ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer Motherboard Review
   
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ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer Motherboard Review

June 18th, 2014 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard marks the welcome return of ASRock to the pcG review pages. It’s been a while (almost 2 years) since I tested one of my favourite motherboards, the ASRock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional, hopefully this new Z97 Fatal1ty branded board from ASRock’s Super Alloy Series will be just as good.

This time around the motherboard is based upon the new Z97 chipset supporting the latest Haswell refresh CPUs and of course Devils Canyon.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - box front ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - box back

 

The ATX Form Factor ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer 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, as it will save me a lot of typing!

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 Fatal1ty Z97X Killer, some of the highlights are: Killer Networking, Purity Sound 2 and M.2 socket. For more details see Specifications/Features below.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - box open ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - packaging

 

Opening the box we can see that the ASRock Z97X Killer ships with a fair amount of accessories and paperwork. What’s nice to see here is also the inclusion of a specific guide exclusively for reviewers, this 15 page guide should help me sleep at night! 😉

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!

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - box contents

 

In the box in addition to the motherboard itself we also find the following:

ACCESSORIES

  • 4 x Serial ATA (SATA) Data Cables
  • I/O Panel Shield
  • HDD Saver Cable
  • Screw for M.2 SSD (NGFF) Socket 3
  • NVIDIA SLI Bridge

PAPERWORK

  • Quick Installation Guide
  • Software Setup Guide
  • ASRock Cloud
  • Support CD

 

At the time of writing the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer is retailing for approximately £125 and comes with a 3 year warranty.

 

Specifications/Features

courtesy of ASRock

  • ASRock Super Alloy
    – XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink
    – Premium Alloy Choke (Reduces 70% core loss compared to iron powder choke)
    – Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM)
    – NexFET™ MOSFET
    – Nichicon 12K Platinum Caps (100% Japan made high quality conductive polymer capacitors)
    – Sapphire Black PCB
  • Gaming Armor
    » CPU Power – Hi-Density Power Connector
    » Memory – 15μ Gold Contact in DIMM Slots
    » VGA Card – 15μ Gold Contact in VGA PCIe Slot (PCIE2), PCIe Power Connector
    » Internet – Qualcomm® Atheros® Killer™ LAN
    » Audio – Purity Sound™ 2
  • Supports 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors (Socket 1150)
  • Supports New 4th and 4th Generation Intel® Xeon®/Core™ i7/i5/i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors (Socket 1150)
  • Digi Power, 8 Power Phase design
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR3 3200+(OC)
  • 3 PCIe 3.0 x16, 3 PCIe 2.0 x1
  • Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ and NVIDIA® Quad SLI™
  • Graphics Output Options: D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports DTS Connect
  • 1 SATA Express, 6 SATA3, 1 M.2 (PCIe Gen2 x2 & SATA, Supports 30mm, 42mm, 60mm, 80mm, 110mm M.2 devices), 8 USB 3.0 (2 Front, 6 Rear), 6 USB 2.0 (4 Front, 1 Rear, 1 Fatal1ty Mouse Port)
  • 1 COM Port Header
  • Supports ASRock HDD Saver Technology, Full Spike Protection, ASRock Cloud, APP Shop, F-Stream, Key Master, Full HD UEFI

* Additional details available here

 

First Impressions

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer

 

There’s no doubt it my mind that the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard is one good looking motherboard, obviously red is a good choice of colour for most of us, but this red seems to have a little extra to it. The whole motherboard really pops, from the heat-sinks to the colour coding of the connections, everything looks like it belongs. No silly designs here (no dragons, no bullets, no fans…), it’s almost subtle, yet cool…

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - right ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - bottom

 

Looking at the right side of the board first, this area is dominated by what is effectively the south bridge heat-sink and the four DIMM slots, with the DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB with support for Overclocked memory up to 3000MHz. Tucked just above the memory slots is a 4-pin CPU fan header (CPU_FAN1). Below the memory slots we see the main 24-pin ATX connector (in its normal place) and the single USB 3.0 connector (USB3_4_5). To the left of the memory slots on the edge of the board we see ASRock’s HDD Saver connector (covered with a sticker). This connector allows you to take control of the On/Off state of your HDDs via software allowing you to both save power and also disable drives for security reasons. While a good thing, I’m not sure it’s needed on what is undeniably a Gaming motherboard. To the left of this we see the main six SATA 6GBs ports all controlled by the Intel Chipset. Next to this we also find a SATA Express interface that is shared with two of the SATA sockets and the M.2 socket (more on this later). Selection for this is made via the UEFI. In the far left corner we find the internal Speaker jumper, Clear CMOS jumper and the only 4-pin Chassis Fan header (CHA_FAN1).

Looking at the bottom of the board again we see the board dominated by the south bridge heat-sink and additionally the PCIe slots. In the far right corner we have the BIOS selection jumper and the main front panel header, followed by the two BIOS chips. 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. Next to this (running right to left) we find two USB 2.0 ports and a Serial port, closely followed by a PCIe power connector (this is required to be connected if you’re installing more that two GPUs). To the left of this we find the HD Front Panel Audio header.

Taking a look at the PCIe slots from top to bottom we have the following setup:

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 3.0 x16 slots) is used for PCI Express x8 lane width graphics cards.
PCIE5 (PCIe 2.0 x1 slots) is used for PCI Express x1 lane width cards.
PCIE6 (PCIe 3.0 x16 slots) is used for PCI Express x14 lane width graphics cards.

Tucked neatly between PCIe slots 2 and 3 we find the single M.2 or New Generation Form Factor (NGFF) connector, this new slot is effectively a replacement for mPCIe and mSATA.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - left ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X - top

 

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. Next to this we find a Killer (hence the name!) E2200 controller, providing an Intelligent Neworking Platform. 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-sinks, nice the look too! In the centre we can see two of the Chassis Fan headers (CHA_FAN2 & CHA_FAN3), this time only a 3-pin headers though. To the right of the main CPU heat-sink and on the edge of the board we find the main 8-pin CPU power connector and next to this we find another CPU fan header (CPU_FAN2) and a Power Fan header header (PWR_FAN1), both of the 3-pin variety.
 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X - South Bridge (heatsink) ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X - CPU (heatsinks)

 

Above are some shots showing of the great aesthetics of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer Motherboard, the first image showing off that large, smart 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-sinks around the CPU socket. All the red heat-sinks give the Fatal1ty Z97X Killer, a somewhat killer look (sorry couldn’t resist!). 😉

 

  • USB 2.0 Port (Fatal1ty Mouse Port)
  • USB 2.0 Port
  • PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo Port
  • D-Sub Port
  • DVI-D Port
  • USB 3.0 Port (Intel)
  • USB 3.0 Port (Intel)
  • HDMI Port
  • USB 3.0 Port (ASMedia)
  • USB 3.0 Port (ASMedia)
  • RJ-45 LAN Port
  • USB 3.0 Port (Intel)
  • USB 3.0 Port (Intel)
  • HD Audio Jacks
  • Optical SPDIF Out Port
ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X - IO panel

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X - underside ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - IO shield

 

Looking at the underside of the board there’s not much to see but we can appreciate the Sapphire black PCB.

Also you can see from the IO Shield the position of the Fatal1ty mouse port, there’s also a bit of colour coding which is also always nice to see, better than plain black or silver.

 

ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X - Killer and Purity Sound ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X - M.2

 

The Purity Sound 2 (Realtek AlC1150) ASRock implementation features a 115db SNR DAC with differential amplifier, Cap less Direct Drive technology, EMI shielding cover, PCB isolation and DTS Connect, utilising Nichicon Fine Gold audio caps aiding the overall noise reduction. Next to this we find the E2200 Killer LAN chipset built for maximum networking performance for online games. This controller has been seen in the past and it’s good to see it again on the Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard.

The Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard only supports SSD based drives via its M.2 slot (above right), but both M.2 SATA (6 GB/s) and M.2 PCI Express Gen 2 (10 GB/s) formats are supported.

 

Hardware Installation

 

4670K 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 Z97X Killer motherboard and the Haswell 4670K CPU. The following components were used:

  • Test Rig Setup

  • Case Cooler Master HAF XB Power Supply Corsair AX760i
    Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer CPU Intel Core i7-4670K
    CPU Cooler Corsair H105 RAM Kingston HyperX Beast 8GB 2400MHz
    Graphics Card MSI GTX 770 GAMING OC Edition SSD (M.2) Kingston M.2 (SM2280S3/120G)

     

    Kingston M.2 (120GB) It’s worth noting that we are using a rather new tech here, an M.2 mSATA based SSD (SM2280S3/120G) from Kingston Technologies, this is fully supported by the M.2 port aboard the Fatal1ty Z97X Killer. We here at pcG are big fans of the MSATA (outgoing) and the new incoming M.2 SSDs, as they’re so easy to fit, support transfer speeds up to 10 GB/s and capacities up to 1TB. All of this without any wiring too! Awesome, I think… 😉

     

    ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - installed ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - installed (angle)

     

    Testing Methodology/Setup

     

    A new installation of Windows Home Premium 64bit (Service Pack 1) was performed and the following drivers (see below) 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 (1.3) was downloaded and installed . This was done via ASRock’s Internet Flash utility accessed directly within the UEFI. It worked like a dream, and this is the first time I have seen this feature work so well.

    Drivers installed:

    • Intel Chipset Driver (INF driver ver: 10.0.13.PC)
    • Realtek High Definition Audio Driver (v7004)
    • LAN (Atheros) (1.1.42.1291)
    • ASMedia USB3.0 Driver (1.16.15.0)
    • NVIDIA Graphics (337.88 WHQL)

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

    • Prime 95
    • CPUz
    • 3DMark
    • Unigine Heaven 4.0
    • Metro Last Light
    • BattleField Hard Line (BETA)
    • Survarium (BETA)
    • Splinter Cell: Black List

     

    Hardware Performance

     

    The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer fired up on the first press of the power button (the external one, as there’s no MB based button), with the first job being to update the BIOS. This was extremely easy via ASRock’s Internet Flash facility that updated the BIOS to version 1.3 in a matter of a couple minutes.

     

    ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - BIOS (Load Optimized Defaults)

     

    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.

    After playing around with the ASRock Load Optimized CPU OC Settings (see below), I found that I could get our test CPU (Intel Core i5-4670K) stable at 4.8GHz albeit at a hefty 1.380 volts, which to be fair is a little too high for everyday use. Although it proves that not only is the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard a good overclocker it’s pretty darn easy to do!

    Also by selecting Profile 1 in the UEFI the Kingston Beast was able to run at its XMP setting of 2400MHz.

     

    ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - BIOS (Load Optimized CPU OC Setting) ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - BIOS (XMP)

     

    For testing purposes I ran the motherboard at both its stock speed of 3.4 (3.8GHz Turbo) and an overclocked setting (inc XMP @ 2400MHz) at 4.5GHz, which is fine for everyday use at a voltage of 1.25 volts.

     

    ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer - BIOS (Overclocked)

     

    • Benchmark Results (CPU @ STOCK: 3.4GHz (1.040v) : RAM @ 1333MHz) with NVIDIA GTX 770
    Benchmark Resolution Result
    Metro Last Light 1920×1080 57.33
    Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920×1080 976
    3DMark Firestrike Default 6786
    3DMark Firestrike Extreme 3445

     

    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. Of course some of this performance can be attributed to the Kingston Beast memory that’s now running at its XMP setting of 2400MHz.

     

    • Benchmark Results (CPU @ 4.5GHz (1.250v) : RAM @ 2400MHz) with NVIDIA GTX 770
    Benchmark Resolution Result
    Metro Last Light 1920×1080 59.33
    Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920×1080 990
    3DMark Firestrike Default 6996
    3DMark Firestrike Extreme 3506

     

    • Additional Software/Features

     

    Of course the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer is packed full of other features that will excite the Gamer, let’s take a look at some of the more Gamer centric ones:

  • HARDWARE (Killer Networking & Purity Sound 2)
  •  

    ASRock Killer Networking We’ve seen the Killer E2200 networking technology before and have been impressed with it. Not only does it just work well, but provides the ability to prioritise your network traffic, more importantly your Gaming traffic! Now that’s not such an issue if you’ve not got too much in the way of software installed. But if you have or maybe you share your computer with others (and they have!), then it’s a welcome technology that allows you to prioritise your Gaming traffic when needed.

    One thing to note is that by default, Bandwidth Control is ON at (10MBs UP and 100MBs DOWN) for me (and maybe others, as broadband speeds increase) this is too low and actually starts capping my download speeds! Just turn Bandwidth Control off is the best thing to do… 😉

    9-Purity Sound2-BG 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.

     

  • SOFTWARE (F-Stream Utility)


  • 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.

     

    ASRock F-Stream (Tools) ASRock F-Stream (Key Master)

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    To say that the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard was a great motherboard, would probably be an understatement. Not because it’s equipped with more features than you can shake a stick at, but because it’s got pretty much all of the features a Gamer needs.

    The motherboard came really well packaged, it’s nice to see the motherboard not only in a foam tray, but secured by way of some cable ties. The box admittedly is far from subtle, looking at the back gives you some idea of the level of hardware and software features that the Fatal1ty Z97X Killer supports. The board was easy to install (requiring an extra stand-off) and the layout is good, although I would have liked to have seen a few more PWM fan headers, as there are only two out of six.

    The Fatal1ty Z97X Killer booted first time and the BIOS was extremely easy to update via the UEFI based Internet Flash utility (updates the BIOS directly from the web!). This is made all the safer by the boards two BIOS chips, that not only provide some redundancy, but can also be replaced should both fail! This I think is a brilliant idea, as we have known boards have to go back due to corrupt BIOS’s.

    Once the board had been updated and tested it was on to some overcloking and while there may be no on-board button there are some simple OC options (from 4.0GHz to 4.8GHz) in the UEFI. I was easily able to overclock our Intel Core i5-4670K to 4.8GHz using this feature while still running our test RAM (Kingston Beast) at its 2400MHz XMP setting, impressive stuff. The voltage at this setting though is a little too high for my liking at 1.38 volts. We opted for a far more silicon friendly overclock of 4.5GHz at 1.25 volts.

    Throughout testing the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard was both stable and performed well, and as you can see from above, overclocking was easy too. I would have liked to have seen a debug LED and a dedicated BIOS reset switch though (but to be fair I can level this complaint at many boards), maybe some of the other features (eg HDD Saver, eSATA) that are less Gamer and less important, could be dropped in favour of this, as they are far more valuable IMHO.

    So it seems that ASRock have created the perfect Gaming motherboard!? Well, yes, I think they have! All of what most Gamers would want is here, a truly great looking board with easy to activate overclocking features. Killer LAN, Purity 2 Sound (via Realtek ALC1150), coupled with CrossFire and SLI support. Add to this its great stability, the replaceable BIOS chips (should things go wrong), great software features like the Key-Master and Fatal1ty Mouse Port applications. And to top it all off a very reasonable price, especially when you consider how new this board and its chipset is…

    Therefore the the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer motherboard becomes only the third component to receive our top accolade, a pcGameware Platinum Award!

     

    Verdict

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



    Where possible we always use Amazon’s price for Value…
      Design/Quality pcGameware awards the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer a Platinum
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

    Many thanks to ASRock for providing this sample for review

     



    1. Steve
      July 24th, 2014 at 23:21 | #1

      Guys, great review

      HOWEVER

      Remove that horrible scroll down Facebook/Tumblr window on the left. It is so irritating that that I wont use your site again just because of it. This is NOT an uncommon event (people complaining about that horrible thing) because other sites were (past tense) using similar bars (for advertising and the likes) too, and some of the sites are extremely well known. They had to remove it because too many people were refusing to use the site after they put it in.

      There is NO need for that bar, if people want to like you on Facebook or twitter etc. they will do it any way. Shoving that thing in people’s faces is one sure way to irritate them and get “dislikes”. Secondly, to put something on your screen that totally distracts and detracts from all of your hard work putting the review together – not smart.

      I did not even bother reading your entire review, I was getting to infuriated with that damn bar following me down the pagew I closed my eyes, scrolled to bottom of page and read your verdict.

      • James
        July 25th, 2014 at 11:44 | #2

        Anyone else agree? If you guys don’t like it, we will change it…

    2. Sam
      August 16th, 2014 at 19:20 | #3

      @James
      Maybe implement it in a fixed position?

    3. TripleRLtd
      December 8th, 2014 at 15:43 | #4

      @James

      Didn’t even notice it until reading the moan and groan…

    4. Cpt1nsano
      December 18th, 2014 at 21:10 | #6

      Agree, that floater sucks.