ASRock famously has a selection of motherboards on offer that can happily compete with the likes of MSI and Gigabyte but without the extra few digits after the dollar sign. This, although very appealing, isn’t always good and there are times when ASRock’s line up isn’t quite as good as it could be.
The ASRock 970 Extreme4 is an ATX (305 x 244mm) motherboard with support for the latest AM3+, Phenom II X6, X4 and X3 processors, and so on right down to the Sempron. There are four DIMM slots for dual-channel DDR3 2100(overclocked)memory, five SATA 6Gbps, 7.1 HD audio, four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports and, of course, three PCle 2.0 16x slots, two PCIe 2.0 lx slots and a pair of standard PCI slots for legacy hardware.
Although reasonably spaced apart, it is a bit of a tight fit between PCIe slots two and three, when compared to the gap between PCIe slots one and two. This means that, in our tests at least, a pair of Radeon R9 280s fitted comfortably in slots one and two, but when we added another in slot three, things started to get a little too tight for our liking. There was a very small gap, admittedly, but the air flow was severely restricted, which didn’t sit too well with us. The result was another fan above slots two and three to draw away some of the heat generated.
That said, three-way CrossFire is certainly achievable, and if you were to apply a better cooling system than we did, we’re pretty sure you’d be able to reap the benefits of a triple graphics setup without coming across too many problems with heat.
The 970 Extrerne4 isn’t short of features. The Unlock CPU Core feature allows a significant level of overclocking. provided you have the right CPU in place, and support for AMD’s mighty eight-core Black Edition monsters is something of a draw for those who want a powerhouse system without the extra expense.
Speaking of expense, the comment we made at the start of this review regarding ASRocks cheap and cheerful nature is apparent here. Although the board is a couple of years old now, the $100 price isn’t something you can turn your nose up at, especially when you consider the various ASRock Extreme tuning utilities, instant flash, boot failure guard and its well received XFast555 technology, which allows for the creation of a RAM drive, improved gaming functionality through the Ethernet port (up to five times better, in case you’re wondering where the five part comes from) and five times faster USB performance. Naturally the settings need to be right before you can enjoy these benefits, but ASRock enthusiasts swear by them.
Overall, the ASRock 970 Extreme4 board isn’t too bad. It may lack some of the more modern features and applications that the previous MSI board has to offer, and it’s not quite as well laid out or designed, but for around $100, it’s not a bad choice if you’re building a cheap AMD-based SLI/CrossFire system.