Its interesting the difference in replies. I posed the same question at Anandtech, and there was universal disdain for the Intel HD 4000 graphics in comparison to my old HD 4850.
I’ve put the computer together and have a few thoughts to share about the Asrock motherboard. The first thing that has to be said is that the installation manual that comes with the Z77 Pro 4 motherboard is probably the worst I’ve seen in the last ten years of building computers. There simply isn’t a good point to be found in it, from the poor English, to the cheaply done illustrations, to the miniscule text on the diagram of the motherboard…this manual reeks.
Asrock does include a separate manual for the UEFI setup. And this one is reasonably good. Close to what I’ve seen in the past for Gigabyte and Asus.
The layout of the board is puzzling. It seems like a series of bad decisions that eventually forced them into some impossible-to-fix designs. The 8 pin ATX 12v connector is right at the top edge of the motherboard. This interferes with the top mounted fan in my case, and the only way to fit the cable in was to remove the fan, then finagle it back into position. Also, this top position is extremely inconvenient for a bottom mounted psu. My ATX 12v cable is not long enough to route behind the motherboard mounting plate and reach this connector. So it has to go on top of everything.
The fan headers are poorly positioned. Neither my front fan, nor the back one would reach them, so I had to connect them to molex connectors from the psu. In part this is due to the small size of the motherboard. Normal, full sized ATX boards are 305 x 244mm. This one is 305 x 201mm. Its listed as a full sized board at Newegg, but I’m not sure what form factor it really fits. Its bigger than a microATX.
The SATA ports stick straight up from the motherboard. I’ve no real objection, other than I’ve just gotten used to the 90 degree placement. But distinguishing the 3gb from the 6gb ports was an exercise in frustration. The illustration of the ports in the manual was useless, until you figured out what the heck they were trying to say in hindsight. The 3gb ports are black, the 6gb ports are a shade of blue that is nearly indistinguishable from the black ones…at least until you study them for 10 minutes or so.
The pins for the start and restart switches were positioned very, very tightly. I didn’t think I’d get both connected for a while there.
Edit: I nearly forgot about the memory slots. They tell you, if you are only using two chips, that you should put one in a slot for one channel, and another for the second channel. This is normal, and seen on most modern motherboards. What they don’t tell you in the manual, is which slots are which. I had to examine the tiny, tiny markings on the motherboard diagram to find that information. On my last Gigabyte board, running dual channel memory with two chips meant putting them in the #1 and # 2 slots (or #3 and #4). This Asrock board uses the other configuration, which means you use alternating slots…#1 and #3 preferably when using two memory chips.
As you might have guessed, I’m not overly impressed with the setup of this board. To be fair, it has been running without issues, but the first time I had it in the case, it wouldn’t boot up. I had to tear it down and run it outside the case, reinstalling one component at a time. Never did find out the problem with it not booting, but it runs now in the case ok.