Jan 26 2012 Update:
Getting into RAID BIOS setup is now found to be easy, see solution at:
This article is getting rather stale (outdated), but is still quite popular.
Below, you'll find how it first appeared when published Jul 19 2011, however, one change is that with the ASRock Extreme4 board rank was changed to second place (fewer SATA ports than Gen3), see related story at TinkerTry.com/asrock-z68-extreme4-motherboard-likes-and-dislikes.
Also, the winner for me, chosen for my final TinkerTry.com/vzilla build, is the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3, which has proven to be stable, has a lot of SATA2 and SATA3 ports, and runs PCI passthrough fine with ESXi 5.0, with full built-in driver support for the 2 on board gigabit ports. You can read all, and see, the actual installation process of ESXi 5.0 over at
and you can get rid of the silly face background wallpaper in the BIOS as well, see exactly how over here:
and pictured below:
Pricing info in this newegg.com screenshot as of Jul 19 2011 subject to change at any time
It's the highest end ASRock Z68 board that comes with dual NICs, according to this ASRock Z68 comparison chart .
Now that I’ve been able to spend a few hours of quality hands-on time with the very new ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard, I'm now able to give it a very brief overview, to supplement the already comprehensive reviews out there, such as this review on hardwaresecrets. I don't claim this is full review at all, nor will it ever be, as my niche needs are really just for VMware and LSI support for my "vZilla" project. I've used this board with both Windows 7 x64 SP1 and VMware ESXi 4.1U1 for a few hours, and so far, so good. Whether PCI 3.0 support will prove important to me someday, unlikely, but hard to say, since I do plan to keep this board 3-4 years.
Having swapped the motherboard in "vZilla" 5 times already, I can now easily complete a swap in well under an hour, including the time to cleanup and reapply the Arctic Silver to the CPU, then re-install the Corsair H60. Nice spongy pad that the motherboard ships resting upon, good for placing board on a surface while installing CPU. So this board arrived the evening of 2011-07-18, it didn't take me long to have it running.
Full Virtualization Passthru Support:
VT-d / VMDirectPath / DirectPath I/O Configuration works! Tested with LSI 9260-8i RAID controller.
Entire system (10 3.5” drives, 3 SSDs, 1 DVD, 16GB RAM) coupled with Core i7 2600 (not the 2600K) consumes about 158 watts at idle, which was a tie with the MSIZ68A-GD80 (B3) motherboard I previously used in the same configuration. A quick load test (CPU Burn-in under Windows 7) showed 220 watts maximum load.
PCI3.0 (with Ivy Bridge) support
Perhaps this bit of future proofing will be useful to me someday, or wind up buggy, making me regret being a first adopter, time will tell!
Graphical UEFI is quite friendly:
having had time using 5 Z68 based motherboards, here’s the personal preference order I’d put them in:
- ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 (elegant layout, great ease of use, not a fan of the gamer oriented background)
- ASRrock Z68 Extreme4
- ASUSP8Z68-V PRO (attractive layout, fairly easy to use)
- MSIZ68A-GD80 (B3) (very good function, but inconsistent mouse clicks aggravating)
- GigabyteGA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 (not really full UEFI)
I can say that the least irritating is the ASRock UEFI (BIOS). Admittedly, one shouldn't have to spend much time the BIOS once the system is operation, but it doesn't hurt for it to not be a dreaded task either. I found everything I needed quickly and easily (boot order tweaks, VT-d and virtualization features, etc.). And I especially like F11 at boot time, for convenient choice of boot OS (ESXi on USB key or Windows 7 on disk), without having to really go into the BIOS.
FYI, here's current list of all newegg.com Z68 ATX motherboards that they carry.
The Fatal1ty name/logo (unprofessional for a server builder (not a gamer), but hey, it's the only ASRock Z68 with dual NICs)
Only 2 USB 2.0 headers on the motherboard instead of the usual 3
Realtek 8111E Dual NICs not currently supported by ESXi 4.1 Update 1 (likely to be addressed with 3Q11 release of ESXi 5) (added 8/31/2011, yes ESX 5 supports Realtek, tested it myself on this motherboard and no issues noted!)
Can't get Realtek 8111E dual NICs working out of the box on ESX 4.1U1, and it appears getting it to work won't be easy, probably better off waiting to see what happens with ESX 5.0 and just adding a PCI Intel NIC I already own in the meanwhile.
You'll find some snapshots in the photo gallery below, please forgive lack of pretty cable management, I want to make really quite sure this one is staying put before I work on cosmetics and taking more/nicer photos.
In the dual mobo photo, you'll note the black box (that the Fatal1ty came in) is being used as a place to rest the removed Xtreme4 board with CPU, while I rested the new Fatal1ty board on the foam it shipped resting upon.
2011-07-22 addendum: Memtest-86 results, this board passed just fine, no issues