The ASRock Z77 Extreme6 is definitely a nice looking board. The dark brown PCB complemented with golds, silvers and blacks looks stellar, and if aesthetics are important to you, then this is definitely a good choice to be visible through a case window.
The board is laid out really well with a clean approach for ease of use. You can easily tell where most things are to go, so if you’re a beginner you shouldn’t have much trouble piecing together your first system. Saying that, it’d be nice if the RAM slots were more clearly labelled; they’re all black so there’s no color code to determine where to put your DIMMs if you’re wanting to use dual-channel mode. This isn’t a problem for myself and other experienced system builders, but if you’re new to building then this will be a minor annoyance.
Tons of fan headers ensure that if you’re wanting to run a decent amount of fans off the board you won’t have a problem. The inclusion of the floppy header is slightly odd, as I don’t think people building these days – especially on an enthusiast/overclocking platform like Z77 – are going to be using floppy drives. Still, it’s not a negative – maybe there ARE some people out there that want to continue to use this option.
Tons of SATA ports ensure that you’re able to run up to 8 SATA drives. The Z77 chipset supports RAID, too, so you can be secure in your data – or run RAID 0 for extra performance! One of the things I love about this area of the board is the inclusion of an mSATA port. If you opt to use this, you can have another SSD connected directly to the board, increasing your storage space and, depending on how you use it, your system performance too.
Connectivity options are vast. 4 USB 3.0 and 2 USB 2.0 on the rear panel, as well as 3 internal USB 2.0 headers and 1 USB 3.0 header. I would have liked to have seen a second USB 3.0 header on the board – many people buying into technology like this will have USB 3.0 on their chassis. The included USB 3.0 5.25” bracket is awesome, but you can’t use it if you want to use USB 3.0 from your case’s included ports.
There are enough display connectors if you plan on using the integrated graphics – VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort will be sufficient to connect you to almost any monitor, new or old.
Two PCI-E 3.0 x16 (x8 x8 if you’re using SLI or CrossFire) slots will allow use of the latest and greatest graphics cards on the market today. In addition to these you have a PCI-E 2.0 slot which is running at x4, 2 legacy PCI slots, and 1 PCI-E x1 slot. This is a good amount of connectivity for most users or even power users, and gives me no cause for complaint.
The inclusion of power/reset and clear CMOS buttons is great – no more jumper cables to reset your BIOS after a failed overclock. I would have perhaps liked these to be at the top right of the board, as if you run SLI or CrossFire, the buttons may be blocked by your second card.
The Extreme6 overclocks well – I was able to get into Windows and run Prime95 on a 4.8ghz clock. It did take some real tampering to get everything stable enough to do so, but that’s to be expected on a clock so high. Unfortunately the heat was too much for my cooler and I scaled the overclock back to 4.5ghz to prevent degradation to my processor. In the UEFI, you can overclock based on fixed voltage OR offset voltage based on your preference, and there is also the included software which will let you overclock right in Windows. I personally am not a huge fan of in-Windows overclocking, but I’m sure there are those out there who would benefit hugely from this piece of software.
The BIOS/UEFI is all-in-all pretty decent, despite the fact my mouse wouldn’t work in it. This in itself is slightly disappointing given that one of the key benefits to using UEFI is mouse/keyboard navigation. It’s not a huge problem, as I’m perfectly capable of using a keyboard alone to navigate. The menus in the UEFI are well laid out, and they group everything in an easy-to-understand format. There is a plethora of options available in the UEFI; Overclocking, if you know what you’re doing, should be a breeze.
I will say that one goal of UEFI as a technology was to make BIOS changes accessible to a normal user: One thing that ASRock’s UEFI lacks is descriptions of what each option in the BIOS actually does. Things such as “Integrated memory controller” when you hover “VTT voltage,” instead of simply minimums and maximums, would be hugely beneficial for a novice overclocker. I don’t see what would be so hard as to give a brief explanation on what will happen should you change the highlighted setting. Graphs are great as supporting information, but without knowing what the graph is for, they become useless.
If the provided software is of use to you, then by all means use it. I personally have kept the XFast USB feature, as well as AXTU for a quick go-to if I need to fix or change something. Long-term overclock settings are still done in the UEFI, but for quick tunes this is pretty useful. Personally, I can’t see any point in using the XFAST LAN software unless one were to use a PCI or PCI-E Network card; which some of ASRock’s boards do actually come with.
The most frustrating aspect of ASRock’s software is that XFast USB and XFast LAN are intrusive to the user. Neither of these applications give you the option to initialize at Startup, rather, they are installed there by default. This will no doubt leave you with an abundance of UAC spam, especially if you aren’t running as an administrator.
Lucid Virtu MVP is still in its infancy and isn’t very well refined. I had to do a significant driver rollback in order to get it to function, and as I am someone who likes to always have their drivers up-to-date, this is something that really bothered me when attempting to use Virtu MVP. Combine this with the fact it would only work with its pre-populated support list, and you have something that isn’t consistent in its application, and can be irritating in its execution. Where supported it DOES work, but I’m not sure if the positives outweigh the negatives. I can, however, see Lucid Virtu MVP being a very popular tool in the future if the problems can be ironed out.
The Extreme6 comes with a three year warranty, which is more common for motherboards these days. This should provide some piece of mind for those considering a new motherboard purchase.
The ASRock Z77 Extreme6 is currently $174.99 at my favorite online retailer. This brings it in line with similar offerings from Gigabyte, MSI and ASUS. It is most definitely a great bang-for-buck choice, and I have no problem recommending this board to anyone who may ask. Overall, the Z77 Extreme6 is a fantastic motherboard, aside from the few minor issues mentioned above. Nothing major, it performs as it should and is easy to use and understand. ThinkComputers would like to award the ASRock Z77 Extreme6 Intel Z77 Motherboard a 9 out of 10 score.
– Well laid out
– Easy-to-understand BIOS
– Achieved a very nice overclock
– Tons of connectivity & expandability
– Included USB 3.0 5.25” bay bracket is a nice addition
– Could have used one more USB 3.0 motherboard header
– Board labelling (especially RAM slots) could be better.
– UEFI has tons of options, yet no explanation
– ⅔ pieces of the included software intrusive, despite being functional.