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ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,141
Location
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Along with the launch of the two Intel Kaby Lake-K processors today, we have been blessed with a whole slew of new motherboards thanks to the simultaneous introduction of a next generation chipset. While Kaby Lake does make use of the venerable LGA1151 socket, and is indeed backwards compatible with Z170 motherboards via BIOS updates, there are always incremental platform improvements to be made. The star of the show is codenamed "Union Point", but will more commonly be referred to as the 200-series chipset. This 200-series platform controller hub (PCH) includes multiple variants such as the B250, Q250, Q270, and H270, but it is the Z270 that we are primarily interested in since the Z variant is once again the only one that supports overclocking and multi-GPU setups.

Mirroring the minor differences between Skylake and Kaby Lake, the Z270 chipset doesn't bring that all that much new to the table when compared to Z170. Obviously, there's out-of-the-box support for 7th Generation Intel Core processors, but the only notable changes are an additional 4 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, an upgrade to version 15 of Rapid Storage Technology (RST), and support for Intel's upcoming Optane technology. These additional PCI-E lanes should ensure that more high speed storage devices can be run in full speed PCIe 3.0 x4 mode, while RST 15 should ensure that all those devices can placed in a RAID array. RST 15 will surely also have a hand in the implementation of Optane technology, which on this platform will be ultra-fast SSDs that utilize Intel’s 3D XPoint memory. Intel is staying mute on this topic though, so we regrettably don't have much information to share.

With our introduction of the new chipset out of the way, let's take a look at the motherboards. In this review, we are going to be focusing on the ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6, but since we're publishing multiple articles today we highly recommend that you also check out our reviews of the AUROS Z270X-Gaming 5 and the ASUS Maximus IX Hero. While the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 is not the flagship model in ASRock's Z270 range it certainly doesn't leave any features on the proverbial shelf.


This model will retail for about $180 USD and for that price you will be getting just about everything you could want in a modern motherboard, except for any form of wireless connectivity. However, unlike every other time we have mentioned a lack of onboard Wi-Fi, this time there is an easy solution. ASRock have actually been extremely thoughtful, and they have outfitted this model with an M.2 Key E slot that supports M.2 Wi-Fi cards. Not only that, but they have integrated two antenna cutouts into the rear I/O panel. With these two additions, adding Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth to this motherboard is an exceedingly easy and seamless procedure. Other manufacturers should definitely take note.

Going down the specs list, we see that the Z270 Gaming K6 features a 12-phase CPU power design, high-quality 12K Japanese capacitors, three steel-reinforced physical PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots which are open-ended to accept longer expansion cards, eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, and two full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slots – at least one of which will support Intel’s upcoming Optane SSD product line. There are also two high-speed USB 3.1 ports, one Type-A and one Type-C, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.0 headers, three USB 2.0 headers, an RGB LED strip header (more on that below), and since we’re talking about headers, it also has both a CPU-OPT fan header and a system fan header that support water pumps.

This model also has two Intel-powered gigabit LAN ports, which is actually fairly unusual at this reasonable price point. Those who plan on utilizing Kaby Lake's new HD Graphics 630 integrated GPU will have to make due without a DisplayPort, since video output assortment is limited to DVI-D, HDMI 1.4, and old-school VGA. Rounding things out, you will find small extras like two physical BIOS chips, a debug LED display, and a rich software suite that we will be taking a closer look at later. Much to our surprise, ASRock have also bundled a SLI HB Bridge to ensure optimal performance when running two GeForce GTX 1070's or 1080's in SLI. This high bandwidth SLI bridge retails for $30 USD solo, so it is a very nice addition.

Hopefully, we’ve kept the best two features for last. This model has been outfitted with an onboard audio solution – dubbed Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 3 – that is based on the brand new, never-seen-before Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel codec, which is linked to an array of Nichicon audio-grade capacitors, a headphone amplifier, and a physical PCB-level audio separation line that protects the audio components from EMI. Given the gaming focus of this motherboard, ASRock have also licensed the feature-rich Sound Blaster Cinema 3 utility from Creative, which will give gamers a great deal of audio effect tweaking capability.

Following the industry’s trend, ASRock are also debuting the AURA RGB LED lighting effects feature. There are RGB LEDs under the Z270 chipset cooler, under the shroud covering the audio subsystem, and integrated into the MOSFET heatsink cooler. There is even a header on which you can plug an LED lighting strip. All of these lights can be controlled from within the BIOS or via an included utility. They can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects, like pulsating with the beat of your music, ‘breathing’, strobing, cycling through all the colours, statically displaying one colour, or just totally disabled if that is your preference.

Overall, the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 is showing a ton of promise on paper, and we are here to see if it can deliver. If everything is as well implemented as it should be, this motherboard is going to be an easy addition to our recommended motherboards list.

 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the Z270 Gaming K6'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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For this new generation, ASRock have unveiled completely redesigned packaging for their Gaming series models. What was once largely black with just a hint of red has been replaced by bold bright red design that is actually way cooler looking. 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 is packed with all the features that make this particular model unique in some way, and as you can see ASRock certainly believes that there are a number of such features. 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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Once you remove the outside packaging, you are greeted with an inner box - with a handle - that contains two separate sections, the top half contains the accessories, software and documentation, while the bottom half holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag.


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Usually, we have nothing more to say about how the motherboard is packaged, but ASRock have upped the game by protecting it in a nice foam cradle and also securing it with zip ties. We have never seen a motherboard this well protected from the bumps and bruises of shipping.



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The Z270 Gaming K6 has a fairly rudimentary accessories bundle in most respects, but there is one nifty bonus. There is the usual installation guide, software setup guide, driver & software DVD, as well as an ASRock sticker. There are also four SATA 6Gb/s cables, a nice colour-coded rear I/O shield, three screws for the three M.2 slots, and a SLI HB Bridge.

Although we mentioned it in the intro, we don't want to gloss over the fact that the SLI HB Bridge usually retails for $30 USD - and it's the most affordable of the high bandwidth SLI bridges currently available - so it is a very nice addition to this bundle for those who plan on running two GeForce GTX 1070's or GTX 1080's.
 
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MAC

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Joined
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Messages
1,141
Location
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A Closer Look at the Z270 Gaming K6

A Closer Look at the Z270 Gaming K6




The Z270 Gaming K6 is based on the conventional full-size ATX form factor - 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in - so there are no compatibility issues to worry about with any properly designed case. The overall layout is very well-thought-out and there are no critical shortcomings that we can point out. All the buttons and switches, numerous connectors and ports are easily accessible and free from possible obstruction. The two CPU fan headers are positioned slightly far apart - and the argument could be made that the primary CPU fan header is a little too close to the MOSFET heatsink - but neither of these issues presented us with any notable challenges.

We definitely appreciate the fact that there is a huge amount of space between two primary PCI-E x16 slots, so there won’t be any issues fitting thick dual or even triple-slot graphics cards on this motherboard. We also like the placement of the M.2 slots, since many motherboards seem to place at least one slot directly under the primary graphics card, which is a problem because very high performance M.2 solid state drives have been known to throttle themselves when running too hot.

By the way, you may have noticed that opaque angular strip on the plastic rear shroud, well that is one of the locations that the RGB LEDs shine from. You can get a complete look at the lighting effects in our AURA RGB LED feature test page.



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First and foremost, we have to come out and say that we are glad that ASRock decided to ditch the gold capacitors on this model. They just wouldn't have matched with the matte black PCB, red heatsinks and accents, and large black plastic shroud. Although they were high quality Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors - with lifespans of at least 12,000 hours - their all-black replacements aren't actually a downgrade as they are also Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors, just in a different colour.

While we are on the topic of capacitors, this motherboard does have a fair amount of them around the CPU socket area. However, there is definitely enough clearance room to fit any large heatsink, water block, or even LN2 pot. Having said that, definitely to check out our installation section to get a better look at the clearances.

This motherboard has been outfitted with an all-digital 12-phase CPU power design that utilizes an Intersil PWM controller and Sinopower MOSFETs cooled by two hefty heatsinks. Four phases for the integrated graphics portion of the processor, and the remaining eight for everything else like the Vcore, VCCSA, and VCCIO. We would have liked to see the higher current 60A power chokes that ASRock used on the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6, but they are truthfully overkill for this platform.

As mentioned in the intro, the CPU-OPT fan header supports water pumps with a maximum current draw of 1.5A. There is another such header at the bottom right-hand corner of the motherboard. All the CPU and system fan headers support PWM and voltage control. Next to the 8-pin CPU power connector - slightly obscured by the plastic shroud - is an M.2 Key E slot. This slot supports M.2 Wi-Fi cards like the Intel 7265NGW or 8260NGW , both of which support dual-band 802.11ac and have integrated Bluetooth. The rear I/O panel even has antenna cutouts, so it's unbelievably easy to install a pair of external antennas.


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The two aluminium MOSFET heatsinks share a heatpipe between them, and they well secured to the PCB with metal screws. We won't ruin the surprise, but during our overclocking endeavors we pumped a ton of voltage into our Core i7-7700K and these heatsinks never got particularly warm even without direct airflow.


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The four DDR4 slots are clipless on one side, which prevents any clearance issues that can arise between conventional memory clips and the back of any nearby expansion card. This motherboard supports up to 64GB of total system memory and it has been certified for overclocked memory speeds of up to DDR4-3866. Definitely check out our Overclocking Results section to see whether we were able to reach that level.

The 24-pin ATX power connector is in its usual convenient location, and it is right next to the onboard power and reset buttons, both of which are backlit.


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To the left of the 24-pin ATX power connector are the two internal USB 3.0 headers that can be used to add another four USB 3.0 ports to the front of your case. These headers are powered by an ASMedia ASM1074 four-way USB 3.0 hub controller.



Top M.2 Slot / Bottom M.2 Slot - Click on image to enlarge

This model features two full-speed M.2 PCI-E 3.0 x4 slots, both of which feature a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gb/s and support SATA, PCI-E, and PCI-E NVMe M.2 solid state drives. Obviously, as on most motherboards, there are caveats to installing a PCI-E x4 SSD in either slot. On this model, if you install an SSD in the top M.2 slot, two SATA ports will be disabled. If you install an SSD into the bottom M.2 slot, two other SATA ports will be disabled, but in a different bank. Speaking of the bottom M.2 slot, it features one additional mounting hole so even M.2 22110 form factor SSDs - which are 110 millimeters long instead of the usual 80mm - can be installed.

Thanks to the new Z270 chipset, this motherboard is also Optane Ready. While Intel have not been particularly forthcoming with Optane-related news, we do know that due to the very high cost of 3D XPoint memory the first consumer product will likely be a small SSD cache device (offered in both 16GB & 32GB sizes) that will be referred to as a "system accelerator". While Intel has had a similar idea in the past - think Intel Smart Response Technology - Optane should make a more significant impact due to the ultra-low latency and ultra-high IOPS capabilities of 3D XPoint memory. However, only time will tell.

On a side note, we like the fact that ASRock are viewing the PCB as a blank canvas on which to add design elements. It there's a big empty space why not make it visually appealing?



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This motherboard features eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, six of which are supplied by the Z270 PCH and thus support RAID 0/1/5/10 plus Intel Rapid Storage Technology. The remaining two are courtesy of an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. We are very happy that ASRock chose to do away with the essentially useless SATA Express ports. While effectively all Z170 motherboards had one or two SATAe ports, there just hasn’t been any products available and that is not likely to change. Likewise, there is no U.2 port on this motherboard, but given the fact that there is only one compatible SSD model available - the Intel 750 Series - it's really not a significant issue for most people.

As mentioned above, the motherboard will automatically disable two SATA ports for each M.2 SSD that you install. This reallocation of PCI-E lanes is accomplished via NXP L04083B PCI-E 3.0 switches.
 

MAC

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Messages
1,141
Location
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A Closer Look at the Z270 Gaming K6 pt.2

A Closer Look at the Z270 Gaming K6 pt.2




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In the lower-right hand corner of the motherboard is where you will find the front panel header, which we really wish was colour coded to make installation a little more user-friendly. There is a system fan header that supports water pumps, a COM header, a TPM header, and a handy debug LED display. This is always a welcome addition when overclocking, since the error codes can tell you what's hindering your progress. To the right of the debug LED are two soldered BIOS chips, which ensures some level of redundancy if the flashing process goes terribly wrong or if something were to corrupt one of the two chips.

The bottom edge of the motherboard is where you will find three USB 2.0 headers, as well as a header for ASRock's Thunderbolt 2 AIC accessory. The lower-left hand side is where you will find the front panel audio header, the CLR CMOS jumper, and the XMP On/Off switch. There is also the AURA RGB LED header, where you can plug in any 12V/2A 5050RGB LED lighting strip and have it fully powered by the motherboard and controlled by the BIOS or AURA RGB LED utility.


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Much like Skylake and previous mainstream generations, Kaby Lake processors support sixteen PCI-E 3.0 lanes for graphics purposes. These lanes are divided across two separate PCI-E x16 slots thanks to a handful of NXP L04083B PCI-E 3.0 switches. The third mechanical PCI-E x16 3.0 slot operates at x4, and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t actually share it’s bandwidth with anything else. Likewise, it doesn't appear that anything affects the three PCI-E x1 slots, which receive their lanes from the Z270 PCH.

In a regular single graphics card setup, the first PCI-E x16 slot will obviously operate at PCI-E 3.0 x16. In a dual graphics card configuration, the first and second slots will operate at PCI-E 3.0 x8, which will still provide ample bandwidth for even the highest-end GPUs. This 2-Way configuration is the limit for SLI however, as NVIDIA doesn't support SLI on a PCI-E x4 slot, which as mentioned above is the limit for the third PCI-E x16 slot. If you install three Radeon graphics cards, the expansion slots will be running at x8/x8/x4 in PCI-E 3.0 mode. This is obviously not optimal since this last slot doesn't have a direct low latency connection to the processor, but Triple CrossFireX does work in theory.

A recent feature that is being adopted by all motherboard manufacturers are steel reinforced full-size PCI-E slots, and ASRock have joined the fray. While the slots covered by stainless steel shielding, they don’t have the additional anchor points that GIGABYTE have added to ensure that even the heaviest graphics cards won't cause any undue strain on the slot.



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Once we removed the plastic shroud, we revealed that the heart of this motherboard's Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 3 onboard audio is the brand new Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel HD audio codec. Next to the bank of Nichicon Fine Gold Series audio-grade capacitors is where you will find the Texas Instruments N5532 op-amp, which serves as headphone amplifier for the front-panel headphone jack.

The PCB isolation line surrounds the audio section of the PCB and protects it from the rest of the system. This helps preserve the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and thus ensure the highest possible signal quality. Regrettably, there is no electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield covering the Realtek codec, which is a bit of a disappointment at this price point.

Unlike most motherboards, which have the LEDs mounted on the back side of the isolation line so that the light can shine through, this model has the LEDs mounted on the top of the motherboard so that they can shine through the little windows on the plastic shroud that covers the audio subsystem.


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Although the essentials are there, the rear I/O panel is a little light on USB ports, and we would have also traded the VGA output for a DisplayPort. Starting from left to right, we have the two antenna cutouts, combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, VGA + DVD-D + HDMI 1.4 video outputs, dual gigabit LAN ports, USB 3.1 Type-A and USB 3.1 Type-C ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and the five audio jacks (with gold inserts) as well as a S/PDIF output.




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Powering these ports is a widely compatible Intel I211-AT gigabyte LAN controller, a more modern Intel I219-V gigabit LAN controller, an ASMedia ASM2142 USB 3.1 Gen2 host controller, an ASMedia ASM1543 USB 3.1 Type-C switch, an ASMedia ASM1442K IC is responsible for the HDMI output, and a Realtek RTD2168 chip for the VGA output.


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As mentioned previously, next to the 8-pin CPU power connector and behind the rear I/O panel is the M.2 Key E slot. This slot supports M.2 Wi-Fi cards like the Intel 7265NGW or 8260NGW, both of which support dual-band 802.11ac and have integrated Bluetooth. The rear I/O panel even has antenna cutouts, so it's unbelievably easy to install a pair of external antennas.


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Aside from two NXP L04083B PCI-E 3.0 switches, there are no VRM components or other controllers on the backside of the motherboard. All the heatsinks and the plastic shrouds are attached with metal screws, which is what we expect from an upper-end motherboard like this one.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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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, this motherboard has a fairly crowded CPU socket area due to the proximity of several capacitors to the socket. Having said that, when installed in the East-West or North-South orientation, our Prolimatech Mega Shadow cooler and its numerous bits of mounting hardware had no issues physically clearing the capacitors or the MOSFET heatsinks. As a result, we believe that most large CPU heatsink and all-in-one liquid coolers should be easily installable.


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Unlike on most motherboards, we did not encounter any clearance issues between standard memory modules and our large CPU cooler. The cooler's fan clips did not make contact with the nearest memory module - though they cam very close - but obviously you will need to remove the clips and the fan in order to install or remove the RAM modules. When we swapped in very tall memory modules, there were clearance issues even in the farthest memory slots. The solution is obviously to find another way hold the fan in place, or to mount it on the other side of the heatsink.


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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is a large 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 ideally placed, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.




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The Z270 Gaming K6 will hold one, two, or even three dual-slot graphics cards without difficulty. The cards will obviously extend past the motherboard length-wise, and that last card will overhang all the headers on the bottom edge of the motherboard. Since there is a decent amount of room between the primary graphics card and the heatsink, it was relatively easy to reach the PCI-E slot release clip. One of the welcome layout choices is that no matter how many dual-slot cards are installed, there are always two PCI-E x1 slots usable.


The eight 90-degree SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed.


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Installing an M.2 SSD in the top M.2 slot is a trouble-free affair. You shouldn’t need to remove your CPU heatsink, but you will have to remove any graphics card installed the primary PCI-E x16 slots since the space between the heatsink and the back of the graphics card will likely be rather minimal.


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Installing an M.2 SSD, even one 110 millimeters long, is no problem on the bottom M.2 slot. motherboard. Any dual-slot expansion card installed in the secondary PCI-E x16 slot you obviously cover the slot, so it will need to removed before installing or removing any solid state drive.


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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.
 

MAC

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Joined
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Messages
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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 4.8Ghz. 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.
 

MAC

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Location
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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 a 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.
 
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MAC

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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.



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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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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,141
Location
Montreal
Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



AURA RGB LED


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The AURA RGB LED software utility allows users to control the RGB LEDs that are integrated into the chipset cooler, the MOSFET shroud, audio shroud, and even any lighting strip that is plugged into the RGB header. The LEDs can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects, like pulsating with the beat of your music, ‘breathing’, strobing, cycling through all the colours, statically displaying one colour, or just totally disabled if that is your preference. Definitely check out our AURA RGB LED feature test page to see what the lighting effects look like.


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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Since we are dealing with slightly pre-production hardware and software, we were not able to install the Fatal1ty Mouse Port utility, but it allows you to set one of 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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Although we encountered an error that prevented us from fully installing it, the Sound Blaster Cinema 3 software suite is usually 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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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,141
Location
Montreal
Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we are going to be testing the performance of the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 in five configurations: default settings @ DDR4-2133, default settings @ DDR4-3733, two automatic overclocks, 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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