ASRock A770CrossFire Motherboard
|Jumpers and switches
||Clear CMOS jumper
||Controlling specific functions of the platform
Enhanced Halt State
||Unganged/Ganged Mode, 1T/2T Memory Timing, CAS Latency, Min RAS Active Time, Row Precharge Time, RAS to CAS Delay, Row-To-Row Delay, Row Cycle Time
|Memory frequency selection
||Auto, 400, 533, 667, 800, 1066 MHz (you actually specify a multiplier to the FSB frequency)
|HT bus setup
||Auto, 200-1800 MHz at 200 MHz steps
|Peripheral bus frequency control
||PCIE=75-250 MHz at 1 MHz steps
|PCI IRQ manual assignment
|FSB frequency setup
||150-500 MHz at 1 MHz steps
||two parameters (multiplier and divider) to specify any integer multiplier and additional control of the NB CPU multiplier (from x5 at integer steps)
|CPU voltage control
||0.6000-1.5625 V at 0.0125 V steps (two controls: for CPU cores and NB CPU)
|Memory voltage control
||1.80-2.70 V at 0.05 V steps
|Chipset voltage control
||1.30-1.45 V at 0.05 V steps (for Southbridge)
(*) Adjustment ranges of CPU multiplier and voltage, as well as HT bus, depend on a given processor. We publish results for our Phenom 9550.
We used BIOS 1.10 dated 09.11.08, which had been released just a couple of days prior to our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested. Interestingly, the current BIOS version already contains information about some processors for Socket AM3, so you don't have to wait for BIOS updates to use 45nm processors.
It's an excellent choice of settings for an inexpensive motherboard, only the CPU multiplier choice is implemented in a strange way -- you have to specify two parameters (a multiplier and a divider, and the formula provided in the description operates not with the nominal reference frequency (200 MHz), but 100 MHz). We couldn't guess what did BIOS programmers actually mean, why such a complex algorithm. Fortunately, the board supports overclocking through AMD OverDrive, which offers standard multiplier controls. By the way, we should praise ASRock engineers here, because not all motherboards on AMD 770 support AOD.
In order to evaluate motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock our testbed processor to a maximum stable level. We use all features of the motherboard in this test, including raising CPU voltage and adjusting multipliers and frequencies of system and peripheral buses, if necessary. But if, for example, reducing Hyper-Transport frequency does not improve overclocking, we leave the default multiplier. Memory is set to the standard frequency for a given memory module (multiplier correction), if a manufacturer does not publish any ways to improve memory overclocking. Otherwise, we analyze their efficiency as well. In order to evaluate stability of the overclocked system, we load Windows XP and run stability tests from AMD OverDrive (all tests for five minutes). As overclocking potential is an individual property of a given motherboard sample to some degree, we don't set the task to determine overclocking potential to within a single MHz. In practice, we are to find out whether CPU overclocking will be limited by a motherboard as well as to evaluate its behavior in non-standard modes, including automatic restoration of a correct frequency after a failed overclocking attempt, etc.
||FSB clock (multiplier), MHz
||Core voltage (according to BIOS), V
||HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz
|Athlon X2 4850e (2.5 GHz)
|Phenom X4 9550 (2.2 GHz)
Results are close to the maximum, but they don't break records. Automatic restoration of default BIOS settings after a failed overclocking attempt does not work. So you have to reset CMOS with a jumper, even though we enabled Boot Failure Guard in BIOS.
- CPU: AMD Phenom X4 9550
- Memory: 2 x Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 (2 GB, DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15-2T)
- HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
- Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD3870, 512 MB GDDR4
- Power supply unit: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
- OS: Windows XP SP2
It's not easy to find a counterpart of this motherboard for comparison. We decided to compare our motherboard under review with one of the cheapest mobos on AMD 790GX: Biostar TA790GX A2+. We'll use a graphics card, of course.
||Biostar TA790GX A2+
|Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec
|MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
|Unreal Tournament 2004 (Highest@1600x1200), fps
|FarCry (High@1024x768), fps
|FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps
|DOOM III (High@1024x768), fps
|DOOM III (Highest@1600x1200), fps
Performance of the ASRock motherboard is a tad lower. But it's a formal lag, you will hardly notice it in practice.
Power consumption (entire system unit)
|Phenom X4 9550 (Cool'n'Quiet OFF)
||Biostar TA790GX A2+
|Text editing, W
|Playing FarCry, W
ASRock motherboard, based on an older chipset, shows slightly worse power consumption. But the difference is not significant either.
Several years ago ASRock offered two categories of motherboards. On one hand, models surprising their users with engineering solutions (a couple of graphics cards of different types, several processor sockets for different processors, etc), but apparently not designed to spread wide in the market. On the other hand: very inexpensive but dull models both in engineering and consumer points of view. These motherboards were considered cheap replacements for similar motherboards from ASUS (it's no secret that both companies are closely related).
But it's harder to distinguish between these two groups these days. What's especially pleasant, it does not happen because of the disappearance of interesting products. Just old cheap models got interesting features. Plus an imposing CPU voltage regulator, which is also important and used to be a tricky part. What concerns our motherboard under review, it certainly deserves our Original Design award. It might have laid claim to the first place in the nomination "maximum outfit for a price", but for the constantly dropping prices for motherboards with 790GX. However, we have no doubts that it's a good choice, if you are looking for a CrossFire motherboard with a price tag below $100.
ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics card provided by PowerColor.
Write a comment below. No registration needed!