ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer Motherboard Review
Hot off the back of James’ pcG Platinum award winning ASRock Z97X Killer and my own Silver award winning ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, we have the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance and ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer motherboards (that’s a lot of Fatal1t1es!). What I have here in front of me is the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer model, which is nigh on identical to its Z97 based sibling. In fact the only big difference is the cheaper H97 chipset, which means your high performance DDR3 will have a maximum cap of 1600MHz and your Intel K processor can’t be unlocked and used to its overclockable potential…
Or can it? 😉
‘Hide Your Kids and Hide Your Wife! Four ASRock Killer Series Motherboards are Coming!
While tossing and turning in bed, great minds often stumble upon the same philosophical questions of life. Are you there God? What is love? And what are the definitive attributes that differentiate a gaming motherboard from regular motherboards? Now ASRock elaborates the definition of real gaming motherboards with their new Killer Series – Z97 Fatal1ty Professional, Fatal1ty Z97X Killer, Fatal1ty Z97 Killer and Fatal1ty H97 Killer!
No Lag, Just Frag!
ASRock Killer Series features the Killer™ E2200 Intelligent Networking Platform is built for maximum networking performance for online games and high-quality streaming media. Featuring Advanced Stream Detect™, Killer E2200 automatically detects and accelerates game traffic ahead of other network traffic for smoother, stutter-free in-game performance and the competitive edge. With this exclusive, automatic traffic prioritization, games and real-time chat get priority over low-level system chatter, giving you the lowest latency for game data on the most controllable network hardware available.’
The ASRock H97 Killer motherboard arrived in a nigh on identical manner to its Z97 based sibling, that being well packaged and with a rather flash styling. Again the back of the box is very busy, so I’ll let you take a look for yourselves.
- Killer E2200 Game Networking
- ASRock App Shop
- Purity Sound 2
- M.2 Socket
- ASRock Cloud (Orbweb ME)
- Super Alloy Motherboard
- Fatal1ty Mouse Port
- SATA Express
Opening the box we can see that the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer ships with almost identical contents to the Z97, albeit this time we have two less SATA cables.
Again ASRock have seen fit to ship the Fatal1ty H97 Killer in an anti-static bag and cable tied in all four corners to a soft-cell foam tray. This is such a good idea, I’d be surprised if other motherboard manufacturers don’t follow suit and do the same in the future.
The box contents include:
- ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer Motherboard
- 2 x Serial ATA (SATA) Data Cables (1 x straight and 1 x right angled)
- I/O Panel Shield
- Driver and Utilities disk
- Screw for M.2 SSD (NGFF) Socket 3
- Quick Installation Guide
- Software Setup Guide
- ASRock Cloud (Orbweb ME) Setup Guide
- XSplit Broadcaster Gift Certificate (3 months subscription)
The ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer is currently available on Amazon retailing for £96 and comes with a 3 year warranty.
courtesy of ASRock
Because the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer has exactly the same layout as the Z97 Killer, we have another good looking Fatal1ty motherboard. But being an H based board means the motherboard doesn’t support SLI (not a deal breaker for most Gamers), but does support CrossFire. Unlike the Z97, memory overclocking support is missing so no memory speeds over 1600MHz, CPU overclocking is NOT however missing. Yep, that’s right even the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 motherboards support Non-Z OC (more on this a little later).
So the H97 has the same big metallic heat-sinks on the north and south bridge (albeit with the Z being replaced by an H), same vertical SATA ports, same M.2 slot, same Killer E2200 LAN, same Purity Sound 2. In fact it’s pretty hard to write a review you’ve already written! 😉
Of course being identical doesn’t make it look anything less than great. The deep Sapphire Black PCB makes all the red details really stand out, especially the gorgeous north and south bridge heat-sinks.
Beneath the north bridge is also the same set of two 3 pin fan headers. Perfect for push/pull config on your rear mounted 120/140mm AIO CPU cooler.
Taking a quick glance over the board in a clockwise direction, starting in the top left. We see the Fatal1ty Mouse Port. This is conjunction with F-Stream (included on the utilities disk) will allow the user to adjust the polling rate of their chosen mouse (adjustable from 125Hz to 1000Hz). Then we have the big red north bridge heat-sink (this of course sports the H97 name instead of Z97), 8 pin power socket, PWR FAN, CPU FAN2, CPU FAN1 (PWM) headers and of course the dominant 1150 socket.
Looking to the left we see the four DIMM slots, two red and two black, which supports up to 32GB DDR3, but because of the H87 chipset the RAM MHz is capped at 1600. Then a 24 pin power socket and USB 3.0 header.
Down to the lower right is the big red ASRock Fatal1ty south bridge heat-sink with mirrored lettering, beneath this are six vertical SATA 3 sockets (the two dark grey sockets are shared by the SATA Express and M.2 socket) all of which are controlled by an Intel Chipset, then the CHA FAN1 (4 pin PWM header).
To the lower left of the motherboard are two USB 2.0 sockets, the front IO panel header, PLED1, Internal Speaker, COM1, HD Audio header and Thunderbolt AIC connector (does anyone use these?!?).
Then we have the PCI slots. These are listed from top to bottom as follows:
PCIE1 (PCIe 2.0 x1 slots) is used for PCI Express x1 lane width cards.
PCIE2 (PCIe 3.0 x16 slots) is used for PCI Express x16 lane width graphics cards.
PCIE3 (PCIe 2.0 x1 slots) is used for PCI Express x1 lane width cards.
PCIE4 (PCIe 2.0 x16 slots) is used for PCI Express x4 lane width graphics cards.
PCIE5 (PCI1 2.0 x8 slots) is used for PCI Express.
PCIE6 (PCI2 2.0 x8 slots) is used for PCI Express.
Just like the Z97 variant, the Fatal1ty H97 Killer also supports CrossFire, but the secondary GPU slot is still limited to four lanes. I admit I find this a little bizarre as it will potentially limit the second GPU performance a fair amount.
Neatly sitting between the PCIE slots 2 and 3 is the single M.2 or NGFF (New Generation Form Factor) connector, this is new to the Z97 range and effectively replaces mSATA or mPCIe. Looking to the left of the connector are five mounting holes (with support for 30, 42, 60, 80 and 110mm M.2 devices). ASRock supports M.2 SATA3 6.0Gb/s modules and M.2 PCI Express modules up to Gen2 x2 10Gb/s, which is twice as fast as M.2 Gen2 x1 alternatives that are limited to 5Gb/s. Just beneath the M.2 socket are CLRMOS1 and BIOS_SEL1 jumpers and two BIOS chips, which can be easily replaced in the event of a total BIOS kill (this should be default on every mobo I use! ED: I agree!).
Once again the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer motherboard features the ever popular Killer E2200 NPU (Network Processing Unit), which can boost networking performance up to five times for UDP (User Datagram Protocol) applications (Games!). Then a little lower the Purity Sound 2 SPU (Sound Processing Unit). This SPU is supported by the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec which features 7.1+2 Channel HD Audio with Content Protection. This also features EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference) shielding and PCB (Printed Circuit Board) isolated shielding (both of which should help prevent any unwanted electrical background noise), Cap less Direct Drive technology, with a TI NE5532 differential amplifier and TI NE5532 headset amplifier, which should help provide a better bass level and a little more noise.
Then moving to the rear of the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer motherboard and the IO panel, we have the following inputs/outputs.
As per the norm, there’s nothing exciting to see on the back of the motherboard, just a mass of black from the Sapphire black PCB.
|As the new Devil’s Canyon CPUs were not available at the time of review (and to be fair there’s very little (in fact almost nothing!) between a Haswell and a Haswell Devil’s Canyon anyway!), our testing was performed with an Intel Core i5-4670K.|
A new build was put together to home the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer Motherboard and the Haswell 4670K CPU. The following components were used:
|Case||BitFenix Neos||Power Supply||BitFenix Fury 550G|
|Motherboard||ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer||CPU||Intel Core i7-4670K|
|CPU Cooler||Raijintek Themis||RAM||Kingston HyperX Beast 8GB 2400MHz|
|Graphics Card||MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G||SSD||Kingston 3K 120GB|
A new installation of Windows Home Premium 64bit (Service Pack 1) was performed and the following drivers were then installed. The latest ASRock Drivers were used and can been obtained here (it’s always best practice to use the latest drivers).
- Intel Chipset Driver (INF driver ver: 10.0.13.PC)
- Realtek High Definition Audio Driver (v7004)
- LAN (Atheros) (126.96.36.1991)
- ASMedia USB3.0 Driver (188.8.131.52)
- AMD Catalyst 14.6 RC2 (14.200.1004.0)
During testing the following tools/benchmarks & games were used/played:
Unlike for the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, the H97 version powered up first time without a hitch (no doubt due to case IO cables being connected to the correct motherboard header this time round 😉 ).
So the first task was to update the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer BIOS. A very nice and simple thing do using the ASRock Internet Flash facility inside the UEFI BIOS.
Because I’d already used the Z97 Killer, I already knew what to expect from the new UEFI BIOS interface. Having that little extra experience means it was even easier to navigate, but still looks just as clean, everything is pretty much where you’d expect it to be and not a daunting task (unlike some yet to be named motherboard UEFI).
The default setting for Intel I5 4670k is a typical stock speed of 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo) and for the HyperX Beast 1333MHz. Although the H97 Killer has a maximum memory speed cap of 1600MHz (even though DRAM Tweak allows you to set the Kingston Beast at its 2400MHz timings). ASRock have taken advantage of a loophole in the 1150 architecture allowing us to overclock our i5 4670k and aptly named it Non-Z OC. So of course we’ll be taking advantage of that. 😉
- Benchmark Results (CPU @ 3.4GHz (1.031v) : RAM @ 1333MHz) with MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G
|Metro Last Light||1920×1080||73.00|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||1339|
As you can see from the results, when at the default settings (i5 4670k at 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo), Kingston Beast at 1333MHz) the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer is in fact slightly faster than the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, although to be fair there isn’t a lot in it.
But what happens when we take advantage of ASRocks Non-Z OC?
- Benchmark Results (CPU @ 4.5GHz (1.267v) : RAM @ 1600MHz) with MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G
|Metro Last Light||1920×1080||74.00|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||1341|
Surprisingly even despite a small performance boost (i5 4670k at 4.5GHz, Kingston Beast at 1600MHz), the H97 Killer performs more or less the same as its Z97 brethren and the full Kingston Beast memory OC of 2400MHz. More impressive is the fact this H97 motherboard allows the CPU overclock at all! 😉
- Benchmark Results (CPU @ 4.8GHz (1.349v) : RAM @ 1600MHz) with MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G
|Metro Last Light||1920×1080||74.00|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||1347|
And still the H97 Killer gives us more! With a big increase in power to 1.349v for the CPU, the H97 runs fully stable at 4.8GHz! Of course the performance benefit is certainly nothing worth shouting about.
- Additional Software/Features
Just like the other Fatal1ty branded motherboards, the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer is packed full of many features for Gamers, let’s take a look at some of them now.
Gaming Audio is something that is often wrongly overlooked (how can you fully immerse yourself without it?!?). Luckily the the Realtek ALC1150 chipset used by ASRock’s Purity Sound 2 is good, with no background noise and good clarity, despite on-board audio coming on in strides in recent years, it really isn’t a replacement for a dedicated SPU such as the Creative Sound Blaster or Asus Xonar range.
Purity Sound™ 2 includes 7.1 CH HD audio with Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, 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. As Nichicon audio capacitors are what every audiophile has been longing for on a PC, ASRock applied these high quality capacitors for Purity Sound™ 2.
The ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer Motherboard also provides all the same Killer utilities suite as the other Fatal1ty boards, via theF-Stream Utility. This allows you to overclock and monitor your system whilst in Windows, allows to to play around with XFast RAM, XFast LAN, Fast Boot, OMG (Online Management Guard), Good Night LED (this allows you to turn of your case front panel LED), FAN-Tastic Tuning, Dehumidifier, Key Master (Macros for any keyboard), Fatal1ty Mouse Port, USB Key (this allows you to use a USB device instead of having to type in your password to gain entry to windows), OC DNA (to save or send OC Profiles), DISK Health Report and a Live Update service. It really is a good suite, so using it across the range is just common sense.
The ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer, hasn’t bucked the current ASRock Fatal1ty trend. It is yet another solid performer. It arrived very well packaged within a stylish box with a huge list of every little feature of the board and its utilities. Inside the box the Fatal1ty H97 Killer was cable tied to a foam tray and sealed in an anti-static bag for protection. The motherboard’s bright red headers and oversized metallic red heat sinks really stand out set against the incredibly dark Sapphire black PCB and the motherboard simply looks great.
The board is as easy as any other ATX motherboard to install and having the additional PCIE stand-off is a good thing for those of slightly heavy hand (ED: that’s you Mike). The UEFI based Internet Flash utility for updating the BIOS is a welcome and surprisingly fast addition (even the second time round 😉 ). The secondary BIOS chip and the ability to replace the chips quickly and easily is a great idea (and a godsend for me!).
UEFI and F-Secure overclocking (even though it’s an H97!) using the Non-Z OC presets (or your own) is incredibly easy and surprisingly gives the H97 Killer a slight lead over its Z97 brother, even despite the maximum memory support being limited to 1600MHz by the H97 chipset. Throw in the same M.2 support, Killer E2200 LAN, Purity Sound 2 and a price tag of approx £95.00 and what ASRock gives us is a truly Killer Gaming motherboard that won’t break the bank.
That’s not to say it is perfect of course. Any Gamer out there wanting a multi-GPU set up might want to take a look at the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer which supports both SLI for Nvidia owners and full CrossFire (without the 4 lane limitation for the secondary GPU) for AMD fans. I’d still prefer horizontal SATA ports over vertical too…
At this price though, there really isn’t anything to complain about. The H97 Killer looks great and performs better than I feel it should. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be finding theses gracing many Gaming PCs around you soon. 😉
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Where possible we always use Amazon’s price for Value…
Many thanks to ASRock for providing this sample for review