Test Results, Overclocking And Conclusion
Test System Configuration
To assure accurate comparisons, we repeat the benchmark configuration from our initial Z170 roundup in every Z170 motherboard review. The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4's performance and overclocking capabilities are compared to previously-reviewed $115 to $160 Z170 motherboards.
|Chipset||Intel INF 10.0.27|
|3DMark 11||Version: 220.127.116.11, Benchmark Only|
|3DMark Professional||Version: 18.104.22.168 (64-bit), Fire Strike Benchmark|
|PCMark 8||Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test|
|SiSoftware Sandra||Version 2014.02.20.10, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia / Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks|
|Battlefield 4||Version 22.214.171.124, DirectX 11, 100-sec. Fraps "Tashgar"|
Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4X AF, SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4X MSAA, 16X AF, HBAO
|Grid 2|| Version 126.96.36.19979, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark|
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
|Arma 3||Version 1.08.113494, 30-Sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase"|
Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF
|Far Cry 3|| V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost"|
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC, SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
|Adobe After Effects CC||Version 188.8.131.524: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly|
|Adobe Photoshop CC||Version 14.0 x64: Filter 15.7MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates|
|Adobe Premeire Pro CC||Version 7.0.0 (342), 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality|
|iTunes||Version 184.108.40.206 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format|
|Lame MP3||Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 kb/s)|
|Handbrake CLI||Version: 0.99: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds|
Audio: PCM-S16, 48000 Hz, 2-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
|TotalCodeStudio 2.5||Version: 220.127.116.1177: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV|
|ABBYY FineReader||Version 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages|
|Adobe Acrobat 11||Version 18.104.22.1689: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption|
|Autodesk 3ds Max 2013||Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080|
|Blender||Version: 2.68A, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1|
|Visual Studio 2010||Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted|
|WinZip||Version 18.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"|
|WinRAR||Version 5.0: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"|
|7-Zip||Version 9.30 alpha (64-bit): THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"|
By default, Intel's Turbo Boost ratios decrease as the number of loaded cores are increased. "Enhanced" modes added by various manufacturers tell the CPU to ignore default Turbo Boost ratios and use the highest single-thread ratio regardless of the number of cores deployed. ASRock calls this "Multi Core Enhancement" and, as with the other products in today's comparison, it's disabled throughout these tests. Advanced power modes that are usually disabled on enthusiast boards are also enabled through these tests. Enabling Intel's complete range of performance-boosting and energy-saving technologies allows all motherboards to be compared in a completely fair and consistent manner.
The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 scores right down the middle of our synthetics suite, showing that the motherboard is neither cheating (via flexible BCLK seen in past products) nor misconfigured.
Manufacturers have a little wiggle room for performance optimization in advanced DRAM timings, but most choose not to risk stability to seek further performance. The Falat1ty Z170 Gaming K4 roughly matches ASRock's previous review sample, the Z170 Extreme4.
The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 leads slightly at the low settings of Grid 2 and Far Cry 3, but not by enough to be visible on the screen. A look back at test notes also showed that the minimum scores were on par with other machines, so we'll just keep this tiny difference in mind for further performance discussions.
The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 was quickest in Lame MP3 encoding but tied for slowest in iTunes and Adobe Premiere workloads. In total, these tiny differences appear to approach the "average of averages."
Power, Heat And Efficiency
Equipped with fewer features than its Z170 Extreme4, ASRock's Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 also draws slightly less energy.
The Z170 Claymore pulls down an "average of all" performance, allowing the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 to produce a 0.6 percent above average performance rating even as its other rivals score slightly higher. Reduced power consumption gives it a 3.5 to 4.4 percent efficiency advantage over the Z170-HD3 and Z170 Extreme4.
|ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 Frequency and Voltage settings|
|Base Clock||100-340 MHz (100 kHz)|
|CPU Multiplier||8x-120x (1x)|
|DRAM Data Rates||800-4133 (100/133.3 MHz)|
|CPU Vcore||0.90-1.52V (5 mV)|
|System Agent||0.95-1.35V (10 mV)|
|CPU I/O||0.85-1.25V (5 mV)|
|PCH Voltage||0.90-1.30V (5 mV)|
|DRAM Voltage||1.00-1.80V (5 mV)|
|CAS Latency||4-31 Cycles|
The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4's range of firmware settings far exceed the capabilities for any of our hardware or our ability to keep it cool, yet we have some doubts about the board's ability to maintain some of those high settings without bumping up against the limits of over-current protection, which prevents the board from melting down.
Even though the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 had a slight problem with voltage sag, it pushed our Core-i7 6700K to a stable 4.60 GHz. That far exceeds the limit of Gigabyte's cheaper Z170-HD3, and proves that the higher-current voltage controller is probably worth the difference in motherboard price for any user who relies on the performance advantage of CPU overclocking. DRAM overclocking was another matter, as the board's class-leading 2-DIMM data rate fell to a third-place 4-DIMM stability limit.
One might argue that four-DIMM overclocks aren't important on a dual-channel board, but the insufficiency left the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 unable to reach our DDR4-2933 evaluation setting with all four modules in place. Dropping it down to two modules caused it to lose by around 10 percent against ASRock's own Z170 Extreme4, which used the same settings with four modules installed.
When rating the suitability of a product for a particular market, we have to keep in mind the limits for that market. The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 for example is a dual-channel board priced around $130, so we might expect that builders won't use four-DIMM configurations rated beyond DDR4-2600. Some of our tests indicate that a Skylake processor can extract a little more performance from four DIMMs instead of two, so we really should put aside the "but it's only dual-channel" argument and focus primarily on price. A 4x 4GB (16GB) DDR4-2400 CAS 15 kit sounds like a good bet, especially since these are now available for less than $80.
On the CPU core side, the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 is a stellar overclocker. That's where the most performance can be found, so that's where most of us focus our overclocking efforts. Though we've seen high-end boards push our CPU to 4.60 GHz at a relatively-conservative 1.30V, the Fatalt1ty Z170 Gaming K4 is the only sub-$160 model to accomplish this small feat.
Enabled by a larger voltage regulator, extra CPU overclocking probably gives the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 an extra $15 worth over its cheapest rival. That's before we begin discussing its DTS-Connect-enabled audio controller and Killer packet-prioritizing network controller upgrades. There's also an extra SATA-Express interface on an identical number of ports...silly me, let's talk about overclocking!