ASRock Z87 OC Formula
Every motherboard manufacturer makes big claims about reliability, but ASRock now backs those claims with a five-year warranty. The last two years of that warranty might not be a big deal to anyone who switches platforms after a couple of architectural evolutions, but the potential cost implications to a motherboard maker could still be huge unless the board meets its reliability expectations.
The I/O panel features HDMI pass-through for a second device, enabling monitor sharing, along with a CLR_CMOS button and eight USB 3.0 ports. HDMI pass-through is also available on ASRock's cheaper boards though, so we need to look inside to see what makes the Z87 OC Formula special.
Support for four-way graphics arrays would really be a standout feature if it were real. Instead, ASRock connects three of those slots in the CPU-supported x8-x4-x4 configuration. The top slot drops to 8x when the middle one is filled, and the middle slot drops to four lanes when the third slot is filled. The fourth slot is an orphan, attached to four of the Z87 Express PCH's lanes.
You might expect that a x4 slot and three x1 links (including mini-PCIe) would only leave room for one add-in device controller, since the PCH only offers eight second-gen lanes. ASRock gets around this with a moderately-priced PLX PEX8608 eight-lane PCIe 2.0 switch, circumventing most of the lane-sharing issues found on mid-priced motherboards. It enables two additional SATA 6Gb/s and an extra USB 3.0 controller with all slots enabled, and likely contributes around $15 to the board’s $295 price tag.
The mini-PCIe slot is where we’d find a wireless controller on the –AC version of this board. We could probably find something else to put there (a wireless controller of our own, perhaps). The slot makes good use of the space between PCIe x16 slots, which would otherwise be completely consumed by the cooling system of a typical high-end graphics card.
The Z87 OC Formula include ten internal SATA cables, a couple of drive power adapters, a flexible SLI bridge, Gelid thermal paste, and ASRock’s special USB 3.0 bay adapter with integrated 2.5” drive tray. In fact, ASRock is so proud of its installation kit that most of these items come packed in a velvet bag.