Asrock Z97 Extreme6

Asrock isn't messing around with six Z97 motherboards and two H97 boards already squared away, and we know of a few more that will be released shortly.

For now, the flagship enthusiast model is the Z97 Extreme6, while Asrock will try and lure high-end gamers with the Fatal1ty Z97X Killer. Also available are the Z97 Extreme4, Z97 Pro4, Z97E-ITX/ac, Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, Fatal1ty H97 Performance and Fatal1ty H97 Killer.

We have the Z97 Extreme6 and Fatal1ty Z97X Killer on hand...

Asrock Z97 Extreme6

Asrock started using darker themes with its 'Extreme' series around when the second-generation Core processors arrived. Since then, we have seen 7-Series and 8-Series Asrock motherboards dressed in black with a few silver and grey highlights.

We really liked the change from the company's preference for bright blues and other random hues predating the Intel 6-Series chipsets.

That said, it seems Asrock decided to get a little colorful with the Haswell refresh, giving each board its own unique flair. Although we miss the all-black Extreme models, we have to admit the new designs are still very tasteful.

The Z97 Extreme6 uses anodized blue highlights on the aluminum heatsinks along with baby blue DIMM slots (similar to those used by Gigabyte). Whereas the Extreme series used to be like Dwayne Johnson in Fast & Furious it's now more like The Rock in Be Cool.

Anyway, don't let the flamboyant blues fool you, this is still a seriously high-end desktop motherboard, even more so than the previous Z87 Extreme6.

Non-chipset related features include dual Gigabit LAN using an Intel I218V PHY and a Realtek RTL8111GR controller. Sound is provided by the Realtek ALC1150 codec, which has 7.1 CH HD audio with content protection. Asrock has upgraded this solution with 115dB SNR DAC including a differential amplifier, TI NE5532 headset amplifier (Supports up to 600 ohm headsets), Direct Drive technology, EMI shielding cover and PCB isolate shielding, they call this 'Purity Sound 2'.

The Z97 Extreme 6 also includes three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, two PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots, Ultra M.2 and M.2 slots (for add-in mini PCI Express cards and SSDs), a separate PCIe power connector at the bottom (for more stability) and ten SATA 6Gb/s ports.

The I/O panel includes a PS/2 port, DVI-I output, DisplayPort 1.2 output, Optical S/PDIF output, eSATA connector, six USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit LAN ports, Clear CMOS switch and five audio jacks.

Of course, the newest features are storage-related and they are provided by the chipset. Apart from the six SATA 6Gb/s ports which support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel Rapid Storage Technology 13 and Intel Smart Response Technology, there are a few other connectors of note.

The ASMedia ASM1061 controller has been included to provide an additional four SATA 6Gb/s ports, which support NCQ, AHCI, Hot Plug and Asrock HDD Saver Technology. The fourth port is also shared with the eSATA port found on the boards I/O panel.

There is also a SATA Express connector which when used occupies the fourth and fifth SATA ports as well as the M.2 socket, so you want to be aware of that. Fortunately, there are actually two M.2 sockets and that one's the secondary, which is limited to the standard 10Gb/s bandwidth for M.2 SATA 6Gb/s and M.2 PCI Express modules.

Asrock has also included an 'Ultra' M.2 socket that provides 32Gb/s of bandwidth to a PCI Express module (doesn't support SATA 6Gb/s modules). Whereas the standard M.2 socket is connected to the Z97 chipset and then the CPU, the Ultra M.2 socket is wired directly to the CPU, effectively bypassing the chipset.

Asrock says they tested the read speed of the Samsung XP941 PCIe x4 M.2 SSD on the Ultra M.2 socket and achieved a throughput of 1.16GB/s, 46% faster than PCIe x2 M.2 socket.

Apart from the impressive storage capabilities and other exciting features we just mentioned, Asrock also includes a 12-phase power design, XXL aluminum alloy heatsink, premium alloy chokes, Dual-Stack MOSFETs, NexFET MOSFETs and 12K Platinum Caps (100% Japan made high quality conductive polymer capacitors).

Surprisingly the Z97 Extreme6 costs just $170, which seems very reasonable given the feature set and the fact that this thing is hot off the press. By comparison, the Z87 Extreme6 costs $160 and is also an exceptional bargain as far as Z87 boards go. The Z87 Extreme6 also has the Z87 Extreme9/ac and Z87 Extreme11/ac standing over it, both of which are incredible so we can't wait to see what Asrock has in store for the Z97chipset down the track.