ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 ATX Motherboard Review

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.









Drivers

GraphicsGeForce 353.30
ChipsetIntel INF 10.0.27

Benchmark Suite

Synthetics
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.5.0, Benchmark Only
3DMark ProfessionalVersion: 1.2.250.0 (64-bit), Fire Strike Benchmark
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test
SiSoftware SandraVersion 2014.02.20.10, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia / Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks
Games
Battlefield 4Version 1.0.0.1, 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 1.0.85.8679, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
Arma 3Version 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
Applications
Adobe After Effects CCVersion 12.0.0.404: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14.0 x64: Filter 15.7MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CCVersion 7.0.0 (342), 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 kb/s)
Handbrake CLIVersion: 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 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: 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 FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat 11Version 11.0.0.379: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.68A, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
WinZipVersion 18.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 5.0: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.30 alpha (64-bit): THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"

Comparison Motherboards

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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.

Synthetic Benchmarks

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.

3D Games

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.

Timed Applications

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.

Overclocking

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 Frequency and Voltage settings
BIOSP2.20 (11/11/2015)
Base Clock100-340 MHz (100 kHz)
CPU Multiplier8x-120x (1x)
DRAM Data Rates800-4133 (100/133.3 MHz)
CPU Vcore0.90-1.52V (5 mV)
System Agent0.95-1.35V (10 mV)
CPU I/O0.85-1.25V (5 mV)
PCH Voltage0.90-1.30V (5 mV)
DRAM Voltage1.00-1.80V (5 mV)
CAS Latency4-31 Cycles
tRCD8-31 Cycles
tRP8-31 Cycles
tRAS28-63 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.

Conclusion

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!

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Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Cases, Cooling, Memory and Motherboards. Follow him on Twitter.

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This thread is closed for comments
8 comments
    Your comment
  • okcnaline
    Nice. So I recommended a solid board to those who asked for a list recently.

    Fatal1ty would want this.
  • Crashman
    I like a good value :)
  • JonDol
    Could a BIOS/firmware update fix the issue with four DIMMs?
  • Martins_1
    is the gigabyte Z170 Gaming K3 review coming ?
  • Crashman
    2131435 said:
    Could a BIOS/firmware update fix the issue with four DIMMs?

    Probably, though timing alterations. We leave advanced timings in automatic mode.

    2185844 said:
    is the gigabyte Z170 Gaming K3 review coming ?

    Gigabyte hasn't sent one yet.
  • Martins_1
    OK,thnx for a replay,im thinking of buying it,but need to see the review :)
  • f-14
    is it just me or does skylake bring just a microscopic advance to the table aka just a die shrink and nothing else?i can swear it's like the switch from pentium2 at 400mhz to pentium 3 at 400mhz . which basically only added SSE instructions to the CPU.

    can't wait for toms to switch OS testing to Win10 and their test PC's shut down because of a MS auto update after only being 10 minutes to 4 hours into testing.

    i had to uninstall win10 just because it was interfering with gaming, nameley at specific times i could not have it shut down for an update no matter what despite running for days. win10 is pure b.s for gaming vista 2.0 is a better name for it.
  • Crashman
    361277 said:
    is it just me or does skylake bring just a microscopic advance to the table aka just a die shrink and nothing else?i can swear it's like the switch from pentium2 at 400mhz to pentium 3 at 400mhz . which basically only added SSE instructions to the CPU. can't wait for toms to switch OS testing to Win10 and their test PC's shut down because of a MS auto update after only being 10 minutes to 4 hours into testing. i had to uninstall win10 just because it was interfering with gaming, nameley at specific times i could not have it shut down for an update no matter what despite running for days. win10 is pure b.s for gaming vista 2.0 is a better name for it.
    I think the biggest improvement is thermal dispersion, even Devil's Canyon had trouble there. Of course this only matters if you're overclocking :D