ASROCK Z170 OC FORMULA
As its name suggests, the Z170 OC Formula has been designed unabashedly with overclocking in mind. The board boasts a 18+2 phase digital power design, with the two additional phases dedicated to the memory components. While the number of power phases is a poor indicator of a board’s ability to support high overclocks, it does serve as a general guide of overclockability.
But power phases aside, the Z170 OC Formula also comes with a host of other features to improve stability. These include 60A power chokes for cleaner Vcore voltages, premium memory alloy chokes to feed power more reliably to the memory modules, and dual-stack MOSFETs that double the die area over traditional MOSFETs and make power delivery for the CPU Vcore more efficient.
In addition, there is a wide selection of connectivity options, including a total of four PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, one PCIe 3.0 x1 slot, and one PCIe 2.0 x1 slot. There’s even a vertical half-size mini-PCIe slot for a network adapter as the board lacks onboard Wi-Fi.
There’s only support for two-way NVIDIA SLI, but if you did have four AMD cards, they could run in x8/x4/x4/x4 mode – not ideal, but it’s workable. The Z170 platform really only allocates 16 PCIe 3.0
MARCH 2016 lanes to the GPUs, so the second PCIe 3.0 x16 slot has been wired to the PCH to tap on the PCIe 3.0 lanes from the chipset itself.
Other standout features include the 10 SATA 6Gbps ports and three M.2 sockets that provide plenty of storage connectivity options. However, you won’t be able to populate them all at once because of the finite number of PCIe 3.0 lanes available through the chipset, so do take note which ports have shared lanes so you don’t install your devices in conflicting ports.
Finally, the board features a plethora of dedicated hardware switches to allow quicker access to overclocking settings in an open test bench. The ‘+’ and ‘-’ Rapid OC buttons also allow you to tweak your CPU frequency in the Rapid OC Windows application by adjusting the base clock, CPU multiplier, CPU core voltage and CPU cache ratio. Then there’s the LN2 mode, Slow mode and XMP DIP switches and Direct Key button that let extreme overclockers resolve potential issues with LN2 overclocking or simply streamline the entire overclocking process.
And as expected of an overclocking-oriented board of this caliber, a dual BIOS switch enables you to switch between the two BIOses and recover from failed overclocks.
The onboard Purity Sound 3 audio solution can drive high impedance headphones up to 600 ohm.
There are a total of three M.2 sockets, the most out of all our tested boards.
Dedicated overclocking buttons and switches are found on the bottom-right corner.