Today brings another offering boasting Intel’s new Z97 chipset. This new series of motherboards bring compatibility with future Broadwell CPUs, M.2 SSDs, and SATA Express, along with other smaller changes. ASRock has released multiple boards based on the Z97 chipset from their OC, Extreme, and Fatal1ty lines. This motherboard, as you can guess, is part of the Extreme series. Even though it isn’t part of the OC series, this board has plenty of overclocking features that tend to target the more “average” user.
Specifications and Features
Taking a quick look at the specifications of the Z97 Extreme6, there are a few things that really jump out. Among those is the 12 phase power section, 3200 MHz DDR3 Dual-Channel support, and Ultra M.2 (32 Gb/s) slot. The board supports SLI/Crossfire in PCI-E 3.0 x8/x8 configuration, has ten USB 3.0 ports (4 front/6 rear), and five USB 2.0 ports (4 front/1 internal-vertical).
|ASRock Z97 Extreme6|
|CPU||– Socket 1150|
|Chipset||– Intel Z97 Express Chipset|
|Memory||– Dual Channel DDR3 Memory Technology – 4 x DDR3 DIMM Slots- Supports DDR3 3200+(OC)/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 – 15μ Gold Contact in DIMM Slots|
|Slots||– 2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 Slots (PCIE2/PCIE4: single at x16 (PCIE2); dual at x8 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE4)) – 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (PCIE5: x2 mode) – 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 Slots – 1 x mini-PCI Express Slot – 15μ Gold Contact in VGA PCIe Slot (PCIE2)|
|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 – Three graphics output options: DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 – Supports Triple Monitor – Supports HDMI with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096×2304) @ 24Hz – Supports DVI-I with max. resolution up to 1920×1200 @ 60Hz – Supports DisplayPort 1.2 with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096×2304) @ 24Hz or 4K x 2K (3840×2160) @ 60Hz – Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI Port (Compliant HDMI monitor is required) – Supports HDCP with DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 Ports – Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) playback with DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 Ports|
|On-Board SATA/M.2||– 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors by Intel® Z97, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel® Rapid Storage Technology 13 and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI, Hot Plug and ASRock HDD Saver Technology – 4 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors by ASMedia ASM1061, support NCQ, AHCI, Hot Plug and ASRock HDD Saver Technology (SATA3_A4 connector is shared with the eSATA port) – 1 x SATA Express 10 Gb/s Connector (shared with SATA3_4, SATA3_5 and M.2 Socket (M2_2))* – 1 x eSATA Connector by ASMedia ASM1061, supports NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug – 1 x Ultra M.2 Socket (M2_1), supports M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4 (32 Gb/s) – 1 x M.2_SSD (NGFF) Socket 3 (M2_2), supports M.2 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s module and M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen2 x2 (10 Gb/s)|
|USB||USB 3.0 – 4x Front – 6x RearUSB 2.0 – 4x Front – 1x Internal Vertical Type A|
|Audio||Rear – 5x 2.5mm – 1x SPDIFFront – 1x Front Panel Connector|
|LAN||– 2x RJ-45 Gigabit LAN Ports|
|Multi-GPU||– Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™ and CrossFireX™ – Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™ and SLI™|
|Form Factor||– 12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm) ATX|
The next table lists the feature set of the Z97 Extreme6. All images and descriptions provided by ASRock.
|XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink Design – The extra-large aluminum alloy heatsinks take away heat dramatically. As the MOSFETs and chipsets areas are well covered by these heatsinks to protect them from overheating, MOSFET and chipsets can perform with lower temperature, and your motherboard and system will be more stable and reliable.|
|Premium Alloy Choke – The new generation alloy chokes effectively increase up to 90% saturation current and feature a highly magnetic and heat resistant design, making the motherboard more efficient, stable and reliable.|
|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.|
|NexFET MOSFET for Memory Power – The next generation NexFET MOSFETs control the power supply to DRAM slots more efficiently. They provide lower RDS(on) 2.9 mΩ, delivering higher efficiency and lower temperature.|
|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.|
|Sapphire Black PCB – ASRock does not overlook any details, even those tiny ones. With pure black PCB appearance, the new Sapphire Black PCB represents rock-solid quality and gives the motherboard a more mysterious touch.|
|Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4) – The World’s Fastest M.2 Socket – PCIe Gen3 x4The onboard M.2 socket is a new interface for connecting Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) SSDs or other devices. ASRock is the first in the world to implement PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 socket on motherboards. The ultimate Ultra M.2 interface pushes the speed up to 32Gb/s which is 6X faster compared to other M.2 Gen2 x1 solutions that are limited to 5Gb/s.|
|M.2 Socket (PCIe Gen2 x2/SATA) – ASRock supports M.2 SATA3 6Gb/s modules and M.2 PCI Express modules up to Gen2 x2 10Gb/s, which is 2X faster compared to other M.2 Gen2 x1 solutions that are limited to 5Gb/s.|
|Purity Sound™ 2 – Purity Sound™ 2 includes 7.1 CH HD audio with Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, 115dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier, TI® NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier, cap less Direct Drive technology, EMI shielding cover, PCB isolate shielding and DTS Connect. As Nichicon audio capacitors are what every audiophile has been longing for on a PC, ASRock applied these high quality capacitors for Purity Sound™ 2.|
The retail packaging is exactly what you would expect for a higher tier motherboard. You get a slick design on the front, a full feature set listed on the back, and a handle to hold it all with ease.
The Extreme6 comes with your standard accessory package including a SLI Bridge, 4x SATA Cables, Manual, Driver CD, I/O Shield, and a handful of screws. This should be all you need to get the board running!
The ASRock Z97 Extreme6
Looking at the motherboard, the first thing noticed is the new color scheme when compared to the last generation. ASRock went for a blue and black color scheme on this board with simplistic styling. The Purity Sound 2 section of the board is separated from the rest of the PCB to provide better quality audio from its Realtek ALC1150 CODEC. Flipping to the back of the board we see… solder! Actually, it is seen that the first PCI-E x16 slot is an electrical x16 connection, while the second is an electrical x8 connection. There are also screws used to attach all the heatsinks on the board, nice touch there ASRock.
A Closer Look
Starting at the bottom right corner of the board, we see all of the SATA ports, USB headers, debug display, BIOS switch, swappable BIOS chips, and power/reset buttons. These features are good for your average user, but great for an overclocking enthusiast. Moving over to the bottom left corner of the board, the Purity Sound 2 audio section can be seen along with the front panel audio connection. Other connectors in this corner include the supplementary PCI-E power connector, Thunderbolt connector, and fan connector.
Take half a move back and we arrive at the PCI-E section of the board. Here we see the three full-size PCI-E x16 slots and two PCI-E x1 slots. The Ultra M.2, M.2, and mPCI-E slots are all located in this area as well. The first two full-size PCI-E slots have a 3-slot spacing to help with cooling a SLI or Crossfire setup. Hop up to the DIMM area of the board, and you’ll find four DDR3 slots (supporting up to 3200 MHz) with a 32 GB maximum capacity. There’s also another USB 3.0 header and the 24-pin ATX power connection.
Looking at the back of the board, we see a jam-packed I/O area. You have the typical USB, display, and audio connectors here. Some “extra” features include the SPDIF output, dual Gigabit Ethernet, and BIOS reset button (be careful with that one). Last but not least, we arrive at the CPU socket area of the motherboard. Here we can see the 12 Phase Digi Power section that can handle any overclocking you throw at it, especially in ambient conditions. The other feature of this section is the beefy heatsinks keeping the power delivery section cool. There isn’t much clutter around the socket, making insulation for sub-zero operation easier.
All in all, this board looks amazing and has a feature set to impress the average user or even the hardcore overclocker. The vast amount of SATA ports and dual Gigabit Ethernet mean it could easily be re-purposed to a home storage server as it gathers a few years of use.
UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software
For this motherboard, ASRock absolutely nailed the UEFI layout. It is simple, easy to read and navigate, but still loaded with features. The UEFI is easy to use for people who prefer the mouse or the keyboard, which is a nice change from some other manufacturer’s layouts. The Main tab shows some quick system specs, UEFI version, and a folder to add your favorite settings to. Continuing to the OC Tweaker tab we find all the CPU, DRAM, and Voltage options related to overclocking the system. Within this tab is the DRAM Configuration page where all the DRAM timings and sub-timings can be set manually.
Move over to the Advanced tab to find configuration settings for all the motherboard components. Here you can enable/disable settings such as Hyper-Threading, Virtualization, iGPU, and other onboard components.
Next up is the Tool tab, which has utilities for updating the UEFI, installing drivers, and saving user profiles. The H/W Monitor tab shows temperatures and voltages for key components as well as allowing fan profiles to be changed or manually configured.
As expected, the Boot tab contains all the settings related to computer start-up. Click over to the Security tab, and there are options to set UEFI passwords and to enable/disable Secure Boot. And for the Exit tab, we see the typical save settings and load defaults options.
ASRock’s desktop system monitoring and overclocking software is called A-Tuning. It provides in-depth frequency, voltage, and fan control within the Windows environment. There are other useful items included that you can see in the slideshow below. The user interface is simple and easy to navigate, much like the system’s UEFI.
Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking
Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking.
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K @ 4.0 GHz and 4.5Ghz|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z97 Extreme6|
|RAM||2x4GB G.SKILL Ares 2133MHz CL9 11-10-28-2T|
|Graphics Card||Club3D R9 280X RoyalQueen|
|Solid State Drive||256GB Samsung 840 Pro|
|Power Supply||EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G2|
|Operating System||Windows 7 x64 SP1|
|Graphics Drivers||Catalyst 14.4|
In the coming screenshots there are results for 4.0 GHz and 4.5 GHz CPU speeds. Included are results using the latest versions of SuperPi 1M/32M, wPrime 32M/1024M, AIDA64, MaxxMEM, Cinebench R11.5/R15, and PiFast. There will be a later comparison table that includes an Asus Maximus VI Hero for reference.
CPU Benchmarks – SuperPi, wPrime, PiFast, and Cinebench
Memory Benchmarks – AIDA v4.30.2900 and MaxxMEM v2.01
Benchmark Summary Table
The table shows a brief comparison to an Asus Maximus VI Hero (Z87 Chipset), for the purpose of verifying data. It looks like all the results are in-line with what they should be for the Extreme6!
|Benchmark↓/Motherboard→||Extreme6 4GHz||Extreme6 4.5GHz||MVIH 4GHz||MVIH 4.5GHz|
|SuperPi 32M||7m 51.667s||7m 04.149s||7m 49.545s||7m 02.761s|
Pushing the Limits
I got a chance to push past the 4.5 GHz mark and ended up at a very easy 4.9 GHz. The SuperPi and wPrime results below were at 1.43 V on the core voltage. The board actually scaled very well for results at this high of a speed.
With this newest Intel chipset (and set of motherboards) there are more incremental upgrades than performance boosts. The most notable of these upgrades is Haswell Refresh and upcoming Broadwell CPU support along with M.2 SSD support. I’m normally a “bad news first” person, so I’ll mention the bad things first. Alright, I’ve got nothing. This board has no issues that I was able to find! It is stable when pushing the limits, has an awesome UEFI, and is bundled into an attractive design. To top everything off, this board is loaded with features such as Dual Gigabit Ethernet, Ultra M.2 (32Gb/s), Thunderbolt, Purity Sound 2, 10x SATA ports, and 3200 MHz DDR3 support.
From an overclockers point of view, this board has all you need to push for every last MHz. Integrated power/reset switches for open-air setups, BIOS chips that are a quick swap from new, a BIOS reset button, a physical BIOS switch, 12 phase digital power delivery, and a slew of overclocking options in the UEFI.
Flipping the coin, the ASRock Z97 Extreme6 comes in at an extremely competitive price. It is currently $169.99 at Newegg, beating out a very comparable Maximus VII Hero by $50! This price point makes it a great board for most budgets looking at the unlocked Intel CPUs. Now for the rating. Stable? Very. Looks? Amazing. Features? Loaded like a Cadillac. Add to this great overclocking capabilities and the amazing price, and I’m wishing there was something above “Approved”!