Connecting 14 hard disks
No one would have believed you if you had claimed a few years back that ASRock would release a £320 motherboard. Ever since the former ASUS budget-brand claimed its independence, every year the manufacturer keeps raising the bar with its deluxe high-end boards. It was that time again recently, when it launched the Socket 1155 motherboard Z77 Extreme11. This Ivy Bridge motherboard comes complete with workstation-like features.
Contrary to the other ASRock boards in the Extreme series, the Extreme11 isn't aimed at overclockers. Of course there are overclocking features present, but the lack of extra OC features such as voltage measuring points or buttons for directly changing the bClk make it clear that this group isn't the main focus. A better product name would probably have been something like the ASRock Z77 Workstation1.
The most unique special feature is the onboard 8-port LSI SAS2308 RAID controller chip that is compatible with both SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) and Serial ATA 600 disks. This makes it possible to install eight disks at their maximum speed (600 MB/s). If you add these to the six SATA ports from the Z77 chipset, you have a total of 14 hard disk connectors on this motherboard. The LSI SAS2308 controller supports RAID 0, 1 and 10, but not RAID 5. The controller also does not have any cache, so it's not a full alternative to the onboard controller. You do get extensive LSI management tools.
Another unique aspect of this motherboard is the presence of a mini-PCI-Express WLAN adapter, suitable for 300 Mbps 802.11n networks. It's provided by an AzureWave AW-NB110H controller which also has Bluetooth. You get an interesting accessory with the motherboard, a 5.25-inch installation bracket that contains two antennas for the WLAN adapter that you can nicely mount inside your PC. That bracket also has two extra USB 3.0 ports. The total number of USB 3.0 ports is high. Out of the 12 total, eight are on the back. The good news is that the USB 3.0 ports are provided by onboard USB hub chips. Four out of the eight rear ports come from the Z77 chipset, the rest are provided by EtronTech chips. There is also an internal USB 2.0 port, that can be used for dongles for professional software for example.