Far too often we pay attention to the biggest and best boards on the market and overlook the ones that actually make up a large portion of the sales. Entry to mid-range components are used by the majority of system builders to do a specific function and to keep costs down. Today we will be looking at a board from ASRock Fatal1ty B85 Killer Motherboard that falls right into the Mid-Range market but does so without skimping on features.
The Fatal1ty B85 Killer is directed right at system builders that are also hardcore gamers. The Fatal1ty series of products are made to address the desires of all gamers: quality audio, network lag, and FPS. The B85 Killer is one of four new boards from ASRock to carry the Fatal1ty name.
Packaging and Contents
As with all of the previous Fatal1ty series boards, the box contains some detailed artwork in shades of red. This time around they will focus on the Fatal1ty logo instead of Johnathan Wendel himself. As with most mid to high-end boards there is a lot of feature information displayed on the front and back of their box.
ASRock highlights the “Killer” portion of its namesake in the top right corner by listing some of the performance benefits. We will get a closer look at this later.
We are not going to spend too much time detailing everything listed on the back of the box as these are all features we will be getting into further in this review. Killer E2200, Xspilt, Gaming Armor, and Purity sound are some of the major features included with the B85 Killer.
ASRock lists some of the World Championship Teams and Gaming Leagues it sponsors or who use Fatal1ty Gaming Gear products. Many of us are thankful to ASRock for its part in the world of Professional Gaming. If you have a keen interest in gaming then also check out on ASRock Z68 Extreme 7.
A brief product specification in 11 languages is outlined on this side. Again, here are some of the product specs listed. Some of these were already shown on other portions of the box. Once we get the board removed from the box we will be going over all of these.
The contents included being limited to just the essentials to get the board installed. ASRock didn’t include some of the items you normally see with a higher-end Z87 board like an SLI bridge, or more than two SATA cables.
Included with the B85 Killer are black SATA3 6Gb/s cables, a rear I/O shield, a drive/software disc, Xspilt code, and the hardware and software installation manuals.
The B85 Killer is sitting on a pink ESD foam and shipped in a standard ESD bag.
Closer Look Of ASRock Fatal1ty B85 Killer Motherboard
The Fatal1ty B85 Killer has the appearance and the weight of a more expensive higher-end board. The red and black scheme falls in line with the previous Fatal1ty products. The large heatsink on the VRMs and gold caps go a long way into making the B85 Killer a “Killer” looking board.
Purity Sound is one of the highlighted features integrated into the B85 Killer. Audio quality and sound levels are paramount for a satisfying gaming experience. ASRock designed Purity with the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, SNR DAC amplifier, separate headset amplifier, cap-less technology, and DTS.
The Killer portion of the product name comes from the Qualcomm Atheros E2200 Killer LAN platform. I didn’t say “NIC” since part of the Killer solution is software. The Qualcomm Network manager classifies and prioritizes applications to give those the bandwidth needed to decrease lag.
Installing the B85 is just as straightforward as any other board out on the market. It is solidly built and withstood strapping as many parts to it as possible. I decided to go ahead and make it a full-fledged gaming rig.
The majority of black with red highlights goes well with the other parts I selected. None of the red is so bright as to distract you from checking out the other goodies the B85 killer offers.
Now that we have the system up and running we can move on to the UEFI Bios and some testing.
When it comes to the BIOS, like many manufacturers, ASRock offers the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) BIOS. UEFI is a customized user interface for easier system configuration. By allowing the use of a mouse and keyboard to explore your options, setting up your system goes a lot quicker.
The UEFI on the B85 Killer is pretty close to what you will find on the higher-end Z87 boards from ASRock. For the most part, it is simple to use and everything can be found without hassle.
Main Tab – The Main tab doesn’t have very many options when it comes to settings. There is basic information about the current system setup and a guide to UEFI bios.
OC Tweaker Tab – This tab offers pretty much everything you would need to overclock your CPU. There is an Auto OC option for those new to Overclocking. Once you scroll down you will see CPU voltages, Multipliers, Memory, and many other core system options in the form of drop-down boxes.
Advanced Tab – Located on the Advanced tab, you will find all of the other features related to the rest of the board. The Chipset, CPU, IO, USB, and Storage configurations can be accessed with a click of your mouse.
Tool Tab – The Tool tab has utilities to make your installation easier. Easy Driver Installer, UEFI update tools, and a network configuration utility are included so you can download drivers from within the UEFI.
H/W Monitor Tab – This section is exactly what the name implies: Fan speeds, CPU and board temps, system voltages, and options to change fan profiles. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is very important to those that enjoy tweaking their systems.
Boot Tab – This is for selecting various boot options including Fast Boot.
Security Tab – This is for setting system security passwords.
Exit Tab – This is for exiting the UEFI screen. There are also various options to save changes or not and to EFI shell from the file.
As board makers try to stand out from the competition, they have spent more time focusing on bundled software. Long ago this used to be software items that were already available from other software vendors.
Almost all of the items are developed in-house and geared towards adding functionality to the purchased product. As such they are more of a feature than just another piece of utility software so they warrant coverage just as much as a hardware feature would.
ASRock did not skimp on the featured software bundle that is included with the Fatal1ty B85 Killer. Here is a quick run down before we cover each individually.
Part of the Falat1ty Series boards is the Killer E2200 LAN hardware-based NPU (Network Processing Unit). This chip operates by sorting packets and setting priority to those related to online gameplay and streaming, thereby increasing available bandwidth to those applications. Killer E2200 offers many features such as Advanced Stream Detect, Visual Bandwidth Control, and Online Gaming Monitor so you can tweak every aspect of your online activities.
Along with Killer Network Manager, F-Stream will be the main application you will use to access most of the included features on the Fatality B85 Killer Board. F-Stream basically encompasses many separate applications and places them into a central easy-to-use location. One of the main features of F-Stream is the ability to overclock on the B85 chipset using Haswell CPUS, like the i5-4670k we will be using today.
To take control of your internet experience even further, ASRock included the X-Fast LAN application. X-Fast LAN allows fine-tuning of network and internet traffic. It is not to be a replacement for the Killer E2200 NPU, but rather a supplement as the E2200 is geared for a specific task.
Within the application, you will find options for traffic analysis, Protocol and Program management, and options to set limits on network traffic and Ping time. In conjunction with the Killer E2200, you can really shape the way you use the internet.
Overclocking and Testing
Overclocking Haswell has been known to be a little tougher than previous generations of Intel CPUs, but it is by no means impossible to get a healthy OC on an I5 or I7 K series chip.
As I mentioned earlier, using the Auto Tuning feature built into F-Stream, it was able to achieve a 500MHz increase locking in on 4.3GHz OC using 1.2v and a 43x multiplier. This is no small feat as the B85 series chips were not made for overclocking. With a manual overclock in the BIOS 4.5GHz should not be difficult to achieve.
Benchmarks- SuperPi & WPrime
We will be using various software to benchmark and stress the system. Not all of these tests are indicative of one board being better than another as a few are CPU intensive. The Fatal1ty B85 Killer will be compared to a system using an MSI Z87 board and a 4770k just so we can see some core differences between a solid mid-range system and higher-end Z87-based systems.
These results highlight show gains that can be had if more money is spent on the CPU portion of the system. It looks worse than it really is; the i5 system is right where you would expect a mid-tier gaming rig to be.
The Fatal1ty B85 Killer motherboard was designed with gamers in mind, not hardcore system-building enthusiasts. In following that line of thought, the B85 Killer manages to hit the marks needed to be a solid gaming board. ASRock has made sure that all of the boards in the Fata1ty series come packed with features gamers will actually use and benefit from, not just on the hardware level but on the software support side of things are well.
Many of the applications you need to tweak your system and network can be done right inside of Windows, never having to restart to go into the Bios. This is a big improvement from just a few years ago when you spent most of your time looking at a blue background and white text for hours getting everything just right.
If you have to resort to using the Bios, ASRock’s implementation of UEFI Bios makes it pain-free to push drivers directly to your Windows install, network configuration, instant Bios updates, and overclock your CPU with a few simple clicks.