ASRock Z87 Extreme6 Motherboard Review

Another day, another LGA1150 motherboard. This time around it’s the ASRock‘s Z87 Extreme6, a motherboard that sits somewhere between their mid-range and high-end offerings. During the last few CPU generations, ASRock has been known for making quality boards for a competitive price. Let’s see if the same holds true for the Haswell platform.

ASRock Z87 Extreme6 Specifications

(Courtesy of ASRock)

General
A-Style - Home Cloud
- Purity Sound™
- HDMI-In
CPU - Supports 4th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 / i5 / i3 / Xeon® / Pentium® / Celeron® in LGA1150 Package
- Digi Power Design
- 12 Power Phase Design
- Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM)
- 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
- Distortion-Free Slot
BIOS - 2 x 64Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with Multilingual GUI support (1 x Main BIOS and 1 x Backup BIOS)
- Supports Secure Backup UEFI Technology
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU, DRAM, PCH 1.05V, PCH 1.5V Voltage Multi-adjustment
Video, Audio, & 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: DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort
- Supports Triple Monitor
- Supports HDMI Technology with max. resolution up to 4K × 2K (4096×2304) @ 24Hz
- Supports DVI-I with max. resolution up to 1920×1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution up to 4K × 2K (4096×2304) @ 24Hz
- 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-I, HDMI and DisplayPort ports
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) playback with DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort ports
Audio - 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray audio support
- Supports Purity Sound™
- 115dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier
- TI NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier (Supports up to 600 ohm headsets)
- Direct Drive Technology
- EMI shielding cover
- PCB isolate shielding
- Supports DTS Connect
LAN - Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- 1 x Giga PHY Intel® I217V, 1 x GigaLAN Intel® I211AT
- Supports Intel® Remote Wake Technology (on Intel® I217V)
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports Dual LAN with Teaming
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports PXE
Expansion & Connectivity
Slots - 3 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (PCIE2/PCIE4/PCIE5: single at x16 (PCIE2); dual at x8 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE4); triple at x8 (PCIE2) / x4 (PCIE4) / x4 (PCIE5))
- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
- 1 x mini-PCI Express slot
- 2 x PCI slots
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™, 3-Way CrossFireX™ and CrossFireX™
- Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™ and SLI™
Storage - 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by Intel® Z87, 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
- 4 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by ASMedia ASM1061, support NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug (SATA3_A4 connector is shared with the eSATA port)
- 1 x eSATA connector by ASMedia ASM1061, supports NCQ, AHCI, Hot Plug and Port Multiplier
Connectors - 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 (Hi-Density Power Connector)
- 1 x SLI/XFire power connector
- 1 x Front panel audio connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x Vertical Type A USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.0 headers (support 4 USB 3.0 ports)
- 1 x Dr. Debug with LED
- 1 x Power Switch with LED
- 1 x Reset Switch with LED
Rear Panel I/O - 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
- 1 x DVI-I Port
- 1 x HDMI-Out Port
- 1 x HDMI-In Port
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x eSATA Connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
- 4 x USB 3.0 Ports (ASMedia Hub)
- 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch
- HD Audio Jack: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Miscellaneous
Form Factor - ATX Form Factor
- Premium Gold Capacitor design (100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors)
Accessories - 1 x ASRock SLI_Bridge_2S Card
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- 6 x SATA Data Cables
- 1 x Front USB 3.0 Panel with 2.5″ HDD/SSD Rack
- 4 x HDD Screws
- 6 x Chassis Screws
- 1 x Rear USB 3.0 Bracket
- 1 x WiFi Module Screw

Packaging & Accessories

The box art is neither too plain nor overboard flashy, it’s a good medium between the two. The front of the box displays the product name and a large A-Style logo which shows smaller features’ logos as well. The back goes into detail about all the features of the Z87 Extreme6 and allotting HDMI-In, Home Cloud, and Purity Sound the most box real estate.

Box Front

Box Front

Box Back

Box Back

The accessories include a quick installation guide, software guide, driver disk, rear I/O plate, six SATA cables, hard PCB SLI bridge, screw for the mini PCI-E slot, and a USB 3.0 adapter. The USB 3.0 3.5″ front panel adapter has a mounting spot for a 2.5″ HDD or SSD; I really like that ASRock makes good use of the extra space. There’s also an expansion slot plate included for the USB 3.0 adapter in case there aren’t any 3.5″ bays in your case, that way you can have the additional USB 3.0 ports in the back of the case.

Accessories

Accessories

The ASRock Z87 Extreme6

It’s finally time to take a look at the actual motherboard. The Extreme6 is a good looking motherboard, even with the gold accents. I’m a fan of of black and grey monotone motherboards since almost any color matches those. Although, the gold accents may make it a little tougher to color coordinate a build.

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

Next up are a few angled shots to make sure I get the Z87 Extreme6′s “good side” in a picture.

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

ASRock Z87 Extreme6

A Closer Look

We’ll start at the CPU socket area. The Z87 Extreme6 has 12 power phases for the CPU, which should be plenty for a CPU with such a low power consumption as Haswell.

CPU Socket & Power Section

CPU Socket & Power Section

A single 8-pin connector is used for supplying 12 V power to the motherboard’s 12-phase VRM which then converts the 12 V into whatever the Vccin voltage is set to in the BIOS. Then the Fully Integrated Voltage Regulators (FIVR) on the CPU itself converts that Vccin into all of the specific voltages such as Vcore, Cache Voltage, System Agent, Analog I/O, and Digital I/O.

There are two CPU fan connectors to the top right of the LGA1150 socket, this allows for two fans for the processor cooling without having to connect two fans to one header and possibly overloading the header. So, this make a push-pull fan configuration on tower heatsinks and AIO water cooling double fan radiators easy to connect and control.

8-pin CPU Power

8-pin CPU Power

CPU Fan Headers

CPU Fan Headers

The expansion slots consist of a PCI-E x1 slot, three PCI-E x16 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. Yeah… I just called PCI slots “legacy,” I bet you feel old now :) The first PCI-E x16 slot runs in x16 mode when used alone, the first and second x16 slots run in x8/x8 when both are used, and the x16 slots run in x8/x4/x4 when all three are used. The layout has well-spaced PCI-E x16 slots for 2-way SLI/CFX when using 2-slot GPUs, leaving a slot’s worth of space between the cards where the first PCI slot is located. Not only does this allow for better cooling when running 2-way SLI/CFX, it also leaves a PCI slot and PCI-E slots available. Well thought out for those that run 2-way SLI/CFX and may need to use an older PCI expansion card.

The mPCI-E slot is located between the the first PCI-E x16 slot and the first PCI slot. The most common mPCI-E device would be a WiFi card, but other options would be USB, SATA, or even Serial port controllers.

Expansion Slots

Expansion Slots

mPCIe Slot

mPCI-E Slot

The on-board audio consists of the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, which is encased in an EMI shielding cover. There are also two TI NE5532 amplifiers, one for the ALC1150 and one for headsets connected to the front panel audio. Last, but not least, the entire audio section of the motherboard has its PCB isolated from the rest, as you can see from the translucent brown line running along the PCB. All of those audio features combined is what ASRock calls their Purity Sound feature.

On-board Audio

On-board Audio

Let’s take a look at all the connections along the bottom of the board, and there are a lot of them! Starting at the bottom left corner and moving to the right, we have the front panel audio header, COM header, 4-pin Molex for additional power to the PCI-E slots (labeled SLI/CFX power), an IR (infrared) header, USB 3.0 header using Intel’s Z87 chipset, two USB 2.0 headers, internal USB 2.0 port, POST code LED, front panel headers, reset button, power button, BIOS switch, two removable BIOS chips, clear CMOS jumper, speaker header, power LED header, PWM fan header.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen an internal USB port on a motherboard, and I like it. It’s nice to have easy access to a port while running the system on an open bench. The on-board power and reset buttons are almost a must for me when looking for motherboard nowadays, they are so convenient. It’s good to see dual removable BIOS chips and a BIOS switch too. That makes it easy to replace and/or switch BIOSes in case one gets corrupted. POST code LEDs are much more common than they used to be, but they’re still one of my favorite features to see on a motherboard.

Bottom Left Corner

Bottom Left Corner

Bottom Right Corner

Bottom Right Corner

There is a total of ten SATAIII ports on the Z87 Extreme6, this is definitely the most I’ve ever had on a motherboard. It seems SATAII has officially been phased out with Haswell, and it’s about time since SATAIII is backwards compatible with SATAII. Six of the ten ports are using Intel’s Z87 chipset and the other four are using two ASMedia controllers. It’s also worth noting that the SATA3_A4 ASMedia port is shared by the eSATA port on the rear I/O. The Intel ports support RAID 0/1/5/10, but the ASMedia ports do not. So, it sounds like potential for beast storage setups like a six-drive RAID5 on Intel ports while using the ASMedia ports for OS SSD and optical drives.

The second USB 3.0 header is between the wall of SATA ports and the 24-pin motherboard power connector, and it uses Intel’s Z87 chipset like the other USB 3.0 header.

SATAIII Ports

SATAIII Ports

USB3.0 Header & 24-pin Power

USB3.0 Header, 24-pin Power, & DIMM Slots

Here’s a list of the many assorted ASMedia chips found scattered on the board and their purpose:

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The NCT6776D is part of nuvoTon’s LPC (Low Pin Count) Super I/O product line and it takes a variety of low-bandwidth devices and combines their interfaces and functions into a single chip. Here’s a list of the chip’s features:

  • LPC Interface
  • 2 serial port (UART) supporting RS-485 auto flow control
  • PC-compatible printer port (SPP) / Extended Capabilities Port (ECP) / Enhanced Parallel Port (EPP)
  • 8042 keyboard controller with PS/2 mouse
  • General purpose I/O ports
  • CIR receiver, transmitter, learning and wake-up functions
  • PECI 3.0 host, SB-TSI, SMBus Master
  • Intel Deep Sleep Well (DSW) glue logic function
  • Advanced Power Saving function (ErP)
  • AMD CPU power on sequence
  • Port80 decode for debug purpose
  • VID for both Intel and AMD platforms
  • Two-color LED to indicate different power status
  • H/W Monitor functions, including voltage detection, temperature detection, fan speed detection and fan speed control
qwe

Nuvoton NCT6776D

Finally, the back panel I/O. From left to right we have two USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 keyboard port, dual link DVI-I, CLR CMOS switch under the DVI-I, eSATAIII, DisplayPort, HDMI, vertical HDMI-In, two gigabit Intel RJ45 ports, four ASMedia USB 3.0 ports, and the HD Audio I/O. The unique feature here is the HDMI-In port, which serves as a pass-through for connecting another HDMI device.

Back Panel I/O

Back Panel I/O

UEFI/BIOS

(Updates with BIOS P1.90 are using this gray colored font)

If you noticed the stickers on the BIOS chips during the motherboard tour, then you may have noticed that the stickers had “Z87 EXTREME6 M1.11B” printed on them. That just let ASRock know which chips had what BIOS on them, and the ones on this board had beta BIOS 1.11b. So, the first thing I did was update the BIOS to the current P1.40 version. Since we’re talking about BIOS updating, it’s probably a good time to mention ASRock’s Crashless BIOS feature. Typically, if power loss occurs during the BIOS update process, then the BIOS will most likely be bricked. However, Crashless BIOS allows the BIOS to continue updating when regaining power after a power loss. The only requirements to use this feature is that the BIOS files have to be in the root directory of the USB drive and a USB 2.0 port has to be used.

Main Tab

Main Tab

You’ll probably spend most of your time in the OC Tweaker section of the BIOS. The only oddity I found in this section is that both SpeedStep and Turbo have to be enabled to lock the CPU ratio to a static value. The in-OS power savings must be disabled as well to keep that CPU multiplier steady. The Cache Ratio equals the CPU Ratio when the Cache Ratio is set to auto.

The Advanced > CPU Configuration section is where the options to enable or disable Hyper Threading, CPU cores, C-States, etc. are located.

OC Tweaker

OC Tweaker

OC Tweaker

OC Tweaker

OC Tweaker

OC Tweaker

Advanced > CPU Config

Advanced -> CPU Config

Here are the rest of the BIOS sections…

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Overall, ASRock’s UEFI/BIOS is pretty solid for overclocking; although it could be better in the monitoring department.

On the OC Tweaker tab, there are many things that are not displayed when the setting is on Auto, such as almost all of the currently running voltages (Input, Vcore, Cache, System Agent, Analog I/O, Digital I/O). It would be nice to see all those voltages displayed like the PCH voltages, because if the voltages aren’t displayed when on Auto, then when you do want to manually set them, you have no idea where to start. If the voltages were displayed when on Auto, then we could just start at whatever voltage is being used on Auto and increase from there.

The HWMonitor tab isn’t much better than the OC Tweaker tab and it’s very limited. The only voltage displayed is the CPU input voltage (Vccin) and it’s mislabeled as Vcore… This is disappointing, especially for a monitoring tab to have almost nothing except fan speeds being monitored. (NOTE: With BIOS P1.90, the Vccin labeling was fixed and ASRock added Vcore to the H/W Monitoring tab)

Software

A-Tuning

Let’s take a look at ASRock’s overclocking software. The screen you are greeted with when opening the A-Tuning software is the Operation Mode screen. As far as I can tell, the three presets (Performance, Standard, and Power Saving) change the in-OS power saving features. I was almost embarrassed to show a picture this screen because of a bad misspelling of the word “Standard” as “Sandared” on the middle preset button. I would think that would have been easy to spot, especially being in the middle of the first screen that appears…

Main

Operation Mode

The next tab is the Tools tab. Here, you have XFast RAM, which allows you to create a RAM drive from extra system memory to use for storing temporary and cache files. This will make accessing those files much quicker and reduce the read/writes to the HDD/SSD. The Good Night LED feature disables unneeded LEDs while the PC is on, and it disables others when the PC enters a Sleep or Hibernation state. FAN-tastic Tuning lets you use a graph to set up CPU and Chassis fans with five speed levels based on current temperature. The Dehumidifier feature seems like a gimmick mostly. There may be that 0.0001% of people who would actually need to use this, but I honestly can’t even think of what that situation may be. Finally, the HDMI-In section lets you set the hotkey for switching to the device plugged into the HDMI-In port located on the rear panel I/O. This is like a display-only KVM switch. Now, if ASRock only had keyboard/mouse output ports on the motherboard

Tools

Tools

XFast RAM

XFast RAM

Good Night LED

Good Night LED

FAN-Tastic Tuning

FAN-Tastic Tuning

Dehumidifier

Dehumidifier

HDMI In

HDMI In

Just as with the UEFI/BIOS, you’ll be spending most of your time in the OC Tweaker section of the A-Tuning software as well. This tab has everything you need for basic CPU tweaking: CPU ratio, BCLK, and all the voltages. However, it does lack any RAM tweaking; it would have been nice to see all the RAM timings available in the UEFI also available in A-Tuning.

OC Tweaker

OC Tweaker

OC Tweaker

OC Tweaker

The System Info tab defaults to the Hardware Monitor sub-tab and shows CPU clocks, fan speeds, temperatures, and 16 different voltages/offsets. Unfortunately, the A-Tuning software doesn’t pick up the UEFI’s slack and show the voltages being used when the BIOS settings are on Auto.

System Info

System Info

If you click the System Browser button within the System Info tab, it brings up an interactive picture of the motherboard. Mousing over different parts of the board shows information at the bottom of the screen about what is being moused over. Clicking on the back panel brings up another window showing the I/O and what’s installed in each port.

System Browser

System Browser

System Browser

System Browser

Test Setup

The test PC being used consists of a high-end CPU, GPU, and PSU. The RAM is decent low-voltage (1.35 V) sticks that won’t come close to the speeds that Haswell’s Integrated Memory Controller (IMC) can handle. So, unfortunately, I won’t be able to test the high-speed RAM support of the Z87 Extreme6.

Test Setup
CPU Intel i7 4770K
CPU Cooler Thermalright Venomous X
Motherboard ASRock Z87 Extreme6
RAM 4×2 GB G.Skill ECO DDR3-1600 7-8-7-24
Graphics Card EVGA GTX 780 SuperClocked ACX
Hard Drive 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3
Power Supply SeaSonic SS-1000XP
Operating System Windows 7 Pro x64 SP1

Benchmarks

  • Cinebench R11.5 – multi-threaded
  • PiFast – single-threaded
  • SuperPi 1M/32M – single-threaded
  • wPrime 32M/1024M – multi-threaded

Load Line Calibration

(Tested using BIOS P1.40)

Thanks to the Fully Integrated Voltage Regulators (FIVR) on Haswell chips, Load Line Calibration (LLC) is different than previous platforms. LLC used to affect the CPU’s Vcore since the Vcore came straight from the motherboard’s VRM section. Now, the Vcore is handled by the FIVR, so just the Vccin comes from the motherboard’s VRM. So, the Vccin is now what’s affected by LLC levels.

Typically, there will be a Vdrop difference between voltage set in the BIOS and voltage while idle in the OS, but Level 1 on the ASRock Z87 Extreme6 is the opposite. With Level 1, the voltage is always higher than what is set in the BIOS. The other four levels show more expected results. The Vdrop  from the BIOS-set to in-OS idle is 0.008 V, bringing the Vccin from 1.8 V to 1.792 V. As you can see from the graph below, Level 2 is the most consistent LLC level, keeping 1.792 V while idle and under load. Personally, I would use Level 2 because I like the consistency and knowing what I set minus 0.008 V is what I’m going to get while idle and loaded.

It’s also worth noting that the Vdroop (difference in idle and load) is a gradual drop over the length of the stress test. For example, while using Level 5 and stressing at 100% CPU usage on all cores, it didn’t drop straight from 1.792 V to 1.744 V; it slowly dropped in small increments until it reached 1.744 V.

z87_ext6_llc_2

CPU Overclocking

(Tested using BIOS P1.40. Updates with BIOS P1.90 are using this gray color font)

Since this was my first time overclocking a Haswell CPU, I’ll give everyone the long story.

The first thing I did to start my overclocking adventure with the i7 4770K was trying the quick test mentioned in the Haswell overclocking guide. So, I set my Vcore to 1.25 V and started raising the CPU multiplier. I capped out at 4.4 GHz by changing the CPU multiplier alone, and more Vcore (up to 1.3 V) didn’t help get around the BSoD when trying the 45 CPU multiplier.

My next guess as to what was limiting me was cache speed, which defaults to the same speed as the CPU when on Auto. So, I manually set the cache ratio to 44 since I knew my CPU speed and cache speed worked there, then I started increasing the CPU multiplier again. With the cache speed fixed at 4.4 GHz, I was able to get into the OS and start a LinX test at up to 4.8 GHz. However, that was not stable enough to even pass a short LinX test. The 45-47 multipliers were able to pass the short LinX test, but not the long test. So, it seemed I was still stuck at 4.4 GHz on the CPU, but I figured that maybe the cache speed wasn’t quite stable at 4.4 GHz either.

My next move was to try increasing the cache voltage from Auto, and that’s when I noticed something very annoying about ASRock’s BIOS… It doesn’t display currently running voltages anywhere. So, I arbitrarily picked 1.3 V for the cache voltage and planned on slowly increasing it from there. Luckily, with the cache voltage set to 1.3 V, I was able to pass the long LinX test with the CPU up to 4.6 GHz. So, I didn’t even have to change the cache voltage from my initial guess. However, nothing higher than 4.6 GHz on the CPU could be stabilized by tweaking Vcore, cache voltage, and/or cache speed.

4.6/4.4 GHz CPU/Cache Overclock

4.6/4.4 GHz CPU/Cache Overclock

Next, I tried increasing cache speed to 4.5 GHz from 4.4 GHz. It passed the long LinX stress test, but the performance was worse than with the cache at 4.4 GHz. So, I dropped the cache back down to 4.4 GHz and left it there. So, using the multiplier only, I was able to get 4.6 GHz on the CPU at 1.25 V Vcore and 4.4 GHz cache with 1.3 V cache voltage.

4.6/4.5 GHz CPU/Cache Overclock

4.6/4.5 GHz CPU/Cache Overclock – Slower Time and Lower GFLOPs

My next step was to try getting more from BCLK adjustment or using a different BCLK strap. I could only get the 1.00 and 1.25 straps working, the 1.67 and 2.5 straps would not POST (NOTE: BIOS P1.90 allowed me to use the 1.67 bclk strap). When testing straps, I tried getting in the OS with 10 CPU multiplier, 10 cache multiplier, and a 1:4 FSB:RAM ratio to eliminate those speeds as limiting factors. So, I set the strap to 1.25, CPU multiplier to 37, and cache multiplier to 35 which gave me 4.625 GHz on the CPU and 4.375 GHz on the cache. These settings couldn’t pass the long LinX test between 1.25-1.3 V of Vcore, so the 1.25 strap didn’t help me clock any higher. (NOTE: When using BIOS P1.90, I was able to pass the long LinX test while using the 1.25 bclk strap)

1.25 bclk Strap

1.25 BCLK Strap (BIOS P1.40)

1.67 BCLK Strap

1.67 BCLK Strap (BIOS P1.90)

Since the 1.25 bclk strap didn’t help me, it was time to try the 1.00 strap and bclk adjustment. Unfortunately, even a 1 MHz increase in bclk combined with a 46 CPU ratio and a 43 cache ratio isn’t stable enough to pass the long LinX test, even with a 0.05 V increase in Vcore and/or a 0.1 V increase in System Agent voltage. (NOTE: When using BIOS P1.90, I was able to pass the long LinX test while using the 1.25 bclk strap with a +2.1 adjustment for a 127.1 bclk and 101.6 MHz PCI/DME)

So, I’m back to 4.6 GHz for the CPU at 1.25 Vcore and 4.4 GHz for the cache at 1.3 V cache voltage, and that’s where I’ll stay for my stable overclock. (NOTE: When using the P1.90 BIOS, I was able to get both 4.66 GHz with DDR3-1675 and 4.7 GHz with DDR3-1352 to pass the long LinX test)

Benchmark Results

Benchmarks for motherboards don’t really tell you much and results will be about the same across all boards if using the same CPU/RAM clocks. So, I usually base my motherboard purchases off of overclocking and features. Anyways, the results below are using a completely default CPU and an overclocked CPU to 4.6 GHz. The RAM was manually set to its rated speed and timings (DDR3-1600 7-8-7-24 2T).

Cinebench is a multi-threaded rendering benchmark. Cinebench 11.5 performance jumps from 8.19 to 10.08 points after overclocking, for a ~23% increase, the highest jump in any of the results.

Cinebench 11.5 - Stock

Cinebench 11.5 – Stock

Cinebench 11.5 - 4.6 GHz

Cinebench 11.5 – 4.6 GHz

The first single-thread benchmark is PiFast. PiFast showed a ~15% performance increase going from stock to 4.6 GHz. The actual results went from 17.10 to 14.48 seconds.

PiFast - Stock

PiFast – Stock

PiFast - 4.6 GHz

PiFast – 4.6 GHz

Like PiFast, SuperPi is another single-threaded application. SuperPi decreased in times from 9.376 to 7.800 seconds in 1M and 488.952 to 421.123 seconds in 32M. That’s a ~17% and ~14% performance increase, respectively.

SuperPi 1M - Stock

SuperPi 1M – Stock

SuperPi 1M - 4.6 GHz

SuperPi 1M – 4.6 GHz

SuperPi 32M - Stock

SuperPi 32M – Stock

SuperPi 32M - 4.6 GHz

SuperPi 32M – 4.6 GHz

wPrime is a multi-threaded test that take take advantage of all 8 threads on the i7 4770K. wPrime times decreased from 6.427 to 5.134 seconds in 32M and 195.938 to 157.124 seconds in 1024M. So, both 32M and 1024M show a ~20% increase in performance when overclocked to 4.6 GHz.

wPrime 32M - Stock

wPrime 32M – Stock

wPrime 32M - 4.6 GHz

wPrime 32M – 4.6 GHz

wPrime 1024M - Stock

wPrime 1024M – Stock

wPrime 1024M - 4.6 GHz

wPrime 1024M – 4.6 GHz

Conclusion

The Z87 Extreme6 has a good expansion slot layout (includes legacy PCI), more than enough SATAIII ports, a high-end on-board sound solution, USB3.0 adapter to add ports to any case, removable BIOS chips for easy replacement, external CLR CMOS switch, and many other small details that make for a good motherboard.

The BIOS/UEFI was easy to work in and had enough settings for me to get a good everyday overclock on the i7 4770K (Be sure to update to at least BIOS P1.90 for better overclocking ability). The only downside to the BIOS/UEFI was the lack of voltage readings in the OC Tweaker and H/W Monitoring tabs. The A-Tuning software is great for in-OS overclocking of the CPU, although I prefer overclocking in the BIOS/UEFI. Hopefully, ASRock will be able to add RAM timing tweaking to their A-Tuning software to really fill it out. No deal-breakers there, just an opportunity for additional polish.

The Z87 Extreme6 is going for $170 at Newegg right now, with the non-sale price being $190. When shopping for motherboards, I typically look at the ~$200 range or less, and try to get the best for my money. The ASRock Z87 Extreme6 would be on the high-end of my budget, but it also provides a lot of useful features and attention to small details that I like to see in any product. If you are looking for a well-priced ATX board with plenty of features and can handle overclocking a Haswell CPU, the Extreme6 would be a good choice. However, I’m a SFF guy and I would need to use a smaller form factor for my everyday PC. After experiencing the Z87 Extreme6, ASRock’s smaller boards (Z87E-ITX, Z87M Extreme4, and Z87M OC Formula) are definitely on my radar for an everyday board.

Overclockers_clear_approvedClick the Approved stamp for an explanation of what it means.

- Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)

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13 Comments:

dudleycpa's Avatar
Very interesting review! The load line calibration is different - nice that you pointed out that level 2 worked the best. The bios seems underwhelming.

Currently $190 on the egg. $170 at microcenter.
Boulard83's Avatar
Another good reading !
Ajay57's Avatar
Did you see any problems with freezing in the Bios and USB ports not working with that Board?? Thanks for the through review. AJ.
dudleycpa's Avatar
Was wondering about:

"Typically, if power loss occurs during the BIOS update process, then the BIOS will most likely be bricked. However, Crashless BIOS allows the BIOS to continue updating when regaining power after a power loss. The only requirements to use this feature is that the BIOS files have to be in the root directory of the USB drive and a USB 2.0 port has to be used."

Are the USB 2.0 ports labeled? I'm guessing that they're two above the PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port?
EarthDog's Avatar
USB2 ports are black. USB3 ports are blue.

EDIT: After looking at the board, you are correct.
dudleycpa's Avatar
Thanks for the post! Goes to show that a blind monkey can hit a barn! Wait, I apologize if anyone reading this is a monkey!
MattNo5ss's Avatar
The voltage monitoring in the BIOS is underwhelming, but everything else about it works well.

I did see BIOS freezing when trying to maximize my OC, just a result of instability. No issues with the USB ports on this board. Of course, USB3.0 drivers need to be installed.

USB2.0 ports are the two black ports on the back panel I/O, the internal USB port, and the two internal headers (4 ports).
Nimblor's Avatar
I have the z87m extreme4. It is good seems just like the extreme6 only shorter with a few less ports. I liked your outdoor photos. AsRock on the porch! When are you going to take a motherboard to the beach?
dejo's Avatar
I have this board and really like it. the only issue that I have is trying to get my samsung micro rams to run at speeds and timings I know they are capable of, have the same issue on the giga z87 ud4h board though, so I must just be missing something. cant get 2400 to run no matter what. xmp rams do work with that enabled, but setting manual timings is back to no post.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Subtimings are critical on Haswell dejo. Write down the sub timings that are set by xmp and then set those manually also. It should work then.
dejo's Avatar
thanks Jeremy. I dont have xmp ram at 2400+ but Mark (psyko) does and actually has the board for now just playing with it. I may try to borrow his and put them in and see what each board says and match my sammys to his gskill, as I think they have the same chips on them
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Good idea. To give an example - I use 2600, C10 RAM for GPU reviews. It will not run 1866 / 9-9-9-24 by just setting those parameters alone. I had to load XMP to get all of the sub-timings programmed in, THEN move to 1866 / 9-9-9-24 and set all other timings per XMP. Then I saved the BIOS profile so I didn't have to do that mess again. Works like a charm now, but it was unstable before doing that. Hence my advice about sub-timings on Haswell being a big deal.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
High RAM frequency is something I couldn't test since the best RAM I have is some 1600 6-6-6-20 Hyper ICs.

It sounds like a secondary/tertiary timing issue to me as well, but that's just a guess on my part.
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