- Brand: ASRock
- Model: ASRock Z87 Extreme3
- Website: http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/Z87%20Extreme3/
- RRP: £127.99 (At time of the review)
With Intel having recently released their latest range of CPUs (Haswell), everyone has been clambering over themselves to see what the latest features are and to figure out if upgrading is worth the additional cost. Does the performance increase justify the extra costs involved? Or is has the 22nm process hit a roadblock? Only time will tell but today, my focus is on motherboards, in particular a Z87 (Socket LGA 1150) offering from the global brand ASRock.
Since their formation in 2002, ASRock have focused on bringing consumers with great looking motherboards packed with a host of innovative features. Being relatively young compared to some of the other big guns out there, they are a top 3 motherboard brand in the world which is impressive. With consumers not only looking for a product that performs well, they also want one with looks to match at a price that makes their jaw drop.
ASRock are well known for their aggressive pricing on motherboards, usually coming in at one of the best priced solutions available, but do they have the performance to make it worthwhile? I intend to find out.
The motherboard on my test bench today is the ASRock Z87 Extreme 3, how does this ASRock board perform on a new chipset (LGA 1150)? Let’s find out, starting with the specifications…
|A-Style||– Home Cloud|
|CPU||– Supports 4th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 / i5 / i3 / Xeon® / Pentium® / Celeron® in LGA1150 Package- Digi Power Design- 8 Power Phase Design- Supports Intel® Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology- Supports Intel® K-Series unlocked CPU- Supports ASRock BCLK Full-range Overclocking|
|Chipset||– Intel® Z87|
|Memory||– Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology- 4 x DDR3 DIMM slots- Supports DDR3 2933+(OC)/2800(OC)/2400(OC)/2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, un-buffered memory- Max. capacity of system memory: 32GB*– Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 1.3 / 1.2
*Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.
|BIOS||– 64Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with Multilingual GUI support- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support- CPU, DRAM, PCH 1.05V, PCH 1.5V Voltage Multi-adjustment|
|Audio, Video and Networking|
|Graphics||– Supports Intel® HD Graphics Built-in Visuals : Intel® Quick Sync Video with AVC, MVC (S3D) and MPEG-2 Full HW Encode1, Intel® InTru™ 3D, Intel® Clear Video HD Technology, Intel® Insider™, Intel® HD Graphics 4400/4600- Pixel Shader 5.0, DirectX 11.1- Max. shared memory 1792MB- Multi VGA Output options: D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI- Supports Triple Monitor- Supports HDMI Technology with max. resolution up to 4K × 2K (4096×2304) @ 24Hz- Supports DVI-D with max. resolution up to 1920×1200 @ 60Hz- Supports D-Sub with max. resolution up to 1920×1200 @ 60Hz- Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI (Compliant HDMI monitor is required)- Supports HDCP function with DVI-D and HDMI ports- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) playback with DVI-D and HDMI ports
*Intel® HD Graphics Built-in Visuals and the VGA outputs can be supported only with processors which are GPU integrated.**Due to chipset limitation, the Blu-ray playback of Intel® HD Graphics is only supported under Windows® 8 / 8 64-bit / 7 / 7 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit.***Intel® InTru™ 3D is only supported under Windows® 8 / 8 64-bit / 7 / 7 64-bit.
|Audio||– 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec)- Premium Blu-ray audio support|
|LAN||– Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s- Giga PHY Intel® I217V- Supports Intel® Remote Wake Technology- Supports Wake-On-LAN- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az- Supports PXE|
|Expansion / Connectivity|
|Slots||– 2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (PCIE2/PCIE3: single at x16 (PCIE2); dual at x8 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE3))- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot- 3 x PCI slots- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™ and CrossFireX™- Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™ and SLI™|
|Storage||– 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel® Rapid Storage Technology 12 and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug|
|Connector||– 1 x IR header- 1 x COM Port header- 1 x Power LED header- 2 x CPU Fan connectors (1 x 4-pin, 1 x 3-pin)- 3 x Chassis Fan connectors (1 x 4-pin, 2 x 3-pin)- 1 x Power Fan connector (3-pin)- 1 x 24 pin ATX power connector- 1 x 8 pin 12V power connector- 1 x Front panel audio connector- 1 x SPDIF Out connector- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)- 1 x USB 3.0 header (supports 2 USB 3.0 ports)|
|Rear Panel I/O||I/O Panel- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Port- 1 x D-Sub Port- 1 x DVI-D Port- 1 x HDMI Port- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port- 2 x USB 2.0 Ports- 4 x USB 3.0 Ports- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)- HD Audio Jack: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone|
|Other Features / Miscellaneous|
|Unique Feature||– ASRock A-Tuning- ASRock Instant Flash- ASRock APP Charger- ASRock XFast USB- ASRock XFast LAN- ASRock XFast RAM- ASRock Crashless BIOS- ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard)- ASRock Internet Flash- ASRock UEFI System Browser- ASRock UEFI Tech Service- ASRock Dehumidifier- ASRock Easy RAID Installer- ASRock Easy Driver Installer- ASRock Interactive UEFI- ASRock Fast Boot- ASRock Restart to UEFI- ASRock On/Off Play Technology- ASRock USB Key- ASRock FAN-Tastic Tuning- Hybrid Booster:- CPU Frequency Stepless Control- ASRock U-COP- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)- Good Night LED|
|Support CD||– Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 Trial, Google Chrome Browser and Toolbar, Start8, MeshCentral, Splashtop Streamer|
|Accessories||– 1 x ASRock SLI_Bridge_2S Card- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield- 2 x SATA Data Cables|
|Hardware Monitor||– CPU/Chassis Temperature Sensing- CPU/Chassis/Power Fan Tachometer- CPU/Chassis Quiet Fan (Allow Chassis Fan Speed Auto-Adjust by CPU Temperature)- CPU/Chassis Fan Multi-Speed Control- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore|
|Form Factor||– ATX Form Factor- Premium Gold Capacitor design (100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors)|
|OS||– Microsoft® Windows® 8 / 8 64-bit / 7 / 7 64-bit compliant|
|Certifications||– FCC, CE, WHQL- ErP/EuP Ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)|
The Z87 Extreme3 comes in a relatively plain looking box, which is not always a bad thing and in this case, it looks pretty good. The main colour is a light grey and white mix. There is no illustration of the motherboard itself, however there are thumbnails stating the motherboard has support for Windows 8, Intel Haswell CPU’s and has an HDMI output if you plan on using the on-board graphics feature.
On the rear of the box, it features a picture of the Z87 Extreme3 in all its glory in the top right corner. The rear of the packaging also displays the features of the motherboard which include their latest Home Cloud support, which enables the user to effectively power their PC on and off and also allows you connect remotely via smartphone, tablet or via another computer. Other features like fast boot and the use of premium gold caps are also present.
Bundled with the ASRock Z87 Extreme3 there is the ever present I/O shield, Instruction manuals including a quick start guide, a leaflet containing information on ASRocks Home Cloud feature, a disc which includes drivers and software (I recommend updating to the latest drivers via the internet once installed), a solid SLI bridge for NVIDIA graphics cards and 2 black SATA ports. The solid SLI Bridge is a really nice addition, especially for someone looking to SLI their cards and have a bridge that doesn’t flop or bend inside your case. In saying that the bridge will only cover the distance between 2 slots and only supports the use of 2 NVIDIA GPU’s.
One thing I found when emptying the box to release the motherboard, around the edge of the motherboard, was a generous layer of protective foam which would ensure the motherboard arrives damage free. This was wrapped up inside and anti-static bag to prevent Electrical Static Discharge and was held together with 4 cable ties. This is a really nice touch and I have to give credit to ASRock for the added protection.
Now let’s take a closer look at the Z87 Extreme3…
The motherboard itself has a brown like tinge to the PCB which I personally think is out-dated and ruins the overall look of the motherboard. It is ATX form factor and has plenty of expansion ports included. Notably it has 3 PCI lanes which seemed to be missing from quite a few motherboards on Z77 (LGA 1155 socket). It also packs 2 x PCI-EX 3.0 x16 lanes for SLI or Crossfire. Also included is 1 x PCI EX 2.0 x1 lane for addition components such as sound cards.
Around the socket area, we have a 4+4 power phase design, which should effectively make this board suitable for overclocking. Not so much for those enthusiasts who want the most out of their chip, but plenty for moderate 24/7 overclocks. We can also see the coveted CPU socket protector which again, is designed for use with Intel’s latest Haswell CPU’s.
Here is a different shot of the CPU socket area with a closer look at the heat sinks which are designed to keep the MOSFETS cool during operation. The heat sinks are quite big considering, which I feel is a nice addition, and they look quite nice, but this is down to personal taste.
Towards the bottom of the motherboard we have the Southbridge heat sink. This has a criss-cross design and features the ASRock logo across the bottom. This matches with the design of the MOSFET heat sinks and fits in with the design of the motherboard just fine.
The Z87 Extreme3 motherboard is equipped with 4 DIMM slots (240 Pin which is DDR3), which is standard with Haswell and I can’t see this changing for the foreseeable future. The Extreme3 supports up to 32GB of DDR3 memory at rated speeds of up to 2933MHz+ overclocked, which is absolutely fantastic and there should be no issues regarding speed compatibility when selecting memory to go with this board. Also in view is the 24pin ATX power connector for providing power to the motherboard.
Storage wise the ASRock Z87 Extreme3 packs 6 x SATA3 6Gbps which supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. It’s also nice to see no SATA2 ports supplied as the SATA3 are backwards compatible meaning all the latest SSDs/HDDs will full at their maximum speeds. This is one of the major benefits with the new Z87 chipset and is pretty much standard throughout the Z87 range, fantastic nevertheless.
On the rear panel I/O of the motherboard, we have numerous connections including 1 x DVI-D, 1 x D-Sub, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x Optical SPDIF ports for sound, 2 x USB 2.0 ports, 4 x USB 3.0 ports, 1 x PS/2 port for keyboards/mice, 1 x RJ45 LAN port with LED and HD audio connections. Personally I would have liked to see more USB 3.0 ports but that’s just me being picky. There is also a front panel header available on the motherboard for 2 extra USB 3.0 ports to be connected.
The ASRock Z87 Extreme3 comes with many added features included; here is a more detailed explanation from ASRock themselves.
This motherboard supports remote wake with the on board Intel® LAN, so you can connect with your PC from anywhere in the world. You will be able to power your PC on or turn it off, monitor and take control of it remotely with another smartphone, tablet or computer.
Premium Gold Caps
Premium Gold Caps are 100% made in Japan; these solid capacitors are sleek, high gloss caps with a premium gold coating representing long life Premium Gold and stable performance.
More Precise, More EfficientBy adopting digital pulse-width modulation (PWM), the ASRock motherboard can provide CPU Vcore voltage more efficiently and smoothly. Compared to analog PWM, digital PWM can optimize the CPU power solution and provide a proper and stable Vcore for the processor.
8 Power Phase Design
Designed with a 8 Power Phase Design, this motherboard features sturdy components and completely smooth power delivery to the CPU. Plus, it offers unmatched overclocking capabilities and enhanced performance with the lowest temperature for advanced gamers as well.
A-Tuning is ASRock’s multi purpose software suite with a new interface, more new features and improved utilities, including XFast RAM, OC Tweaker and a whole lot more.
4K is a new standard for display resolutions with a minimum of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of the 1080p format and four times as many pixels overall.
This motherboard supports Triple Monitor. You may choose up to three display interfaces to connect monitors and use them simultaneously.
ASRock’s unique XFast 555 technology (XFast RAM, XFast LAN and XFast USB) allows users to experience 5 times performance boost in terms of system performance, LAN speed and USB transfer speed.
Configure different fan speeds for respective temperatures using the graph. The fans will automatically shift to the next speed level when the assigned temperature is met.
Easy Driver Installer
For users that don’t have an optical disk drive to install the drivers from our support CD, Easy Driver Installer is a handy tool in the UEFI that installs the LAN driver to your system via an USB storage device, then downloads and installs the other required drivers automatically.
In a world where time is money, why waste precious time everyday typing usernames to log in to Windows? Why should we even bother memorizing those foot long passwords? Just plug in the USB Key and let your computer log in to windows automatically!
UEFI Tech Service
Contact ASRock Tech Service by sending a support request from the UEFI setup utility if you are having trouble with your PC.
With ASRock’s exclusive Fast Boot technology, it takes less than 1.5 seconds* to logon to Windows® 8 from a cold boot. No more waiting! The speedy boot will completely change your user experience and behaviour.*The boot time may vary with a different configuration.
Restart to UEFI
ASRock “Restart to UEFI” technology is designed for those requiring frequent UEFI access. It allows users to easily enter the UEFI SETUP automatically when turning on the PC next time. UEFI System Browser The UEFI system browser allows you to easily check your current system configuration in UEFI setup.
ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard) technology allows you to establish an internet curfew or restrict internet access at specified times. Administrators are able to schedule the starting and ending hours of internet access granted to other users.
Users may prevent motherboard damages due to dampness by enabling “Dehumidifier Function”. When enabling Dehumidifier Function, the computer will power on automatically to dehumidify the system after entering S4/S5 state.
HDMI™ (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
This motherboard supports HDMI™ (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) which is an interface standard for transferring uncompressed video data and delivering multi-channel audio through a single cable. Both video and audio data signals transferred through the HDMI™ interface are digital without being converted into analog, therefore it delivers the richest pictures and the most realistic sounds.
Here is a video with more information regarding their home cloud feature which comes included with the ASRock Z87 Extreme3. Please note although the title has the mention of “porn” in the title, this isn’t the case, it was ASRocks way of introducing the feature and can confirm the feature is family friendly
The Z87 Extreme3 comes equipped with ASRocks version of the UEFI BIOS and is pretty much the same as the Z77 variant. I took a screenshot of each screen to give you an idea of the functions and features available in the BIOS.
CPU – Intel i7 4770k
Motherboard – ASRock Z87 Extreme3
Memory – G.Skill RipjawZ 8GB (2400MHz CAS10) 2x4GB
Graphics – MSI HD7950 Twin Frozr III Boost Edition @ 960/1250MHz
Cooler – Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme
Storage – Western Digital 320GB Caviar Blue (7200RPM 8MB Cache)
PSU – Enermax 1200w Platimax
Overclocking on the Z87 Extreme3 was a mixed bag and not an experience I could really say I enjoyed all that much. First of all when entering the BIOS, every time I would use my mouse, it would crash and stick. After updating to the latest BIOS via the ASRock website, I decided to try again. To no avail every time I would move my mouse, the BIOS would crash after 5 seconds. Although I can imagine a couple of teething problems being a new release, it shouldn’t really act this way. I did however manage to navigate the BIOS via my keyboard so whether this is due to my mouse, or just a BIOS flaw, only time will tell.
I set about going for an overclock of 4.5GHz. After choosing my settings in the BIOS which included loading Intel’s XMP setting for my memory, I changed the voltage up to 1.3v and the multiplier to x45. The reason for this is, I have spoken to a couple of people who bin the chips and retail samples like mine didn’t tend to overclock as well as the ES samples which Intel first gave out. After loading the settings, I booted into windows to find another problem. The multiplier hadn’t set and was still running at stock, although the voltage had changed as confirmed in CPU-Z; which I have to add didn’t read voltages properly so I had to rely on ASRocks software to see where I was. I then decided to use ASRocks software to overclock. This was made it very easy and ASRock have done a good job designing it, very easy to navigate and very user friendly.
I almost certainly prefer to do my overclocking in the BIOS and use software as a last resort but in this case the software was up to the task. Here is a CPU-Z screenshot of my final stable overclock, tested using Intel Burn Test (IBT).
To show the maximum I could push the chip under 1.4v via ASRocks A-Tuning software, I managed a very impressive CPU-Z validation of just under 5.2GHz. Obviously under load it would crash but it’s nice to see high numbers are obtainable, on what is touted as a budget board.
Now for a little bit more about A-Tuning….
Since I had to use the ASRock A-Tuning software to carry out the overclocks for the review, I thought it would be great to show everyone just how good it is. Although I recommend overclocking via the BIOS, it was not possible but ASRock will rectify the issue no doubt (if it’s not an issue at my end) and come out with a new BIOS.Here are the different screens of the A-Tuning, most of it pretty self-explanatory.Note; if you plan to overclock, please be aware improper overclocks could leave to system instability and even hardware failure, so take your time and if unsure, ask for help.
There is an auto overclock feature included on the main screen called auto-tuning. This will enable the most inexperienced user to enable overclocking. To do this you must have one of the unlocked processors which have a K at the end etc. My i7 4770k sample.
Now for the benchmarks…
To show comparison for the following benchmarks I decided to run the CPU at 3.9GHz which is the stock turbo boost of the Intel 4770k and at 4.5GHz to show the performance comparison between the 2 different speeds.
Power consumption is measured using everything on the test bench except the GPU. This gives a more accurate reading of the motherboard and CPU’s power usage. To load the CPU up to 100%, Prime95 is used. This is done by using the tortue test feature. The maximum reading is recorded.
This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic “Queens problem” on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard. At the same clock speed theoretically the processor with the shorter pipeline and smaller misprediction penalties will attain higher benchmark scores. For example — with HyperThreading disabled — the Intel Northwood core processors get higher scores than the Intel Prescott core based ones due to the 20-step vs 31-step long pipeline. CPU Queen test uses integer MMX, SSE2 and SSSE3 optimizations.
SANDRA 2013 in my opinion, is a pretty stringent benchmark, capable of testing your systems limits. It is a pretty extensive suite of benchmarks but i have narrowed down the more relevant ones to compare performance.A
Designed to measure your PC’s gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
Fire Strike is our new showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today. Fire Strike will only be available in the Windows editions of 3DMark initially.
Having had the chance to get to grips with ASRocks Z87 Extreme3, how does it shape up? Does it justify the reasonable asking price or is it one to avoid?
Well starting with the aesthetics, the Z87 Extreme3 is slightly suspect. This is mainly due to the brown PCB, which I feel could have been easily rectified. The other aspects of the motherboard like the heat sinks and the gold plated caps really do compliment the motherboard and overall the board actually looks pretty good in my opinion. It won’t win any design awards but it isn’t ugly and that’s always a good thing.
In terms of overclocking, I feel ASRock have got a few bugs to iron out, nothing that a refresh of the BIOS wouldn’t fix. Given the hot nature that the Haswell CPUs operate at when pushed, it didn’t give me much room for overclocking on my Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme CPU cooler. However we did easily manage 4.5GHz, after numerous teething problems due to what I would say is caused by a slightly buggy BIOS. I managed the intended overclock and it was 100% stable throughout, although temperatures were a different matter and had to turn off thermal throttling to stop the CPU dropping below the desired speed of 4.5GHz mid benchmark, this isn’t relative to this motherboard and the board was 100% stable throughout.
In terms of performance, I was quite happy with the results and given that this was the first Z87 motherboard I have managed to play with, the scores in synthetics benchmarks and games were pretty good.
The Extreme3 has many features and in my testing, especially when overclocking, it became apparent I wasn’t going to get far without A-Tuning; ASRocks overclocking software utility. I did feel that the slight issue where the BIOS wouldn’t save my multiplier, hindered my ability to overclock. Overclocking via A-Tuning was quick, easy and a pleasure to use.
To put it into retrospective, I was quite happy with how the Z87 Extreme3 looked, albeit with a brown PCB which I know would turn some peoples stomachs, but overall it managed to impress me. I have to admit I have a soft spot for ASRock motherboards as every one I have tested, seemed to perform above its limits and have never had instability. Obviously the BIOS issue will be resolved via a BIOS update and can be infuriating at times, but I have to give credit where credit is due to ASRock for providing a feature packed board, for a little under £130.
If you’re looking for a Z87 motherboard crammed with features, manages to hold an overclock while looking pretty decent and you have around £130-140 to spend, then the ASRock Z87 Extreme3 could be the board for you. If you look past the brown PCB, this board is a clear contender and in my opinion, gives you many features of a mid-range board, at a budget board price.
For what you get for the price, this board clearly deserves our award for value. Good job ASRock!
Big thanks to ASRock for sending me one for review.