Intel has been touting the entry of it’s much talked about 4th Generation “Haswell” line up in the mainstream market. Like any release by Intel, a New Processor always pairs itself with a new platform therefore a new Motherboard line up is always in tandem with the processor.
ASRock one of the leading brand manufacturers of motherboards has been keenly waiting and is now unleashing its new TRIO of Z87 Motherboards. The first in the line:up is the Z87 OC Formula, ASRock’s Touted Overclocking Mother Board. It’s designed by World Overclocking Champion and in-house ASRock Overclocker Nick Shih who is closely and meticulously in involved since its conception, design stages until the final revisions.
lg_whafu : Since both of us came from ASRock’s turf with our 990FX boards, we already had a fair share of experience with their motherboards, and I’m sure that most of us here already know that they are one of the best manufacturers when it comes to value, and they are always striving to provide innovative solutions throughout their motherboard series. As a well-known motherboard manufacturer, I’d be damned if everyone here haven’t heard of them yet.
The_Big_Viper : Yup, still using the 990FX Fatal1ty and still loving it. Asrock again has been on the prowl with their Z87 OC Formula. This is seriously a gem for professional Overclockers Worldwide as it is designed for Maximum Overclocking without sacrificing every detail in its design.
lg_whafu : Priding itself as an overclocking motherboard, the Z87 OC FORMULA packs a 16 phase power design along with premium alloy chokes, Dual Stack MOSFETs, and a Digital PWM Design for a smoother power delivery. Compared to the traditional components we used to see, these components are cherry picked by the good guys at Asrock, ensuring that the Z87 OC FORMULA will provide Overclockers a playing field with stability and utmost reliability.
The_Big_Viper : It seems ASRock not only took the OC Formula to greater heights, it also heightened up the in the features department. Nick Shih sure made clear that with Powerful OC Features and Eye-Candy Design as well as Rich features make a Good Over-all Overclocking Motherboard.
lg_whafu : Indeed brother, indeed. ASRock also had this motherboard equipped with other features, such as a water proofing coat, an industry first OLED display, a fancy audio solution, and loads of Z87 chipset goodies. What can you say about these nifty features?
The_Big_Viper : The OLED Display was Eye Candy as it displays common errors instead of the Good old Debug LED. The waterproofing coat is to be expected as this motherboard is DICE/LN2 Ready as well. Purity Sound built-in might be a treat along with better connectivity with 10 SATA 6 Ports.
lg_whafu : Clearly, this motherboard isn’t just for breaking records alone, and is a direct answer to the higher end offerings of the other manufacturers.
The_Big_Viper : Now let’s take an in-depth look on what the Z87 OC Formula has to offer us as we TPC’s LG_Whafu and yours truly take turns in dissecting this motherboard for you
lg_whafu : The Z87 OC FORMULA is a premium overclocking board, and it would be a shame if ASRock didn’t do their part when it comes to the packaging. Fear not since ASRock had the board wrapped inside a huge packaging that should keep it safe from bumps and bruises.
The_Big_Viper : Just right for a premium board, ASRock did not sway out on this one. When you refer to an item with the word “Formula” in tow, you expect something speedy like cars driving the freeway. Makes sense with the speedometer for its design base.
With Black and Yellow as its color theme for the motherboard, the Z87 OC Formula boasts as if it’s a Yellow Ferrari Sports car on the freeway. The Tone and settings looks nice and up close is a gem to behold.
lg_whafu : The whole car thing is just “meh” but it’s still OK. What matters most is what’s inside the packaging, am I right?
The_Big_Viper : The concept packaging should be more of a theme for would be owners of this proud motherboard, I guess this should be a piece of art and we all agree on that.
lg_whafu : The back of the packaging houses a graphical representation of the motherboard’s features in a categorical fashion. Not a huge fan of these colorful things but nonetheless they’ll easily catch anyone’s attention in a retail store.
lg_whafu : Opening the front flaps reveals most of the Z87 OC FORMULA’s features with detailed graphical and textual descriptions. You could also take a peek at the motherboard’s VRM cooler on this side of the packaging which is enough to make you drool if you’re the kind of guy who loves to ogle at shiny:expensive things.
The_Big_Viper : I agree, the sneak peak factor works wonders. It’s like a boy’s gleaming eyes having his first He-Man Toy on Christmas Day (I hope I’m not too old when I said this!)
lg_whafu : The Z87 OC FORMULA is carefully packed inside the huge packaging which should help the motherboard from tumbling inside courtesy of a foam material.
The_Big_Viper : This is a plus for me as a premium board; the attention to packaging clearly shows just how much they value this overclocking board. With the just the right amount of foam materials to consummate for travel as well as unforeseen events that might happen to the item, this clearly sets up a beauty for us to behold.
lg_whafu : The protective foam actually makes most of the packaging’s bulk. The motherboard is also zip tied to the main foam via the motherboard’s stand-off mounts : Fantastic attention to the packaging.
lg_whafu : The 2nd layer of packaging houses the bundled accessories that came with the motherboard. Surprisingly, the majority of the OC FORMULA’s accessories are carefully packed inside a felt like pouch which is quite cool and added a bit of a premium flare to the whole presentation.
The_Big_Viper : It’s still the usual stuff in most motherboard packages and accessories but the pouch bag was a treat leaving us in curiosity of what’s to behold inside.
lg_whafu : Sure does. I wonder who opened that bag in the first place and scattered them all on the table with matching glimmer in the eyes hmmm…
On a more serious note, the pouch houses a variety of accessories that should help us jump start at overclocking along with some common commodities such as the 10x SATAIII cables, the I/O panel, 2.5” USB 3.0 HUB (w/ back panel adapter), 2x MOLEX to SATA Power adapter, a flexible SLI bridge, plastic stand-offs (if you wish to immediately use the mobo out of the box), and a ready to use GELID GC:Extreme Thermal Compound.
The_Big_Viper : Nah, did someone say who did that stuff. Okay I’m the culprit there. But I find the word generous would be an understatement but 10 SATA cables, plastic stand offs and a tube of Gelid GC Extreme Thermal Compound should be more than enough to make you smile.
lg_whafu : Paper works includes the multilingual user guide, the software setup guide (UEFI), the AI Cloud pamphlet, software DVD, and a case badge. I must say that ASRock really did a great job on this board’s accessories.
The_Big_Viper : Well said, I agree that ASRock surely made these preparations for the package a must. That ASRock Decal is a treat on its own.
THE MOTHERBOARD/CLOSER LOOK
lg_whafu : Out of the box, the ASRock Z87 OC FORMULA is undoubtedly not your typical motherboard from ASRock. With that said, you’ll immediately notice the striking Black & Yellow theme of the board that goes well with the chunky VRM cooler with hints of Gold.
The_Big_Viper : Clearly the Black and Yellow Scheme made me in awe. It’s a neat look that, its not eye candy to many but its uniqueness coupled with its rather attention to detail and quite the minimalist look clearly sets it apart. I love the Black PCB design.
lg_whafu : Their usual brown PCBs looks just fugly as heck, brother, and are worlds apart from this motherboard. Clearly at first glance, this board means business. And it should.
lg_whafu : Built upon the success of its older brother, the Z87 OC FORMULA retained its siblings color scheme and heat sink design as stated earlier.
The_Big_Viper : The OC Formula Black and Yellow Flagship should make quite the impression; Stamping Class even with a color scheme giving the solid base like a how Yellow Ferrari 458 Spider exudes itself. For those Modders and Enthusiasts looking to add yellow as their theme for their build, the OC Formula will fit in nicely.
lg_whafu : It’s no surprise, since ASRock needs a theme for their motherboard that will stamp onto the minds of the enthusiasts. Really, it is important to distinguish your line of motherboards by color coding alone.
lg_whafu : Starting off with the top most part of the board, we could see that things are pretty busy around here even though that board conforms to the Extended ATX standard. This is due to the fact that ASRock had to put the VRMs closer to the socket area so that they could slap the hefty heatsink with no problem.
The_Big_Viper : It’s a big board to boot. The attention to put up more space as well as the Big VRM makes sure that these are well cooled for Better overclocking with no risk for the VRM’s. Despite that fact its spacing’s can fit big Air Coolers as well as the Water Cooling for VRM’s is also in place.
lg_whafu : Aye, but with a VRM this close to the socket area, power delivery should be smoother. Still, CPU cooler compatibility should be also considered. Nonetheless we find no compatibility issues even with the DeepCool Assassin in place.
lg_whafu : The ASRock Z87 OC FORMULA’s VRM is comprised of a 12+4 power design, Premium Alloy Chokes, Dual Stack MOSFETs, and Multiple Filter Capacitors all sandwiched between the board and the massive heatsink.
The_Big_Viper : I agree; with the 12+4 power design as well as Premium Alloy Chokes, Dual Stack Mosfet’s and Multiple Filter Capacitors puts your mind at ease while helping you stabilize your system during loads and High Overclocks. And those are Japan Grade Gold Capacitors; there is no overlook to premium grade materials here.
lg_whafu : I personally liked the fact that ASRock also considered to put a Thermal Interface Material at the top of the chokes too. Premium grade, it is!
lg_whafu : 1/3 of the northern part of the motherboard consists of the VRM alone, and the massive chunk of heatsink is to blame. This massive cooler however is not just there for the show. It is actually a hybrid VRM cooler which could be passively cooled, actively cooled via fan, and actively cooled by water cooling, through the use of dual ¼” diameter water cooling barbs. At this angle, we can also see the 2x 8-pin CPU power connector which is IMHO, overkill for Haswell CPUs.
The_Big_Viper : The Hybrid VRM Cooler sports different cooling methods depending on your take and need. More Juice, it’s a 2x8 pin CPU Power Connector. I don’t think its overkill in my part having experienced lack of power for higher overclocks dropping with single 8pins.
lg_whafu : But but…. I rest my case. Okay you win this time. Grrr.
lg_whafu : Continuing the tour at the top shows us the memory module area of the board along with some nice chunk of the DIMM’s VRMs. The Z87 OC FORMULA supports Dual Channel DDR3 memory from 1066MHz natively, and up to 3000MHz+ when OC’ed. It also supports XMP1.2/1.3, and memory modules up to 32GB (Full banks).
The_Big_Viper : As with the new design for single latch, since this also conforms to their patented Distortion Free Slot as the shorter design pin design reduces signal distortion. Memory capacity isn’t short with a maximum 32GB on all four banks. The support for higher frequencies is a treat especially if you can overclock those DIMMS.
lg_whafu : My only complain here is the single latch DIMM slot approach given to the Z87 OC FORMULA. Not really fond of these things since you’ll have a hard time removing your RAMs if you’re going to use a mighty meaty heatsink for your CPU. Be aware of this minor compatibility issue, especially if you have a high profile set of RAMs.
The_Big_Viper : That could pose a problem especially with RAMS like Tridents and Dominators.
lg_whafu : The top right side of the board houses most of the Z87 OC FORMULA’s overclocking tools. These includes the LN2 mode switch, which is a switch to bypass cold-boot bugs on CPUs at extreme temperatures, the Slow mode switch, to forcibly run the CPU at a lower clock speed that’s particularly useful at long OC runs, and the PCI-E lane switches (1-2-3-4) to enable and disable the PCI-E lanes that you do not wish to use. We also have dual USB 3.0 headers here along with a single USB3.0 port which is a fantastic addition to the motherboard’s OC arsenal. No need to reach out for the back panel I/O ports if you wish to save screenshots, flash the BIOS, or to boot from a USB drive.
The_Big_Viper : The LN2 mode is a 1st for me here; the slow mode for long OC runs is like throttling down without going to the UEFI BIOS itself. PCI-E Lane Switch, Dual USB Header are all a breath of fresh air as they save you the time to put all these settings on your UEFI BIOS.
lg_whafu : If that’s already a treat for you, then check out the voltage probes on this side of the board too, courtesy of the insulated readout points above the 24-pin power port. The +/- buttons which could be used to change a variety of BIOS/UEFI values on the fly are conveniently placed on this side of the motherboard too, which is quite nice.
The_Big_Viper : I wish they would use a more convenient pattern though, where you can easily know what probes you are to use and which fits which. The design of these could be improved more.
lg_whafu : The lower area of the board should be a less busy part of the motherboard real estate, but it isn’t since ASRock had this part filled with goodies that any enthusiasts would love to see too. Starting off with the expansion slots, we’ve got 4x PCI-E x16 slots here and 2x PCI-E x1 slots - A total of 6 PCI-E slots for your consideration!
The_Big_Viper : Quad SLI and Quad Fire is more than enough for the Enthusiasts in terms of expansions as well as these are all on X16 states and PCI-E 3.0, The Msata port is a welcome addition for your mSata SSD. This isn’t just loaded it’s massively packed!
lg_whafu : Spot on, brother. However, if you want to do Quad SLI, and Quad Fire on this board, then a PLX is a must. Sadly, we can’t find even a shadow of that chip here.
The_Big_Viper : Totally ironic if you ask me on that, I think they might reconsider adding that feature/part on the next build or upgraded build release.
lg_whafu : Continuing our tour, we could see that ASRock didn’t even bother to skimp on the storage options for the Z87 OC FORMULA motherboard, courtesy of 4x ASMedia SATAIII controller, and 6x native SATAIII controller from the Z87 Chipset.
The_Big_Viper : A total of 10 SATA ports for storage should not hold you back, Raid 0/1 and Raid 5 options for hard drives are also supported. The welcome addition of a 4pin power connector in case your motherboard runs out of juice while running in Multi GPU is a big help.
lg_whafu : This side of the board also features an ASRock exclusive OLED display which should show users some of the motherboard’s status, including the temperatures, voltages, debugs codes, current CPU frequency, and even the time. We could cycle through various display options using the built in buttons at the top of the board.
The_Big_Viper : The Exclusive High Resolution OLED is a first and a good respite from the traditional Dr. Debug LED Asrock introduced. With the OLED you can clearly see the motherboard’s status. Few click of the buttons shuffles to power on Self-test, current time, frequencies, temperatures, various voltages points, and the debug code.
lg_whafu : Adding to that, we also have buttons and switches on this side of the board too, featuring the already familiar power, reset, and Clear CMOS buttons.
The_Big_Viper : Again for me this is a good placing of the buttons in the motherboard; The clear CMOS is now a button and not a jumper Thank God. The usual placement of headers for front panel and USB 2.0 is the same as always.
lg_whafu : We also have a BIOS switch on this side of the board too, which is quite nice if the Clear CMOS button failed us. Thank God, indeed.
lg_whafu : Probably what sets this motherboard apart from the “other” overclocking motherboard is the inclusion of a beefed up audio solution and a PCB water proofing coat that should keep the board safe from conductive liquids and dusts.
The_Big_Viper : The Conformal coating for PCB Water proofing solution makes this great for Overclocking on Full Water Cooling Systems, DICE and LN2.
lg_whafu : Indeed, but I’m a bit worried about the audio being marketed by ASRock as an “Audiophile grade” solution. It’s actually a Realtek ALC 1150 codec under an EMI shield case!
The_Big_Viper : I agree seems the “Purity Sound” chip branding might be a Trojan Horse here as its marketed but actually an updated Realtek ALC 1150. Let’s see if this passes out and earns its moniker.
lg_whafu : Well to make things more interesting, they added a PCB grout to keep the rest of the audio components safe from the motherboard’s component noise. It should pass our tests, right?
lg_whafu : ASRock didn’t skimp on functionality when it comes to the back panel I/O ports of the Z87 OC FORMULA. We have a full load of USB 3.0 ports here(4x Intel + 4x Etron), 2 legacy USB 2.0 ports, a legacy PS/2 port, a Clear CMOS button, and the 7.1 channel capable audio jacks for the Purity Sound.
The_Big_Viper : Lots of USB 3.0 means speedy transfers, the usual USB 2.0 ports and Ps/2 for input device, The Intel Gigabit LAN Port and 7.1 Channel and SPDIF/Optical In Slot, Clear CMOS Button. The 2x HDMI in makes up for not only input but conforms to its HDMI in feature that lets you connect two inputs (PC/Console) and lets you switch without powering down your PC or powering it up. This lessens the hassle for switching from one to the other.
lg_whafu : We also have a single Gigabit LAN port here courtesy of an Intel I217V, which is a great addition to the already good bundle of I/O panel ports. There are also 2x HDMI ports here, which conform to ASRock’s newest feature, the HDMI-IN.
lg_whafu : ASRock had the Z87 OC FORMULA bundled with snazzy software at your disposal. It is up to you whether you need to use them, but nonetheless we’ll sum up what we find useful the most.
ASROCK XFAST LAN & XFAST USB :
The_Big_Viper : Xfast LAN takes care of your LAN queuing using CFOSS as its based software. While the Xfast USB has a Turbo Mode that aggressively speeds up read and write speeds.
lg_whafu : ASRock Formula Drive All in one software suite that caters overclockers and power users a like with its tools at your disposal. Upon opening the app, the Operation Mode tab will greet you onsite with 3 performance presets ready to be used.
The_Big_Viper : Just like the Fatal1ty F-Stream but this is much more loaded in features. The software ups the ante in terms of Overclocking as well as propriety tools.
lg_whafu : List of tools includes the XFast RAM, Goodnight LED, FAN-Tastic Tuning, Dehumifier, and HDMI-IN. We’ll check them out later on.
lg_whafu : The OC Tweaker tab is the section you’ll probably use the most, as it’s the Windows UI equivalent of your BIOS/UEFI.
The_Big_Viper : The OC Tweaker is your best friend here if you’re aiming to tinker up your processor speeds and voltages.
lg_whafu : I agree, since you could change your CPU’s clock settings, various voltages, and other itsy-bitsy overclocking stuffs. You could also automatically apply the settings you choose at start-up, or manually set them depending on your liking too.
lg_whafu : The system Info tab houses the Hardware Monitor sub menu with real time clock, temperature, and voltage monitoring.
The_Big_Viper : It’s just like your UEFI BIOS Hardware Monitor and Subsystems in the Tools Section. You can accurately get your readings here if you’re not fond of looking at the OLED Display as this more comprehensive.
lg_whafu : The System Browser menu also made a debut here, just like what you said about the UEFI. For the lads who do not know it, it basically shows an image of the motherboard along with detailed information about the slots in use.
lg_whafu : We also have a Multi-Thermal sensor sub menu here which basically shows the thermal readings of the 13 sensors built into the motherboard. Goodness me, this is so freakin’ awesome.
The_Big_Viper : Now these are a sight for sore eyes and believe me checking out 13 thermal sensors on your motherboard in case where there is a need to ingest more cooling and protect it from harm is way off the charts for me.
lg_whafu : Heading back to the Tools tab, we now go in:depth to its sub menus, starting off with the XFast RAM. Explain it to them, brother.
The_Big_Viper : It’s basically your own RAM Disk software for which you can use as cache or for virtual paging files and speedier access of applications and OS.
lg_whafu : So in layman’s term, it basically uses your available RAM as a disk drive. Am I right?
lg_whafu : The Good Night LED is a feature that enables us to disable our system’s LEDs when the system enters a low power state.
The_Big_Viper : Not much of a deal here unless you’re the type of guy who doesn’t need these LEDs at their On State.
lg_whafu : The FAN-Tasting Tuning feature enables us to configure the speed of our system’s fans, provided that they are connected thru the motherboard’s fan headers.
The_Big_Viper : You’re on demand PWM, Fan Controller software in the works here and much more since the software can help make decisions based on the thermal sensors it has.
lg_whafu : This is indeed a fantastic feature, since ASRock could do all the testing for you to find the best power ratio of your fans and adjust them yourself when needed.
lg_whafu : Another feature that I liked from ASRock’s Formula Drive software is the inclusion of the Dehumidifier function.
The_Big_Viper : Imagine your very own humidifier and it’s a good feature especially when you’re on a damp cold environment.
lg_whafu : In layman’s term, this feature enables your system fans to continuously feed your system with air even when the system is already turned off - Lessening the chance of humidity build-up inside your case.
lg_whafu : If you have a console, or another HDMI enabled device, then you’ll love the HDMI:IN feature of this motherboard. The said feature enables you to plug-in your device directly to the motherboard’s HDMI-in port, and toggle between that device’s display and your PC with just a push of a hotkey.
The_Big_Viper : No more switching cables from your pc to your console or any other HDMI based device as the feature itself will automatically switch with a keyboard hot key when powered and automatically switch even when powered down.
lg_whafu : Aside from the FORMULA Drive app’s OC Tweaker, we also have a Timing Configurator to aid memory timing adjustments straight from Window’s UI. Last but not the least, we also have a Rapid OC Configuration app which basically controls what the -/+ and Menu buttons at the motherboard should do when pressed. We just wished that these software were a part of the FORMULA Drive’s UI, just to keep the software footprint at minimum.
The_Big_Viper : Now this is a treat for me, the timing configuration software lets you tweak your rams as a package and is optimized to your motherboard. This is a very welcome addition in its software bundle.
lg_whafu : I wasn’t really fond of ASRock’s UEFI in the first place. Really, I just have to say it; since I had nightmares with my old ASRock 990FX’s interface from the glory days of the Phenom II CPUs. That said, they were clunky, unresponsive, and buggy at their best.
Fast forward today, it is evident that ASRock did a huge facelift to their interface. It’s now a lot more responsive - albeit it is still not fluid, and is filled with cute graphics which reminds me of Windows XP and Star Dock’s popularity back then. Now with that said, do not get me wrong. Fugly or not, if it’s feature rich enough, and bends at our own will, you’ll be sure that it’ll pass for our taste. And it sure did.
The_Big_Viper : Being a user of ASRocks UEFI BIOS with my trusty old 990FX Fatl1ty, the look and feel are still the same but there are twists and I hope it won’t fail me.
lg_whafu : ASRock’s UEFI interface won’t win any beauty awards, but the good guys at ASRock made sure that it’s filled with goodies that overclockers would love to play with. Such fine example is the OC Tweaker tab - A section of ASRock’s UEFI that contains tons of frequency, timings, and voltage adjustments.
The_Big_Viper : I had quite a hard time figuring out some settings in overclocking as this quite different than some of the OC tweaking from different motherboard brands. It was quite a maze to begin with. Spending some time figuring this out was a no brainer but it provided me better understanding on how this works, heck it’s worth it at the end anyway.
lg_whafu : And we also have a profiling submenu here too, along with optimized overclocking presets, and Nick Shih’s very own overclocking profiles under one roof. He also added a DRAM Tweaking sub menu inside, which is worth it indeed.
lg_whafu : The Advanced tab will take you to various sub menus, majority of which has something to do with the PCH/Chipset’s settings. Nothing special here, except for the CPU Configuration tab which I believe should be located at the OC Tweaker tab.
The_Big_Viper : I agree, this option should have been placed in the OC Tweaker Tab so that you could afford all options when overclocking at one tab.
lg_whafu : I think it’s also better of ASRock had Two OC Tweaker columns. It’s such a pain to scroll down and find our desired settings to tinker with.
The_Big_Viper : talk about scrolling down on relatively new and unfamiliar territory if you ask me…
lg_whafu : The Tool tab features some of ASRock’s unique UEFI features. This includes a System Browser - which basically lets you take a peek at the devices currently connected to your motherboard, and other snazzy features including the Dehumidifier Function that we explained earlier. We also have an Online UEFI Flasher here which is a great addition to the mix.
The_Big_Viper : I would like to add the Easy Driver Installer for those who do not own a DVD Drive as this downloads and install your drivers for your pc. The OMG Online Management Guard which allows restrictions to internet access or like an internet curfew. This is like a parental control software for kids whose usages exceeds parents allowable allocation for their daily use.
lg_whafu : Why would someone let their kids to use this overclocking motherboard? ...Oh I get it.
The_Big_Viper : That said, I think your following my line of thought now…
lg_whafu : Last but not the least; we also have a Hardware Monitoring tab inside ASRock’s UEFI. The thermal sensors on this thing are just outstanding.
The_Big_Viper : A very comprehensive Hardware Monitor especially with the multi-thermal sensors.