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)