Everything is perfection with this motherboard, with one glaring omission.
ASRock has built a stellar reputation in the last year for delivering premium products at a budget price point, but this Z77-based board takes aim at a different audience: cashed-up enthusiasts.
This is one of the few 7-Series boards to have landed that can handle three graphics cards simultaneously, thanks to the three full-length PCI-E slots. They’re positioned to allow for three dual-slot cards, but doing so will knock out the two legacy PCI slots. You’ll still have access to two PCI-E x1 ports though.
As expected, all onboard cooling is passive, and there’s plenty of room around the CPU socket for larger coolers. The inclusion of an ASMedia ASM1061 chip beefs up the Z77’s SATA 6Gbps ports to a total of six, a huge improvement over the two that Intel apparently thought was enough. Though it’s becoming the norm these days, the mouse-controlled UEFI BIOS is a tweaker’s delight. There’s every voltage and ratio option an overclocker could desire, and it’s all navigated sensibly.
ASRock has added a few proprietary features to the board, and most impressive is the XFast RAM. This builds a virtual disk in system memory to accelerate Photoshop, and the company claims a fivefold increase in performance in this application. The XFast LAN and USB ports also accelerate networking and file transfers, and we saw real performance increases when using both. There’s even a mouse acceleration feature, allowing gamers to crank up the polling rate for stunning accuracy.
Combine the rich feature set with top-shelf components and we have a beautiful high-end board. Unfortunately ASRock has lumbered it with the inferior Realtek ALC898 onboard audio, a real shame given other boards at this price point include the excellent Creative onboard solution, putting it at a distinct disadvantage for gamers.Available from ASRock, retailing for $309
.APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)