Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

ASRock Z77 Pro4-M LGA 1155 Motherboard Review

The ASRock Z77 Pro4-M is a micro-ATX motherboard which is a form factor we haven’t given a whole lot of attention to historically. There surely though a subset of enthusiasts which value their space for one reason or another. If you’re looking for a small motherboard on a small budget you won’t want to miss Z77 Pro4-M.

Introduction

ASRock is a popular brand known for selling a wide range of motherboards at affordable prices with features often found in more expensive offerings. While we haven’t seen a ton of ASRock motherboards in the grand scheme of things, our experiences have been somewhat mixed but have been improving. Despite a flimsy PCB, the previously reviewed ASRock Z77 Extreme4 was a good motherboard that did everything we could have asked and more.

Hoping lightning strikes twice we are taking a look at the ASRock Z77 Pro4-M. We purchased this motherboard from Amazon.com for $109.99 in January. This is a miocro-ATX board which is a form factor we haven’t given a whole lot of attention to historically. While many enthusiasts are not concerned too much about the overall size of their rigs there is a subset of enthusiasts which value their space for one reason or another and thus, smaller form factor machines and motherboards appeal to them.

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The ASRock Z77 Pro4-M is based on the Intel Z77 Express chipset. It sports a 4+2 phase power design and all gold Japanese manufactured conductive polymer capacitors. The board features all the chipset has to offer combined with some added features as well. Among them are; PCI-Express 3.0, native USB 3.0, LucidLogix Virtu MVP, Intelآ® Rapid Start Technology and Smart Connect Technology, SATA 6Gb/s support, USB 3.0, AMD "Quad CrossFire" and CrossFire support. SLI / Quad-SLI support is not mentioned on the Z77 Extreme4, but we suspect it should work just fine.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The ASRock Z77 Pro4-M ships in a standard and simple cardboard box. There is nothing remarkable about the packaging. The included accessories are a bit light given the motherboard’s budget price point of $109.99. You do get some of the basics as one would expect. This includes: Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield and 2 x SATA Data Cables

Board Layout

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I’m going to start off by saying the PCB of the Z77 Pro4-M is super thin just as it was with the Z77 Extreme4. It’s not quite as flexible because of the smaller footprint. The I/O ports provide a much needed rigidity to the overall board. A large expansion slot area wouldn’t benefit from this. Still I was very careful with this board in light of recent experiences. And again the rigidity of the board isn’t really a problem if you take care installing it and actually install it in a real case. I didn’t as it was on an open air test bench. At no point is it secured down.

The layout of the board is excellent. There are no real problem areas I can think of. The CMOS battery location isn’t ideal but it’s not underneath your GPU either so I can’t complain too much; especially not when you factor in the board’s size or lack thereof.

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The CPU socket area is almost a barren waste land. There are no silly power phases or cooling hardware toآ…wait. OK, that’s not necessarily good but there isn’t going to be any clearance issues here that I can foresee beyond the proximity of the DIMM slots. The DIMM slots are naturally closer to the CPU than I’d like but this isn’t ASRock’s fault. In any case as always this problem can be mitigated with wisely chosen components. Aside from that there aren’t a lot of power phases or anything here.

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There are four DIMM slots lacking in color coding. Unfortunately these are not placed far enough away from the expansion slot area as to avoid any clearance issues with installation of modules while a larger video card is installed. Removing the video card in order to access the memory slot locking tabs may be necessary. ASRock really should have taken a page out of the ASUS playbook in regard to this situation. Others have started to follow suit so I think ASRock would benefit from doing the same in this case.

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The chipset occupies the left hand corner of the board. The 8 SATA ports included are found here. Two are vertical ports which I don’t care for too much but recognize the space constraints ASRock had to work within in order to make the design work. I’d also like to point out that the BIOS ROM here isn’t socketed at all. It has been on other ASRock board which is why I bring it up. The cooling solution for the chipset is anything but substantial. Fortunately the Z77 Express chipset is hardly demanding.

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The expansion slot area is clean and virtually optimal given the limited space and number of slots. ASRock doesn’t waste any space here and makes good use of the PCB real estate.

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The I/O panel has the following ports: 1x PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, DSub, DVI-D, eSATA (which is shared with an Intel 3Gb/s port), one RJ-45 port, five-mini stereo jacks and an optical output. I’d ditch the DSub port if it was me, but this is a common sight on boards like this.