Articles: Mainboards
 

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PCB Design and Functionality

As we wrote in the Introduction, the key feature of the ASRock Z77 Extreme11 is its eight additional SATA 6 Gbit/s ports. The mainboard’s advantages are not limited to them, though. Going beyond the functionality scope of the Intel Z77 Express chipset, it carries a number of extra controllers to implement more features.

A CPU installed into the mainboard’s LGA1155 socket is powered via an advanced 8+4-phase Digi Power system which employs gold solid-state capacitors and dual-stack MOSFETs. The PCB features copper interconnects with increased thickness which is referred to as 2OZ Copper PCB technology. The four memory slots can take in up to 32 gigabytes of DDR3 SDRAM. Memory frequency can be set as high as 3000 MHz in the BIOS. The hot components of the voltage regulator are covered with an additional heatsink which is connected with a heat pipe to the main heatsink. The latter is mounted on a PLX PEX 8747 chip which provides more PCI Express 3.0 lanes. Thank to it, the LSI SAS2308 controller has enough bandwidth for all of its eight SAS2/SATA3 ports. Together with the six SATA ports provided by the chipset (two SATA 6 Gbit/s and four SATA 3 Gbit/s), the mainboard allows to connect up to 14 drives!

The PLX PEX 8747 offers more PCIe 3.0 lanes than is necessary for the LSI SAS2308, so the remaining lanes are employed for the mainboard’s multi-GPU support. A single graphics card will work in the full-speed PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 mode. Two or three graphics cards will run at x8 speed. The mainboard supports Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFireX. In the latter case you can even use a fourth slot in PCIe 2.0 x4 mode. Besides that, there are three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots for expansion cards whereas the mini-PCI Express slot is already occupied by an Atheros AR5B22 card which offers two wireless interfaces: dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. There are a lot of connectors on the mainboard’s back panel.

  • Universal PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Eight USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors), four of which are implemented via EtronTech EJ188H controller, four more ports are supported by the Intel Z77 Express chipset, and a second Etron Tech EJ188H controller delivers two on-board pin connectors for four additional USB 3.0 ports;
  • “Clear CMOS” button;
  • HDMI video out;
  • Two local network ports (network adapters are built on Gigabit Intel 82583V and Intel 82579V network controllers);
  • Two USB 2.0 ports, another six are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • IEEE1394 (FireWire) port implemented with VIA VT6315N controller, a second port like that is available as an onboard pin-connector;
  • eSATA 6 Gbit/s is combined with one of the internal SATA 6 Gbit/s ports provided by the Intel Z77 Express chipset;
  • Optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC898 codec.

The Intel Z77 Express offers but a limited number of free PCI Express 2.0 lanes, so there is an additional PLX PEX 8608 bridge, which supports eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes, helping to connect the mainboard’s numerous controllers and slots. Besides, we can make out seven fan connectors, one of which is used for the chipset fan. There are two CPU fan connectors, one of which is 4-pin and another is 3-pin, so the CPU fan can be regulated irrespective of its connector type. Besides the Clear CMOS button we’ve seen on the back panel, there are Power and Reset buttons, a POST indicator, and one vertical USB 2.0 header (Type A). The memory modules have handy latches on one side but the latches of the graphics slots are small and not easy to use.

All technical specifications have been summed up in the table below for your convenience:

 

 
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