ASRock Z270 Extreme 4 LGA 1151 Motherboard Review
ASRock Z270 Extreme 43rd January 2017
It has been a year since Intel released their latest and greatest platform for mainstream desktop PCs. The 100-series platform was part of the 6th generation processor launch. Skylake brought with it a range of new feature support and performance updates. The 100-series products were the first to utilize features such as DDR4, M.2, PCI-e 3.0 SSDs and more.
Today, Intel officially launches the 200-series platform. Designed to support 7th generation processors that are codenamed Kaby Lake, 200-series offers new features and updates in the form of Intel Optane support. I think the most important thing is that the boards themselves would be far more attractive than the processor series as they are more feature-heavy and offer plenty of reasons for consumers to upgrade.
For this review, ASRock sent us their new Z270 Extreme 4 motherboard. The Z270 Extreme 4 features a brand new design scheme and support for the latest features such as M.2, NVMe and 7th generation Intel Core CPUs. ASRock Z270 Extreme 4 aims the mainstream market with an attractive price of 149.99 US so let's find out how the board holds up in our testing.
Intel Z270 Express Chipset - The Top 200-Series PCH
The two chipsets that will be offered with the new Kaby Lake processors are Z270 and H270. Intel will be offering support for the Kaby Lake and Skylake processors on both 100-series and 200-series motherboards. This means that consumers can use their Skylake chips on a 200-series board or a Kaby Lake chip on a 100-series board.
The two new chips are marketed towards specific markets. The Z270 series is aimed at the consumer market while the H270 series is aimed at the consumer and corporate market. We will get on to the features of these chipset which is an update from the previous 100-series generation of products.
Intel Z270 and H270 PCH Features
Intel Z270 and Z170 offer the same CPU PCIe configuration support. They allow for 1 x 16, 2 x 8 or 1 x 8 + 2 x 4 config whereas the H270 and H170 chipset offers just 1 x 16 config. The total number of independent Display Port offered by the PCH are 3 and power up to four memory DIMMs in Dual Channel mode. The Z Series offers overclocking support while the H Series is restricted from such support. All chipsets offer Intel SmartSound tech but Intel AIB partners will be offering their own custom Audio codecs to power audio.
Moving on, the new 200-series has official support for Optane technology which is not available on 100-series products. Intel Rapid Storage technology is also pushed to 15 (was 14 on 100-series). Some other features in the new chipsets include Raid 0, 1, 5, 10 support, PCIe Storage Drive support, Smart Response Technology and I/O Port flexibility.
Intel has increased the number of high-speed I/O lanes to 30 on both 200-series chipsets. The Z170 had 26 while the H170 had 22 lanes. Total USB ports have remain the same at 14 (10 USB 3.0) for Z Series and 14 (8 USB 3.0) for H Series. All boards would have 6 SATA III 6 GB/s ports. Expansion slots would be powered by 24 PCI-e lanes on Z270 and 20 PCI-e lanes on H270. This is a slight increase over 20 PCI-e lanes on Z170 and 16 on H170.
The KBL-PCH will be able to support Mansion Beach (Optane SSD PCIe/NVMe Gen3 x4), Brighton Beach (Optane SSD PCIe/NVMe Gen3 x4) and Stony Beach (Optane Memory PCIe/NVMe Gen 3 x2 (m.2)) solutions. We covered this topic in more detail over here.
Intel 200-Series PCH Specifications:
|Chipset||Intel Z270||Intel H270||Intel Z170||Intel H170|
|SKU Focus Segment||Consumer||Consumer / Corporate||Consumer||Consumer / Corporate|
|CPU Support||Kaby Lake-S / Skylake-S||Kaby Lake-S / Skylake-S||Kaby Lake-S / Skylake-S||Kaby Lake-S / Skylake-S|
|CPI PCI-e Configuration||1 x 16 or 2 x 8 or 1 x 8 + 2 x 4||1 x 16||1 x 16 or 2 x 8 or 1 x 8 + 2 x 4||1 x 16|
|Intel SmartSound Technology||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Intel Optane Technology||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Intel Rapid Storage Technology||15||15||14||14|
|Intel Rapid Storage Technology From PCIe Storage Drive Support||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Intel Smart Response Technology||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|I/O Port Flexibility||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Maximum High Speed I/O Lanes||30||30||26||22|
|Total USB Ports (Max USB 3.0)||14 (10)||14 (8)||14 (10)||14 (8)|
|Max SATA 6 Gbps Ports||6||6||6||6|
|Max PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||24||20||20||16|
|Max Intel RST for PCIe Storage Ports (x2 M.2 or x4 M.2)||3||2||3||2|
Intel LGA 1151 Socket - 6th Gen and 7th Gen CPU Support
As last year, the 200-series boards feature the LGA 1151 socket. The socket is built to support both 6th gen and 7th gen processors. This allows 200-series boards to support both Skylake and Kaby Lake processors, making it easier for previous gen owners to upgrade.
The LGA 1151 socket is also featured on the 100-Series chipset motherboards and will extend support to the new Kaby Lake processors. Motherboard vendors like Gigabyte have released latest firmware for 100 series motherboards to support Kaby Lake processors. The LGA 1151 has a total of 1151 contact pins for interfacing with Skylake and Kaby Lake processors. Following are all of the Kaby Lake processors that will be available at launch for 200-series platform:
Intel 7th Generation 'Kaby Lake' Desktop Lineup
|SKU Name||Cores/Threads||Core Clock||Boost Clock||L3 Cache||TDP||Socket||Price|
|Core i7-7700K||4/8||4.2 GHz||4.5 GHz||8 MB||91W||LGA1151||$339 US|
|Core i7-7700||4/8||3.6 GHz||4.2 GHz||8 MB||65W||LGA1151||$303 US|
|Core i7-7700T||4/8||2.9 GHz||3.8 GHz||8 MB||35W||LGA1151||$303 US|
|Core i5-7600K||4/4||3.8 GHz||4.2 GHz||6 MB||91W||LGA1151||$242 US|
|Core i5-7600||4/4||3.5 GHz||4.1 GHz||6 MB||65W||LGA1151||$213 US|
|Core i5-7600T||4/4||2.8 GHz||3.7 GHz||6 MB||35W||LGA1151||$213 US|
|Core i5-7500||4/4||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||6 MB||65W||LGA1151||$192 US|
|Core i5-7500T||4/4||2.7 GHz||3.3 GHz||6 MB||35W||LGA1151||$192 US|
|Core i5-7400||4/4||3.0 GHz||3.5 GHz||6 MB||65W||LGA1151||$182 US|
|Core i5-7400T||4/4||2.4 GHz||3.0 GHz||6 MB||35W||LGA1151||$182 US|
|Core i3-7350K||2/4||4.2 GHz||N/A||4 MB||60W||LGA 1151||$168 US|
|Core i3-7320||2/4||4.1 GHz||N/A||4 MB||TBD||LGA 1151||$149 US|
|Core i3-7300||2/4||4.0 GHz||N/A||4 MB||51W||LGA1151||$138 US|
|Core i3-7300T||2/4||3.5 GHz||N/A||4 MB||35W||LGA1151||$138 US|
|Core i3-7100||2/4||3.9 GHz||N/A||4 MB||51W||LGA 1151||$117 US|
|Core i3-7100T||2/4||3.4 GHz||N/A||4 MB||35W||LGA 1151||$117 US|
|Pentium G4620||2/4||3.7 GHz||N/A||3 MB||51W||LGA1151||$86 US|
|Pentium G4600||2/4||3.6 GHz||N/A||3 MB||51W||LGA 1151||$75 US|
|Pentium G4560||2/4||3.5 GHz||N/A||3MB||54W||LGA 1151||$64 US|
|Pentium G3950||2/2||3.0 GHz||N/A||2 MB||35W||LGA1151||$52 US|
|Pentium G3930||2/2||2.9 GHz||N/A||2 MB||35W||LGA1151||$42 US|
Intel did one thing right with the new socket and that’s the socket positioning which allows older coolers and mounting brackets to remain compatible with the newer socket. So if you have a old LGA 1150 socket cooler that you wish to use with the new LGA 1151 socket, It could be done so, but do note that while the socket looks the same as LGA 1150 socket, the processors are incompatible due to different pin layout so you don’t want to try putting an Haswell processor into the LGA 1151 socket otherwise it would damage the pins permanently.
Cooler Compatibility With LGA 1151 Socket
While Haswell processors ship with their own boxed coolers and cooler makers providing retention brackets for LGA 1150 compatibility, it should be noted that Intel has stopped offering boxed coolers since Skylake and Kaby Lake processor generation and users have to look forward to retail coolers.
Intel does offer a separate boxed cooler but it will be a much better choice to get an AIB cooling solution since those offer better cooling performance. Older CPU coolers will remain compatible with the new socket and some manufacturers are provided updated retention brackets for the 1151 socket boards.