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The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer is a mid-range socket LGA1150 motherboard based on the new Intel Z97 chipset, supporting the fourth and the forthcoming fifth generation Core i processors. It brings high-end network interface and audio codec, six SATA-600 ports (allowing one SATA Express connection), and six USB 3.0 ports. Let’s take a good look at it.
The “new” Intel Z97 Express chipset is a Z87 chipset rebranded for marketing reasons. They are identical and, therefore, have the exact same specifications. Most motherboards based on this chipset support the new SATA Express and M.2 (successor to the mSATA) connectors, but these are mechanical features provided by the motherboard, not by the chipset.
Like the Z87, the Z97 supports six USB 3.0 ports, six SATA-600 ports, 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 Z97 Killer motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 8.6” (305 x 218 mm).
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer comes with one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 speed), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two PCI slots.
Only the first PCI Express x16 slot is controlled by the CPU, so it is based on the 3.0 specification and doesn’t share bandwidth with other slots, i.e. it always works at x16 speed. On the other hand, the second PCI Express x16 slot is controlled by the chipset (so it is based on the 2.0 specification) and shares bandwidth with the PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots: if one of them is used, the second PCI Express x16 slot works only at x2 speed, not x4.
The motherboard supports CrossFireX, but not SLI.
There is also an M.2 slot, supporting one SATA-600 or PCI Express x2 SSD module.
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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 Z97 Killer supports memories up to 3,200 MHz.
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer has four memory sockets. You can install 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 memory modules. On the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, the first and third memory sockets are red, while the second and fourth are black. When installing two memory modules, use two sockets with the same color.
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z97 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 Z97 Killer offers those six ports.
Notice that two bottom-most SATA-600 can be used as two standard SATA ports or as one SATA Express port.
The Intel Z97 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four at the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are six USB 3.0 ports (four at the rear panel and two available through a header), all of them controlled by the chipset.
One of the USB 2.0 ports (the top-most one on the stack containing the PS/2 port) is a “Fatal1ty mouse port”, which allows you to manually configure its polling rate between 125 Hz and 1 kHz.
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt 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.
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 5.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, four USB 2.0 ports, DVI-I output, VGA (D-SUB) output, HDMI output, four USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
This motherboard comes with two BIOS chips, selectable on a jumper, as shown in Figure 7.
In Figure 8, you can see the accessories that come with the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer has eight phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses an Intersil ILS9582 controller chip (digital design), and each phase uses one two NexFET MOSFETs.
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer uses high-end Japanese Nichicon “12K” capacitors and all coils on this motherboard are aluminum alloy ones.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking options”]
The portrayed motherboard has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1.10 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 Analog IO Offset Voltage: From -1.000 V to +1.000 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Digital IO 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 1.369 V to 1.699 V in 0.006 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z97
- Super I/O: ASMedia ASM1083
- Parallel ATA: none
- Serial ATA: six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) supporting one SATA Express connector
- External SATA: none
- USB 2.0: eight USB 2.0 ports, four at the rear 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 a header, all ports controlled by the chipset
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
- Thunderbolt: none
- On-board video: controlled by the CPU; one VGA (D-Sub), one DVI-D, and one HDMI 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: no
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: one PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 or x2), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, two PCI slots, and one M.2 slot
- Memory: four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-3200, 32 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: one four-pin and one three-pin connectors for the CPU cooler, one four-pin and three three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: two BIOS chips
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
- Programs included: motherboard utilities and drivers
- 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 Z97 Killer is a good mid-range motherboard, targeted to the user who is building a computer using a “Haswell” CPU (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processors) and wants it to be compatible with the “Devil’s Canyon” (enhanced fourth-generation) and “Broadwell” (fifth-generation) “Core i” processors, but do not intend to install more than one video card.
The highlights of this motherboard include the high-end audio interface, high-end network interface, and the support for M.2 modules and SATA Express devices.
The biggest limitation of this motherboard is its basic slot configuration. There is only one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot. It supports CrossFireX configuration, but the second video card will work with a low bandwidth, which makes this motherboard recommended only if you will use a single video card.
But the real problem with this motherboard is its cost/benefit ratio: there are more complete motherboards available at the same price range, such as the ASRock Z97 Extreme4 we analyzed recently, or even the Fatal1ty Z87 Killer, which is still a good option.