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May 06, 2016

Unboxing & Review: ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1


ASRock is another brand that we do not see a whole lot in the lab but rest assured that we're very stoked to be reviewing this sample of the X99 OC Formula 3.1. Currently, the brand is known to be more affordable and rich in features when compared to other brands of similar tiers. This makes ASRock a worthwhile contender in the market when one is considering a DIY build. So here we'll get to see if ASRock has any of that in this X99.....um...let's get to opening the box before the intro gets any longer shall we?

(The Asrock X99 OC Formula 3.1 retails at $289.99 on newegg.com)
Specifications
General
OC Formula Kit
OC Formula Power Kit
- 12 Phase CPU Power design (Supports up to 1300w)
- Digi Power (CPU and Memory)
- Ultra Dual-N MOSFET (UDM)
OC Formula Connector Kit
- Hi-Density Power Connector (8 pin and 4 pin)
- 15μ Gold Contact (CPU socket, memory sockets and PCIE x16 slots (PCIE1 and PCIE4))
- ASRock X Series OC Socket
OC Formula Cooling Kit
- 8 Layer PCB
- 4 x 2oz copper
- Heat Pipe Design
OC Formula Monitor Kit
- Multi Thermal Sensor
Unique Feature
ASRock USB 3.1
- ASRock USB 3.1 Card/A+A (10 Gb/s)
- ASRock USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s)
ASRock X Series OC Socket
ASRock Super Alloy
- XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink
- Premium 60A Power Choke
- Premium Memory Alloy Choke (Reduces 70% core loss compared to iron powder choke)
- Ultra Dual-N MOSFET (UDM)
- Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps (100% Japan made high quality conductive polymer capacitors)
- Sapphire Black PCB
ASRock Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4)
ASRock HDD Saver Technology
ASRock Full Spike Protection
ASRock APP Shop
CPU
- Supports Intel® Core™ i7 and Xeon® 18-Core Processors Family for the LGA 2011-3 Socket
- Digi Power design
- 12 Power Phase design (Supports up to 1300w)
- Supports Intel®
 Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
Chipset
- Intel® X99
Memory
- Quad Channel DDR4 Memory Technology
- 8 x DDR4 DIMM Slots
- Supports DDR4 3400+(OC)*/2933(OC)/2800(OC)/2400(OC)/2133 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Supports non-ECC x8 (8 bit) RDIMM (Registered DIMM)/x8 (8 bit) UDIMM
- Supports DDR4 ECC x8 (8 bit) RDIMM/x8 (8 bit) UDIMM with Intel®
 Xeon® processors E5 series in the LGA 2011-3 Socket, but not include x4 (4 bit) RDIMM/ x4 (4 bit) UDIMM.
- Max. capacity of system memory: 128GB
- Supports Intel®
 Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0
BIOS
- 2 x 128Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with multilingual GUI support (1 x Main BIOS and 1 x Backup BIOS)
- Supports Secure Backup UEFI Technology
- ACPI 5.0 Compliant wake up events
- SMBIOS 2.7 Support
- CPU, DRAM, PCH 1.05V, PCH 1.5V, VPPM Voltage Multi-adjustment
 Audio, Video and Networking
Graphics
- n/a
Audio
- 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray Audio support
- Supports Surge Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- Supports Purity Sound™ 2
- Nichicon Fine Gold Series Audio Caps
- 115dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier
- TI®
 NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier (Supports up to 600 ohm headsets)
- Direct Drive Technology
- EMI shielding cover
- PCB isolate shielding
- Supports DTS Connect
LAN
- 1 x Intel® I218V (Gigabit LAN PHY 10/100/1000 Mb/s)
- 1 x Qualcomm®
 Atheros® AR8171 (PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s)
- Supports Qualcomm®
 Atheros® Security Wake On Internet Technology (on Qualcomm® Atheros®AR8171)
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports Lightning/ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection)
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports PXE
 Expansion / Connectivity
Slots
- 5 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 Slots (PCIE1/PCIE2/PCIE3/PCIE4/PCIE5: single at x16 (PCIE1); dual at x16 (PCIE1) / x16 (PCIE4); triple at x8 (PCIE1) / x8 (PCIE2) / x16 (PCIE4); quad at x8 (PCIE1) / x8 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE4) / x8 (PCIE5))*
- 1 x Half-size Mini-PCI Express Slot
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™, 4-Way CrossFireX™, 3-Way CrossFireX™ and CrossFireX™**
- Supports NVIDIA®
 Quad SLI™, 4-Way SLI™, 3-Way SLI™ and SLI™****
Storage
- 10 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and Intel® Rapid Storage 13), NCQ, AHCI, Hot Plug and ASRock HDD Saver Technology (S_SATA3_3 connector is shared with M.2 Socket (M2_1))
- 1 x SATA Express 10 Gb/s Connector (shared with SATA3_4 and SATA3_5)
- 1 x Ultra M.2 Socket (ULTRA_M2), supports M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4 (32 Gb/s)
- 1 x M.2_SSD (NGFF) Socket 3 (M2_1), supports M.2 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s module and M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen2 x2 (10 Gb/s)
ASRock USB 3.1 Card/A+A
- 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A Ports (10 Gb/s) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
Connector
- 1 x COM Port Header
- 1 x TPM Header
- 1 x Power LED Header
- 2 x CPU Fan Connectors (1 x 4-pin, 1 x 3-pin)
- 3 x Chassis Fan Connectors (1 x 4-pin, 2 x 3-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
- 1 x Power Fan Connector (3-pin)
- 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector
- 1 x 8 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
- 1 x 4 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
- 1 x HDD Saver Connector
- 1 x PCIe 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) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
- 1 x Vertical Type A USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 3.0 Headers (Support 4 USB 3.0 ports) (ASMedia ASM1074 hub) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
- 1 x Dr. Debug with LED
- 1 x Power Switch with LED
- 1 x Reset Switch with LED
- V-Probe™: 7-set of onboard voltage measurement points laid
- Rapid OC Buttons: +/- buttons to adjust OC frequency
- 1 x Menu Button
- 1 x PCIe ON/OFF Switch
- 1 x Slow Mode Switch
- 1 x LN2 Mode Switch
- 1 x BIOS Selection Switch
- 1 x Direct Key Button
Rear Panel I/O
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 2 x USB 2.0 Ports (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s) (ASMedia ASM1142) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
- 4 x USB 3.0 Ports (ASMedia ASM1074 hub) (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
- 2 x USB 3.0 Ports (Supports ESD Protection (ASRock Full Spike Protection))
- 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports 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
 Other Features / Miscellaneous
Software and BIOS
Software
- ASRock Formula Drive
- ASRock Disk Health Report
- ASRock USB Key
- ASRock Fine-Tuning V-Controller
- ASRock Timing Configurator
- ASRock APP Charger
- ASRock XFast LAN
- ASRock XFast RAM
- ASRock Restart to UEFI
UEFI
- ASRock Full HD UEFI
- ASRock NickShih's OC Profile
- ASRock Instant Flash
- ASRock Internet Flash
- ASRock Crashless BIOS
- ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard)
- ASRock UEFI System Browser
- ASRock UEFI Tech Service
- ASRock Dehumidifier
- ASRock Easy RAID Installer
- ASRock Easy Driver Installer
Support CD
- Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), Google Chrome Browser and Toolbar, Start8 (30 days trial)
Accessories
- 1 x ASRock USB 3.1 Card/A+A
- 3 x ASRock Flexible SLI™ Bridge Connector Cables (2 x 10 cm, 1 x 14 cm)
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- 6 x SATA Data Cables
- 1 x HDD Saver Cable
- 2 x Screws for M.2 Sockets
- 1 x Screw for mini-PCIe Slot
Hardware Monitor
- CPU/Chassis temperature sensing
- CPU/Chassis/Power Fan Tachometer
- CPU/Chassis Quiet Fan (Auto adjust chassis fan speed by CPU temperature)
- CPU/Chassis Fan multi-speed control
- Voltage monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Input Voltage, CPU Internal Voltages
- Multi Thermal Sensor
Form Factor
- EATX Form Factor
- 8 Layer PCB
- 4 x 2oz copper
- High Density Glass Fabric PCB
OS
- Microsoft® Windows® 10 64-bit / 8.1 32-bit / 8.1 64-bit / 8 32-bit / 8 64-bit / 7 32-bit / 7 64-bit
Certifications
- FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

The Packaging


The ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 comes in a premium looking box with the OC Formula being the focal feature.


At the back is where the various features are highlighted along with an image of the motherboard itself.  

Unboxing

Popping up the box, first off, we have the driver CD, quick installation guide and software setup guide.


USB 3.1 PCIe card, SATA power cable, SLI bridge and Crossfire bridge, SATA cables, rear I/O shield.


And finally.... the motherboard itself! The ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 is one of ASRock OC Formula line up that's specially designed for extreme overclocking that's responsible for a number of world record set by renown overclockers throughout the years. 


Having a look at the main area where the CPU socket rests, we can see the premium components which ASRock claims the be better than the average components that you'll find on the market, both the 60A power chokes and the Nichicon 12K platinum capacitors for better stability and power delivery.


Like most X99 chipset motherboard, the ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 allows you can install DDR4 memory up to 128GB in total and it supports memory overclocking of up to 3400MHz or more.


The onboard Rapid OC buttons allow overclocking enthusiasts to manually raise or lower the system's CPU ratio, BCLK frequency or CPU Vcore voltage. Fast and simple, just use the buttons to find your CPU’s best margin.


The board comes also with dip switches for slow mode, LN2 mode and PCIe ON/OFF that you don't normally find on lower end motherboards. Each of the switches here serves different purpose in the time of need, i.e: Slow mode that lets you reduce the CPU frequency down to idle for better stability after some heavy benchmarking session, LN2 mode that opens up more options for the extreme overclockers who's into the serious sub-zero cooling, etc.


It comes available with an onboard USB 3.0 port for user's convenience, especially for overclockers who needs quick access to their USB storage devices without the trouble of going back to the rear USB port. 


The amount of SATA ports on the ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 will definitely make those who needs a lot of hard drives or SSD having happy upon seeing this.


At the bottom right of the motherboard, you'll find the essential feature features for enthusiasts who tweaks their system a lot and requires quick access for power ON/OFF, system reset, direct access to BIOS and the Q-code display to trace down the cause of system instability.


Ever came across the situation where you need more power on the PCIe slots but there's no way for you to add in that additional power required? Here's the odd looking but surprisingly useful power connector that serves that very purpose. 


ASRock's on board audio Purity Sound™ 2 includes 7.1 CH HD audio with Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, Nichicon Gold Audio Capacitors, 115dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier, TI® NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier, cap less Direct Drive technology, EMI shielding cover, PCB isolate shielding and DTS Connect that gives you a better overall audio experience compared to most ordinary on board which sounds like crap for most of the time.



The on board M.2 slot supports M.2 SATA3 6Gb/s modules and M.2 PCI Express modules up to Gen2 x2 10Gb/s, which is twice as fast compared to other M.2 Gen2 x1 solutions that are limited only to 5Gb/s.




The 2nd M.2 slot however, is rather different than the 1st that we've mentioned above. It's named Ultra M.2, which ASRock claims to be the first in the world to implement PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 socket on motherboards at the time this motherboard is released. The Ultra M.2 interface boasts to be able to reach the speed of up to 32Gb/s which is 3X faster than the regular M.2 Gen2 x2 and 6X faster compared to other M.2 Gen2 x1 solutions that are limited to 10Gb/s and 5Gb/s each.


Like any other X99 motherboard, the ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 supports 4-way SLI for NVIDIA graphics card and 4-way Crossfire for AMD Radeon graphics card for the best possible performance for gaming, 3D rendering work and benchmark scores.



For the rear I/O, you have 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port, 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port, 2 x USB 2.0 Ports, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Port, 6 x USB 3.0 Ports, 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED, 1 x Clear CMOS Switch and HD Audio Jacks

UEFI BIOS

The main tab displays the basic information of the UEFI version, CPU model and clock speed, total installed memory of each respective slots.


OC Tweaker allows PC enthusiasts who loves to play around with all the tweaking for higher performance while maintaining its stability at the same time. ASRock has also included the OC profile of the renown overclocker NickShih in the BIOS, which is something that enthusiasts can refer to when configuring their own overclocking profile.


Advanced tab allows user to configure various settings that hovers around the CPU itself, chipset, storage and IO devices, as well as ACPI and USB configuration. 


The tool tab comes with various function that comes in handy for system troubleshooting, RAID configuration, BIOS flashing, etc. 


Crucial parameters such as voltage and temperature of components on the motherboard can be found populated in the H/W Monitor tab, a useful reference for the enthusiasts / overclocker to troubleshoot system instability.


Security tab is the BIOS password setup function to prevent unauthorized access to the BIOS settings.


The boot tab allows you to configure pretty much everything that runs during system startup, i.e the boot priority of the installed strange devices, Intel Rapid Start, etc.


The exit tab consists of the important option that allows you to save corrected configuration, discard incorrect configuration or restore the current configuration to factory default. Once you're done with all of these, you can reboot your system for the configuration to take action.

Software: App Shop

The App Shop is basically something like the lite version of Google Playstore or Apple AppStore on your smartphone, which consists of several apps which ASRock recommend to its users.


The BIOS and Drivers tab allows you to perform update on what's necessary with a single click on the update button - saves you all the hassle to download those updates from ASRock website and install it manually. 


The settings consists of basic options such as allow the app to run at startup, select the type of language. Nothing much in particular though.

Software : Formula Drive

You can adjust the operation mode according to your needs; performance mode for the best  and unhindered experience, standard mode for your daily normal usage and power saving mode for the minimal power consumption when your system is on idle.


You can choose from a list of tools in this tab where some of these might be useful to make your life easier. 


The OC Tweaker allows you to adjust the necessary parameters such as CPU ratio, Base clock frequency and all sorts of voltage for overclocking i.e PCH, VCCSA, VCCIN, VCCIO, etc for your system to run stable with sufficient current provided.


System Info basically populates the same details like what we've seen in the H/W Monitor of the UEFI BIOS, but it saves you all the hassle to run separated program just to display the data as populated here.


The tech service is rather an odd feature to have and we doubted that anyone would actually use it.  



The settings tab is rather unnecessary here as it's basically wasting the resources here and ASRock could have use a check box directly on the base GUI that will do the same purpose.

Overclocking
Test Rig Configuration
CPU Cooler
Raijintek Triton 280
CPU
Intel Core i7 5820K
Motherboard
ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1
Memory
Kingston HyperX Predator 16GB
Primary Hard Drive
Kimtigo KTA-350 120GB
Power Supply
Cooler Master V1200
Chassis
Vector Benchcase

We've overclocked our Intel i7 5820K CPU and Kingston HyperX Predator memory kit with the ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 and here's what we get in overall: 



CPU overclocking wise, we've managed to achieve a pretty good 4.9GHz on the Intel i7 5820K with ease from its stock clock speed of 3.3GHz and 3.6GHz via turbo boost. The 4.9GHz however, is achievable via manual tweaking as the auto overclock via software can only reach the maximum clock speed of 4.423GHz, which is a pretty decent result as well.  


As for memory overclocking, we've managed to achieve its advertised 3400MHz with our Kingston HyperX Predator memory kit that is designed to run on 3000MHz when the XMP is enabled.

Thoughts and Verdict
The ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 comes with a tons of features and strong overclocking capability that makes it a worthwhile motherboard to own if you're really into the overclocking scene. Compared to some of the X99 motherboards we've tried in the past, the ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 comes with rich on board features such as the ON/OFF switch, reset switch, Q-Code display, Slow Mode switch, etc that helps a lot when it comes to overclocking, not to mention that it is among the few Intel X99 chipset based motherboard that allows us to push our Kingston HyperX Predator memory kit to the advertised 3400MHz speed and Intel i7 5820K CPU to 4.9GHz without going through much trouble with all the necessary adjustments.

The software can be useful for most occasion, but it's still not as complete in terms of design and usability if we were to compare it with some of the competitor's motherboards of the same range. It's definitely a lot to catch up for ASRock but we hope to see better software in the coming future that is more worthy for a motherboard with so much capability. 

The ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 retails at the price of $289.99 on newegg (approximately RM1163), which is a surprisingly affordable price to begin with especially with for an Intel X99 Chipset based motherboard with such capability. We'd definitely recommend the ASRock X99 OC Formula 3.1 to those who seeks for an affordable X99 chipset motherboard that has features and overclocking capability - given that they're fine with the color scheme of the motherboard.   

Pros
  • Solid build quality with high-end components
  • The PCB is coated with a layer of conformal coating for higher resistance to water
  • Tons of overclocking friendly features
  • Excellent overclocking capability
  • Lots of SATA III ports for storage
  • Lots of USB 3.0 ports for USB 3.0 devices 
  • Comes with the latest M.2 and SATA Express
  • Support up to 4-Way and Quad-GPU SLI / Crossfire configuration 
Cons
  • The color scheme is rather not pleasant to the eye
  • The software could use some revamp

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