ASRock Z77 Formula Motherboard
In case you skipped over the package; it's again worth mentioning that we got a chance to hang out with Chris and Nick over at the ASRock headquarters in Taipei who gave us a 15 minute video rundown on the board and package. If you want to hear from the man behind the board then I highly recommend checking out the video.
Looking at the board in my lab I again get that instant feeling that we're looking at Bumblebee from the Transformers thanks to the yellow and black color scheme that is present throughout. If someone told me that they had a yellow and black motherboard coming I'd probably give a bit of a "WTF" look as it's not a color combination you'd expect to see, but when you look at the board, it overall looks great, and it's certainly different.
Overall, though, the design looks great and it really stands out in a market which is mainly flooded with black and red motherboards when it comes to performance options. Anyway let's take the time to move in a bit closer to see what's going on with the board today and see what features stand out.
As we move into the board the first thing that I love to see is the fact that ASRock have chosen to completely ignore the older legacy PCI slots; instead they've opted for three PCIe x16 slots and two PCIe x1 slots. Being a Z77 motherboard means that not all x16 slots run at x16 electronically, though. If you're using just one card in the top slot, it will run at x16. If you go down the dual card path then you're looking at 8x / 8x and if you add a third card into the mix that will be running at 4x per slot.
As we move across the bottom of the board we've got the HD Audio connector on the left followed by a COM1 port and next to that a Molex plug for people who will be making use of SLI or CrossFire. Continuing across we've got a fan header, IR, USB 2.0, another fan header, more USB 2.0 and a great looking power and reset button.
Turning the corner you can see we've got a total of 10 SATA ports with the four black ones being SATA II and running off the Intel controller. The two yellow ones that are closes to them also run of the same Intel controller but are instead SATA III. The final four yellow ports are also SATA III, but run off the Marvell SE9172 controller. What I really like is that ASRock have clearly labeled the ports. When using SATA III you'd always want to use the Intel controlled ones and you can see the four left SATA III ports are labeled with an "M" in the name so you know they're the Marvell controlled ones.
As we start to head north you can see we've actually got a lot going on. We've got the typical four DIMM slots which support up to 32GB of DDR3 memory ranging from 1066MHz to 3000MHz DDR+ via overclocking. Below that starting from the left we've got two fan headers and a USB 3.0 header.
Continuing to move across we've got the main 24-pin ATX power connector and next to that V-Probe points which give the ability to get exact voltage readouts on certain areas. Next to that we have Rapid OC buttons which allow overclocking on the fly. We've also got the LED Debug reader and below that we've got switches that allow us to enable and disable PCIe slots. This is something a lot of people probably won't use, but it does allow you to be able to figure out which card is faulty without the need to plug and unplug cards. It also allows you to disable a video card say if you weren't gaming, hence saving power.
Around the corner you can see the normal 8-pin CPU power connector and next to that you can see a 4-pin one. This is for people who are going to be doing extreme overclocking. The dual power design helps make sure the power is super stable under the most extreme situations. A lot of people won't need to make use of it unless you're venturing into LN2-speed territory.
Around the CPU area you can see we've got a pretty hardcore cooling setup. We've got barbs here for anyone who wants to make use of water cooling and along with that we've also got active cooling to help keep the area around the CPU nice and cool. You can also see gold caps which look awesome and overall we've just got a really mean looking CPU area which is ready for the business of overclocking.
Finally we finish with the I/O side of things and you can see we've got a combo PS/2 port, six USB 3.0 ports, clear CMOS switch, HDMI out, gigabit networking running off the Broadcom BCM57781 controller and finally five auxiliary ports and an optical out which run off the Realtek ALC898 audio codec.
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