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ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 Motherboard Review

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 Motherboard Review

ASRock is a relatively new motherboard manufacturer, and it shows in their designs. They are more willing to come up with edgier designs, with a particular emphasis on marketing-friendly features. Today, we are going to take a look at one of their Fatal1ty-branded motherboards based on the Intel Z170 chipset – the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 Specifications

SpecificationsASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4
ChipsetIntel Z170
CPU Support6th Generation Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 / Pentium / Celeron processors (Socket 1151)
- Supports Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
- Supports Intel K-Series unlocked CPUs
- Supports ASRock BCLK & Hyper BCLK Engine Full-range Overclocking
CPU Power10-phase digital power design
Memory SupportUp to 64 GB of non-ECC, unbuffered DDR4 memory
- Four DDR4 DIMM slots with 15 μ gold-plated contacts (dual-channel)
- Supports up to DDR4-3866+ (OC) with a single memory module
- Supports DDR4-3600 (OC) / DDR4-3200 (OC) / DDR4-2933 (OC) / DDR4-2800 (OC) / DDR4-2400 (OC) / DDR4-2133
- Supports ECC UDIMM memory modules (operating in non-ECC mode)
- Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0
BIOSTwo 128 Mbits AMI UEFI BIOS with multilingual GUI support
- Supports Secure Backup UEFI Technology
- ACPI 5.0 & SMBIOS 2.7 Compliant
- Supports CPU, DRAM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA voltage adjustments
Processor Graphics Support- Supports Intel HD Graphics with up to 1792 MB shared memory
- Built-in DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 output supports triple monitors
- Maximum DVI-D resolution : 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Maximum HDMI resolution : 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 3840 x 2160 @ 30 Hz
- Maximum DisplayPort resolution : 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Audio SupportASRock Purity Sound 3
- Realtek ALC1150 7.1-channel HD audio codec
- Nichicon Fine Gold series capacitors, 115 dB SND DAC with two Ti NE5532 amplifiers
LAN SupportKiller E2400 Gigabit LAN
- Supports Energy-Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports Lightning & ESD Protection
Expansion Slots2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots
- x16 (PCIE2) and x4 (PCIE4)
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX and CrossFireX

3 x PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots (Flexible PCIe design)
Storage Ports2 x SATA Express (10 Gb/s) ports with RAID 0/1/5/10 support
- each can be converted into two SATA 3 (6.0 Gb/s) ports

2 x SATA 3 (6 Gb/s) ports

1 x Ultra M.2 socket
- Supports Type 2230 / 2242 / 2260 / 2280 / 22110 M.2 modules
- Supports M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen 3 x4
Connectors- 1 x COM Port Header
- 1 x TPM Header
- 1 x Power LED and Speaker Header
- 2 x CPU Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 4 x Chassis Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector
- 1 x 8 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density 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) (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x USB 3.0 Header (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
Rear Panel I/O- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
- 1 x DVI-D Port
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x USB 2.0 Port (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x USB 2.0 Fatal1ty Mouse Port (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 5 x USB 3.0 Ports (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x USB 3.0 Type C Port (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Hardware Sensors- CPU & chassis temperature sensors and fan tachometers
- Voltage monitoring for +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore, DRAM, VPPM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA
Form FactorFull ATX : 30.5 cm x 21.8 cm / 12.0" x 8.6"
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 10 / 8 / 8.1 / 7
Certifications- FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)
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Unboxing The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 comes in a typical motherboard box – a large cardboard box with its key features printed on the underside. Let us show you what’s inside the box in this unboxing video…

Inside, the box is divided into two layers by a simple cardboard insert. Under it is the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 motherboard in an anti-static bag with a pink polyethylene anti-static sheet wrapped around it.

When you remove everything, you will find the following items :

Next Page > The Motherboard, CPU Power & Performance, PCI Express

 

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The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 Motherboard

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 is a full ATX-sized motherboard that boasts the following key features :

  1. [adrotate banner=”4″]ASRock Super Alloy
  2. Gaming Armor – Memory / VGA Card / Cooling / Internet / Audio
  3. Supports 6th Generation Intel Core Processors (Socket 1151)
  4. Digi Power, 10 Power Phase design
  5. Supports DDR4 3866+(OC) memory modules
  6. 2 PCIe 3.0 x16, 3 PCIe 3.0 x1
  7. AMD Quad CrossFireX and CrossFireX
  8. Graphics Output Options: DVI-D, HDMI
  9. 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports Purity Sound 3 & DTS Connect
  10. 2 SATA Express, 6 SATA3, 1 Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3)
  11. 8 USB 3.0 (5 Type-A & 1 Type-C) – 2 Front, 6 Rear)
  12. Supports Full Spike Protection, ASRock Live Update & APP Shop, F-Stream, Key Master, XSplit

We also prepared a special video to show you the key design features of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 motherboard. Enjoy!

 

CPU Power & Performance

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 motherboard features a 10-phase power design. This is most likely an 8+2 design, with 8 phases dedicated to the CPU. That ensures a cooler and more efficient power conversion compared to voltage regulator modules (VRM) with fewer phases. Its MOSFETs and inductors are kept cool by large aluminium alloy heatsinks, which helps ensure reliability and longevity of the VRM.

The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 uses digital pulse-width modulation (PWM) to control its VRM. The PWM is critical in ensuring a stable power supply. Although high quality (and expensive) analog PWM exists, digital PWM allows for more accurate control of the power frequency and modulation.

ASRock also equipped the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 with Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors, which not only boasts faster response times and lower voltage noise but also a much longer lifespan (12,000 hours @ 105 °C). In general – this motherboard is designed to last.

To support CPU coolers with two fans, or a DIMM cooler, The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 has two CPU fan headers – one on each end of the four DIMM slots.

 

PCI Express Slots

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 motherboard has 5 PCI Express slots – 2 full-sized PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, and 3 much smaller PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots. The upper PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (PCIE2) operates at full x16 speed while the lower PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (PCIE4) only operates at x4 speed.

The three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots are of the flexible design. That basically means an open-ended slot. This allows you to use any PCI Express card in those x1 slots, even x16 cards. The only downside is that they will only run at x1 speed.

Next Page > DDR4 Memory, Ultra M.2, SATA Ports, Purity Sound 3, Dual BIOS

 

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DDR4 Memory Slots

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 motherboard has four DDR4 DIMM slots, their contacts gold-plated to protect them against oxidation and corrosion. Even though the Intel Z170 chipset only supports non-ECC memory, these DIMM slots can accept ECC memory modules – with their ECC capability disabled.

The Intel Z170 chipset only supports DDR4 memory up to 2133 MHz in frequency, but the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 allows for overclocked memory clock speeds of up to 3600 MHz with selected modules. It even supports 3866 MHz, but only if a single memory module is installed.

 

Ultra M.2 Socket

The Ultra M.2 socket is a unique ASRock feature. The M.2 socket is usually connected to the Z170 chipset using two PCI Express lanes. ASRock has instead connected the M.2 socket directly to the Intel Core processor using four PCI Express lanes. This not only doubles the maximum bandwidth to 32 Gbits/s (4 GB/s), it also reduces the M.2 socket’s latency.

Of course, you will need an M.2 SSD that supports PCIe x4. Even so, PCIe x2 SSDs may benefit slightly from the lower latencies associated with the Ultra M.2 socket being directly connected to the CPU, bypassing the Z170 chipset.

 

SATA Ports

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 specifications officially quotes 2 SATA Express ports as well as 6 standard SATA 3 ports. However, this is not really the case – it only comes with 2 SATA Express ports and 2 SATA 3 ports.

Of course, each SATA Express port can be “converted” into 2 standard SATA 3 ports. After all, the SATA Express port is really just two SATA 3 ports with a smaller PCI Express port that delivers two PCIe lanes. In other words, it supports up to 2 SATA Express drives and 2 SATA drives, or up to 6 SATA drives.

Depending on how many drives you intend to use in your system, this may or may not be sufficient. But the good news is that they did stack the connectors, like they did in the ASRock Z170 Extreme4. This makes the Z170 Gaming K4’s connectors must easier to access.

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ASRock Purity Sound 3

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 motherboard comes with the ASRock Purity Sound 3 audio solution. This is a combination of the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec with a 115 dB SNR DAC, two Ti NE5532 amplifiers as well as EMI and PCB shielding.

One of the Ti NE5532 amplifiers is used as a differential amplifier, which avoids the distortion caused by audio capacitors. The other Ti NE5532 amplifier is dedicated to driving the headphone port, allowing you to use high-impedance headphones without a separate amplifier or sound card.

 

Dual BIOS

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 was designed with techies in mind. It sports two 128 Mbit BIOS chips, with a physical switch. This allows you to quickly switch to the backup BIOS if you make an unrecoverable mistake in the BIOS setting, or the BIOS is corrupted after a flash failure.

Next Page > Fatal1ty Mouse Port, I/O Ports & Armor, Other Accessories, Our Verdict

 

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Fatal1ty Mouse Port

This is the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4‘s “killer feature” – the Fatal1ty mouse port. This red-coloured mouse port is supposed to impart Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel‘s skills to the user when a mouse is plugged in. How is that supposed to happen?

With the ASRock F-Stream software installed, the Fatal1ty mouse port is set to use Fatal1ty’s personal preferred mouse polling rate of 500 Hz. The ASRock F-Stream software also allows you to change the mouse polling rate from 125 Hz to 1000 Hz. Of course, the higher polling rates may not be supported by some mice.

Frankly speaking, this is really just marketing fluff. Any gamer who takes gaming even half-seriously would be using a half-decent gaming mouse. And most (if not all) half-decent gaming mice allow you to change the mouse polling rates, amongst other things. There is no need to even use a special mouse port to achieve this.

If you have a good gaming mouse, it will even allow you to change the polling rate or sensor resolution on-the-fly… and yes, it would work with any USB port. So why bother with the Fatal1ty mouse port?

 

I/O Ports & Armor

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 has a ton of I/O ports at the rear, including a legacy PS/2 port, two USB 2.0 ports (the top port being the Fatal1ty mouse port), a Type C USB 3.0 port (note that this is not the faster USB 3.1 port) as well as 5 standard USB 3.0 ports. In addition to the 5 audio and line-in port, it also sports a single Gigabit LAN port. For display purposes, it offers a DVI-D port and a HDMI port.

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 also features what ASRock calls their I/O Armor. It is ostensibly a protective cover that protects the rear I/O ports from static damage. Frankly speaking, this is only useful if you are using the motherboard outside of a chassis. When installed in a chassis, that job is fulfilled by the I/O shield (also included) that is installed into the chassis.

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Other Accessories

Here is a closer look at the other accessories included in the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 package – the manual and driver CD. A case sticker can be found inside the driver CD sleeve.

It also comes with four SATA 3 cables and a small plastic bag with a single small screw – this is used to lock the Ultra M.2 SSD in place.

 

Our Verdict

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 motherboard has all of the hallmarks of a decent gaming motherboard. It boasts a 10-phase power design with a digital PWM and Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors. The entire power supply is further cooled by large aluminium-alloy heatsinks. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring an efficient power conversion, stable power supply and longer lifespan.

There are decent expansion options with 2 full-sized PCI Express x16 slots and 3 small PCIe x1 slots. The PCIe x1 slots are even the “flexible” type that will accept any PCI Express card. Audiophiles will appreciate the better audio quality courtesy of its Purity Sound 3 module. Their Ultra M.2 socket is also a nice touch although it has minimal effect on your M.2 SSD’s performance unless it supports PCIe x4.

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 comes with plenty of USB ports and headers, and even a Type C port. However, we should point out that it does not support the latest USB 3.1 standard. Even the Type C port is a USB 3.0 port. It allows you to attach USB 3.1 devices but it will only transfer data at USB 3.0 speeds, which is roughly half that of USB 3.1. If you must have USB 3.1 support, you need to consider the higher-end ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard.

But the greatest disappointment is the Fatal1ty Mouse Port feature. It is really nothing more than marketing fluff, since it is just a USB 2.0 port. Its ability to adjust the mouse polling rate is through the bundled F-Stream software. This is a standard feature in all gaming mouse software that does not require any special USB port.

If you are looking for a decent gaming motherboard based on the Intel Z170 chipset, the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 is worthy of consideration. It has plenty of genuine hardware features that will ensure long lifespan and high reliability. Just don’t expect the Fatal1ty brand or the Fatal1ty Mouse Port to impart any gaming benefit. That’s pure marketing. Focus on the real features and you won’t be disappointed.

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The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard Review Rev. 2.0

ASRock is a relatively new motherboard manufacturer, and it shows in their designs. They are more willing to come up with edgier designs, with a particular emphasis on marketing-friendly features. Today, we are going to take a look at one of their Intel Z170-based motherboards – the ASRock Z170 Extreme4.

Updated @ 2016-05-03 : Updated the review with additional information, particularly with regards to its PCI Express and SATA Express ports.

 

ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Specifications

SpecificationsASRock Z170 Extreme4
ChipsetIntel Z170
CPU Support6th Generation Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 / Pentium / Celeron processors (Socket 1151)
- Supports Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
- Supports Intel K-Series unlocked CPUs
- Supports ASRock BCLK & Hyper BCLK Engine Full-range Overclocking
CPU Power10-phase digital power design
Memory SupportUp to 64 GB of non-ECC, unbuffered DDR4 memory
- Four DDR4 DIMM slots with 15 μ gold-plated contacts (dual-channel)
- Supports up to DDR4-3866+ (OC) with a single memory module
- Supports DDR4-3600 (OC) / DDR4-3200 (OC) / DDR4-2933 (OC) / DDR4-2800 (OC) / DDR4-2400 (OC) / DDR4-2133
- Supports ECC UDIMM memory modules (operating in non-ECC mode)
- Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0
BIOSTwo 128 Mbits AMI UEFI BIOS with multilingual GUI support
- Supports Secure Backup UEFI Technology
- ACPI 5.0 & SMBIOS 2.7 Compliant
- Supports CPU, DRAM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA voltage adjustments
Processor Graphics Support- Supports Intel HD Graphics with up to 1792 MB shared memory
- Built-in DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 output supports triple monitors
- Maximum DVI-D resolution : 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Maximum HDMI resolution : 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 3840 x 2160 @ 30 Hz
- Maximum DisplayPort resolution : 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Audio SupportASRock Purity Sound 3
- Realtek ALC1150 7.1-channel HD audio codec
- Nichicon Fine Gold series capacitors, 115 dB SND DAC with two Ti NE5532 amplifiers
LAN SupportIntel I219V Gigabit LAN
- Supports Energy-Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports Lightning & ESD Protection
Expansion Slots3 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots
- x16 with single card / x8-x8 with two cards / x8-x8-x4 with three cards
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX and CrossFireX
- Supports NVIDIA Quad SLI and SLI

3 x PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots (Flexible PCIe design)
Storage Ports3 x SATA Express (10 Gb/s) ports with RAID 0/1/5/10 support
- each can be converted into two SATA 3 (6.0 Gb/s) ports

1 x Ultra M.2 socket
- Supports Type 2230 / 2242 / 2260 / 2280 / 22110 M.2 modules
- Supports M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen 3 x4
Connectors- 1 x COM Port Header
- 1 x TPM Header
- 1 x Power LED and Speaker Header
- 2 x CPU Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 3 x Chassis Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector
- 1 x 8 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density 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) (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x USB 3.0 Header (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- 1 x Dr. Debug with LED
- 1 x Power Switch with LED
- 1 x Reset Switch with LED
Rear Panel I/O- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
- 1 x DVI-D Port
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 6 x USB 3.0 Ports (Intel Z170) (Supports ESD Protection)
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port 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
Hardware Sensors- CPU & chassis temperature sensors and fan tachometers
- Case Open detection
- Voltage monitoring for +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore, DRAM, VPPM, PCH 1.0V, VCCIO, VCCSA
Form FactorFull ATX
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 10 / 8 / 8.1 / 7
Certifications- FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

 

Unboxing The ASRock Z170 Extreme4

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 comes in a typical motherboard box – a large cardboard box with its key features printed on the underside. Let us show you what’s inside the box in this unboxing video…

Inside, the box is divided into two layers by a simple cardboard insert. Under it is the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard in an anti-static bag with a pink polyethylene anti-static sheet wrapped around it.

When you remove everything, you will find the following items :

Page 2 > The Motherboard, CPU Power & Performance, DDR4 Memory

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The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 is a full ATX-sized motherboard that boasts the following key features :

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  1. ASRock Super Alloy
  2. Supports 6th Generation Intel Core Processors (Socket 1151)
  3. Digi Power, 10 Power Phase design
  4. Supports DDR4 3866+(OC) memory modules
  5. 3 PCIe 3.0 x16, 3 PCIe 3.0 x1
  6. NVIDIA Quad SLI, AMD 3-Way CrossFireX
  7. Graphics Output Options: DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2
  8. Supports Triple Monitor
  9. 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports Purity Sound 3 & DTS Connect
  10. 3 SATA Express, 6 SATA3, 1 Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3)
  11. 2 USB 3.1 (1 Type-C & 1 Type-A), 8 USB 3.0 (2 Front, 6 Rear)
  12. Supports Full Spike Protection, ASRock Live Update & APP Shop

We also prepared a special video to show you the key design features of the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard. Enjoy!

 

CPU Power & Performance

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard features a 10-phase power design. This is most likely an 8+2 design, with 8 phases dedicated to the CPU. That ensures a cooler and more efficient power conversion compared to voltage regulator modules (VRM) with fewer phases. Its MOSFETs and inductors are kept cool by large aluminium alloy heatsinks, which helps ensure reliability and longevity of the VRM.

The Z170 Extreme4 uses digital pulse-width modulation (PWM) to control its VRM. The PWM is critical in ensuring a stable power supply. Although high quality (and expensive) analog PWM exists, digital PWM allows for more accurate control of the power frequency and modulation.

ASRock also equipped the Z170 Extreme4 with Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors, which not only boasts faster response times and lower voltage noise but also a much longer lifespan (12,000 hours @ 105 °C). In general – this motherboard is designed to last.

To support CPU coolers with two fans, or a DIMM cooler, the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 has two CPU fan headers placed at the top of the board, right next to the four DIMM slots. Finally, the Z170 Extreme4 features an external base clock generator, which gives you finer control of the BLCK frequency- in 0.0625 MHz steps. Of course, the utility of such fine control of the BCLK clock is questionable…

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DDR4 Memory Slots

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard has four DDR4 DIMM slots, their contacts gold-plated to protect them against oxidation and corrosion. Even though the Intel Z170 chipset only supports non-ECC memory, these DIMM slots can accept ECC memory modules – with their ECC capability disabled.

The Intel Z170 chipset only supports DDR4 memory up to 2133 MHz in frequency, but the Z170 Extreme4 allows for overclocked memory clock speeds of up to 3600 MHz with selected modules. It even supports 3866 MHz, but only if a single memory module is installed.

Page 3 > PCI Express, Ultra M.2, SATA Ports

 

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PCI Express Slots

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard has 6 PCI Express slots – 3 full-sized PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, and 3 much smaller PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots. The top-most PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (PCIE2) operates at full x16 speed with a single card.

If you have two graphics cards, you will need to install them in PCIE2 and PCIE4 and they will both run at x8 speed. If you install a third graphics cards in the PCIE6 slot, it will only run at x4 speed.

The three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots are of the flexible design. That basically means an open-ended slot. This allows you to use any PCI Express card in those x1 slots, even x16 cards. The only downside is that they will only run at x1 speed.

 

Ultra M.2 Socket

The Ultra M.2 socket is a unique ASRock feature. The M.2 socket is usually connected to the Z170 chipset using two PCI Express lanes. ASRock has instead connected the M.2 socket directly to the Intel Core processor using four PCI Express lanes. This not only doubles the maximum bandwidth to 32 Gbits/s (4 GB/s), it also reduces the M.2 socket’s latency.

Of course, you will need an M.2 SSD that supports PCIe x4. Even so, PCIe x2 SSDs may benefit slightly from the lower latencies associated with the Ultra M.2 socket being directly connected to the CPU, bypassing the Z170 chipset.

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SATA Ports

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 specifications officially quotes 3 SATA Express ports as well as 6 standard SATA 3 ports. However, that is not really the case – it only comes with 3 SATA Express ports.

Of course, each SATA Express port can be “converted” into 2 standard SATA 3 ports. After all, the SATA Express port is really just two SATA 3 ports with a smaller PCI Express port that delivers two PCIe lanes. So you can attach up to 3 SATA Express devices, or 6 SATA devices, or any combinations in between.

Depending on how many drives you intend to use in your system, this may or may not be sufficient. The stacked side-facing SATA ports also may prove to be troublesome. In tight cases, you may not be able to access the lower SATA Express port, depriving you of the opportunity to attach a SATA Express device, or two SATA devices.

Page 4 > Purity Sound 3, Goodies For Techies, I/O Ports & Armor, Other Accessories

 

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ASRock Purity Sound 3

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard comes with their Purity Sound 3 audio solution. It is a combination of the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec with a 115 dB SNR DAC, two Ti NE5532 amplifiers as well as EMI and PCB shielding.

One of the Ti NE5532 amplifiers is used as a differential amplifier, which avoids the distortion caused by audio capacitors. The other Ti NE5532 amplifier is dedicated to driving the headphone port, allowing you to use high-impedance headphones without a separate amplifier or sound card.

 

Goodies For Techies

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 was designed with techies in mind. It sports two 128 Mbit BIOS chips, with a physical switch. This allows you to quickly switch to the backup BIOS if you make an unrecoverable mistake in the BIOS setting, or the BIOS is corrupted after a flash failure.

They also include physical Power and Reset buttons on the motherboard, for enthusiasts who prefer to use the Z170 Extreme4 outside of a chassis. There is also a 2-digit Dr. Debug LED display that displays an error code during any failure. Very useful indeed.

 

I/O Ports & Armor

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 has a ton of I/O ports at the rear, including a legacy PS/2 port, a physical Reset button, two USB 3.1 ports (one Type A, one Type C) as well as 6 standard USB 3.0 ports. In addition to the 5 audio and line-in port, it also sports a single Gigabit LAN port. For display purposes, it boasts a DVI-D port, a HDMI port and a DisplayPort.

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 also features what ASRock calls their I/O Armor. It is ostensibly a protective cover that protects the rear I/O ports from static damage. Frankly speaking, this is only useful if you are using the motherboard outside of a chassis. When installed in a chassis, that job is fulfilled by the I/O shield (also included) that is installed into the chassis.

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Other Accessories

Here is a closer look at the other accessories included in the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 package – the manual and driver CD. A case sticker can be found inside the driver CD sleeve.

It also comes with four SATA 3 cables and an SLI bridge card. There is a small plastic bag with a single small screw – this is used to lock the Ultra M.2 SSD in place.

Page 5 > Our Verdict & Award

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Our Verdict

ASRock has been accused of focusing a bit too much on marketing, at the expense of quality. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 motherboard.

The ASRock Z170 Extreme4 boasts a 10-phase power design with a digital PWM and Nichicon 12K Platinum capacitors. The entire power supply is further cooled by large aluminium-alloy heatsinks. A lot of effort has gone into ensuring an efficient power conversion, stable power supply and longer lifespan.

We also like the fact that they added support for USB 3.1. Not just the more common Type C, they also added the larger Type A port. Their Ultra M.2 socket is also a nice touch although it has minimal effect on your M.2 SSD’s performance unless it supports PCIe x4.

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Audiophiles will appreciate the better audio quality courtesy of its Purity Sound 3 module. Enthusiasts who prefer using the motherboard “in the nude” will love their addition of physical Power and Reset buttons as well as a Dr. Debug LED.

There is plenty of expansion options with 3 full-sized PCI Express x16 slots and 3 small PCIe x1 slots. The PCIe x1 slots are even the “flexible” type that will accept any PCI Express card.

The only downside is the limited number of SATA ports. This will be a problem in tight cases because 4 of them are stacked and bent perpendicularly. Only two of the SATA ports are conveniently located at the lower right corner of the motherboard.

Overall, this is one sweet Intel Z170 motherboard, especially for a hardware enthusiast who prefers not to use a chassis. We think it deserves at least our Reviewers’ Choice Award. Congratulations, ASRock!

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GIGABYTE Z170 March OC Madness Competition

Taipei, Taiwan, March 4, 2016 – GIGABYTE TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd. today announced its next competition for the overclocking community with the GIGABYTE Z170 March OC Madness Competition, to be hosted this March on HWBOT.org.

Kicking off March 12th, the GIGABYTE Z170 March OC Madness Competition will challenge overclockers to push their motherboards and 6th Gen Intel processors to the limit, in a two category, three stage competition that’s absolute madness. This competition is open to all skill levels, with Novice, Rookie, Enthusiast, Elite and Extreme category levels allowing anyone to participate.

There are a number of cash and hardware prizes up for grabs! The winner for each category will be awarded $500 USD. In addition, participants that submit a score in all stages of their respective categories are eligible to enter a lucky draw for one of three GA-Z170X-Gaming 3 motherboards as the grand prize.

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The GIGABYTE Z170 March OC Madness Competition

March 12 until April 9 2016, 23:59 (UTC +8).

 

Category 1: Enthusiast, Rookie and Novice Overclockers

Stage 1: XTU

  • Submissions open March 12
  • Submissions close on March 24
  • CPU frequency must be set at 4.5GHz max

Stage 2: HWBOT x265 1080p

  • Submissions open on March 24
  • Submissions close on March 31
  • No restrictions, such madness!

Stage 3: SPI 32M

  • Submissions open March 31
  • Submissions close on April 9
  • CPU frequency must be set at 4GHz max

 

Category 2: Elite and Extreme Overclockers

Stage 1: XTU

  • Submissions open March 12
  • Submissions close on March 24
  • CPU frequency must be set at 5GHz max

Stage 2: Maxxmem Read Bandwidth

  • Submissions open on March 24
  • Submissions close on March 31
  • No restrictions, such madness!

Stage 3: Geekbench Single Core

  • Submissions open March 31
  • Submissions close on April 9
  • No restrictions, such madness!

 

Contest Rules

  • This competition is limited to GIGABYTE Z170 Motherboards only.
  • Every submission must include the competition background and a picture of the rig.
  • To be eligible for the lucky draw, participants must submit in all stages of one category.
  • A participant is eligible to win only once. If a participant is a category winner, he will not be eligible for the lucky draw
  • In case of a tie, the tie-breaker is the best score in Stage 3. If there’s still a tie, the best score in Stage 2, etc.

 

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BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 Launched

January 28th, 2016, Taipei, Taiwan – BIOSTAR proudly introduces the latest addition to its new flagship gaming series with the BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3. Meeting the needs of gamers’ by providing features perfect for an all-around gaming system. Like all BIOSTAR RACING series motherboards, the H170GT3 features improved features dedicated for gaming and entertainment with the RACING H170GT3 focusing on a balance of features and accessibility for light-purpose machines to heavyweight muscle rigs.

 

Balanced and Tuned 

The BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 simplifies decision-making for gamers by providing a platform which can scale with the gamer. Supporting the latest 6th-generation Intel Core processors, the RACING H170GT3 enables gamers to have the latest technology powering their systems for the best experience when they play.

Support for high-speed storage via M.2 and SATA Express enables high-speed access to data so games load faster so you can get to the action quicker. Gamers will also be able to show-off their personal style via VIVID LED DJ and 5050 LED FUN features allowing customizable lighting for gamers who want a color-themed rig.

The BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 supports dual-GPU configuration via AMD Crossfire for upgraders looking to get more FPS in their systems with another AMD Radeon GPU which supports AMD Crossfire technology. The motherboard has optimal spacing in-between the PCI-e X16 slots for maximum airflow so both cards operate at optimal conditions.

With upgraders in mind, BIOSTAR has placed legacy PS/2 ports in the RACING H170GT3 to allow players who prefer legacy peripherals to still use their devices on this motherboard. Support for dual HDMI output and DVI are also available on this motherboard together with plenty of USB3 ports for your high-speed devices.

 

Super 5 Design

[adrotate banner=”4″]Biostar has built the RACING series motherboard from the ground up, taking into consideration the ever-changing needs of gamers and enthusiasts. The new BIOSTAR RACING Series is proud to introduce the Super 5 Design Concept:
  • Super Face – all new RACING design theme for visual appeal
  • Super Power – powerful hardware design
  • Super Sound – signature BIOSTAR HI-FI audio experience
  • Super Easy – User- friendly design and accessible touch control
  • Super Fun – unique DIY concept for enthusiasts and modders

 

BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 Specifications

CPU LGA 1151 Processor
Power 7 phase
Chipset Intel H170
Capacitors 100% Solid Capacitors
Memory 4 x DIMM, support DDR4-2133
Expansion Slot 2 x PCI-E x16 3.0
2 x PCI-E x1 3.0
1 x M.2 32 Gb/s (42/60/80 mm)
Audio 7.1 channel Bluwith BIOSTAR HiFi
LAN Intel i219V
Storage 2 x SATA 6 Gb/s
1 x SATA
Express 16Gb/s
Video DVI-D, 2 x HDMI
USB 3.0 / 2.0 8 x USB3.0 (4+4)
4 x USB 2.0 (2+2)
Feature Vivid LED DJ / Smart Ear/ BIO-Remote2 / BIOS Online Update

 

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New BIOSTAR Racing Series Motherboards Launched

December 31st, 2015 Taipei, Taiwan – BIOSTAR is proud to introduce the next-level of performance motherboards: the BIOSTAR RACING Series. Featuring an all-new design, the BIOSTAR RACING series ushers in the future of performance with all new cutting-edge features and a new racing design for a stylish and powerful build.

 

Featuring the latest in gaming hardware from BIOSTAR, the all-new RACING Series is built with powerful hardware design based around the Intel 100-series chipset. Super Durable Ferrite chokes for high-quality power delivery to vital components, Super Durable Solid Caps for longer-lasting performance, low-latency Intel LAN. Storage via super-fast SATA Express and PCI-e M.2 slot allow rapid access to the latest generation of storage devices. DUAL BIOS guarantees resilient motherboard operation whenever BIOS fails.

 

Super 5 Design

Biostar has built the Racing series motherboard from the ground up, taking into consideration the ever-changing needs of gamers and enthusiasts. The new BIOSTAR Racing Series is proud to introduce the Super 5 Design Concept:

  • Super Face – all new racing design theme for visual appeal
  • Super Power – powerful hardware design
  • Super Sound – signature BIOSTAR HI-FI audio experience
  • Super Easy – User-friendly design and accessible touch control
  • Super Fun – unique DIY concept for enthusiasts and modders

All this new features are reflected in the Racing series which are intended to give the best experience for all users.

 

BIOSTAR Racing Series Features

  • The new BIOSTAR Racing Series features the all-new Racing I/O Armor which protects the I/O panel and components from dust and static.[adrotate banner=”4″]
  • Design your own LED effect with BIOSTAR Vivid LED DJ. Control your motherboard LED light via VIVID LED DJ utility including special effects like music-reactive LED animation.
  • Expand your chassis looks by connecting 5050 header-equipped LED strips directly on the motherboard and control it via the VIVID LED DJ. Perfect for DIY fans and modders.
  • GT Touch features one-touch mode selection: Sports mode for a performance boost and Eco mode for optimized energy consumption. Designate onboard LED configuration for each profile individually VIVID LED DJ software.
  • BIOSTAR motherboard protection via DUAL BIOS technology ensures recovery during failed main BIOS removing the need for factory repair when corruption or BIOS failure occurs.