The Fatal1ty Z87 Killer is a top mid-range motherboard for socket LGA1150 Intel CPUs. It comes with a high-end audio codec, an Atheros Killer E2200 Gigabit Ethernet chip (hence the name of the product), three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, six SATA-600 ports, and six USB 3.0 ports. Let’s take a look at it.
The Intel Z87 chipset provides two important upgrades compared to its predecessor, the Z77: six USB 3.0 ports instead of four and six SATA-600 ports instead of only two. Another important difference between the two chipsets is where the video outputs of the motherboard are connected. While with both chipsets the video is generated by the CPU, on the Z77 the video signal was routed to the chipset, and the video outputs were connected to the chipset. On the Z87 chipset, the video outputs are connected directly to the processor. Both chipsets support up to three independent video monitors. The Z87 supports all other features provided by the Z77, such as Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.
You can see the ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer motherboard in Figure 1.
Figure 1: ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer motherboard
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer comes with three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots and four PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.
The three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, with the first slot (PCIE2) working at x16 when only one video card is installed. If you install two video cards, the first and the second PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots work at x8 speed. And if you install three video cards, the first slot will work at x8 speed and the other two will be working at x4 speed. In short, the motherboard supports x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, and x8/x4/x4 configurations.
If you plan to install a dual-slot video card in the third PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, you will have to buy a case with at least eight slots. (Computer cases usually have seven.)
All the three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1150 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASRock, the Fatal1ty Z87 Killer supports memories up to 3,050 MHz.
The Fatal1ty Z87 Killer has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GiB, you can have up to 32 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four identical memory modules. In order to enable dual-channel mode and achieve the highest performance possible when installing two memory modules, you must install it on two sockets of the same color.
Figure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z87 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer offers those six ports, as shown in Figure 4. There are no eSATA ports.
Figure 4: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset
The Intel Z87 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four located on the motherboard’s rear panel and four available through two headers located at the motherboard; and six USB 3.0 ports, four available on the motherboard’s rear panel and two available through a header.
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer does not support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format, i.e., eight channels. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC1150 codec, which is an excellent audio codec, providing 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specifications are good even for the user who wants to work professionally by capturing and editing analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.)
The codec chip is shielded against electromagnetic interference, and the audio interface is equipped with a TI NE5532 amplifier for the frontal headphone output. The analog audio outputs are independent only if you use a 5.1 analog speaker set. If you install a 7.1 analog speaker set, you will need to use the “line in” jack.
Figure 5: Shielded audio codec
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Atheros Killer E2200 chip, a high-performance Gigabit Ethernet controller. Like the codec, this chip is also shielded, as you can see in Figure 6.
A very interesting feature is an HDMI input. Through a programmable hotkey, you can switch from the CPU video output to an external HDMI source, like a laptop, cable TV receiver, or console, using only one monitor for two devices with no need to change cables.
In Figure 7, you can see the motherboard’s rear panel with a PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, HDMI input, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, optical SPDIF output, and analog audio connectors.
Figure 7: Motherboard rear panel
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer has an infrared interface, making it inexpensive for you to add an infrared sensor to be able to use a remote control or to connect devices using infrared technology (IrDA).
The motherboard has two BIOS chips, selectable by a jumper at the motherboard. This means you will not “kill” your motherboard with an unsuccessful BIOS update.
In Figure 9, you can see the simple set of accessories that comes with the ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer has eight phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator is controlled by an Intersil ISL9582 integrated circuit.
Each phase is driven by two SM4337NSKP transistors.
Figure 10: Voltage regulator circuit
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer uses high-end solid Japanese electrolytic capacitors and ferrite coils.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (0.10 BIOS):
- CPU Base Clock: From 90.00 MHz to 300.00 MHz in 0.1 MHz increments
- CPU Adaptive Voltage: From 0.800 V to 2.000 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Offset Voltage: From -1.000 V to +1.000 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Cache Adaptive Voltage: From 0.800 V to 2.000 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Cache Offset Voltage: From -1.000 V to +1.000 V in 0.001 increments
- System Agent Offset Voltage: From -1.000 V to +1.000 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU I/O Voltage Offset: From -0.600 V to +0.400 V in 0.001 V increments
- Memory Voltage: From 1.165 V to 1.800 V in 0.005 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) 1.05 V Voltage: From 0.977 V to 1.322 V in 0.005 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) 1.5 V Voltage: From 1.365 V to 1.699V in 0.005 V increments
Figure 11: Overclocking options
Figure 12: Memory timing adjusts
Figure 13: Memory timing adjusts
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z87 Express
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6776D
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
- External SATA: None
- USB 2.0: Eight USB 2.0 ports, four on the motherboard real panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Six USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- Thunderbolt: None
- On-board video: Controlled by the CPU; VGA, HDMI and DVI connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC1150 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 115 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Atheros Killer E2200 chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: Yes
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Three PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0 or x8/x4/x4), and four PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-3050, 32 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector and one three-pin connector for the CPU cooler, one four-pin connector for auxiliary fans, and three three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: HDMI input, dual BIOS
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asrock.com
- Average price in the U.S.*: USD 130.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Killer is a good mid-range motherboard for socket LGA1150 systems. It brings only the basic features provided by the chipset (six SATA-600 ports and six USB 3.0 ports), but those are more than enough for the average user. The slot configuration and voltage regulator are good, even though not at the same level of high-end (and far more expensive) motherboards.
The highlights of this motherboard are the high-end audio section, which uses one of the best codecs available on the market, and the high-end Ethernet interface, which is based on the Atheros Killer E2200 chip.
The Fatal1ty Z87 Killer actually brings an excellent balance between features and price tag. In our opinion, it has all the features that most users will really use. Only a few enthusiasts will need more than what it offers, and they will have to choose a motherboard that costs at least twice.
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