Is anyone else ready to take a look at another motherboard on the Z170 platform? I know I am. Today’s review is for the ASRock Z170 Extreme7+, the top motherboard in the Z170 Extreme lineup from ASRock. Being part of the Extreme series, this motherboard will have plenty of overclocking features for all but the craziest of sub-ambient users. Let’s take a look at everything the board has to offer!
Specifications and Features
Taking a quick look at the specifications of the Z170 Extreme7+, quite a few sections stand out. Among those are the ten SATA and three M.2 connectors, 3866+ MHz DDR4 Dual-Channel support, and 7x PCIe slots. The board supports SLI in PCI-E 3.0 x8/x8 and CrossFireX in x8/x8 or x8/x4/x4 configuration, has 20 USB ports (12 front/8 rear), and dual GbE LAN with teaming.
|ASRock Z170 Extreme7+ Specifications|
|CPU||Intel® Socket 1151 for 6th Generation Processor Family (Socket 1151)|
|Chipset||Intel Z170 Express Chipset|
|Memory||4x DIMM Dual-Channel DDR4 3866MHz+ (up to 64GB)|
|Expansion Slots||4x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 / dual at x8-x8 / triple at x8-x4-x4)|
1x PCIe 3.0 x1
1x PCIe 2.0 x1
1x Mini PCIe
|Graphics||Integrated Graphics Processor – 1x DP 1.2, 1x HDMI 1.4|
|Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™ and SLI™|
Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™, 3-Way CrossFireX™, and CrossFireX™
|Storage||6x SATA 6G on Z170 PCH – RAID 0, 1, 5, 10|
4x SATA 6G on ASMedia ASM1061
3x SATA 10G Express Connectors
3x Ultra M.2 32Gb/s Sockets, Supports SATA and PCIe Modules
|LAN||1x GigaPHY Intel® i219V|
1x GigaLAN Intel® i211AT
Supports Teaming, WOL, and PXE
|Audio||Realtek 7.1 Channel High Definition Audio – ALC1150|
115dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier
TI® NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier (Supports up to 600 ohm headsets)
|USB||2x USB 3.1 Type-A|
– 1x Front Panel, 1x Rear IO
2x USB 3.1 Type-C
– 1x Front Panel, 1x Rear IO
8x USB 3.0
– 4x Rear IO – Intel Z170, 2x (4 ports) internal headers – ASMedia ASM1074
8x USB 2.0
– 2x Rear IO, 3x (6 ports) internal headers
|Rear I/O Ports||1x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port|
1x DisplayPort 1.2
2x LAN (RJ45)
1x USB 3.1 Type-C (black)
1x USB 3.1 Type-A (light blue)
4x USB 3.0 (blue)
1x Optical S/PDIF out
5x Audio jacks
1x Clear CMOS button(s)
1x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
|OS Support||Windows 7*, 8, 8.1, and 10|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor|
The next table lists the feature set of the Z170 Extreme7+. All images and descriptions provided by ASRock.
|ASRock Z170 Extreme7+ Features|
|XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink Design||Extra large aluminum alloy heat sinks that effectively take away heat from the MOSFET and chipset so that your whole system may perform more stable.|
|Combo Caps (Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps)||A combination of 820uF and 100uF capacitors. Together these capacitors provide clearer, efficient and more responsive CPU Vcore power, and overclockers may achieve higher scores.|
|Premium 60A Power Choke||Compared to traditional chokes, ASRock’s premium 60A power chokes effectively make the saturation current up to three times better, thus providing enhanced and improved Vcore voltage to the motherboard.|
|Premium Memory Alloy Choke||Specifically designed for memory power delivery, these new alloy chokes feature a highly magnetic and heat resistant design, thus delivering more stable and reliable power to the motherboard and memory modules.|
|Dual-Stack MOSFET for CPU Power||Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM) is another innovative MOSFETs design by ASRock. The silicon die area is increased by stacking two dies into one MOSFET. The larger the die area, the lower Rds(on). Compared to traditional discrete MOSFET, DSM with larger die area provides extreme lower Rds(on) 1.2 mΩ, so the power supply for the CPU Vcore is more efficient.|
|Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps||Supreme 12K platinum capacitors with lifespans of at least 12,000 hours. Compared to other counterparts on high-end motherboards that merely have lifespans of around 10,000 hours, ASRock applied Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps that offer 20% longer lifespans and provide more stability and reliability.|
* Tested under industry standard 105 degree Celsius ambient temperature.
A new designed protective cover for all of the crucial parts near the motherboard’s rear I/O, so that they won’t easily be damaged by static electricity.
|Matte Black PCB||A new mysterious matte black and copper color scheme to match the prestigious components on ASRock’s high-end 100 Series motherboards.|
High Density Glass Fabric PCB
What you’ve never understood about your computer is that it is scared to death of water, H2O, humidity or whatever you’d like to name it. And even though you do not see the water, actually there may be lots of excessive moist in the air killing your motherboard silently and slowly. No, your motherboard doesn’t melt when in contact with water like the wicked witch of the west, but it dies of short circuit. Luckily, ASRock has a new High Density Glass Fabric PCB design that reduces the gaps between the PCB layers to protect the motherboard against electrical shorts caused by humidity.
|USB 3.1 10 Gb/s Type-A + C|
On the Rear I/O and Front USB 3.1 Panel
This motherboard has a pair of onboard Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 ports built on the rear i/o for supporting next generation USB 3.1 devices and to deliver up to 10 Gbps data transfer rates.
12 Power Phase Design
The power phase design offers smooth power delivery to the CPU, unmatched overclocking capabilities, lower temperature for advanced gamers, and reinforced system stability for taking on all sorts of arduous computing tasks.
4 x PCIe 3.0 x16 Slots
Four PCIe Gen3 x16 slots that not only support ordinary graphics cards, but are also fully compatible with professional Nvidia Quadro and AMD FirePro workstation graphics solutions.
Purity Sound™ 3
7.1 CH HD audio with Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, Pure Power-In and other technologies to deliver the crispest sound effects.
– Supports Purity Sound™ 3
– Nichicon Fine Gold Series Audio Caps
– 115dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier
– TI® NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier (Supports up to 600 Ohm headsets)
– Pure Power-In
– Direct Drive Technology
– PCB Isolate Shielding
Triple Ultra M.2 32 Gb/s (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3)
The PCIe Gen3 x4 Ultra M.2 interface pushes data transfer speeds up to 32Gb/s. In addition, it also supports SATA3 6Gb/s M.2 modules, and is compatible with ASRock’s U.2 Kit for installing some of the world’s fastest U.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 SSDs.
Hyper BCLK Engine
An additional external base clock generator which provides a wider range of frequencies and more precise clock waveforms. This helps overclockers to have more control over their systems.
UEFI EZ Mode
EZ mode is a dashboard which contains multiple readings of the system’s current status. You can check the most crucial information of your system, such as CPU speed, DRAM frequency, SATA information, fan speed, etc.
Dual Intel® LAN
Users are able to connect two LAN cables to this motherboard’s rear i/o. Dual LAN with Teaming function enabled on this motherboard allows two single connections to act as one single connection for twice the transmission bandwidth, making data transmission more effective.
Supports DDR4 3866+ (OC)
Supports the latest DDR4 memory modules and most extreme memory performance!
Unlike traditional motherboards that use analog power, this motherboard uses a next generation digital PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation) design, which provides CPU Vcore voltage more efficiently and smoothly, so that the stability and lifespan of the motherboard is greatly enhanced.
Half-size Mini PCIe
A compact and convenient PCIe interface on the motherboard that can be used for connecting WiFi cards or other add-on cards.
Flexible PCIe Slots
A new flexible PCIe Gen3 x1 slot design that allows users to install add-on cards of all kinds of sizes.
* The bandwidth of your devices will be limited to PCIe Gen3 x1.
Win 7 USB Patcher
Due to chipset limitation, when you want to install Windows® 7 on this MB, you may need to use “Win 7 USB Patcher” to create a new ISO file, or check this page for more details on how to install Windows® 7 OS.
A-Tuning is ASRock’s multi purpose software suite with a new interface, more new features and improved utilities.
Full Spike Protection
Some sensitive digital components on the motherboard are vulnerable to power surges, the excessive current may cause your system to malfunction immediately. ASRock Full Spike Protection includes various technologies to prevent your motherboard’s components from being damaged by these unexpected voltage spikes.
ASRock Cloud* technology makes your mobile devices connect to your PC seamlessly and supports multi devices for accessing File Explorer cloud service simultaneously!
*For more information please check:http://www.asrock.com/feature/cloud/index.html
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? Nobody has time for that! Just plug in the USB Key and let your computer log in to windows automatically!
|Restart to UEFI|
Fast Boot is so fast that it is impossible for users to enter the UEFI setup utility during POST. Therefore, ASRock Restart to UEFI technology allows users to easily enter the UEFI setup utility automatically when turning on the PC next time. It is designed for those who constantly need to enter the UEFI setup utility.
|ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard)|
Limit and control your children’s time spent on the internet. 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.
|UEFI Tech Service|
Contact ASRock Tech Service by sending a support request from the UEFI setup utility if you are having trouble with your personal computer. Users may try to choose the category of the issue they have encountered, describe the problem in detail, and then attach an optional picture or log file for our technical support team.
|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 through the internet. Completely no CD or optical disk drive required!
The packaging for the Z170 Extreme7+ is very similar to that of the Z97 Extreme6 that I reviewed a little over a year ago. There’s a fairly simple front with the manufacturer/model listed, with a full feature/spec listing on the back, and once again there’s a handle for ease of carrying.
The Extreme7+ comes with a very nice accessory package. It includes the Quick Installation Guide, Software Setup Guide, an I/O Shield, a 2-slot rigid SLI bridge, the Driver CD, Case Badge, 4x SATA Cables, 3x Screws for M.2 Sockets, 1x Screw for mini-PCIe slot, 1x USB3.1 Front Panel, 4x Screws for Front Panel, 1x SATA Express Cable, and 1x USB Power Cable. My only other comment here is that it’d be nice for the SATA Express cable to be either sleeved or all black.
Here you can see the USB 3.1 Front Panel. This panel includes 1x USB 3.1 Type-A Port and 1x USB 3.1 Type-C Port. The finish on the front is black aluminum with ASRock printed in white.
On the rear of the Front Panel simply hook up the 1x SATA Express cable and 1x USB Power cable then you’ll be ready to go.
The ASRock Z170 Extreme7+
Much like last year, there’s a whole new color scheme for the motherboard. The new color scheme is black and gold, which goes nicely with the gold caps and matte black PCB. There’s a new cover over the I/O ports and audio section. The Purity Sound 3 audio section is based on the Realtek ALC1150 Codec, it is quite an extensive audio section, and it is isolated from the rest of the motherboard. There are also a total of six PWM fan headers scattered across the top half of the motherboard.
Going to the back of the motherboard it is seen that the first PCIe x16 slot is an electrical x16 connection, the second is an electrical x4 connection, the third is x8, and the fourth is also x4. All the heatsinks are attached to the motherboard with screws, which is expected on a motherboard of this level.
A Closer Look
Here we’ll start out at the lower right hand corner of the motherboard. Noticed first are the 3x SATA Express ports and 4x SATA III ports. Further back in the picture are the Debug Display, 3x USB 2.0 headers, and the case switch headers. Also, the CMOS battery is located on the corner of the board, which is much better than between the PCIe slots!
Moving to the upper right hand corner there is the main 24-pin power connector, 2x USB 3.0 internal headers, power button, reset button, and 4x DDR4 DIMM’s. There is also a pair of PWM fan headers and the CMOS clear button on this shot.
Looking at the bottom edge of the motherboard we find a few connectors I’ve already mentioned along with both BIOS chips and the BIOS switch, the CMOS Clear Jumper, the front audio connection, the COM Header, and the TPM connector.
In the expansion slot area of the motherboard there are 4x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots and 2x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. The lower of the two x1 slots has the rear cut out so that it is a “flexible” PCIe slot, meaning it can accept cards longer than x1. For SLI/CrossFireX in a dual card configuration the second and fourth slots will be used, meaning that you can use a triple slot cooler. There are also 3x Ultra M.2 in this area, along with a MiniPCIe slot. These M.2 slots share bandwidth with the SATA Express connectors, allowing for multi-GPU configurations and M.2 SSD’s at the same time. The connector in-between PCIe3 and PCIe4 is the ThunderBolt AIC connector.
Looking at the rear I/O area you can immediately see that it is loaded with connections. For display there are DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort 1.2 connections. There are a whole slew of USB ports including 2x USB 2.0 ports, 4x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB 3.1 Type-A port, and 1x USB Type-C port. To wrap up there are 5x 3.5mm audio connections, 1x SPDIF Out connection, and 1x PS/2 port.
Stripping the Extreme7+
Even though the ASRock site lists a 12-phase Digi Power VRM, I counted… 14! From what I can tell this is broken down into eight phases for the CPU, four phases for the iGPU, one phase for the VCCSA, and one for VCCIO. Using a single International Rectifier IR35201, which is a 6+2 phase digital PWM controller. I didn’t see a second controller, so I assume there is some sort of dual driver being used.
Both heatsinks on the motherboard are large and make amazing contact with the components they’re meant to cool. The VRM heatsink is a heatpipe design which helps equal out potential hot spots. As mentioned before both heatsinks are attached with screws, not clips, which helps with the great contact they make.
The impressive, fully isolated audio section of this motherboard is controlled by a Realtek ALC1150 codec. This is currently the top dog in the world of audio and is supported well by ASRock’s circuit design. In this circuit design are two of the TI N5532 Operational Amplifiers which allow for use of headphones and headsets up to 600Ω.
Below you can see both of the Gigabit Ethernet controllers. Unlike quite a few boards with dual LAN, this one has two Intel controllers. The first is the brand new i219V and the second is the slightly older i211AT. These controllers support teaming, allowing you up to double the bandwidth on your Ethernet connection.
Here’s some shots of the rest of the control IC’s on the motherboard. These pictures include USB controllers, a SATA controller, and the system monitor controller.
UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software
Up first on the UEFI BIOS is something we haven’t seen from ASRock before, “EZ MODE”. This is a hub where all the system info is seen, along with adjustments for quick CPU overclocking, XMP memory settings, fan settings, and boot order. Hitting the “Advanced Mode” button we come to the typical “Main” screen that we’ve become accustomed to on recent ASRock motherboards.
Next up is the “OC Tweaker” section of the BIOS which includes CPU configuration, memory configuration, voltage settings, and user profiles. This gives all the settings for overclocking, tweaking, and saving your settings for later. The memory tweaking area of this motherboard is quite impressive, allowing changes even down to the fourth timing set! Nowhere do I see any settings to overclock the iGPU though.
Here’s the “Advanced” section of the motherboard’s BIOS, here are a few power settings for the CPU, the chipset configuration, storage configuration, and more. As seen in the slideshow below, this is where you can edit your C-States, active onboard devices, and more.
Now last, but not least, are the Tool, H/W Monitor, Security, Boot, and Exit sections of the BIOS. In the Tool section we find automated systems from ASRock to install drivers, update the BIOS, and more. One standout feature here is the ability to update the BIOS over LAN, which I am quite a fan of and have been since ASRock introduced this feature to their motherboards. Over at the “H/W Monitor” tab there are system temperatures, fan speeds, voltage readings, and fan configuration settings. On the Boot tab you’re able to change the boot priority, enable fast boot, and boot from LAN. Finishing up the BIOS is the Exit section which allows you to save settings, load defaults, and use a one-time override of the boot device.
ASRock’s A-Tuning software has been a nice piece of software for the last few generations and this newest iteration is no exception. The Operation Mode, OC Tweaker, and System Info tabs are largely unchanged, but there was no need to re-do these sections. The new “FAN-Tastic Tuning” section is great to see broken out into its own section, it allows control over all the fans on the motherboard via a user or predefined curve. There is a “Start FAN Test” button here that will also allow you to find the minimum speed that your fans run at easily. The Tech Service and Settings tabs are also unchanged from the last generation.
Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking
Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking.
|CPU||Intel 6700K @ Stock (for the motherboard – 4.0 boost to 4.2 GHz) , 4.7 GHz for Overclocking.|
|Cooler||CoolerMaster Glacer 240L|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z170 Extreme7+|
|RAM||2×4 GB DDR4 GSKILL RipJaws4 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35v|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 980 K|NGP|N|
|Solid State Drive||Samsung 850 Pro 256GB|
|Power Supply||EVGA SuperNova G2 850W|
|Operating System||Windows 7 x64 SP1|
We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks which test rendering, memory performance, and single/multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks we’ll use SuperPi 1M and 32M, wPrime, Intel XTU, and PiFast. For rendering it’s Cinebench R11.5 and R15. Memory performance is checked against AIDA64 and MaxxMEM. For encoding we use x264 and PoV Ray. Stock testing is performed with the BIOS as you get it out of the box, which will vary from motherboard to motherboard. When overclocking, a CPU speed of 4.7 GHz will be used for testing purposes. Memory speed is unchanged.
Memory Bandwidth and Throughput Benchmarks – AIDA64 and MaxxMEM2
CPU Rendering Benchmarks – Cinebench R11.5 and R15
Single Threaded CPU Benchmarks – Super Pi 1M and 32M / Pifast
Multi-Threaded CPU Benchmarks – WPrime 32M and 1024M, x264, PoV Ray R3.73, 7Zip, and Intel XTU
Pushing the Limits
Here’s where I take it up a notch, this screenshot shows a run on Cinebench R15 and SuperPi 1M at 4.8GHz on the CPU and 4.4GHz on the RING. My only voltage change was to set the vCore at 1.42V in the BIOS. With my current cooling I couldn’t run Cinebench at 4.9GHz, looks like I’ll need to wait until winter to give enough voltage for that extra step.
Like most of my conclusions I’ll start out with the negatives, but I only found one; no iGPU overclocking options. As an overclocker I want to set any part of this board considering that it’s a range-topper.
On to the positives… oh where do I start? This board is loaded like a good potato. Dual Gigabit Ethernet, 3x Ultra M.2, awesome audio, great VRM. ASRock went a new route with color scheme from last generation, and they’re working it like a model. On top of this, it performs very well pushing my 6700K to 4.8GHz without even thinking about breaking a sweat. It even includes dual BIOS chips, a BIOS switch, and all PWM fan headers. All this along with plenty more toppings that weren’t mentioned.
The bundled software and BIOS are all very familiar to what we’ve seen before, which is a good thing, but they do feature a few improvements such as EZ Mode. I’m glad ASRock didn’t see fit to fix what wasn’t broken. There’s more than enough adjustability in this board for almost any overclocker, whether rookie or veteran.
Now, on to the wallet, the suddenly lighter wallet. This board has an MSRP of $239 and is currently selling at Newegg for $219 AMIR. Looking at the competition for the Extreme7+; Gigabyte G1 Gaming 7, ASUS Sabertooth Mark 1, this price tag is spot on. With the features, pricing, and performance in mind this board is Overclockers approved!
Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.