Review Motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula

Review Motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula

In this article we will look at one of these new products – ASRock Z97 OC Formula, oriented, as the name implies, for overclockers.

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: Picking and packing

ASRock Z97 OC Formula comes in a large cardboard box with a handle on which are painted all her dignity and even brief specification. Supplied standard: in addition to the board itself has a user guide, DVD-ROM with software and drivers, four SATA-cable (all connectors with latches, two cables are angled connector on one side), a plug for the rear panel, and a special SLI bridge Cable HDD Saver Cable.

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: Configuration and features of the board

Summary table of the characteristics of the board is shown below, and hereafter we will consider all of its features and functionality.

Fee ASRock Z97 OC Formula is made in full form factor ATX (305 × 244 mm), and for its installation in the housing provided ten holes.Form Factor

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: Chipset and processor socket

Fee ASRock Z97 OC Formula is based on chipset Intel Z97, it supports the Intel Core fourth generation (Haswell, Haswell Refresh) and will support the Intel Core fifth generation (Broadwell).

Review Motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: The Memory

To install the memory modules on the motherboard provides four DIMM-slot that allows you to install two DDR3-module for each of the two memory channels with a maximum capacity up to 32GB (using 8 GB modules). Memory slots belonging to different channels, marked by different colors, which is useful when installing modules. Note also that the motherboard supports the memory with XMP-profiles.

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: Expansion Slots

To install the graphics card or expansion card on the motherboard, ASRock Z97 OC Formula has four slots form factor PCI Express x16 (PCIE_1, PCIE_2, PCIE_4 and PCIE_6) and two slots PCI Express 2.0 x1.

Three slot form factor PCI Express x16 (PCIE_1, PCIE_2 and PCIE_4) performed using 16 lines (ports) PCI Express 3.0 processor Haswell. And here’s another slot form factor PCI Express x16 (PCIE_6) is made using four PCI Express 2.0 lanes Intel Z97 chipset and is basically a slot PCI Express 2.0 x4. Unfortunately, this slot is visually indistinguishable from the other slot form factor PCI Express x16 (it is exactly the same color), which is not very convenient.

Review Motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula

Three slots PCI Express 3.0 x16 work as follows. If only the first slot PCIE_1, it operates in x16.When using the two slots at the same time (PCIE_1 and PCIE_2), both slots operate at x8. Well, when used concomitantly three slots PCIE_1, PCIE_2 and PCIE_4, the first slot operates at x8, and the slots and PCIE_2 PCIE_4 – at speeds x4. That is, the first slot switching and can run at speeds x16 / x8; the second slot is also switchable and can run at speeds x8 / x4, well, the third slot (PCIE_4) can only be operated at a speed of x4.

The board supports the ability to combine multiple graphics cards (Nvidia SLI modes and AMD CrossFire). And when two or more graphics cards capable of providing slots for additional power through MOLEX- connector.

Well, two slots PCI Express 2.0 x1, implemented using two PCI Express 2.0 lanes chipset Intel Z97.

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: Video Connectors

Since Haswell processors have integrated graphics and Intel Z97 chipset supports the use of graphics processor for connection of the monitor on the rear panel has a connector HDMI (maximum resolution of 4096 × 2160 @ 24 Hz). No more connectors are not provided. Perhaps this is correct, because, firstly, the HDMI connector is available on the vast majority of monitors, and, secondly, these boards are focused on work with a discrete graphics card.

SATA-ports, connectors, SATA Express and M.2

For connecting hard drives or optical drives on board has eight ports SATA 6 Gb / s, one connector SATA Express, as well as connector M.2.

Six SATA 6 Gb / s implemented on the basis of the integrated chipset SATA-controller. These ports support the ability to create RAID-arrays levels 0, 1, 5, 10. Two of the six chipset SATA 6 Gb / s are part of the connector SATA Express (recall that the connector uses much SATA Express chipset ports and two PCI Express 2.0 ).

Review Motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula

Another two SATA 6 Gb / s controller implemented on the basis of ASMedia ASM1061. But for these ports can create RAID-arrays are no longer available.

M.2 connectors on the motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula device supports both SATA 6Gb / s devices and PCIe 2.0 x2. Accordingly, for the implementation of this connector M.2 activated two chipset port PCI Express 2.0 and SATA 6 Gb / s. Note that the connector M.2 share with connector SATA Express ports and two SATA 6 Gb / s, (they are part of the connector SATA Express). M.2 connector supports the installation of drives of sizes 2230/2242/2260/2280/22110.

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: USB-connectors

To connect all kinds of peripheral devices on the motherboard, ASRock Z97 OC Formula provides eight USB 3.0 ports and six ports USB 2.0.

Six USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports on the rear panel board, and to connect the remaining on the board are appropriate connectors (one connector for USB 3.0 ports and one connector port USB 2.0).

All USB 2.0 ports based on the chipset. Recall that the Intel Z97 chipset supports up to 14 ports USB, of which 6 can be ports USB 3.0. Therefore, for the implementation of eight USB 3.0 ports had to resort to an additional four-hub ASMedia ASM1074. This hub uses a chipset USB 3.0 port and gives the output four-port USB 3.0. Note that all four USB 3.0 ports on the hub ASMedia ASM1074 displayed on the rear panel.

Review Motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: Network interface

To connect to the board, ASRock Z97 OC Formula implemented gigabit interface controller-based Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200.

How it works

If you count the number of controllers, connectors and slots using the line PCI Express 2.0 chipset Intel Z97, we get the following picture. Two slots PCI Express 2.0 x1, one slot PCI Express 2.0 x4 (in the form factor PCI Express x16) in the aggregate requires six ports PCI Express 2.0. Another port uses a network controller. Further, under the SATA-controller requires one port PCI Express 2.0. Well, the two ports required under the connector M.2 (PCIe x2) and connector SATA Express.The result is that in order to make it all work at the same time, requires 12-port PCI Express 2.0.However chipset Intel Z97 total PCI Express 2.0 ports may not exceed eight (six to eight technology based Flexible I / O ).

Lack of ports PCI Express 2.0 card in case of ASRock Z97 OC Formula is solved as follows.Connector SATA Express share with built-in M.2 (PCIe x2) and two SATA 6 Gb / s, members of the connector SATA Express.

That is, if you use the connector SATA Express, then plug M.2 is unavailable, and vice versa. Thus, for the connector and the connector M.2 SATA Express together requires only two ports PCI Express 2.0. Accordingly, it is required not 12, but only 10 ports PCI Express 2.0

Well, in addition, the board uses an additional five-port switch port PCI Express 2.0 ASMedia ASM1184e. Using a single line at the entrance to PCI Express 2.0, the switch ASMedia ASM1184e provides four output lines. In view of the switch we find that there are a total 13 free ports PCI Express 2.0: seven from the chipset (based on a single port, occupied by the switch) and four from the switch. And you only need 10 ports PCI Express 2.0.

Unfortunately, ASRock does not provide detailed information about your motherboard, and, therefore, say for sure that it is connected to the switch, and that – directly to the chipset, we can not. There may be various options, and one of these options to connect slots, connectors and controllers to the Intel Z97 chipset on the motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula is given below.

We emphasize once again that this is only one possible connection, and indeed to the switch ASMedia ASM1184e can be connected slot PCI Express 2.0 x4 slot, or connect two PCI Express 2.0 x1 and only one controller (ASMedia ASM1061 or Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200) . But it is important that the above as an option wiring diagram clearly shows that the port PCI Express 2.0 is enough.

Now consider how the rule is executed 18 high-speed I / O ports. Recall that in the Intel Z97 chipset can be implemented no more than a total of 18 high-speed I / O ports (PCI Express 2.0, SATA, USB 3.0), and the technology of Flexible I / O allows you to reconfigure some of these ports.

First, we note that the chipset five ports USB 3.0, as well as four SATA 6 Gb / s ports, and five PCI Express 2.0 (in the expected pattern of connections) are strictly fixed. And here are two ports can be configured as a SATA 6 Gb / s or PCI Express 2.0 (in the diagram are shown in dashed lines). It all depends on what kind of connector is activated (SATA Express or M.2) and a device (PCIe or SATA) is connected to these terminals. If the connector SATA Express or SATA-M.2 connected device, two high-speed ports are configured as two SATA 6 Gb / s. If these connectors to connect PCIe device, two high-speed ports are configured as two-port PCI Express 2.0. And in any case, the board ASRock Z97 OC Formula realized only 16 chipset high-speed I / O ports: 5 ports USB 3.0, four SATA 6 Gb / s ports and 7 PCI Express 2.0 or 5-port USB 3.0, 6 ports SATA 6Gb / s ports 5 and PCI Express 2.0.

Review Motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: Additional Features

Among the additional features of the motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula is possible to note the presence of the connector PS / 2 mouse and keyboard ports and connectors for COM-port on the external plate. In addition, there are specific connector located near the connectors SATA, called HDD Saver Connector. This proprietary connector found on all new motherboards ASRock. This connector supplied with the card comes with a special cable HDD Saver Cable, which allows you to connect the power of one or two SATA-drives. That is, on the one hand, this cable connects to the HDD Saver Connector, and on the other – to the power connectors, SATA-drives. The meaning of this connection is that connected to drives with a special tool you can disable it. That is, allows you to connect your drive “invisible” in their software is turned off.

Other features include the presence of board power and reset buttons, indicator POST-codes and button resetting BIOS, which is located on the rear panel. In addition, the board has two chips BIOS, and a dedicated switch allows you to choose what kind of BIOS chip to use for the job.

There on the board ASRock Z97 OC Formula and four-configurator work slots PCI Express x16, which allows you to disable any of these slots.

In addition, there is also two buttons (“+” and “-“) rapid acceleration system (Rapid OC), that allow you to increase or decrease the clock speed of the processor. True, we should make one remark. In order that would have earned these buttons, you must also install the utility Rapid OC.

This utility allows you to overclock the processor without using the buttons Rapid OC, but simply assigning shortcuts to disperse.

After that, a single press on the “+” button will increase by one step CPU multiplier, and pressing the “-” button to reduce accordingly.

In addition, you can set and change the processor core voltage when overclocking.

It would seem that everything is thought out and very comfortable. But, alas, the effectiveness of this tool is poor.

For example, using this rapid acceleration, we were able to increase the clock speed of the processor Intel Core i7-4770K to 4.6 GHz. And when accelerating through the UEFI BIOS with dynamic voltage change the same processor can operate at a frequency of 4.9 GHz.

There is a button on the board and the «Menu», which can be used in tandem with Rapid OC utility to switch between menus.

Generally, if you overclock the processor is not the classical way (through the settings UEFI BIOS), and with the help of tools, it is best to use the utility Formula Drive, which allows you to change the multiplication factor, the BCLK frequency and voltage without rebooting the system.

The next feature – is the presence of specific overclocking switch Slow Mode and LN2. In the Slow Mode processor running at minimum frequency and switch LN2 (it is present on most motherboards aimed at overclocking) is used in the case of CPU cooling with liquid nitrogen.

As you can see, the buttons and switches on the card a lot, but do not forget that they are only available if the card is not installed in the PC case.

Another feature of the motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula is that it has a special connector Thunderbolt AIC Connector, which is compatible with PCIe-cards ASRock Thunderbolt 2 AIC.However, to find such a card separately in the sale is not so simple. Yes, and the interface Thunderbolt, admittedly, has not been widely adopted. So having a connector Thunderbolt AIC Connector is hardly relevant.

However, this list of features of the motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula ends. The next thing worth mentioning is the presence of pin connectors (V-probe) to measure the voltage on the CPU, memory, etc. Again, these connectors are present on those boards that are focused on acceleration.

Well, the last feature of the motherboard – a protective coating Conformal Coating. All payment (with all chips) front and rear coated with a special translucent composition that protects the board from any liquid. On the one hand, it is very good, especially considering the fact that this board is focused on work without having to install a PC case. But on the other hand, see the marking of chips in the presence of the protective coating – this is a very trivial task.

ASRock Z97 OC Formula: Power system

To connect the power supply to the motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula designed 24-pin and two 8-pin connectors. In addition, there are MOLEX-connector for additional power supply slots PCI Express x16.

CPU voltage regulator is a 12-channel, and is based on the 6-phase PWM-controller Intersil ISL6379. Well, twelve channels supply of six phases is obtained by phase power doublers ISL6611ACRZ. Channels themselves are built using power NexFet MOSFET-transistors, however, see the markings on these transistors due Conformal Coating coverage is not possible.

The Memory voltage regulator is a 4-phase, and this control is based on the same PWM-controller Intersil ISL6379, as the CPU voltage regulator.

Cooling system

To cool the MOSFET-transistor voltage regulator of the processor on the motherboard uses a composite radiator, consisting of two parts connected by a heat pipe. There is also a separate radiator mounted on the chipset.

In addition, for an effective system of the heat sink on the board, there are two four-contact (with PWM-speed control) and five three-pin connectors for fans.

Audio Subsystem

The audio subsystem of the motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula includes 8-channel (7.1) HDA-codec Realtek ALC1150. In addition, there is a separate headphone amplifier TI NE5532 (with support for headphones with an impedance of 600 ohms) and used special gold-plated (Nichicon Fine Gold Series Audio Caps). The audio codec itself closed metal cover with the inscription Purity Sound 2 (marketing name audio subsystem). On the rear panel, there are five types of audio connectors mini-jack (3.5 mm) and an optical connector S / PDIF (output).

To test the sound output path, designed to connect headphones or external speakers, we used an external sound card Creative E-MU 0204 USB in conjunction with the utility Right Mark Audio Analyzer 6.3.0. Testing was conducted for stereo, 24-bit / 44.1 kHz. According to the results of testing the audio section on the motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula was rated “very good”. A full report of the test results in the program RMAA 6.3.0 submitted on a separate page, the following is a brief report.

In conclusion, we consider especially set-up fees ASRock Z97 OC Formula by UEFI BIOS. As already noted, the board uses two chips BIOS, and the switch can select a particular chip to download.UEFI BIOS

In terms of functionality UEFI BIOS on the motherboard, ASRock Z97 OC Formula is not much different from the UEFI BIOS in other ASRock motherboard based on chipset Intel Z97.

For overclocking the processor and memory in UEFI BIOS traditionally provided tab OC Tweaker.On this tab, you can set the memory frequency up to 4000 MHz. Of course, you can adjust memory timings, as well as the choice of XMP-profile.

Also on the OC Tweaker tab, it is possible to customize the technology Intel Turbo Boost.

When activated, Intel Turbo Boost Technology overclocking K-series (with an unlocked multiplier) by changing the clock multiplier can be implemented in two ways: to set the multiplication factor for each case the number of processor cores loaded and set the multiplication factor at the same time for all loaded cores.

Overclocking is possible not only by increasing the multiplication factor, but also by changing the reference frequency for the processor cores. OC Tweaker tab you can specify the frequency of BCLK Frequency and frequency multiplier BCLK / PCIE Ratio.

The frequency of BCLK Frequency represents the reference frequency of processor cores and the frequency of PEG / DMI obtained by dividing the BCLK Frequency on frequency multiplier BCLK / PCIE Ratio.

Also in the OC Tweaker can separately set the ratio for the cache L3 (CPU Cache Ratio), the frequency of the graphics core, configure modes integrated into the processor voltage regulator (IVR) and an external voltage regulator.

As an example, we note that the Intel Core i7-4770K processor on the card we managed to overclock to 4.9 GHz frequency at a frequency of 100 MHz BCLK Frequency multiplier and BCLK / PCIE Ratio of 1.00. For overclocking we only change the multiplication factor (49), and all other parameters are not changed (the values auto). Note that with this acceleration voltage of processor cores is set to 1.421 V.

Another useful setting in UEFI BIOS – the ability to control operating mode connected to the fan board. Dual fan CPU cooler, as well as three additional case fans it is possible to select one of four preset speed modes (Full Speed, Performance Mode, Standart Mode, Silent Mode) or five points plotted fan speed on temperature.

The fan speed is specified as a percentage (0% to 100%). And when it comes to CPU fan, its speed is tied to the CPU temperature, which is set in the range from 30 to 80 ° C. For additional DC fans can be selected as binding as the temperature of the CPU and the temperature sensor on the motherboard (ranging from 60 to 80 ° C).

There are other interesting “chips”, implemented in the UEFI BIOS. Thus, the tab Tool (Tools) implemented features such as viewing the board together with components (System Browser), contacting those. Support (UEFI Tech Service), a utility to configure the RAID-array, as well as utilities for UEFI BIOS updates, and even a feature as setting the dryer boards (Dehumidifier Function).

OC Tweaker tabs you can also select profiles for overclocking. However, these profiles are only suitable for extreme overclocking when cooled with liquid nitrogen.

Well, the last “trick” that are worth mentioning – a dynamic acceleration data storage subsystem (Dynamic Storage Accelerator). This is not a proprietary options ASRock, and an option that is on many motherboards chipset Intel Z87 / Z97. In the description of this function in the UEFI BIOS motherboard, ASRock Z97 OC Formula states that it can improve performance (speed I / O) SSD and HDD drives.

However, we should not delude ourselves. If you simply activate the function, no acceleration is not going to happen. After activating this function in the UEFI BIOS, you must activate the same function in the driver Intel RST (it must be installed on a mandatory basis). Moreover, the very option can be activated technology Dynamic Storage Accelerator will appear in the Intel RST driver only after activating the corresponding option in the UEFI BIOS. In addition, it is recommended to choose an additional power scheme “High performance”.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology Dynamic Storage Accelerator, we tested the SSD-drive Intel SSD 520 Series using utility CrystalMark 3.0.3 x64 (on the test system used a 64-bit operating system Windows 8.1).

Once we tested the SSD-drive technology with disabled Dynamic Storage Accelerator. The results were as follows:

Then we tested the same SSD-drive with enabled Dynamic Storage Accelerator and got the following results:

As you can see, the performance boost is. He, of course, a little, but it is.

Generally, Dynamic Storage Accelerator technology helps prevent the transition processor C-states with active storage subsystem. All the same can be done if a UEFI BIOS block transition processor C-states (C-State), disable the technology EIST (SpeedStep) and choose the power scheme “High performance”.


So let’s summarize. Fee ASRock Z97 OC Formula is rich in functionality and is aimed at enthusiasts who collect computers on the table and into overclocking. When you install this card in the computer case, many of its functions (pin headers for voltage measurement, buttons and switches on the board) will be unavailable. Moreover, this dress is suitable and those users who deal with extreme overclocking CPU cooling with liquid nitrogen. There’s a switch and LN2, and a protective coating boards, and ample opportunities for overclocking implemented in UEFI BIOS. The board can also be used to create on its basis the performance gaming PC because it allows you to install multiple graphics cards and supports Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFireX.

Well, let’s say a few words about what did not. Firstly, all the buttons on the board highlighted in red only at boot time, but when the system is booted, the buttons do not light up, and can be easily confused Reset and Power. Second, the rapid acceleration of a button, in our opinion, absolutely meaningless for such fees. However, all these shortcomings is absolutely not critical, especially if payment is to be installed in the PC case.

The average cost of the board ASRock Z97 OC Formula at the time of this writing, was 14 500 rubles. Of course, there are fees on the Intel Z97 chipset with similar characteristics, and cheaper (eg, MSI Z97-G55 SLI almost half the price), but the “trick” of this board is that it caters to overclocking. Well, if you have the possibility of overclocking is not critical, it is possible to find a more economical option.

Source: Asrock


Review Motherboard ASRock Z97 OC Formula updated: April 7, 2015 author: John Malkovich