The Intel Z77 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5).
The ASRock Z77 Extreme4 has another two SATA-600 ports, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip (no RAID support).
One drawback is that the manufacturer used only two colors to identify the SATA ports: black for the SATA-300 and gray for the SATA-600. The manufacturer should have used different colors to identify to where each port is connected. We think they should have used one color for the SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (which are the ones to the immediate right of the SATA-300 ports) and another color for the ports controlled by the additional chip.
All SATA ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. See Figure 4.
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Figure 4: SATA-300 (black) and SATA-600 (gray) ports
This motherboard also has one eSATA-600 port, which is shared with the “SATA3_A1” port, so they can’t be used at the same time.
The Intel Z77 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock Z77 Extreme4 offers eight USB 2.0 ports, two soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard, and six USB 3.0 ports, two located on the motherboard rear panel and two available on a header located on the motherboard, near the main power supply connector. The two additional USB 3.0 ports are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip. (The two ports controlled by this chip are located on the rear panel.)
The ASRock Z77 Extreme4 doesn’t support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the new Realtek ALC898 codec, which is an outstanding solution, providing an impressive 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. This means you are able to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) with this motherboard without adding any background noise.. The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output. The analog audio outputs are independent only if you use a 5.1 analog speaker set. If you install a 7.1 analog speaker set, you will need to use either the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Broadcom BCM57781 chip.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, four USB 3.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, clear CMOS button, two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA-600 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
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Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel