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The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard Review Rev. 2.0

ASRock is a relatively new motherboard manufacturer, and it shows in their designs. They are more willing to come up with edgier designs, with a particular emphasis on marketing-friendly features. Today, we are going to take a look at one of their Intel Z170-based motherboards – the ASRock Z170 Extreme4.

Updated @ 2016-05-03 : Updated the review with additional information, particularly with regards to its PCI Express and SATA Express ports.


ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Specifications

SpecificationsASRock Z170 Extreme4
ChipsetIntel Z170
CPU Support6th Generation Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 / Pentium / Celeron processors (Socket 1151)
- Supports Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
- Supports Intel K-Series unlocked CPUs
- Supports ASRock BCLK & Hyper BCLK Engine Full-range Overclocking
CPU Power10-phase digital power design
Memory SupportUp to 64 GB of non-ECC, unbuffered DDR4 memory
- Four DDR4 DIMM slots with 15 μ gold-plated contacts (dual-channel)
- Supports up to DDR4-3866+ (OC) with a single memory module
- Supports DDR4-3600 (OC) / DDR4-3200 (OC) / DDR4-2933 (OC) / DDR4-2800 (OC) / DDR4-2400 (OC) / DDR4-2133
- Supports ECC UDIMM memory modules (operating in non-ECC mode)
- Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0
BIOSTwo 128 Mbits AMI UEFI BIOS with multilingual GUI support
- Supports Secure Backup UEFI Technology
- ACPI 5.0 & SMBIOS 2.7 Compliant
- Supports CPU, DRAM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA voltage adjustments
Processor Graphics Support- Supports Intel HD Graphics with up to 1792 MB shared memory
- Built-in DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 output supports triple monitors
- Maximum DVI-D resolution : 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Maximum HDMI resolution : 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 3840 x 2160 @ 30 Hz
- Maximum DisplayPort resolution : 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Audio SupportASRock Purity Sound 3
- Realtek ALC1150 7.1-channel HD audio codec
- Nichicon Fine Gold series capacitors, 115 dB SND DAC with two Ti NE5532 amplifiers
LAN SupportIntel I219V Gigabit LAN
- Supports Energy-Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports Lightning & ESD Protection
Expansion Slots3 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots
- x16 with single card / x8-x8 with two cards / x8-x8-x4 with three cards
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX and CrossFireX
- Supports NVIDIA Quad SLI and SLI

3 x PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots (Flexible PCIe design)
Storage Ports3 x SATA Express (10 Gb/s) ports with RAID 0/1/5/10 support
- each can be converted into two SATA 3 (6.0 Gb/s) ports

1 x Ultra M.2 socket
- Supports Type 2230 / 2242 / 2260 / 2280 / 22110 M.2 modules
- Supports M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen 3 x4
Connectors- 1 x COM Port Header
- 1 x TPM Header
- 1 x Power LED and Speaker Header
- 2 x CPU Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 3 x Chassis Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector
- 1 x 8 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
- 1 x Front Panel Audio Connector
- 1 x Thunderbolt™ AIC Connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 Headers (Support 4 USB 2.0 ports) (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x USB 3.0 Header (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 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-D Port
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 6 x USB 3.0 Ports (Intel Z170) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch
- HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Hardware Sensors- CPU & chassis temperature sensors and fan tachometers
- Case Open detection
- Voltage monitoring for +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore, DRAM, VPPM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA
Form FactorFull ATX
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 10 / 8 / 8.1 / 7
Certifications- FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)


Unboxing The ASRock Z170 Extreme4

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 comes in a typical motherboard box – a large cardboard box with its key features printed on the underside. Let us show you what’s inside the box in this unboxing video…

Inside, the box is divided into two layers by a simple cardboard insert. Under it is the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard in an anti-static bag with a pink polyethylene anti-static sheet wrapped around it.

When you remove everything, you will find the following items :

Page 2 > The Motherboard, CPU Power & Performance, DDR4 Memory

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The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 is a full ATX-sized motherboard that boasts the following key features :

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  1. ASRock Super Alloy
  2. Supports 6th Generation Intel Core Processors (Socket 1151)
  3. Digi Power, 10 Power Phase design
  4. Supports DDR4 3866+(OC) memory modules
  5. 3 PCIe 3.0 x16, 3 PCIe 3.0 x1
  6. NVIDIA Quad SLI, AMD 3-Way CrossFireX
  7. Graphics Output Options: DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2
  8. Supports Triple Monitor
  9. 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports Purity Sound 3 & DTS Connect
  10. 3 SATA Express, 6 SATA3, 1 Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3)
  11. 2 USB 3.1 (1 Type-C & 1 Type-A), 8 USB 3.0 (2 Front, 6 Rear)
  12. Supports Full Spike Protection, ASRock Live Update & APP Shop

We also prepared a special video to show you the key design features of the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard. Enjoy!


CPU Power & Performance

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard features a 10-phase power design. This is most likely an 8+2 design, with 8 phases dedicated to the CPU. That ensures a cooler and more efficient power conversion compared to voltage regulator modules (VRM) with fewer phases. Its MOSFETs and inductors are kept cool by large aluminium alloy heatsinks, which helps ensure reliability and longevity of the VRM.

The Z170 Extreme4 uses digital pulse-width modulation (PWM) to control its VRM. The PWM is critical in ensuring a stable power supply. Although high quality (and expensive) analog PWM exists, digital PWM allows for more accurate control of the power frequency and modulation.

ASRock also equipped the Z170 Extreme4 with Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors, which not only boasts faster response times and lower voltage noise but also a much longer lifespan (12,000 hours @ 105 °C). In general – this motherboard is designed to last.

To support CPU coolers with two fans, or a DIMM cooler, the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 has two CPU fan headers placed at the top of the board, right next to the four DIMM slots. Finally, the Z170 Extreme4 features an external base clock generator, which gives you finer control of the BLCK frequency- in 0.0625 MHz steps. Of course, the utility of such fine control of the BCLK clock is questionable…

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DDR4 Memory Slots

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard has four DDR4 DIMM slots, their contacts gold-plated to protect them against oxidation and corrosion. Even though the Intel Z170 chipset only supports non-ECC memory, these DIMM slots can accept ECC memory modules – with their ECC capability disabled.

The Intel Z170 chipset only supports DDR4 memory up to 2133 MHz in frequency, but the Z170 Extreme4 allows for overclocked memory clock speeds of up to 3600 MHz with selected modules. It even supports 3866 MHz, but only if a single memory module is installed.

Page 3 > PCI Express, Ultra M.2, SATA Ports


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PCI Express Slots

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard has 6 PCI Express slots – 3 full-sized PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, and 3 much smaller PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots. The top-most PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (PCIE2) operates at full x16 speed with a single card.

If you have two graphics cards, you will need to install them in PCIE2 and PCIE4 and they will both run at x8 speed. If you install a third graphics cards in the PCIE6 slot, it will only run at x4 speed.

The three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots are of the flexible design. That basically means an open-ended slot. This allows you to use any PCI Express card in those x1 slots, even x16 cards. The only downside is that they will only run at x1 speed.


Ultra M.2 Socket

The Ultra M.2 socket is a unique ASRock feature. The M.2 socket is usually connected to the Z170 chipset using two PCI Express lanes. ASRock has instead connected the M.2 socket directly to the Intel Core processor using four PCI Express lanes. This not only doubles the maximum bandwidth to 32 Gbits/s (4 GB/s), it also reduces the M.2 socket’s latency.

Of course, you will need an M.2 SSD that supports PCIe x4. Even so, PCIe x2 SSDs may benefit slightly from the lower latencies associated with the Ultra M.2 socket being directly connected to the CPU, bypassing the Z170 chipset.

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SATA Ports

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 specifications officially quotes 3 SATA Express ports as well as 6 standard SATA 3 ports. However, that is not really the case – it only comes with 3 SATA Express ports.

Of course, each SATA Express port can be “converted” into 2 standard SATA 3 ports. After all, the SATA Express port is really just two SATA 3 ports with a smaller PCI Express port that delivers two PCIe lanes. So you can attach up to 3 SATA Express devices, or 6 SATA devices, or any combinations in between.

Depending on how many drives you intend to use in your system, this may or may not be sufficient. The stacked side-facing SATA ports also may prove to be troublesome. In tight cases, you may not be able to access the lower SATA Express port, depriving you of the opportunity to attach a SATA Express device, or two SATA devices.

Page 4 > Purity Sound 3, Goodies For Techies, I/O Ports & Armor, Other Accessories


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ASRock Purity Sound 3

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard comes with their Purity Sound 3 audio solution. It is a combination of the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec with a 115 dB SNR DAC, two Ti NE5532 amplifiers as well as EMI and PCB shielding.

One of the Ti NE5532 amplifiers is used as a differential amplifier, which avoids the distortion caused by audio capacitors. The other Ti NE5532 amplifier is dedicated to driving the headphone port, allowing you to use high-impedance headphones without a separate amplifier or sound card.


Goodies For Techies

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 was designed with techies in mind. It sports two 128 Mbit BIOS chips, with a physical switch. This allows you to quickly switch to the backup BIOS if you make an unrecoverable mistake in the BIOS setting, or the BIOS is corrupted after a flash failure.

They also include physical Power and Reset buttons on the motherboard, for enthusiasts who prefer to use the Z170 Extreme4 outside of a chassis. There is also a 2-digit Dr. Debug LED display that displays an error code during any failure. Very useful indeed.


I/O Ports & Armor

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 has a ton of I/O ports at the rear, including a legacy PS/2 port, a physical Reset button, two USB 3.1 ports (one Type A, one Type C) as well as 6 standard USB 3.0 ports. In addition to the 5 audio and line-in port, it also sports a single Gigabit LAN port. For display purposes, it boasts a DVI-D port, a HDMI port and a DisplayPort.

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 also features what ASRock calls their I/O Armor. It is ostensibly a protective cover that protects the rear I/O ports from static damage. Frankly speaking, this is only useful if you are using the motherboard outside of a chassis. When installed in a chassis, that job is fulfilled by the I/O shield (also included) that is installed into the chassis.

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Other Accessories

Here is a closer look at the other accessories included in the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 package – the manual and driver CD. A case sticker can be found inside the driver CD sleeve.

It also comes with four SATA 3 cables and an SLI bridge card. There is a small plastic bag with a single small screw – this is used to lock the Ultra M.2 SSD in place.

Page 5 > Our Verdict & Award

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Our Verdict

ASRock has been accused of focusing a bit too much on marketing, at the expense of quality. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard.

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 boasts a 10-phase power design with a digital PWM and Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors. The entire power supply is further cooled by large aluminium-alloy heatsinks. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring an efficient power conversion, stable power supply and longer lifespan.

We also like the fact that they added support for USB 3.1. Not just the more common Type C, they also added the larger Type A port. Their Ultra M.2 socket is also a nice touch although it has minimal effect on your M.2 SSD’s performance unless it supports PCIe x4.

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Audiophiles will appreciate the better audio quality courtesy of its Purity Sound 3 module. Enthusiasts who prefer using the motherboard “in the nude” will love their addition of physical Power and Reset buttons as well as a Dr. Debug LED.

There is plenty of expansion options with 3 full-sized PCI Express x16 slots and 3 small PCIe x1 slots. The PCIe x1 slots are even the “flexible” type that will accept any PCI Express card.

The only downside is the limited number of SATA ports. This will be a problem in tight cases because 4 of them are stacked and bent perpendicularly. Only two of the SATA ports are conveniently located at the lower right corner of the motherboard.

Overall, this is one sweet Intel Z170 motherboard, especially for a hardware enthusiast who prefers not to use a chassis. We think it deserves at least our Reviewers’ Choice Award. Congratulations, ASRock!

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