ASRock Z77 Extreme6 Motherboard w/ Intel i7-3770K Review


ASRock have made a name for themselves in the past few years, releasing some very impressive motherboards such as the Fatal1ty 990FX Professional that we reviewed a few months back. They have a wide range of motherboards across multiple platforms, from mini-ITX HTPC motherboards to high-end ATX boards with a myriad of features and extreme overclocking support.
Intel released their new Z77 chipset a few weeks back and ASRock have come up with a whole host of motherboards incorporating it. Today we will be looking at the ASRock Z77 Extreme6motherboard which fits in near the top of their range of Z77 motherboards. It promises a plentiful feature set and good overclocking support.
Today, the embargo breaks on Intel’s latest range of ‘Ivy Bridge’ processors which replace the existing Sandy Bridge parts on the market. We will be using the Intel Core i7-3770K to review the ASRock Z77 Extreme6 motherboard. It is clocked at 3.50GHz, meaning it’s a direct replacement for the i7-2700K which we will be using for comparison purposes in this review.
Features
  • Premium Gold Caps
  • Digi Power Design, 8 + 4 Power Phase Design
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR3 2800+(OC)
  • 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 Slots, 1 x mini-PCI Express slot
  • Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™, CrossFireX™ and NVIDIA® Quad SLI™, SLI™
  • PCIE Gigabit LAN
  • Supports Intel® HD Graphics with Built-in Visuals
  • Multi VGA Output options: D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort
  • Combo Cooler Option (C.C.O.)
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC898 Audio Codec), Supports THX TruStudio™
  • Supports ASRock XFast RAM, XFast LAN, XFast USB, OMG, Internet Flash, UEFI System Browser
  • Supports Intel® Smart Connect, Intel® Rapid Start, Lucid Virtu Universal MVP
  • Free Bundle : 1 x Front USB 3.0 Panel, 1 x Rear USB 3.0 Bracket, CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 Trial, ASRock MAGIX Multimedia Suite
For more detailed information on the features and specification of the ASRock Z77 Extreme6, please visit the ASRock website here.
ASRock supply the Z77 Extreme6 within a sizeable cardboard motherboard box which carries a black and gold livery. This should provide adequate protection for the board during shipping and provides enough room for all the bundled accessories. The top of the box is relatively sparse but does feature a few logos which advertise some of the boards features.
Turning the box over reveals a detailed breakdown of the motherboards different features. All of the boards features and specifications are detailed in full on the ASRock website, here.
Inside the box we find a plethora of accessories, reflecting the high-end position of this particular model. All of the standard accessories are present, including a rear I/O shield, four SATA cables, an installation guide and a software CD. ASRock also include a number of other accessories, such as an SLI bridge card and a USB3.0 panel which can be fitted in the front or rear of the case.
ASRock have followed the recent trend set by other motherboard manufacturers and have used a black colour scheme for the Z77 Extreme6. There are a few gold highlights here and there but the PCB and the majority of the fittings are black.
There are some substantial heatsinks surrounding the CPU socket which cool the power regulation circuitry. This should help the overclocking performance of the motherboard. There is still plenty of room around the CPU socket for installing CPU coolers so we had no trouble installing the substantial Phanteks PH-TC14PE that we used for testing. There is an 8-pin power connector on the top edge of the board in close proximity to the CPU socket.
We find the four black DDR3 memory slots to the right of the CPU socket on the Z77 Extreme6. The board supports up to 32 GB of non-ECC, unbuffered memory at speeds of 2800 (OC)/2400 (OC)/2133 (OC)/1600/1333/1066 MHz. It also supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 1.3/1.2.
Further down the right hand side of the board there are eight SATA connectors. The four grey connectors support SATA-600 and the four black connectors support SATA-300. Two of the SATA-600 connectors are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip which supports NCQ, AHCI and ‘Hot Plug’ functions. One of these connectors is shared with the eSATA3 port on the back panel. The remaining two SATA-600 connectors and four SATA-300 connectors are controlled by the Intel Z77 chipset. These connectors support Intel Rapid Storage and Smart Response Technology as well as NCQ, AHCI and ‘Hot Plug’ functions. They also support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10.
The ASRock Z77 Extreme6 motherboard features two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 slots which run at 16x with a single card installed and x8 in dual mode with two cards installed. Please note that PCI Express 3.0 is only supported when an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU is installed. There is a further PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot which runs at x4 when a third graphics card is installed. ASRock have also included a PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, one mini-PCI Express slot and two legacy PCI slots.
For users who plan to use a multi-GPU setup in their system, the Z77 Extreme6 supports Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX and CrossFireX as well as nVidia Quad SLI and SLI. There is an additional 4-pin power connector above the PCI Express slots which provides extra power when using a multi-GPU configuration. ASRock include an SLI bridge with the motherboard should it be required.
Along the bottom edge of the board there are a number of connections. These include an HD audio connector, three USB2.0 connectors and the front panel connector. We also find a double digit error code LED display which is useful for diagnosing problems. There are a number of fan connectors dotted around the board which should be more than enough for most people. The USB3.0 front panel connector is located next to the 24-pin power connector on the right hand side of the board.
The rear I/O panel supports:
  • 1x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
  • 1x D-Sub Port
  • 1x DVI-D Port
  • 1x HDMI Port
  • 1x DisplayPort
  • 1x Optical SPDIF Out Port
  • 2x USB2.0 Ports
  • 1x eSATA3 Connector
  • 4x USB3.0 ports
  • 1x RJ-45 LAN Port
  • 1x IEEE1394 Port
  • 1x Clear CMOS Switch
ASRock have implemented an attractive-looking UEFI interface which is very easy to use. It’s not quite as good as the ASUS UEFI as it doesn’t have the same basic mode for less technically advanced users. However, there isn’t much to choose between the two for advanced users.
ASrock have included some automatic overclocking features on the main page, which are very good. We used the ASRock Turbo 30 option which boosted the clock speed of our Intel i7-3770K from 3.5 GHz to 4.7 GHz. There are also options available to automatically overclock the CPU to 4.2, 4.4, 4.6 and 4.8 GHz. These all worked very well except the 4.8 GHz option which was unstable without manually enhancing the CPU voltage.
We have included a full set of BIOS screenshots below.
The ASRock UEFI interface makes overclocking very simple with the Z77 Extreme6 motherboard. We are forced to overclock the system using the multiplier rather than the baseclock with Ivy Bridge as there is little leeway in the baseclock. The maximum fully stable overclock we managed to achieve with the i7-3770K was 4.9 GHz using a core voltage of 1.35V. This may not seem like a lot of volts when we consider that Sandy Bridge chips could be pushed to 1.5V on air but the Ivy Bridge chips run much hotter with the same voltage level due to the die shrink to 22nm. See validation over here.
With the core voltage set at 1.35V, the core temperatures were approaching 90 degrees C when we loaded the system with Prime95. We think that this is a little too hot for every day use so we decided to use the Turbo30 automatic overclocking mode for our benchmarks. This clocked the i7-3770K to 4.7 GHz using a voltage just shy of 1.30V. See validation over here.
We managed to overclock the system to 5.0 GHz during our tests which required us to disable hyper threading and to  bump the voltage to 1.375V. The system wasn’t completely stable with this overclock and the temperatures were very hot. As the Phanteks PH-TC14PE is one of the best air coolers you can buy, we expect that a custom watercooling loop would be required to keep the temperatures at bay when the chip is overclocked to this level. See validation over here.
It was very easy to achieve an overclock of 4.6 GHz with the i7-3770K and this only required a core voltage of about 1.25V. My colleague Zardon achieved 4.6 GHz with a relatively inexpensive Arctic Freezer 13 CPU cooler which only costs about £20. Those looking to push their system further than this will need to invest in a high end air cooler or water cooling.
When overclocking the i7-2700K in this motherboard we were also able to achieve 5.0 GHz using a core voltage of 1.45V. We didn’t have to disable hyper threading to achieve this overclock and the temperatures were much lower than they were when overclocking the i7-3770K to this level. We expect that the i7-2700K could be pushed further with more voltage but we wanted to concentrate on overclocking the i7-3770K in this review. See validation over here.
We also clocked the i7-2700K to 4.7 GHz for our benchmarks to provide a clock for clock comparison with the i7-3770K. We used a core voltage of 1.30V to achieve this overclock. See validation over here.

In this review we are going to benchmark the i7-3770K at reference clock speeds and when overclocked to 4.7 GHz. We will be comparing it to a similarly clocked i7-2700K chip. Both of these processors were cooled using a Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU cooler.
Test System:
Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K and Intel Core i7-2700K
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme6
Cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PE
Thermal Paste: Arctic Cooling MX-4
Memory: 8 GB G.Skill @ 1600 MHz 9-9-9-24
Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 6950
Power Supply: NZXT Hale90 750W
System Drive: Intel 520 Series 2400 GB
Monitor: Viewsonic VX2260WM
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Software:
PCMark 7
3DMark 11
SiSoft Sandra 2012 SP3
Cinebench R11.5
CrystalDiskMark
Cyberlink MediaEspresso 6.5
VLC Media Player
Performance Monitor
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Super Pi 1.5 Mod
CPUID Hardware Monitor
CPU-Z
DiRT 3
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.
In this test we can see how the latest Ivy Bridge architecture offers improved performance over Sandy Bridge clock for clock.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.
Once again we can see the performance benefits of the latest Ivy Bridge architecture clock for clock.
PCMark 7 includes 7 PC tests for Windows 7, combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete PC performance testing for Windows 7 for home and business use.
In PCMark 7 we can see how overclocking benefits system wide performance. The i7-3770K outperforms the 2700K by a fair margin, both at reference clock speeds and when overclocked.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
We use the stock settings for our tests.
Unigine Heaven relies heavily on graphics so we hardly see any difference in performance between the 2700K and 3770K.
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. Sandra is a (girl) name of Greek origin that means “defender”, “helper of mankind”. We think that’s quite fitting.
It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.
Native ports for all major operating systems are available:
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x86)
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x64)
  • Windows 2003/R2, 2008/R2* (IA64)
  • Windows Mobile 5.x (ARM CE 5.01)
  • Windows Mobile 6.x (ARM CE 5.02)
All major technologies are supported and taken advantage of:
  • SMP – Multi-Processor
  • MC – Multi-Core
  • SMT/HT – Hyper-Threading
  • MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, AVX, FMA – Multi-Media instructions
  • GPGPU, DirectX, OpenGL – Graphics
  • NUMA – Non-Uniform Memory Access
  • AMD64/EM64T/x64 – 64-bit extensions to x86
  • IA64 – Intel* Itanium 64-bit
We see decent improvements in the Arithmetic and Multimedia tests with the new architecture and very slight improvements in the memory bandwidth test.
Cinebench R11.5 is the newest revision of the popular benchmark from Maxon. The test scenario uses all of your system’s processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene (from the viral “No Keyframes” animation by AixSponza). This scene makes use of various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores.
In fact, CINEBENCH can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.
In Cinebench, the multi core scores were over four times better than the single core score. This shows the benefits of utilising multiple threads and, in particular, hyper-threading.
Super Pi is used by a huge audience, particularly to check stability when overclocking processors. If a system is able to calculate PI to the 2 millionth pace after the decimal without mistake, it is considered to be stable in regards to RAM and CPU.
In this test we see quite a big performance increase when the test system was overclocked with both processors.
Crystalmark is a useful benchmark to measure theoretical performance levels of hard drives and SSD’s. We are using V3.0 x64.
Today we are testing with the Intel 520 Series 240 GB SSD system drive.
Quite impressive transfer rates for the Intel SATA-6Gbps controller in the Z77 Extreme6 motherboard.
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 is the successor to CyberLink MediaShow Espresso 5.5. With its further optimized CPU/GPU-acceleration, MediaEspresso is an even faster way to convert not only your video but also your music and image files between a wide range of popular formats.
Now you can easily playback and display your favourite movies, songs and photos not just on your mobile phone, iPad, PSP, Xbox, or Youtube and Facebook channels but also on the newly launched iPhone 4. Compile, convert and enjoy images and songs on any of your computing devices and enhance your videos with CyberLink’s built-in TrueTheater Technology.
New and Improved Features
  • Ultra Fast Media Conversion – With support from the Intel Core i-Series processor family, ATI Stream & NVIDIA CUDA, MediaEspresso’s Batch-Conversion function enables multiple files to be transcoded simultaneously.
  • Smart Detect Technology – MediaEspresso 6 automatically detects the type of portable device connected to the PC and selects the best multimedia profile to begin the conversion without the need for user’s intervention.
  • Direct Sync to Portable Devices – Video, audio and image files can be transferred in a few easy steps to mobile phones including those from Acer, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, as well as Sony Walkman and PSP devices.
  • Enhanced Video Quality – CyberLink TrueTheater Denoise and Lighting enables the enhancement of video quality through optical noise filters and automatic brightness adjustment.
  • Video, Music and Image File Conversion – Convert not only videos to popular formats such as AVI, MPEG, MKV, H.264/AVC, and FLV at the click of a button, but also images such as JPEG and PNG and music files like WMA, MP3 and M4A.
  • Online Sharing – Conversion to video formats used by popular social networking websites and a direct upload feature means posting videos to Facebook and YouTube has never been easier.
For our testing today we are converting a 1.09GB 720p MKV file (44mins) to Apple Mp4 format for playback on a portable device. This is a common procedure for many people and will give a good indication of system power. We are using the newest version of this program.
In this test we can see the real world performance benefits of overclocking. There is also a slight performance improvement with the new Ivy Bridge CPU compared to the Sandy Bridge one but we don’t think it’s large enough to warrant an upgrade.
Many people who have media systems will be familiar with the Matroska (.mkv) file format which is often used for high definition video. In this test we will be using VLC Media Player to play a 1080P MKV file while recording CPU usage using Performance Monitor.
In this test the new Ivy Bridge processor offered much better performance than the old Sandy Bridge part.
DiRT 3 was released quite recently and has received a lot of praise from gamers and reviewers across the globe. It is the latest iteration of the Colin McRae Rally series, despite Codemasters dropping the Colin McRae branding. It supports DirectX 11 which enhances detail and brings a number of other visual enhancements to the gaming experience.
In DiRT3 the performance differences between the different CPUs and clock speeds were very small indeed.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City is a standalone compilation of the DLC episodes forGrand Theft Auto IV, containing both The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony on one disc. It was released alongside the DLC release of The Ballad of Gay Tony on 29 October 2009 for the Xbox 360 and released on 13 April 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Playstation 3. It does not require a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV to play, nor is an Xbox Live or PSN account necessary (except for multiplayer).
The engine is still extremely demanding for this game – even now for the newest hardware. The latest version changes some of the rendering calls and is used partially within the latest Max Payne engine. The settings we used to test this game are displayed in the screenshot below.
The difference in framerate in GTA 4:EFLC was much larger than in DiRT 3 as it is a more CPU intensive game. There were some significant performance improvements noticeable when the CPUs were overclocked.
We measured the power consumption of our entire test system at the wall while loading the CPU using Prime95. We recorded results with the system at reference clock speeds and when overclocked to 4.7 GHz.
In this test we can see how the die shrink to 22nm with the latest Ivy Bridge CPUs has a positive effect on power consumption. Under load, the 3770K consumed 23W less than the 2700K and 16W less when overclocked.
Everything considered, we are left with very positive impressions of the ASRock Z77 Extreme6 motherboard which is clearly targeted at the high end of the market. The extensive feature set and excellent overclocking headroom are sure to whet the appetites of most enthusiasts and the black and gold colour scheme should fit in aesthetically with most components, appealing to those who care deeply about the aesthetics of their system.
The ASRock Z77 Extreme6 let us achieve some quite impressive overclocks with the Intel Core i7-3770K. We were very pleased that we managed to hit 5.0 GHz using air cooling but unfortunately this wasn’t stable. The maximum stable overclock we achieved was 4.9 GHz using a CPU voltage of 1.35V. That said, we found that this chip got very hot when pushing the volts past 1.25V and, at 1.35V, we felt that the temperatures of 80 – 90 degrees C were too high for every day usage.
For our tests we set the CPU to 4.7 GHz using the automatic ‘Turbo30 option in the BIOS. This is great for those users who don’t have the confidence or know-how to achieve a good overclock on their own using manual settings. We wouldn’t recommend pushing this chip past 4.6 GHz without a high-end air cooler, though, as it requires a lot of volts to achieve higher clock speeds and low-end air coolers simply won’t be able to deal with the heat.
It’s clear that the new Ivy Bridge architecture offers better performance than Sandy Bridge clock for clock looking at our benchmark results. However, the difference is relitavely small and the i7-2700K can be pushed further when overclocking so we don’t think that it’s necessarily worth upgrading for those users who already have all singing, all dancing Sandy Bridge based systems.
There’s no denying that the i7-3770K is an improvement over the i7-2700K and it’s definitely worth buying if you’re planning to build a new system. One of the key areas in which it trumps the i7-2700K is in power consumption where it recorded substantially lower results under load.
It’s not yet clear how much the i7-3770K will cost you as it wont be available via the channel for another week but we estimate that it will be around the £249.99 inc. VAT mark.
The ASRock Z77 Extreme6 is an excellent choice if you’re looking to build an Ivy Bridge based system. It’s available from Aria for £148 inc vat.
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