ASRock Z77 OC Formula Motherboard Review
OverviewHardware: CPU & Motherboards
WHAT WE LIKED:Styling separates the Z77 OC Formula from the rest of ASRock's line-up, great overclocking potential/performance and priced right.
WHAT WE DISLIKED:Slightly slow USB 3.0 speeds.
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Intel’s development follows their “tick-tock” strategy; that is, one swing represents a new architecture, and the next focuses on process (or die shrink) improvements. This development cycle is about 2 years each, so here we are in 2012 with Ivy Bridge (Tick).
With the launch of Socket1155 came the H67 and P67 chipsets, H67 was geared to the budget-oriented consumer, with onboard graphics and no overclocking abilities. P67, on the other hand, employed only discrete graphics but came with high performance overclocking capabilities. Each had pros and cons, and users were essentially forced to make a choice when going with a new hotrod Sandy Bridge processor.
The launch of the Z68 chipset changed that approach, as users can now benefit from the best of both worlds. The simple explanation is the Z68 is a hybrid of both H67 and P67, bringing onboard graphics and high performance overclocking in a single package. Recently, Intel launched the Z68 Gen.3 chipset and these motherboards are compatible with both Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge with a BIOS flash. The Z68 Gen.3 features PCIE 3.0 with one exception: Ivy Bridge operates with PCIE 3.0 but Sandy Bridge works with 2.0.
Here we are today, the Z77 chipset is here. Actually, Intel has 3 chipset controller hubs, the Z77, Z75 and H77. The major differences between the 3 chipsets are slim. Basically, the Z77 boasts more PCI slots while the Z75 sacrifices Intel’s Smart Response Technology (SSD Caching), and finally the H77 has no overclocking ability (Just like the old H67).
Here are the chipset features of each:
Now, as far as Z77 vs Z68 goes, let’s start with the most noticeable difference. The PCIE lanes can be split into different configurations, 16 x 1/ 2 x8 or x8/ x4, x4. This configuration is only available on the Z77 as the Z75 breaks them into 1 x 16x and 2 x 8x all with PCIE 3.0. The Z77 chipset also supports three independent displays along with four USB 3.0 ports and ten USB 2.0 support. The Z68 chipset had no USB 3.0 support but boasts 14 x USB 2.0 ports. Both chipsets run dual channel, and another noticeable upgrade is that the memory’s native speed increased from 1333MHz to 1600MHz. These upgrades are substantial to most users.
Here is the Z77 chipset block diagram, followed by the Z68 diagram for comparison:
Let’s move onto the board’s features and specifications next.