ASRock Z77 OC Formula Reviewccokeman - October 30, 2012
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ASRock has implemented an UEFI BIOS from AMI with GUI support on the Z77 OC Formula that has eight separate areas to explore. The BIOS and backup are contained on 64MB ICs that support the "Plug and Play" standards, ACPI 1.1 Compliance for wake up events, offers SMBIOS 2.3.1 support as well as a full spectrum of voltage adjustments including those for the CPU Core, IGPU, DRAM, PLL, VTT, and VCCSA. Visually the BIOS on the ASRock OC Formula is similar yet a departure from the look seen on the Extreme series. The BIOS is interactive with stars flashing against the background as well as the use of sounds. As each section is selected the selection icon lights up while the remainder are more subdued. The overclocking section of the BIOS is as complete as any on the market with all the tools at your disposal from CPU overclock and module specific memory presets used to enhance the experience.
The Main page contains information on the installed components, the BIOS revision, time and date. The last option on the main page is the ability to set up which page the BIOS opens up to upon entry. In this case the option for the OC Tweaker page is selected.
This section is where the user will make the vast majority of adjustments when tweaking the performance of the system including the CPU, IGP and system memory. At the top of the page are a few preset options that allow the user to overclock the installed CPU and IGP with one click of the mouse. In the description window there is the obligatory warning that overclocking may damage your processor or installed components. The balance of the page includes the settings that are used to tune both performance and the voltage used to achieve that performance. Running at stock speeds means you can leave the majority of the settings alone.
CPU Configuration allows tuning of the bclock and clock multiplier ratio on K SKU CPUs, enable or disable Intel Turbo Boost and Speedstep, power limits and duration, and DRAM Timing Configuration allows for basic memory settings such as setting the DRAM frequency manually or by employing the XMP Profile on your installed modules. DRAM Configuration offers a more granular look at the memory timing configuration. Further down on the page are the voltage and LLC options for the CPU, DRAM, IGP, and associated hardware.
Saving profiles is one avenue to return to a specific setting package that can be used as a starting point for an overclocking session or for when you want a little more CPU power over and above what Intel's Turbo Boost 2 feature set allows. The ability to save specific hardware profiles is addressed in the User Profile section of the OC Tweaker menu. Each profile can be named so that the user has an idea as to what settings package will be used, be it a bone stock profile or an overly aggressive benchmark package.
Where this implementation differs from that GUI we saw on the Extreme 4 is there are system preset overclocks and memory timings that are tweaked by ASRock's in-house overclocking guru and legend Nick Shih. The preset overclocks range from a mild Stage 0 that is essentially the factory clock speed when using Intel Turbo Boost technology on up the an LN2 friendly 5.5Ghz The latest BIOS at the time of testing is 1.42g that includes some additional changes to the BIOS under the DRAM configuration tab. Specifically the inclusion of a DRAM SPD display that can be looked at by module. DRAM Presets sets up the BIOS to use hand tweaked settings for specific module types at specific speed points. There are presets for PSC, Hynix B/CFR, Samsung and Elpida BBSE based modules.
Under this section are a lot of options that affect the functionality of the motherboard and installed hardware. CPU Configuration is another way to get to the specific CPU parameters that govern how the CPU operates including both power savings, how many cores are active as well as the bclock muliplier. Northbridge configuration is to setup the configuration of the IGP and discrete GPU operating parameters. Audio and on board device configuration is under the Southbridge configuration tab. Storage configuration is where you will configure the method with which the attached storage will operate. USB support is where you can enable or disable support for USB 2.0 and 3.0 connections. At the bottom under the configuration tabs are options to flash the BIOS from an attached storage drive or to search the web.
In this section you can enable or disable the sounds in the BIOS, manage internet curfews and access via the Online Management Guard, and update the BIOS using the instant flash tool or by finding an update online. The Dehumidifier function is enabled in this section to help keep the board dry in humid environments.
In this section you can observe the operating temperatures of the installed processor and motherboard as it sits in the BIOS. Voltages can be monitored for the 12v, 5V and 3.3v lines to give the user an indication that something may be wrong on the supply side. Fan speeds can be monitored in this tab along with setting up a fan profile for each of the fans attached to the fan headers. Each of the motherboard's sensors can be checked in this section. The last option is the temperature protection setting for the CPU and is a way to prevent the system from overheating by setting a defined temperature that will shut down the system to prevent damage to the installed components.
In this section you set the boot order of the attached storage devices and in which order the devices are polled. Enabling or disabling the full screen manufacturer's logo in place of the POST screen is an option as is enabling boot from LAN.
Security & Exit:
The Security tab is used to set both a user and administrator password for access to the BIOS; useful for those of us with kids who think they know everything about computers. The Exit function tab is where you can revert back to factory default settings should your chosen settings prove a little aggressive and you forgot to save the best profile under the User Profile section of the OC Tweaker menu.
After working through ASRock's latest UEFI build it is as smooth and seamless as any on the market. Using a mouse through each of the menus is without any lag or loss of directional control that you find in some of the BIOS' out there. The obvious impact of having an overclocking legend tune the BIOS has paid off with a well though out and functional BIOS.