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Test: ASRock Z87 Extreme11/ac

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Created: by
Marcel Niederste-Berg

Page 4: Features and Layout (3)

Let's have a look at the ASM1442K, which acts as TMDS Level Shifter:

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The ASM1442 acts as a TMDS Level Shifter.

The ASM1442K is positioned between iGPU and the HDMI video output port, allowing for playback of 4K media which is increasingly becoming a trend.

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Two ASM1074 extend the USB 3.0 ports.

With a total of ten to 12 USB 3.0 ports, the Z87 PCH needs a strong support, provided by two ASM1074. One of the USB 3.0 hubs can control four ports.

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The NCT6776D of Nuvoton is also being used as a super I/O chip.

Super I/O chips from Nuvoton are widespread. On the Z87 Extreme11/ac, this task is taken over by the NCT6776D. With it, the motherboard keeps an eye on voltages, temperatures and fan speeds, and is an essential component to every motherboard.

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The Z87 Extreme11/ac feautres dual Gigabit LAN.

In the picture you can see the Intel I217-V which yields 1 Gbit/s. The second Gigabit LAN port uses the Intel I211-AT. Both network ports are backwards compatible to the two slower modes "100 Mbit/s" and "10 Mbit/s". Both ports can be interconnected via a teaming function.

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The ASRock Z87 Extreme11/ac.

It is good to see that ASRock has tried to fill the entire E-ATX motherboard with features - and in fact, the Taiwanese have succeeded in this. The equipment is second to none. The layout is very good, you can easily access all important places, if we disregard the BIOS battery. Of course, the board features Japanese capacitors in gold. If you think that the two fans are noisemakers you will be proven wrong. Neither in idle nor under load situations will the two fans be overbearing. But if you set the two fans to the highest setting in the BIOS, the PCH fan will be clearly hearable. The MOSFET fan however will always remains inconspicuous. However, the fans cannot be completely disabled.

Eight FAN headers are distributed across the PCB, one of which is already occupied. Fortunately, six of them can be controlled. ASRock again implemented a good fan control. On the Z87 Extreme11/ac, not only the PCIe 3.0 lanes were extended, but also the PCIe 2.0 lanes. For this task, ASRock included the PLX PEX8605. This 4-port switch uses one lane from the Z87 PCH and provides three lanes.

Concerning the PEX8747, we wondered how ASRock implemented the connection of the four PCIe x16 slots and the LSI SAS3008. Initially we though that it would be a problem if four graphics cards are installed and at the same time the SAS controller is being used with the connection of eight PCIe 3.0 lanes on the PEX8747. On request, ASRock provided us with a block diagram of the Z87 Extreme11/ac, which shows the solution:

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The block diagram for ASRock Z87 Extreme11/ac.

The solution consists of two quick-switches that are simply meant to double the lanes on the other side. In essence, this means that eight lanes of the Haswell CPU will go directly into the PEX8747, the other eight take a small detour via the quick switch. This in turn will provide 16 lanes, of which eight go into the PEX8747 and the other eight are forwarded to the PCIe slot 1. Now, starting from the PEX8747, which is supplied with 16 lanes, eight lanes go into the second quick switch, so that the PCIe slot 3 is supplied with eight lanes. The PCIe slot 5, which is the only one to get the full 16 lanes, gets one half of the lanes from the quick switch and the other half from the PLX chip. This way, another 16 lanes are left which can be conveyed to the PEX8747. Eight lanes will be provided to the last PCIe slot 7. So, the remaining eight lanes go to the LSI SAS3008 controller. The chart is very clear to understand how the 16 SAS3/SATA-6G ports are being formed, since in between you can see the aforementioned LSI 3x24R expander.

But the Z87 PCH is also being extended with PCIe 2.0 lanes using the PEX8605. In the picture, you see that the second PLX chip only takes care about the PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. A fruther lane of the chipset goes to the mini-PCIe slot, and four lanes are reserved for the Thunderbolt 2 controller. The remaining two lanes are provided for the two Intel LAN controllers. Overall, however, this is only a stopgap. Basically, this solution is similar to connecting multiple power strips in succession. As to how much bandwidth will suffer with it can only be determined when the board is fully occupied.