The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 is a mid range socket LGA1151 motherboard based on the new Intel Z270 chipset, supporting the sixth (“Skylake”) and seventh (“Kaby Lake”) generation Core i processors. It brings LED illumination, three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, eight SATA-600 ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, and two USB 3.1 ports, one of them Type C. Let’s take a good look at it!
The recently launched Intel Z270 chipset is the high-end model of the new 200-series. The main differences between the Z270 and its predecessor, the Z170, is the 24 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, while the Z170 has 20 PCI Express 3.0 lanes. Another improvement is the support to the future Intel Optane technology, which is a new standard for high-end SSDs.
Like the Z170, the Z270 supports six SATA-600 ports, Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.
You can see the ASRock Z270 Extreme4 motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (305 x 244 mm).
Figure 1: ASRock Z270 Extreme4 motherboard
The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 comes with three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.
There are also three M.2 slots: one up to 2280, one up to 22110 (both supporting both PCI Express 3.0 x4 and SATA-600), and one 2230 for Wi-Fi modules.
The two first PCI Express x16 slots work on x16/x0 and x8/x8 configurations, which means the first slot work at x16 if the second one is unused, but it it is occupied, they will both work at x8.
The third PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot works always at x4 speed.
The motherboard supports CrossFire with up to three and SLI with two video cards.
The two first PCI Express x16 slots are covered by stainless steel shields, that work as a shield against interference, and also improving mechanical strength of each slot.
Figure 2: slots
Figure 3: second M.2 slot
Figure 4: third M.2 slot, for Wi-Fi cards
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1151 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
These CPUs are compatible with both DDR3L (up to 1,600 MHz) and DDR4 (up to 2,133 MHz) memory. So, it is the motherboard that defines which memory type (DDR3 or DDR4) can be installed, since DDR4 slots are physically different from the DDR3 slots. According to ASRock, the Z270 Extreme4 supports DDR4 memories up to 3,866 MHz.
The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 has four memory sockets. You can install up to 64 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 16 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. When installing two memory modules, use the first and third memory slots to enable dual-channel mode.
Figure 5: memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z270 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). Four of these ports are shared with the M.2 slots.
The motherboard also offers two more SATA-600 ports, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip.
The motherboard comes with the six ports, all of them installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards will not block them.
Figure 6: the eight SATA-600 ports
The Intel Z270 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and ten USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 offers six USB 2.0 ports, available through three headers located on the motherboard. There are eight USB 3.0 ports, four on the rear panel and four available through two headers. There are also two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C, controlled by an ASMedia ASM2142 chip.
The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.
This motherboard comes with a high-end audio circuit. It uses a Realtek ALC1220 codec, which offers 7.1 audio with a 120 dBA signal-to-noise ratio at the analog outputs. Unfortunately, no more specs of this codec are available.
All the audio section is physically separated from the other circuitry by a line that reduces the interference and helps the audio section to achieve its nominal signal-to-noise ratios. All the capacitors on this circuit are audio models from the Japanese manufacturer Nichicon. The analog audio outputs are independent and the motherboard also comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output. There is also a TI NE5532 op-amp for earphones.
Figure 5 shows the audio section of the motherboard.
Figure 7: audio section
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel I219V chip.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with four USB 3.0 ports (blue,) a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, one USB 3.1 Type C port, one USB 3.1 Type A port (light blue,) one Gigabit Ethernet port, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
Figure 8: motherboard rear panel
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The Z270 Extreme4 has two BIOS chips, selectable by a jumper.
Besides that, it has RGB LEDs around the chipset heatsink and at the white plastic shield. The color of the lights and even a flashing pattern can be set using an application that comes with the product.
In Figure 9, you can see the accessories that come with the ASRock Z270 Extreme4.
Figure 9: accessories
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock Z270 Extreme4 has 12 phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses an Intersil ISL95824 controller chip (digital design). Each phase uses one Sinopower SM4336NSJP and one Sinopower SM4337NSKP MOSFETs.
Figure 10: voltage regulator circuit
The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 uses high-end “black” solid capacitors (a.k.a. 10K capacitors) and all coils on this motherboard are ferrite ones.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock Z270 Extreme4 include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z270
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
- Parallel ATA: none
- Serial ATA: eight SATA-600 ports, six controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) and two controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip
- External SATA: none
- USB 2.0: six USB 2.0 ports, available through three headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: eight USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers, controlled by the chipset
- USB 3.1: two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C, controlled by an ASMedia ASM2142 chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
- Thunderbolt: none
- On-board video: controlled by the CPU; one VGA, one DVI-D, and one HDMI connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by a Realtek ALC1220 chip (7.1 channels, 120 dB SNR for the outputs, no more information available), on-board optical SPDIF output, and a TI NE5532 audio amplifier for analog headphones
- On-board LAN: one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I219V chip
- Buzzer: no
- Infrared interface: no
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0 or x8/x8), one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (working at x4), three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots, two M.2 slots compatible with PCI Express 3.0 x4 and SATA-600 SSDs, and one M.2 2230 slot for Wi-Fi cards
- Memory: four DDR4-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-3866, 64 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: two four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, and three four-pin connector for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: two BIOS chips, RGB LED lights
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
- Programs included: motherboard utilities and drivers
- More Information: http://www.asrock.com
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 150.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.
The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 motherboard brings features that will satisfy the needs of most users, without bells and whistles that usually only raise the price of the product with no real benefits.
Besides thes basic features of the new chipset, it brings two SATA-600 ports and a pair of USB 3.1 ports (one type A and one type C), and programmable RGB lights.
The Z270 Extreme4 has a high-end audio interface, and the fact it brings three M.2 slots (one for Wi-Fi cards and two for SSDs) is an excellent addition. The twelve-phase voltage regulator brings stability and durability to the motherboard.
The only characteristics that may be missed by enthusiast users are the support to SLI with three or more video cards (which is actually not even recommended) and the presence of auxiliary overclocking features like power, reset and clear CMOS buttons, and a POST error code display.
So, if you want a robust motherboard with high quality audio to build a workstation or gaming PC using a sixth or seventh generation Intel Core i CPU, using up to two video cards, the ASRock Z270 Extreme4 is a great choice with excellent cost/benefit ratio.