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ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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The very first Z270 motherboard that we reviewed was an ASRock model, the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6, to be specific. That model proved to be quite good, with well implemented features, an attractive design, and a very inticing price tag. There were a few early release software niggles, but nothing show stopping, and they couldn't overshadow the good will that was accrued by the inclusion of a $30 SLI HB Bridge in the accessories bundle. Since that first review, we have tested a few Z270 motherboards from the Big Three manufacturers, and thought that it was time to take another peak at what ASRock had in their line-up.

Now for some odd reason, if you want to get the very best out of ASRock's product engineers you have to hand them a tiny 7" x 7" piece of PCB. That is the size of the mini-ITX form factor, and it is where the company does some of their best work. While the most drastic example of this is obviously the X99E-ITX/ac - the world's first and only X99 LGA2011-3 mini-ITX motherboard - they have really strived to make super compact motherboards with no serious compromises since the Z77 LGA1155 days. Thankfully, for this generation they did not have to start from scratch, since they already had the very well-liked Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac to improve upon when designing the brand new Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac, which we will be reviewing today.

At $170 USD, the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac competes in the same price category as many full-size mainstream Z270 motherboards, but few of those models have such distinguishing features as onboard 802.11ac Wi-Fi, HDMI 2.0, and fully-fledged Thunderbolt 3 support. When dealing with space constraints, you can either decide to leave features off or get clever with the design, and we love the fact that has gone the extra mile and actually added two novel features.

Speaking of features, when going over the specs list this motherboard doesn't disappoint anywhere. It has a chunky 8-phase CPU power design, high-quality 12K Japanese capacitors, one steel-reinforced PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, an impressive six SATA 6Gb/s ports, and one full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slot with Intel Optane support. It also has one high-speed USB 3.1 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 capabilities, six USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.0 header, one USB 2.0 header, and three PWM/DC fan headers.

When it comes to networking, there is one Intel-powered gigabit LAN port and the aforementioned onboard Wi-Fi, which is a dual-band Intel 802.11ac solution with MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.0, and a 2x2 external antenna. It even has a legit onboard audio solution, comprised of a Realtek ALC1220 codec, Texas Instruments op-amp, Nichicon audio-grade capacitors, six analog audio jacks and a digital S/PDIF output. Those who plan on utilizing Kaby Lake's integrated GPU will have the option of connecting their display via HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2 or even Thunderbolt 3 through the USB Type-C port. All three of those video outputs support 4K at 60Hz.

The last mini-ITX motherboard that we reviewed was the ASUS Maximus VIII Impact, and it wowed us with its overclocking capabilities. As we have discovered, having two memory slots and short traces between the CPU and the memory is a recipe for success. This Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac model shares those physical attributes, and it has been certified for memory speeds up to DDR4-4000, so that should be a solid indication that it will excel in the memory overclocking department. When it comes to CPU overclocking, hopefully this model is as capable as the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6, since that motherboard was able to hit 5Ghz using just the automatic presets.

At first glance, we really like what we are seeing with the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac. However, now it is time to see if things are as good in practice as they are on paper.

 

SKYMTL

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac's features and specifications, it is time to examine the packaging and then crack open the box to take a look at the bundled accessories. Let's check it out:



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Although it's not evident in these pictures, the box that the ASRock Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is packaged in is as small as you would expect at 9" x 7.25" x 3.25". Given the fact that it is a "Fatal1ty" model, it is no surprise that the box shares its aesthetics with that of the larger Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 that we reviewed earlier. The front of the packaging is still adorned with the usual array of badges and logos, the most prominent of which is obviously the Fatal1ty Gaming Gear designation - 'Fatal1ty' being the gamertag of former professional eSports player extraordinaire Johnathan Wendel - which has been exclusively licensed to ASRock for a number of years now, at least when it comes to motherboards.

The back of the box highlights the features and capabilities that make this particular model unique in some way, and as you can see ASRock certainly believes that there are a number of them. There is also a nice specifications list, as well as a handy diagram highlighting the connectivity on the rear I/O panel.



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When you open the packaging you are greeted with the motherboard - wrapped in an anti-static bag - and under a fancy cardboard flap are all of the accessories, manuals, installation CD, etc. Notwithstanding the Wi-Fi antenna, this model has a very basic accessories bundle as you will see below.



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The accessories bundle consists of the usual installation guide, software setup guide, driver & software DVD, as well as an ASRock sticker. There are also a nice colour-matching rear I/O shield, two SATA 6Gb/s cables, one M.2 slot screw, and a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth antenna. The antenna is of the a 2T2R variety, which means that it has 2 transmitter (T) and 2 receiver (R) antennas
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac

A Closer Look at the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac




The Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is a very small motherboard based on the Mini-ITX form factor. As such, it measures a tiny 6.7" by 6.7", which you can visualize as being almost half of a standard A4 sheet of paper. Despite this shortage of PCB space, ASRock have done a great job of shoehorning just about every feature that you would expect on a full-size motherboard. Although they did not have a ton of options when it came to creating a user-friendly layout, everything except for the four black SATA ports is where it should be. While the placement of those SATA ports looks troublesome, we will examine them more closely in the installation section.

When it comes to the motherboard's aesthetics, we really don't need to say much since by the time the CPU cooler, graphics card, and various cables are installed, it will be nearly completely hidden. So whether you love or hate the black and red colour scheme really shouldn't make a difference in the end.




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Giving the small amount of space that they had to work with, the CPU socket area on this motherboard is pretty clean. The two power chokes and the row of four capacitors are closer to the socket than we woud like, and as such the mounting hardware for your particular cooling solution will likely run over the top of them. This shouldn't be a problem as long as official clearances were abided by, as you will see in our installation section.

Despite its diminutive size, this motherboard has been outfitted with a beefy 8-phase CPU power design that utilizes an International Rectifier IR35201 digital PWM controller, Texas Instruments NexFET MOSFETs backed by Infineon IR3598 drivers, excellent higher current 60A power chokes, and Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors. Two of the phases are for the integrated graphics portion of the processor, and the remaining six are for everything else like the Vcore, VCCSA, and VCCIO. These are all real phases by the way, not merely "doubled up", which makes this one of the best VRMs that we've seen on a Z270 motherboard. The MOSFETs handling the CPU load are covered by a small heatsink with a heatpipe that is linked to the PCH cooler. Based on what we are seeing here, we have no doubt that this little motherboard can handle a Core i7-7700K running at a full 5Ghz.

This motherboard has two fan headers near the CPU socket and one next to the 8-pin CPU power connector. All three fan headers are fully controllable via both DC and PWM fan control modes from within the UEFI. One of the two CPU fan headers is a CPU-OPT fan header that supports water pumps with a maximum current draw of 1.5A.


As is the case with most Mini-ITX motherboards, this model only has two DDR4 memory slots, as well as a single phase RAM VRM. While that might limit the amount of RAM you can install to 32GB, it actually enhances the memory overclocking capabilities of the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac. Short traces between the CPU and the memory slots really help when it comes to handling very high memory frequencies, and because of this ASRock have certified this model for memory speeds up to DDR4-4000+. This is a claim that we will definitely be putting to the test in our overclocking section.

The 24-pin ATX power connector is exactly where it would be on any other motherboard, but to the left it is joined quite closely by the two SATA/single SATA Express port. Under that port is the USB 3.0 header, and next to that is the front panel header and the USB 2.0 header. We actually have no idea what the pins to the right of the ATX power connector are for, they are not found on the diagram in the manual, nor mentioned in the list of onboard headers. Free pins, hurray!


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While there are two SATA 6Gb/s ports next to the 24-pin ATX power connector, there are an additional four sandwiched between the chipset heatsink and the memory slots. All of these ports are supplied by the Z270 PCH and thus support RAID 0/1/5/10 plus Intel Rapid Storage Technology. Other than the fact that it fits nicely, we have no idea why ASRock bothered adding the SATA Express functionality, since that interface is dead as far as we are concerned.

What is certainly not dead is M.2, and ASRock have cleverly added one to the back of the motherboard. It is a full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 slot, with a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gb/s, and support for SATA, PCI-E, and PCI-E NVMe M.2 solid state drives. It also supports Intel's upcoming Optane technology. Because of a lack of room this slot can only handle 2280 form factor M.2 drives - which are 99% of the models on the market - and not the longer 22110, which measure 110 millimeters long instead of the usual 80mm.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac pt.2

A Closer Look at the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac pt.2



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As should be crystal clear by now, this motherboard has a single PCI-E x16 slot, which means that all of the processor's sixteen PCI-E 3.0 lanes are funneled towards it. The slot has been mechanically reinforced with a steel cover, as well as additional anchor points. Obviously, there is no SLI or CrossFire support, nor are there any PCI-E 3.0 switches since there is no need to divvy up lanes.

Directly above the PCI-E slot is where you will find the PCH heatsink, and well as the BIOS chip which is covered by the yellow sticker.


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This motherboard's onboard audio is based on the new Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel HD audio codec. The codec is accompanied by Nichicon Fine Gold Series audio-grade capacitors and a Texas Instruments N5532 op-amp, which serves as headphone amplifier for the front-panel headphone jack.

You will want to make sure that those two large capacitors to the left of the PCI-E slot are truly upright and not leaning inwards, because if they lean they could temporarily prevent you from installing a graphics card until you straighten them out. Ours were perfect, but we could definitely envision a scenario where they could pose an issue. As long as you are delicate, gently nudging the capacitors is super easy and shouldn't give you any serious anxiety.

There are a few small PCB isolation lines that surround the audio section, but obviously they don't circle the audio section completely. Given this fact, we would have liked to see an EMI cover over the codec, just in hopes of deflecting as much as electromagnetic interference (EMI) as possible and helping to preserve the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and thus ensure the highest possible signal quality.


Despite its small size, the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac has really nice assortment of ports on its rear I/O panel. Starting from left to right, there is a Clear CMOS button, WiFi/Bluetooth antenna connectors, a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, two USB 3.0 ports, a digital S/PDIF output, DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0 video outputs, USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 capabilities, a gigabit LAN port, and six analog audio jacks.

We cannot overlook the addition of Thunderbolt 3 to this motherboard since it adds support for 40Gbps Thunderbolt, USB 3.1 Gen2, and DisplayPort 1.2, all behind a single USB Type-C port. Thanks to the video output capabilities of Thunderbolt 3, when using onboard graphics that USB-C port can handle a 4K display at 60Hz. That port is also compatible with Power Delivery 2.0, and therefore it can output up to 36W (3A @ 12V) to power up to 6 daisy-chained devices. Overall, Thunderbolt 3 gives enthusiasts a ton of flexibility with regard to what they can do over a single future-proof cable.

The other highlight is obviously the inclusion of an HDMI 2.0 output. This is significant because when using Kaby Lake's integrated GPU, you will be able to output video at up to a maximum resolution of 4096 x 2160 at 60Hz. The HDMI 1.4b port found on typical LGA1151 motherboards only supports 4K at up to 24Hz. Since HDMI 2.0 is not yet natively supported by Intel on this platform, an aftermarket MegaChips MCDP2800BC controller is responsible for this added feature.

By the way, the USB 3.0 port directly under the PS/2 port is known as the Fatal1ty Mouse Port, which is supposed to help with smoother game play and faster response time. You simply plug your USB mouse into that port, open the included Mouse Polling utility, and you can adjust the mouse polling rate from 125 Hz to 1000 Hz.

The onboard Wi-Fi module supports both dual-band 802.11ac and Bluetooth v4.0. Although it is not mentioned anywhere in the official literature, the Device Manager clearly reveals that it is based on the proven Intel Wireless-AC 7265 adapter. This 2x2 solution supports wireless transfer speeds up to 867 Mbps and it is very well supported across a wide range of operating systems. We haven't yet made the leap to the 802.11ac standard, but our 802.11n connection was rock-solid courtesy of the clearly capable 2T2R antenna that ASRock included in the accessories bundle.

We would have perhaps liked for ASRock to have used the newer Wireless-AC 8265, but all you would be getting is Bluetooth 4.2 instead 4.0. Frankly, our main criticism is that we wish that Intel would flex their engineering muscles and create an 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip capable of transfer rates higher than 867 Mbps...




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So what's powering all these ports? Well there is a Intel I219-V gigabit LAN controller, a Texas Instruments TPS65982 USB Type-C/Power Delivery (PD) controller, a MegaChips MCDP2800BC DisplayPort1.2-to-HDMI 2.0 converter, and a Nuvoton NCT6791D Super I/O monitoring controller.



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Given the lack of available PCB space, it is understandable that there are quite a few ICs on the back of the motherboard, mostly related to the CPU VRM. We are glad to see that all the heatsinks are attached with metal screws, which is what we expect from a quality motherboard. You can also see the handful of small PCB isolation lines that surround the audio section, and protect it from electromagnetic interference (EMI).

Last, but certainly not least, the M.2 slot is also located on the back of the motherboard, as we mentioned on the previous page. Obviously, since this is such a small motherboard there was no great option when it came to mounting it topside.

 

SKYMTL

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.



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As mentioned in the previous section, given its compact size this motherboard has a fairly spacious CPU socket area, but the mounting hardware for any heatsink/liquid cooler will need to be installed over the capacitors and power chokes on the left side of the socket. As long the cooler manufacturer followed Intel's reference dimensions there should be no clearance issues.


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Unlike on most motherboards, we did not encounter any clearance issues between the memory modules and our CPU cooler, or more specifically its fan clips. The memory slots are offset downwards from edge just enough so that the fan clips didn't make contact with the heatspreaders. The clearances were extremely tight - one or two millimeters - but just enough to make it work.


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Surprisingly, there is a pretty good-sized gap between the clipless DDR4 memory slots and the back of the graphics card, so there is no need to take out the GPU before installing/removing memory modules. The 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin CPU power connector are both placed in their usual convenient location, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.


As you can see, a full-size graphics card will overhang the motherboard by quite a lot on the right side, and a little bit on the bottom edge as well. Investing in a mini variant of a graphics card would be wise if trying to build the smallest possible system.


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While the two SATA ports on the right side of the motherboard are easily accessibly no matter what, the other four ports are obviously more difficult to reach, especially if you install a large heatsink. We definitely think that round instead of flat SATA cables would be beneficial for a build given their greater flexibility.


Installing an M.2 SSD into the slot is a piece of cake, but obviously you will need to remove the motherboard in order to uninstall the drive from a fully built system. While that is not really convenient, especially if you have complex liquid cooling installed or did a bunch of cable management, it is the only way that ASRock could easily get an M.2 slot on this Mini ITX motherboard.


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We were able to install our Prolimatech Mega Shadow heatsink without running into any issues, but its large rear mounting bracket did come pretty close to one little solder point. This is the case on most motherboards, so nothing to worry about there.
 

SKYMTL

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


For this new generation, ASRock have created a new UEFI theme and a refreshed EZ Mode dashboard that presents multiple system status details in an easy to read format. What this means is that the UEFI is once again divided across two distinct modes. The EZ Mode is simplified and features a mouse-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) for basic tasks, while the Advanced Mode is still mouse-compatible but also has all the settings, options, and features that you could ever want. From within the Easy Mode you can switch to the Advanced Mode by pressing F6, and vice-versa to get back to the Easy Mode. Overall, the UEFI was very smooth and responsive, as we have come to expect now that UEFI has been around for a few years.




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The EZ Mode makes very good use of the graphical user interface (GUI) and was designed to be used with a mouse. It obviously does not have all the functionality of the Advanced mode, but it is not meant to. It simply gives novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings. First and foremost, the top-right corner shows CPU and motherboard temperatures, as well as CPU core voltage. The Fan Status feature can be found in both BIOS modes, but fundamentally it gives you very basic manual control over the CPU and systems fans. You can enable or disable RAID, as well as selecting which storage device to boot from. The CPU EZ OC button enables an automatic overclocking feature; you just click on the icon, save & exit, the system reboots and the overclock is applied. The Instant Flash feature allows you to update the UEFI via a USB flash drive, while the Internet Flash feature allows you to update directly from the internet. The System Browser button pops up a full diagram on the motherboard, and if you drag your cursor across the various parts of motherboard, some additional information about the ports or the installed components is listed. There is the FAN-Tastic Tuning feature which gives you full manual or preset-based control over the CPU and systems fans.


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The first section in the Advanced Mode is the Main tab, which displays some basic system information. This section lists some rudimentary specification info, including the BIOS date & version, the type of processor and the amount of memory installed. You can also access the My Favorite sub-menu, which allows you to have all your most useful or most used settings in one place, so you no longer have to search through the whole bios to find what you need time and time again.



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Next up is the OC Tweaker section, which is where all the fun happens. First and foremost, there is the Optimized CPU OC Setting, which is an automatic overclocking feature with four available options, ranging from Turbo 4.4Ghz to Turbo 5.0Ghz. You can check how effective this feature is in our Overclocking Results page. Next we have three sub-menu dedicated to the three key overclocking areas, namely the CPU, DRAM, and voltage. Once you have everything dialed in properly, ASRock have provided a means of saving those settings as a user profile, with up to five different profile slots available. You can also save those profiles to a storage device and share it with friends.



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The CPU Configuration sub-menu is where you will find all of the essential system clock control options: CPU multiplier with an all core and per core option, maximum and minimum cache multiplier, BLCK frequency, FCLK frequency, as well as the option to enable or disable Intel SpeedStep and Turbo Boost technology. You can also adjust the processor's current and power limits.



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As its name suggests, the DRAM Configuration section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can enable the XMP Profile, select the memory frequency, change the BCLK frequency, and obviously tweak all of the primary, secondary and tertiary memory timings. It had just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.


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The Voltage Configuration section is where you can adjust all of the primary and secondary system voltages. There are no drop-down options for the individual voltage options, but you can manually type in your desired voltage. There are also readouts for all of the voltages.
 

SKYMTL

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BIOS Rundown pt.2

BIOS Rundown pt.2




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The Advanced tab is where you can tweak countless settings and enable or disable all of the motherboard's components. The CPU Configuration sub-menu is where you can manipulate all the CPU-specific features like the Thermal Monitor, Hyper-Threading, Virtualization, SpeedStep, Turbo Mode, C-States, etc.









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The Advanced Tab is also where you can enable/disable or just find all the various settings and options for all the onboard devices like the integrated graphics, PCI-E link speed, onboard audio, LAN, Thunderbolt, USB ports, SATA ports, serial port, etc. As you can see, there is a bewildering and overwhelming array of settings and options here.





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The Tool tab is where you can find a bunch of the handy tools that ASRock have developed to make setting up the motherboard a little more user friendly. The System Browser button pops up a full diagram on the motherboard, and if you drag your cursor across the various parts of motherboard, some additional information about the ports or the installed components is listed.

The Online Management Guard allows the administrator the set a curfew or time restriction on the internet connection. The UEFI Tech Service feature allows users to send a help request directly to ASRock's tech support from within the BIOS. The Easy RAID and Easy Driver Installers simplify the job of installing drivers via the included DVD.

The Instant Flash tool allows you to update the UEFI from a storage device, while the Internet Flash is a unique feature that permits users to update the UEFI directly from the internet. Both are quick, painless, and take the worry out of BIOS flashing.



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The Monitor tab is mostly dedicated to monitoring the various voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. This whole section is really quite impressive, it has all the essential temperature and voltage readouts, as well as truly excellent and comprehensive fan control functionality.


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The Security tab is where you can set the Supervisor Password, as well as a subordinate User Password. By doing so, you can enable Secure Boot, as well as Intel's Platform Trust Technology.



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The Boot tab is essentially where you set storage device priority, select the boot drive, enable/disable Fast Boot or the full screen logo, and ton of other boot settings that can help with the installation or troubleshooting of various OS installations.


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You can either hit F10 key or enter the Exit tab in order to save your settings and exit the UEFI. We wish ASRock implemented oa pop-up window that lists the changes you made during the session. If and when you want to reset all the settings, the Load UEFI Defaults will obviously come in handy.
 

SKYMTL

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Included Software

Included Software


ASRock APP Shop


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The ASRock APP Shop is an all-in-one centralized hub for all the BIOS, drivers, and utilities that ASRock bundles/requires with their motherboards. It permanently resides in the notification area/icon tray in the right corner of your screen. Not only does it give you one location from which to open or even uninstall all motherboard-related pieces of software, but it also feature a Live Update feature that lets you know if the there's a new version of the software available.


ASRock F-Stream

For those users who like to tweak their systems, the most important and all-encompassing piece of software in ASRock's broad range of programs is the F-Stream software suite. This system management utility is the hub from which you can select performance or energy-saving modes, enable automatic overclocking of the CPU and/or GPU, allow users to manually adjust frequency and multiplier settings, monitor system clock speeds/temperatures/voltages and fan rotation speeds. You can also automatically set fan speeds based on temperatures. Lastly, there is a feature that allows users to contact tech support from within the app.


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The Operation Mode tab is where you can select between three modes that balance performance and power consumption. While the Normal and Power Saving modes are fairly self-evident, the Performance Mode is the most interesting since it features an Advanced sub-menu with a fair bit of performance settings. In this menu, you can enable automatic overclocking of the CPU and/or GPU via presets. This is also where you will find the Auto Tuning feature, which is a semi-intelligent approach to automatic overclocking. There aren't really any available options, you just need to click on the Start button and it starts the overclocking process at 3.4Ghz before slowly increasing to the next stage.


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The OC Tweaker tab is where you can manually adjust the BCLK frequency, as well as the CPU and cache multipliers. There is also an impressive eleven adjustable system voltages. You can adjust all these settings on-the-fly without having to reboot the system.


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The System Info tab is where you will find the Hardware Monitor, which displays some basic system frequencies, system temperatures and fan speeds, as well as a bunch of system voltages. The System Browser button pops up a full diagram on the motherboard, and if you drag your cursor across the various parts of motherboard, some additional information about the ports or the installed components is listed.


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The Fan-Tastic Tuning tab is, as you might expect, where you can fully manage and optimize the all CPU and system fans. While there are no preset options, you can manually adjust the fan speed curve to your preferences, or simply use the fully automated Fan Test feature.


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The Settings tab is limited to just enabling or disabling the auto-run on Windows startup option.


ASRock XFast LAN


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The XFast LAN utility is designed to help reduce latency courtesy of cFosSpeed traffic-shapping technology. It provides users with a lot of control and monitoring capabilities over every application that is accessing the network. It displays CPU usage, NPU usage, ICMP and UDP average ping, and the network utilization of every system process and program. This tool also allows you give priority to certain applications, and throttle or block others to free network resources for other applications. It is your one-stop tool for monitoring and controlling all network traffic, and it even comes with a little widget for real-time bandwidth information.

There are a couple of other applications available for download in the ASRock APP Shop utility, but obviously we can't test them all. Some are quite interesting though, like the ability to improve the charging rate of the USB ports, change the SATA controller mode, monitor storage device health, and more.
 
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SKYMTL

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Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



Key Master


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The Key Master is a user-friendly utility that allows for the easy programming of spider modes, macro keys, assigning of function keys, the tweaking of mouse and keyboard speeds, etc. There’s a even a little built-in game that allows you to see how well your mouse tweaks are working.


Fatal1ty Mouse Port


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Working in coordination with the Fatal1ty Mouse Port, the Mouse Polling app allows you to set the USB port’s polling rate from 125Hz all the way up to 1000Hz. Many gaming-focused mice already come with software that can do this, so definitely look for that on mouse manufacturer’s website.


Restart to UEFI


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The Restart to UEFI utility allows users to boot directly into the BIOS without having to repeatedly hit delete during the POST screen. It is a pretty hand tool when you are rebooting as often as overclockers tend to do.


Sound Blaster Cinema 3


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The Sound Blaster Cinema 3 software suite is a feature-rich app with a ton of effects and settings. There is the SBX Pro Studio tab which boasts features like a full-band equalizer, noise reduction capabilities, and allows for the tweaking of individual channel volume levels. There is also the SBX Surround feature, which enhances the soundstage for improved positional auditory cues in games. While a poor substitute for a multi-speaker surround sound configuration, when used in conjunction with a pair of good headphones it has the capability to provide a noticeable advantage that you would not normally get from ‘onboard’ sound solutions. This utility is mostly focused on music and movies, and is certainly not as gaming-oriented as the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 utility, but it is still a welcome addition.
 

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Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we are going to be testing the performance of the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac in four configurations: default settings @ DDR4-2133, default settings with XMP enabled (DDR4-3866), the highest automatic overclock, and our manual overclock. The components and software are the same across all five configurations, and aside from manually selecting the frequencies, timings, and voltages in the manual overclock configuration, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.

Intel Core i7 'Kaby Lake' LGA1151 DDR4 Test Setup​

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks are applied to Windows 10 Pro and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • UAC – Disabled
  • Indexing – Disabled
  • Superfetch – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan – High Performance
  • V-Sync – Off

D) All available Windows updates are then installed.

E) All programs are installed and then updated, followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three to ten times, and unless otherwise stated the results are then averaged.


Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • 3DMark Vantage Professional Edition v1.1.3
  • 3DMark11 Professional Edition v1.0.132.0
  • 3DMark 2013 Professional Edition v2.2.3491
  • AIDA64 Engineer Edition v5.80.4000
  • Cinebench R15 64-bit
  • FAHBench 1.2.0
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • HEVC Decode Benchmark (Cobra) v1.61
  • LuxMark v3.1
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • PCMark 8
  • SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark v1.0.0.0
  • WinRAR x64 5.40
  • wPRIME version v2.10
  • X3: Terran Conflict Demo v1.0
That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 
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