ASRock Z170 OC Formula Review

How We Test, Results & Conclusion

How We Test

Test System Components

We’re using our standardized test system, minus its LGA 2011 motherboard, CPU and DDR4-2400, to measure the performance of every LGA 1151 test board. Replacements for those parts include today’s Z170 OC Formula motherboard, Intel’s Core i7-6700K, and G.Skill’s overclockable Ripjaws V DDR4-3600.










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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Test Results

Synthetics

Because these are able to stress specific components harshly, synthetic benchmarks are a great way to search for performance problems within a system. The Z170 OC Formula for example returned slightly lower-than-average default memory bandwidth, which in turn increased the encoding/decoding turnaround time in Sandra Cryptography. Now let’s see if any real-world benchmarks are noticeably impacted.

Gaming

Other than its fourth-place finish in our lowest Far Cry 3 test, the Z170 Formula finishes near the top throughout our gaming suite. That one “exception” to its own performance isn’t all that exceptional in the overall comparison though, since a different board took fifth place.

Applications

The Z170 OC Formula also ties for last place in our Apple iTunes audio transcoding test — its one second difference usually comes down to a few milliseconds, plus rounding. The largest standout was the previous one second gain of the Z170A Gaming M7, since rounding usually occurs between 48 and 49 seconds in that app.

Power, Heat & Efficiency

ASRock’s Z170 OC Formula uses a little extra power at idle, but its full-load power is the best we’ve seen. That could be related to a slightly lower default CPU voltage or less “ripple,” as either of those things would correspond to its slightly lower full-load CPU temperature.

With a performance rating 99.9% of the average for all eight Z170 boards tested (three more than the five shown), the Z170 OC Formula leverages its low full-load power consumption for a three percent above average efficiency rating.

Overclocking

ASRock Z170 OC Formula BIOS Frequency and Voltage settings
BIOSP1.40 (08/24/2015)
Base Clock75-600 MHz (62.5 kHz)
CPU Multiplier8x-120x (1x)
DRAM Data Rates800-4133 (200/266.6 MHz)
CPU Vcore0.90-2.00V (5 mV)
System Agent0.95-1.69V (5 mV)
CPU I/O0.85-1.50V (5 mV)
PCH Voltage0.90-1.85V (5 mV)
DRAM Voltage1.00-2.30V (5 mV)
CAS Latency4-31 Cycles
tRCD8-31 Cycles
tRP8-31 Cycles
tRAS28-63 Cycles

The Z170 OC Formula gets its name from overclocking, and a great overclock is needed to justify a lofty price from a board that might otherwise be compared to a mainstream motherboard’s controller set.

I have to admit that this is fairly impressive. I was told by the makers of this memory that only a particular board could push it to DDR4-3600, and that particular competitor cheats on voltage to get there. Yet ASRock’s Z170 OC Formula pushed this RAM to DDR4-3672 even after dropping its DIMM voltage to an actual, fair and just 1.35 volts.

And a chart-topping BCLK is also a nice thing to have. The Z170 even pushed the CPU core to 4646 MHz for around 15 minutes, but the eventual crash dropped it into a three-way 4.6 GHz tie.

In spite of its slight loss at DDR4-2133 defaults, the ASRock Z170 OC Formula pushes high memory bandwidth when overclocking. That’s important, because several previously tested products had used extra-loose automatic timings to top overclocking charts.

Conclusion

There’s more to the Z170 OC Formula than overclocking, including a builder’s-choice of triple PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 connectors or triple SATA-E, yet those things are basic chipset functions that cost little to implement. Slot spacing for four-way CrossFireX coupled with slot-disabling switches is gimmicky given the board’s x8-x4-x4-x4 configuration, especially when one of those cards is sharing the Z170 PCH’s 32 Gbps DMI with all three of those M.2 slots. A mini PCIe interface without a network controller similarly adds configuration flexibility without adding any hardware that would improve the product’s features-to-price prospects, and the total hardware upgrades compared to a mainstream board appear to be a pair of inexpensive SATA controllers and a big voltage regulator. Yet some of those overclocking improvements were valuable even at our relatively conservative voltage levels and, lacking any other products in this price segment to ruin ASRock’s chances, that’s enough to get this somewhat expensive board our basic stamp of approval.

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

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  • nayrnayr1
    Nice motherboard, too bad it is so expensive.
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Nice motherboard, too bad it is so expensive.
    You're right, at this price I was hoping they'd have 4-way SLI.
  • Calculatron
    ASRock has improved a lot lately; my next mobo might be an ASRock.
  • Max_x2
    I still don't get why one would pay over twice the price of an entry-level motherboard (in the Z category)... I paid about 120$ for my Asus Z87-A over 2 years ago, and never looked back.