Introduction of the ASRock Z97 Extreme4
It really feels like we've gone from 0 to 100 mph over the last few weeks as we draw nearer to Computex. The release of the new Z97 platform from Intel has bought with it a bunch of new motherboards, while on the video card side of things, we're seeing some companies start to offer a refresh of popular models so that there's something new and fresh to show at Computex.
Along with that, the addition of a 4K monitor in our video card lab means there's a ton of articles that we want to do showing just what the latest crop of cards do at this massive resolution. Combing all that, we've just got an absolute ton of articles that are coming over the coming weeks and months.
Today, though, is all about the Z97 chipset and, more specifically, the Z97 Extreme4 from our friends over at ASRock. The Extreme4 name isn't new to us, and we've seen it on a couple of boards before. It tends to sit in the middle of the Extreme series and brings with it a decent feature set at a competitive price point. We're sure that this continues to hold true today, but as always, there's only one way to find out!
While we would normally make our way from here into the package of the board, ASRock sent us this board quite early and it came with no retail package. Instead, it simply came in a motherboard box with a driver CD. Because of that, we'll simply be moving from here onto the board itself to see just what we're dealing with.
Close up with the ASRock Z97 Extreme4
Taking our first look at the board, you can see we've got a black PCB along with blue highlights. You can see the heat sink setup and some markings, but overall there's nothing too major going on here that we haven't seen before.
As we move in closer to the board, you can see our expansion slot setup comes in the form of three PCIe x1 slots and three PCIe x16 slots. As for the PCIe x16 slots, these run in a very standard configuration. The bottom most slot runs at just 4x. If you're using a single video card, it will run at 16x. If you opt to make use of SLI or CrossFire, though, both cards will run at 8x.
Moving in between the bottom two PCIe x16 slots, you can see our M.2 socket, which supports up to 10GB/s. M.2 is the successor to mSATA, and while at the moment the adoption is quite low, the size and massive speed supported means that there's a clear market for it.
Moving to the bottom of the board, you can see a pretty standard setup with the normal array of headers, including fans, USB 2.0, and our main front panel headers. Across the bottom of the board, you can see we've also got an LED Debug screen to let us know about any problems during the boot process along with an onboard reset, power, and clear CMOS button.
As we turn the corner, you can see we've got a total of 9 SATA ports offered on the board. Eight of them are SATA3, with 6 running off the Intel Z97 chipset and the two furthest to the right running off the ASMedia ASM1061 controller. On the left side, you can see we've got one of the new SATA Express Connectors, which offers increased speed for devices supporting it. Unfortunately, those devices are a little few and far between at the moment.
Heading to the north end of the board, you can see our four DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of DDR3, ranging in speeds from 1066MHz DDR to 3200MHz DDR via overclocking. Below our RAM slots, you can see our main 24-Pin ATX power connector, and next to that, you can see a USB 3.0 header.
Moving around to the CPU area, you can see our 8-Pin CPU power connector in the standard top right corner. Moving out a bit, we get a look at our socket area and the heat sink setup. The blue looks cool against the black, and you can see the overall setup isn't too fancy but looks like it's going to be more than capable enough. The area around the CPU socket, like most these days, is pretty clean looking.
Finishing our look at the motherboard, we move over to the I/O side of things. Starting from the left, you can see we've got a combo PS/2 port along with two USB 2.0 connectors above that. Video output is offered via 4 connectors: VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort 1.2. Above the latter two video connectors, we've got 4 USB 3.0 ports running off the Intel Z97 controller.
Next to that, we have a further two USB 3.0 ports that run off the ASMedia ASM1042AE controller, and above that, we have a gigabit networking port via the Intel I218V chip. We finally finish up with five auxiliary ports and an optical port running off the Realtek ALC1150 HD Audio Codec.
BIOS Images and Information
As always, if you're heading into the BIOS, the chances are you'll want to check out the overclocking features that are offered under the OC Tweaker section of the BIOS.
Looking above, you can see we've got everything you'd possible need to overclock your CPU, with Multiplier and BCLK options to all the voltage settings you'd want to play with.
Outside of OC Tweaker, you can see all the standard options: Hardware Monitor, Boot options, and everything else that you'd expect to see in your standard BIOS.
Test System Setup and Overclocking
As we mentioned in our review of the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z97 MARK 1, we have upgraded our testbed in a few areas. The main two are the move to an 8GB kit of 2933MHz DDR memory from Corsair and the reference GTX 780 Ti from NVIDIA. Because of this, we've had to start from scratch with all our results, so it will take a little time before we have a large list of boards in our graphs like we did previously.
With that said, though, we've got three boards in our graphs today. Alongside our ASRock Z97 Extreme4, we've got the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z97 MARK 1 we just looked at and the ASRock Z87 Killer, which is, of course, based on the previous generation Z87 chipset. As always, though, we're going to be benching the board we're using today at both stock and overclocked speeds.
Looking above, you can see we ended up with our CPU Multiplier running at 48x and a slightly elevated BCLK to 101. This results in a final clock speed of 4846.99MHz, or 4.85GHz, as illustrated in our graphs today. This isn't the best overclock, and the ASUS offering managed to get roughly 100MHz more. But, we'll talk about all that when we get to the end and wrap everything up.
CPU & System Benchmarks
CPU Test - HyperPi 0.99
Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
CPU Test - AIDA64
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Starting off with our CPU benchmarks, you can see that across the board our stock settings are very similar between all three motherboards. Overclocking brings with it a nice boost in performance as you see almost 2 minutes shaved off of our HyperPi time.
System Test - PCMark 8
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04
System Test - MediaEspresso
Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5
PCMark and MediaEspresso show what we saw in our CPU benchmarks with the stock numbers on all three boards being very similar and nothing more than a bit of fluctuation being seen. Overclocking again yields a nice performance boost, and you can see that we manage to shave almost 3 minutes off of our encode process.
USB 2.0, USB 3.0 & SSD Benchmarks
USB Test - AIDA64
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400
Looking above, you can see that USB 2.0 and 3.0 performance is very similar for the most part. Saying that, though, you do see that the End performance under USB 2.0 is a bit stronger on the new ASRock Z97 Extreme4.
SSD Test - AIDA64
Version and / or Patch Used: v4.30.2900
SSD Test - PCMark 8
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.191
SSD Test - HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 5.50
Under AIDA64, you can see performance between all our setups is very similar; the same can be seen under PCMark 8 with little difference being seen.
Under HD Tune Pro, while the Average and maximum between all our setups are quite similar, you can see the minimum sits a little higher on our ASRock Z97 Extreme4.
Memory & Gaming Benchmarks
Memory Test - AIDA64
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
When it came to memory performance, we saw that the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z97 MARK 1 sat back a little compared to the ASRock Z87 Killer. Looking above, though, you can see the ASRock Z97 Extreme4 doesn't have the same problem with it lining up with its previous generation brother.
Overclocking, though, just like we saw on the Z87, really brings nothing to extra memory performance.
Gaming Test - 3DMark 8
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Gaming Test - Sleeping Dogs
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Across the board, you can see very little change between the four different setups under 3DMark 8 at both presets.
Sleeping Dogs, at stock, also sees all three boards run almost identical; looking above, you can see overclocking does bring a slight boost in performance at all resolutions.
Temperature & Power Testing
Power Consumption Test
Power draw on the ASRock Z97 Extreme4 is considerably lower than the ASUS offering at idle. Even overclocked, we see it sits only slightly higher. Load numbers see the two ASRock offerings line up with each other, which is again below the ASUS one.
Overclocking, as you'd expect, gives us a decent bump in the overall power draw.
Core Temperature Test
Temperature numbers on the ASRock Z97 Extreme4 are impressive with great looking idle numbers at both stock and overclocked.
Under load, you can see we're in line with the ASUS offering, and overclocking causes a big jump with over 90C being seen at load.
Pricing, Availability and Final Thoughts
When it comes to the Z97 chipset, there's really no need for us to cover our thoughts on it again. If you're interested in learning more about our thoughts on it, then I recommend that you head over to the Final Thoughts in our ASUS SABERTOOTH Z97 MARK 1 review. So, saying that, let's get stuck into what we think of the ASRock Z97 Extreme4 here today.
Coming in at around the mid $100 mark, the ASRock Z97 Extreme4 comes in considerably cheaper than the ASUS offering we looked at. While the board does indeed lack some of the flair of the SABERTOOTH offering, ASRock has still put together a great motherboard. Out of the box, the numbers are very similar between both boards, and the ASRock Z97 Extreme4 actually offers slightly better memory performance that lines up with the Z87 like we'd expect.
With the board not being a full bundle, there's not much we can say to that; instead, we'll move straight onto the board. The Z97 Extreme4 from ASRock isn't flashy. It doesn't look bad, but it does lack some of the bells and whistles of some of the other boards I have sitting behind me. Priced appropriately, though, that isn't an issue, and when it comes to performance, it performs well as we just mentioned.
In terms of features, we're also looking pretty good with both SATA Express and an M.2 connector on the board. It's no doubt these two features are going to be something storage enthusiasts will love, especially considering the aggressive price tag on the board.
One area that the Z97 doesn't shine so much is the overclocking side of things. Again, though, due to the more simple design of the cooling solution, it doesn't surprise us our 4770K doesn't overclock as high. If you're looking at something on the overclocking side, there's no denying that the Z97 OC Formula from ASRock may be something that you're eyeing.
Wrapping everything up, ASRock has put together a nice motherboard that comes in at a good price point. Its out-of-the-box performance is in line with more expensive options, as you'd expect, and the features on the board are nice. If you want to do a bit of overclocking, not spend too much money, and have a board that is just all around solid, then there's no denying that the Z97 Extreme4 is an attractive option. If you're looking for something else, though, keep an eye out for more Z97 boards coming over the next few weeks.
PRICING: You can find the ASRock Z97 Extreme4 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
United States: The ASRock Z97 Extreme4 retails for $173.25 at Amazon.
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