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ASRock Z68 Extreme 4 (Intel Z68) Motherboard Review

The ASRock Z68 Extreme 4 is an attractively designed board, featuring large metallic style heatsinks to help with cooling performance.

While the colour scheme is rather subdued, the board layout is very strong with offering good positioning on connectivity. The CPU socket is clear from obstruction, meaning that fitting oversized CPU coolers such as the Noctua NH D14 proves painfree. We actually fitted a D14 cooler for this review.

There are two PCI, two PCI E 1x and three PCI-E 16x slots on this board. The top two PCI-E slots will run at 16x if only one card is fitted. If you use two cards, then they drop to 8x speed. If you want 3 way crossfire, then the last card drops to 4x.

Many people immediately wince when they see a two card setup drop to 8x, but in reality there is very little difference in the real world. We have looked at this before and the performance hit, is minimal, if any, right now. That said, if you want to run graphics in a three way configuration , then the 4x bandwidth drop will prove a problem. X58, or the upcoming X79 will prove a better alternative if this is a high priority on your list.

ASrock also recommend that you use the 4 pin Molex connector when running more than a 200watt card demand in CF or SLI, seen in the image above right. We saw no difference with it connected (with high end CFx and SLI builds), but in some situations it might help with stability.

Along the bottom of the board are connectors for front panel audio, COM1, floppy drive, Infrared, 1394 FireWire, three USB 2.0 headers (dark blue), USB 3.0 header (lighter blue) and the usual chassis headers. Above this are instant power on, reset buttons and a diagnostic readout to help deal with potential issues.

This board is supplied with eight SATA ports, the SATA 2 are blue and the SATA 3 (6Gbps) are white. The onboard controller handles the blue SATA connectors and the nearest SATA 3 ports. The two ports far right are controlled by the Marvell SE9120 controller (they are marked M1 and M2).

The board has plenty of fan headers positioned on all corners and there is a main 24 pin power connector, next to the four ram slots. It supports 1066/1333/1600/1866/2133mhz DDR3 memory with a dual channel configuration up to 32GB total.

Next to the CPU socket is an 8 pin power connector with both 3 and 4 pin fan headers close by. The Extreme 4 heatsinks are large, but don’t interfere with cooler fitting along any of the axis.

Connectivity is strong with PS/2 keyboard support, two USB 2.0 ports, DVI-D, VGA, Displayport and HDMI out. A handy reset CMOS button is also included. Two more USB 2.0 ports are next to a 1394 Firewire port and below that there is an eSATA port. Two USB 3.0 ports are set to the right, under a Broadcom BCM57781 chip. 7.1 audio is supported via the Realtek ALC892 chip with additional THX TruStudio PRO capabilities.

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