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Old 5th August 2016, 7:36 PM   #1
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Default Asrock Z170M OC Formula

ASROCK Z170M OC Formula – User Review






Introduction

Another day, another awesome product I really want to show off to you guy. This little fella goes by the name of the Z170M OC Formula. Some call it the MOCF, some call it Little Yellow, I prefer to call it the LITTLE YELLOW BEAST!!!

Little backstory here on Asrock. It’s a name that’s been around since 2002. Originally when they started out, Motherboards were their main game. Shows to this day, where they are currently one of the highest selling motherboard brands in the world. One of the reasons they have had such success in recent years, is the introduction of motherboard series that included Gaming Legend Johnathan ‘Fatality’ Wendel, and more recently, and Professional Overclocking LEGEND going by the name of Nick Shih.

A few years ago, Nick, being one of the top Overclockers in the world, joined the Asrock team to develop a motherboard series to suit the enthusiast. The first in the series was the Z77 OC Formula. Lots of black, lots of yellow, and lots of tuning to keep any crazy eyed tweaker happy. As you can imagine, it had pretty much everything, a water-block integrated into the VRM heatsink, more USB connections than you could imagine, debug led, voltage read points……the list goes on. An all-round quality board.



Fast forward to today and the same formula is there. Originally released was the Z170 OC Formula, a full ATX Board, minus a lot of the unnecessary components that most of the other manufacturers feel are what people want (I like to call it fluff), and brought it back further to a true ‘OC Enthusiast” board. So, by removing the ‘clutter’, it allowed them fit other more performance based inclusions to set it apart from the 100’s of other motherboards on the market. 18-Phase voltage regulator, 60A chokes, No less than 3 “Ultra” M.2 Connectors, 4 PCI-E Slots, Voltage Read points, a Bios created and tweaked by the legend Nick Shih himself and their own Rapid OC buttons for on-the-fly control. Needless to say, Big Yellow as it is endearingly referred to as, has been a huge success in the Competitive Overclocking scene.

Moving onto the little board “THAT CAN” today, we have what is essentially the trimmed, tuned and tweaked smaller brother. The MOCF took a while to hit the market (cough, around 7 months behind most others in the Z170 line), and some enthusiasts questioned whether it would even get there. Well, it certainly did get there, and has the Competitive Overclockers drooling for it.



Specifications

Now, this is a board that has been developed to suit the Enthusiast. So it’s missing a few inclusions that you would find on other boards in within the same market. But that is what the OC Formula is about to its core. It’s what it takes to be on-top of performance.







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Old 5th August 2016, 7:37 PM   #2
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Unboxing

The motherboard fairly well packaged. It certainly isn’t to the standards of Asus or Gigabyte, but is secure enough






Included is a DVD with all of the drivers and bundled software to get you started, as well as the Quick Installation Guide, and Software Setup Guide to assist you through setup and configuration. Not as comprehensive as others, but sufficient for anyone to get moving. Add in a couple of SATA cables, SLI Bridge, M.2 Screw and IO Shield and the package is complete. The board is packed securely in a foam frame secured by the old reliable zip-ties






Taking the board out of its packaging, we can see it in all its blazing yellow and black glory. Somewhat of a trademark now to stand out from the pack. The PCB has a matt black finish, and really aids in making the yellow highlights pop! Asrock have included a 10layer PCB for better electrical signals with less interference.




The backside of the board has little to show. The same matt-black PCB finish, and the Novoton NTC67910 Monitoring chip located near the PCH.




PCI-E setup is pretty common compared to its competitors. The top slots is separated from the other remaining 2 x8 slots by the M.2 port. The first and second slots share the CPU’s PCI-e lanes, allowing operation at 16x for a single GPU or 8x/8x for dual. The bottom slot is connected to the PCH, providing one extra 4x PCI-E lane where required. The Battery is even located in an easy to get to area above the PCI-E, which would make it easy to remove with a system all connected.




To the lower corner of the board, we find the Z170 Chipset with a simply finished Heatsink. Adjacent to this, we find 8 SATA ports, 2 connected to the integrated Asmedia Controller, and the others fed through the PCH. There is also the option to connect 2 U.2 drives.




The bottom edge of the board contains all the usual front panel audio and USB connections. Directly to the front of the board we have a Post Code LED, perfect for diagnosing boot errors, especially when pushing the system memory to the limit. Cleverly, the 2 bios chips are also located down the bottom to reduce the chance of condensation ingress when using more extreme cooling methods, and a switch next to these to toggle between the two if things go terribly wrong. Also found down here is the Thunderbolt 2/3 Connection, but keep in mind only 1 card is supported.




The rear IO panel is surprisingly well featured for a board dedicated to the Overclocking Enthusiast. Here we find one PS2 connector, 2 (two) USB 2.0 ports, 1 (one) DisplayPort 1.2, 1 (one) HDMI port, 4 (four) USB 3.0 ports, 1 (one) USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 (one) USB 3.1 Type-C, a single RJ-45 LAN port, Clear CMOS Button, 7.1 channel audio connections and an Optical Audio connection. Included to tidy it up is a nice shroud, although made from plastic, fits the aesthetics of the board and rounds off the look.




Taking the heatsink off, we can see that power is provided through 8 phases for the CPU Input Voltage, an additional 2 phase for DRAM Voltage and 2 more phases for the iGPU Voltage. All high quality mosfets and capacitors for smooth power delivery and room to move when pushing the limits under more extreme cooling.








Sound is delivered through the ALC1150 chipset. Similar to other motherboards, the integrated sound audio solution is separated from the remainder of the board to reduce electrical noise and provide a cleaner sound. The backside of the board shows the PCB separation lines.






The heatsinks feel of reasonable quality, with a single heatpipe connecting the two. Removal was very simple with only 4 screws on the backside to remove. The IO and Sound cover are made from light plastic, and is a simple addition for the aesthetics.








To the business area on the top right corner, we can find all of the useful buttons and Voltage Read points. Included here are and On/Off Button, conveniently lit, reset switch and clock adjustment buttons (which as set using the included software). Finishing off the area is a nice backlit “born to be fast” logo. This can be toggled on and off in the bios.



Below the 24pin is the LN2 switch, XMP switch, Slow-Mode switch and Direct Key switch. The XMP switch is a handy one that lets users set their ram to XMP automatically, which is usually set manually in the bios. Adjacent is the on-board USB 3.0 header.




On the Z170M OC Formula, Asrock have taken the step to remove 2 of the usual 4 dram slots. By doing this, the dim slots are able to use a different topology connection to the CPU slot, which is where this board is different to most other Z170 boards on the market. The only other manufacturer to do similar is Asus with their Maximus Impact VIII which has the slots sitting closer still. Nick Shih has done a fantastic design on the setup, and it allows for effortless memory overclocking compared to all of the 4 dimm bigger boards. For reference, the adjusted position caused no problems for my cooler fitment.





Software Options/Accessories

Formula Drive

Included in the bundle from Asrock is their very own Formula Drive software. You could liken this to the Asus AiSuite III or Gigabyte’s Easytune. The software provides ample options monitoring your system temperatures, fan speeds, voltages and CPU Clock info.








There is a cool menu in the System Info menu where you can check hardware connections via an interactive motherboard picture. You just hover your mouse over the connectors and it provides information on what hardware is connected.




The OC Tweaker Menu has settings for tuning fan profiles, voltages and CPU BCLK and multipliers all at the touch of a button.


Last edited by headin2001; 5th August 2016 at 8:00 PM.
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Old 5th August 2016, 7:37 PM   #3
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Overclocking


AutoOC

Through using supplied software, the board seems to think that 4500/4500 is the perfect speed for this particular CPU. Honestly, I have to agree and run it at exactly the same settings in my 24/7 setup. True set and forget style.





Manual OC

Ok, now I’m what I would like to call an “enthusiast overclocker”. I have been in the hobby now for many years, and like to delve in and fine tune my BIOS to suit me. With the Asrock Z170M OC Formula, all this is quite easy. The auto setup itself for most voltages are well set, and really only require changing literally a couple of settings to find your maximum OC off the bat.

So, with only changing:

1. Set the DRAM to XMP (which loads the memory profiles)
2. Set the multiplier you would like for the CPU (in my circumstance, went straight for 48x)
3. Set the vcore to fixed, and my maximum voltage to 1.43v (used an average from others)
4. Hit F10, save the BIOS and check it out in windows

Here is the results, which I have put through my suit of stability testing and found to be totally reliable in gaming, 3D rendering, video rendering and googling.





Now, we all have our own process, and obviously finding a maximum stable clock at a voltage isn’t always this simple, but with what’s above, it’s basically that simple. Mine is 3x XTU Bench Runs, 3 consecutive passes of Cinebench (a bad OC will usually show within these 2 quite quickly), a good hour pass with Asus Realbench V2, as it is a good overall system stability test, followed by some good old fashioned gaming, in my case, Battlefield 4. I find Battlefield the best to bring things to their knees, pushing the RAM, CPU and IO’s, PCH and GPU. It all gets a hammering.

I’ve even found after passing the first 3 tests, that once in Battlefield I can get DirectX errors from the VCCIO voltage in BIOS being just slightly low, talking 0.05v here.


Bios

The bios setup is quite easy to navigate. To save going through each menu in this review, I have created an Imgur Album for anyone who is interested to navigate. You can see the album here.

Like most manufacturers, Asrock have a Ez Mode and Advanced. I found the EZ Mode menu to be quite basic, and only rally an overview of the system. Once in the Advanced Menu, I easily found myself at home and could find all the settings I needed to get off and running quite quickly.




One real helper is the Nick Shih Profiles. I found these invaluable for benching straight up in the different benchmarks. from XTU to Superpi, it was very easy to change. The memory profiles are spot on, and each one just worked easily and are an amazing base to start benching like the pro's. This did require a small amount of voltage adjustments to suit my RAM and CPU for stability, but booting at the set timing was not an issue, even on my lower binned 3200C16 Samsung IC based RAM kit.


Benchmarks

Test Setup

CPU – Intel i7 6700k, stock, 4500/4500, 4800/4600
Cooler – Enermax Liqmax II 240
Thermal Paste – Coolermaster Mastergel Maker Nano
Motherboard – Asrock Z170M OC Formula
Asus Maximus VIII Hero
Ram – Zadak511 Shield 3200C16 2x8GB – ZD4-SHK3200X16-08GAS (XMP Profile, Samsung B-Die IC)
G.Skill Ripjaws V 3466C16 4x4GB – F4-3466C16Q-16GVK (XMP Profile, Samsung D-Die IC) For M8H
Storage – Zadak511 250GB SSD
Graphics – Asus 750ti OC DirectCUII 2GB
PSU – Coolermaster GX750
OS – Windows 10 Pro x64

Comparison System 1
CPU – Intel i7 4790k @ 4500/4500 cache
Cooler – Noctua D-15
Motherboard – Asus Gryphon Z97 (BIOS 2101)
Ram – Corsair DDR3 Vengeance 2x4gb – CMY8GX3M2A1600C9 (1600C9 XMP 1t Timings, Nanya IC)
Storage – Kingston SSD Now300 - 250gb
Graphics – Asus 750ti OC
PSU – Antec HCG-520w
OS – Windows 10 Pro x64

Comparison System 2
CPU – Intel i7 2600k @ 4500
Cooler – Coolermaster 212X
Motherboard – Asus P8Z68-V Pro (BIOS 3402)
Ram – Corsair DDR3 Vengeance 2x4gb – CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9 (XMP 1t Timings, Nanya IC)
Storage – Samsung 840 SSD - 250gb
Graphics – AMD HD6430
PSU – Corsair HX620 Modular
OS – Windows 10 Pro x64



Methodology

For benchmarking this motherboard, I have come up with a suite to show mostly CPU and memory performance.

Software used:
Intel XTU (tests both CPU and memory performance)
Geekbench 3
Cinebench R11.5 – CPU Test only
Cinebench R15 –CPU Test only
Aida64 – Memory Benchmark and Latency
3DMark Fire Strike Physics

All tests were done at both stock CPU clocks 4200/4100 cache, and overclocked to 4500/4500 cache and 4800/4600 cache. Memory was set to XMP. Each benchmark was run 3 times, and the best score recorded discarding any obviously glitched runs.




For XTU we can see that the MOCF trails behind the Maximus VIII Hero. This is most likely due to the change between the G.Skill Ripjaws 3466C16 DDR4 kit over the Zadak511 3200C16 kit that was used this time around. This will likely make a difference in all of the Benchmarks to follow.




Again, a slight difference between the motherboards in this Benchmark, all due to the slower memory profile of the 3200C16 ram.






The Cinebench suite shows the results slightly closer, but again, this is a Bench that really relies on good memory speed and timings.






Memory Latency and speed is what is to be expected for the setup. Nothing out of the norm here.




3dMark physics shows a closer story between the boards shown. Surprisingly, the combination of the Zadak511 Shield 3200C16 and the Asrock Z170M OC Formula has just topped the results from the Asus Maximus VIII Hero and G.Skill 3466C16 combo.

Last edited by headin2001; 5th August 2016 at 8:32 PM.
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Old 5th August 2016, 7:38 PM   #4
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Conclusion

Asrock and Nick Shih and his team have done a fantastic job on making this the “Must Have” Z170 motherboard for anyone that wants the most out of their system. With Elite professional overclockers like Nick, Splave, Bullant and Loud Silence on the team just to name a few, you just know that this board is going to deliver the goods.

Memory overclocking is this board’s specialty. Everything is as easy as it can be, giving even the freshest n00b a change to clock their ram like never before. It has been by far the simplest system I have used to push my ram without the abundance of debug codes I have seen on the other boards I have tested. The memory profile setup is spot on, with only the odd voltage tweak needed to get off to a really good base efficiency point for benchmarking. I’m serious, it is just so simple.

CPU overclocking is also extremely easy, mostly assisted by the easy to navigate bios. There is plenty of quick overclock options for those that don’t want to go through the testing.

Bling wise, there is a little there with the “Born to be Fast” lighting near the Voltage points, but for anyone serious about overclocking, this is plenty. For those that want something pretty and to keep up with the current RGB movement in the industry, this probably isn’t the motherboard for you.

The software provided works very well, and doesn’t appear to use much resources in the background. Compared again to other manufacturers’ software, this is by far the lightest and least problematic of them all.

The board layout just works. SATA connectors where and how you would expect them to be laid out these days, PCI-E slots are separated adequately, with room for the now “norm” M.2. Slot.

PROS
- Easy overclocking for CPU and Memory
- Quality finish
- M.2 SATA and PCI-E support
- PS2 connector
- Memory profiles are perfect
- Voltage read points
- SkyOC for non-k overclocking

CONS
- Manual is basic but sufficient
- Plastic IO Cover




Please feel free to leave comments/questions below. Hope you enjoyed.

Last edited by headin2001; 5th August 2016 at 8:10 PM.
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Old 5th August 2016, 8:08 PM   #5
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Spare for further overclocking results.

Last edited by headin2001; 5th August 2016 at 8:10 PM.
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Old 5th August 2016, 8:22 PM   #6
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Another great review. My little Z170i Pro Gaming was scoring 1371 in XTU just now running 45/42 XMP 3866c18 2t for a comparison. Ram speed and timings does so much in XTU (as you know).

I tried to buy a little brother for big yellow the other week and they weren't available on Newegg anymore....

Would rather vas up the little one not the big one again.

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Old 5th August 2016, 8:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paulie_AU View Post
Another great review. My little Z170i Pro Gaming was scoring 1371 in XTU just now running 45/42 XMP 3866c18 2t for a comparison. Ram speed and timings does so much in XTU (as you know).

I tried to buy a little brother for big yellow the other week and they weren't available on Newegg anymore....

Would rather vas up the little one not the big one again.
Certainly does mate. I didn't want to go changing speeds to try and match the old Dimms so I kept everything at XMP to be sure.

I will try in the Impact board for comparison when I am over this terrible flu.

Ill check on availability for them too. As you know, I imported this one through a friend before Newegg made them available. I'm sure there maybe another run of them to come.
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Old 6th August 2016, 12:09 AM   #8
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Probably the best retail board.
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Old 6th August 2016, 5:41 AM   #9
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The BIOS chips look removable, are they ?

That would be Ssssoooo useful for if/when it gets corrupted beyond re-flashing.
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Old 6th August 2016, 8:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by headin2001 View Post
Certainly does mate. I didn't want to go changing speeds to try and match the old Dimms so I kept everything at XMP to be sure.

I will try in the Impact board for comparison when I am over this terrible flu.

Ill check on availability for them too. As you know, I imported this one through a friend before Newegg made them available. I'm sure there maybe another run of them to come.
Yeah I was looking yesterday to get one from newegg but none listed,well to au anyway and no cheap ones left on eBay


Great review man ,lot of time and effort gone into this review,great job
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Old 7th August 2016, 3:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ginger_nuts View Post
The BIOS chips look removable, are they ?

That would be Ssssoooo useful for if/when it gets corrupted beyond re-flashing.
I would think so because asrock pretty always have them removable like Asus and in the picture it looks like a dip-8 socket
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Great review man ,lot of time and effort gone into this review,great job
Too true and his reviews would have to be some of the best I've seen
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Old 7th August 2016, 4:47 PM   #12
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Awesome review mate! Would love to have a play around with one of these boards.
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Old 5th September 2016, 10:02 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ginger_nuts View Post
The BIOS chips look removable, are they ?

That would be Ssssoooo useful for if/when it gets corrupted beyond re-flashing.
Certainly are removable Dez. Very user friendly that way.


FYI to all, now available on Newegg once more. So much cheaper than I paid in April. Roughly $306AUD Landed.

Link for anyone interested.
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Old 5th September 2016, 10:19 AM   #14
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Gahhhh terrible timing but much want for cold.
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Old 5th September 2016, 10:30 AM   #15
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Quote:
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Gahhhh terrible timing but much want for cold.
I too want to go cold, but alas, STILL WAITING FOR A POT!!!!
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