Asrock Z77 Extreme6
In our previous roundups, we found Asrock to offer the best overall value, packing tons of features at unbeatable prices. That seems true of the company's Z77 Extreme6, which as a surprisingly affordable price tag of $175 for what appears to be a feature-packed motherboard, including support for extreme GPU power such as Quad CrossFireX and Nvidia Quad SLI. When running in such a configuration, the two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots run at x8/x8, while the third PCIe x16 slot runs at x4 and uses the older 2.0 spec.
The Z77 Extreme6 features four DIMM slots for up to 32GB of RAM. Using the chipset's dual-channel memory architecture, it supports frequencies of 1066, 1333 and 1600MHz, while 2133, 2400 and 2800MHz are possible through overclocking.
Whereas the Z77 chipset provides six SATA ports (two 6Gb/s), Asrock uses the ASMedia ASM1061 6Gb/s controller for an additional three ports, though this chip only supports two 6Gb/s ports, so really only two of the three ports can be used at the same time. The controller is connected to a pair of onboard SATA headers as well as an eSATA port on the I/O panel.
Network connectivity comes from a single Broadcom BCM57781 controller, which supports Wake-On-LAN and Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az. This is the same part used by Asrock's prized X79 Extreme9 motherboard and it is a quality component.
Providing the board's audio is the Realtek ALC898 audio codec which offers 7.1 channel audio with THX TruStudio and Premium Blu-ray audio support. It's the same solution found on many recently reviewed high-end Asrock X79 boards, such as the X79 Extreme9, so it's clearly not a budget part.
Along with the four USB 3.0 ports powered via the Z77, Asrock has included an Etron EJ168A which provides two more ports on the I/O panel. Asrock decided to include two of the Z77's USB 3.0 ports on the I/O panel while the other two are for front access with a header.
The Z77 Extreme6 also offers FireWire via the VIA VT6308S controller, which is an old PCI solution that supports two 400Mb/s IEEE1394a ports (one via the I/O panel, one via header). Supplying the board with legacy PCI support is the ASMedia ASM1083 chip with a PCI Express x1 to PCI 32-bit bridge supporting three PCI slots.
While one of the legacy PCI interfaces is connected to the VIA VT6308S controller, the other two are present as PCI slots. Although Asrock includes one PCIe x1 slot, we would've rather seen more of these in favor of the old PCI slots. There's also a mini-PCI Express slot for support wireless devices or even SSDs.
The Z77 Extreme6 features what Asrock calls its Advanced 8 + 4 power phase design, which has 8 phases for the CPU and 4 for the System Agent. The board is also complemented by 100% Japan-made solid capacitors with a premium gold coating for long life and stable performance, according to Asrock.
We're impressed with what Asrock offers for $175. The Z77 Extreme6 is well designed and we have no criticisms other than its excessive support for legacy devices such as PS/2, PCI slots and onboard COM and floppy headers.