I have had a couple of overclocking-focused Intel Z77 boards in the past little while with MSI, ASUS, and Gigabyte all showing recent releases based on the Intel Z77 Express. It has been interesting to see the differences between them all; differences so noticeable that each board really provided a unique experience. I was settling in with seeing a few of these products early when I heard that there might be more coming, since the latest boards I have looked at have come very affordably priced indeed. It has been quite a change in the market as of late with prices plummeting on boards, chips, memory, and SSDs alike, much in preparation for the coming launch of Windows8. Windows8 is quite the divergence itself, booting and shutting down in mere seconds, but there might also be some hardware requirements to truly take advantage of all that programming.
Since June of this year, I have had the pleasure of covering quite a few ASRock products, and ASRock is a company that also offers some programming with its hardware with their "XFast 555 Technology" that includes XFast Ram, XFast Lan, and XFast USB. It might, at first, seem as though these feature are gimmicky marketing tools, but each XFast feature really does offer a decent performance improvement. Together they do offer something that no other board maker does right now, although you could find similar stuff for a bit of extra money. If you look at any of ASRock's YouTube marketing videos, they do seem to be amazed by what they have accomplished, especially in such a short period of time. ASRock has only become a major force in the marketplace recently, and they aren't done showing us what they can do.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from ASRock and there was, within seconds, also an unexpected package at my doorstep.
The email said:
"You should have received Asrock Z77-OC Formula. If you need more information about this motherboard, please visit the website below. Any comment, please let me know.
Now, usually, you know, manufacturer's will send me stuff, but they will also drop me an e-mail first to let me know it's on its way, not that I've already got it :p. XFast indeed! When I opened the box, I found this inside:
|MODEL:||Z77 OC Formula|
|CPU SUPPORT:||2nd & 3rd Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processor family for the LGA 1155 Socket|
|POWER DESIGN:||CPU Power: 12 + 4 Phases |
PCH Power: 2 Phase
Memory Power: 4 Phase
|CHIPSET:||Intel Z77 Express|
|INTEGRATED GRAPHICS:||Dependant on installed CPU|
|MEMORY:||4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB, DDR3 1066 to DDR3 3000+|
|BIOS:||Dual AMI EFI BIOS with dual 64 Mb Flash ROMs|
|SLOTS:||3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (x16/x0/x0 or x8/x8/x0 or x8/x4/x4) |
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
|HDD CONNECTIVITY:||2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (Intel Z77) |
4 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (Intel Z77)
4 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (Marvell 88SE9172)
|NETWORKING:||Realtek RTL8111E PCIe Gigabit LAN|
|PORTS:||10 x USB 2.0 ports (4 at back panel, 6 at front panel)|
8 x USB 3.0 ports (6 at back panel, 2 at front panel)
1 x RJ45 LAN connectors
1 x Audio port with 5 audio jacks
1 x SPDIF Output(Optical)
1 x HDMI port
1 x Keyboard/Mouse PS/2 port
1 x CMOS Clear button
|AUDIO:||Realtek ALC898 HD CODEC|
|FAN HEADERS:||5 x 3-pin, 1 x 4-pin PWM|
|FORM FACTOR:||CEB Form Factor (305 mm x 267 mm)|