Several weeks ago, we looked at ASRock’s X99 Fatality board and it turned out to be a pretty solid board all around with good overclocking, a quality audio CODEC, board layout, and features. Now we will take a look at their ‘King of the Hill’ overclocking board in the X99 OC Formula. The OC Formula series from ASRock is one of the more highly regarded boards, particularly for extreme overclocking in that they generally come with higher end and more robust power delivery to support such endeavors. “But wait there’s more!” While the board might be aimed at that crowd, there are still plenty of features for the average Joe that makes this board appealing to most anyone. Take a read below as we go over the features and put the board through its paces.
Specifications and Features
Below is a (long) list of specifications and features for the OC Formula. As mentioned in the introduction, the board is aimed towards those that want to get every drop of performance out of their CPU and is loaded with the hardware and software to help accomplish those goals. To start off, ASRock grouped together a few hardware features designed for overclocking, dubbed the OC Formula Kit. In this ‘kit’ is a 12 Phase CPU power design that supports up to an astounding 1300W with its 60A chokes, controlled by Digi Power for both the CPU and memory. In order to get power to those phases, the OC Formula uses Hi-Density 8-pin (required) and 4-pin power connectors. With that much power allowed to go through it, an 8 later PCB was used along with a ton of copper (ok, that’s embellishing a bit), specifically 4x 2 oz of copper. To that end, ASRock dropped in premium alloy chokes, ultra dual-N MOSFETs, and Nichicon 12K platinum caps, all working together to bring you enough clean power to take any chip to its limits.
Specifically for the extreme overclocking crowd, this board comes with a factory coating of conformal to help keep moisture away from a lot of the important parts of the board. While other precautions are still necessary, this surely saves a lot of time, effort, and money compared to doing it yourself. I have to say that is an awesome feature for those that want to use sub ambient cooling methods and really push things .
But the board is not all about what’s under the hood and extreme overclocking. There are also a lot of features that any power user would want. One of the first things is the Ultra M.2 slot (PCIe3 x4) allowing much faster speeds than plain old SATA3 (6Gbps) when paired with the right M.2 based SSD. Like all X99 boards, this will use DDR4 in a quad channel configuration of up to DDR4 3400+(OC) in 8x DIMM slots for a total of 128GB. For the audio side of the house, ASRock uses their Purity Sound 2 supported by the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC, which is one of the better ones out there. The X99 OC Formula comes with two NIC cards. The first is the Gigabit Intel I218V, and the second is a Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 which is compatible with the ASRock Cloud.
Being an EATX sized board, there is a bit more room to place more of anything one chooses on it really. For the PCIe slots this means a total of five x16 slots. Using a CPU with 40 lanes (5930K/5960X), you can have up to an x8/x8/x8/x8 configuration with four cards, x8/x8/x16 with three, x16/x16 with two. If you have a 5820K and are limited to 28 lanes (no PLX chip here), you break down to a x16/x8 for dual cards, and a x8/x8/x8 for three cards. 4 way SLI/CrossfireX is not supported with this CPU. Worth noting is that if you have a M.2 PCIe express module installed, PCIe slot 3 will be disabled.
There are a total of 10 SATA ports all supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, and Rapid Storage 13. A total of x2 M.2 sockets, one being Ultra M2 and the other SATA3 (6Gbps), both supporting up to 110mm M.2 drives.
See all the detailed specifications below!
|ASRock X99 OC Formula Key Specs|
|OC Formula Kit||OC Formula Power Kit
– 12 Phase CPU Power design (Supports up to 1300w)
– Digi Power (CPU and Memory)
– Ultra Dual-N MOSFET (UDM)
OC Formula Connector Kit
– Hi-Density Power Connector (8 pin and 4 pin)
– 15μ Gold Contact (CPU socket, memory sockets and PCIE x16 slots (PCIE1 and PCIE4))
OC Formula Cooling Kit
– 8 Layer PCB
– 4 x 2oz copper
– Heat Pipe Design
OC Formula Monitor Kit
– Multi Thermal Sensor
|Unique Features||ASRock Super Alloy
– XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink
– Premium 60A Power Choke
– Premium Memory Alloy Choke (Reduces 70% core loss compared to iron powder choke)
– Ultra Dual-N MOSFET (UDM)
– Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps (100% Japan made high quality conductive polymer capacitors)
– Sapphire Black PCB
ASRock Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4)
ASRock HDD Saver Technology
ASRock Full Spike Protection
ASRock Conformal Coating
ASRock APP Shop
|CPU||– Supports Intel® Core™ i7 and Xeon® 18-Core Processors Family for the LGA 2011-3 Socket
– Digi Power design
– 12 Power Phase design (Supports up to 1300w)
– Supports Intel® Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
– Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
|Chipset||– Intel® X99|
|Memory||– Quad Channel DDR4 Memory Technology
– 8 x DDR4 DIMM Slots
– Supports DDR4 3400+(OC)*/2933(OC)/2800(OC)/2400(OC)/2133/1866 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
– Supports non-ECC x8 (8 bit) RDIMM (Registered DIMM)/x8 (8 bit) UDIMM
– Supports DDR4 ECC x8 (8 bit) RDIMM/x8 (8 bit) UDIMM with Intel® Xeon® processors E5 series in the LGA 2011-3 Socket, but not include x4 (4 bit) RDIMM/ x4 (4 bit) UDIMM.
– Max. capacity of system memory: 128GB
– Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0
*Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.
** Please refer to Memory Support List on ASRock’s website for more information.
|BIOS||– 2 x 128Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with multilingual GUI support (1 x Main BIOS and 1 x Backup BIOS)
– Supports Secure Backup UEFI Technology
– ACPI 1.1 Compliant wake up events
– SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
– CPU, DRAM, PCH 1.05V, PCH 1.5V, VPPM Voltage Multi-adjustment
|Audio||– 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec)
– Premium Blu-ray Audio support
– Supports Surge Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
– Supports Purity Sound™ 2
– Nichicon Fine Gold Series Audio Caps
– 115dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier
– TI® NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier (Supports up to 600 ohm headsets)
– Direct Drive Technology
– EMI shielding cover
– PCB isolate shielding
– Supports DTS Connect
|LAN||– 1 x Intel® I218V (Gigabit LAN PHY 10/100/1000 Mb/s)
– 1 x Qualcomm® Atheros® AR8171 (PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s)
– Supports Qualcomm® Atheros® Security Wake On Internet Technology (on Qualcomm® Atheros®AR8171)
– Supports Wake-On-LAN
– Supports Lightning/ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
– Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
– Supports PXE
|Slots||– 5 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 Slots (PCIE1/PCIE2/PCIE3/PCIE4/PCIE5: single at x16 (PCIE1); dual at x16 (PCIE1) / x16 (PCIE4); triple at x8 (PCIE1) / x8 (PCIE2) / x16 (PCIE4); quad at x8 (PCIE1) / x8 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE4) / x8 (PCIE5))*
– 1 x Half Mini-PCI Express Slot
– Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™, 4-Way CrossFireX™, 3-Way CrossFireX™ and CrossFireX™***
– Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™, 4-Way SLI™, 3-Way SLI™ and SLI™***
*If you install CPU with 28 lanes, PCIE1/PCIE2/PCIE3/PCIE4/PCIE5 will run at x16/x0/x4/x8/x0 or x8/x8/x4/x8/x0, and PCIE5 will be disabled.
**If Ultra M.2 PCI Express module is installed, PCIE3 slot will be disabled.
***If you install CPU with 28 lanes, 4-Way CrossFireX™ and 4-Way SLI™ are not supported.
****To support 3-Way CrossFireX™ and 3-Way SLI™ when using CPU with 28 lanes, please install VGA cards to PCIE1/PCIE2/PCIE4 (x8/x8/x8).
*****To support 4-Way CrossFireX™ and 4-Way SLI™, please install the CPU with 40 lanes.
|Storage||– 10 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and Intel® Rapid Storage 13), NCQ, AHCI, Hot Plug and ASRock HDD Saver Technology*
– 1 x Ultra M.2 Socket (ULTRA_M2), supports M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4 (32 Gb/s)
– 1 x M.2_SSD (NGFF) Socket 3 (M2_1), supports M.2 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s module and M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen2 x4 (20 Gb/s)
*S_SATA3_3 connector is shared with M.2 Socket (M2_1)
**RAID is supported on SATA3_0 ~ SATA3_5 ports only.
|Connector||– 1 x COM Port Header
– 1 x TPM Header
– 1 x Power LED Header
– 2 x CPU Fan Connectors (1 x 4-pin, 1 x 3-pin)
– 3 x Chassis Fan Connectors (1 x 4-pin, 2 x 3-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
– 1 x Power Fan Connector (3-pin)
– 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector
– 1 x 8 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
– 1 x 4 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
– 1 x HDD Saver Connector
– 1 x PCIe Power Connector
– 1 x Front Panel Audio Connector
– 1 x Thunderbolt™ AIC Connector*
– 2 x USB 2.0 Headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
– 1 x Vertical Type A USB 3.0
– 2 x USB 3.0 Headers (Support 4 USB 3.0 ports) (ASMedia ASM1074 hub) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
– 1 x Dr. Debug with LED
– 1 x Power Switch with LED
– 1 x Reset Switch with LED
– V-Probe™: 7-set of onboard voltage measurement points laid
– Rapid OC Buttons: +/- buttons to adjust OC frequency
– 1 x Menu Button
– 1 x PCIe ON/OFF Switch
– 1 x Slow Mode Switch
– 1 x LN2 Mode Switch
– 1 x BIOS Selection Switch
– 1 x Direct Key Button
*Please update to the latest BIOS to support Thunderbolt™ technology.
|Rear Panel I/O||– 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
– 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
– 2 x USB 2.0 Ports (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
– 4 x USB 3.0 Ports (ASMedia ASM1074 hub) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
– 2 x USB 3.0 Ports (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
– 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
– 1 x Clear CMOS Switch
– HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
|Software and BIOS||Software
– ASRock Formula Drive
– ASRock Disk Health Report
– ASRock USB Key
– ASRock Fine-Tuning V-Controller
– ASRock Timing Configurator
– ASRock APP Charger
– ASRock XFast LAN
– ASRock XFast RAM
– ASRock Restart to UEFI
– ASRock Full HD UEFI
– ASRock NickShih’s OC Profile
– ASRock Instant Flash
– ASRock Internet Flash
– ASRock Crashless BIOS
– ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard)
– ASRock UEFI System Browser
– ASRock UEFI Tech Service
– ASRock Dehumidifier
– ASRock Easy RAID Installer
– ASRock Easy Driver Installer
|Accessories/Support CD||– 3 x ASRock Flexible SLI™ Bridge Connector Cables (2 x 10 cm, 1 x 14 cm)
– Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
– 6 x SATA Data Cables
– 1 x HDD Saver Cable
– 2 x Screws for M.2 Sockets
– 1 x Screw for mini-PCIe Slot- Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), Google Chrome Browser and Toolbar, Start8 (30 days trial), Orbweb.ME Professional (Win 8.1 / 7)
|Hardware Monitor||– CPU/Chassis temperature sensing
– CPU/Chassis/Power Fan Tachometer
– CPU/Chassis Quiet Fan (Auto adjust chassis fan speed by CPU temperature)
– CPU/Chassis Fan multi-speed control
– Voltage monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Input Voltage, CPU Internal Voltages
– Multi Thermal Sensor
|Form Factor||– EATX Form Factor
– 8 Layer PCB
– 4 x 2oz copper
– High Density Glass Fabric PCB
We talked about some of the boards features above, but ASRock has a couple they mention in particular. The first is the conformal coating this board already has out of the factory. Those in the sub-ambient cooling crowd are likely to be familiar with this stuff, while others may not be. This is a thin coating applied to the PCB to prevent conductive liquids, think water, LN2, LHe, or as ASRock says, ‘even clam chowder’. With condensation worries on sub ambient overclocking, particularly in the more humid summer months, this is really a necessity for long term extreme overclocking. A nice value add, ASRock!
ASRock offers a lengthy 5 year warranty for “any malfunctions that occur during normal use conditions.” Be sure to read the details in the link below, but that is more than the average three years we normally see for motherboards.
The X99 OC Formula uses a next gen digital PWM design that provides CPU Vcore voltage efficiently and smoothly which enhances stability and the lifespan of the motherboard.
With the M.2 form factor seemingly gaining more and more traction by the month, the X99 OC Formula comes with two. The first is an Ultra M.2 slot which gets its speed from the PCIe3 x4 bandwidth, or up to 32Gb/s. The slot supports both SATA3 and PCIe2 x4 speeds (up to 20Gb/s) and both can handle up to a 110mm (full length) drive.
We discussed the Power Kit above and below goes into a bit more detail. First mention is the XXL aluminum alloy heatsink design for the MOSFET and chipset area to keep things cool. Next up are the premium 60A Power Choke which provides enhances and improve Vcore voltage to the motherboard. The premium memory alloy chokes and Ultra Dual-N MOSFET help with more stable, efficient, and reliable power to the motherboard. Last, but not least, are the Nichicon Supreme 12K platinum capacitors with lifespans of ‘at least 12,000’ hours which is 20% longer compared to other counterparts on high-end motherboards.
Last up, for the gamer in you is the good Purity Sound 2 with the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC doing the heavy lifting. Also included on this board is a 115dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier, and a Texas Instruments NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier with cap-less drive technology. Nichicon audio capacitors are used, and the audio section has both EMI shielding and physical board separation to minimize EMI concerns.
We should be able to see this board has a lot to offer extreme overclockers, gamers, or enthusiasts in general.
Please the ASRock website for the X99 OC Formula for all the details (images also sourced from the website).
Waterproof by Conformal Coating – Nullifies Water Damage!
Conductive liquids such as water pretty much destroy all kinds of electronics on contact. That’s why ASRock has implemented a special layer of Conformal Coating on our motherboards, which makes the motherboards invulnerable to conductive liquids, corrosion and dust. Users won’t have to worry about spilling liquid nitrogen, liquid helium or even clam chowder over their motherboards while overclocking.
Note: Conformal Coating may protect the motherboard against conductive liquids, but only to a certain extent. To avoid damaging your computer and other components, we still advise users to keep liquids a safe distance away. Plus, the pins need to stay conductive therefore they are not covered by Conformal Coating.
5 Year Warranty
ASRock’s OC Formula Series motherboards with Conformal Coating guarantees 5 year warranty for any malfunctions that occur under normal use conditions during the warranty period.
*The details of this 5 year warranty service may vary by different regions. (RMA detail conditions)
More Precise, More Efficient
Unlike traditional motherboards that use analog power, this motherboard uses a next generation digital PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation) design, which provides CPU Vcore voltage more efficiently and smoothly, so that the stability and lifespan of the motherboard is greatly enhanced.
Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4)
The World’s Fastest M.2 Socket – PCIe Gen3 x4
The onboard M.2 socket is a new interface for connecting Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) SSDs or other devices. ASRock is the first in the world to implement PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 socket on motherboards. The ultimate Ultra M.2 interface pushes the speed up to 32Gb/s which is 6X faster compared to other M.2 Gen2 x1 solutions that are limited to 5Gb/s.
Supports 5 different sizes – 30mm, 42mm, 60mm, 80mm, 110mm
Supports NVIDIA® 4-Way SLI™, AMD 4-Way CrossFireX™
This motherboard comes with more than enough PCIe slots that supports multi-GPU 4-Way SLI and 4-Way CrossFireX at x8/x8/x8/x8 mode.
This flagship motherboard boasts a whopping 12 Power Phase Design with 24 Dual-N MOSFETs, which can reach up to an unearthly 1300W support, so that users may overclock and squeeze out every drop of performance effortlessly.
Hi-Density Power Connectors can reduce 23% power loss and decrease the connector’s temperature up to 22℃.
This motherboard provides 15µ gold within the CPU socket, DRAM slots and PCIe x16 slots, thus delivering better anti-oxidation protection than usual.
The very useful heat pipe design can maximize the system’s convection to expel hot air out.
The 8 Layer PCB comes with 4 sets of 2 ounce copper inner layers, delivering lower temperature and higher energy efficiency for overclocking.
Users may precisely keep track and control the temperature of each part of their motherboard when overclocking.
XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink Design
The extra large aluminum alloy heatsinks dramatically take away heat. As the MOSFETs and chipsets areas are well covered by these heatsinks to protect them from overheating, MOSFET and chipsets can perform with lower temperature, and your motherboard and system will be more stable and reliable.
Premium 60A Power Choke
Compared to traditional chokes, ASRock’s new-gen premium power chokes effectively increase up to 3 times better saturation current, providing enhanced and improved Vcore voltage to the motherboard.
Premium Memory Alloy Choke
Specially designed for memory power delivery, the new-gen alloy chokes feature a highly magnetic and heat resistant design, thus delivering more stable and reliable power to the motherboard.
Ultra Dual-N MOSFET for Memory Power
Combining two silicon dies into one MOSFET, Ultra Dual-N MOSFET provides larger die area and lower Rds(on), so the power supply for the CPU Vcore is more efficient.
Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps
Supreme 12K platinum capacitors with lifespans of at least 12,000 hours. Compared to other counterparts on high-end motherboards that merely have lifespans of around 10,000 hours, ASRock applied Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps that offer 20% longer lifespans and provide more stability and reliability.
* Tested under industry standard 105 degree Celsius ambient temperature.
Sapphire Black PCB
Pure black PCB appearance. The new Sapphire Black PCB represents rock-solid quality and gives the motherboard a more mysterious touch.
Purity Sound™ 2
Purity Sound™ 2 includes 7.1 CH HD audio with Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, 115dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier, TI® NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier, cap less Direct Drive technology, EMI shielding cover, PCB isolate shielding and DTS Connect. As Nichicon audio capacitors are what every audiophile has been longing for on a PC, ASRock applied these high quality capacitors for Purity Sound™ 2.
Checking out the box, we can see its a black background with the OC Formula symbol squarely in the center. The ASRock name is up top while CPU support, SLI, and some audio details are listed. Flipping the box around there is a slew of features listed from the 4-Way SLI/CFx (with appropriate CPU), the OC Formula Kit that has all the overclocking and cooling goodies, and the Dual M.2 slots to name just a couple of the items on the back. There isn’t too much to see on the top and sides, outside of perhaps some features and requirements.
When you open up the retail packaging, you are greeted with the typical box in a box setup. The motherboard rests safely below a cardboard partition and its accessory stack, which his listed below.
- 3 x ASRock Flexible SLI™ Bridge Connector Cables (2 x 10 cm, 1 x 14 cm)
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- 6 x SATA Data Cables
- 1 x HDD Saver Cable
- 2 x Screws for M.2 Sockets
- 1 x Screw for mini-PCIe Slot- Drives
- Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), Google Chrome Browser and Toolbar, Start8 (30 days trial), Orbweb.ME Professional (Win 8.1 / 7)
Meet the ASRock X99 OC Formula
Congratulations, you have finally made your way to seeing the ASRock X99 OC Formula in the flesh(?)! As we can see, ASRock has used their familiar black and a yellow/darker yellow theme, which notes it’s of the overclocking pedigree in their lineup. The larger Socket 2011-V3 stands out in the top right between the total of 8 DDR4 DIMM slots. The 8 pin and supplemental 4-pin power leads are above the XXL heatsink at the top. Other things to note are the four PCIe 3.0 slots, the Purity 2 audio, and the M.2 slots that sit between the top and third PCIe slot.
There isn’t too much to see on the back as is usual, but do take note of a couple things. The glossy look of the motherboard is the protective conformal coating and the electrical layout of the PCIe slots.
A Closer Look
Zooming in on the board, we will first focus on the audio section. We know it is the Purity Sound 2 because, well we did mention it earlier (did you forget already?!) and we can see it written on the mini Faraday cage that protects the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC from EMI. Surrounding that area, to the top and bottom, is the Nichicon audio caps, TI NE 5532 Differential amp, and headset amp (up to 600 ohm on front panel audio). Unless you need the best of the best, the ALC1150 CODEC and Purity Sound 2 should be plenty for your audio needs.
Next we see the setup of the PCIe slots with number one at the top and number five at the bottom. The GPU setups for 28 lane and 40 lane CPUs are as follows:
|28-Lane CPU||40-Lane CPU|
Suffice it to say, we do not have a PLX chip on this board.
Looking at the top right part of the board, we have a few things around there worth noting. The first item towards the middle left of the picture are the USB3 headers (board supports a total of 11). Just below them sits a well placed USB3 port good for when you are benchmarking or just have your PC in an open air environment. Sliding over to the right is the 24 pin ATX power. And next to that we see an easy to use voltage read point covering all the major voltages.
Below that are DIP switches for the PCIe slots for ease of troubleshooting, a slow mode switch which forces the processor to run at its lowest frequency, and a handy LN2 mode switch which helps in reducing cold-boot bug issues when using liquid Nitrogen. Last up in this area are the Rapid OC buttons featuring Menu (toggle through date/time/temperature/voltage), and the +/- buttons to allow for quick and easy adjustment of OC frequency (both BCLK and multiplier) within windows. Another great tool for the extreme overclocker or anyone trying to push the limits of their CPU.
Around the socket area, we see its pretty clean outside of a few capacitors that sit around the top and sides. Further insulation on top of the pre-conformaled board should be a fairly easy task. There isn’t a lot of real estate to cover up as one will hit the the DIMM slots and heatsinks on all sides. Not pictured here is the required 8-pin CPU power lead and only for heavy overclocking supplemental 4-pin.
As far as the I/O goes, we see a total of ten SATA3 ports. Six of which (SATA 0-5 on the left) support raid modes 0,1,5, and 10 along with Intel Rapid Storage 13.
The rear I/O shows your typical compliment of USB2, a P/S 2 port, CMOS reset, the Intel I1218V NIC, ASMedia ASM1074 based USB3 ports (6), the Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 NIC, and finally the audio jacks.
Across the bottom are your typical front panel audio, USB, fan header, case wiring headers, the power and reset buttons for open air convenience, and finally the dual bios switch.
The picture below shows the board in its birthday suit… no heatsinks attached! Here we can see all the power bits exposed. One thing to note is the thorough coverage of the conformal coating covering everything. I flipped over the heatsinks to show the heat pipe as well as showing it made good contact throughout.
UEFI BIOS, Overclocking Software
Next on our list is taking a peek into the UEFI BIOS. Moving across the tabs at the top you are greeted with Main (shows BIOS version, CPU type, and Memory). Next is the OC Tweaker (all of your overclocking features), followed up by Advanced, which holds your CPU, Chipset, Storage, Super IO, ACPI, and USB Configurations.
The fourth tab is Tool that holds several BIOS level utilities ranging from the Online Management Guard (OMG!), HDD Saver, Easy RAID and driver install to a couple options for updating the BIOS or even copying one to another directly. Following the Tool tab is H/W monitor. As the name suggests, this will monitor temperatures, voltages, you can also change your fan speed. The Security and Boot tabs would be self explanatory and wrap things up.
Being a board with overclocking being a core function, we are exposed to a ton of different things to mess with. World renowned overclocker Nick Shih had his hands in the motherboard’s design and in the BIOS and put in some overclock presets ranging from 5.25 GHz all the way to 6 GHz. The next couple of pictures show CPU Configuration screens, followed up by the DRAM screens, including the DRAM Tweaker where you can adjust all sorts or memory timings. Digging into the Advanced tab, CPU Configuration screen is where you will disable cores where needed, and set the C-States.
There is everything you need, and more, to push the CPU and memory to their limits under any type of cooling. There are Nick Shih created profiles to start you in the right direction with LN2 cooling, and some standard turbo profiles as well. Finding everything you need to overclock was pretty easy and consolidated to just a couple of screens. Mouse control was fluent and never choppy, while the background and theme look modern and doesn’t distract from business.
Overclocking Software – OC Formula Drive, Timing Configurator, Rapid OC
With this board being all about overclocking, you would expect to find some Windows based utilities to assist with the task and you would not be disappointed. OC Formula Drive will handle all your high level overclocking needs, monitoring, setting up a RAMdrive or the XFast LAN, and other software features.
The Timing Configurator is a utility that displays your primary and secondary RAM timings and also allows you to change most of their settings on the fly.
Last up is Rapid O/C, which allows you to program the buttons and use keyboard shortcuts to raise and lower BCLK, CPU multipliers, and voltages.
Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking
Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking:
|CPU||Intel 5820K @ Stock (for the motherboard) and 4.5GHz Overclocked|
|Motherboard||ASRock X99 OC Formula|
|RAM||4×4 GB Kingston HyperX DDR4-3000 15-16-16-39 1.35v|
|Graphics Card||MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G|
|Solid State Drive||OCZ Vertex 3|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic SS-1000XP (80+ Platinum)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 x64 SP1|
AIDA64 and MaxxMEM – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput
Cinebench R11.5 and R15 – CPU Rendering Benchmark
Super Pi 1M and 32M / Pifast – Single threaded CPU benchmark
Super Pi 1M
Super Pi 32M
WPrime 32M and 1024M – Multi threaded CPU benchmark
Graphical Comparison of Performance
Below is a comparison between all the boards I tested and the benchmarks. As you can see, things are within the realm of ‘about the same’ with everything generally falling within one percent of each other. A statistical tie for all intents and purposes.
Moving on to Cinebench, we see more of the same, a statistical dead heat. When you look at the AIDA64 results, the X99 OC Formula falls just a bit behind the EVGA offering, but works over the other boards in writes and copies.
Pushing the Limits
As always, I try to push things harder to wrap a review up. I landed at the same 4.74 GHz clockspeed I normally do, but instead of only passing Super Pi 1M and WPrime 32M, I raised the voltage to 1.5v and managed to pass WPrime 1024M and Hyper Pi, so we were decently stable at these clocks. With ambient temperatures in the room around 17C, I was able to keep temperatures reasonable throughout these short tests. Getting here was a breeze, simply dialing in the CPU voltage after adjusting the multiplier and setting the XMP Profile on the memory. I pushed BCLK to around 168 MHz on this CPU which wasn’t that great, but still showed a functional 166 MHz strap in my testing.
My experience with overclocking on this board was overall pretty positive. I did run into a weird performance bug though that is worth mentioning. When using the latest BIOS 1.7, I overclocked and ran into some issues with single threaded performance that I could not escape outside of using the older BIOS 1.6 or a beta BIOS. My SuperPi 1M time was off 1s, 32M over a minute, and Pifast was a few seconds off. The really curious part was that all multi-threaded benchmarks were spot on as far as performance goes. I am not sure what the source of the issue is, if its me missing a setting between the BIOS versions, or if the BIOS version is slower for whatever reason. There was a mention in an Anandtech article about BIOS version 1.6 not having multicore turbo being enabled by default, but after I looked into it, that is the antithesis of what is happening to me. I have an email out to ASRock to see if this was me or a BIOS issue though. For now, I would use 1.6 for anything single threaded.
Wrapping things up on this review, ASRock has brought a very solid contender to the arena for gamers, enthusiasts, and particularly for extreme overclockers. With the X99 OC Formula’s robust 12 phase Intersil ISL6379 PWM controller (6 phase hybrid analog/digital controller that uses doublers) along with their unlabeled 60A chokes and 4 phase memory, it has plenty of stable power on tap even for LN2 users. I am surprised we didn’t see the high quality Texas Instruments MOSFETs as that is what they used on other OCF boards. But I have to imagine these are no slouch anyway. The board comes with a conformal coating to help with moisture issues, particularly for condensation
For the gamer, you have dual NICs (Intel and Atheros based) as well as having the Purity Sound 2 audio supported by the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC. It also includes two TI NE5532 Op-Amps for headphones up to 600 Ohm as well as the Nichicon caps cleaning up the signal. So we have solid on board NICs and audio.
The UEFI BIOS layout was full of options to manipulate just about anything. Maneuvering around via keyboard or mouse was quite smooth too. Nick Shih had his hands in there and gives the user a few OC profiles for both the CPU and memory to help get you pointed in the right direction. I think these additions are priceless on a high end overclocking board. ASRock also offers a slew of software including their cloud, RAM drive (found in Formula Drive), among others. So it is a fully featured board.
About the only complaints, or really a concern, is the weird performance of the original BIOS 1.7 with single threaded applications. Again, I am not sure if I missed something or if it is an actual BIOS issue.
As far as pricing goes, the ASRock X99 OC Formula can be found for $329.99 at newegg.com ($289 with MIR). If you look at other boards in its class, Gigabyte SOC Force ($339), EVGA Classified ($399), MSI Xpower ($399), and the ASUS RVE ($469), we can see it is the least expensive of the bunch with only the Gigabyte offering being close. With that we can see pricing fits right in with its competition pretty darn well.
Overall ASRock brought a very well rounded board to the table with an eye for extreme overclocking. It looks good, solid audio, and bred to overclock. This board is Overclockers.com approved!
Joe Shields (Earthdog)