The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 is a top mid-range socket LGA1150 motherboard based on the Intel Z97 chipset, supporting the fourth- and the fifth-generation Core i processors from Intel. Besides two USB 3.1 ports, it brings a high-end network interface and a high-end audio codec, six SATA-600 ports (allowing one SATA Express connection), and eight USB 3.0 ports. Let’s take a good look at it.
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 Z97X Killer/3.1 motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (305 x 24 mm).
Figure 1: ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 motherboard
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 comes with three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.
The three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots work at x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, or x8/x4/x4 configurations, which means the bandwidth of the first slots is shared with the other two.
The motherboard supports CrossFire and SLI with up to three video cards and four GPUs.
There is also an M.2 slot, supporting one SATA-600 or PCI Express 2.0 x2 SSD module.
[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 Z97X Killer/3.1 supports memories up to 3,200 MHz.
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 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 Z97X Killer/3.1, 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.
Figure 3: memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
[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 Z97X Killer/3.1 offers these six ports.
Notice that two bottom-most SATA-600 can be used as two standard SATA ports or as one SATA Express port.
Figure 4: the six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset
The Intel Z97 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 offers six USB 2.0 ports, two at the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are eight USB 3.0 ports (six at the rear panel and two available through a header), six of them controlled by the chipset and two controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042AE chip.
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 Z97X Killer/3.1 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.
Figure 5: Shielded audio codec and Killer E2200 chip
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, two USB 2.0 ports, DVI-I output, VGA (D-SUB) output, HDMI output, six USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
Figure 6: motherboard rear panel
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
One of the highlights of this motherboard is the presence of two ports of the new USB 3.1 standard, implemented through a PCI Express x4 card, shown in Figure 7. This card uses an ASMedia ASM1142 chip and uses two PCI Express lanes.
USB 3.1 ports have a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 10 Gbps (1 GB/s), which is twice the bandwidth offered by USB 3.0 ports.
As you can see in Figure 8, this card has one USB 3.1 type C (at the left) and one type A (at the right) ports. The new type C connector is amazing because, besides being reversible (you can plug it in any position), it is compatible with video connections and charge plugs (it supports up to 100 W of power). Thus, it should become a universal connector standard in the near future.
Figure 8: USB 3.1 type C (left) and type A (right) ports
This motherboard comes with two BIOS chips, selectable on a jumper, as shown in Figure 9. It also supports TPM (Trusted Platform Module), which stores criptographic keys and improves the system security (connector also shown in Figure 9).
Figure 9: BIOS chips and jumper
In Figure 8, you can see the accessories that come with the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 has eight phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses an Intersil ILS9582 controller chip (digital design), and each phase uses one NexFET CSD87350Q5D “Dual Stack” MOSFET from TI.
Figure 11: voltage regulator circuit
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 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 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 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
- CPU Graphics Voltage: From 0.800 V to 2.000 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Graphics 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 Input Voltage: From 1.200 V to 2.300 V in 0.01 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
Figure 12: overclocking options
Figure 13: memory timings adjusts
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z97
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
- 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: six USB 2.0 ports, two at the rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: eight USB 3.0 ports, six on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header, six ports controlled by the chipset and two ports controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042A chip
- 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: three PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, or x8/x4/x4), three PCI Express 2.0 x1 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, card with two USB 3.1 ports
- 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 160.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 is a good mid-range motherboard, targeted to the user who is building a computer using a “Haswell” (fourth-generation) or “Broadwell” (fifth-generation) “Core i” processor, with up to three video cards, and wants the new USB 3.1 ports.
Besides these new ports, other highlights of this motherboard include the high-end audio interface, the high-end network interface, the support for M.2 modules and SATA Express devices, and a voltage regulator with high-end components.
The support for up to three video cards in SLI or CrossFire is very welcome by the user who wants to build a gaming PC, even if it has not a high-end slot configuration like more expensive motherboards.
In short, the ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer/3.1 is a motherboard with excellent features and a good price point, being a good option for anyone who is building a powerful computer for work or gaming, but does not intend to spend a small fortune in a high-end motherboard.
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