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ASRock Z170M OC Formula mATX Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Test System & Testing Methodology

Test System & Testing Methodology


To fully test the built in overclocking abilities of a given motherboard, we have broken down testing into multiple categories:

Stock Turbo Boost - To represent a i7-6770K at stock with turbo enabled.

Software OC - To represent a Z170M OC Formula at best stable overclock achieved via included software based overclocking (4.6GHz).

Manual OC – To represent an experienced overclocker that is looking for the optimal long term overclock in order to maximize system performance, while keeping voltage and temperatures in check (4.8GHz).

We chose benchmark suites that included 2D benchmarks, 3D benchmarks, and games, and then tested each overclocking method individually to see how the performance would compare.

The full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:

3DMark 8
3DMark 2013 Professional Edition
AIDA64 Extreme Edition
Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
SiSoft Sandra 2013.SP4
SuperPI Mod 1.5mod
RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5
Sleeping Dogs Gaming Benchmark
Metro: Last Light Gaming Benchmark
Tomb Raider
BioShock Infinite


Instead of LinX or P95, the main stability test used was the AIDA64 stability. AIDA64 has an advantage as it has been updated for the Haswell architecture and tests specific functions like AES, AVX, and other instruction sets that some other stress tests do not touch. After the AIDA64 stability test was stable, we ran 2 runs of SuperPI and 2 runs of 3DMark to test memory and 3D stability. Once an overclock passed these tests, we ran the full benchmark suite and then this is the point deemed as “stable” for the purposes of this review.

To ensure consistent results, a fresh installation of Windows 8.1 was installed with latest chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) from the manufactures website. The BIOS used for overclocking and benchmarking was version 1301 and the Nvidia drivers used were version 332.21.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/proof_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

Our test setup consists of an Intel Haswell 6770K, the motherboard being tested, one NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 video card, 8GB GSkill RipJaws V DDR4-3600 1.35v memory, a Intel 335 180GB SSD, and a WD Black 1TB. All this is powered by an EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 P2 1000 watt PSU.

For cooling we used a Corsair Hydro H110i AIO w/ four 140mm fans attached. For hardware installation testing we also used a Noctua NH-U12S and a XSPC Raystorm waterblock.

Complete Test System:

Processor: Intel Core i7-6770K ES
Memory: 8GB GSkill RipJaws V DDR4-3600
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: 1x 180GB Intel 335 SSD. Western Digital Black 1TB.
Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 P2
CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro H110i AIO

Special thanks to EVGA for their support and supplying the SuperNOVA 1000 P2.
Special thanks to Corsair for their support and supplying the H110i.
Special thanks to G.Skill for their support and supplying the Trident X RAM.
Special thanks to NVIDIA for their support and supplying the GTX 780
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Feature Testing: Onboard Audio, and USB 3.1 Performance

Feature Testing: Onboard Audio


<i> While this motherboard is mainly oriented towards PC enthusiasts, the upgraded onboard audio is one of its main selling features. As such, it behooves us to see exactly what this audio solution brings to the table. To do this we have used RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA) utility.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/thd.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/noise.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/dr.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

These results may not even be close to being chart-toppers, but considering the fact that this motherboard is meant for overclocking enthusiasts, and not regular mainstream users, these results are very good. Obviously, manufacturers have stepped up their game and are now able to outfit most of their models with kick-ass sound solutions.


Feature Testing: USB 3.1 Performance


For the USB 3.1 device we have used an Asus USB 3.1 enclosure which uses a pair of Samsung 840 EVO 250GB drives, and is powered by an ASMedia ASM1352R chipset.

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total). </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Much like the audio performance results, this motherboard may never win awards for its USB 3.1 abilities, but the combination of ASMedia controller with Type-A and Type-C ports is nevertheless a solid offering.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Feature Testing: Software Auto-Overclocking

Feature Testing: Software Auto-Overclocking


For those that are only interested in software-based overclocking solutions that do all the work - including stability testing - this motherboard may not be an optimal choice. It will not hold your hand, and it will not keep you from destroying your CPU or RAM. Instead it will do everything in its power to give you the chance to do just that. This is because instead of being designed with the novice in mind, this motherboard has been built from the ground up for the PC overclocking enthusiast, and anything that would get in their way or reduce the chances of a useful overclock has been discarded faster than Nigerian Prince e-mail spam.

Now with that being said, there is a massive difference between not offering any <i>automatic</i> overclocking options, and not offering any <i>software</i> overclocking options. Basically, this motherboard may not rely on software-based solutions, but it does come with a comprehensive list of BIOS-based automatic overclocking features. To be precise, there is not one, not two, but <i>three</i> groups of options in the BIOS for users to choose from. Each of these have a slightly different users in mind, and taken as a whole there is almost assuredly an automatic option that will satisfy any of scenario. The only hitch is that owners of this motherboard already have to have a good idea of exactly what they want to accomplish, as novices may not only get lost in the sheer number of options, but actually pick one that is unsafe or bordering on damn near insane – as some of these options are best classified as short term, sub-zero suicide run presets!

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/BIOS_35_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


The first is the so-called Nik Shih options list, and these options are for enthusiasts who are either running sub-zero cooling or robust custom water blocks. We say this as they all are rather aggressive and all will push boundaries that can really only safely be achieved via high-end custom cooling. For most overclockers, this list can - and should - be ignored. Instead the 'average' overclocking enthusiast will be more interested in the next two groups of options.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/BIOS_57_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


While we have all seen 'custom' overclocking BIOS presets and one size fits all lists in the past, ASRock have done something rather brilliant on this motherboard. The usual BIOS list has been broken down to add a level of customization not usually found on even 'overclocker' motherboards. Basically, instead of just including a list of preset profiles, ASRock has included both all-in-one overclocking profiles and then two groups that specialize in either overclocking the CPU or the integrated GPU.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/BIOS_60_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


It is this breakdown and refinement that we are truly impressed by, and why we actually recommend skipping the second short list all together and instead focusing in on the other options. We say this as 'Gear 1' not only overclocks the CPU to 4.6Ghz on all cores, and sets the uncore to 4.2Ghz but also overclocks the integrated GPU, whereas Gear 2 pushes things to 4.7 on the cores leaves the uncore at a stock 4.0Ghz and boosts the iGPU even further. Having said that, for most enthusiasts overclocking the built-in graphic processing unit is a waste of resources as they will be using a dedicated video card. More importantly, overclocking the integrated solution sucks up more voltage, creates more heat, and can lead to premature thermal bottlenecks. A better option would be to skip down to the third options list, while ignoring the fourth which deals with iGPU overclocking, pick the desired speed and enjoy.

Now there are a few major caveats that need to be discussed before anyone simply opts to use the built-in features, and never actually explores what this motherboard truly has to offer. First and foremost, failing to explore this model's limits is a full on cardinal sin. This motherboard is capable of so much that pushing a button and calling it a day is such a waste of potential. There are plenty of more mainstream motherboard that can offer this, but come with fewer compromises. Next up is the fact that these profiles are all factory set and this board does <i>zero</i> stability testing. What this means is that ASRock expects you to not only double check any results, but actually use them as a <i>starting point</i> for your own manual overclock rather than being the end-result. This is why the uncore can vary so much from setting to setting, and why not all automatically implement the XMP profile.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/oc_soft_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


In the end, we do think that ASRock should have included some BIOS-based hardware stability testing, but as it stands we found the 4.6Ghz overclock to be perfectly stable with <i>our</I> processor and we didn't experience any thermal limiting. This means an overclock of 4.6Ghz on all cores, with the uncore set to 4.2GHz, and the already highly-clocked RAM kept at its default DDR4-3600 speed. With the exception of the RAM, that is a rather excellent automatic overclock, and if your processor is not as used and abused as ours you may in fact find an even higher setting that is fully stable. Just do not trust it until you have verified that is indeed <i>stable</i>.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Manual Overclocking Results

Manual Overclocking Results


It is needless to say that as this board was designed by and for overclocking enthusiasts, its capabilities in this area are going to play a large and critical role in its success. First and foremost, it has to provide rock solid, ultra-clean power to the CPU and RAM at all times, no matter the load.

Thanks to its extremely well-built, bordering on <i>over</i>built power system, the ASRock Z170M OC Formula is able to deliver this, and then some. Even compared to more expensive motherboards like the ASUS Deluxe Z170, or any of the ASUS RoG motherboards we have looked at, the ASRock Z170M OC Formula is damn near in a differently league. No matter how much voltage we set, that was precisely how much was fed to the CPU and RAM <i>regardless</i> of load. This alone will make getting ultra-high overclocks easier, as this motherboard simply provides more precision in your adjustments than can be found on most motherboards. Absolute perfection is how we would judge the power delivery subsystems abilities.

The next key area is the BIOS. To be great at overclocking a BIOS has to not only be filled with all the basics and esoteric adjustments that go into extreme overclocking, but it also has to be easy to work with. Let's face it, when stressing over a failed overclock and the time is ticking, the very last thing anyone wants to be doing is frantically scrolling through multiple pages to find the failure point and <i>fix it</i>. In this area, ASRock has done a really good job, as the BIOS may not be precisely as user-friendly as say ASUS, but overall it is the best BIOS that ASRock has ever released. It is so good that it really is unfortunate that ASrock did stumble in the next area.

There are numerous built-in features that not only protect the system from turning into a brick, but also features that make the trial and error stages a lot less painful. On the one hand, the ASRock Z170M OC Formula has all the standard features we have come to expect from an enthusiast-grade motherboard. Onboard 2-digit diagnostic panel, reset and power buttons, onboard voltage read points they are all there.

Obviously, Nick Shih presented ASRock with a laundry list of 'must-have' options and ASRock did not quibble. In addition to all the normal features, Nick spec'ed out rather nifty little ones like onboard switches that turn off or on Intel's thermal limiter! That is a really nice feature and it will come in handy during hardcore overclocking sessions. The same holds true for the Rapid OC buttons, which makes fine-tuning a veritable breeze. All of this is bloody amazing, and if this motherboard had been released at the very start of the Z170 generation it would have been a true master feat of engineering.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/oc_man_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


Sadly, we are now well into the Z170's lifespan and companies (as well as enthusiasts like Nick Shih) have had time to digest the handy proprietary features that ASUS has introduces to overclockers. Features like the BIOS ReTry button that will not nuke all your settings and start over at defaults in the case of a failed overclock. Such <i>missing</i> features do make a huge difference to even typical overclocking enthusiasts, and they are sorely missed on this board. Thankfully, the system always recovered from a failed POST and the BIOS does include plenty of save points for all your settings. So much so that we never once felt the need to flip the switch and use the backup BIOS. It just is that at some point, someone is going to forget to save their changes and lo-and-behold one of them will cause the system to hang… and this will make troubleshooting which one caused the problem harder than it needs to be.

Basically, those ASUS exclusive (for now) features allow enthusiast the luxury of playing fast and loose with the settings without wasting as much time during an overclocking championship, for example. Doesn't such a feature – albeit changed just enough to evade IP laws – deserve to be on a dedicated overclocking motherboard like the ASRock Z170M OC Formula? We think it does, but ASUS and Nick Shih obviously feel differently. This is a shame as it turns perfection into mere excellence.

In the end, we did manage to get our best overclock to date from our rather poor example of an i7 6700K. To be precise, we managed 4.85GHz on all cores, a 4.3GHz uncore, and DDR4-3671 on the RAM. Needless to say, this board may still have some small room for improvement but as it stands it is one hell of motherboard for overclocking. Brilliant stuff!
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks


In the System Benchmarks section, we will show a number benchmark comparisons of the i7 6700K and this motherboard using the stock speed (Turbo Boost enabled), using automatic overclock (4.6GHz), and our manual overclock (4.8GHz). This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by the various overclocking options this board has to offer.

For reference the CPU speeds, memory speeds, memory timings, and UNcore speeds used for these tests are as follows:

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/results.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

SuperPI Benchmark


<i>SuperPi calculates the number of digits of PI in a pure 2D benchmark. For the purposes of this review, calculation to 32 million places will be used. RAM speed, RAM timings, CPU speed, L2 cache, and Operating System tweaks all effect the speed of the calculation, and this has been one of the most popular benchmarks among enthusiasts for several years.
SuperPi was originally written by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 and was updated later by snq to support millisecond timing, cheat protection and checksum. The version used in these benchmarks, 1.5 is the official version supported by hwbot.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/pi.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


CINEBENCH R11.5


<i>CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation.

In this system benchmark section we will use the x64 Main Processor Performance (CPU) test scenario. The Main Processor Performance (CPU) test scenario uses all of the system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene (from the viral "No Keyframes" animation by AixSponza). This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects which in turn contain more than 300,000 polygons in total, and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights, shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is displayed in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/cine.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


Sandra Processor Arithmetic & Processor Multi-Media Benchmarks


<i>SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. The software suite provides most of the information (including undocumented) users like to know about hardware, software, and other devices whether hardware or software. The name “Sandra” is a (girl) name of Greek origin that means "defender", "helper of mankind".

The software version used for these tests is SiSoftware Sandra 2015. In the 2015 version of Sandra, SiSoft has updated operating system support, added support for the latest CPUs, as well as added some new benchmarks to the testing suite. The benchmark used below is the Processor Arithmetic benchmark which shows how the processor handles arithmetic and floating point instructions. This test illustrates an important area of a computer’s speed.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/sis.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


PCMark 8 Benchmark


<i>Developed in partnership with Benchmark Development Program members Acer, AMD, Condusiv Technologies, Dell, HGST, HP, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate and Western Digital, PCMark 8 is the latest version in FutureMark’s popular series of PC benchmarking tools. Improving on previous releases, PCMark 8 includes new tests using popular applications from Adobe and Microsoft.

The test used in below is the PCMark 8 Home benchmark. This testing suite includes workloads that reflect common tasks for a typical home user such as for web browsing, writing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. The results are combined to give a PCMark 8 Home score for the system.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


AIDA64 Benchmark


<i>AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a diagnostic and benchmarking software suite for home users that provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives.

The benchmarks used in this review are the memory bandwidth benchmarks. Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, Memory Copy) measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x86/x64, x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE4.1, AVX, and AVX2 instruction set extension.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/aida.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
3D and Gaming Benchmarks

3D and Gaming Benchmarks


In the 3D and Gaming Benchmarks section, we will show a number of benchmark comparisons of the i7 6700K and this motherboard using the stock speed (turbo boost enabled), highest, safe and stable software overclock of 4.6GHz, and our manual overclock of 4.8GHz. This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by the various overclocking options this board has to offer.

For reference the CPU speeds, memory speeds, memory timings, and uncore speeds used for these tests are as follows:

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/results.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


3DMark Fire Strike Benchmark


<i>The latest version of 3DMark from FutureMark includes everything you need to benchmark everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. And it's not just for Windows. With 3DMark you can compare your scores with Android and iOS devices too. It's the most powerful and flexible 3DMark we've ever created.

The test we are using in this review is Fire Strike with Extreme settings which is a DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. Fire Strike features real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/3dm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


Sleeping Dogs Gaming Benchmark


<i>Sleeping Dogs is an open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix, released on August 2012. Sleeping Dogs has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are the Extreme display settings and a resolution of 1920x1200. World density is set to extreme, high-res textures are enabled, and shadow resolution, shadow filtering, screen space ambient occlusion, and quality motion blur are all set to high.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/sd.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


Metro: Last Light Gaming Benchmark


<i>Metro: Last Light is a DX11 first-person shooter video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver released in May 2013. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features action-oriented gameplay. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play. Scene D6 was used and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are Very High for quality and a resolution of 1920x1200. DirectX 11 is used, texture filtering is set to AF 16X, motion blur is normal, SSA and advanced physX turned on and tessellation is set to high.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/met.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


BioShock Infinite Gaming Benchmark


<i>BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games released in March 2013. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are UltraDX11 for quality and a resolution of 1920x1200.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/bio.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


Tomb Raider Gaming Benchmark


<i> Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game. Published by Square Enix released in March 2013. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are Ultimate default settings for quality, VSync disabled and a resolution of 1920x1200</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/tr.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


The new ASRock Z170M OC Formula certainly is a wonderful motherboard that is the epitome of 'purpose-built'. It is a model that was designed with one goal in mind: extreme overclocking. As such, anything that would hamper this goal was frog marched out of the nearest airlock <i>early</i> in the design stage. The end result is that the Z170M OC Formula is a marvelous motherboard that sets the bar to new heights. To be blunt, ASRock have really proven that they have stepped up their game and are a truly top-tier manufacturer that can, will, and <i>does</i> compete head-to-head with anything ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, or anyone else can create.

Honestly, if your number one priority is to create a system capable of kickin' tires and lightin' fires you might as well stop reading now. This motherboard should be on your short list for consideration, as long as your specific needs are compatible with the inherent limitations of smaller mATX form factor. While individual needs are often so specific and niche that only you can decide if this motherboard will be the optimal choice for your system, those with overclocking ambitions will find that this model is worth its weight in gold.

As alluded to above, there is a downside to having such a razor sharp and focused design. A downside that may not make this an optimal choice for even your average power user. We are of course referring to the fact that outside of overclocking, the ASRock Z170M OC Formula does not compare so favorably to most other $200 Z170 motherboards. For example, when you start noticing the less than optimal layout, the single USB 3.0 header, the loss of two DIMMS, the less than amazing software, and the other small issues like easily flipped DIP switches - that can override the CPU ratio - the average consumer may be less than enthused with what this board has to offer them and their more 'mundane' needs. Thankfully, counterbalancing these moderate issues is the fact that this board does come with an excellent BIOS that is more novice-friendly than most in this class, a wonderfully potent onboard sound solution, eight onboard SATA 6Gb/s ports, and an honest-to-god M2 x4 port with support for 22110-type SSDs.

These features are going to make up for a lot of the perceived shortcomings, especially if you have zero interest in running four RAM sticks. However, they will not completely negate them, and you're going to have to think long and hard about exactly you prize most in a system: robustness and high quality features, or sheer quantity of features. As such, this board may indeed be a Dam Good motherboard, but one that will not be right for everyone. That in our humble opinion is perfectly fine, as a company having the intestinal fortitude to not release another general purpose motherboard is a breath of fresh air, and is sorely lacking in a marketplace that is overflowing with similarly designed, similar featured motherboards. We truly look forward to seeing what the next collaboration between ASRock and Nick Shih is... as this one blows the door off anything the Fatal1ty collaboration was ever able to create.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/ASRock_Z170M_OC/dam_good.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>
 

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