ASRock Z77 OC Formula Reviewccokeman -
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The extreme overclocker is getting a lot of traction from motherboard manufacturers over the past few years. There is a slew of boutique boards designed to deliver the highest stable clock speeds, so that the brand sits atop the HWBot rankings as the one used to deliver the top clock speed of the week, be it memory or CPU. Truth be told a lot of that has to do with the skill of the overclocker at maximizing each part of the hardware package. The key though, is a good, solid base. ASRock has been making inroads in the enthusiast category with a huge selection of solid performing, feature rich motherboards over the past couple years. So much so that ranks of users are jumping ship to pick up a solid motherboard at a lower price point. Having just finished looking at the Z77 Extreme 4 from ASRock, I was pleasantly surprised with how well it performed and how easily it got my chip to its maximum overclock for a bargain basement $134.
Now when you look at the ASRock Z77 OC Formula you can tell it is not a bargain basement motherboard, with its target market being the extreme overclocker. As such it is going to carry a price premium over the standard motherboards and even the Extreme series boards in ASRock's product stack at $229. Surprisingly with its Extreme overclocking feature set the price point is not something that would be out of line as you get a tremendous upside in capabilities for the money you spend. First off you get hands-on tuning from one of the top overclockers in the world, ASRock's in-house guru Nick Shih, and you get a unique bundle of accessories and software tools to allow you to get the most from the installed hardware. The board comes with a new Digital 12+4 power design, eight layer PCB with four 2oz copper layers, a two way active cooling solution, and just so much more. After seeing what the Extreme 4 had to bring to the table it is going to prove to interesting to see what ASRock has for the upper tier user.
The package the Z77 OC Formula comes in is almost twice the size of the package the Z77 Extreme 4 came in. The outside of the package is uncluttered with the mass amount of technical data and specifications that you normally see on motherboard packaging. The front side has a vehicle speeding along with the ASRock logo and board model above and below the car with the base specifications to the right showing support for Intel processors and both AMD and NVIDIA graphics solutions. The back side gives a view of some optimistic overclocking results as well as some of the OC Formula specific features. The front flap opens to get into the details of the board's impressive feature set including the Dual Stack MOSFET package, Multiple Filter Cap system, 12+4 phase digital power design, Twin Power cooling, Rapid OC, PCIe On/Off, and V Probe voltage check points.
Internally the Z77 OC Formula is packaged well encased in an open cell foam enclosure. Tie strapped to the foam, the board does not move in this enclosure keeping it safe and secure during transit. The accessory bundle sits in a box under the board and holds the hardware and software components securely in place preventing any migration around the inside of the package.
The bundle supplied with the Z77 OC Formula is quite a bit more substantial than the bundle I saw with the Z77 Extreme 4. The documentation included is detailed enough to allow you to understand how each feature of the board functions. The hardware component of the bundle comes in a decorative pouch emblazoned with the OC Formula logo and is a nice touch. The hardware included again is substantial with four SATA 6Gb/s cables, two SATA 3Gb/s cables, a pair of SATA power connectors, I/O shield, Gelid GC-Extreme thermal paste, front panel 3.5 inch USB 3.0 bay with SSD mounting plate, arear mounting bracket should you choose to use the additional USB 3.0 ports on the back of the chassis, an OC Formula sticker, and a pack of ten OC stands that allow you to run the board out of a chassis without it just sitting on a box or piece of foam. Pretty substantial and it includes some nice extras.
Just from the start the ASRock Z77 OC Formula looks to be a pretty interesting piece of hardware with the Twin Power cooling solution to the well thought out power design. Let's see where all this takes us in terms of performance adn whether Nick Shih's tuning touch is enough to set this board apart from the crowd.