ASRock Z170 Extreme4+ Motherboard Review
Although we haven't reviewed an ASRock motherboard in quite a while, their ascension in the market has been undeniable thanks in part to the fact that they release a huge number of models for every platform - 69 models and counting for Socket LGA1151 - and their willingness to promote some subversive features like Sky OC, which they were eventually forced to repeal under duress from Intel.
The Z170 Extreme4+ model that we are reviewing today is at the upper-end of the company's mainstream Z170 offerings, with a price tag that is attractive to American buyers ($160 USD) but less so for Canadian consumers ($270 CAD). Nevertheless, thanks to its positioning, it does come with just about everything you would want in a modern motherboard, except for any form of wireless connectivity. If that is not a deal-breaker for you, then you are left with a very well featured product.
The Z170 Extreme4+ features a 12-phase CPU power design, high-quality 12K Japanese capacitors, three physical PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots which are open-ended to accept longer expansion cards, six SATA 6Gb/s ports that can transformed into three SATA Express ports, and one full-speed M.2 socket with a PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface. There are also four high-speed USB 3.1 ports, two Type-A and two Type-C, up to eight USB 3.0 ports, up to four USB 2.0 ports, and even a header for ASRock's Thunderbolt 2 AIC accessory.
The Intel-powered gigabit LAN port is a welcome feature as well. Those who plan on making use of Skylake's integrated graphics will be glad to see a full assortment of DisplayPort 1.2, DVI-D, and HDMI 1.4 video outputs. Rounding things out, you will find small extras like two CPU and three system 4-pin PWM fan headers, two physical BIOS chips, and a rich software suite that we will be taking a closer look at.
When it comes to onboard audio, the duty falls to the Purity Sound 3 solution. As we have come to expect, this onboard audio is based on the Realtek ALC1150 ten-channel codec, features an array of Nichicon audio-grade capacitors, a headphone amplifier, and the whole sound subsystem is isolated from the rest of the system by an audio separation line on the PCB. There doesn't appear to be any mention of an EMI cover for the codec, so we will have to check out in the Closer Look section.
While the specifications looks good on paper, we are anxious to see how well everything has been implemented, and whether ASRock has solidified its position as a true competitor to the Big Three motherboard manufacturers.
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