ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 Review by James
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ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 Review

August 27th, 2011 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-box-top

 

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 is the second Z68 based board from ASRock that we have seen here at pcGameware, let’s have a look around the box and see what’s inside.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-box-front ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-box-back

 

At the time of writing the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard is one of the only boards on the market to be supporting the next-gen PCIe 3.0 standard (see below for more detail on PCIe 3.0).

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-box-inside ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-box-inside-cover

 

Inside the box is another box and inside that box are 2 more boxes (yes that’s rights there are 4 boxes!).

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-packaging ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-box-contents

 

In the upper box (above left) is the main event, the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard, packaged (not seen before) without an anti-static bag (have always thought that those things were a waste of time anyway!). The lower box (above right) contains all of the other goodies listed below:

  • A bunch of paper work including a Quick Installation Guide & Software Setup Guide
  • DVD containing (User Manual, Drivers & Utilities)
  • An IDE and Floppy cable (if you are using these then you should be shot! :o)
  • SLI Connector
  • Motherboard back-plate
  • x6 SATA3 6GBs cables (x3 90 degree & x3 straight)
  • USB 3 external face-plate
  • USB 3 back-plate
  • HDMI -> DVI Converter
  • 3.5mm jack lead
  • x2 Molex to SATA power connectors

 

 

  • A important word about PCIe 3.0

The introduction of PCIe 3.0 maximises the bandwidth available for next-gen VGA cards by increasing bandwidth from 16GBs to 32GBs (total bandwidth for x16 slot). The ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard uses a quick switch IC on-board to support both PCIe 2.0 and PCIe 3.0.

NOTE: To take full advantage of the bandwidth offered by PCIe 3.0 you will need to install an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. In addition to this you will need to ensure that your graphics card also supports the new PCIe 3.0 standard.

 

Specifications

courtesy of ASRock

  1. Premium Gold Caps (2.5 x longer life time), 100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
  2. Digi PWM Design, Advanced V12 + 6 Power Phase Design
  3. Supports Dual Channel DDR3 2133(OC)
  4. Integrated PLX PEX8608 chip onboard to offer sufficient PCI-E lanes
  5. 2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots
  6. Supports ATI™ Quad CrossFireX™, 3-Way CrossFireX™ and CrossFireX™
  7. Supports NVIDIA® Quad SLI™ and SLI™
  8. Dual PCIE GLAN with Teaming function
  9. Dr. Debug, Smart Switch Design: Power/Reset/Clear CMOS Switch with LED
  10. Supports Fatal1ty XFast USB, XFast LAN Technologies
  11. Supports Graphical UEFI, Lucid Virtu, Intel® Smart Response Technology
  12. Supports Fatal1ty F-Stream, On/Off Play Technology, APP Charger, SmartView
  13. 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec), THX TruStudio™
  14. Free Bundle : 1 x 3.5mm Audio Cable, 1 x Front USB 3.0 Panel, CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 Trial, ASRock MAGIX Multimedia Suite

 

 

First Impressions

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 ASRock Fatal1ty Z68-Professional Gen3-Fatal1ty

 

My first impression of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard was wow, that looks pretty awesome! Now the styling may not be to everyones taste but I have to admit I rather like it, in fact I like it a lot. The packaging is excellent and from the moment that you have the box in your hand you’re left in no doubt that you have a very high quality & high value product (in other words it makes you feel special (ahhh!)).

As you begin to un-box the board you slowly but surely get closer and closer to the mainboard itself and when you do it really is a thing of beauty.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-Premium-Gold-Caps ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-Power-and-Reset

 

As you can see from the images above the board does really look great, from the premium gold capacitors that help make up the V12+6 CPU power phase (above left) to the awesome looking on-board power and reset buttons (above right).

The board supports a ton of top notch features too (see Overview above); but most important to me will be how well does it overclock, how fast is it and most importantly how stable is it!

 

Hardware Installation

 

During installation no problems were encountered as I switched from the Asus P8P67 Pro (in my rig) to the ASRock board. Again, as seen before on other ASRock boards, there is an additional motherboard screw (and stand-off) required on the back edge of the board.

Out of the long list of components that came with the board, I will only be using the ones below as this machine is a pure Gaming Rig.
 

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-what-I-used

 

Yes that’s right just 3 components will be used: The very nice back-plate, far nicer than the plain silver Asus one from my P8P67 Pro, the SLI connector (note this is a solid circuit-board type (I think I prefer the more flexible ribbon style!) and one of the 6 SATA 6GBs cables provided).

I had no issues with the mounting of my rigs Corsair A50 CPU Cooler and the G.Skill RipJawX memory. I connected up my SSD (Crucial C300 128GB) using one of the SATA cables, and found that I could not use the 90 degree cable that I had selected from the 6 provided (x3 90 degree & x3 straight) as the ports on the ASRock are set back slightly from the edge of the motherboard. Once swapped for one of the 3 straight ones provided, I was good to go!

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-installed

 

I fired the rig up for the first time via the handy power switch on the motherboard and was soon greeted with a smart Fatal1ty splash screen. Once in the BIOS I checked everything looked good (it did), reset the SATA mode to AHCI as it defaults to IDE and then started with a clean install of Windows 7.

 

Testing Methodology/Setup

 

  • A important word about PCIe 3.0

The introduction of PCIe 3.0 maximises the bandwidth available for next-gen VGA cards by increasing bandwidth from 16GBs to 32GBs (total bandwidth for x16 slot). The ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard uses a quick switch IC on-board to support both PCIe 2.0 and PCIe 3.0.

NOTE: To take full advantage of the bandwidth offered by PCIe 3.0 you will need to install an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. In addition to this you will need to ensure that your graphics card also supports the new PCIe 3.0 standard.

 

Before installing any OS the following features were disabled in the BIOS (as this is a Gaming Rig) they won’t get used and I hate all those exclamation errors showing up in the Device Manager window.

Disabled the following in the BIOS:

Onboard 1394
Front Panel Audio
On/Off Play
ASMedia SATA3
Onboard Floppy
Serial Port

A new installation of Windows Home Premium (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).

Drivers installed:

Intel Chipset (INF driver ver:9.2.0.1021)
NVIDIA Graphics (275.33)
Realtek high definition audio driver (6.0.1.6378)
Lan driver (7.44.421.2011)
ROCCAT Kone[+] driver (drv 1.45 / fw 1.40)

Over 10 days of testing my rig was super stable, during that time I have been mainly playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and a rather novel game called Limbo available via Steam. Ok time to look at how well the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 MB performs…

 

Hardware Performance

 

First the board was tested at its default settings (CPU @ 3.3GHz with memory @ 1600MHz 9-9-9-28 1T) and after running multiple runs of 3DMark 11, Unigine Heaven and Metro 2033 the MB was deemed to be stable, so it was on to the overclocking. I was sure to be in for an interesting ride as my current board a Asus P8P67 Pro clocks my 2500K easily to 4.8GHz (but suffers from double/triple boot issues) and the last ASRock board I reviewed (ASRock Z68 Extreme4) would not go beyond 4.5GHz.

After first trying the BIOS OC profile for 4.0GHz with no issues I moved on to 4.4GHz, here again I didn’t run into any problems, so far so good. When I hit 4.6GHz I was disappointed to see that the same issue that I had seen on the previous ASRock board was back (lock ups in Windows when NOT under load!).

As before I was adamant that this board (like the previous board was capable of more) so I set about the BIOS hacking and slashing (soz: I mean applying educated and calculated settings!) until I found something and eventually I did…

 

* Settings changed to gain high overclock stability

BIOS Setting Default Setting Overclocked Setting
Internal PLL Overvoltage Disabled Enabled
CPU PLL Voltage 1.832v 1.906v
VTT Voltage 1.051v 1.090v
VCCSA Voltage 0.925v 1.200v

 

After setting the values above I was off and past the 4.6GHz mark and on to 4.8GHz (stable!). The BIOS settings for the 4.8GHz overclock can be seen below.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-BIOS-settings-4.8GHz

 

With some brief forays into and including the 5.0GHz territory I decided that 4.8GHz was it, not necessarily due to instability but due to the now high voltages and high temperatures being witnessed (yes that’s right I chickened out :-)). At this point I also took the opportunity to set the eXtreme Memory Profile (XMP) for my RAM (memory @ 1600MHz 6-8-6-24 1T).

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3-Prime95-4.8GHz

 

With stability now proven at 4.8GHz it was time to see what the benchmarks were like:

 

  • CPU @ 4.8GHz / Memory @ 1600MHz (6-8-6-24 1T)
Motherboard 3DMark 11 Unigine Heaven Metro 2033
ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 @4.8GHz 11013 1412 49.33

 

Now let’s take a look at how the Fatal1ty board stacks up against the Asus P8P67 Pro in my rig and against the ASRock Z68 Extreme4 (reviewed here). All boards are tested at my default overclock of 4.3GHz as that was found to be the highest overclock needed (as after this any increase in clock speeds showed no sign of increasing the scores in our benchmarks! (click here for more on that story)).

 

  • CPU @ 4.3GHz / Memory @ 1600MHz (6-8-6-24 1T)
Motherboard 3DMark 11 Unigine Heaven Metro 2033
ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 @4.3GHz 10753 1415 49.00 FPS
ASRock Z68 Extreme4 @4.3GHz 10518 1416 49.67 FPS
Asus P8P67 Pro @4.3GHz 10471 1405 49.33 FPS

 

Well as you can see the scores are all similar enough as to be within tolerances, apart for the 3DMark 11 score which shows a significant increase in performance. As we already know an increase in the CPU/memory subsystem will NOT yield higher scores in either Unigine Heaven or Metro 2033 (see here), I would suggest that is what we are seeing in 3DMark 11 (i.e. the board is showing an increase in the CPU/memory subsystem not picked up by the other two benchmarks). This makes sense as 3DMark 11 has some specific CPU/memory subsystem tests.

 

  • Further Overclocking

During the final days of my review period I couldn’t help but try and overclock the ASRock board a little more (as I felt more was possible!) and my efforts were not wasted. Now using the the F-Stream oveclocking utility (as adjustments can be made on the fly) I managed to get the board stable at 4.9GHz. The F-Stream settings for this can be seen below.

 

 

  • Additional Features

There are many features of this board that I have not looked at (mainly as they don’t interest me that much as this is a Gaming Rig after all), but I did have a look at a couple that caught my eye: First up was F-Stream Tuning utility, the main attraction (for me) is that this utility allows for overclocking and monitoring via Windows, this did prove quite usefull when pushing beyond 4.8GHz.

 

F-Stream Tuning-Hardware Monitor F-Stream Tuning-Fan Control F-Stream Tuning-Overclocking F-Stream Tuning-Fatal1ty Mouse Port F-Stream Tuning-Energy Saving

 

The other utility that caught my eye was the XFast LAN software that allows you to prioritise LAN traffic. The innovative features include : Internet Application Prioritization, Lower Latency in Game, Traffic Shaping and Real-Time Analysis of Your Data. Unfortunately, while a cool bit of software, it just blew my mind…

 

Final Thoughts

 

Well The ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 has put in a fine showing during the 10 days that I have been testing. First off the presentation and quality of the board is second to none and IMHO this is the best looking board I’ve seen. Everything from the gold capacitors to the heatsinks to the power and reset buttons just ooze quality. For that alone ASRock should be commended, ASRock seem to have poured a lot of TLC into this board, and it shows.

There are countless features of this board (see Overview above) that I have not explored and to be honest anyone who has, has either to much time or is lying! I have only used the board for what I want it to do (see Gaming Rig) and that requires that it be highly performant, stable, easy to use and look good. To be honest using that set of criteria I cannot fault the board.

This board has out performed all the other Sandy Bridge based boards that I have tested so far, maybe if you’re braver than me then beyond 4.9GHz is a possibility too. The only possible chink in the ASrock armour is the price, currently retailing for around £205 this MB is not cheap. But to be fair when you look at what you are getting for your money then really the price is actually quite reasonable.

Overall then a great motherboard and as I am already on the lookout to move away from my Asus P8P67 Pro (due to boot issues) the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 is now at the top of my list.

 

Verdict

 

  Design/Quality pcGameware awards the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 a Gold
Performance
Value
Overall

 


  1. James
    September 3rd, 2011 at 09:35 | #1

    Oops was missing 4.9GHz image, soz, thanks Steve0.

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