Asrock boards have been consistently improving over the last few years, to the point where it’s now, in the UK at least, a major contender in the enthusiast market alongside Asus, Gigabyte and MSI. For Intel’s new Z87 chipset it’s pulled out all the stops to produce boards for every niche; at current count there are a whopping 14 Asrock Z87 SKUs.
The Asrock Z87 Extreme3 sits towards the bottom of the stack, and is oddly quite a bit dearer than the Extreme 4 thanks to the latter’s Micro-ATX form factor. The Extreme3 is an ATX board though (albeit trimmed down to a slightly smaller than usual 305mm x 208mm) and looks fantastic with its black PCB, black memory and expansion slots and gold trimmed capacitors. Both sets of VRMs to the top and left of the CPU socket are cooled via individual black aluminium heatsinks, while a small branded heatsink sits atop the Southbridge.
Board layout is, for the most part, great, with a set of six 90° angled SATA connectors on the edge of the board, 24-pin and 8-pin EPS12V connectors right on the board’s edge, and a USB 3.0 header port is similarly conveniently placed.
Click to enlarge - In black and gold, the Extreme3 is an eye-catching board
However, there is one blemish in the positioning of not just one, but three 3-pin fan headers above the array of expansion slots. While there are a pair of 4-pin headers elsewhere, all the fan headers really should be on the edge of the board. If you choose to use the trio of 3-pins, it’ll result in ungainly trails of 3-pin fan cables across the board once fitted.
Expansion slots are very straight forward, with two PCI-E 3.0 16x slots. A single slot will run with x16 lanes of bandwidth, while fitting a second GPU switches both slots to x8 lanes of bandwidth – still the equivalent of an x16 PCI-E 2.0 slot. Both SLI and CrossFire multi-GPU configurations are supported. Alongside the 16x slots, Asrock has made the odd decision to include just one PCI 1x slot, although it’s conveniently placed at the top of the stack so won’t be obscured by dual-slot GPUs. Rounding out the expansion slots are not one, not two, but three PCI slots. That’s certainly a lot of 7-year old soundcard or aging TV-tuner card support, but we’d have preferred more relevant PCI-E 1x slots.
Click to enlarge - Board layout is good, barring a trio of 3-pin fan headers placed in the middle of the board
A glance at the rear I/O reveals just four chipset USB 3.0 ports (the other two are accessed via a board header), alongside a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a legacy PS2 port. On-board video out is offered via HDMI, DVI or VGA and an Intel gigabit LAN port supplies Ethernet connectivity. While the board’s 7.1 Realtek ALC892 audio codec supports 7.1 audio, it’s only accessible using the optical S/PDIF output as there are only five 3.5mm outputs, two of which are for microphone and line-in.
Click to enlarge - 90° angled SATA ports make tidying SATA cables away easy
Elsewhere there’s little beyond its aesthetic to make the Extreme3 standout. There are no on-board power switches, no LED POST-code reader, no clear CMOS switch, no go-direct-to-BIOS button and no voltage readout points. While some will regard these extras on competing boards as unimportant or un-necessary, we stand by their usefulness, particularly the POST-code reader which can save hours when trouble-shooting. At £132 the Extreme3’s by no-means a low-end budget board either, competing with MSI’s G45-Gaming and its ilk, making the absence of such extras surprising.
Chipset Intel Z87
CPU support LGA1150 compatible
Memory support 4 slots: max 32GB DDR3 (2,400MHz)
Expansion slots SLI and Crossfire support, Two 16x PCI-E 3.0 slots (One at x16, two at x8,) One 1x PCI-E, three PCI
Sound 7.1-channel HD audio via Realtek ALC892
Networking intel Gigabit LAN
Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps via Intel Z87, 6 x USB 3 (2 x via headers), 6 x USB 2 ( 4 via headers), LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out, HDMI, VGA, DVI,