The appearance of motherboards supporting PCI Express 3.0 on the market did not delight gamers and advanced users. There are few devices supporting this interface, and they cost a lot of money. Nevertheless, the new interface, which doubles the bandwidth of expansion cards, will sooner or later replace PCI Express 2.0 / 2.1.
In this review, we will consider an inexpensive motherboard, which was developed by the Taiwanese company ASRock. This board is based on the Intel Z68 Express system logic set, and it supports the PCI Express 3.0 interface mentioned above.
Box and delivery set
The box of ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 is medium in size and finished in gray tones. There is very little information on the front side of the package, there is only the model name and a few icons.
The back of the box is traditionally very informative. On it you can see the main characteristics of the board, as well as familiarize yourself with the features of the supported technologies.
The delivery set is modest, it is typical for inexpensive motherboards. But, such a number of accessories will be quite enough for the successful assembly of the system. In addition to the board itself, they put in the box:
- Two SATA III cables (6 Gb / s);
- Bridge SLI;
- Cover for the back panel;
- Audio cable with 3.5mm mini-jack plugs;
- Driver disc;
- User's manual.
Design and construction features
The appearance of new motherboards from ASRock, as it seems to me, has changed for the better. The dark colors of the PCB and connectors, together with the golden capacitors, give the board a solid look.
Taking a quick glance at the board, I would like to note the rational arrangement of the elements. All connectors are located at a decent distance from each other, this will not cause difficulties in the process of assembling the system. The overall dimensions of the board are 305x218 mm, which is slightly smaller than the ATX standard in width.
The ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 board can be equipped with 1155 socket processors. In addition to Sandy Bridge, the board can also be equipped with Ivy Bridge processors.
For DDR 3 standard RAM, the board was equipped with four connectors. One such connector supports memory strips up to 8 GB. That is, the maximum amount of memory that this motherboard supports is 32 GB. Note also the fact that not all memory sticks are compatible with this board. To avoid any curiosities, it is worth checking out the compatibility list that can be found on ASRock's official website.
For the power supply of the central processor, 12 phases are allocated, which are controlled by the CHL8104 PWM controller. It is worth noting that high quality components were used for the manufacture of the motherboard, as well as solid-state capacitors, which are based on a conductive polymer.
For power supply of the board, 24 and 8-pin contacts are provided. They are located at the very edges of the board, which will not cause difficulties when assembling the system.
There are eight mounting holes on the board for installing the CPU cooling system. The first four will allow you to install a cooler for the LGA1155 / 1156, the second four - for the LGA775.
The board has six slots for expansion cards, two PCI-E 3.0, two PCI-E 2.0 x1 and two standard PCI. The motherboard supports AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI modes. Moreover, when installing two video cards, the slots will be allocated 8 lines. The layout of the expansion slots is done correctly, taking into account the fact that most modern video cards have a dual-slot cooling system. Also, the developers of the board were concerned about the convenience of the holders of the full-size PCI-E connectors, they allow you to securely fix the expansion cards.
To connect drives, six SATA ports are soldered on the board. Of these, four are SATA II (3Gb / s) and two SATA III (6Gb / s). It should be noted that one of the SATA III (6 Gb / s) ports is paralleled with the eSATA port on the rear panel.This suggests that you will not be able to use these ports at the same time.
Next to the SATA ports, there are open stand control buttons (Power and Reset), a POST indicator, connectors for housing buttons and a UEFI chip. To the left, you can find "combs" of contacts used to connect eight USB 2.0 ports and one COM port.
The cooling system of ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 motherboard consists of three heatsinks. One is designed to remove heat from the chipset, the other two are responsible for cooling the power keys of the processor power system.
Completing the visual inspection of the board, it is worth taking a look at the rear panel. It contains:
- one PS / 2 port;
- four USB 2.0 ports;
- two USB 3.0 ports;
- three ports for connecting a monitor (DVI, D-Sub, HDMI);
- button for resetting BIOS settings;
- one gigabit network connector;
- one eSATA port;
- optical audio output S / PDIF;
- five audio outputs "mini-jack".
Since the name of the motherboard contains the Extreme prefix, this suggests that the board has some overclocking capabilities. To configure and overclock ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3, the developers suggest using the now fashionable UEFI graphical shell.
ASROCK UEFI SETUP UTILITY consists of seven tabs. In the first Main tab, you can see basic information about the system.
To overclock, go to the OC Tweaker tab. It contains almost all settings related to manual and automatic system overclocking.
For inexperienced users, there are two options for automatic system overclocking. The first option is called Advanced Turbo 50 and provides for overclocking only the CPU, RAM and integrated graphics core, the rest of the settings will be unavailable. Such overclocking will give a performance increase of up to 50%. The second overclocking option, Load Optimized CPU OC Settings, further limits the user. When the second option is activated, the user will only be prompted to select the desired processor frequency, the motherboard will select the rest of the settings on its own. It is worth noting that the user is immediately warned that with such overclocking, the lack of high-quality cooling and a proper power source can lead to equipment breakdown.
For advanced users, it is possible to manually overclock the system. Almost all settings will be available with this overclocking. The only thing that cannot be changed is the settings of the integrated graphics core.
The power-saving capabilities of the board should be noted separately. They allow you to fine-tune the processor power supply during idle and under load.
The DRAM Configuration section is very extensive and allows you to manually adjust the timings and frequency of the RAM, as well as activate the XMP profile.
Completing the OC Tweaker tab is the fundamental stress control section.
In the Advanced tab, you can configure the integrated graphics core, south bridge, disk subsystem, as well as manage integrated controllers. In addition, this tab allows you to disable active cores and manage the main processor technologies (Hyper-Threading or Intel C1E).
The H / W Monitor tab will allow you to monitor the readings of the temperature sensors, the voltage supplied to the 3.3 V, 5 V and 12 V power lines, as well as set the rotation speed of the connected fans.
In the Boot tab, you can set the sequence of connected devices from which the operating system will boot, as well as change other system boot parameters.
The Security section is responsible for setting passwords for changing UEFI settings and turning on the computer.
The UEFI interface on this motherboard is implemented very well. A huge selection of settings is suitable for both experienced overclockers and inexperienced overclocking users.
ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 motherboard comes with a disk containing drivers and proprietary utilities.
The program that really deserves attention is ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility. With this utility, the user can overclock the central processor, memory, graphics core and, at the same time, not leave the operating system. Also, it can be used to control energy-saving functions and fan speed.Despite the convenience of this program, it is more expedient to overclock the system through the UEFI shell.
The most useful feature of ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility is the ability to enable Intelligent Energy Saver technology. This technology can turn off or turn on the phases of the CPU power system depending on the load.
- Central processor: Intel Core i7-2600K 3400MHz / L3-8192Kb / DMI s1155;
- RAM: GoodRAM GY1600D364L8 / 4GDC (2x2 GB, 1333, 9-9-9-27-1T);
- Cooling system: Noctua NH-D14;
- Video card: InnoVISION GeForce GTX560Ti 1024Mb;
- Hard Drive: Seagate 500GB 16MB 7200rpm 3.5 "SATA / 300 Barracuda (ST3500418AS);
- Power supply unit: Seasonic SS-600HM (600 W);
- Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium x64.
To test the overclocking capabilities of the board, we used an Intel Core i7-2600K processor with an unlocked multiplier. This instance is able to operate stably at 5000 MHz at "safe" voltages.
Before manual overclocking, it was decided to test the auto overclocking function. After activating Advanced Turbo 50, the voltage on the processor increased to 1.408 V, and the clock frequency increased to 4800 MHz. Unfortunately, the RAM did not overclock and continued to work at a frequency of 1333 MHz.
Manual overclocking was broken down into two main steps. First, a "cold" overclocking was carried out (without raising the voltage on the processor). In the process of such overclocking, we managed to reach a processor clock frequency of 4400 MHz, while all settings were set to Auto, except for the multiplier, which was set to x44. With these settings, the system passed all tests and remained stable, and the voltage on the processor at maximum loads was 1.24-1.26 V.
The second stage of manual overclocking was maximum overclocking. To reach the maximum processor frequency, we had to set a multiplier of x49, raise the processor voltage to 1.432 V, and also activate the Loadline Calibration function.
Unfortunately, it was not possible to achieve the cherished 5000 MHz, even a further increase in voltage did not give a result. Besides, the memory overclocking was also disappointing. Two memory sticks with a nominal frequency of 2000 MHz refused to work at a frequency higher than 1600 MHz.
At the end of the test of the overclocking potential, the board was checked for overclocking according to BCLK. The result, as expected, is no different from the majority. The board worked stably at Bus Clock values up to 107.1 MHz.
When testing the ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 motherboard, the opponent was ASRock Z68 Pro3, which is also based on the Intel Z68 Express chip. The prices for these boards are about the same. For the most accurate comparison, both boards worked with the same settings, and the tests were run several times, after which the arithmetic mean was calculated.
All test results are tabulated. The last bar shows how much, in percentage terms, the ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 motherboard is better / worse than the ASRock Z68 Pro3.
ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3
ASRock Z68 Pro3
Read, MB / s
Write, MB / s
Copy, MB / s
Performance, overall score
Performance, physics score
1680x1050, Medium, fps
1680x1050, Very High, fps
World in conflict
1680x1050, DX9, Medium, fps
1680x1050, DX10, Very High, fps
Let's analyze the test results. In the first test, AIDA 64, which measures memory bandwidth, the motherboards performed almost the same.
PCMark 7 also did not reveal a clear leader, the results are almost identical.
In graphic benchmarks and gaming applications, there is no difference in the results, and if there is, then this can be attributed to the measurement error.
As a result, we can say that the boards are identical in performance, it is simply impossible to notice the difference with the naked eye.
The ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 motherboard is based on the progressive Intel Z68 Express system logic set, has an attractive appearance, high quality workmanship and supports a large number of modern technologies. The board's expansion options look very attractive. Do not forget about the support of the new PCI Express 3.0 standard and the possibility of installing Ivy Bridge processors.
The above advantages and reasonable price make this motherboard a good choice for those users who do not want to shell out large sums of money, but want to have a modern and versatile product that will be relevant for a long time.
The only drawbacks are modest overclocking capabilities of the RAM. Still, the Extreme prefix in the name of the board must mean something.