We recently had the pleasure of reviewing one of Asus’s X299 flagship motherboards in the Rampage VI Extreme Omega, I picture it as a luxury car with all of the appointments and a price tag out of reach of most users. Today we had a chance to look at another X299 offering, this time from ASRock with its X299 OC Formula. The OC Formula is more of the sports coupe of motherboards with a focus on overclocking and going fast as opposed to gaming or even workstation use. That doesn’t mean the board won’t do a good job as either, but some of the features on the board are pointed directly at the overclocker, from its onboard buttons and LN2 mode to the 13-Phase power delivery.
We put the monster i9-9980XE 18c/36t CPU on the board and push it as far as our cooling will take us along with going over the specifications and features.
Specifications and Features
The ASRock X299 OC Formula sits at the high-end of their HEDT lineup which has a total of 10 boards. Their X299 lineup includes boards of all sizes from the Mini-ITX X299E-ITX/ac ($320 Newegg), a Micro-ATX board in the X299M Extreme 4 ($194 Newegg), and the flagship Fatal1ty X299 Professional Gaming i9 ($330 Newegg). Between there sits the formidable X299 Taichi ($280 Newegg) and its big brother with the bigger heatsinks, the X299 Taichi XE ($282 Newegg). ASRock offers a complete X299 lineup.
The OC Formula is priced at $320/$415 (Newegg/Amazon) which by price is right up at the top of their product stack. The OC Formula differs from the boards in this group in that it is more focused on overclocking giving users options for convenient LN2 sessions, fewer DRAM slots for pushing higher speeds, as well as a solid VRM to push the latest processors for this platform, including the i9-9980XE we used here. ASRock uses what they call a 13 phase CPU power + 2 phase memory design using Digi Power and Dr. MOS MOSFETs.
Speaking of DRAM, one of the first things people notice on this board are the four DRAM slots as opposed to the eight we are used to seeing with this platform. The OC Formula supports up to 64GB DDR4 with speeds up to DDR4-4600 – the highest we have seen from this chipset. As mentioned earlier the reason why the board forgoes capacity is that it is made for overclocking thus giving high-speed the priority. When overclocking the memory, the fewer sticks/slots that are populated, the less stress on the CPU’s IMC (Integrated Memory Controller) and the faster memory can be pushed. By reducing the number of slots this will automatically reduce capacity but also keeps the memory as close as possible to the CPU reducing the length of the traces and improving signal integrity. Their Mini-ITX board does REALLY well with memory and is, in fact, one of the preferred platforms for memory overclocking.
On the PCIe connections, the board has a total of five full-length slots with each using the ASRock steel slot along with a PCIe 2.0 x1 slot and a PCIe 3.0 x4 slot. The board supports 2/3/4-Way SLI or Crossfire (with the proper CPU installed). Here is how all the slots break down by CPU:
- 44 Lane: x16/x0/x0/x18/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8/x8
- 28 Lane: x16/x0/x0/x8/x4 or x8/x8/x0/x8/x4
- 16 Lane: x16/x0/x0/x0/x4 or x8/x0/x0/x8/x4
On the storage front, we have six SATA 6 Gb/s connectors supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and source its bandwidth from the chipset. Two additional SATA 6 Gb/s connectors are supported by the ASMedia ASM1061 controller bringing the total to eight SATA ports. In addition to the SATA ports, there are two M.2 slots with both being PCIe 3.0 x4 capable and fitting modules up to 110 mm. There is some lane sharing here with the SATA ports: If M2_1 (top slot) is occupied by a SATA-type M.2 module, SATA3_0 will be disabled. If M2_2 (bottom slot) is occupied by a SATA-type M.2 device, SATA3_5 will be disabled.
The networking ability on the OC Formula comes from two ethernet ports – no Wi-Fi! Both ports are Gigabit speeds and Intel-based NICs. The first is the I219-V and the second the I211-AT. These ports have the ability to team as well for increased throughput.
The OC Formula uses the Realtek ALC1220 codec which is one of the higher-end integrated CODECs used. It supports 7.1 channel HD audio, impedance sensing rear out port, Texas Instruments NE5532 headset amplifier (supports up to 600 Ohm headsets), Nichicon Fine Gold Series audio caps, as well as individual PCB layers for the left and right channels and PCB isolation shielding. This setup is solid, especially for an overclocking-centered motherboard.
For USB connectivity, the rear I/O consists of six total ports. There are two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (Type-A and Type-C) being fed from the ASMedia ASM3142 chip. In addition to the Gen2 ports, There are four USB 3.1 Gen1 ports with ESD protection. Finally, ASRock includes two USB 2.0 ports, also with ESD protection. Internally, there is a single USB 3.1 Gen 1 header, Gen 2 header, as well as two USB 2.0 headers.
Keeping the system cool there are a total of five fan headers all of which are capable of controlling both DC and PWM fans spread throughout the board. The CPU fan connector supports a maximum of 1 A/12 W while the CPU Optional/Water Pump and Chassis Optional/Water Pump both support up to 1.5 A/18 W of power. We don’t see any fancy water flow or temperature sensors here on this purpose-made board.
Below is a complete list of specifications.
|ASRock X299 OC Formula Specifications|
|CPU||Intel Socket 2066 Core-X CPUs|
|Memory||Supports up to 64GB Quad Channel DDR4 @ 4600MHz+ non-ECC UDIMM|
|Expansion Slots||5 x PCIe 3.0 x16
1 x PCIe 3.0 x4
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
|Multi-GPU Support||NVIDIA 2/3/4-Way SLI, AMD 2/3/4-Way CrossfireX|
|Storage||6 x SATA 6 Gb/s Ports – Supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x SATA 6 Gb/s ports – (by ASMedia ASM1061)
2 x M.2 sockets
|LAN / Wi-Fi||1 x Intel I219V Gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet Port
1 x Intel GigaLAN I211-AT
|Audio||Realtek ALC1220 Codec|
2 x USB 2.0 (w/ESD protection)
1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A (ASMedia ASM3142)
1 s USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C (ASMedia ASM3142)
4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (w/ESD protection)
2 x USB 2.0 Headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Header (2 USB 3.1 G1 ports)
1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 header (Type-C ASMedia ASM3142)
|Fan Headers||5 x CPU/Chassis 4-pin headers
(2x CPU = 1A/12W, CPU OPT/WATER PUMP and CHASSIS OPT/WATER PUMP = 1.5 A/18 W)
|OS Support||Windows 10 64 bit|
|Form Factor||ATX (12″ x 9.6″)|
|Price||$320 Newegg, $415 Amazon|
We have also included a list of features sourced from the ASRock website for the board:
Retail Packaging and Accessories
ASRock’s retail packaging for the OC Formula consists of a simple black and grey box with the X299 OC Formula name written prominently across the front. On the back of the packaging, we see a picture of the board as well as listing some of the features. Opening up the front flap reveals the board itself on the right and more features on the inside flap. The board sits securely in foam and zip tied to the said foam for extra protection.
Meet the ASRock X299 OC Formula
Our first look at the OC Formula and what sticks out to me are the large heatsinks that are attached to the VRM along with a grey stripe of color running vertically down the right side of the board. The chipset heatsink is grey as well and matches up perfectly. Underneath this heatsink is where the (only) RGB LEDs are found on the board. She’s meant to go fast, not host a disco! Other major features that stick out are the five shielded PCIe connectors along with the four DIMM slots.
The back side of the board doesn’t show us much, but we are able to see several phase doublers towards the top and we can see the wiring for each of the PCIe slots.
Overall the board looks good, if not purpose-built for the job. If the existing RGB LEDs are not enough to tickle your fancy, there are two RGB headers for additional LEDs to help merge the board in with a specific build theme.
A Closer Look
Zooming in and looking at the top half of the board we can see a couple of things up close now. First, are the large heat sinks connected by a heat pipe for the VRM they are heavy and have some cuts in them to increase the surface area. On top, we can see an 8-pin and 4-pin EPS 12 V (4-pin is optional) to feed power to the processor.
Continuing to move to the right we can see the Rapid OC area, two CPU fan headers, and an RGB header (white). We can also see the front panel USB 3.1 G1 and G2 headers along with a supplemental 6-pin PCIe connector for use when running multiple GPUs. Just below that, we can see the ASMedia-driven SATA ports.
Looking at a close up of the upper right-hand corner we can see some features for the extreme overclocker to make things a bit easier. We can first see the PCIe switches for enabling/disabling lanes on the fly, and Menu/+/- buttons for hardware adjustment of BCLK and CPU ratio. Just to the right of the 24-pin ATX connector we see two switches. The first (white) is to enable LN2 mode, with the second to enable slow mode. The small buttons to their right are BFG (Safe boot), Retry, and Reset buttons. We can also see incredibly small voltage read points below those buttons. For an OC centric board, I would like to have seen these bigger and easier to use.
The bottom half of the board is where we’ll find the audio bits, PCIe lanes, chipset as well as (most of the) SATA ports. Starting on the left side, we can see all of the audio parts plain as day due to the OC Formula not using a shroud to cover them up. Below the battery is the Realtek ALC1220 chip while just on the other side are the Nichicon caps mentioned earlier. We can also see the board separation line weaving its way through that area. If you look closely enough, you can spot the Texas Instruments NE5532 amp as well.
In the PCIe area, we can see the five full-length slots with each using ASRocks’ steel slot for additional slot rigidity. There is also an x1 slot and x4 slot which do not have the protection on them. Please see the manual for exactly which slots to install a multi-GPU setup. Remember the board supports up to 4-Way SLI and Crossfire technologies.
To the right of that, we see a good-size heatsink covering the PCH chip underneath. Moving further we can see the native (6) SATA ports while the other two from ASMedia are at the very top right-hand corner and chopped off a bit by the image. The two M.2 slots flank the native SATA ports and support up to 110 mm modules.what is
Across the bottom are front panel headers, debug LED, USB 2.0 ports, RGB header, an HD audio header and more.
The ASRock X299 OC Formula’s rear I/O is fairly simple and has what most users need as far as connectivity goes. From left to right we can see two USB 2.0 ports which sit on top of a keyboard/mouse PS/2 port. The next things we see are BIOS flashback button (larger), and the clear CMOS button. The former used to flash the BIOS without a CPU in the socket. Next, are four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports and the Intel I211-AT network port. The second port is the Intel I219-V Ethernet. Below that are the two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, one Type-A one Type-C. Last, the audio stack consists of 5 1/8″ jacks and a single SPDIF.
The board has a total of eight SATA ports with six grouped together close to the chipset heatsink and the two ASMedia-driven ports further up the board. As a reminder, we do have some port sharing on the board with M.2 slots. If M2_1 is in use with a SATA based M.2 module, SATA port 0 will be disabled. Similarly, if M2_2 is in use with a SATA based M.2 module, SATA port 5 will be disabled.
Below is an image of the X299 OC Formula without its heatsinks.
The OC Formula’s pedigree is in overclocking and with that, in particular, the X299 platform brings with it the need to have a solid VRM area to delivery power to these HCC (High Core Count) CPUs. We’ve seen testing done where the CPU itself can pull several hundred watts. In fact, we’ve pulled over 700 W (system/at the wall) here with ambient overclocking and stress testing. It needs a large heatsink and the power delivery bits to hold up their end of the bargain.
ASRock uses a 12+1 configuration (VCore and System Agent) which is driven by Intersil’s latest fully digital PWM and power stages. The controller is the ISL69138 and manages up to 7 channels. On the OC Formula it is configured as a 6+1 phase mode then uses several ISL6617 phase doublers to give it the 12+1 setup. The controller manages ISL99227B/99227F 60 A power stages. The memory uses another ISL69138 and it drivers two Sinopower SM734EH dual N-channel MOSFETs.
The slideshow below covers many of the IC’s used on the board, from the Aquantia 10G chip to the Nuvoton Super IO chip.
UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software
ASRock’s UEFI BIOS consists of both an EZ Mode as well as an ‘advanced’ mode as we have seen with many other board partners. It starts off by default in advanced mode which is to be expected for a board made for overclocking. To access EZ Mode, simply press F6.
The EZ Mode portion of the BIOS is mostly black and grey with orange, grey, and white words/numbers making it quite easy to read. This mode displays information such as the installed processor and RAM, installed storage, chassis fan status, as well as CPU, motherboard and CPU voltage (input voltage, not vCore). Boot priority can be adjusted from here as well as well as the CPU Fan 1 setting. XMP profile for the RAM can also be enabled here.
When using advanced mode, the overall look, and color scheme switches to black, white, and teal blue. There are eight different options across the top set up in a menu fashion starting with Main – an informational screen which allows access to My Favorites, a BIOS page users can customize.
OC Tweaker is where users will find overclocking functions, voltage, power, and memory controls and where the business of overclocking gets done. Everything in this area is sectioned off into four main sections, CPU, DRAM, Voltage, and FIVR Configurations each section having its own role in overclocking. I prefer these things to be contained in the least amount of different sections possible, at least the main functions, but maneuvering around felt good regardless.
The Advanced section is where details on the CPU, Chipset, Storage, USB configurations and more can be edited. Inside the Tool section is where the Easy RAID installer can be found as well as UEFI update utilities to flash the BIOS. It gives the option to instant flash, update MEI and flash, an internet flash, or even back up the current BIOS to the second.
Inside the H/W Monitor section is where we can see the system status, temperatures, and voltages, as well as access the fan control, FanTastic, and set up custom profiles or use preset configurations. The BIOS has options for fan tuning which will automatically find the minimum and maximum speeds for the attached fans/pumps.
Overall, we didn’t have any issues with this BIOS and moving around inside was smooth using both the mouse and keyboard.
The slideshow below contains the rest of the BIOS screens…
Overclocking/Monitoring Software – Formula Drive
ASRock’s Windows-based monitoring and overclocking software is named Formula Drive (FD). FD looks similar to A-Tune and has the same options including the OC Tweaker, System Info, and Fan Tastic Tuning.
Test Setup and Performance
Here we take a slightly different approach to CPU testing with ours based on a lot of Hwbot.org benchmarks since that is what we are known for, overclocking and benchmarking. We use real-world testing as well with Cinebench, x265, POV-Ray, and 7Zip in order to give readers a good idea of the general performance of the product tested.
|Test System Components|
|Motherboard||ASRock X299 OC Formula|
|CPU Cooler||Alphacool Eisbaer Extreme|
|Memory||4×8 GB G.Skill Trident Z RGB 3200 MHz CL16-18-18-38|
|SSD||Toshiba OCZ TR200 480 GB (OS + Applications)|
|Power Supply||EVGA 750W G3|
|Video Card||NVIDIA RTX 2080 (417.71 drivers)|
Thanks go out to Alpahcool for providing the Eisbaer Extreme 280mm AiO cooler to keep this monster CPU under control, EVGA for the 750 W G3 Power Supply to power the system, G.Skill for the Trident Z DRAM, and Toshiba OCZ for the 480 GB TR200 SSD storage running the OS, benchmarks, and games. With our partners helping out, we are able to build matching test systems to mitigate many differences found between using different hardware. This allows for multiple reviewers in different locations to use the same test system and compare results without additional variables.
We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks which test rendering, memory performance, and single/multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks, we’ll use SuperPi 1M and 32M, wPrime and Intel XTU. For rendering it’s Cinebench R11.5 and R15. Memory performance is checked against the AIDA64 test suite. For encoding, we use x265 (HWBOT Version) and PoV Ray. A more real-world test is included in 7zip. Testing is performed with the CPU at stock speeds (set BIOS optimized defaults, XMP only no MCE). Memory speed is 3200 MHz using the XMP profile unless otherwise specified.
What we will see below is during any multi-threaded testing, the 18c/26t monstrosity of awesomeness that is the i9-9980XE is notably faster across the board. Single threaded performance is on par with the rest of the Skylake-X parts with the performance there varying mostly by the boost clocks between the tested CPUs.
AIDA64 – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput
|AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark – Raw Data|
|ASUS Rampage VI Extreme Omega||95304||82149||79549||70.7|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula||95102||77994||79972||67.5|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula (4.3 GHz)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
AIDA64 – CPU Tests
|AIDA64 CPU Benchmark – Raw Data|
|ASUS Rampage VI Extreme Omega||166568||45663||1547||77978||20641|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula||167457||41217||1546||77957||20638|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula (4.3 GHz)||186792||41049||1746||88239||23365|
AIDA64 – FPU Tests
|AIDA64 FPU Benchmark – Raw Data|
|ASUS Rampage VI Extreme Omega||9086||158708||89909||20627|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula||9418||158699||89863||20620|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula (4.3 GHz)||10641||243574||137808||23345|
Real World Tests
|Cinebench R11.5/R15, POVRay, x265 (HWBot), 7Zip – Raw Data|
|ASUS Rampage VI Extreme Omega||37.8||3705||7232||88.5||122726|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula||38.3||3765||7308||89.2||118068|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula (4.3 GHz)||43.3||4218||8260||108.6||129289|
Pi and Prime Based Tests
|SuperPi and wPrime Benchmarks – Raw Data|
|Motherboard||Spi 1M||SPi 32M||WPrime 32M||WPrime 1024M||Intel XTU|
|ASUS Rampage VI Extreme Omega||8.138||434.7||2.37||41.2||2538|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula||8.357||459.7||2.34||38.4||2212|
|ASRock X299 OC Formula (4.3 GHz)||8.845||448.5||2.1||34.0||2211|
In the end, we didn’t see a lot of much difference between the boards. The biggest differences were mostly found in throttling situations that seemed to be a bit different between the boards. In cases where it was not limited, they scored similarly which is as expected.
Our gaming results did not show a notable difference between the boards.
Power consumption using this board was right in the ballpark of the others using optimized default/stock settings for the board. In this scenario, the board current limit throttled during both of the AIDA64 tests and running at 2.8 GHz trying to get things under control. In this situation, the board was limited to around 253 W with the default test and peaked at 285 W during the FPU test. Prime 95 (small FFT) was a different story and it was able to run without throttling and hit 340 W (remember these values are at the wall).
For giggles, we overclocked the CPU to our thermal limit of 4.3 GHz at 1.15 V and disabled/raised all power and current limits for a no holds barred experience. When we retested at these speeds, the AIDA64 default test used 430 W and FPU 445 W. Prime 95 Small FFT took things to a whole new level hitting a mind-blowing 702 W during testing! We only run this for around a minute and thermals got out of control quickly. I was tempted to run 3DMark Fire Strike with it and see what a worst case scenario was, but using a 750 W PSU, I didn’t want to test its OCP.
Overclocking overall was a breeze on this board. Just setting both power limits and the current limits allowed us free reign over the CPU, limited only by our cooling. The OC Formula’s large VRM heatsinks did a good job removing nearly 500 W worth of heat away from the MOSFETs letting them run without issue. The heatsinks were very warm to the touch during this situation. If running this hard constantly, good case airflow will be beneficial. Outside of that, the board handled this monster CPU well over its spec.
The ASRock X299 Formula proved to be a board for the hardcore overclocker with its LN2-focused features and flexed its might when overclocking the flagship HCC i9-9980XE. On this board, we were clearly temperature limited when overclocking, even using the Alphacool Eisbaer Extreme Cooler. Stress testing with something more than AIDA64 proves to be exceedingly difficult due to that limit. During the testing, the board managed the nearly 500 W load with aplomb.
The OC Formula is not without the ability to serve as a normal gaming board as well. With its ability to support 4-Way SLI, high-end audio, and dual Ethernet ports, are sure to handle any game and stream that is thrown at it. It may not have all the bells and whistles the Omega had we just reviewed, but it also costs half of that and isn’t intended to function as one either.
Currently priced at $320 on Newegg, the OC Formula competes with the ASUS TUF X299 Mark 1 ($326), and the MSI X299 Tomahawk ($306). While both are quality boards, I’m not sure they will handle an overclocked i9-9980XE as the OC Formula did – they just aren’t built for it. The boards do offer more memory capacity, but otherwise, they can’t handle 4-Way multi GPUs.
The ASRock X299 Formula has a lot going for it at the $320 price range we see it sitting at. It will overclock the most power hungry of processors and is ready for sub-ambient overclocking as well. The OC Formula kept up with the ASUS RVIE Omega at half the cost. The OC Formula looks to be a board that is priced well, is a master at overclocking, and can easily be someone’s daily driver and gamer.
Joe Shields (Earthdog)