Z77 OC Motherboard Shootout - MSI vs ASRock

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We’ve seen more than our share of motherboards sporting the Z77 chipset, but today we have a pair of Z77 boards--one each from ASRock and MSI--that are designed specifically for overclocking. Even better, both of these mainboards are actually mid-range offerings, meaning you can enjoy the overclocking features without paying for the highest-end options from the two companies. What better way to put them through the paces than by setting up a good old-fashioned mainboard shootout?

Because Z77 was made to be paired up with Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, we slapped a quad-core Intel Core i7-3770K in these two contenders and let the fur fly.

But first, let’s take a look at the ASRock Z77 OC Formula and MSI Big Bang Z77 MPOWER.  As motherboards go, the ASRock Z77 OC Formula’s a beaut, featuring a black PCB, black and yellow slots and connectors, gold caps, and a brushed black metal finish on the heatsinks.

In terms of physical buttons, switches, and other miscellany located on the PCB, the power and reset buttons reside down by the Southbridge; a V-Probe is up and to the right of the DIMM slots, just under Rapid OC +/- buttons; and just above those is a Dr. Debug LED and PCIe on/off switches; and there’s a Clear CMOS button on the rear I/O panel.

The board supports both 2nd- and 3rd-generation Intel Core i7, i5, and i3 chips and can handle up to 32GB of DDR3-3000 (OC) system memory.


ASRock Z77 OC Formula
Specifications & Features
CPU:




Chipset:

Memory:






Graphics:




 

Audio:


LAN:



Slots:





Storage:




USB 3.0:


Form Factor:
 
Supports 3rd and 2nd Generation Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 in LGA1155 Package
12 + 4 Power Phase Design
Supports Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
Supports Intel K-Series unlocked CPU
Supports Hyper-Threading Technology
Intel Z77

Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
4 x DDR3 DIMM slots
Supports DDR3 3000+(OC)/2800(OC)/2666(OC)/2400(OC)/2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
Max. capacity of system memory: 32GB*
Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 1.3 / 1.2

Supports Intel HD Graphics Built-in Visuals, Quick Sync Video 2.0, InTru 3D, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider, HD Graphics 2500/4000 with Intel Ivy Bridge CPU
Supports Intel HD Graphics Built-in Visuals, Quick Sync Video, InTru 3D, Clear Video HD Technology, HD Graphics 2000/3000, Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) with Intel Sandy Bridge CPU
Pixel Shader 5.0, DirectX 11 with Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. Pixel Shader 4.1, DirectX 10.1 with Intel Sandy Bridge CPU - Max. shared memory 1760MB with Intel Ivy Bridge CPU.

7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC898 Audio Codec)
Premium Blu-ray audio support, Supports THX TruStudio

PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
Broadcom BCM57781
Supports Wake-On-LAN, Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az, PXE

2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (PCIE2/PCIE4: single at x16 (PCIE2) / x8 (PCIE4) or dual at x8/x8 mode)
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (PCIE5: x4 mode)
2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX and CrossFireX
Supports NVIDIA Quad SLI and SLI

2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by Intel® Z77, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel® Rapid Storage and Intel® Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
4 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by Marvell SE9172, support RAID (RAID 0 and RAID 1), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions

2 x Rear USB 3.0 ports by Intel Z77, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
4 x Rear USB 3.0 ports by Etron EJ188H, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
1 x Front USB 3.0 header by Intel Z77 (supports 2 USB 3.0 ports), supports USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s

EATX Form Factor: 12.0-in x 10.5-in, 30.5 cm x 26.7 cm 



Four-way SLI and CrossFireX support is enabled by the five PCI-E slots--two PCI-E 3.0 x16, one PCI-E 2.0 x16, and two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots--and there are six total SATA connectors on board, all of which are SATA 6Gbps. As far as USB goes, ASRock put in four USB 2.0 ports and went with USB 3.0 ports for the remaining seven; one is mounted on a front panel, and there are ten total on the back I/O panel.

    

The rest of the back panel includes a PS/2 port, HDMI, optical S/PDIF, LAN port, CMOS button, and audio jacks.

To enhance overclocking prowess, ASRock built the Z77 OC Formula with a 12+4 power phase design, Digi Power PWM for better CPU voltage handling, dual-stack MOSFETs, and premium alloy choke. The CPU socket and memory slots feature 15μ Gold Finger for better performance, and ASRock’s twin-power cooling is designed so that users can combine air and water cooling for better heat flow and transfer.

    

There are even little “OC stands” that keep the motherboard up off the surface you're using it on for better airflow if you don’t feel like building the system with a chassis, and ASRock threw in a syringe full of GELID GC-Extreme thermal compound, too.

Of course, there’s plenty of OC software provided so you can tweak the board and components in a variety of ways in addition to the old-fashioned method of adjusting settings in the UEFI BIOS, which includes a pre-loaded OC profile from Nick Shih. Formula Drive is the main piece of software, and it enables users to view and alter settings for hardware monitoring, fan controls, PCI-E on/off controls, fine voltage controls, thermal sensors, and more.

    

Other software ASRock threw in includes ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard), Internet Flash to look for firmware updates from the UEFI BIOS, the MAGIX Multimedia Suite, APP Charger, Lucid Virtu, and ASRock XFast USB/RAM/LAN.

It’s always interesting to see what mainboard manufacturers will include in the box, and ASRock did not disappoint.  In addition to the accessories mentioned above, there’s a black velvet sack with a tie cord--and only good things can come from such a satchel--which contains a user manual, software setup guide, software and utilities disc, I/O shield, screws, a front USB 3.0 panel, a rear USB 3.0 bracket, an SLI bridge card, a handful of SATA cables, and a pair of 1-to-1 SATA power cables.

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