4 is strong and lines up with our other boards and even coming ahead of some. We can see that overclock does wonders for performance, though, as it manages to wipe a good chunk of time off our MediaEspresso encode.

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 we see our USB 3.0 performance line up just as we'd normally expect, looking at USB 2.0 performance we can see our Extreme4 Gen3 motherboard does well thanks to the XFast USB technology that's implemented. For people who deal with USB transfers a lot, it's a great piece of technology; it's a pity that the gains from the USB 3.0 perspective can't really be seen yet, though.

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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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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Looking under AIDA64 and HD Tune Pro, we can see very strong SATA III SSD performance out of the Extreme4 here today. Ever since we made the move to SATA III there's been a lot more fluctuation between our results unlike the SATA II drive we used to use; it was pretty consistent which you can see at the top of the graphs.

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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Memory performance across the board is strong and lines up with the other boards just as you'd expect. Of course, overclocking boosts the performance and the best gains as always are seen in the write department.

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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Getting into the gaming side of things, we can see that across the board performance is pretty much in line with our other boards here. We do see a bit of a boost to our performance preset under 3DMark 11 when we overclock, but apart from that, not much change is really seen.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

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In the power department we can see that idle power sits a little higher, while load sits in the middle of the pack with our Extreme7 and G1.Sniper 2 motherboards. Overclocked, we see a bit of an increase, but nothing too crazy.

Core Temperature

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In the heat department the Extreme4 looks good; we can see it's got a really nice, low idle, while load also looks really good. Like power draw, the heat goes up when we overclock, but again like power draw, it's nothing crazy.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Coming in at $199.99 US, the ASRock Z68 Extreme4 Gen3 is the cheapest PCIe 3.0 motherboard we've looked at so far. While the overclock isn't quite as strong as some of the other motherboards we've looked at, the Extreme4 hits at a really good price point coming under that important $200 price tag while at the same time offering a strong feature set which includes two PCI 3.0 x16 slots.

One of the most attractive options on the board, though, is the fact that it's hitting us at under $200 while at the same time offering us a board that looks great. The black setup looks great and the heatsink setup while not as strong as the Extreme7, is still very good.

On the bundle side of things we've got all the normal pieces included along with the USB 3.0 ports that can be installed in the front of your case or the rear, depending on where you want them. This is something we're still seeing a lot of companies not include; it's good to see that ASRock is doing it, though, as USB 3.0 connectivity becomes more and more mainstream. And while a lot of companies offer us USB 3.0 connectivity on the back of the board, the added bonus of being able to access them from the front is really appreciated.

Really, there's not much more that needs to be said about the ASRock Z68 Extreme4 Gen3 to be completely honest. It comes in at a really good price point as we've already mentioned, while at the same time looking really good. The bundle is a bit bigger than a lot of its competitors and on the overclock front it does a good job.

If you're thinking that you're going to make the jump to Ivy Bridge when it comes out and a possible HD 7000 series video card which should be PCIe 3.0, but you don't want to break the bank on the motherboard front, then this is a really good option. Paired with something like a 2500k at the moment, you're going to get a nice overclock and just some strong all round performance.

On the other hand, if you're just looking for a well-priced Z68 motherboard that looks good to handle the current crop of Sandy Bridge CPUs, then it's also a really good option that is worth considering.

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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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