ASRock Z170 OC Formula Review

ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Overview Like most motherboard manufacturers, ASRock has an impressive line-up of new motherboards that support many of the various features of the latest Intel Z170 chipset.  ASRock has over 17 Z170 motherboards geared towards different types of users.  They sent over their Z170 OC Formula, which as the name implies is designed for overclocking.  In fact, one of the worlds top overclockers partnered with ASRock to perfect the Z170 OC Formula, Nick Shih.  With Nick's knowledge of overclocking, the Z170 OC Formula immediately began setting records for overclocking when it made it's debut at the Intel Developers Forum 2015; actually the ASRock Z170 OC Formula was the only Z170 based motherboard to be featured at the IDF 2015!  Let's take a quick look at a few things that this motherboard has to offer before we get to the technical aspects and taking a look at what ASRock and Nick Shih has put together for us.  If you are wanting to get the ASRock Z170 OC Formula motherboard for yourself, you can pick it up now at various online etailers for around $252.99 plus shipping. As we take a look at the motherboard, a few things to be aware of is that on the ASRock Z170 OC Formula features several extra large aluminum alloy heatsinks designed to pull heat away from the MOSFET and chipset.  The 60A Power Chokes utilized on the motherboard should improve the power going to the motherboards components.  The capacitors are a combination of 820uF and 100uF 12K Platinum Nichicon's, which are designed with a longer lifespan, along with providing superior stability.  Another quick feature for overclockers that might be overlooked is the Hyper BCLK Engine, this allows for a very fine tune of the clock, letting overclockers squeeze every ounce of speed possible. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-3x-Ultra-M2 Nestled between the four PCIe x16 slots is three Ultra M.2 slots which are capable of up to 32Gb/s bandwidth with the right PCIe M.2 card, or 6Gb/s if you have a SATA based M.2 card.  Another option is to utilize ASRocks U.2 kit to connect the latest U.2 PCIe Gen3 x5 SSD's.  The varioud M.2 slots share bandwidth with the onboard SATA and SATA Express ports, so you'll want to make sure you know how many drives of each you want to utilize.  With three M.2 slots, you should be able to set up a very nice M.2 RAID. The speed of the memory that a motherboard supports is a big part of overclocking and getting the most out of the system.  The Z170 OC Formula supports 4x 16GB DDR4 modules, for a total of 64GB of memory.  Utilizing the dual channel memory, it’ll run at 2133MHz prior to enabling overclocking, at which time it’ll run all the way up to 4400MHz in dual channel mode.  If you only want to run one memory module, you can take it up over 4500+MHz!  Like most motherboards, it’ll support the Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) 2.0. We have already discussed a large number of features on the Z170 OC Formula, however that is not all that has to offer.  We'll take a closer look at some of the other features while we are looking over the motherboard. Features and Specifications ASRock Z170 OC Formula
ASRock Z170 OC Formula Specifications
OC Formula Kit OC Formula Power Kit - 18 Phase CPU Power design + 2 Phase Memory Power design - Digi Power (CPU and Memory) - Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM) - Multiple Filter Cap (MFC) (Filter different noise by 3 different capacitors: DIP solid cap, POSCAP and MLCC) - Jumbo V OC Formula Connector Kit - Hi-Density Power Connector (8 pin and 4 pin) - 15μ Gold Contact (memory sockets and PCIE x16 slots) OC Formula Cooling Kit - 8 Layer PCB - 4 x 2oz copper - Heat Pipe Design OC Formula Monitor Kit - Multi Thermal Sensor
Unique Features ASRock USB 3.1 - ASRock USB 3.1 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s) - ASRock USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s) ASRock Super Alloy - XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink - Premium 60A Power Choke - Premium Memory Alloy Choke (Reduces 70% core loss compared to iron powder choke) - Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM) - Combo Caps - Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps (100% Japan made high quality conductive polymer capacitors) - I/O Armor - Matte Black PCB - High Density Glass Fabric PCB ASRock Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3) ASRock Full Spike Protection ASRock Live Update & APP Shop
CPU Supports 6th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron Processors (Socket 1151) Digi Power design 18 Power Phase design Supports Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology Supports Intel K-Series unlocked CPUs Supports ASRock BCLK Full-range Overclocking Supports ASRock Hyper BCLK Engine
Chipset Intel Z170
Memory Dual Channel DDR4 Memory Technology 4 x DDR4 DIMM Slots Supports 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 non-ECC, un-buffered memory Max. capacity of system memory: 64GB Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0 15μ Gold Contact in DIMM Slots
BIOS 2 x 128Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with multilingual GUI support (1 x Main BIOS and 1 x Backup BIOS) Supports Secure Backup UEFI Technology ACPI 5.0 Compliant wake up events SMBIOS 2.7 Support CPU, GT_CPU, DRAM, VPPM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCPLL, VCCSA Voltage Multi-adjustment
Graphics Supports Intel HD Graphics Built-in Visuals : Intel Quick Sync Video with AVC, MVC (S3D) and MPEG-2 Full HW Encode1, Intel InTru 3D, Intel Clear Video HD Technology, Intel Insider, Intel HD Graphics 510/530 Pixel Shader 5.0, DirectX 12 Max. shared memory 1792MB Dual graphics output: Support HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 ports by independent display controllers Supports HDMI with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096x2160) @ 24Hz / (3840x2160) @ 30Hz Supports DisplayPort 1.2 with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096x2304) @ 60Hz Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI Port (Compliant HDMI monitor is required) Supports Accelerated Media Codecs: HEVC, VP8, VP9 Supports HDCP with HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 Ports Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) playback with HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 Ports
Audio Supports Intel HD Graphics Built-in Visuals : Intel Quick Sync Video with AVC, MVC (S3D) and MPEG-2 Full HW Encode1, Intel InTru 3D, Intel Clear Video HD Technology, Intel Insider, Intel HD Graphics 510/530 Pixel Shader 5.0, DirectX 12 Max. shared memory 1792MB Dual graphics output: Support HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 ports by independent display controllers Supports HDMI with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096x2160) @ 24Hz / (3840x2160) @ 30Hz Supports DisplayPort 1.2 with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096x2304) @ 60Hz Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI Port (Compliant HDMI monitor is required) Supports Accelerated Media Codecs: HEVC, VP8, VP9 Supports HDCP with HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 Ports Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) playback with HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 Ports
LAN Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s Giga PHY Intel I219V Supports Wake-On-LAN Supports Lightning/ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection) Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az Supports PXE
Slots 4 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 Slots (PCIE1/PCIE2/PCIE4/PCIE6: single at x16 (PCIE1); dual at x8 (PCIE1) / x8 (PCIE4); triple at x8 (PCIE1) / x4 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE4)); quad at x8 (PCIE1) / x4 (PCIE2) / x4 (PCIE4) / x4 (PCIE6))* 1 x PCI Express 3.0 x1 Slot (PCIE3) (Flexible PCIe) 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 Slot (PCIE5) 1 x Vertical Half-size Mini-PCI Express Slot Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™, 4-Way CrossFireX™, 3-Way CrossFireX™ and CrossFireX™ Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™ and SLI™ 15μ Gold Contact in VGA PCIe Slot (PCIE1 and PCIE4)
Storage  6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors by Intel® Z170, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel® Rapid Storage Technology 14 and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug 4 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors by ASMedia ASM1061, support NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug 3 x SATA Express 10 Gb/s Connectors* 3 x Ultra M.2 Sockets, support type 2230/2242/2260/2280/22110 M.2 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s module and M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4 (32 Gb/s)
Connector 1 x COM Port Header 1 x TPM Header 1 x Power LED and Speaker Header 2 x CPU Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control) 4 x Chassis Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control) 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector 1 x 8 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector) 1 x 4 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector) 1 x Front Panel Audio Connector 1 x Thunderbolt™ 2 AIC Connector (5-pin) 1 x Thunderbolt™ 3 AIC Connector (10-pin)* 2 x USB 2.0 Headers (Support 4 USB 2.0 ports) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)) 2 x USB 3.0 Headers (Support 4 USB 3.0 ports) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)) 1 x Vertical Type A USB 3.0 1 x Dr. Debug with LED 1 x Power Switch with LED 1 x Reset Switch with LED V-Probe™: 1 x 7-set of onboard voltage measurement points laid Rapid OC Buttons: +/- buttons to adjust OC frequency 1 x Menu Button 1 x PCIe ON/OFF Switch 1 x Post Status Checker (PSC) 1 x Slow Mode Switch 1 x LN2 Mode Switch 1 x BIOS Selection Switch 1 x XMP Switch 1 x Direct Key Button
Rear Panel I/O 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port 1 x HDMI Port 1 x DisplayPort 1.2 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port 2 x USB 2.0 Ports (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)) 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)) 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)) 4 x USB 3.0 Ports (Intel Z170) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)) 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED) 1 x Clear CMOS Switch HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Accessories 1 x ASRock Flexible SLI Bridge Connector Cable Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield 4 x SATA Data Cables 1 x WiFi Module Bracket 2 x Screws for WiFi Module 3 x Screws for M.2 Sockets
Hardware Monitor CPU/Chassis temperature sensing CPU/Chassis Fan Tachometer CPU/Chassis Quiet Fan (Auto adjust chassis fan speed by CPU temperature) CPU/Chassis Fan multi-speed control Multi Thermal Sensor Voltage monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore, GT_CPU, DRAM, VPPM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA
Form Factor  ATX Form Factor
Warranty  1 Year
With the technical information out of the way, let's take a look at the retail packaging of the ASRock Z170 OC Formula motherboard, before taking a close look at it's layout and running benchmarks.  

Z170 OC Formula Packaging

ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Box-Front The front of the box for the ASRock Z170 OC Formula isn't very fancy.  Obviously the biggest thing to get across to the user is the model, which they have easily done.  The model of the motherboard takes up a huge portion of the front, with a few of the highlights taking up a much smaller portion in the lower corner. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Box-Back While the front of the box doesn't tell you much about the ASRock Z170 OC Formula, the back of the box goes into great detail on what it is capable of.  If a motherboard that is called "OC Formula" doesn't indicate it is designed to be overclocked, ASRock specifies that on the back, no mention that it was designed by Nick Shih here though. [gallery ids="172100,172099"] Opening the box, we are greeted by the various access that ASRock includes which are important to getting a system up and running quickly.  Beneath the accessories tray we find the motherboard that has been placed in an anti-static bag to help protect it. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Accessories ASRock includes the standard accessories with the OC Formula, a multi-language hardware install guide, BIOS configuration guide, and an App/Driver disk.  Hardware accessories include the rear I/O panel key, a long flexible SLI ribbon and four SATA cables. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-MB-Padding Not only did ASRock pack the Z170 OC Formula in an anti-static bag (which is very normal), they also placed it in a foam tray.  However, they didn't stop there; using the mounting holes on the motherboard, ASRock used two cable ties to secure the motherboard to the foam tray.  This makes sure it doesn't come out of the foam tray in shipping, and protects the precious cargo.

Z170 OC Formula Layout

ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Flat-View The overall layout of the ASRock Z170 OC Formula is a familiar one as not much changes from one motherboard to the next.  A few unique features immediately jump out, which we will take a closer look at when we look more closely at the motherboard.  The overall look of the motherboard features a matte black PCB and gold colored highlights, in addition it is a little different with a couple large oversize heat sinks on the Z170 chipset, and the MOSFETS around the CPU, and a rear I/O port cover that extends from edge to edge.  There is also a USB Type-A connector is built onto the motherboard below the DDR4 slots. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Lower-Right Starting in the bottom right corner, we find some very familiar features.  Obviously we have the four DDR4 slots, which are capable of supporting up to 64GB of memory, in speeds all the way up to 4500MHz (and beyond); the BIOS only shows up to 4133MHz though.  Dual SuperSpeed USB 3.0 internal headers and the previously mentioned USB 3.0 Type-A connector is right under the DDR4 slots.  A standard 24-pin main power connector is provided in the usual spot.  Next to that we have seven pins to check voltage.  In this area are four PWM fan headers, CPU_Fan1 is above the DDR4 slots, CPU_Fan2 and CHA_Fan4 is to the lower right of the DDR4 slots, and finally CHA_Fan1 is to the left of the USB 3.0 headers.  The Internal Type-A port will be useful to some if you happen to have an older case that has USB 3.0 but used a pass-through cable to the back of the motherboard, plugging in a flash drive for testing/drivers, or if you are really courageous plug in a fast flash drive to use as as boot device (ok that might be a stretch, but it is possible), this is also where you can put in a USB drive to log into Windows automatically. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Lower-Left Moving along to the lower left quadrant of the motherboard we find a cluster of buttons, switches, DeBug LED, front panel connectors, SATA ports, dual BIOS chips and number of other features; this is a pretty busy corner of the motherboard.  To the left of the Z170 heatsink is a SATA Express and two SATA 3 ports, these ports share bandwith with the M2_3 port, which is located right next to the ASRock logo on theZ170 heatsink.  For old-style DIP switches are used to turn on/off the PCI-E x16 slots, another switch selector is if you are using LN2,  "Slow Mode" switch and XMP profile enablment switch is next.  The we have the first button, which is the Direct Key button, which allows you to boot directly into the BIOS without having to press the Delete key (restart from Windows into the BIOS).  Dr Debug LED is found here with common error codes found in the user manual.  Front panel connectors, and the BIOS selection switch.  Along the left edge we find a Com port, and CHA_Fan2 connectors.  Then we get into the five large buttons; the first button is Menu, which provides a quick method of entering the boot menu.    Rapid OC buttons -/+ allow quick access to raising or lowering the CPU Ratio for overclocking.  Finally we have a Rest and Power button, which is useful in some situations, however I still encountered several times in overclocking where I had to unplug the power supply to use the clear BIOS button. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-SATA Along the edge of the motherboard are two sets of horizontal SATA ports; all of which are capable of supporting up to 6Gb/s.  The first set contains four SATA ports, while the second set contains two SATA Express and four SATA ports.  These two SATA Express ports share bandwidth with the SATA ports next to them, and two of the M.2 slots (M2_1 and M2_2).  For the first four SATA ports, ASRock has included the ASMedia ASM1061 chip to provide SATA ports that do not share bandwidth with the M2 or SATA Express ports. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Upper-Left Moving up the edge of the motherboard, we have a pair of USB 2.0 headers, the Power LED and Speaker headers which are commonly found in the front panel cluster, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Header, Thunderbolt 2 and 3 AIC Connectors and finally the front panel Audio headers.  The four yellow PCI-E x16 slots are easily identified, depending on your configuration, the speed of them will change.  For example a single GPU will run at x16 in PCIE1, while two cards in PCIE1 and PCIE4 will run at x8.    The two 1x PCI-E slots, the first one (PCIE3) is based on PCIE 3.0 and is ASRock's new Flexible PCIE port allowing you to install any PCIE card into this slot, however it'll only run at PCIE3.0 1x speed.  The other 1x PCI-E slot is a PCIE 2.0 port.  To the right of the first PCI-E x16 slot is the new 1x Half-Size Mini-PCI Express slot.  With the four PCI-E x16 slots, you are able to run up to Quad SLI or CrossFireX. Nestled between the PCI-E x16 slots is the three Ultra M.2 ports, which as we previously mentioned share bandwith with the other SATA ports.  Above the PCI-E slots is the audio section, which is covered by a large cover, extended from the rear I/O port cover.  Under the cover is the Realtek ALC1150 audio chip, along with two TI NE5532 amps.   ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Upper-Right The final quadrant of the motherboard includes the Socket 1151, under the standard cover to protect the pins during shipment.  Under the Mini PCI-E port is the final CHA_Fan3 header.  Near the BIOS battery is also a hard jumper used to clear the BIOS.  There are two Aux power connectors, a four pin, and eight pin.  In essence, they do the same thing, just depending on which one you want to utilize.  Most will use the eight-pin, which also includes the four pin connector.  However, if your power supply happens to have only an eight pin connector that doesn't split into two four-pins, this can be useful. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Rear-IO The back I/O cluster six clusters of ports, along with a single easy to access button.  Starting on the left, there are two USB 2.0 and a Keyboard/Mouse PS/2 port, then a BIOS reset button.  Video inputs include DisplayPort and HDMI.  There are two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, along with a Type-C.  A pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0, next to the Gigabit LAN and another pair of USB  3.0 ports.  Finally, the audio cluster which has the normal 7.1 audio outputs along with a TOSLINK.

Z170 OC Formula BIOS

ASRock makes updating the BIOS easy by providing three different methods of updating.  The Instant Flash method is used within the UEFI environment, DOS is the oldest method, and Windows updates the BIOS within the Windows environment.  It is always a good idea to get the latest BIOS revision, which ASRock provides here.  Since the release of the Z170 OC Formula, ASRock has updated the BIOS to 1.40, which is what we are running after a quick update.ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-BIOS-Main The UEFI environment that ASRock provides is a pretty basic version.  It looks more like the classic BIOS screen, with a graphic front-end.  Nothing fancy, but it feels like a known environment and is easy to get around.  The first screen doesn't provide many options to be changed, however it does tell you the UEFI BIOS version, processor, current speed, and some quick information on the memory.  The UEFI Setup Style defaulted to "Advanced", I switched it to "Easy" but was unable to quickly tell any difference. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-BIOS-OC-Tweaker As we begin to move through the menu options, the OC Tweaker menu is where most people will most likely spend their time if you're into overclocking.  Here you can use some pre-configured overclock profiles, or make your own profile using one of five user configurable profiles. [gallery ids="172619,172618"] Two different sets of pre-configured profiles are provided.  The first option are profiles configured by Nick Shih, these are the extreme profiles which I would recommend being very careful messing with; most of them are listed as being configured for LN2.  The first three options, I checked out and didn't see a boost in the CPU speed, so they must configure other options for speciality tests.  The LN2 5.8GHz to 6.5GHz did adjust the CPU Frequency to boost the CPU speed.  The ASRock CPU OC profiles provides a quick way to overclock to 4.4GHz to 4.8GHz. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-BIOS-CPU-Config For many overclockers, their main attention will be within three submenu's.  The first is the CPU Configuration, here you can adjust the CPU Ratio from "Auto" to keying in a specific Ratio.  One of the advanced overclocking features is the BCLK Frequency, here you can adjust the overall clock speed from 75MHz to 600MHz, with the default being 100MHz. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-BIOS-RAM The next submenu of interest is the DRAM Configuration, here adjusting the speed of the DDR4 memory is done very easily.  The DRAM Frequency opens a drop down menu with all the available frequencies that are built into the Z170 OC Formula, all the way up to 4133MHz.  Setting the XMP Profile opens a window that shows the available XMP 2.0 profiles.  If you want to set the specific timings for the memory, this is broken down into four levels of timings, along with an Advanced section.  After the Primary Timing section, it gets pretty in depth and only the experts should adjust these others. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-BIOS-Voltage The last of the major overclocking submenu's is the Voltage.  Once again, ASRock provides a large number of options to tweak  the system to get the best overclock possible.  Changing the CPU Vcore Voltage from Auto to Fixed Mode will allow you to input the desired voltage for the CPU.  Using the pre-configured 4.7GHz overclock profile, this gets changed and the voltage increased to 1.360V. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-BIOS-Advanced The Advanced menu provides various configuration options for the CPU, Chipset, Storage, I/O, ACPI and USB.  Most are pretty self-explanatory if you are familiar with how BIOS screens are laid out.  Within the Storage Configuration menu, you can adjust how the motherboard reacts to your SATA and M.2 drives, AHCI or RAID, SMART, etc. [gallery ids="172627,172625,172626,172624"] Out of the last group of menu's the last one that might be the most useful is the Tools menu.  Here you can install drivers from the ASRock website, set up a time restriction on the internet access, email ASRock UEFI Tech Service, update the UEFI BIOS, check out the various hardware components in the system and a few other options.  H/W Monitor provides a good view of the various voltage and temperature sensors.  While the Security menu sets BIOS level passwords, configures Secure Boot and Intel PTT. On each of the various menu options within the ASRock UEFI BIOS, they provide a simple description of what the option is for, along with any Min/Max values.  This comes in handy for those that are unfamiliar with a specific function, of which there are many functions for overclocking.  It is obvious why Nick Shih put his name on this board. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-BIOS-EZ-Mode One additional UEFI Mode for the BIOS is the EZ Mode, here you can see a high level overview of your entire system.  The basic CPU, memory, storage, Fan settings, temperature and boot priority.  There is also a large EZ OC button in the lower corner which seems to increase the fan speeds and CPU Clock speed to 4.4GHz.

Legit Reviews Test System

Before moving on to doing some benchmarks, let's take a look at the test system used in the various benchmarks.  All testing will be done using a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit with all updates.  The operating system will be installed on a Kingston Predator M.2 drive, with benchmarks and games on the second SSD drive.  All benchmarks will be completed with no additional software running, with a reboot between each test. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Test-Bed Intel Z170 Test Platform: This is what CPU-Z tells us about the test platform: ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Benchmarks-CPUz Here is a quick look at the specific components used in the test system:
Intel LGA 1151 Z170 Test Platform
Component Brand/Model Live Pricing
Processor Intel i7-6700K Click Here
Memory Kingston 32GB DDR4 2666MHz Click Here
Video Card eVGA GTX 970 SC Click Here
Hard Drive Intel SSD Pro 2500 180GB Click Here
Hard Drive 2 Sandisk Ultra II 480GB SSD Click Here
M.2 Kingston Predator G2 x4 240GB Click Here
Power Supply Corsair CX750M Click Here
USB 3.1 Type C Kingston DataTraveler microDuo 3C Click Here
Operating System Windows 10 Pro 64-bit Click Here
Now for a quick look at the eVGA GTX 970 that we will be using with NVIDIA driver version 355.60. Gigabyte-Z170X-UD5-Benchmarks-GPUz    

Value Add Software

ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Software-Drivers The ASRock Z170 OC Formula support CD is designed to be used worldwide, the drivers and software are actually downloaded as needed from their servers helping to ensure you have the latest versions.  When you first start up the Support CD, it checks the CD for files and finds the bare minimum.  Using the File Source drop-down you get the choice of your region, selecting it will search the ASRock servers in the region for software and drivers.  When you select a driver, if you already have it installed, it'll show you the version number, and the version ASRock is providing, allowing you to decide which driver you want.  Of course, there's an "Install All" option for those that just want everything installed.  One piece of software that is at the bottom is ASRock's App Shop, it doubles as their Live Update utility, and is where you can find all the additional software the ASRock makes available. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Software-Utilities On the Utilities tab, for the USA region, only two options are provided, ASRock 3TB+ Unlocker, and Restart to UEFI.  The 3TB+ Unlocker utilities is only needed if you are running a 32-bit operating system which can't take advantage of the large hard drives.  The Restart to UEFI utility, is helpful if you enable Fast Boot, to ensure you can boot into the BIOS without issues. [gallery ids="172169,172170"] The other three menu options are pretty basic, the Information menu provides links to the documentation on the Z170 OC Formula such as the User Manual, RAID Installation Guide, Intel Smart Response Install Guide and others.  The Contact menu provides their address, email and website in case you didn't know how to find it.  The Google menu was blank for the US region, other regions it provided links to install Google Chrome. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Software-App-Shop Within ASRock's App Store you can find the additional ASRock applications which are designed to enhance your experience with their motherboards.  For example,  "App Charger" allows you to charge devices faster, "Dehumidifier" works to remove some of the moisture from the motherboard, while "Good Night LED" allows for an easy way to turn off the LED's on the motherboard.  There are a few non-ASRock applications here as well, Google Chrome, Google Toolbar, Norton Security (limited trial), Ghost Recon Phantoms (with bonus player skins) and others.  The nice thing about the ASRock App Shop is that it is a familiar interface for anybody that has used a smartphone in the past couple of years and you can easily find what ASRock is offering.

Z170 OC Formula Overclocking

One thing about Overclocking is that it varies greatly from one system to the next, even using the exact same components, you can still get significantly different results.  We have overclocked this CPU several times in the past and the maximum we have been able to get a stable overclock is 4.7GHz, at 4.8GHz we would get the BSOD or random lock-ups.  So 4.7GHz is our known overclock cap with this hardware.  This was done simply by increasing the CPU Multiplier within the BIOS slowly, then increasing the voltage until we were unable to go any further without a high probability of damage to the system components.   ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Benchmarks-CPUz-OC With the ASRock Z170 OC Formula, we were able to blow past the 4.7GHz limit up to 4.9GHz!  This took increasing the voltage to 1.43V, which is still a comfortable (although high) voltage.  We hoped to get a 5.0GHz out of the system, however it was highly unstable.  A 22.5% boost in CPU clock speed for quick and simple overclock isn't bad at all.  As we get to testing, we'll see whether this translates into a significant performance boost.  However, if you are going to be using your system mainly for gaming, we  have seen very little game performance boost when overclocking.  Games are seemingly GPU limited rather than CPU limited with the i7-6700K. Using the built-in Optimized CPU OC Setting, we were able to overclock the CPU to 4.8GHz with a single click of the mouse.  This pre-configured overclock feature isn't a new item on motherboards and is not unique to ASRock Z170 OC Formula, I was surprised that they provided four different pre-configured OC settings, all of which were extremely easy to use. Even overclocking the memory is made easy.  Within the DRAM Configuration one of the options is the DRAM Frequency, this pops up a new window that has DDR4 clock speeds starting at 800, going up to 4133MHz!  Without any other adjustments, the Kingston Fury DDR4 kit went to 2933MHz, a 10% boost in memory clock speeds.  Going to 3000MHz the system was unbootable and we had to use the BIOS reset button to go back into the BIOS to make adjustments.   Throughout the testing phase we will test the system at the base CPU clock speeds of 4.0GHz and 2666MHz for the memory, in addition to the overclock speeds of 4.9GHz for the CPU and 2933MHz for the memory.  

Futuremark 3DMark - Fire Strike Extreme

New 3DMark Trailer Shows Stunning DirectX 11 Graphics Futuremark 3DMark has multiple benchmarks depending on your specific needs.  Fire Strike is the benchmark that is designed for gaming computer, so we will focus on that benchmark. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Benchmarks-3DMark-Fire-Strike As you would expect, at the highest resolution test of Fire Strike, it scored the lowest, and rose as the test got to the lower resolution.  If you take a look at the detail, the Physics score stayed pretty close to the same throughout the three various tests while the Graphics and Combined score changed each time. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-3DMark-Overall ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-3DMark-Fire-Strike Legit Bottom Line:  Even at stock speeds, the ASRock Z170 OC Formula outperformed the previously tested motherboard by an extremely small amount in the 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme benchmark for Combined and Graphics scores.  However, once we overclocked the Z170 OC Formula, the Physics score jumped close to 21%, which shows that specific test is CPU dependent, rather than GPU.  


THIEF Gets AMD Mantle and TrueAudio Support This is the fourth game in the Thief series developed by Eidos, and was released in late February 2014.  With an integrated benchmark, it gauges how well your system should be able to run Thief in your system.  Thief is a stealth based game, where the main character is a master thief in a medeival world. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Thief-1080 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Thief-1440 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Thief-4K Legit Bottom Line:  This system obviously hits a frame cap of 60FPS for 1080P resolutions, increasing the resolution to 2560x1440, we start to see a difference that a motherboard makes.  Does 3FPS make a difference?  That's a tough call, however we can see a trend throughout the testing that the ASRock Z170 OC Formula motherboard is well tuned.  

Witcher 3

NVIDIA GeForce GTX Game Bundle Available With The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Released in May 2015, the Witcher 3 is the final game in the Witcher series.  It utilizes the REDengine3 with Umbra 3 developed by the developer, CD Projekt RED.  It features the hero, Geralt, on a quest to eliminate the Wild Hunt and rescue his adoptive daughter.  Taking place in an open world that is one of the largest worlds in a game, it includes multiple ecosystems, a day and night cycle, dynamic weather, and roaming NPC’s. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Witcher3-1080 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Witcher3-1440 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Witcher3-4K Legit Bottom Line:  At 1080P, The Witcher 3 was able to get decent framerates with everything maxed out, this includes NVIDIA's Hairworks.  As we increased the resolution, the framerate dropped, at 2560x1440 it was still playable, however at 4K it wasn't.  As we have started to expect, the ASRock Z170 OC Formula was able to provide the best framerate at any resolution.  

Grand Theft Auto V

Rockstar Releases New GTA V Game Trailer Grand Theft Auto V, currently one of the hottest games, a year after its inital release, it was finally released for the PC on April 14, 2015.  Developed by Rockstar, it is set in 2013, the city of Los Santos.  It utilizes the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) which Rockstar has been using since 2006, with multiple updates for technology improvements. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-GTA-V-1080 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-GTA-V-1440 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-GTA-V-4K   Legit Bottom Line:  As with most games, we are bumping up against the Frame Rate Lock of 60GPS.  Taking the resolution to 4K, we can see a difference in performance in GTA V.  At 4K we see a 13.5% bump in peformance numbers compared to the other motherboards we have tested.  This is a significant boost in performance for 4K resolution, however even at 31FPS many times throughout gameplay that will drop to unplayable levels, so we are still GPU limited.  

Dirt: Rally

Codemasters Dirt Rally Performance Review Still in Steam's Early Access, Dirt Rally is Codemasters latest edition in the popular racing franchise.  Based on the EGO gaming engine that Codemasters developed it allows for a highly detailed environment with realistic world physics.  We will be utilizing the Ultra Graphics mode for our testing. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Dirt-1080 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Dirt-1440 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Dirt-4K   Legit Bottom Line:  Dirt Rally doesn't have a frame rate lock, so we can see a difference at all resolutions.  At base clock speeds of 4.0GHz, the ASRock Z170 OC Formula performed slightly better than the competition.  No major jumps in performance like we have seen in previous testing.  

POV_Ray and Cinebench R15

POV-RAY The Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer (POV-RAY) is a high-quality tool used for creating three dimensional graphics.  It includes an automated benchmark which allows for results to be compared across multiple systems without worrying about settings.  The test shows that is maximizes the CPU across all four cores, utilizing all eight of the logical processors.  It doesn't utilize the memory or disk I/O for it's rendering, purely the CPU. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Benchmarks-POVRay ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-POV-RAY Legit Bottom Line:  With both the Gigabye Z170X-UD5 and ASRock Z170 OC Formula running at the same clock speeds, the ASRock motherboard scored around 3.7% better.  Overclocking increased the performance in POV-RAY by an additional 13%.  A boost in performance of 13% that is easy enough that anybody could do it, is pretty significant. Cinebench R15 Maxon Cinebench R15 is a great benchmark for 3D content creators as it is based on the award winning animation software, CINEMA 4D which is used in many blockbuster movies. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Benchmarks-Cinebench ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Cinebench Legit Bottom Line:  Even in Cinebench the ASRock Z170 OC Formula did about 4% better in the CPU test then the other Z170 motherboard.  Which of course increased once the CPU was overclocked, increasing the performance by a little over 13% compared to the base clock speeds.  

PCMark 8

Futuremark PCMark 8 Like Futuremark's other major benchmark, 3DMark, PCMark 8 has multiple benchmarks that gauge performance on varying levels of workload.  We will take a look at the Home Accelerated benchmark, which Futuremark says it reflects common tasks that a typical home user might experience.  These include photo editing, typing, web browsing, video chat, and casual gaming.  Each of the components of the Home Accelerated test is broken out, and then combined to provide an overall PCMark 8 score for the system. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Benchmarks-PCMark8 ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-PCMark Legit Bottom Line:  Nearly a 3% performance difference between the two Z170 motherboards at base clock speeds.  Plus an additional 5% boost once we overclocked the CPU.  Not as big of a boost in performance compared to the other tests, but still a worthwhile note as it only took a few button clicks in the BIOS to get that 5%.  

Sisoft Sandra

Sisoft Sandra has multiple benchmarks designed to test nearly every component within your system to provide you a detailed view of the capabilities.  We will be taking a look at a few of their benchmarks, revolving around Memory and the CPU. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Sandra-Memory ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Sandra-Arithmetic ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Sandra-Multi-Media Legit Bottom Line:  Overclocking the CPU doesn't have an impact on the memory bandwidth, however compared to other Z170 motherboards the memory performs as we would expect.  For the CPU testing, overclocking does have an effect, for the Arithmetic test we see a 4.5% and 1.5% performance boost compared to the base clock speeds.  In Multi-Media testing, that jumps to an 18% and 17% boost from 4.0GHz.  

CPU-Z Benchmark

CPU-ID's CPU-Z has been a popular freeware utility for a long time, that gathers system information on the PC into one location.  With the latest version 1.73 they introduced a couple of new features.  One of these new features is the integrated CPU Benchmark that provides a score and a Reference CPU that you can choose from a drop down menu.  There are no reference Skylake processors available in the menu, so we chose a similar processor from a previous generation, an Intel i7-4790K running at 4.0GHz. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Benchmarks-CPUz-Bench ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-CPUz Legit Bottom Line:  CPUz gave the ASRock Z170 OC Formula a 6.5% edge in performance over the other Z170 motherboard.  Going from 4.0GHz to 4.9GHz we saw an additional 14% increase in the Multi-CPU test for CPUz.  

Network Traffic

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 We will be using LAN Speed Test to measure how well the integrated Intel ethernet connection works.  Between the two test systems, is a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 (R7000) wireless router to enable the connections between the ASRock Z170 OC Formula test system  and another PC on the network. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Benchmarks-LANSpeedTest ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-LAN-SpeedTest Legit Bottom Line:  The ASRock Z170 OC Formula received average scores for the LAN Speed Test.  Download information came in at 912.37Mb/s, while the Upload speed came in at 851.82Mb/s.  However, comparing the LAN Speed Test to the other Z170 motherboard, the Download speed came in pretty much identical, while the Upload speed was around 30Mb/s slower on the Z170 OC Formula.  

Storage Media Performance

M.2 Testing the M.2 interface, we installed a second Kingston Predator M.2 PCIe G2x4 240GB drive into the second M.2 slot, M2_2.  Kingston rates this Predator SSD for 1400MB/s read and 600MB/s write with ATTO 2.41a.  Let's take a look at CrystalDiskMark and see how it rates the performance of the Kingston Predator M.2 SSD. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-M2 Legit Bottom Line:  The ASRock Z170 OC Formula has a faster Sequential Read speed on the M.2 interface, however the Sequential Write speed is a bit slower.   SATA 6Gb/s Connecting the SanDisk Ultra II SSD to a SATA 6Gb/s connection, we continued to use CrystalDiskMark to test it's performance. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-SATA Legit Bottom Line:  The ASRock Z170 OC Formula received the highest score for this test.  The Read speed was 2MB/s faster than the other Z170 motherboard, while the sequential Write was pretty close to 7MB/s.   SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Maingear-Vybe-Z170-Thermaltake-Dock-and-SSD To test SuperSpeed USB 3.0, we will connect a Thermaltake 5G USB dock and a Sandisk Ultra II 480GB SSD directly to the motherboards USB 3.0 ports on the back I/O cluster. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-USB-3   Legit Bottom Line:  On the USB 3.0 connection, the Z170 OC Formula had a slower Sequential Read speed by around 24MB/s.  However, the Sequential Write speed was around 44MB/s faster on the ASRock Z170 OC Formula.   USB Type-C Gigabyte-Z170X-UD5-Kingston-MicroDuo-3C USB 3.1 is the newest USB revision, and unfortunately, nothing takes advantage of the increased bandwidth.  So there is little point in testing this latest USB innovation at this time.   However, Kingston provided us one of their MicroDuo 3C flash drives, that utilizes the Type-C connector, so we will do a quick test using that connector.  Kingston rates this drive for 100MB/s Read and 15MB/s Write. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Type-C Legit Bottom Line:  While the Z170 OC Formula had a bit faster Sequential Read speed, the Sequential Write speed was a bit slower.  Regardless, it was still faster than the official rated speed.  

Temperature and Power Consumption

Power Consumption Using a P3 Kill-A-Watt we monitored the power usage of the ASRock Z170 OC Formula system during our testing and made note of the lowest and highest readings. ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Power-Consumption   Legit Bottom Line:  The ASRock Z170 OC Formula was using a tiny 2W more power than the other Z170 motherboard we have tested at Idle conditions.  Once we started gaming though the ASRock Z170 OC Formula was found to be using 5W less than the other Z170 motherboard.  Not a big difference in power usage either way.  Of course overclocking the Z170 OC Formula the Idle and Load power usage went up a bit, 12W during Idle testing, and 39W while gaming.  Not bad overall.   Temperature To monitor the temperature of the CPU, we used CPUID Hardware Monitor 1.28.  It tracked the Minimum and Maximum temperatures for all four cores, which was then averaged.  The Idle condition temperature was done by allowing the system to sit at the desktop with no applications running.  For the Load temperature score, we ran through all the various benchmarks included in this review, and played a couple of games for an hour.  The ambient temperature in the room was kept at 21C (70F). ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Charts-Temp Legit Bottom Line:  Temperature wise, both Z170 motherboards we tested received pretty much the identical temperature readings throughout testing.  While overclocked though, the Z170 OC Formula averaged over 90C while gaming, that is pretty high, and wouldn't recommend keeping it there for long term gaming.  

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Box-Front ASRock might not be the first motherboard manufacturer I personally look at, however my experience with the Z170 OC Formula has shown that they are capable of making incredible motherboards and warrant a closer look at their offerings.  While experience with the Z170 chipset is limited at this time, we have had the opportunity to overclock this specific hardware configuration on three different Z170 motherboards. While the focus on the Z170 OC Formula is obviously it's overclocking ability, simply by raising the CPU Multiplier to 49 and increasing the voltage to 1.43V we were able to get a stable overclock of 4.9GHz!  The other two motherboards the Intel i7-6700k wouldn't run stable above 4.7GHz.  The ASRock Z170 OC Formula has many other overclocking features available, that an expert shouldn't have any difficulty in overclocking this motherboard much higher.  Speaking of experts overclocking the Z170 OC Formula, it is endorsed by Nick Shih a Champion Overclocker who holds numerous records.  If you're not an expert at overclocking, but want to get the most out of your system, ASRock has done a great job at offering four different pre-configured overclocking configurations.  Talk about making it easy! ASRock-Z170-OC-Formula-Overview Overclocking aside, on most motherboards there are small differences in features and performance, when running the same hardware I expected the ASRock Z170 OC Formula to perform like the other Z170 motherboard I have had the opportunity to look at.  I wasn't expecting a 3% to 5% difference in performance just by swapping the motherboard.  In nearly every test, the ASRock Z170 OC Formula received a better performance score at base clock speeds. Other than the advanced overclocking features, the Z170 OC Formula has many other features of interest.  The extra large aluminum heatsinks are useful in keeping the Z170 chipset and the MOSFETs cool.  Perhaps the 60A power chokes, memory chokes or the Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps designed to provide more stable power to your vital components are of interest.  ASRock has used some of the best components available to make a stable overclocking motherboard. If you are looking for a motherboard that runs the latest Intel Socket 1151 Skylake processors, and want squeeze every ounce of performance out of your components, then the Z170 OC Formula deserves your attention.  It supports the latest technology and has nearly every feature you could want on a modern motherboard; extremely easy overclocking, three M.2, capable of running U.2 drives, dual USB 3.0 internal headers with a USB 3.0 Type-A connector on the motherboard, USB 3.1 and Type-C connectors on the rear I/O panel, quad SLI or CrossFireX support, and up to 64GB of DDR4 memory at over 4500MHz (when overclocked).  The ASRock Z170 OC Formula motherboard is available now for around $252.99 plus shipping.  There are cheaper socket 1151 motherboards available, however I think you will have a difficult time finding a motherboard with the overclocking capabilities of this one. LR_Recommended Legit Bottom Line:  If you want to get the best performing motherboard, so far in our testing the ASRock Z170 OC Formula motherboard is the best performing motherboard at any clock speed.  If you are into Overclocking, the overclocking features on the Z170 OC Formula is enough that a Champion Overclocker, Nick Shih, has endorsed the motherboard.  Without any significant tweaking, we were able to overclock our i7-6700K to 4.9GHz, which is 0.2GHz faster than our previous "easy overclock" attempts.