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ASRock Z77 OC Formula (Intel Z77) Motherboard Review

Just coming off its world record run, we check out the ASRock Z77 OC Formula mobo built from the ground up by Taiwanese overclocker, Nick Shih.
@TweakTown
Published Tue, Sep 18 2012 9:55 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 97%Manufacturer: ASRock

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 44 IMAGES

When I first saw the ASRock Z77 OC Formula the first thing I thought of was Bumblebee from the Transformers thanks to the black and yellow color scheme which is something that we haven't seen a company use before.

If there was one thing we ever wanted to say it's that Nick Shih's ability was clearly wasted when at Antec, a world famous overclocker at a case and PSU company? No offence to Antec, it just didn't make sense. When we got word that he had been picked up by ASRock it was really exciting as we felt that Nick was finally going to get a chance to flex his overclocking muscle that he is so well known for.

It felt like it was going to only be a matter of time till we saw Nick release his own board and that time has come and in the form of the ASRock Z77 OC Formula which we saw just break the overclock record which was actually only just recently set by GIGABYTE and its new Z77X-UP7.

As always there are a whole lot of things we need to do before we get into the performance side of things. First we'll start off with the box and then move inside to see what's going on with the package. Once we've done that we'll move onto the board itself and have a closer look at what's going on before we move into the BIOS to see what ASRock are offering us here. Next we look at our testbed and then look at the overclocking side of things which is one of the areas we're most excited about looking at before we get into the performance side of things.

Package

Normally we'd jump straight into the package, but a few weeks ago we got the opportunity to have a chat with Chris and Nick over at the ASRock office here in Taiwan and they gave us an excellent rundown on both the package and the board in a 15 minute video that we'd highly recommend you check out if you'd like to hear more about the board from the man behind the design - you can watch it above. Of course if you'd rather just go through the pictures and text, we'll get into that right now.

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Starting with the front of the box we don't actually have that much going on with just the brand, name and model and a couple of logos. The front looks super simple and clean and overall is a good indication of what ASRock is going for here; drop some of the flair and just get into what's important.

Opening up the box we can see that the top part highlights the three key sections that ASRock are going for with the Power Kit, Connector Kit and Cooling Kit. They then break each section down with the key features including the 12 + 4 Power Phase Design, Premium Allow Choke, Multiple Filter Cap, Dual Stack Mosfet and Digi Power for the Power Kit. The Connector Kit consists of 15u Gold Fingers and Hi-Density Power Connectors while the Cooling Kit consists of Twin Power Cooling, 8 Layer PCB and GELID GC-Extreme Thermal Compound.

What I really like about all this, though, is that ASRock don't only just throw a bunch of marketing jumbo at us, they then help break everything down in plain English to let us know what exactly all this means for you and how it helps. Again; if you're interested in knowing more I highly recommend you check out the embedded video above.

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Moving to the bottom part of the box you can see our first peak at the motherboard. We then also see some of the other main features that are on offer and again just like we saw in the top half of the box ASRock helps break everything down in plain English, which is fantastic.

Turning the box over we don't have a whole lot of information. We've got a picture of the board and a run down again on some of the main features that are mentioned. It's not near the same detail as we saw inside the box on the top half.

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Moving inside the box you can see we've got a fairly typical line up going on with a bunch of paperwork covering the software and board. We've also got a run down on the XFast 555 technology that ASRock use along with VirtuMVP. We've also got an extra piece that covers the board and the main specifications. Normally we'd see this on the back of the box but instead you can see that ASRock have chosen to include it inside this time.

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Along with that you can see the rear I/O shield, two Molex to SATA connectors, SLI bridge, six SATA cables, some GELID GC-Extreme Thermal Compound, a sticker and some little stands that can be installed on the motherboard so it can be placed on your desk without needing any kind of case or stand.

We've also got the fairly typical USB 3.0 header kit that we see on ASRocks' higher end boards along with an I/O plate if you don't want it in the front of the case and instead would prefer to see it in the back of your case.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

BIOS

Getting into the BIOS you can see that we've got a new design which looks absolutely awesome. What I love, though, is that when you get into the BIOS the default page is the OC Tweaker one. We did just go back to the "Main" page to start taking screenshots. You can see, though, you can set what you want the first page to be on entry and as you can see by default it is the "OC Tweaker" one.

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Getting into the "OC Tweaker" section the Nick Shih's OC Profile section I absolutely love. Clicking the profile you're given a bunch of preset speeds that range all the way up to over 5GHz for LN2 overclockers. We'll talk a bit more about how we went with it in the next page, but what I love about this is you can go to a certain speed; say 4.7GHz and it sets all the voltages up and so froth that you need to reach that overclocked speed. What it does is then gives you this really good starting point, from there you can then tweak the voltages a bit more, the BCLK and other sections like that to find a strong overclock. Obviously Nick and other ASRock engineers have spent many hours figuring all of this out for you.

This is something I wish more companies offered and the only other company we've seen really do it is ASUS who had "Gamer Profiles" and that which would boost your CPU speed. It's clear going through the "OC Tweaker" section of the BIOS, though, that Nick has built this board for overclocking, and it really shows.

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As we move further through the "OC Tweaker" section you see a huge line up of options with a massive focus on voltages. You can tweak just so many areas on the board that it comes as no surprise to us that Nick was able to break the world record with the 3770K.

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As we move through the rest of the BIOS we don't see anything that's too out of the ordinary. The H/W Monitor section has an absolute load of temperature points, as you can see 10 points around the motherboard, but apart from that everything else is fairly standard.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital, MemoRight and Corsair.

Looking above you can see our testbed and we won't go into any real detail as everything is really covered above. Instead we'll get into the overclocking side of things to see just how we went with our Intel 3770K CPU today.

We have a good idea what our 3770K is capable of which is around the 4.7GHz mark with Corsair H100 cooling. But I thought we'd go for the 4.8GHz profile and straight away we booted without an issue. Unfortunately when it was time to get into Windows we just couldn't and found ourselves greeted with a black screen.

It's clear that our 3770K doesn't want to get into the 4.8GHz range so we just jumped to the 4.7GHz profile which we had hoped wouldn't run into any problems. As we assumed we ran into no problems at all and got into Windows straight away.

We ended up heading back into the BIOS and started to mess around with the BCLK to see if we could get much more out of it, but unfortunately we didn't have a whole lot of luck. We got into Windows around the 4.77GHz mark, but ran into problems when we started benchmarking under Media Espresso, which is known to show stability issues with overclocking.

ASRock Z77 OC Formula (Intel Z77) Motherboard Review 01 | TweakTown.com

Looking above you can see we ultimately end up with a fairly even 4.7GHz overclock. I think the one piece of information that has to be noted, though, is that this is the easiest 4.7GHz overclock we've ever achieved. All we did was load Nick's profile and we got ourselves up and running in Windows without a single issue.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

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.

ASRock Z77 OC Formula (Intel Z77) Motherboard Review 30 | TweakTown.com

AIDA64

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.

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ASRock Z77 OC Formula (Intel Z77) Motherboard Review 32 | TweakTown.com

Out of the box performance is pretty standard as you'd expect with all our Z77 boards lining up quite closely to each other. Overclocked you of course see a nice boost in performance as you'd expect with good gains seen.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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Looking at PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso performance you can see out of the box performance lines up just as you'd expect. Overclocked, though, we again see some really nice gains and what's great about these benchmarks is that you see some real-world improvements with the overclock as over three minutes is shaved off the MediaEspresso encode time.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

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.

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Looking at USB performance we can see that USB 3.0 performance lines up as you'd expect.

As for USB 2.0 performance you can see we come out a little faster thanks to that XFast technology that ASRock has implemented.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

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.

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HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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Checking out SSD performance there's no real surprises. We've got pretty strong performance that does line up with our other ASRock offerings. Like more often than not, though, we do see very strong performance from those ASUS boards.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

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.

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On the RAM side of things you can see again our Z77 systems perform so close to each other. Again when we overclock we see a nice boost in performance with the best gains being seen in the write department.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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When it comes to the gaming side of things you're not in for any real surprises. Looking at 3DMark 11 we can see a bit of a boost when overclocked under the Performance preset while across the board under Metro 2033 we see a couple of extra FPS.

Temperature and Power

Power Consumption

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Even though focused on performance you can see out of the box the power draw isn't really any higher than our other Z77 boards. Load numbers are also extremely similar between our setups.

The only time we see a change is when we overclock which comes as no surprise.

Core Temperature

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Looking at temperature numbers you can see out of the box they line up with our other Z77 boards for the most part. Overclocked we see them jump up, but at 82c, this is a fairly impressive load number as quite often we see boards get into the 90c area.

This probably has a lot to do with the fact that the settings are just perfect as they're designed by Nick himself via his profile.

Final Thoughts

ASRock with the help of its newest star recruit Nick Shih have put together a really strong performing motherboard here that really ticks all the right boxes. The first thing we've got to talk about is the overclocking side of things. We've never been able to overclock a board easier than this. Load up the profile you want and you can find what your CPU is capable of with ease.

I think the other massive shock comes in the pricing department and it's the good kind of shock. At $239.99 this is an extremely aggressively priced board. Considering the design and features behind it you'd really expect the price to be more expensive, especially when you compare it to the price of competing boards with the ASUS Maximus V Formula coming in at $279.99 and the upcoming GIGABYTE UP7 motherboard probably carrying with it a similar higher price tag.

On the bundle front we've got everything we need including the extra USB 3.0 header and the inclusion off the little bag which puts everything together in a nice little bundle, which again helps make it stand out from so many of the other Z77 boards we've looked at so far.

The area that I can't help but promote enough, though, is the profiles that Nick offers us. It just makes overclocking so much easier and really it's something that I'd love to see more and more companies offer. Especially when you consider the overclocking talent that companies like GIGABYTE and ASUS have on hand. By no means do we consider ourselves pro-overclockers (also a lot like our readers), but these profiles make life so much easier.

They're also such a massive step up from features like "OC Genie" which tend to just bump your CPU up to a fairly safe multiplier. Of course if you go to a profile that doesn't boot or get you in Windows then you can just clear the CMOS and try the next setting down.

While also on the profile side of things the other area that stands out is the BIOS which looks great. You can see that it's been changed slightly and looks good. When at ASRock we joked about the fact if Nick was going to have a picture of his face in the BIOS like someone else who works with ASRock, fortunately he chose not to go down that path.

If you're going for a strong overclock, a mild one or just want a motherboard that uses quality premium components, includes a good bundle and a strong feature set, this is a fantastic option from ASRock. And as always it comes in at an awesome price tag, an area where ASRock usually excels.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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