ASRock Z77 OC Formula Reviewccokeman -
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After recently looking at ASRock's Z77 Extreme 4 I found that ASRock had indeed improved its stock with a board that overclocked well and could be had for a remarkably low price point. You usually cannot get much better than that. ASRock's growing fan base is surely growing through the efforts to bring a good solid product to market. Stepping up a few notches in price point and feature set brings us to the Z77 OC Formula, ASRock's entry into the extreme overclocking market. Support and design work has been done on this board by ASRock's own in-house overclocking legend Nick Shih. Its feature set is decidedly slated towards a significantly upgraded PCB, power delivery system and the use of the Twin-Power cooling system to deliver upper end overclocking performance.
To that effect ASRock has included a 12+4 digital power system that uses Dual Stack MOSFETs, Premium alloy chokes, 15μ gold contacts in the CPU and DIMM sockets, eight layer PCB with four 2oz copper layers, and multi filter capacitors to deliver a power circuit that is more efficient with less electronic noise. Top that with an equally impressive cooling solution that can be passively cooled, air cooled with an integrated fan or connected to your liquid loop for an extreme reduction in VRM temperatures. During testing I found that the cooling solution with just the small fan running was enough to reduce the temperatures of the heat sink to at least ambient temperatures showing how effective the solution really is. Water cooling the VRM circuit will only add to the cooling solution when running at 100% load for long term use or working for that last MHz. The only downside I see with the addition of the liquid cooling option is that the tubing used is aluminum.
But wait, there's more, as the commercial starts. The UEFI BIOS is full of tweaks designed for the enthusiast with preset overclocking profiles tuned by Nick Shih as well as memory presets for use with specific module and speed combinations similar to what you might find on an ASUS ROG board. By using a combination of profiles and manual tweaking I was able to push the Core i7 3770K to over 4.8GHz with the memory running at 2400MHz (higher than it ever has so far); pretty stout results for a combination of parts I thought I had rung the last bit of performance from. Overclocking is not the only thing this board has going for it.
It has all the Intel specific features brought to the table with Intel's Z77 PCH such as Smart Response, Rapid Start and Smart Connect technologies. You get PCIe 3.0 when using a Third Generation Core series processor, support for multiple graphics solutions including CrossfireX and SLI with Quad GPU combinations supported, Hybrid graphics via Lucid Logix Virtu MVP software and more. Then you get into the ASRock specific software components that add value with no added cost. Formula Drive is an improvement over ASRock's AXTU for this board with the addition of Multi Thermal Monitor. XFast 555 is included with this board that brings in XFast LAN to improve ping and reduce latency in games through active network traffic management, XFast RAM that allows the user to set up a RAMDisk to improve system responsiveness and XFast USB that truly stands out with data throughput through the USB 3.0 ports to reduce the time it takes to transfer data of all sizes to an external drive.
When you get to the looks of the Z77 OC Formula it does indeed stand out from the crowd with the pitch black, eight layer PCB and striking yellow and gold accents, a dramatic swing away from the red/black and blue/silver combinations that are so popular right now. As it sits now there are even memory modules out on the market that have yellow LEDs with black heatshields to further enhance the look of the system. Pushing even further you have the availability of custom cooling fluids that can be used to finish off that fully integrated yellow and black themed PC.
So what does all this cost you? Currently the Z77 OC Formula comes in at a competitive $229 that puts it right between some of the boards in the target market. Any which way you go ASRock has stepped up the performance potential to go with the quality enhancements that should allow this board to serve in either a daily driver or as the back bone of a dedicated benchmarking rig. To that end the Z77 OC Formula was used to bump the Core i7 3770K frequency record to 7136.4MHz only to be eclipsed shortly thereafter. You get a board that can deliver results and long term reliability, a comprehensive software bundle and a board that screams "LOOK AT ME." Again, ASRock impresses with the Z77 OC Formula.
- Performance tuned
- Build process
- Twin-Power Cooling
- Features and Tools
- XFast 555
- CrossfireX and SLI support
- Aluminum cooling pipe