ASRock is another company that seems to be reworking their image. In the past few years they have moved from being an entry level company to one that designs and manufactures some high-end hardware. One of their newest motherboards to hit the market is the Fatal1ty P67 Professional.
This board was co-developed with the help of Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel. For those of you that do not know who this is, Fatal1ty got his start in the late 1990s playing games like Quake III Arena. He was one of a group of people that helped to bring professional gaming into the "real world". He also has his own line of gaming gear and has co-branded with several companies in his career.
So just what would an up and coming motherboard manufacturer and a professional gamer put together? How about a motherboard with Three-Way SLI, Dual GBe (Gigabit Ethernet) ports, HD audio, a 1000MHz USB port for advanced mouse accuracy, and of course, some great overclocking potential.
But is this all something that the enthusiast and gamer will want? Or is it all hype and marketing? - We are going to find out now.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
If you have read any of my reviews before, you'd know that I sometimes can go into the psychology of the images and other marketing materials on the box. After all, it is the first impression (other than reviews of course) the customer gets of a product in your traditional box store.
For the ASRock Fatal1ty P67 Professional the first thing I thought was "wow, it is really red". After that I sort of chuckled at the pretentious image of Fatal1ty on the front of the box. Those two things aside, the box actually looks pretty clean.
Under the smirking image of Fatal1ty we find...the story of Fatal1ty. Ok, that was a little much for me, but it is ok, as I have a feeling most of you will not read the whole thing either. Do not get me wrong here; Fatal1ty has done very well and I doubt I would last too terribly long in a head to head game with him, but it is a little much.
Fortunately, underneath this tale is some more important information. More specifically, we find out that the Fatal1ty P67 has a digital PWM module, a 16+2 phase setup for CPU power and gold caps. We also get some detail on just what the Fatal1ty Mouse port is.
If you are not interested in all of that, you can always just glance the other way and get a nice look at the Fatal1ty motherboard.
The back of the box is a little more subdued and also offers a decent diagram of the board. Of course, ASRock would not miss out on a chance to show off a few more features (or even the same ones twice).
After you remove the outer box and then open the inner box, we find a very nice selection of accessories. There are the usual cables (including a couple that are labelled as "Designed for SATA3") power connectors, manuals, driver discs and even a USB 3 break out box that has room for a 2.5-inch drive (perfect for an SSD).
It is really not a bad haul at all.
Umm...anyone else having a moment of Dejà vu? I know I am just from looking at this board. But all that aside, I have to admit the board is pretty good looking. It has a flash combination of colors with the black PCB, gold caps and red pretty much everywhere else.
Starting off in the upper right hand corner of the board (as it would look mounted in a case), we find the RAM slots in the typical spot. The 24-Pin ATX power connector is up here also and a legacy PATA port as well.
The area around the CPU socket is also pretty clean with what looks like some serious trace tuning going from the CPU to the RAM. In case you did not know, ASRock has made sure that you will never forget that this is the Fatal1ty Profess1onal P67. The emblems are all around the CPU socket. The gold capacitors also stand out quite nicely here.
The 8-pin aux connector is in a little bit of an awkward place still, but manageable. One thing we do want to point out (and this might just be our board); the Fatal1ty signature emblem was coming off and had to be remounted after I bumped it. I would recommend checking these before you mount this board in your case.
The peripheral slots are well laid out and appear to be aimed at the high-end gamer. After all, you have a single PCIe x1 slot above the primary PCIe x16 slot and then two more double spaced PCIe x16 slots below that. Unfortunately you are not going to get dual or three-way x16 here. If you run a single GPU in the primary slot you get full x16 there. With any other PCIe card in the other x16 mechanical slots this drops back to x8. If you try to run Three-way SLI or Crossfire you end up with dual x8 and one x4. At that point you have to wonder if it is worth the extra effort (to have three GPUs).
Now that we have made it all the way around the board, we find a pair of board mounted power and reset switches, diagnostic LEDs, ten SATA ports (six SATA 3.0 and four SATA-II). The Cougar Point MCP is covered by a large heatsink which is topped with Fatal1ty's logo (just in case you forgot).
The I/O ports on the back look fairly normal. There is one item that is not normal. If you look at the red USB ports and in particular the top one you will find something out of the ordinary, even if it looks mundane. This is the Fatal1ty mouse port; it is supposed to operate at a 1000MHz polling rate which should get you very smooth mouse movements. Well, that is if your mouse supports that. We will talk a little more about this port and how well it works later.
The ASRock Fatal1ty P67 Professional motherboard uses the new EFI (Enhanced Firmware Interface) for its BIOS. It gives it a little more flare and accessibility. Of course, you have Fatal1ty staring at you with his little smirk from every page, but after a while you really do not notice.
The OC Tweaker page is nice, but I found that the scroll wheel on the mouse did not work all the time on this page. I ended up using the arrow keys to move or clicking on the up and down buttons on the page. Still, there are more than enough controls here to keep you busy and to give you the best performance out of the hardware you have installed.
All the way at the bottom of the OC Tweaker page you will find a few slots to save your favourite configurations so you can quickly bounce back between overclocks as needed.
On the Fatal1ty the Advanced page seems to have all of the seldom used options. This is ok as it keeps the overclocking pages clean and all of the other tools centrally located for easy use.
You can tinker with everything from the Northbridge controls to the Storage Configuration.
The ASRock still has all of the monitoring you are used to as well as a nice boot sequence page.
In all the BIOS is clean and well laid out. I was not happy with the background image as I feel it makes the information hard to read at times. Still, that is something that I can overlook as it does not affect performance at all (it is just a little tacky).
The Fatal1ty was as easy to overclock as just about every other Sandy Bridge motherboard. In many ways it was even easier. All I did to get the overclock we had was to select 4.8GHz from the optimized OC settings in the BIOS. From there I was off and running. Unfortunately I was not able to push up to 4.9GHz or adjust the BCLK with much success. I ended up having to be happy with 4.8GHz (which is still nothing to thumb your nose at).
You can see the CPUz validation here.
ASRock's overclocking/system utility is called F-Stream Tuning. It is a fairly decent utility as far as they go. One thing I really do like is that you can choose to auto run it at start up, but it is not setup that way by default. The first page you come to when you do launch the program is the Hardware Monitor page. Not really much to talk about here. It is well laid out and contains most of the information you would want at a glance.
Next up is the fan control page. I always find these types of utilities interesting. On the one hand I know that people want to be able to set fans to run only when needed to reduce the amount of noise they have to put up with. On the other, I keep thinking that this is an enthusiast and overclockers board; wouldn't you want the fans cooling at their max capacity? No matter your tastes, you have direct control over the CPU fan headers (both of them as a set, but not independent) and also three case or chassis fans.
The overclocking tools in the F-Stream utility are on the light side. You get most of the basics, but the voltages are limited as are the options for the CPU. There is no advanced mode, so if you want to do things differently you will have to head back into the BIOS.
One item that I found to be an issue was the Fatal1ty mouse port. No matter what mouse I plugged in, I still got this error.
The power management page is...interesting. It has a large green button that you click to turn it on. I am not sure I would have done it quite that way, but it works.
As all overclocking results are dependent on the hardware you use, your results may vary. Results of our overclocking tests are included in the performance section with the stock scores.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Comments
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: ASRock, ASUS, Intel, Corsair and Sceptre.
The install of the ASRock Fatal1ty P67 Professional went well. It was quick and painless. But then again, that is the way most motherboard installs go these days. The installer was a little garish and hard to look at, but despite that, it worked very well.
One interesting and annoying piece of software was the XFast USB application. Every time you plugged in a USB device it asked you to unplug it and then plug it in again. It is designed to increase the speed of the USB device plugged into it, but truth be told, I did not see any difference between it running and not.
The last thing that caught my attention was the THX software. For some reason we could not get the software to register no matter what we tried. It continued to tell us it could not register.
Synthetic Tests - Part I
With any system you will want to see a combination of synthetic testing and real-world. Synthetics give you a static, easily repeatable testing method that can be compared across multiple platforms. For our synthetic tests we use Finalwire's AIDA64, Sisoft Sandra, Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage and PCMark Vantage, Cinebench as well as HyperPi. Each of these covers a different aspect of performance or a different angle of a certain type of performance.
Memory is a big part of current system performance. In most systems slow or flakey memory performance will impact almost every type of application you run. To test memory we use a combination of Sisoft Sandra, AIDA64 and HyperPi 0.99.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2011
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Buy It Here
The memory performance on the Fatal1ty is about on par with the other P67 boards we have tested. It is not the fastest of the bunch, but the differences are measured in the .0x range, so it is nothing that you would see in daily use. This means that unless we see a drop in HDD speed, we should have very good performance for rendering, transcoding and other general use.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here
Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.
AIDA64 shows us that the Fatal1ty has good memory and cache performance.
Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Download It Here
HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.
For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.
The Fatal1ty was a little slower than we expected here. The board seems to have an issue with transferring the information from the CPU to Memory, to HDD and back again. This gave us times that were much slower than the other P67 boards in our test group. We certainly hope this is not a trend.
Synthetic Tests - Part II
Disk Drive Controller
The system drive controller is an important part of system performance. In most modern boards your drive controller will run off of the PCI-e bus. The PCI-e bus performance can be affected by poor trace layout as well as many other design choices that show up on different boards.
For testing we use Sisoft's Sandra and AIDA64.
Well, we see that HDD speed was not the issue for our HyperPi scores. The performance here is about on par with the other boards in the group.
We get the same picture from another angle with AIDA64.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
Buy It Here
For overall system performance we use PCMark Vantage. This is run in both x86 and x64 mode to give the best indication of performance.
PCMark Vantage seems to show us that the Fatal1ty would be good for general purpose computing. The numbers here are at the top of the pack for stock testing while our overclocking gets the Fatal1ty second place.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com
Buy It Here
For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark 11. This is a test that strives to mimic the impact modern games have on a system. Futuremark went a long way to change from the early days of graphics driven tests to a broader approach including physics, AI and more advanced graphics simulations. 3DMark V11 uses the DX11 API in addition to having support for CPU based Physics. Gone are the days of the PhysX inclusion giving you inflated scores.
This slightly cluttered table shows us that the Fatal1ty (a motherboard named after and endorsed by a Pro Gamer) can hold its own under stock conditions, but quickly falls behind when you push it. The difference here is not extreme, but it is something we will keep an eye on during our real-world gaming tests.
Cinebench R11. x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5 x64
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: www.maxon.net
Download It Here
Cinebench is a synthetic rendering tool developed by Maxon. Maxon is the same company that developed Cinema4D, another industry leading 3D Animation application. Cinebench R11.5 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.
As is now typical on the P67 based systems we are testing, the Cinebench R11.5 scores are really too close to call a "winner". All of these boards should perform pretty close to each other when rendering single frames using this application.
Real-World Tests - Part I
Real-world testing allows us to see how well a product will perform when used in the same manner as it would be in your house or office. It is an important side to performance testing as it can uncover hidden glitches in the way a product performs.
It is especially true when testing a mainboard; there are so many components of a board that have to interact that any problems between parts can cause a failure of the whole.
For real-world testing we use some common applications and functions. We test with LightWave 3D for rendering performance, AutoGK for transcoding from DVD to AVI and two games for gaming testing.
Rendering of 3D Animation is a system intensive endeavor. You need a good CPU, memory and HDD speed to get good rendering times. For our testing we use LightWave 3D. This software from Newtek is an industry standard and has several pre-loaded scenes for us to use.
Version and / or Patch Used: 9.6
Developer Homepage: http://www.newtek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/
Buy It Here
When you look at the results here you might think that this is like the Cinebench Scores; after all, the boards are very close in terms of performance. Normally I would say you are right, but in the case of LightWave 3D it is not often that you are rendering a single frame or a single object. Your typical render is multiple frames across a scene (usually hundreds or thousands of frames). As this number adds up the time difference of even a single second can be huge. After all, a difference of one second means one minute over 60 frames and the typical 30 second commercial has between 840 and 960 frames.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55
Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Download It Here
AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.
The Fatal1ty did well during our transcoding testing; at least it did at stock speeds. Once we pushed the CPU things seemed to drop off rather quickly. This is similar to what we saw with our 3DMark 11 testing and while a cause for concern, can probably be corrected with some additional BIOS work.
Real-World Tests Part II
Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose uses multiple cores and GPUs. They are able to stress the system through use of good AI. Both have decent positional audio that adds impact to the sound subsystem of the board. We ran each game through the level or parts listed and recorded frame per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.
*** A word on gaming as a motherboard test; ***
Despite the fact that most games are very GPU limited, we are still noticing HDD and even audio creating issues in gaming performance. Because of this you may see differences in the number of frames rendered per second between different boards. Usually the difference is very small but occasionally, because of bad tracing, poor memory or HDD performance this difference is significant. The issues are often more prevalent in older versions of DirectX but can still pop up in DX10 and 11.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (DX9)
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: First combat until the school is cleared
Developer Homepage: http://www.infinityward.com
Product Homepage: http://modernwarfare2.infinityward.com
Most of you know about the game Modern Warfare 2, it caused quite a bit of controversy in the latter half of 2009. The game is a first person shooter with a heavy combat emphasis. It follows the events in the first Modern Warfare very closely and brings back several characters from the original. As with most games in the Call of Duty franchise it features a heavy AI load. This is not because of a complex AI routine, but more due to the sheer number of enemies in any given combat situation. It is also our single DX9 based game in our testing suite. Settings are shown below.
Ok, this one is hard to call. I really expected the Fatal1ty to stand out in gaming. While the numbers are close and at the frame rates we see here you really would not complain (after all, at 84 FPS minimum you are beyond what the eye can detect), still I am a little disappointed.
Far Cry 2 (DX10)
Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: Clearing the Safe house through to the Rescue
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com
Product Homepage: http://farcry.us.ubi.com
Far Cry 2 is a large sandbox style game. There are no levels here so as you move about the island you are on you do not have to wait for the "loading" sign to go away. It is mission driven so each mission is what you would normally think of as the next "level". In the game you take the role of a mercenary who has been sent to kill the Jackal, unfortunately your malaria kicks in and you end up being found by him. Long story short, you become the errand boy for a local militia leader and run all over the island doing his bidding. Settings we used for testing are shown below.
Here we have something of a comeback. The Fatal1ty does well at Far Cry 2. We see minimum frame rates higher than the other boards in the group. It is still very close and we doubt you would see the difference when you looked at them, but it is nice to see the Fatal1ty out in front.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 (DX11)
Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: From washing up on the beach to the mine fields.
Developer Homepage: http://www.ea.com/
Product Homepage: http://badcompany2.ea.com/
Battlefield Bad Company is another sequel and also another game "franchise". Bad Company 2 is also our DX11 Shooter game. The game follows a fictitious B company team on a mission to recover a Japanese defector. This puts you back in World War II (at least for the beginning of the game) while the multi-player game is centered on much more modern combat. For our testing we used the single player mode. Settings are shown below.
Again the Fatal1ty does well. It is within 1-2 FPS of the top spot in our group. This is a nice comeback after the Modern Warfare2 testing.
Gaming tests for motherboards and CPUs are always going to be tough to call. Unless the motherboard manufacturer does something really wrong there should not be any performance issues from that end. After all, when you are running at 1920 x1080 and above the GPU takes over. Still, it is nice to see that the Fatal1ty does not have any hidden issues that would hinder your gaming performance.
During our time with it we did not note any issues with audio or network performance. Although we do suspect that if you are an avid gamer you might end up dropping in a different audio card, the on-board CODEC is still pretty good.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
The ASRock Fatal1ty P67 Professional does quite well with power consumption. I have to say that I am very impressed. Even overclocked we see very good power efficiency.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboard; this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
Heat is also well within acceptable limits. Of course, with the massive board level cooling it should be.
Ok, during this review I have given the Fatal1ty a hard time for the branding and some of the gimmicks. I do think that ASRock and Fatal1ty have gone a little overboard with some of the images and the color scheme is a little too much at times, but still, the Fatal1ty is a solid performer - that much can't be denied.
ASRock does have some work to do on fine tuning the overclocking performance on the board (nothing some changes in the BIOS can't fix, though) and need to correct the THX driver activation issue along with the Fatal1ty mouse port problem. However, these two items do not take away from what you are really getting and that is a good gaming platform with some extras on the side. The dual GBe LAN ports with an option for Teaming, three-way SLI or Crossfire, and excellent power efficiency and cooling all go to add value to this board.
While we have been unable to find pricing on this product yet, we expect to see it priced reasonably (in line with ASRock's usual pricing scheme). If that is the case, we would certainly recommend this.