ASRock Z77 OC Formula - Intel Z77 Chipset Goes High-End

Launch SRP: S$409

Bundled Software - ASRock's Proprietary Tools and Utilities

Bundled Software - ASRock's Proprietary Tools and Utilities

This is the GUI of the ASRock OC Formula Drive with its straightforward layout where the utilities and information screens are accessed via the left navigation pane.

There are a number of software titles bundled with the ASRock Z77 OC Formula board; they include a trial version of an anti-virus software as well as the Cyberlink MediaEspresson 6.5 for video conversion. Befitting the status of its first OC sanctioned Intel Z77 motherboard, the company has introduced its ASRock OC Formula Drive software suite that aims to provide a direct means for power users to tweak the system's settings in the operating system environment, namely in Windows, without the need to access the BIOS UEFI Utility. The ASRock Formula Drive is actually a rebranded ASRock eXtreme Tuning Utility (AXTU) that offers basic monitoring and fan selections as well as a series of basic overclocking options and power saving utilities.

From the bundled installation DVD, we installed the ASRock Formula Drive software.

The said software suite is bundled with the board's installation disc and its installation on our test system went without a hitch. After launching the software, the initial screen that greeted us was the Hardware Monitor (as shown on the first screenshot on the top of the page) where information pertaining to the temperature of the processor as well the different voltage settings of the inset components of the processor as well as the chipset of the board. The information is very similar to that offered by the H/W Monitor of the board's UEFI BIOS utility as seen below:-

This page within the BIOS resembles that of the screen your first greeted when you launch the ASRock OC Formula Drive utility.

The Formula Drive utility encompasses many sub functions and we'll run through each in the following sections below.

 

Formula Drive: Fan-tastic Tuning

This updated fan control utility controls the chassis fans' rotation speeds by supposedly testing each of the six controllable fan headers in terms of RPM against power supplied to each attached cooling fan. As seen from this screen shot, users can set preferred fan speeds at various temperature points and you can even test the result graph to see if that's to your liking. That's a lot of control provided to the tinkering enthusiasts to ensure their system operates exactly the way they prefer it.

The points on the graph are adjustable; this allows the user to set the required fan RPM at different temperature points. One usage of this control utility is to tune the noise levels generated by all the cooling fans inside the system's chassis.

 

 

Formula Drive: Overclocking

We liked the manner in which the Overclocking utility has distilled the essential parameter settings and put them in a simple GUI. We also awarded extra brownie points for the ability to save our OC profiles onto our local drive. The hotkey function also allowed us the convenience to overclock the system with the touch of a single button, true OC on demand!

The Overclocking utility allows us to save our different profiles to the local drive of our system. There is even a 'hot key' option.

 

 

Formula Drive: OC DNA

On the whole, we felt that the OC DNA utility could have been combined with the first utility, Hardware Monitor (as seen on the first screenshot of this page). Collectively, they could have been called the Hardware DNA Center where we could have the board's information like model number and BIOS version as well as the ability to load different BIOS Settings profiles to suit our computing requirements on-the-fly. This dedicated section felt as if ASRock was trying to find ways to 'beef' up the utility unnecessarily.

The OC DNA allows the user to save BIOS Settings profiles.

 

 

Formula Drive: IES and Multi-Thermal Sensor

The Intelligent Energy Saver (IES) offers a one-click solution to set the amount of power phases being used by the processor, while the Multi-Thermal Sensor (MTS) is almost identical to its counterpart found in the board's BIOS UEFI utility that goes by the same moniker. In fact, the MTS could have been integrated within the Hardware Monitoring portion of the utility instead up jumping around different sections. As for IES, we don't really see much use for it as we've dabbled with more advanced systems like Gigabyte's Dynamic Energy Saver in the past that handles energy saving from managing power phases more intelligently. Furthermore, the gains from using such are small and an incorrect setting could result in overworking a particular power phase unnecessarily. We would much prefer an automatic management of power phase usage.

The IES (Intelligent Energy Saver) allows the user to lower the number of power phase supplied to the processor in order to lower power consumption of the system.

The Multi-Thermal Sensor provides a convenient to gather temperature readings of all the sensors on the motherboard. Our only wish was that it should have been integrated within the Hardware Monitoring section of the utility for a holistic view of all relevant information.

 

 

Formula Drive: XFast RAM

XFast RAM allows the user to partition part of their memory off to a RAM drive, and adjusts the system setup to use this virtual drive for temporary files. This software utility is part of a three-part offering from ASRock, collectively called the XFast 555 Technology, the other two components are XFast LAN and XFast USB respectively. XFast LAN allows the user to set network priority for different applications that reside on his system. The software also allows for port management of the network, as well as traffic analysis and monitoring. We've also covered this and more in a past event with ASRock.

The XFast RAM utility is one part of the trio of ASRock's XFast 555 Technology that was unveiled at last year's Computex. This component allows the user to create a RAM drive from their systems' memory to cache data that can be quickly accessed by applications running on their systems. 

 

Other Power User Software Utilities

The final three utilities we would like to highlight are Rapid OCASRock Timing Configurator and ASRock XFast USB. These are standalone software utilities to address different requirements of power users. The former works in tandem with the onboard Rapid OC buttons.

The pair of Rapid OC buttons allows overclockers to change the base frequency, CPU voltage or its CPU ratio accordingly. The buttons are only useful if the board has not been mounted inside the chassis of a PC. Else, they would be hard to reach and use.

In order to determine what the Rapid OC buttons are in control of, we had to execute the Rapid OC software utility that we had installed on our Windows 7 test system.

We launched the Rapid OC Configuration software by double-clicking the ASrock Rapid OC desktop shortcut. The other window titled Rapid OC appeared when the onboard Rapid OC buttons were pressed.

By setting the OC Mode that comprises a list of three items: BCLK, Ratio and CPU Voltage, their respective settings can be directly controlled from the physical Rapid OC buttons. In the example above, we set the OC Mode to BCLK and we could adjust the base clock frequency from our Windows 7 operating environment  by pressing the Rapid OC buttons on the ASRock Z77 OC Formula motherboard. We felt that this software is useful in order to squeeze out any incremental changes in the three commonly controlled settings that may have failed at the BIOS POST. In short, this is a formidable tool for power users who need to trick out any gains to increase the performance levels of their rigs.

The ASRock Timing Configurator would also be extremely useful in their hands. This standalone software allows power users to tweak the memory timing in order to achieve optimum performance. Again, this tool also allows the power user to tweak memory sub-timings to levels that may have failed the BIOS POST and to further fine tune them.

The sole purpose of the ASRock XFast USB is to speed up USB data transfer. The software interface is mostly green and according to the instructional manual, it states that it would work best with USB 3.0 devices. Like what we've often encountered with some of Buffalo's elite portable drives, this utility will use its own USB protocols to help achieve better performance than the standard system chipset driver.

The ASRock XFast USB software utility that is able to speed up USB data transmission. It is able to detect devices that have been plugged in and boost their transfer speeds accordingly.

7.5
Performance
7.5
Features
8.5
Value
6.5
The Good
Good engineering build
Well equipped and geared for overclocking
Lots of USB 3.0 ports
The Bad
Overall performance no better than mainstream boards
Overclocking needs to be tricked out
Unleashing the board's potential requires expensive LN2 equipment
Very expensive