Author: Adam Wilson
- The BIOS
- Included Software
- Unique Board Features
- System Overview and Testing Procedure
- Testing - CPU & Memory
- Testing - System
- Testing - Video
- Testing - Gaming
- Comparison Testing
- Final Thoughts
Z77 OC Formula Overview
From an overall perspective, the OC Formula is incredibly striking. The black and yellow is a fantastic looking color scheme; one that I wish I saw more often. Subtle gold accents help add a touch of contrast, ensuring you’re not overwhelmed by any one color.
Starting our journey from the top left corner of the board, here we’re presented with our CPU connectors. ASRock have opted to use an 8-Pin EPS connector, which is fairly standard for the Z77 platform, however they’ve also added an additional 4-Pin power connector, which will provide additional clean power if the CPU phase delivery requires it. ASRock have also worked to improve the power delivery using these connectors, changing the shape to a square pin and optimizing the connector to reduce power loss and decrease temperatures in this area.
The CPU socket is up next, and as we know this is a socket 1155 motherboard on the Z77 platform. That means it supports the current generation Ivy Bridge as well as the previous generation, Sandy Bridge. 12 power phases delivery clean digital power to the CPU, where another 4 are used to deliver power to the memory, VTT and iGPU.
Surrounding the CPU socket is ASRock’s “Twin-Power Cooling,” which basically means that you have two active cooling methods to dissipate heat from your power delivery. The first is an active fan pulling air out of the heatsink, and the second is a water channel for those who water cool their system. The water cooling channel requires 3/8“ ID tubing. Present between the VRM cooling and the memory slots are two CPU fan connectors.
Moving over you’re presented with your memory slots. There are a total of four slots, color coded for the channels you will be using. Each slot supports 3000Mhz+, which is the highest board-print rating we’ve seen so far on this platform. ASRock have improved this area too; the gold contacts on the memory slots are flashed (or plated) with 3x more gold than is “normal.” ASRock claim this tripling of gold also triples performance, and assists in overclocking the memory. ASRock have also applied this 15μ Gold flashing process to the CPU socket. Next to the DIMM slots is a debug LED; useful to figure out any issues when POSTing. Next to the debug LED are three PCI-E on/off switches, enabling you to enable or disable PCI-E connectivity. This is useful for extreme overclockers who are wanting to use the iGPU to attain high clock speeds, enabling GPU’s after for 3DMark 11 runs, or even for troubleshooting your system should something go wrong. Also present are two Rapid OC buttons, which can be used to increase CPU multiplier, BCLK frequency, or VCore voltage. Beneath the Rapid OC buttons are numerous voltage check points, which can be used to monitor voltages in real-time with a voltage probe. Moving down further you’re presented with the 24-Pin ATX Power Connector, and a USB 3.0 internal header. The 24-Pin ATX power connector also uses the same Hi-Density square pin as the CPU power socket does. There are also two fan headers here.
The ASRock OC Formula has a total of 10 SATA ports. All at 90 degrees, these SATA connectors are color coded depending on the technology used. The black ports are SATA 2. The yellow ports are SATA 3. The SATA 2 ports and two of the SATA 3 ports are controlled by the Intel Z77 chipset. The additional four SATA 3 slots are controlled by an external Marvell SE9172 chip. Behind the SATA connectors is the heatsink for the motherboards main chipset.
Along the bottom of the board you’re offered (from right to left): front panel connectivity, power/reset buttons, USB header, chassis fan header, USB header, CIR1 (infrared) header, USB header, 4-Pin chassis fan header, IR1 (infrared) header, a MOLEX power connector that will provide additional power to your GPU’s when running in SLI or CrossFire, a COM header, and an HD Audio Connector. Directly above the HD Audio connector is a small transparent area that allows you to see all the layers of copper on the board.
Above all the connectivity on the bottom of the board is your expansion area. ASRock have provided 2x PCI-E 3.0 slots (x16 x8, when both are in use they are x8 x8) and one PCI-E 2.0 x4 slot. There are also two PCI-E x1 slots available. No legacy PCI slots this time around; it’s about time these were phased out. Between the two PCI-E 3.0 slots is a PLX Gen 2 chip. Tucked away near the VRM heatsink is another chassis fan header.
For rear connectivity, DVI and VGA connectivity has been dropped. This allows more space for other things. From left to right, you’re given: PS/2 mouse/keyboard connector, two USB 3.0 ports, a clear CMOS button, two more USB 3.0 ports, HDMI out, Broadcom BCM57781 Gigabit Ethernet, two more USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, 5 HD Audio outputs as well as SPDIF.