ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance Motherboard Review
Today I get to look at another new motherboard from ASRock, and after the last Fatal1ty board (Z97X Killer), I have to say I’m looking forward to this… Here we have the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance another board from the Fatal1ty Supper Alloy range. What’s important this time though is this board is based on the H97 chipset and the last board was based on the Z97 chipset. What’s the difference, well we’re about to find out… 😉
The ASRock H97 Performance motherboard came well packaged in a rather flash looking box, with so much on the front it’s best you just take a look at the images above.
If you thought the front of the box looked busy, then you should take a look at the back. The back of the box is plastered in features of H97 Performance, some of the highlights are: Purity Sound 2, Key Master and Fatal1ty Mouse Port. For more details see Features/Specification below.
Opening the box we can see the paperwork and accessories within (see below) and that the board has been shipped to pcG with a 15 page reviewers guide, which is always nice to see.
Also what’s really good to see here is the level of packaging that ASRock has gone to. With the motherboard actually cable tied in four corners to a soft-cell foam tray, impressive!
In the box in addition to the motherboard itself we also find the following:
- 2 x Serial ATA (SATA) Data Cables
- I/O Panel Shield
- Quick Installation Guide
- Software Setup Guide
- ASRock Cloud
- Support DVD
At the time of writing the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance is retailing for approximately £85 and comes with a 3 year warranty.
courtesy of ASRock
So here we have another great looking Fatal1ty motherboard from ASRock, not quite as good looking as the Z97X Killer maybe, but it’s a good looking board nonetheless. The main difference between this H97 based board and the Z97 based board is the lack of SLI support (CrossFire is still supported), the lack of OC memory support (there’s a 1600MHz cap I’m afraid) and the lack of M.2 support.
Of course, officially the H97 chipset doesn’t support CPU overclocking, well the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance has a very clever trick up its sleeve…
Looking at the right side of the board first, this area is dominated by the south bridge heat-sink and the four DIMM slots, with the DIMM slots supporting up to 32MB with support for memory up to 1600MHz (this is a limitation of the H97 chipset). Above and to the right we find three fan headers (PWR_FAN1 3-pin, CPU_FAN2 3-pin & CPU_FAN1 4-pin). Below the memory slots we see the main 24-pin ATX connector (in its normal place) and a single USB 3.0 connector (USB3_4_5). In the far left corner we find the main six SATA 6GBs ports all controled by the Intel Chipset. In this board version these are now vertically mounted (TBH I’m unsure which way is best!?). Sandwiched between the SATA ports we also find one of two chassis fan headers (CHA_FAN1 3-pin). Just above what is effectively the south bridge we find the two BIOS chips, with their clear CMOS and selection Jumpers. Note that the BIOS chips are removable, meaning that if both end up corrupt you can get a replacement (Genius idea!), ASRock are one of the only manufacturers in the world to offer this facility.
Looking at the bottom of the board again we see south bridge heat-sink and additionally the PCIE slots. Interestingly in the left corner of the board we find a Thunderbolt connector, something missing from the more expensive Z97 Killer board!? Then working from left to right, along the edge, we have the front panel HD Audio, COMM Port, front panel connector followed by two USB 2.0 ports. Taking a look at the PCI slots from top to bottom we have the following setup (again, take note no SLI support):
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.
PCI1 used to install expansion cards that have a 32-bit PCI interface.
PCIE4 (PCIe 2.0 x16 slots) is used for PCI Express x4 lane width graphics cards.
PCI2 used to install expansion cards that have a 32-bit PCI interface.
PCI3 used to install expansion cards that have a 32-bit PCI interface.
Looking at the left side of the board we see the Purity Sound 2 heat-sink on the right supported by way of a Realtek ALC1150 audio codec featuring 7.1 CH HD Audio. Beyond this we find the main IO Panel, that is covered in more detail below.
The top of the board is dominated by the Intel 1150 socket and the CPU power phase heat-sink, one less heat-sink here than on the Z97X Killer. To the left of the main CPU heat-sink and on the edge of the board we find the main 8-pin CPU power connector.
Above are some shots showing off the aesthetics of the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance, the first image showing off what is effectively the south bridge heat-sink, and its associated six Intel controlled SATA 6GB/s ports.
In addition to that we have the main power phase all alloy heat-sink.
Looking at the underside of the board there’s not much to see but we can appreciate 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 house the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance motherboard and the Haswell 4670K CPU. The following components were used:
|Case||Cooler Master HAF XB||Power Supply||Corsair AX760i|
|Motherboard||ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance||CPU||Intel Core i7-4670K|
|CPU Cooler||Corsair H105||RAM||Kingston HyperX Beast 8GB 2400MHz|
|Graphics Card||MSI GTX 770 GAMING OC Edition||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 (I did not use the ones on the disc as I wanted to be using the latest).
* The latest BIOS version (1.1) was already installed and was used throughout testing…
- Intel Chipset Driver (INF driver ver: 10.0.13)
- Realtek High Definition Audio Driver (220.127.116.1104)
- Intel LAN Driver (18.104.22.168)
- Intel USB3.0 Driver (22.214.171.124)
- NVIDIA Graphics (337.88 WHQL)
During testing the following tools/benchmarks & games were used/played:
The ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance fired up on the first press of the power button, with the first job being to update the BIOS (but no BIOS update was available at the time of review). So it was on into Widows to check basic stock stability and performance. At the stock settings (see below) the H97 Performance set our test Intel Core i5-4670K to 3.4GHZ and our Kingston Beast to 1333MHz, as one would expect.
ASRock’s UEFI BIOS interface is easy to use and navigate and with stability proven at the Load Optimized Defaults setting (CPU: 3.4GHZ and RAM: 1333MHz), it was time to overclock the CPU and dial in some memory XMP settings. BUT there are no XMP settings, the H97 chipset has no support, the best we could manage was 1600MHz (see below right).
Now for ASRock’s really clever trick, within the UEFI under the OC Tweaker section we find something that we shouldn’t! An overclocking menu for the CPU, rather cleverly named Non-Z OC. And this allows you to overclock your multiplier on a Non Z based board, clever eh!? This is actually exploiting a loophole in the architecture that was reveled by Intel sometime ago, and to be fair it could be closed via an update to the chipset code or via change to CPUs in the future. But for our Intel 4670K, it worked like a dream…
I was actually able to run our 4670K at 4.8GHz and play around for sometime, before I saw any instability. But I didn’t want to venture much past the auto setting (via Non-Z OC) as the voltage was at 1.360 volts! This is too high for everyday use, but if your looking for maximum overclocks then you could push further (with the voltage) given adequate cooling and if you’re brave enough… 😉
For testing purposes I ran the motherboard at both its stock speed of 3.4 (3.8GHz Turbo) and at 4.5GHz (RAM 1600MHz), which is fine for everyday use at a voltage of 1.25 volts.
- Benchmark Results (CPU @ STOCK: 3.4GHz (1.040v) : RAM @ 1333MHz) with NVIDIA GTX 770
|Metro Last Light||1920×1080||58.0|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||984|
As you can see from the two sets of data there’s not much of a performance difference in the scores when looking at both Stock (3.4GHz – 3.8GHz Turbo) and 4.5GHz, but the additional performance is there, even if it’s negligible. Unigine also posted a strange result as the performance went down a little when overclocked, although it’s still within the margin of error.
- Benchmark Results (CPU @ 4.5GHz (1.250v) : RAM @ 1600MHz) with NVIDIA GTX 770
|Metro Last Light||1920×1080||58.67|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||1920×1080||979|
What can be seen from the data above is that when it comes down to it a Gaming PC that’s running at 4.5GHz & 1600MHz isn’t much faster than one running at 3.4GHz and 1333MHz! Sorry guys but its true…
What’s even more interesting is that at stock speeds the H97 Performance betters the Z97X Killer board in all bar one of the tests! Only when overclocked does the H97 fall behind, even then by next to nothing and this is actually caused by the fact the the memory is limited to 1600MHz, not down to the board itself.
- Additional Software/Features
Gaming Audio is one of my favourite subjects, I guess I’m an aspiring Gaming Audiophile, if there is such a thing. And I have already seen (or is that heard!) what the Realtek ALC1150 chipset is capable of, and to be fair it’s very good. Again here in the ASRock implementation the sound is clear and concise with no discernible background noise.
It’s still no replacement for a dedicated sound card like the Creative Sound Blaster Zx, that you’ll want to use if your going to be using a high end headset such as the QPAD QH-1339 or the beyerdynamic MMX 300.
The F-Stream Utility (download here) has come a long way since I last saw it, all of the options you would expect are still here such as the ability, to monitor and overclock the system. But what’s also rather cool are apps that support the Gamer!
Such as the Key Master App found within the Tools menu. The application allows you to activate macros from both your keyboard and your mouse, implement Sniper Mode, change scroll speed, even key repeats and key delays. That’s pretty cool that all of these options for modifying your Gaming Peripherals is via software supplied by your motherboard. Nice! In addition to this there’s the old favourite, the Fatal1ty mouse port giving you full control over the Polling Rate.
What we have here is another amazing motherboard from ASRock, the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance may not have all of the bells ‘n whistles that some of the other boards out there, but it’s got it where it counts. Factor in the cost and ASRock have another sure fire winner on their hands…
Once again the ASRock packaging is far from subtle, but the motherboard within is well protected sat in and cable tied to a soft foam tray. There’s very little in the box other than a couple of SATA cables and a I/O shield (a rather plain silver one at that), but it’s enough and is all you’re likely to need to get started. The Fatal1ty H97 Performance is also a good looking board, with its large red south bridge heat-sink and smart CPU heat-sink, although it doesn’t look quite as good as the Z97X Killer.
Due to this being an H97 based board, there’s no SLI support (and although CrossFire is supported, bandwidth is likely to be limited by the second x4 PCIE bandwidth), there’s also no support for memory above 1600MHz and no support for M.2. And of course there’s no CPU overclocking, because that’s only available on the Z boards, right? WRONG!
This ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance board has a trick up its sleeve, aptly named Non-Z OC! On this board you can overclock, as ASRock have utilised a known workaround, that Intel are aware of! Now this may later get plugged in newer CPUs or via a software update, but for now it works beautifully allowing us to overclock all the way to 4.8GHz with our Intel Core i5-4670K!
Performance at stock was excellent, beating the Z97 based AsRock board in three of four tests! It’s overclocked test results were a little less, but that’s down to the boards lack of high speed memory support.
To be fair what you get with the ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Performance is a great Gaming motherboard, yes there’s some bells ‘n whistles missing, but would you miss them? I suspect not, as long as your not thinking dual GPUs. Of course the real icing on the cake is that Non-Z OC, which really has just blown the whole motherboard buying market wide open…
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Many thanks to ASRock for providing this sample for review