ASRock Z170 OC Formula Motherboard Review – The Manufacturer’s Flagship Solution for Intel Skylake Processors

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Finding a modern ASRock OC Formula board in Ukrainian retail is quite difficult, but we were lucky to take it for testing right after CEE 2016. Enthusiasts appreciated the previous models, which are great for overclocking Intel LGA 1150 processors and DDR3 memory. It is very interesting to determine whether the manufacturer managed to maintain such continuity for the current model.

The idea of ​​product design remained unchanged. There are a number of auxiliary buttons, switches and several indicators. The most important system voltages can be measured in-house using a multimeter. A dozen SATA sockets include three SATA-E, the same number is provided for M.2. A seat is available for installing a modern compact wireless network adapter.

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The extreme overclocker’s auxiliary set has not gone away: you can deactivate each of the four full-length PCI-E slots, there is a special mode for LN2 and the activation of Slow Mode. There are a couple of chips with firmware and the ability to switch between them. One of the most interesting features of the series – buttons for increasing and decreasing a number of parameters in real time – have also not been abolished. The general set of possibilities can be understood from the pivot table.

Model ASRock Z170 OC Formula
Official product page on the Web asrock.com
Chipset Intel Z170
Processor socket Socket 1151
Processors Core i7, Core i5, Core i3, Pentium, Celeron (Skylake-S)
Memory 4 DIMM DDR4 SDRAM 2133/2400*/2600*/2800*/2933*/3000*/3200*/3300*
/3333*/3400*/3466*/3600*/3666*/3733*/3800*/3866*/4000*/4133*/4200*
/4266*/4300*/4400*/4500*(OC), 64 GB maximum
PCI slots 3 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x16+x0+x0, x8+x8+x0, x8+x4+x4)
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x4)
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x1
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1
1 x Mini PCI Express 2.0 x1
M.2 3 x PCI Express 3.0 x4
PCI slots
Integrated video core (in the processor) Intel HD 510/530
Video connectors DisplayPort, HDMI
Number of connected fans 6x 4pin
PS/2 ports 1 (keyboard/mouse)
The port is USB 2 x 3.1 Gen2 (2 connectors on the rear panel (A and C), ASM1142)
9 x 3.1 Gen1 (4 connectors on the rear panel, Z170)
6 x 2.0 (2 connectors on the rear panel, Z170)
SATA Express 3 (Z170)
Serial ATA 6 x SATA 6Gb/s (Z170)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s (ASM1061)
RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 (SATA, Z170)
Built-in sound Purity Sound 3 (7.1, HDA):
Realtek ALC1150
2x Texas Instruments NE5532
S/PDIF Optical (output)
Networking Intel I219V (Gigabit Ethernet)
COM 1 (internal)
TPM +
UEFI AMI UEFI
Form factor ATX
Dimensions, mm 305 x 244
Additional features Voltage measurement points, POST indicator, buttons: on,
reboot and reset CMOS settings; two independent ROM chips
with UEFI, USB 3.0 socket on board (A-type), Thunderbolt header, support
AMD 4-Way CrossFireX and NVIDIA 3-Way SLI, ready-made CPU overclocking profiles
and DRAM by NickShin
Retail price, $ $262

Packaging and equipment

The board is in a large box equipped with a handle to facilitate transportation. The advertising slogan says about a worthy choice of product for the purpose of setting various records.

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Used proprietary developments and features of these solutions are clearly described on the back of the box, there is also a photo of the device itself.

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The scope of delivery is nothing special, it is:

  • multilingual quick installation guide;
  • UEFI and Formula Drive manual in English;
  • disk with drivers and proprietary software;
  • company logo sticker;
  • a plug for the body, complete with a black sticker with a one-color symbolic designation of all sockets;
  • four SATA 6Gb / s cables, two of which have an L-shaped connector on one of the ends;
  • one flexible bridge for organizing SLI from two video cards;
  • three mounting screws for M.2 format devices;
  • kit for installing a mini PCI-E expansion card (rack and two screws).
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There are three holes on the plug for the needs of switching antennas from a possible wireless network adapter.

Appearance

Despite the complexity of the device, the dimensions remained within the normal ATX format. The board itself is based on an eight-layer textolite, from the backlight there is only a small “window” in the center, where the model name is imprinted. There are six white LEDs on the back side. In general, indicators of various kinds are active only at the time of initialization of the equipment, then everything turns off.

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The emptiness on the surface of the board in the places where potential M.2 format devices are placed is deceptive, because many electronic components turned out to be placed on the reverse side. There are unusually many of them here, it is highly not recommended to use the device without a special stand or fasteners of any kind, since the risk of damaging something is very high. The most noteworthy are: the second (!) multicontroller, an external reference frequency generator, eight drivers for the CPU power system and an integrated graphics adapter.

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The chipset cooler is huge and therefore securely fixed with screws.

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The main group of SATA sockets is located along the surface of the board, four outputs are tied to an external pair of ASM1061 controllers.

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Another pair, combined into a single SATA-E, is not in the usual place. The lower right corner is occupied by a variety of buttons and switches. In addition to the massive Power and Reset, there is a small button nearby that controls the ability to boot directly into the UEFI environment immediately after the system starts. A switch between a pair of chips with firmware will be useful.

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Above the cooler, there is a USB port of the third revision type A and two more blocks for connecting case cables with the same version of the interface. At the bottom there are a couple more – for the second generation, there is even support for a serial COM port.

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At the upper right corner there is a block with the possibility of fixing probes in it for measuring six groups of voltages, there are all the main ones (VCCM – power supply for memory modules). Right behind it, four red LEDs were soldered, which symbolize the stages of initialization of the main system components, such a step is already familiar from the products of the closest competitors. Do not forget about the full-fledged indicator of POST codes.

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The PCI-E processor lanes can be shared between three slots, while the bottom one uses lanes from the Z170 among four.

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It will not work to use M.2 at the same time as SATA-E, you will have to choose between one and the other, although today the advantage on the side of the compact form factor is almost undeniable.

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The topmost slot is a compact mini PCI-E, next to it it is possible to mount a complete rack (there is a threaded hole right in the body of the board).

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The sound system is nothing special, there is a Realtek ALC1150 codec and a pair of Texas Instruments NE5532 op-amps.

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They decided to equip the processor power stabilizer with the usual set of two radiators and a heat pipe. No excess in the form of water blocks or what is served under a similar guise.

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The tube itself is far from the bases, and therefore it acts more like a decoration, in any case, the efficiency of its use will obviously not be high, the shapes of a pair of radiators are relatively symmetrical, it is unlikely that one of them will heat up more than the second.

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The stabilizer is based on an eight-channel PWM controller IR35201 manufactured by International Rectifier. Six lines form a voltage regulator for the CPU and two more for the integrated GPU. Eight IR3598 doubler drivers are attached to help it. Thus, each of them is tied to a pair of highly efficient Texas Instruments CSD87350Q5D elements. Closer to the center of the board, the circuit was supplemented by the implementation of the CPU SA stabilizer, which includes a set of one inductor and a power assembly. Additional power is provided in the form of an EPS12V connector.

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There is a reset button on the back, two state-of-the-art digital video outputs, multiple USB ports of different generations, Ethernet, and a sound stand with five analog outputs and one optical. Do not forget about the classic PS / 2. Quite modern and all-encompassing set, in my opinion.

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