Seeing as how some of the newest socket LGA1155 processors, such as the Core i7-3770K, competes with Sandy Bridge-E HEDT platform, and how today's GPUs are beginning to benefit from PCI-Express 3.0 in x8 and x4 configurations, ASRock decided to go beyond its Z77 Fatal1ty Professional, and launched a new Extreme series model, with a focus on features and connectivity. The Z77 Extreme9 from ASRock crams has every square inch of its standard ATX size PCB with features. To begin with, the Z77 Extreme9 uses a fairly strong 8+4 phase VRM, which is similar to that of the Z77 Extreme6. The CPU VRM MOSFETs are cooled by a fairly big heatsink, which shares its head with a neighbouring heatsink, which cools a PLX PEX8747 PCI-Express 3.0 bridge chip, which takes in the lone PCI-Express 3.0 x16 link from the processor, and drives four of the board's six PCI-Express 3.0 x16 long slots, enabling 3-way and 4-way SLI/CrossFireX capability. The other slots are electrical PCI-Express 2.0, and wired to the Z77 PCH. The Z77 Extreme9 packs a laundry list of features, starting with six SATA 6 Gb/s ports (two from the PCH, four from third-party ASMedia-made controllers), four SATA 3 Gb/s ports (from the PCH), and one eSATA (shares the port with one of the SATA 6 Gb/s ports driven by the ASMedia controllers). There are a total of 12 USB 3.0 ports, four of which are driven by the Z77 PCH, and eight by a pair of Etron EJ188 4-port USB 3.0 host controllers. The lone display output is an HDMI port, there are no DisplayPort connectors, so the availability of Thunderbolt is unlikely. Other connectivity includes 8+2 channel HD audio, two gigabit Ethernet interfaces, 802.11 b/g/n (WiFi), Bluetooth 4.0, FireWire, USB 2.0 rear panel ports (useful for USB gaming peripherals without wasting USB 3.0), and a mouse/keyboard combo PS/2 port. The package includes a unique accessory called Wi-SB, which is a 3.5-inch front-panel enclosure, that relays two USB 3.0 ports from the headers to the front-panel, serves as a WiFi antenna, and has a 2.5-inch drive bay, for holding SSDs. To top it all off, are ASRock exclusives such as XFastRAM (memory optimization), XFastUSB (higher bandwidth), and XFastLAN (lower pings), and LucidLogix VirtuMVP. The ASRock Z77 Extreme9 could be the company's most premium (read: expensive) Z77-based motherboard, prices could exceed US $450.