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ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance Motherboard Review

September 30th, 2015 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 GAMING K4 is a good gaming motherboard and the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 GAMING K6 is an even better motherboard in our opinion, but now we have another ASRock motherboard!? But this one’s a little different, why? Because this ones an H (not a Z) board, this is the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance, but what does that even mean and does that even matter? Well stick with us and we will try and get to the bottom of those very questions.

The ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance is another one of those ATX boards that’s not quite ATX in size, being around 25mm shorter on the left hand side!? Other than its odd size the board features your regular LGA1151 socket supporting the latest Intel Skylake CPUs as well as having support for DDR4 RAM (but, only up to 2133MHz). The board has support for AMD Crossfire, but sadly not Nvidia’s SLI technology. The board also features Intel Gigabit LAN, a Fatal1ty Mouse Port, USB 3.0 (Type-C) and ASRock’s Realtek 1150 based on-board audio, Sound Purity 3. In addition to this the Fatal1ty H170 Performance also sports Aluminium Alloy heatsinks, Nichicon capacitors and I/O Armor shielding the rear I/O ports. Finally there’s also a single Ultra M.2 port supporting both SATA and PCIe with speeds up to 32GB/s.

NOTE (1): The Intel H170 Express Chipset supports 6th Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors, and Intel Pentium and Celeron processors for Socket LGA1151. The new Socket 1151 is not backward compatible with previous Intel Core CPUs and, at the time of writing only Skylake processors are compatible with these motherboards. Also another big change for Skylake is the fact that there’s no support for DDR3. DDR4 is now king, although there’s only support for Dual Channel memory and not Quad Channel; for that you’ll need to look at Intel’s X99 platform. The bottom line here is that a new Skylake based Gaming Rig’s going to comprise of a new Motherboard, CPU and RAM.

NOTE (2): Due to the XHCI Driver not being incorporated into Windows 7, USB devices will not function on 100 Series motherboards when trying to install Windows 7. Windows 8.1 and above will work just fine. Further information can be found here.

ASRock Logo ‘Extra large aluminum alloy heat sinks that effectively take away heat from the MOSFET and chipset so that your whole system may perform more stable. Supreme 12K platinum capacitors with lifespans of at least 12,000 hours. Compared to other counterparts on high-end motherboards that merely have lifespans of around 10,000 hours, ASRock applied Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps that offer 20% longer lifespans and provide more stability and reliability.’
ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - box front ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - box back

 

The ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance arrived at pcG in a small predominately black box adorned with the Fatal1ty brand name and new logo. In the left hand corner ASRock confirms that this is a Gaming Motherboard (despite its H170 chipset!). The front of the box also features a handful of logos highlighting the following: Intel H170 Chipset, support for Intel Core processors, Intel Gigabit Ethernet, AMD CrossFire support, HDMI output, DTS Connect and support for Windows 10.

Looking at the back of the box we find a lot more information, here we have a nice large view of the motherboard highlighting various features of the board; 10 Power Phase Design, XXL – Aluminum Alloy Heatsink Heat Pipe Design, Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps, I/O Armor, Ultra M.2 (32Gb/s) and Key Master. In addition to this over on the left hand side ASRock further highlights Digi Power, DDR4 2133MHz support, Fatal1ty Mouse Port, USB Type-C on the rear I/O, Intel LAN and Purity Sound 3. In the far right hand corner we also find a specification table (see Specifications/Features below).

 

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - box open

 

On opening the box we can see that at the top there’s a handful of accessories (see below), beneath this we find the motherboard simply nestling within the box, there’s no soft foam tray this time around though, just a basic foam mat, which is a little disappointing!

 

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - box contents   ACCESSORIES

  • Motherboard
  • Quick Installation Guide
  • Software Setup Guide
  • Drivers DVD (inc sticker)
  • I/O Panel Shield
  • x4 SATA cables
  • M.2 Screw

 

There’s not too much in the box but we have the essentials; this comprises of a Quick Installation Guide, Software Setup Guide, Drivers & Utilities DVD, I/O shield, x2 SATA cables and a screw for the M.2 socket.

At the time of writing this review, the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance is retailing on Amazon for approximately £93 and comes with a 3 year warranty.

 

Specifications/Features

courtesy of ASRock

  • ASRock Super Alloy
  • Gaming Armor – Memory / VGA Card / Cooling / Internet / Audio
  • Supports 6th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors (Socket 1151)
  • Digi Power, 10 Power Phase Design
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR4 2133
  • 2 PCIe 3.0 x16, 3 PCIe 3.0 x1
  • AMD Quad CrossFireX™
  • Graphics Output Options: DVI-D, HDMI
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports Purity Sound™ 3 & DTS Connect
  • 1 SATA Express, 6 SATA3, 1 Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3)
  • 8 USB 3.0 (5 Type-A + 1 Type-C, 2 Front)
  • Supports Full Spike Protection, ASRock Live Update & APP Shop, F-Stream, Key Master, XSplit

* Additional details available here

 

First Impressions

 

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance

 

First impressions of the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance are along the lines of; hold on haven’t I seen this board before, as it looks suspiciously like the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 GAMING K4! And it really does, especially as its that odd size again (something I’m not keen on), with the right side of the motherboard missing around 25mm of its usual ATX dimensions. Other than that the Fatal1ty H170 Performance is a good looking board and it’s nice to see that it still has the I/O shroud that helps to clean up the boards aesthetics that little bit more and has retained the M.2 socket.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - right ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - left

 

Looking at what I would call the right side of the board and working left to right; it becomes immediately obvious that not only does the Fatal1ty H170 Performance have a narrow PCB but the layout seems to have been compromised also. In the far left corner we have five vertical SATA ports (x4 SATA 6B/s and one eSATA). To the right of this we have what is effectively the South Bridge with its nice red aluminium heatsink and silver ASRock Fatal1ty logo, to the right of this we have a further two vertical SATA 6GB/s ports. Why you would split the SATA ports up in this way I have no idea!? Next we have the vertical mounted USB 3.0 port followed by the first of four chassis fan headers (CHA_FAN4), thankfully all headers are 4-pin and PWM controlled. Next we have the main 24-pin power socket and then not much else (save for a few components) until we get to the far corner where we have one of two CPU fan headers (CPU_FAN2). Dominating the right side of the board we also have the four DDR4 DIMM sockets supports up to 2133MHz (the maximum supported by the H170 chipset) of Memory (RAM).

Looking at the opposite side of the board (the left) and again working left to right, we first find the main motherboard IO panel (more on this later), but note the inclusion of an I/O shroud that just helps to tidy up the lines of this edge of the board. The rest of this edge of the board is dominated by the on-board soundcard this 7.1 CH HD Audio setup is powered by a Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec and supports Purity Sound™ 3 & DTS Connect. This setup (visually) looks ok, but it looks a little to plasticky (bad word I know!) and also there’s no illumination to give it a lift! But as pcG Iain pointed out is does look better with the additional cover as it is better than nothing at all…

Looking at the PCIe 3.0 lanes we see that there’s only five (instead of the usual seven) and these are wired up in the following way; the first slot is a x1 slot this is then followed (left to right) by a x16 slot (red), a gap, another x1 slot, a second x16 slot (red) and then another gap and finally a x1 slot. If one Graphics Card is used then the first x16 slot runs at x16, if x2 Graphics Cards are used then the first slot runs at x8 while the other will run at x4 speed. The fact that the second slot’s maximum speed is x4 is the reason that there’s no SLI support, as SLI requires a x8 minimum speed.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - top ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - bottom

Looking at what is effectively the top of the board we can see that it’s dominated by the CPU Power phase heatsinks and the LGA1151 Socket. We find the CPU 8-pin power socket in its normal position, but hey where’s the other CPU fan header? Normally you would find it here on this edge of the board… Oh there it is hiding in the top left corner of the image (above right) just behind the DIMM slots!?

Looking at the bottom of the board and again working from left to right, we have an HD Audio header in the left corner, followed by a Serial port and then a TPM header (still never used one of these!). This is then followed by the second of four chassis fan headers (CHA_FAN3). Next to this we have the BIOS selection switch that allows you to switch between the two BIOS’s aboard the Fatal1ty H170 Performance and it’s nice to see this is still present on what is effectively a budget board. This is then followed by x2 USB 2.0 headers and then we come to the main Front Panel header and finally the last two of the four 4-pin PWM chassis fan headers (CHA_FAN2 & CHA_FAN1).

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - back

 

Flipping the board over allows us to further appreciate the matte black PCB. Note also that the main heatsinks are screwed on and not just stuck on, always handy that when you pick up the motherboard by one of those heatsinks, that just seem to look like little handles to me! 😉

 

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - Sound Purity 3 ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - LGA1551

 

Taking a more detailed look at some of the more interesting features of the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance, first up is the Purity Sound 3 on-board soundcard. This 7.1 channel soundcard is based around a Realtek ALC1150 codec, features Nichicon Fine Gold Series Audio capacitors and comes equipped with a TI NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier with support for headphones up to 600Ohms. The plastic black surround looks ok too, but it just suffers from that too much plastic effect IMHO…

Looking at that LGA1151 socket and its associated power phases and heatsinks, we get a better look at the heatsinks, that feature a nice red anodised finish and look good to boot. Over in the left hand upper-corner (image above right) we still see the additional power socket used to provide extra power to the PCIe lanes. This is specifically for SLI and Crossfire but is only needed (states this in the manual) for three cards or more, but we have only two x16 PCIe slots! So go figure!? 😉

 

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - IO
  • Fatal1ty Mouse Port (x1 USB 2.0)
  • x1 USB 2.0 Port
  • PS/2 Port Mouse/Keyboard Port
  • DVI-D Port
  • HDMI Port
  • USB 3.0 Port
  • USB 3.0 Type-C Port
  • Intel Gigabit LAN Port
  • x2 USB 3.0 Ports
  • Audio Ports with Optical S/PDIF-Out

 
 

ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - dual BIOS ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - M2

 

Also being an ASRock board the Fatal1ty H170 Performance comes with two BIOS chips, not only does this mean that you can switch between BIOS but it’s also especially useful if one gets corrupted. But as the chips are not soldered to the board you can also replace them should it all go terribly wrong! The P.120 etching on the top signifies which BIOS version the board is shipped with.

In the middle of the board just below the second x16 PCIe slot we have an Ultra M.2 socket. I’m a huge fan of these discrete devices and I’m glad to see that one has been included on this budget board. The M.2 socket also supports both SATA and PCIe devices with speeds up to 32GB/s.

 

Hardware Installation

 

A new build was put together to house the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance motherboard with a new Intel Core i5-6600K Skylake CPU and new DDR4 memory in the form of 8GB of G.Skill RipJaws 2400MHz (note that this RAM will run at only 2133MHz as this is the max supported by the H170 chipset). The following components were also used:

  • Test Rig Setup

  • Case Cooler Master HAF XB Power Supply Corsair Professional Series AX 760i
    Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance CPU Intel Core I5-6600K Processor
    CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S RAM G Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB
    Graphics Card XFX AMD Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition SSD HyperX FURY 120GB

     

    Installation of the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance was easy enough, but was effectively made all the more easier by the fact that the motherboard is around 25mm narrower than normal, yet it’s still an ATX motherboard. Why did it make install easier, because of the width? Well yes sort of yes, but also due to the fact that I didn’t have to use all of the screws! 😉 The motherboard assembly was simple enough consisting of the board itself, our test Intel Core i5-6600K Skylake CPU, a Noctua NH-U12S CPU Cooler and 16GB of G.Skill RipJaws 4 2400MHz memory. With the motherboard assembly complete I installed it by way of the required (and rather unusual) 7 screws.

     

    ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - motherboard assembly ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - installed

     

    All necessary SATA cables were connected to the motherboard, I used the ports nearer the 24-pin power socket (SATA3_0 & SATA3_1), as the others are just too awkwardly placed IMHO. The Seagate 2TB SSHD and HyperX Fury SSD test drives were then attached to the other ends of the cables. All of the relevant power cables from the Corsair Professional Series AX760i were then plugged into the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance along with all of the case fans. Final cables included USB 3.0 and HD Audio along with the always rather fiddly Front Panel wires. That just left the installation of our toasty test GPU the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition! Now it’s time for some testing…

     

    Testing Methodology/Setup

     

    For all of our Z170 and H170 testing we will be using Windows 10 (DirectX 12), therefore a new installation of Windows 10 64Bit was performed and the following Drivers were installed. The latest ASRock Drivers were used and can been obtained (here). Although the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance has its Drivers and Utilities available on the supplied DVD, we here at pcG try to keep up with the latest Drivers and software where possible.

     

    ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance  - BIOS update * The latest BIOS version (1.5) was downloaded and installed via ASRock’s UEFI based Flash utility and this version was used throughout testing. NOTE: when using a BIOS version earlier than 1.5 we ran into boot issues and problems recovering Windows from the Hibernate state. We encountered no such issues with BIOS 1.5, and assume this issue has now been rectified. *

     

    Drivers installed:

    • Intel Chipset Driver (Intel Chipset Driver ver: 10.1.1.8)
    • Audio Driver (Realtek High Definition Audio Driver ver: 6.0.1.7543)
    • Intel Gigabit LAN (Intel Network Driver ver: 20.2.4001.0)
    • AMD Catalyst Software Suite (15.20.1062.1004)

    During testing the following tools/benchmarks & games were used/played:

     

    Hardware Performance

     

    As I’ve already mentioned we did have some early issues with the Fatal1ty H170 Performance board but after BIOS update (to version 1.5), things settled down and we encountered no further boot/re-boot Sleep/Hibernate issues. The ASRock UEFI now sports two modes, EZ Mode and advanced Mode. EZ Mode (shown below left) is more of an information screen than anything else. To be honest this basic Mode suits the Intel H170 chipset as there is no support for overclocking.

    The Advanced Mode is what we’re used to here at pcG though and its still present on the Fatal1ty H170 Performance too (via F6). But due to the fact that there’s no overclocking support when using the H170 chipset and the fact that there’s no support for OC RAM, there’s very little to configure to be honest! The end result with this motherboard (and all H170 boards for that matter) is the fact that whatever we do the best we can hope for (with an Intel Core i5-6600K CPU) is a Rig running at 3.5GHz with the RAM at 2133Hz, which is exactly what we’ve got! 😉

     

    ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - EZ Mode ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance - Expert Mode

     

    For our testing of H170 motherboards using our Intel Skylake Core i5-6600K test CPU we will be testing at Stock (3.5GHz) only as overclocking is NOT supported. The CPU-Z screenshots below show the two main states (Idle & Stock) of the CPU and its associated voltage.

     

    ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance  - Idle

    CPU-Z – stock 3.5GHz (Idle)

    ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance  - Load

    CPU-Z – stock 3.5 GHz (Load)

     

    Benchmark Resolution Result
    Metro Last Light 1920×1080 78.67
    Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920×1080 1404
    3DMark Firestrike Default 9931
    3DMark Firestrike Extreme 5128

     

    Now while those number may not look so interesting, they actually are rather interesting! Why? Well first up because the scores are all in-line with all Z170 based boards tested so far. What this means is that as long as your not looking to have and SLI setup in the future, the performance of the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance motherboard is just as good as any other!

    Obviously the limitation here (and hence no results) is the fact that as this is an H based board therefore we cannot overclock our Intel Core i5-6600K any further. Now while this may be a shame, we have seen consistently in out benchmarks that CPU performance (beyond this point) nets you no significant additional FPS anyway. So from a pure performance point of view there’s still a lot to like about the H170 chipset and the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance.

     

    Additional Software/Features

     

    There are so many features and so much software that comes with (or is downloadable) the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance, that to try and cover it would be a review in itself! I’m also not a big fan of software so for me the only software that I’m likely to install is ASRock’s F-Stream utility and that in itself is a portal to a handful of other options. But even F-Stream is less interesting here as there’s no way to overclock with the H series chipset. But let’s take a quick look anyway…

     

    Software (F-Stream)

     

    Having used an ASRock motherboard as part of our test gear for almost the last year, I#m obviously rather familiar with ASRock’s F-Stream utility. It’s actually a nice one stop shop for pretty much all of your overclocking/monitoring needs.

     

    ASRock F-Stream

     

    On load you’re by default taken to the Main tab, here you can choose to run your system using any of the following profiles: Performance Mode, Standard Mode and Power Saving Mode (well, we wont be using that one!). Performance Mode would normally allow you to overclock the system, but as you can guess that#s not supported on the H170 chipset… 🙁

     

    ASRock F-Stream - OC Tweaker ASRock F-Stream - System Info ASRock F-Stream - FANTastic Tuning

     

    Clicking on the OC Tweaker option at the top allows access to an overclocking tab, with similar options to the ones found in the OC Tweaker section of the UEFI. Here you can change (rather strangely and fingers crossed!) your Base Clock, CPU Ratio and various voltages etc, but unfortunately it has no effect…

    The System Info tab pretty much does what it says on the tin and provides a wealth of information on the status of your system. In the image above right you can see our Intel Core i5-6600K sate at idle at 800MHz and its associated voltages, as well as the various fans (and their associated speeds) that we have in our HAF XB test case; which leads me nicely onto…

    FAN-Tastic Tuning is a clever utility that analyses your attached CPU fans and System fans and plots an easy to use graph (Fan Speed/Temperature) for you to manipulate. Here you can see the minimum and maximum speed of the selected fan and setup your own performance profile for it. In the screenshot above left you can see the default profile created for one of our system fans (CHAFAN_1). The final tab is simply an electronic form that can be filled out should you need to get some technical assistance.

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    The most important aspect of this review is that in the real world of Gaming choosing a H170 based board such as the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance over a Z170 based board, makes very little difference to your FPS in Game! The question is; has the money you’ve saved really been worth it!?

    The ASRock Fatal1ty H170 performance arrived at pcG in a smart redish/black box still sporting that Fatal1ty logo, despite is H Chipset credentials. Leaving us with no doubt that this is still very much a Gaming Motherboard. Once out of the box we find another motherboard similar to the Fatal1ty Z170 K4 recently tested, and unfortunately the same odd size! This motherboard may be ATX (because it’s not MATX or MITX) but it would appear that 25mm has been shaved from the right-hand side, luckily the components were saved, but now some of them find themselves in a rather odd positions on the motherboard. The end result is a motherboard with a somewhat compromised layout, which is a shame.

    Although once out of the box and installed and up ‘n running most of these concerns fall by the wayside. The Fatal1ty H170 Performance is still a good looking board, thanks in-part to that I/O shroud that cleans up the aesthetics a bit more. But it cant touch ASRock’s own Fatal1ty Z170 GAMING K6 when is comes down to desirability! OK this motherboard may be an Intel H based board and yes there’s no overclocking and only support for RAM up to 2133MHz, but the board itself still performs well! In fact in our tests (with a single GPU) it’s just as good as any regular Z170 based board, although this is not surprising to us here at pcG. We have seen (and said) many times over a good subsystem (MB, CPU & RAM) is important but for Gaming the Graphics Card is still king!

    What we have here then is a board that lacks some of the features of more expensive boards such as SLI support, Debug LED and on-board controls. Being an H based board there’s also no overclocking support or support for OC Memory (RAM). But it still sports decent Audio and more impressive is the inclusion of an M.2 slot! In fact when you begin to consider the Gaming performance on offer there’s a lot to like about the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance.

    Buying a motherboard such as the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance actually makes a lot of sense, especially if your budget is tight! Paying around £90 for this board instead of £140 for say the Fatal1ty Z170 GAMING K6, makes perfect sense, as that#s another £50 to that all important GPU. But when comparing it to say the Gaming K4 at around £110, the saving on offer seems to be somewhat less appealing, especially if your looking to overclock…

    Overall there’s a lot to like about the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance, mainly the price and the M.2 slot! If you’re trying to save some pennies then this board is well worth a look, but make sure you spend those saved pennies wisely… 😉

     

    Verdict

    Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…

      Design/Quality pcGameware awards the ASRock Fatal1ty H170 Performance a Silver
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

     

    Many thanks to ASRock for providing this sample for review

     



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