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ASRock Z87 Extreme 6 Review (w/ 4770k / GTX770)

The ASRock Z87 Extreme 6 is an excellent motherboard although I can’t help but feel a little disappointed after reviewing MSI, Gigabyte and ASUS boards in the last week. When we factor in pricing however it starts to make a little more sense.

The other Z87 motherboards reviewed in the last week have all been priced around the £200 inc vat mark, the ASRock Z87 Extreme 6 is around £40 cheaper, coming in at £163.30 inc vat at SCAN.

The Extreme 6 board is certainly not lacking when it comes to features, it comes fully loaded with not 6, not 8, but 10 x SATA 6GBps connectors. ASRock have 6 of them controlled by the Z87 chipset, adding the ASMedia ASM1061 controller for the additional 4 connectors.

If you use several Solid State Drives and a plethora of mechanical drives for storage, this board offers a tempting configuration at a very modest price point.

The onboard sound quality is also excellent when using a high grade pair of headphones, thanks to the inclusion of the RealTek ALC1150 sound processor with dedicated TI NE5532 headset amplifier. There is a noticeable audio improvement over a standard motherboard which wil appeal to users who frequently use expensive headsets to game, or enjoy music.

Our overclocking experience with the Extreme 6 was very good, we managed to get our particular i7 4770k sample to the 4.5ghz limit, just like every other Z87 board we tested recently. ASRock haven’t cut corners in regards to the PCB layout as they are using premium Gold capacitors to help improve stability under load and to enhance the life of the product.

My issues with this motherboard are all based around the BIOS. We tried 3 or 4 different BIOS revisions before going live, which held up this review a little longer than others.

After spending time with the latest MSI and Gigabyte BIOSES, we feel that ASRock have not pushed their user interface forward enough. They are using a fairly standard, last generation BIOS with a star scape background, which I found more than a little distracting. This is only part of the issue however.

We have previously complimented ASrock on their intuitive, user friendly BIOS configurations which successfully targeted the inexperienced user. If you have read this particular review today all the way through, you will have seen that the OC Tweaker 4.4ghz preset for the 4770k didn’t feel very optimised to me.

ASRock’s OC Tweaker worked great with many ASRock Z77 boards we tested in 2012. This ASRock bios recommends no higher than 4.4ghz, which is sensible based on our own 4770k testing in previous weeks. Sadly however, the voltage seems excessively high @ 1.27 volts. Our particular chip for instance will run at 4.5ghz with only 1.225 volts. The preset also didn’t tweak the CPU Load Line calibration either, which was disappointing.

This might sound a minor point to make, but if we used the ASRock OC Tweaker 4.4ghz ‘preset’ it would increase load temperatures by around 10c when paired up with a Corsair H100i at performance settings (from 80c to 90c). To be fair, we do have to put some of the blame on Intel this time, as the new 4770k processors seem to exhibit huge variances in regards to voltage and overclocking capabilities. When this is combined with an inherently hot running chip, it could be a recipe for disaster.

We have to recommend that the end user would ignore this OC Tweaker section of the bios completely, because it could cause problems, especially if the CPU cooling was less than excellent. ASRock really may need to ditch this automatic overclocking section completely in future if 4770k variances are as bad as we hear from industry sources.

Some of our previous reviews had a section focused on testing some ultra high performance memory from G.Skill – their new Trident X 2,933mhz. Very few motherboards have accepted the XMP profile, meaning we have had to manually overclock the board while tweaking settings.

The ASRock Z87 Extreme 6 would not post with the memory at all. We tried different slots, a single slot – all to no avail. I am fairly sure that this BIOS will improve over time, but this is the only Z87 motherboard that would not post with the G.Skill Trident X 2,933mhz, so it does naturally raise a little red flag in the back of my mind.

You can buy the ASRock Z87 Extreme 6 board now on pre-order from SCAN, at £163.30 inc vat. It is competitively priced considering the connectivity and build quality. If they can iron out a few teething problems and improve the BIOS a little it would certainly rate higher for me.

Pros:

  • Well built board, with high quality capacitors.
  • Stable when overclocked.
  • competitively priced.
  • High grade onboard audio.
  • 10 SATA 6Gbps ports.
  • worked well with Corsair Vengeance 2,400mhz memory.

Cons:

  • Wouldn’t post with the G.Skill 2,933mhz memory at all.
  • OC Tweaker settings not advised (see above).
  • BIOS looks very dated.
  • For £40 more, there are better Z87 boards available.

Kitguru says: A good low cost, high performance motherboard.
WORTH BUYING

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Rating: 8.0.

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