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.
|Chipset||Intel INF 10.0.27|
|3DMark 11||Version: 18.104.22.168, Benchmark Only|
|3DMark Professional||Version: 22.214.171.124 (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 126.96.36.199, DirectX 11, 100-sec. Fraps "Tashgar"Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4X AF, SSAOTest Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4X MSAA, 16X AF, HBAO|
|Grid 2||Version 188.8.131.5279, Direct X 11, Built-in BenchmarkTest Set 1: High Quality, No AATest 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 AFTest 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, SSAOTest Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO|
|Adobe After Effects CC||Version 184.108.40.2064: 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 220.127.116.11 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 SecondsAudio: PCM-S16, 48000 Hz, 2-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)|
|TotalCodeStudio 2.5||Version: 18.104.22.16877: 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 22.214.171.1249: 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"|
Biostar Gaming Z170X
MSI Z170A Gaming M7
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.
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.
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.
|ASRock Z170 OC Formula BIOS Frequency and Voltage settings|
|Base Clock||75-600 MHz (62.5 kHz)|
|CPU Multiplier||8x-120x (1x)|
|DRAM Data Rates||800-4133 (200/266.6 MHz)|
|CPU Vcore||0.90-2.00V (5 mV)|
|System Agent||0.95-1.69V (5 mV)|
|CPU I/O||0.85-1.50V (5 mV)|
|PCH Voltage||0.90-1.85V (5 mV)|
|DRAM Voltage||1.00-2.30V (5 mV)|
|CAS Latency||4-31 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.
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.