ASRock is a company known for producing All-in-One devices (all of the PC components inside the monitor), desktops and motherboards. The latter is the the leading product of the Taiwanese manufacturer. Although the company was founded as recently as 2002, their components are are high quality, with 3 years of warranty, which is considered a big plus for this type of product.
While low and mid-range motherboards are more prevalent on the market, ASRock wants to shine in in the high-end class, which is precisely what we are going to talk about in this review. ASRock Z170 OC Formula provides everything that a user might want, but what makes the model really different is its software settings and overclocking capabilities, all of which we’ll be examining thoroughly. Before we proceed to the review, we have to note that the motherboard is extremely aptly named, so if you’re not planning on playing around with the BIOS settings quite a bit to squeeze out the maximum out of your components, we would recommend you consider other motherboard offers HERE.
You can purchase ASRock Z170 OC Formula here:
Inside the box
ASRock Z170 OC Formula comes in standard ATX size – 305 x 343 x 86 mm (11.97 x 13.47 x 3.43 inch), and its box has about the size. Its top includes the name of the motherboard, as well as some of the technologies it supports. On the right hand side there are some of the specifications, while on the bottom you can read about how it was manufactured and what exactly makes it this suitable for overclocking.
Inside the box you can also find a CD, so you can install its drivers. There’s also a thorough component installation guide and information about each port. To top that off, a detailed softwared guide is also included – you need that to unlock all of the capabilities of the ASRock Z170 OC Formula. Fans will appreciate the ASRock sticker for your machine. Last but not the least, you’ll find the SATA cables, the gorgeous motherboard itself, and, of course, the CrossFire bridge.
Construction and Design
ASRock Z170 OC Formula is a solid board – that becomes obvious when you remove the protective sleeve. The name of the model was not chosen at random. The unit comes with a Z170 chipset, which means that it can support all latest generation Intel processors with the DDR4 memory. The final portion of the name reveals the nature of the model even further. OC Formula provides you with some features that propel the productivity of the installed components to the stratosphere.
We start from the very top where spot the non-standard for the most motherboards 8+4 pin power upply, that states for more stable voltage and the option for higher processor frequency and the RAM chips when overclocked. Near them are located the throttles that supply thecircuit with 60A of Electricity power, increasing the need for electricity in our ASRock Z170 OC Formula to 3 times. When increasing to voltage value, heat is been emitted, that’s why they have added a special heat-conveying element, made out of aluminium alloy. Not only that looks nice, the aluminium piece spreads the heat away, which is good for the stable and reliable work of the system even in high temperatures.
The unpleasant noise is getting annoying when you increase the voltage, well the Nichikon’s capacitors are platinum, so they can diminish the voltage and the noise respectively up to 33% from 92mV to 62mV. Although is making it quieter, the design increases their lifespan up to 12 000 hours, which equals to 500 days, nevertheless you have your 3 year warranty.
Left of the heat-conveying tube we notice yet another beautiful element, covering the I/O panel. It is the so called “Armor” to protect the ports, that we are going to talk about in a minute, from the static electricity. Not far is located the battery of the board as well. Although ASRock Z170 OC Formula doesn’t have second Network controller, fact in most of the high-end motherboards, the Taiwanese company has thought for a mini PCIe slot, letting you plug a Wi-Fi module in case it is been needed. The mini PCIe slot is located next to the battery.
Right of the processor one can find the DIMM slots. they are 4 in total and let you install up to 64GB of RAM, due to the fact the the board, together with the 6th generation Intel processor, support exactly that much. The slots themselves are reinforced by 15μ gold, decreasing the oxygenating effect.
We mentioned the main purpose for this board to be made was overclocking, well now you are probably wondering what results has it achieved, increasing the frequency to maximum. Well, not bad at all, comparing to the German’s Der8auer highest record of 7GHz, fact for few months now, and the maximum frequency of OC Formula with Intel Core i7-6700K – 6998.88MHz (+74.97% increase), cooled and liquid Nitrogen. The latter has been done by the user Chi-Kui Lam, who lives in Hong Kong. Where the record for RAM frequency again is hold by Chi-Kui Lam who managed to overclock the RAM memory to 4901.6MHz of the core and 2450.8MHz of the memory.
We are more than satisfied to see what this board can offer in its bottom part. Four PCIe x16 , together with Ultra M.2 slot – more than enough to satisfy all your needs. Initially, we thought that installing 4 NVIDIA Graphics engines would have been problems free, but the slots are in the following order:
|Single Graphics Card||x16||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Two Graphics Cards in SLI or CrossFire Mode||x8||N/A||x8||N/A|
|Three Graphics Cards in 3-Way CrossFire Mode||x8||x4||x8||N/A|
|Four Graphics Cards in 4-Way CrossFire Mode||x8||x4||x4||x4|
That means, taht you can only install 4 AMD Radeon Graphics accelerators, because NVIDIA states, its minimum requirements for SLI configuration are x8 lines, not x4. Between them there are 2 PCIE x1 slots(PCIE 3 and PCIE 5), as the one of the, (PCIE 3) there isn’t a stop (it is not closed in one of its ends), which also could be taken as a plus, compared with the standard PCIE slots. This way ASRock “allows” you to install additional cards (sound, LAN and etc.), not being bothered by their size.
The first of the three M.2 slot allows installation of the largest market size SSD, as in our case, it was already occupied by SSD Samsung 950 PRO. The other two are limited to 80mm, as PCIE slots are located where should bend the end of the 110 mm’s drives to the motherboard. The speed is very high (we can see in our tests below) thanks to PCIe Gen3 x4 Ultra M.2 interface that can increase the data transfer speed up to 32Gb / s.
The support of SATA 3 6Gb / s M.2 modules is also available, and the chance to add U.2 Kit. It is an adapter with outputs M.2 to mini-SAS interface and PCI Express x4, allowing you to connect one of the fastest U.2 SSD – 750 Series of Intel. Of course, RAID 0 is completely possible if you want to use the all three outputs, which are between the PCIe x16 slots. If you are wondering what are the speeds of this option that ASRock gives us, we will share image below. Another good news is that it is now possible to start your operating system NVMe SSD (as in our case).
Besides the great amount ME.2 slots, ASRock have got to get enough SATA ports to connect our hard drives – 10 in total. However, if you plan to use all ten with M.2 SSD you won’t be able to, because some of them share the same bus. Though, the four SATA ports can be fully exploited (when added three M.2 SSD) at a speed of 6Gb / s because they are SATA III. Here’s how the buses are allocated to all the devices that serve to store information:
Thanks to the beautiful copper color complimented by black, we notice the element before the last on the motherboard. It is located left of the PCIE ports and it is called Purity Sound 3. As the name suggests – it’s audio, which is integrated into ASRock Z170 OC Formula. Part of the so-called “Armor”, it also has protection against static electricity. The design is aggressive and the quality – more than good. The codec, responsible for the sound quality is Realtek ALC1150. Togethe with Nichicon Fine Gold capacitors, 7.1 channel system it provides crystal clear, headset support up to 600 Ohm, Direct Drive technology and more.
The “design and construction” we are going to wrap up with perhaps the most intrigue part for the overclocking enthusiast, which is located at the bottom right of the ASRock Z170 OC Formula. There are buttons installed with the purpose for you to “reveal” the potential of your system. Let’s start with the first four that actually regulate each PCIE x16 slot. You can find out which graphics card does not work for one reason or another, without you having to remove each graphics accelerator system to fix the issue.
Next to them there is a switch that is especially for “hardcore” overclockers. It is called LN2 Mode and aims to prevent so-called “cold bug”, with additional options in the BIOS, allowing you to increase the voltage, helping to reduce below zero degrees temperatures. The “cold bug” itself can only happe if you cool the processor by liquid nitrogen (or similar coolers that lead to freezing temperatures) contrary to keeping you off overheating – the chip reaches very low temperature so that it cannot function properly, making overclocking procedure pointless.
Our journey continues with the last two switches that left of the latter. The first is similar to the LN2 and it is called Slow Mode. It lowers the frequency multiplier to a minimum, helping to stabilize the CPU during extreme overclocking. Near that switch is another one called XMP activating your XMP profile (gives you the opportunity to increase the frequency of RAM, and “tighten/shorten” the timing for better performance of your system) not having to enter the BIOS every time you turn on your computer.
The small button next to the XMP Switch is called Direct Key and gives you the ability to log directly into UEFI settings screen. The LED display which is very close, could inform you about different types of errors, which you may encounter when starting the machine. All of them are detailed in the manual, coming with your motherboard.
Under switches, ASRock Z170 OC Formula gives us few more useful buttons. The first one it is called Menu, allowing us to “browse” among the information on date / time / temperature and voltage. The next two buttons are represented by + and -. They are used to increase (respectively to decrease) the frequency multiplier and CPU voltage thanks to free software that can be downloaded from the official website of ASRock – Rapid OC. The reset button obviously restarts our system, and Power button to start it – they are much needed if you do not want to put at the bottom box (to test components before installing them) or make a short circuit.
The side panel (I/O) is as rich as the front of the ASRock Z170 OC Formula. At the top are two USB 2.0 ports and an output for PS / 2 mouse / keyboard. Below is a Clear CMOS button that “saves” the situation if something goes wrong while you configure the settings in the BIOS. If you do not own external video card you will be able to connect your monitor to the system via HDMI or the Display Port. Right under there are the new USB ports – 3.1, Type-A and Type-C. The other four are normal USB 3.0, together with the audio jacks though, there is Optical SPDIF Out as well.
We can conclude that in addition to the huge overclocking features, great design and quality, the Z170 OC Formula gives us a wide selection of buttons that could help in some critical and unpleasant situations, together with the maintenance of some of the fastest SSDs, a bid advantage by far, since it can mount up to 3 of them and connect them in a RAID 0.
|Supported CPUs||Intel Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7|
|RAM||DDR4 4500+(OC)*/ 4400(OC)/ 4300(OC)/ 4266(OC)/ 4200(OC)/ 4133(OC)/ 4000(OC)/ 3866(OC)/ 3800(OC)/ 3733(OC)/ 3666(OC)/ 3600(OC)/ 3466(OC)/ 3400(OC)/ 3333(OC)/ 3300(OC)/ 3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2933(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400(OC)/ 2133, 4 slots, up to 64GB|
|Audio||Realtek ALC1150 Codec, 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio, 5 ports, S/PDIF output support|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s, Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az support|
|Size||ATX, 30.5 x 34.3 x 8.6 cm(11.97 x 13.47 x 3.43 inch)|
The motherboard has so many options, so now you might be wondering whether ASRock provide free software packages through which you can control some hardware you have added to Z170 OC Formula directly through the desktop and rather than the BIOS. You can breath, there are several applications that will help you in some situations. We are going to have a look at some of them.
ASRock Timing Configurator
As you might have guessed from the name, this software helps you adjust the timings of your RAM. Although in BIOS everything is detailed (we will see it below), the Timing configurator is not any worse for setting the RAM memory for even more speed.
ASRock Rapid OC
After we examined the the motherboard in details we learned that the name OC Formula is not a coincidence, we found a software that helps us to raise the frequency of the processor without having to enter the BIOS this is what we consider for really convenient. You can use this program only if you know what exactly you are doing because there is a risk burning your CPU, which is not covered by your warranty.
The name sounds very “advertising” – it isn’t. The program offers some free programs which can monitor the status of the hardware, and some packages from the official website of ASRock, coming in addition to the motherboard. Also, in the second menu “BIOS & Drivers” you can see whether you have the latest versions of various packages, making it easier, giving you fully optimization – you didn’t see that one coming from the program, did you?
The essence of the Z170 OC Formula – the BIOS settings, by means of which one can “unlock” the full power of each component that is connected to the motherboard. They are so many – you can read about each command in the software manual that comes with the card. We are going to highlight the most significant and the two modes that ASRock provides during running.
The function does not go far from its name – with easy mode you can reach the most important information on its configuration. CPU overclock is also possible thanks to the large button in the bottom left – CPU EZ OC. In addition it shows what type of RAM there are, at what frequency they work, and which slots Z170 OC Formula they take.
Another very useful option is the Storage Configuration. Thanks to it, you can see which ports are available for connecting a device, as well as ones already installed ports. On the right you can select the device which you want to run the operating system – as we said NVMe devices are also supported, which increases the speed of you work while browsing, playing or working with heavy software.
If the noise in the box bothers you, you can adjust the fan speed, you have initially installed. The current system, has only two fans – one that is mounted to the cooler, as well as a 120 mm, which brings out the warm air. The temperature is monitored by sensors that you can spot in the top right, and next to the CPU button is the Flash “menu” with the help of which you can update your “firmware”. To wrap it up we can say that consumers who do not understand a lot of overclocking can use this mode without concerns about problems caused by bugs that could be “detrimental” in certain situations.
Both modes could be changed by pressing F6. Moving on to the second mode, which is more important for the overclock enthusiasts . It can give you the most out of each component – the processor or RAM (the video card has different software to overclock with). The first window, Main, gives us an overview of the entire system. Here you can see what processor you have, at what frequency works, together with the RAM specifications. My Favorite is a menu where you can select settings that you have saved – it is often helpful to save them if you love to experiment and add / change options to get the most out of Z170 OC Formula.
The second window, OC Tweaker, provides you with several preset settings that increase CPU frequency – it can easily raise the bar to a 4.6GHz frequency of the processor. For the enthusiasts we recommend the lower menu – CPU Configuration, which you can adjust everything you need to achieve results higher than 5GHz operating frequency of the processor (let’s not forget that this motherboard has reached almost 7GHz, though).
Right under it are the settings for the RAM. If you want full control over it, we recommend you to use the BIOS, not the software package -Timing Configurator though. You can “tighten” the timings and increase the current that you submit to the RAM. The third menu, Voltage Configuration, allows you to control the voltage to the RAM and to the processor. However we do not recommend you to touch any setting if you are first timer overclock “geek” and you are not aware what are you doing. As the increase in current leads to high heat, meaning that it has the ability to burn the component. So stay cautious.
The third window, Advanced, is also very useful. There are basic settings of the components and some options that Z170 OC Formula provides us with. We are going to look at the CPU Configuration, Chipset Configuration and Storage, which are the most important in this menu. As discussed, the first menu, CPU Configuration, shows the main options that Intel has included in their chips. The chipset configuration is also a big plus as it includes settings such as shared memory, audio and PCI ASPM support. In the Storage Configuration setting you can find information about the devices that you have connected to the motherboard, and some other options like Hard Disk SMART, which monitors the status of your drives.
Tools offers several additional options, together with others we have already discussed above (like Flash). H / W Monitor menu is very good for people who want maximum tranquility. This can happen due to the FAN-Tastic Tuning, where you can manually adjust the speed of the installed fans. Before that, you can select one of the four modes, from the button right opposite the CPU Fan% Settings – we have set our settings on Standard Mode (select among: quite, Standard, manufacturer or full speed).
In the window Security can set your own password, or start the computer in the so-called “Secure Boot” mode.
In the last window we are going to look at – Boot, you can choose from what device you want your operating system to be loaded,set if youwant to run the PC via LAN, as well as some additional options like a sound when you start the machine. Z170 OC Formula provides us with very many options to turn your machine into a “quiet beast.”
We were more than satisfied after we had a look into the BIOS menu, and now it’s time to see what the performance of the components that are installed onto the motherboard, and how it improves after overclocking the CPU.
Specs Sheet of G:RIGS Siegfried Custom
|CPU||Intel Core i7-6700K (4-core, 4.00 – 4.20 GHz, 8MB cache)|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z170 OC Formula|
|RAM||32GB (4x 8192MB) – DDR4, 2133Mhz|
|Video Card||1x MSI GeForce GTX 980 (4GB GDDR5)|
|HDD/SSD||240GB SSD 950 Pro + 256GB 850 EVO SSD|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/1000/1000 МBit/s|
ASRock Z170 OC Formula comes with a socket 1151, which means that currently supports only the latest sixth generation processors from Intel. For the fans of the latest chips that wish to remain part of the previous configuration, we are going to specify that the motherboard only supports DDR4 RAM. The tests we have put to our Intel Core i7-6700K are normal and OC mode to see how useful the BIOS is.
Cinebench 11 and R15
The both of the benchmark tests are almost identical – they render the image, defining the performance of our processor – Intel Core i7-6700K. Here are the results, together with the temperature stats …
Fritz e benchmark reflecting the performance in calculating chess moves. Intel Core i7-6700 deals with 16,869,000 moves per second. One of the most powerful computers in the world, Deep (er) Blue reached a speed of 200 million positions per second, in 1997, when it beat the world champion Garry Kasparov 3.5 to 2.5.
NovaBench is cross-platform benchmark test, which loads the CPU with MD5 hashing, and also makes test in floating point and integer math problems. Intel Core i7-6700K earns 1015 points.
It wasn’t any difficult to increase the processor frequency to 4.4GHz. Here are the results we achieved in the same benchmark tests that we showed above …
Cinebench11 and R15
Overclocking results and comparison table
|Test||[email protected]||[email protected]||Difference|
Video benchmark tests
Though we did not have more than one video card, we are going to show you how our GeForce GTX 980 behaved on its base frequency in some of the toughest benchmark tests.
Unigine Heaven 3.0
One of the most commonly used benchmark programs that test video stability, going through the different “levels” – we warmly recommend it if you overclock your video card.
Unigine Heaven 4.0
An improved version of the above software. However, the purpose of the benchmark and the scenes are the same.
One of the toughest software packages that you can load your card with. It contains different type of tests, the last of them, Fire Strike, is the heaviest. Here are the results reached at each of them.
The Benchmark tests that you are about to see in the pictures below affect the total load of the entire system, test the RAM, copying the same file on and on, as well as measuring the speed of our two SSDs. Results…
The first program, we are going to start with is PCMark 8. It loads the all components of our system one after another, thanks to the included benchmarks – video calls, browsing, photo editing and gaming.
The Benchmark test program components for data storage. In our case we have 2 SSDs – 950 Pro and 850 EVO. To understand just how fast it is the new one, NVMe and memory we tested the two devices to compare the speed of read / write.
The results speak for themselves – the new SSDs could eat the competitors.
Having seen of what was capable the new SD (950 Pro) of with read / write, we decided to see how long would it take the device to copy the 8-gigabyte file to another home directory, as well as to 850 EVO. We included and vice versa route, to see speed during writing on the NVMe memory. Here are the results…
The software package offers various of tests, but in this case we used it only to see the performance of the RAM.
ASRock Z170 OC Formula is a great choice nowadays, made by the Taiwanese company. The motherboard offers everything needed for each user – from people who first are going to immerse in the science of overclocking to enthusiasts who want to get the most out of their system without any compromises. This is due to the very wide choice of BIOS settings and current control, together with the ability to control all the fans without the need for so-called Fan controller.
The motherboard provides a sufficiently high speed Storage, thanks to the three M.2 ports, where one can install up to three U.2 Kits, necessary for mounting the fastest SSD of Intel, 750 Series. Something else, the SATA ports also shouldn’t be underestimated – 10. Remember, however, that some of the ports share a single bus, and if you have installed one kind of device (SSD M.2 to the port for instance), its corresponding SATA ports will not work (see the table in section “Design and construction”). The “Armor”, which protects some of capacitors and the board from static electricity so that it cannot ruin the Z170 OC Formula, besides being very efficient, adds style, design and elegance of the motherboard.
The little LED screen, located at the bottom right of the board is yet another great feature of board. Thanks to it, we can understand exactly what component is forcing to screen remain black. The included PCI x1 port that is without limit in its end, gives us the freedom to add additional cards without worrying if their length is greater than the standard.
The four PCIE slot gives us the ability to add in the system four AMD graphics cards and do the so-called Quad CrossFire. Unfortunately, NVIDIA say no to 4-way SLI configurations if the slot is x4 or lower, which to some extent may disappoint fans of the “green” company who had the intention to install more than two video cards to the board. However, if you plan to do SLI with two graphics accelerators you will encounter absolutely no problems. Another thing we did not see on the motherboard surface was the lack of Wi-Fi module, which is a bit odd considering its class. Completing our review, we remain very positive about what ASRock motherboard can offer.
You can purchase ASRock Z170 OC Formula here:
- Wide choice of overclocking options
- “Unlimited” BIOS settings
- Possible installation of ultra-fast SSDs
- Great design and “Armor”, protecting the I/O panel
- LED Monitor, recognizing possible hardware errors
- Buttons at the very bottom allowing easier control in certain situations
- Supports 4-Way CrossFire and SLI Technology
- Lack of Wi-Fi Module
- Unable to install more than two NVIDIA video cards