Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

ASRock Z87 KILLER FATAL1TY Motherboard Review

If you’re a long time reader of HardOCP then you probably know we are not huge fans of ASRock as a brand overall. Recently we purchased a new motherboard to spend some time with the ASRock Z87 KILLER FATAL1TY, and as a result our opinions are changing. Is that change for the better or for worse?

Introduction

ASRock was founded in 2002 and in the last 12 years has risen to becoming the third largest motherboard manufacturer in the world. Cost effectiveness compared to its competitors is one of the primary reasons for this. ASRock has established a reputation for being relatively reliable and certainly inexpensive on the whole.

If you’re a long time reader of HardOCP then you probably know we are not huge fans of ASRock as a brand. We have had more than a few mixed experiences with ASRock products that we have purchased in etail thus far. Our problems with ASRock tend to be centered around quality and quality control, or lack thereof. Not all of its models are necessarily of poor quality. In fact we’ve even taken pictures of ASRock PCBs with more waves in these than your average beach at high tide. Still some models like the X79 Extreme4 stand out as examples of excellence while models like the Z68 Gen3 were polar opposites of that.

Granted every brand has hit and miss models but what usually concerns us is the hit / miss ratio. Some brands are certainly better on that front than others. In order to hit the price points, ASRock does what it has to do to cut corners somewhere. One of the places it does this is with the PCB itself. ASRock tends to use thinner and lighter PCBs than other motherboard makers might use. Solder joints tend to be sharper on the ASRock motherboards than what you might see on others with longer leads which aren’t cut as close to the PCB as you might want.

This particular motherboard is akin to ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus VI Hero or MSI’s Z87-GD65 GAMING motherboard. The ASRock Z87 KILLER FATAL1TY, like the two motherboards I just mentioned is targeted at the PC Gamer more so than other motherboards usually are. From here on out we will simply refer to the ASRock Z87 KILLER FATAL1TY simply as the "Z87 KILLER" or "ASRock Z87 KILLER" to keep it shorter. And like the ASUS And MSI motherboards I just mentioned; ASRock’s Z87 KILLER shares a lot with those motherboards aesthetically. The red and black color scheme being the first element one notices. Other similarities include ALC1150 audio CODECs and an emphasis on overclocking. Like the MSI GAMING series the Z87 KILLER features the use of the Killer NIC E2205.

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The ASRock Z87 KILLER FATAL1TY is based on the Intel Z87 Express chipset. The configuration of the Z87 KILLER isn’t what I’d call stripped down but it is a leaner one. It naturally supports 32GB of DDR3 RAM, SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0 (with UASP support), Intel Rapid Response Technology, Rapid Start, and everything else that comes with the Z87 Express chipset. Beyond that there are no PLX chips, no extra drive controllers, dual NICs, wireless support, or anything like that. What it does have is an integrated headphone amplifier, a quality audio solution, a rich and complex UEFI with a host of overclocking options, and a layout designed with the enthusiast in mind.

Two interesting features included for the gamer is the Key Master and Sniper Key. These are features that give macro support to standard non-macro keyboards and control over the USB polling interval for your mouse. There are specific USB ports on the I/O panel which facilitates support for these two features.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The packaging for the ASRock Z87 KILLER is quite good. While the motherboard box itself is standard fare, the foam inside keeps the motherboard nice and secure. In fact the motherboard is zip tied to the foam to make it more secure. Cardboard further protects the motherboard inside the package and separates the accessories from the motherboard itself. The box art is striking and very nice. The included bundle of accessories is even leaner than the motherboard itself. Included is a gift certificate for the Split Broadcaster streaming service, user manual, application guide, driver disc, SLI bridge, I/O panel, and some SATA cables.

Board Layout

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The layout of the Z87 KILLER is quite good. There aren’t any physical problem areas though the markings on the PCB for things like the front panel connectors could be significantly better. The PCB is still thin as is usually the case with ASRock motherboards. However this particular sample was relatively straight and didn’t have a super wavy PCB.

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The CPU socket area is very clear. There aren’t a lot of power phases or large cooling hardware to create clearance issues. However the RAM slots are of course too close but this isn’t ASRock’s fault. The one issue I do have with the cooling hardware is that it isn’t well secured to the motherboard. It does use metal screws but uses spring tensioning to hold the MOSFET cooler in place. The problem with that is any pressure on it causes the heat sink to wobble on top of the MOSFETS. You shouldn’t be fondling this cooling hardware so that shouldn’t be a real problem, but more secure methods of mounting are preferable.

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The ASRock Z87 KILLER has four 240-pin DDR3 DIMM slots which support up to 32GB of RAM. These are color coded red and black to denote proper dual channel memory operation. These slots use traditional locking tabs but are placed far enough from the PCI-Express x16 slots to avoid any clearance issues after the system has been assembled.

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The south bridge cooler is a fairly plain flat heat sink which is located directly in front of the expansion slot area. What’s odd is how the SATA ports are offset from the chipset. The front panel connector and BIOS ROMs are directly to the left of the chipset.

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The expansion slot area is well thought out with the PCI-Express x16 slots being spaced ideally for multiGPU configurations. The PCI-Express x1 slots are spaced in between offering additional connectivity if needed. The red PCI-Express x16 slots support a 16x0x0, 8x8, or 8x4x4 configuration. This allows for support of traditional 2 card SLI or 3 card / 3-Way CrossFire. Unusually an older 4-pin MOLEX connector is provided for PCI-Express auxiliary power. This connector is properly right angled to avoid creating clearance issues with the expansion slot.

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The I/O panel is packed full of connectivity options. These include 4x USB 2.0 ports, 4x USB 3.0 ports, 2x HDMI ports, 1x DVI-D port, 1x VGA D-Sub connector, 1x PS/2 mouse / keyboard port, 1x RJ-45 port, 1x optical port, and finally 5x mini-stereo jacks for analog audio.