Asrock Quietly Brings Back Non-Z170 Non-K CPU Overclocking

Posted by at 10:21 am on March 10, 2016

ASRock-H170-OC-CPU_w_600

After a conflict arose between Asrock and Intel, Asrock announced that its non-Z170 overclocking motherboards were cancelled. Not long after, a BIOS update removed the Sky OC feature for overclocking non-K CPUs from its motherboards. Things looked bleak for PC enthusiasts as the dream of overclocking multiplier-locked CPUs again faded, but non-Z170 overclocking motherboards were nevertheless developed, and Asrock has already released the first one onto the market as part of the Hyper series.

How Does It Work?

In order to enable overclocking on non-Z170 chipsets, you need an extra piece of hardware known as a clock generator. Essentially, every computer ever made has one of these devices. It helps the various components sync up with each other, and it is directly related to the system’s BCLK. On old systems it was a separate piece of silicon, but on modern computers, it’s integrated into the chipset.

The problem that prevented Intel’s last several generations of processors from being able to overclock (excluding unlocked SKUs) was that they incorporated an ever-increasing number of features into the CPU die itself. These components had difficulty operating above their stock clock speeds, and they would become unstable after even a minor increase in BCLK. Even if the CPU cores were able to handle the increase in clock speed, the entire system would crash.

By incorporating an additional clock generator, Asrock is able to force the CPU cores (that’s cores, not all components on the CPU die) to use a separate clock generator and BCLK than the rest of the system. This allows you to then overclock the CPU by increasing BCLK until the CPU cores themselves become unstable without destabilizing other components.

There are a few caveats, however, as in order to enable overclocking, Asrock had to disable a few other features. First, users should not make the mistake of thinking that these boards can overclock unlocked CPUs by raising the core multiplier. Overclocking is possible only by raising the BCLK.

At stock clock speeds, these motherboards perform and act just like any other, but once the BCLK is raised above 100 MHz in the BIOS, the system instantly disables power saving C-States and Turbo Boost. The system also won’t be able to use certain instructions properly. These issues are relatively minor, as overclockers often disable power saving C-States to help stabilize their system, and the clock speed increase should ultimately increase performance above what Turbo Boost was capable of.

The First Overclockable C232 Motherboard

If Asrock’s Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC looks familiar, it is because we first discussed it back during CES. We were told that this motherboard had been cancelled, but it has already been released to various retailers. This board in particular is special, as it is the only motherboard on the market capable of overclocking Skylake LGA 1151 Xeon processors.

The Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC is similar to a Z170 enthusiast motherboard and shares many of the same features. It has a decent 10-phase power design, a relatively high-end Realtek ALC1150 audio codec with a relatively large number of capacitors to help improve clarity, and two PCI-E x16 slots.

Perhaps in an effort to avoid making the Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC motherboard a too tempting alternative to its competing Z170 products, Asrock didn’t include an M.2 slot or a second BIOS chip.

It should also be noted that this board does not have any video output connections, as most Xeon CPUs do not feature an iGPU. Having a few video outputs might have been nice for other CPUs that do contain an iGPU, but as this is clearly an enthusiast-oriented product, it is unlikely that the iGPU would have seen much use anyways.

What about H170, H110 And B150?

None of the other motherboards that were cancelled are being released, but instead there are two new motherboards that are nearly identical to the old boards, as well as four entirely new designs.

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First, the Asrock B150 Gaming K4/Hyper is essentially the same as the cancelled B150 Gaming K4/OC. These two boards use the same color design and heatsinks, and share many of the same specs, including a 10-phase power design, Killer E2400 Gigabit LAN and Realtek ALC1150 audio codec. All of the specs we had for the B150 Gaming K4/OC match the new board, actually, so it is likely that Asrock just changed the name to fit inside of its Hyper series of products.

H170-Performance-1_w_600

The H170 Performance/Hyper is also essentially the same as the cancelled H170 Performance/OC board, and again, all of the specs we have match up perfectly other than the name. The H170 Performance/Hyper, B150 Gaming K4/OC and C232 Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC are really quite similar to each other, as well. The biggest difference between these three boards, other than chipset-related features, is that the C232 supports Xeon processors, and the H170 motherboard has a single M.2 Key M slot in addition to being the only board in the Hyper series to sport a USB Type-C port.

The Four “New” Boards

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We have specifications on just one of the four entirely new motherboards, but an image we acquired gave us a few key pieces of information. The most important detail we were able to glean from the picture — other than model numbers, color scheme and chipset info — is the form factor.

All of the motherboards discussed above are ATX, but one of them is micro-ATX, and another one is mini-ITX. Being able to overclock non-K processors is a key feature that will attract many enthusiasts to these boards, but some techies prefer one form factor over another and refuse to use anything else.

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The only one of these four boards that we have specs for is the H170 Pro4/Hyper. If you look closely at the board, you will see it looks similar to the other motherboards discussed above but with a white color scheme. It also offers a 10-phase power design, and it has an M.2 Key M slot.

Asrock Hyper Series Non-Z170 Non-K Overclocking Motherboards
Model H110M-DGS / Hyper B150M Pro4 / Hyper B150A-X1 / Hyper B150 Gaming K4 / Hyper H170 Pro4 / Hyper H170 Performance / Hyper C232 Fatal1ty Performance Gaming / OC
Chipset H110 B150 B150 B150 H170 H170 C232
Form Factor Mini-ITX Micro-ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX
Memory Support 2 DIMMs 4 DIMMs 4 DIMMs 4 x DDR4 2133 MHz 4 x DDR4 2133 MHz 4 x DDR4 2133 MHz 4 x DDR4 2133 MHz
M.2 Key M Slot N/A N/A N/A No Yes Yes No
SATA N/A N/A N/A 6 x SATA-III (6 Gbps) 6 x SATA-III (6 Gbps)
1 x SATA Express (10 Gbps)
6 x SATA-III (6 Gbps)
1 x SATA Express (10 Gbps)
6 x SATA-III (6 Gbps)
Audio Chipset N/A N/A N/A Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC1150
LAN N/A N/A N/A Killer E2400 Intel i219V Intel i219V Intel i219V
Color White White White Red White Red Red
Price N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A $142.99

Overall, the H170 Pro4/Hyper is essentially a slightly lower-end, white-colored alternative to the H170 Performance/Hyper. The biggest drawbacks to this board compared to the H170 Performance/Hyper is that it doesn’t have a USB Type-C port, and it uses a lower-end Realtek ALC892 audio codec with considerably fewer capacitors.

Currently, the only one of these motherboards available on the market is the C232 Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC, which retails for $142.99. We don’t have pricing or availability information for any of the others.

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