Closer Look at the Motherboard:
ASRock Z77 Extreme9 comes in a standard ATX form factor with their signature golden/grey/black theme which goes in all of their Extreme series motherboards. PCB is dark brown as always; I was really expecting black PCB with such a pricey board (I’ll throw a party when ASRock will start making boards with black PCBs). Gold plated capacitors are also present all over the motherboard. In order to cram everything into the ATX form factor, ASRock had to put two ICs on the back of the motherboard.
It comes with a black LGA1155 socket which is made by Foxconn. This motherboard supports all Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors. Socket area is a bit congested on the left side due to the huge heatsink. If you have a cooler having screws that need to be tightened by hand (like our Thermalright Venomous X) then you are in for some trouble as there is very less amount of space in that corner to tighten a screw using fingers.
To the right side of the CPU socket, we have four DDR3 memory slots at their usual location. ASRock Z77 Extreme9 motherboard supports up to 32 GB of memory in dual channel mode. There is a sticker right under the memory slots saying that this motherboard supports “DDR3 3000+”, peeling the sticker revealed actual printing which says “DDR3 2800+”. I wonder what last minute changes ASRock made to make this motherboard ‘support DDR3 3000+’ or all this is just marketing gimmick?
ASRock opted for only one 8-pin EPS CPU power connector along with standard 24-pin ATX power connector for motherboard. Both are present at their ideal locations.
Bottom half of the motherboard is occupied by six PCI Express x16 slots and one PCI Express x1 slot. Out of the six PCI Express x16 slots, five are PCI Express 3.0 compatible (slot number 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7). Slot number 3 and 7 are wired for up to x8 bandwidth while all other PCI Express 3.0 slots are full x16 enabled. Slot number 4 is PCI Express 2.0 compatible and it’s wired for x4 mode only.
ASRock Z77 Extreme9 supports 4-way NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossfireX. In case of only one GPU, ASRock recommends to use slot number 2 and when slot number two is occupied all other PCI Express 3.0 slots (slot number 1, 3, 5 and 7) will be disabled. Following table will help in understanding the PCI slot configurations in a better way:
There is a molex connector present in a very awkward position to provide preliminary power to the PCI slots if multi-GPU configuration is being used.
For storage connectivity, ASRock Z77 Extreme9 comes with 10 SATA III ports. Six are SATA III 6 Gb/s ports (grey) while four are SATA II 3 Gb/s (black). ASRock recommends using ports number 0-5 for optimal performance as these are driven by Intel Z77 PCH while rest four SATA III 6 Gb/s ports are driven by ASMedia ASM1061 controller.
Other on-board features include three USB 2.0 headers, two USB 3.0 headers, front panel HD audio connector (Realtek ALC898), IR header, CIR header, COM header, SPDIF header, IEEE 1394 and system panel headers. It also has a power and reset button along with a debug seven-segment LED readout. It has only one socketed BIOS chip.
Another nice feature of this board is the little mPCIe slot which comes pre-loaded with an add-on card. This card provides WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. Wi-SB Box serves as antennas for WiFi and Bluetooth though it would have been nice to have some stand-alone anternas as well if one doesn’t want to use the Wi-SB Box. The add-on card can be easily removed to install one of your own choices or some mPCIe SSD.
ASRock Z77 Extreme9 has a fully loaded back I/O panel. There is a PS/2 keyboard/mouse which will please many users including gamers and overclockers. There are a total of eight USB 3.0 ports (blue ones) present at the back; four of which are driven by Intel Z77 PCH while the four ports starting from the left side are driven by EtronTech EJ188H USB 3.0 host controller. These ports will not work until respective drivers are installed. There are only two USB 2.0 ports which are painted in red. As for networking, there are two gigabit LAN ports which are driven by Broadcom BCM57781. It’s a decent networking solution and ASRock is using it on all of their latest motherboards. There is an eSATA connector and an IEEE 1394 Port. The eSATA port comes from the ASMedia ASM1061 controller which is powering SATA III 6 Gb/s ports. For display connectivity, all this motherboard offers in an HDMI port. This motherboard comes with 7.1 channel HD audio which is provided by Realtake ALC898.