The Board - Layout
Since the ASRock Z77 Extreme9 is a high-end product, the surface of the board is pretty busy, yet still ASRock manages to keep a centralized theme and the use of all-gold capacitors really helps tie in the heatsink design to the rest of the board. The rear of the board is pretty busy too, with VRM components as well as a few other things mounted to the back of the board in various places. You'll want to be careful mounting this board into a case, but really there's nothing here that would ever really be problematic.
Considering the other boards I've covered recently, the ASRock Z77 Extreme9's socket area is actually pretty open, and might be one of the easier boards to insulate should you decide to use this one for some extreme cooling. Likewise, the rear of the socket is pretty clear and open itself, and although the previously mentioned VRM components are close by, they sit at enough of a distance to not be much of an issue.
The ASRock Z77 Extreme9 has a full compliment of expansion slots, six of which are PCIe x16 physical, and the one PCIe x1 slot makes for seven total. There are four DIMM slots, each supporting up to 8 GB DIMMs, or 32 GB in total.
The bottom edge is full of pins from end to end, including FireWire, infrared, HDMI SDPIF, and the usual USB ports, front panel pins and audio header. The BIOS chip and a POST code display are also on the bottom edge, for easy access when the board is installed into a case.
There are dual USB 3.0 front panels headers on the ASRock Z77 Extreme9, located above the SATA ports. This allows you to use USB 3.0 ports provided on your case, as well as the ports provided by the Wi-SB 5.25" device, allowing for a maximum of twelve USB 3.0 ports total. There are six fan headers around the board, but only two of them are PWM-based.
The back panel on the ASRock Z77 Extreme9 is mostly USB ports, eight USB 3.0, and two USB 2.0. There's dual LAN ports, a single HDMI port, a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, as well as standard audio ports, FireWire, and eSATA. There are ten total internal SATA ports, four SATA 6 Gb/s ports driven by ASMedia controllers (black), as well the standard Intel Z77 Express dual SATA 6 Gb/s and quad SATA 3 Gb/s ports (grey).