ASRock Z77 OC Formula

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asrock Z77 oc formulaThere are a ton of electrical features that have been added to this Z77 OC Formula to help you succeed in your overclocking adventure, one which we will talk about in this review. However, it is not all about caps, VRMs and MOSFETs with this motherboard, nay, as ASRock recruited the aid of Gelid for the board’s cooling. 

Introduction to the ASRock Z77 OC Formula Socket 1155 Motherboard

Today on the bench we have the new ASRock Z77 OC Formula motherboard. You know, the one that is plastered all over the web and the showcase of many threads on countless forums. Yes, the exact same! The one that is endorsed and built around the fabulous overclocking skills and experience of Nick Shih.

Unlike ASRock's Fatal1ty line of motherboards, this particular model is meant strictly for overclocking and for those that enjoy the art of pushing their gear to new levels. Mr. Shih, as well as ASRock, went all out to give the overclockers all the advantages in their attempt to achieve overclocking greatness.

There are a ton of electrical features that have been added to the Z77 OC Formula to help you succeed in your overclocking adventure, one which we will talk about in this review. However, it is not all about caps, VRMs and MOSFETs with this motherboard, nay, as ASRock recruited the aid of Gelid for the board’s cooling. 

ASRock’s take on the Z77 OC

Global Top-3 motherboard manufacturer, ASRock Inc., today excited to release its first OC-oriented mobo gear named Z77 OC Formula. Exclusively designed by the world's OC legacy performer, Nick Shih, this board aims at the enthusiast end of the market, is full to the brim with features. This celebrity board opens up overclocking possibilities and delivers control opportunities in every way, featuring the most detailed and considerate design of any overclocking motherboard.


Specifications

CPU

- Supports 3rd and 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7 / i5 / i3 in LGA1155 Package
- Supports Intel® Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
- Supports Intel® K-Series unlocked CPU
- Supports Hyper-Threading Technology

Chipset

- Intel® Z77
- Supports Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Smart Connect Technology
*Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Smart Connect Technology are only supported under Windows® 7 OS or later versions.

Memory

- Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 4 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 3000+(OC)/2800(OC)/2666(OC)/2400(OC)/2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 32GB*
- Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 1.3 / 1.2
*Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.

BIOS

- 2 x 64Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with GUI support (1 x Main BIOS and 1 x Recovery Backup BIOS)
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU Core, IGPU, DRAM, 1.8V PLL, VTT, VCCSA Voltage Multi-adjustment

Audio, Video and Networking

Graphics

- Supports Intel® HD Graphics Built-in Visuals : Intel® Quick Sync Video 2.0, Intel® InTru™ 3D, Intel® Clear Video HD Technology, Intel® Insider™, Intel® HD Graphics 2500/4000 with Intel® Ivy Bridge CPU
- Supports Intel® HD Graphics Built-in Visuals : Intel® Quick Sync Video, Intel® InTru™ 3D, Intel® Clear Video HD Technology, Intel® HD Graphics 2000/3000, Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) with Intel® Sandy Bridge CPU
- Pixel Shader 5.0, DirectX 11 with Intel® Ivy Bridge CPU; Pixel Shader 4.1, DirectX 10.1 with Intel® Sandy Bridge CPU
- Max. shared memory 1760MB with Intel® Ivy Bridge CPU; Max. shared memory 1759MB with Intel® Sandy Bridge CPU
- Supports HDMI 1.4a Technology with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI (Compliant HDMI monitor is required)
- Supports HDCP function via HDMI port
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback with HDMI port
*Intel® HD Graphics Built-in Visuals and the VGA outputs can be supported only with processors which are GPU integrated.
**Due to chipset limitation, the Blu-ray playback of Intel® HD Graphics is only supported under Windows® Vista™ and Windows® 7.

***Intel® InTru™ 3D is only supported under Windows® 7 and Windows® 7 x64.

Audio

- 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC898 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray audio support
- Supports THX TruStudio™

LAN

- PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Broadcom BCM57781
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports PXE

Expansion / Connectivity

Slots

- 2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (PCIE2/PCIE4: single at x16 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE4) or dual at x8/x8 mode)
- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (PCIE5: x4 mode)
- 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™, 3-Way CrossFireX™ and CrossFireX™
- Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™ and SLI™
*PCIe Gen3 is supported on 3rd Generation of Intel® Core™ i5 and Core™ i7 CPUs.

Storage

- 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by Intel® Z77, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel® Rapid Storage and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
- 4 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by Marvell SE9172, support RAID (RAID 0 and RAID 1), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions

USB 3.0

- 2 x Rear USB 3.0 ports by Intel® Z77, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
- 4 x Rear USB 3.0 ports by Etron EJ188H, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
- 1 x Front USB 3.0 header by Intel® Z77 (supports 2 USB 3.0 ports), supports USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s

Connector

- 4 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel® Rapid Storage and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
- 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x CIR header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF header
- 1 x Power LED header
- V-Probe™: 2 x 7-set of onboard voltage measurement points laid
- 2 x CPU Fan connectors (1 x 4-pin, 1 x 3-pin)
- 4 x Chassis Fan connectors (1 x 4-pin, 3 x 3-pin)
- 1 x Power Fan connector (3-pin)
- 1 x MOS Fan connector (3-pin)
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- 4 pin 12V power connector
- SLI/XFire power connector
- Front panel audio connector
- 3 x USB 2.0 headers (support 6 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x USB 3.0 header (supports 2 USB 3.0 ports)
- 1 x Dr. Debug with LED
- 1 x Power Switch with LED
- 1 x Reset Switch with LED
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
- Rapid OC Button: +/- buttons to adjust OC frequency
- 1 x PCIe ON/OFF Switch
- 1 x Post Status Checker (PSC)

Rear Panel I/O

- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 4 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 3.0 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
- HD Audio Jack: Front Speaker / Rear Speaker / LFE / Line in / Microphone

Other Features / Miscellaneous

OC Formula Kit

OC Formula Power Kit
- Digi Power
- Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM)
- Multiple Filter Cap (MFC) (Filter different noise by 3 different capacitors: DIP solid cap, POSCAP and MLCC)
- Premium Alloy Choke (Reduce 70% core loss compare to iron powder choke)
OC Formula Connector Kit
- Hi-Density Power Connector
- 15μGold Finger (CPU and memory sockets) 
OC Formula Cooling Kit
- Twin-Power Cooling (Combine active air cooling and water cooling)
- 8 Layer PCB, 4 x 2oz copper
- GELID Solutions GC-Extreme Thermal Compound

Unique Feature

- Formula Drive
- ASRock Instant Boot
- ASRock Instant Flash
- ASRock APP Charger
- ASRock SmartView
- ASRock XFast USB
- ASRock XFast LAN
- ASRock XFast RAM
- ASRock Crashless BIOS
- ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard)
- ASRock Internet Flash
- ASRock UEFI System Browser
- ASRock Dehumidifier Function
- ASRock Interactive UEFI
- Nick Shih's OC Profile
- Fine-Tuning V-Controller
- Timing Configurator
- Lucid Virtu Universal MVP
- Hybrid Booster:
   -ASRock U-COP
   -Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
- Combo Cooler Option (C.C.O.)
- Good Night LED

*Lucid Virtu Universal MVP can be supported only with processors which are GPU integrated.
**LucidLogix Virtu MVP only supports Windows® 7 OS or later versions.

Support CD

- Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 Trial, ASRock MAGIX Multimedia Suite - OEM

Accessories

- 1 x ASRock SLI_Bridge_2S Card
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- 6 x SATA Data Cables
- 2 x SATA 1 to 1 Power Cables
- 1 x Front USB 3.0 Panel
- 4 x HDD Screws
- 6 x Chassis Screws
- 1 x Rear USB 3.0 Bracket
- 10 x OC Stands
- GELID GC-Extreme Thermal Compound

Hardware Monitor

- CPU/Chassis/Power/MOS Temperature Sensing
- CPU/Chassis/Power/MOS Fan Tachometer
- CPU/Chassis/MOS Quiet Fan (Allows Chassis Fan Speed Auto-Adjust by CPU Temperature)
- CPU/Chassis/MOS Fan Multi-Speed Control
- Multi Thermal Sensor
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore

Form Factor

- CEB Form Factor: 12.0-in x 10.5-in, 30.5 cm x 26.7 cm
- Premium Gold Capacitor design (100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors)

OS

- Microsoft® Windows® 7 / 7 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit / XP / XP 64-bit compliant

Certifications

- FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP Ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

Features

  • OC Formula Power Kit
    - Digi Power
    - Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM)
    - Multiple Filter Cap (MFC) (Filter different noise by 3 different capacitors: DIP solid cap, POSCAP and MLCC)
    - Premium Alloy Choke (Reduce 70% core loss compare to iron powder choke)
    - 12 + 4 Power Phase Design
  • OC Formula Connector Kit
    - Hi-Density Power Connector
    - 15μGold Finger (CPU and memory sockets)
  • OC Formula Cooling Kit
    - Twin-Power Cooling (Combine active air cooling and water cooling)
    - 8 Layer PCB, 4 x 2oz copper
    - GELID Solutions GC-Extreme Thermal Compound
  • Supports NickShih's OC Profile, Formula Drive, FAN-Tastic Tuning, Multi Thermal Sensor
  • Supports Fine-Tuning V-Controller, Interactive UEFI, Timing Configurator
  • Supports Rapid OC, PCIe ON/OFF, V-Probe
  • Supports ASRock XFast 555, Lucid MVP, Dehumidifier, OMG
  • Free Bundle : 1 x Front USB 3.0 Panel, 10 x OC Stands

Closer look

The Z77 OC Formula [or Z77 OC from here on in] certainly looks the part of being a very fast motherboard. Its black PCB with golden-yellow accents, and we can’t overlook the water-cooling fittings sticking up from the heat sinks, which all combined makes the Z77 OC look fast just sitting there. We all know that there is more to calling a motherboard an "overclocker" than just the looks. With this board it all begins with the 12+4 Power phase that surrounds the CPU socket, the use of premium alloy chokes, and a new innovation of dual-stacked MOSFETs which are said to have a potential power efficiency of 97%.

The combination of the above allows for the delivery of higher quality power (less ripple and vdroop) to the CPU, as well as the DIMMs. The new chokes allow for 70% less core loss, resulting in maintaining a longer lifespan and lower operating temperature. ASRock states that the dual-stack MOSFET "can provide larger die area and lower Rds(on), so the power supply for CPU Vcore is more efficient." Or in other words, the larger surface area created by effectively putting two layers inside a single package lowers the Rds(on) resistance, which is what it takes to switch the MOSFET and deliver power.

The cooling provided on the Z77 OC Formula is the collective product of ASRock teaming up with high performance thermal solution manufacturer Gelid. This will be the water-cooling enthusiast’s dream as the board comes with water-cooling blocks integrated in the heat sink for the CPU's power delivery circuit. Naturally then, this would also be ideal for the overclocker as well on account that the VCore voltage pushed beyond the recommended safe operating levels, which would simply be too much for the standard passive heat sinks to keep up with. That situation even has a term, called Thermal Runaway, and is something you want to avoid at anytime in electronics. Yet ASRock knows that not everyone will utilize the water cooling fittings and so they are capped off for you.

 

In addition, for those that will not be using the water-cooling aspect of the heat sink should enjoy the fact there is a small cooling fan to aid in the overall cooling of the blocks. Which brings us to clearances for CPU coolers; we have to state that these are pretty tall so fitting some of the bigger air-coolers maybe a little challenging. Actually very challenging, as the power circuit's heat sink stands more than 1” off the surface of the motherboard and is situated rather close to two of the four CPU cooler mounting holes. What's more, all this makes the Z77 OC a very heavy motherboard.

The board has several fan connections to suit most users’ needs. There are two near the CPU socket (1 4-pin, 3-pin), two to the right of the DIMM slots (3-pin), one 4-pin at the bottom of the board and two behind the I/O (3-pin) with one being occupied by the VRM heat sink fan.

The Formula used two EPS power connectors to power the motherboard. ASRock figured it would be ideal to do it this way to provide more power to the CPU.

There are no shortages of add-on features on the Formula. Starting in the upper right hand corner there are three switches that will allow you to engage and disengage the three PCIe slots on the board. This will keep the user from having to remove and then reinsert video cards when some goes wrong. This isn’t an on-the-fly method so you will have to power down the system in order to use this feature. Below this are two -/+ buttons for decreasing and increasing the different aspects of the board like the BCLK and CPU ratio.

Half way done the right edge of the motherboard is the V-Probe which allows the user to measure various voltage points with the aid of a digital multi-meter. These points would include VCCM, VCCSA, VTT2, VTT1, VCORE, DMI_COMP, XCLK_RCOMP, DMI, PCH2, PCH and 1.8V_PLL. There is small LED just on the edge of the V-Probe that will diagnose the system as it boot. It will indicate is the CPU, memory, GPU or hard drive is acting up in any way.

Speaking of PCIe slot the Z77 has a total of three full length PCIe slots and two shorter x1 slots. With the slots being a little lacking compared to other board, there is plenty of territory between them allowing for ample air flow if multiple cards are applied. The mode of operation is x16 in the first slot using one card. The speed drops to x8/x8 for dual card operation and finally x8/x8/x4 when using triple GPU for Crossfire. All forms of Crossfire is support as well as SLI in dual and quad modes. One must remember that using Ivy Bridge processors will get you the PCIe 3.0 support the board offers.

The power and reset buttons are located at the bottom of the board near the SATA ports. The OC does use simple plastics for these buttons but more of a metallic looking material that blends in perfectly with the rest of the board.

Located at the bottom of the board with all the pin connectors for the extra USB ports and other peripherals is a Molex 4-pin connector that when used will add more power to the PCIe lanes, granted it isn’t adding more lines just power for greater stability.

And speaking of SATA ports this motherboard contains a total of ten. The four black ports and two of the yellow ones located right beside them are SATA II and SATA III respectfully and are controlled via the Z77 PCH. The last four black ports are also SATA III but are on a Marvell SE9172. All the ports supports RAID 0 and 1 but one the Intel ones support RAID 5 and 10.

  • 6x USB ports (6x USB3.0, Intel Z77, Etron EJ188H)
  • 1x LAN port (Broadcom BCM57781)
  • 7.1 channel audio (Realtek ALC898)
  • 1x Graphic ports (HDMI)


Special Features

NickShih’s OC Profile

This built-in feature is very similar to the auto overclocking feature of any other motherboard except it has more stage or points of overclocking. It goes from Stage 0 to Stage 11. There is even an Extreme LN2 OC stage if you wish to venture with some LN2 cooling. In the screenshot there is a QR code that will take directly to the manual for further details.

 

Rapid OC

Remember the -/+ buttons on the surface of the motherboard? This is where these come into play. Highlighting one area of the Rapid OC interface will allow you to use the buttons to lower and higher that particular aspect of the app.

 

Multi Thermal Sensor

The MTS is a feature that we have seen in another board before. Basically it monitors the temperature of the motherboard in various locations.

 

PCIe ON/OFF

If you are in the middle of some serious GPU benching and find that your one of your cards is having some difficulty, you can shut it down without powering off the system. Just go through the process of eliminating which card it is with the on-screen slider switches. 

 

V-Probe

We talked about the V-Probe during the layout portion of the review. It allows the user to get accurate voltage readings of theVCCM, VCCSA, VTT2, VTT1, VCORE, DMI_COMP, XCLK_RCOMP, DMI, PCH2, PCH and 1.8V_PLL.

 

Formula Drive

Formula Drive is a collection of several applications that would include monitoring and overclocking as well as fan controls.

 

Timing Configurator

The Timing Configurator allows the user to adjust the DRAM timings on the fly. No need to shut down and go into the UEFI to change any timing settings.

 

FAN-Tastic Tuning

Want to control and adjust your fans when you want. This is where it happens.

 


BIOS

 


Testing Setup

Test Hardware:

1. Gigabyte Z77X-UD3HMotherboard
ASRock Z77 Fatal1ty Pro-M
Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H
ASRock Z77 OC

2. Intel Core i7 3770K Processor
3. Kingston HyperX 1866 DDR3 8GB (9-11-9)
4. Kingston V+ 200 120GB Solid State Drive
5. ASUS BC12B1LT BD-Rom Drive
6. Thermaltake Frio Extreme CPU Cooler
7. MicrocoolBanchetto 101 Open Air Test Bench
8. Silverstone Strider Gold Evolution 850W Power Supply
9. ASUS Nvidia GTX 560Ti 448 Graphic Card

Test Software:

wPrime
FuturemarkPCMark Vantage
SiSoftware Sandra 2011
Super PI Modded 1.5
Geekbench2.2.7
MaxxMEM 2
Futuremark 3DMark 11
Square Enix Final Fantasy XiV

CPU-Z CPU and memory detection.


CPU detection with all features enabled.


Correction detection of the XMP Profile 1 settings for our Crucial memory.


Details for the ASRock Z77 OC Formula.


Overclocking Methodology

When it comes to overclocking in this current era there are two areas that we are looking to increase. The first of course is the high CPU frequency we can get and remain stable (unless you are a SS bencher trying to get the absolute highest frequency without regards to stability). The max overclock varies greatly from CPU to CPU. We see many people testing many processors to get the best of the bunch. This requires a lot of time and money which many do not have.

The second aspect is the highest memory frequency we can achieve. This here depends a lot on the CPU’s integrate memory controller but the motherboard and memory has quite a bit to do with it as well. We have seen many ram manufacturers release high frequency ram at default which is great but if the other two factors don’t play along then it is pointless.

Overclocking Results

We started our overclocking session based on the last time we had this processor in a motherboard. And that time the CPU would do 4.7GHz at 1.45v. Immediately we started with these same setting and the system booted right up. So, was to drop the voltage to the bare minimum it would be to get the same results, we were only able to drop it to 1.445v and keep it stable. We revisited the 1.45 to see what the highest frequency we could get and that ended with 4.9GHz. Another 200MHz on top of our best, which we really liked.

 

We decided to give the AUTO-overclocking feature a try. We must remember that each processor is different. And in our case, none of the settings worked at default as each had voltage settings that where too low for our CPU. One example was at 4.8GHz the UEFI wanted to give the CPU 1.3v which is not going to happen here.

Next, we ventured into the memory overclocking. We swapped out our Kingston Genesis memory which is our usual bench test kit for some G.Skill TridentX 2400MHz modules. These did 2590MHz on the Gigabyte Z77-UD3H but with a Intel i5 3570K, we are using an i7 3770K today. We that was eclipsed as we saw 2744MHz at CAS 10, not 11 as previously tested.


Conclusion

ASRock has put together the most overclock family motherboard to ever come from their manufacturing plant. The Z77 OC Formula offers everything and I do mean everything to make the overclocking experience easier and more complete and this applies to the novice or noob as well as the professional like Nick Shih. We now have evidence that ASRock has made it completely in the enthusiast/overclocking levels after taking a nice share of the mainstream market.

Even the layout of the motherboard is something we have never seen from ASRock. The black with racing yellow accents make the board a real looker. Yes, ASRock has made many black PCB motherboards but nothing like this.

Cooling wise the Z77 OC offer three different phases. Default you have an active cooled VRM using the small fan on top of these large heat sinks. Disconnecting the fan will free up one more fan header and allow you to run passively. Or you can take it to the next level with water-cooling as the board already offers fittings.

In the end we saw new highs with but our test processor and once reviewed memory. This along makes the new Z77 OC worth it for us. We can see why many who claim to be overclockers may want to grab this board and give it a try.

We did find a couple of hiccups in the board but nothing major. The first was the fact that the Windows applications that comes with the board read the BLCK at 95MHz even though it was 100MHz in the BIOS as well as with CPU-Z. A simple date to the application should fix that.

Second, we did that upping the BLCK via Rapid OC or Formula Drive did not work at all. Adjusting either of them up or down resulted in no changes at all. All other setting would adjust without any issue. Once again I believe this is a simple software issue that can or already have been fixed.

ASRock has pulled out all the stops with this motherboard and we can’t wait to see more motherboard from them like this. But the great part about this is the board will only set up back $240. That is about 4100 cheaper that other manufacturer’s overclocking motherboards.

 

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