Review Date: March 1st, 2011
Best Price: £131.43 inc. VAT, www.ebuyer.com
Asrock, founded in 2002, have primarily been a budget mainboard manufacturer. In more recent times Asrock has made a concerted surge forward into the enthusiast market, with excellent offerings such as the 890FX Deluxe4, 890GX Extreme3, P67 Transformer, and P67 Extreme6. With offerings such as these it looks like Asrock are not only intent on turning the enthusiast mainboard arena on its head but also determined on utterly outclassing its rivals on features to boot.
Today we will be looking at the little brother of the P67 Extreme6, the P67 Extreme4 which is directed at lower high-end systems and enthusiasts without such deep pockets. Let’s see if we can rid that “Asrock stigma”.
As you can see from the official specifications page on the Asrock site, the P67 Extreme4 may be aimed at enthusiasts who don’t want to spend huge amounts on a mainboard, but the Extreme4 certainly doesn’t pull any punches with the inclusion of on-board Power and Reset buttons, 4x SATA3 ports, 4x USB3 ports (2 via a 2.5” mounting bracket that can be installed in a 2.5” FDD bay), a UEFI POST code display, rear mounted clear CMOS button, and a very beefy MOSFET cooling solution to name just some of its features.
Gallery – P67 Extreme4
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the P67 Extreme4. The board is quite a work of art really, it’s clear to see Asrock put a lot of thought into the design layout of the Extreme4. If there’s one thing to moan about it would be the lack of a 3 pin fan header toward the bottom right of the board for a intake fan. Instead you will have to use a 3-4 pin converter.
If we take a moment to look the board over we will notice a 8+2 phase design. Some may argue 8+2 is “insufficient”, but I’ll take this opportunity to remind people those 8 phases for the CPU are well capable of supplying around 300 amps of current.
The board also features all solid state capacitors (as you would expect) very good expansion slot arrangement and a good deal of space around the CPU socket. You’ll also notice Asrock have decided to also build a 12v auxiliary connection onto the mainboard. Apparently it’s not necessary to plug a 12v connection in even when running a multiple graphics configuration. Therefore the best conclusion I can reach as to why Asrock built the 12v auxiliary connection onto the board is simply to help provide extra stable power, which may also help juice up the overclocks if the 12v auxiliary connection is plugged in. You may already of noticed there is one glaring issue – only a single ROM chip. Should a flash go wrong, recovery could be very difficult. Lastly, there’s two sets of mounting holes on the board for CPU coolers. One set is for Socket 775, the other for the new Socket 1155. Don’t worry 1156 owners, the hole spacing on the new 1155 is the same as 1156.
Let’s move on.
Here is the board from the side, the blue SATA ports are SATA2 and the white ports SATA3. Some may notice the fan header near the DIMM slots, convenient if you happen to be planning on using a RAM cooler.
There’s nothing particularly special to look at here all your regular ports are present and accounted for, USB3, USB2, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, 1394, etc. The Clear CMOS button is a nice inclusion.
Above is the heatsink used for the PCH chip on the Extreme4. You will notice it’s just a lump of metal designed for “bling” and not a practical or particularly functional heatsink. Given the frontal appearance I did expect to find a copper block for the base but as you can see that’s not the case here. I do wonder why Asrock chose this design for a heatsink, its inefficient, unnecessarily big, and just flat out rubbish. The PCH heatsink used on the P67 Pro3 would do a better job.
This must be one of the most interesting things to note. Asrock have stepped away from the commonly used NEC USB 3.0 controller and chosen to use the EtronTech EJ168 USB 3.0 controller.
The EJ168 certainly sounds like it can do the business, according to the documentation provided by EtronTech they are a world class IC design company. The chip itself is touted as being the world’s fastest USB 3.0 controller and the first to be interoperable with USB 2.0 and 1.1. EtronTech also claim their drivers are WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) tested and certified.
The test setup being used today will be;
Asrock P67 Extreme4, UEFI 1.42A
Core i5 2500k
2x2GB PC12800 Ripjaws 7-8-7-24 1N
Xonar DX 7.1
640GB Western Digital Caviar Black, 32MB cache
XFX 750w modular PSU
Win 7 Ultimate 64bit SP1
Intel INF Update 126.96.36.1995
Realtek 7.041 RTL8111E driver
EtronTech driver 0.96
Marvel SE9120 SATA3 driver 188.8.131.521
Xonar driver .1792
The UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) is the spangly new replacement for the legacy BIOS. Some hate it, some love it. However you see it, UEFI is set to become much more common (at least on Intel boards) since Intel made UEFI a requirement of the new 67 chipsets. Some manufacturers have dug their heels in though (such as Gigabyte) still currently favouring the legacy BIOS combined with a workaround to support HDDs of 2.2TB and over.
Let’s take a look at the most interesting of the UEFI pages: OC Tweaker.
As we can see there is a lot of OC options to tweak pretty much everything you need. It should be noted the Extreme4 managed to take a set of PC12800 G.Skill Ripjaws to 2133MHz with timings of 8-10-8-25 1N 10-90-7-9-9-30 @ 1.65v. This is awesome, plain and simple. With more voltage you could likely tighten up timings even further.
Overclocking & Temperature
As many of you must be aware of by now Overclocking Sandy Bridge has changed to what it used to be. No more can you just buy a cheap chip and ramp up the BCLK. Instead, now your only option is to buy a “K” series CPU and adjust the multiplier, otherwise you are restricted to 4 speed bins up. Sandy Bridge certainly takes out a lot of the tweaking and anticipation of what you may be able to achieve, I can’t help thinking Overclocking has taken several steps backwards, but at least it’s easy for those not used to Intel.
Here is what I achieved with zero effort:
That is really quite impressive. 5 minutes in the UEFI and just like that the i5 2500k is running at 4.5GHz and memory at 2133MHz. This overclock passed 2 hours OCCT, 2 hours HCI Memtest and 2 hours of BOINC. These are the overclocks used in the ocerclocked tests.
Temperatures also remained perfectly within limits using a Hyper 212 Plus. I would not recommend using the intel stock cooler as the heatsink is positively tiny and just not up to much Overclocking despite intels new CPUs not outputting much heat.
Extreme4 Stock & OC’d Performance
Undoubtedly these results are good. Particularly impressive are the AES and memory bandwidth scores. If you didn’t already know you could be understood for mistaking the memory bandwidth scores for triple channel. The results now capable from “just” a dual channel configuration on the new socket 1155 platform are incredible.
Using the Asrock P67 Extreme4 was quite pleasant. For the ridiculously cheap price you get a mainboard that absolutely, unequivocally, utterly blows any similarly priced competing P67 based mainboard out of the water. Yes it’s that good. In comparison to other P67 based boards at this price you get 2x extra SATA3 ports, 2x extra USB3 ports, a excellent MOSFET heatsink, on-board Power and Reset buttons, and a easily accessible Clear CMOS button. If all that isn’t enough there’s a good wealth of OC options in the UEFI. (I recommend using UEFI 1.61.) To even come close to finding another P67 mainboard that sports all these features you are going to have to spend another £30, and even then you are likely to still be missing a Clear CMOS button along with a couple SATA3 or USB3 ports.
What the Extreme4 has done with the precision of a deadly assassin is deliver a balls-to-the-walls Overclocking board that’s packed to the hilt with features without any of the additional fluff manufacturers charge for with more expensive boards. Sure, you’re going to be missing a few USB3 and SATA3 ports compared to £170+ boards (and I do literally mean a few) but do you want to pay a extra £55+ for those?
Anybody considering the switch to Socket 1155 should give the Asrock Extreme4 serious consideration. The Extreme4 represents excellent value for money, packs in a plethora of features, and is in general a great board to OC with.
- 4x SATA3 ports
- 4x USB 3.0 ports
- Great MOSFET heatsinks
- Good array of OC options
- Well thought out expansion slot arrangement
- PCH heatsink is rubbish
- No dual CMOS
- Save some trees Asrock, stop giving us a 302 page manual stuffed with all kinds of other languages. Just give us the 44 page English bit.