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PCB Design and Functionality

The component layout on ASRock Z77 OC Formula is close to classical design versions, but if you take a closer look at it, you will notice a lot of unique peculiarities.

To begin with, let me say that the digital “DIGI Power” voltage regulator circuitry works as 12+4 phases and uses very high-quality components: Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM), Premium Alloy Chokes (PAC) and Multiple Filter Capacitors (MFC). The components that run warm during operation are topped with two large heatsinks fastened using reliable screw-on retention. There is also an additional L-shaped backplate on the bottom of the mainboard PCB that provides additional heat-dissipating surface. The efficiency of this cooling system is further improved by a 40 mm fan with adjustable rotation speed. Moreover, you can connect these two heatsinks to the liquid-cooling contour, because they also have two fittings covered with plastic caps. This dual-purpose air-liquid cooling system even has its own special name – Twin-Power Cooling. The processor is powered via two standard ATX12V connectors – one eight-pin connector and one four-pin connector. The board uses a 2 oz copper eight-layer PCB, and the pins inside processor socket as well as inside the memory DIMM slots are plated with 15-micron layer of gold. For Ivy Bridge processors the range of supported memory frequencies starts at 1066 and ends at 3000 MHz. The available four DIMM slots can take in up to 32 GB of DDR3 SDRAM.

Intel Z77 Express chipset provides the board with four SATA 3 Gbps ports (black connectors) and two SATA 6 Gbps ports. Two additional Marvell 88SE9172 controllers add two more ports each and thus increase the total number of SATA 6 Gbps ports to six (yellow connectors). Two top PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots supports AMD CrossFireX and Nvidia SLI graphics configurations and share 16 PCI-E lanes. The third PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot has four lanes at its disposal thanks to the chipset. Besides this slot, there are two more PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots for other expansion cards. To ensure that all controllers and slots will not interfere with one another the board is equipped with PLX PEX 8605 hub that adds another five PCI-E lanes.

The graphics card slots have small and not very convenient latches, but the ability to disable any of the three PCI Express x16 slots by simply flipping a special switch somewhat compensates for this inconvenience. Moreover, there are also V-Probe voltage control points, a POST-code indicator, glowing Power On, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons and two Rapid OC buttons. They help adjust the base frequency, processor clock frequency multiplier and CPU Vcore on the fly, but they will only work from Windows OS and only once you have installed a special utility. We are going to talk more about this feature later in this review, as well as about the Multi Thermal Sensor – a variety of additional sensors that allow controlling the temperatures in different parts of the PCB. The mainboard has eight fan connectors, two of which are designated for processor fans. One of these fan connectors is a four-pin and another – a three-pin connector, and they allow adjusting the fan rotation speed in either case. There are two BIOS chips onboard, but we only work with one of them: the other BIOS chip is a reserve chip used to restore the primary BIOS in case of failure.

The photo of the mainboard’s back panel also shows the backplate at the bottom of the PCB. These are the ports and connectors you will find on the back of the board:

  • Universal PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Six USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors), four of which are implemented via EtronTech EJ188H controller, and two more ports are supported by the Intel Z77 Express chipset. The chipset also supports an onboard pin-connector for two additional USB 3.0 ports;
  • “Clear CMOS” button;
  • HDMI video out;
  • A local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Broadcom BCM57781 network controller);
  • Four USB 2.0 ports, another six are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • IEEE1394 (FireWire) port implemented with VIA VT6315N controller, a second port like that is available as an onboard pin-connector;
  • Optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC898 codec.

This extensive functionality didn’t fit into the ATX standard dimensions, so the board is designed in CEB form-factor, which is usually used for servers and workstations. But do not freak out: the mounting holes are laid out the same way an in ATX mainboards and the board is the same 305 mm long. Only the width of the PCB has been increased to 267 mm, so in fact, it may easily fit into many system cases out there, and if used as an open testbed, the dimensions won’t matter at all.

We summed up all the technical specifications of ASRock Z77 OC Formula in the following table:

ASRock’s regional web-sites have a product page dedicated to ASRock Z77 OC Formula mainboard, where you can read about its features and functionality, check out its official specifications, download manuals, new BIOS versions, driver and utility updates. Besides, there is also a separate micro-site devoted solely to this mainboard.

 
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