ASrock Z87 Extreme9/ac review

Submitted by Robbie Pyckhout on Tue, 06/24/2014 - 09:45

ASrock Z87 Extreme9/ac

At this moment, ASrock's most advanced Z87 motherboard is the Extreme9/ac featuring 4-way-SLI/CF support, 10xUSB 3.0, 2x Gigabit LAN, 802.11ac WLAN, 10 SATA 600 ports, ... The board is also quite pricy, but the functionality you get with it is unmatched. In the last 2 years, ASrock has become an equal player to ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, ... Proving their capability of making good quality boards as well. With the new 8 and 9 series, they stunned us another time. Unfortunately, we didn't have other Z87 boards to compare it with. We can only give our impressions and information about the features and bugs we encountered. First some pictures unboxing the package we received:
 
 
 
 
As you can see on the pictures, the box includes cardreader with WLAN built in as well (the Wi-SD Box). The card reader features 4 USB 3.0 ports and an MMX.SD.MS/PRO port as stated on the device itself. Definitly something usefull is the WLAN you get with this motherboard. Anyway, we still don't know the correct use for it since we almost always connect our rigs with a good old ethernet cable.
 
What's included in the package?
  • Wi-SD Box (inc. USB 3.0 cable connector and the needed screws)
  • 10x SATA 6Gb/s cables
  • IO shield
  • 2x Molex to SATA power adapters
  • 3x single SLI rigid bridges (can be combined for 4-way configurations)
  • 1x 3-way SLI rigid bridge

 

  • Sadly enough no CF bridges for users interested in a CF setup...
 
Features
  • A-Style : Home Cloud, Purity Sound™, 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Supports 4-Channel, Dual-Port Thunderbolt™ Technology
  • Supports 4th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 / i5 / i3 / Xeon® / Pentium® / Celeron® in LGA1150 Package
  • Premium Gold Capacitor Design, Digi Power, 12 Power Phase Design, Dual-Stack MOSFET
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR3 2933+(OC)
  • 5 x PCIe 3.0 x16, 1 x PCIe 2.0 x1, 1 x mini-PCIe
  • AMD 4-Way CrossFireX™ and NVIDIA® 4-Way SLI™ supported by PLX PEX 8747 Bridge
  • Rear VGA I/O: 1 x HDMI, 2 x Thunderbolt™, 1 x DisplayPort Input
  • Intel® Dual Gigabit LAN with Teaming
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports DTS Connect
  • 10 x SATA3, 1 x eSATA, 12 x USB 3.0, 9 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x ASRock Wi-SD Box (Supports 4 USB 3.0 ports and an SD 3.0 card slot)
  • WLAN : 1 x 802.11ac WiFi + BT v4.0 module, 1 x ASRock WiFi 2.4/5GHz Antenna
  • Supports A-Tuning, XFast 555, Easy Driver Installer, FAN-Tastic Tuning, USB Key

​If you want to be sure that you have everything you'll ever need on the motherboard, this one should definitly be your choice after all!

First of all, we have the WiFi functionality that offers a good connection and is almost as fast as a direct-wired internet connection. Of course, that depends heavily on your own network and attached hardware, but it left us impressed. Installation and activation is also a breeze. Simply connect the chip on the motherboard with the external WiFi antenna that is included in ASrock's WI-SD BOX. Done.

 

Another great feature included with this motherboard is the Home Cloud. This feature allows you to remotely access your desktop at any time and anywhere through your smartphone, tablet, laptop or other PC.

Of course, we're only mentioning the things that we found of particular interest. Included in that list is ASrock's inclusion of premium, long-lasting gold capacitors that provide maximum stability and performance, further making this tiny package an amazing powerhouse of a motherboard. Furthermore, you're able to connect up to 3 monitors to the intel HD integrated graphics, which is also something quite rare, no matter the motherboard's form factor.

12 Power Phase Design

 A 12 Power Phase Design is only found in more expensive motherboards like this one. It provides completely smooth power delivery to the CPU. Supporting unmatched overclocking capabilities and best system stability.

Dual Intel Ethernet connection

The motherboard also has 2 Intel Ethernet ports who can team together to provide a wider bandwidth. This only applies for people with lightning fast internet connections and very high upload speeds though. We didn't measure any improvements going from a single to teamed solution. Both download and upload speeds as well as ping stayed the same: 7p - 101 mbit/s download - 5.7 mbit/s upload. We used the famous speedtest.net to measure these results.

4-Way SLI & Crossfire

As you might have noticed on the picture, this board allows the user to put 5 x16 PCI-e devices in their rigs. For a Dual Crossfire/SLI setup, the system allows to put up 2 PCI-e lanes fully x16 powered. For a Quad CF/SLI setup you'll get the lane's bandwidth divided in these terms: x8/x8/x8/x8. Concluding that you'll get all the performance of each card you put on the motherboard. Which is great for multi-GPU setups. Another thing that's included to this board!

Then, we got some ordinary features we already knew like the Purity sound and power & reset buttons.

And last but not least, we've got the integrated 'A-tuning,' that we used to measure the temps and for a little tweak here and there. It's easy to use and works pretty well, although we did have some issues with temperature reporting, but we traced that to an issue with the built-in CPU sensor not playing nice. Because of this, we also used HWmonitor to monitor the temps and finally got accurate results. With this motherboard you get also the option for an easy, single-click mode switch for those that want ultimate performance without having to get their hands dirty; Performance Mode (which will overclock your cpu slightly), Standard, and Power Saving, both of which are pretty self-explanitory.

Like mentioned in the introduction, the board also offers 10 SATA 3 ports for very extensive system builds.

Xfast USB was one of the features we complained about in our previous ASrock review. It still seems a little unnecessary and rather irritating, but the results clearly show an improvement in transfer speeds. It took us 20 seconds longer withour Xfast USB installed to transfer a file with a 3GB size from the OCZ Agility III to Kingston's Datatraveler Ultimate 3.0 G3.

However, some other software called Xfast LAN was something mediocre that slowed down our internet speeds. We went from 103mbit/s to 42mbit/s download after installing this software according to speedtest.net. Anyway, this is just an option you're able to install on your system, this isn't required.

 

Design

Certainly something ASrock paid attention to are the looks and cooling of the VRMs and chipset. We really can't complain about this at all. The motherboard looks pretty good and especially very professional. Whole the 12 Power Phase Design's VRM is covered by a big heatsink linked with one heatpipe linked to the heatsink upon the Z97 chip.

 

Overclocking

Lucky us, we received an i7 4790K 2 days ago as well, so we were able to do some overclocking! The maximum overclock we were able to reach under a voltage of 1.35v was an clockspeed of 4700MHz. This was less than we expected, but this could have been the chip's fault. Sadly, ASrock still doesn't feature a real steady and fixed voltage overclocking feature in their BIOS. Everything works with offset modes. Anyway, we did get some pretty accurate voltages and were able to overclock very safely. The extra reset and power buttons are an handy tool for many overclockers:

 

Conclusion

This motherboard is a topdog in functionality and is perfect for people that require the maximum amount of features available on the motherboard market. Users that want the most functionality supported on one board and want to make sure that every option of use is possible should be buying this ASrock Extreme9/ac board instead! Rather than a Pizza Full Option, you can expect a motherboard Full Option in this case! On the other side, we don't seem to find a use for every feature on this board for a regular someone. I rarely know people using all these features at the same time. The functionality is great, but brings an additional pricetag with it, you're better off going for a more specific board with the functionality you're looking for.

 

Overclocking: 8.5/10

Functionality: 10/10

Performance: ?? --> No results to compare available

Software: 3.5/5

Features: 9/10

Design: 4/5

Value: 7/10

 

Total: 8.4/10

We decided to give the ASrock Z87 Extreme9/ac a close silver award!

 

More Information about our awards and High resolution versions can be found here

About the Author

Keeping up with new inventions and technological improvements is kinda my thing. Writing about technology is just a result of my fascination with it. I hope to provide readers with as much news as possible, everyday.
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