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ASRock H55M Pro Motherboard

Affordable and functional.

April 20, 2010



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The monitoring features provided by BIOS are as minimal as we have expected. The BIOS can automatically control the CPU cooler, if you set the desired CPU temperature and select one of the fan performance levels. Another fan can be controlled, too, by selecting a performance level (PWM control only).

Traditionally for an ASRock product, the motherboard has advanced overclocking features, allowing to change lots of memory timings and fine-tune primary and secondary voltages. Besides, OC Tuner allows you to change most voltages, adjust FSB and PCIe clock rates, as well as monitor more voltages than BIOS does. The impossibility to reduce CAS Latency below 6 came as an unpleasant surprise. This is obviously aimed at overclocker memory with insane frequency that, unlike low timings, no one needs most of the time. Another drawback is that by default (the Auto setting) the motherboard sets memory voltage to 1.65 V instead of the standard 1.5 V. But this is easily adjusted manually.

ASRock actively promotes its new motherboards, promising unprecedented performance at no cost thanks to the Turbo 50 technology. Don't expect it to work miracles, because it doesn't. It's just another automatic overclocking technology. Its only peculiarity is higher numbers. Usually, such overclocking profiles promise lower results, because it would be stupid to believe that a motherboard, working in a fully automatic mode, would squeeze such a serious performance boost from any parts you install into it. However, there's a small footnote that says that even ASRock could achieve 50% performance boost only in some tasks. We tried enabling Turbo 50 in our standard testbed featuring Intel Core i5-661 CPU. As we expected, the high normal clock rates of the CPU and graphics cores would've prevented serious overclocking anyway. The motherboard increased BCLK to 166 MHz, IGD clock rate to 967 MHz, and hanged completely. For this reason, "smarter" technologies, like MSI OC Genie, that increase clock rates in smaller steps and are able to deal with hangings seem more appropriate for inexperienced overclockers. It's interesting that there's a Turbo 100 option in the latest ASRock BIOS versions.



The bundle is minimalistic: two SATA cables, rear-panel faceplate, user's manual and a software DVD.

Features



Graphics core integrated into an Intel Clarkdale CPU can use one of the three video outputs this motherboard has: D-Sub, DVD-D, or HDMI. There's not DisplayPort, but it's not that popular these days anyway, especially in inexpensive motherboards. It's interesting that video outputs are protected by plastic covers. Unfortunately, HDMI is still a rare occasion in the volume quantities of rear-panel interfaces shipped by Foxconn and other companies. As a result, video outputs occupy too much space on the rear panel. And after sacrificing a PS/2 port there was only space for 6 USB ports, which may be an unpleasant limitation. However, one of those is combined with eSATA, so you can quickly connect a fast and capacious external HDD by means of a single cable.

The motherboard is based on the Intel H55 chipset (H55 PCH). It has the following additional controllers:

  • Integrated audio based on the 7.1-channel VIA VT1718S HDA codec, an optical S/PDIF-Out (Toslink) on the rear panel, another S/PDIF-Out on the PCB;
  • Gigabit LAN based on Realtek RTL8111DL (PCIe x1);
  • FireWire based on VIA VT6308S (PCI), supports two FireWire ports (one on the rear panel).

We tested the integrated audio solution in the 16-bit/44kHz and 16-bit/48kHz modes using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0 and a Terratec DMX 6fire sound card.


Test 16-bit/44kHz 16-bit/48kHz
Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB: +0.04, -0.03 +0.03, -0.08
Noise level, dB(A) -92.3 -90.2
Dynamic range, dB(A) 92.2 90.2
THD, % 0.011 0.010
THD + noise, dB(A) -76.1 -76.6
IMD + noise, % 0.014 0.013
Channel crosstalk, dB -91.0 -88.9
IMD at 10 kHz, % 0.012 0.012
Overall grade Very Good Very Good

The digital S/PDIF-Out on the PCB only supports 48kHz, not 44.1kHz. The audio codec allows outputting sound via S/PDIF-Out on the PCB to an HDMI-equipped graphics card. Drivers for this motherboard provide no support for additional multichannel audio technologies (DTS/Dolby).

Conclusions

Don't let the low price of this motherboard deceive you. ASRock H55M Pro provides most features needed to build a decent modern PC. The capabilities of the integrated graphics found in new Intel CPUs are not implemented completely, but not many people need DisplayPort and resolutions over 1080p these days. This motherboard won't let you assemble a PC with two graphics cards (unless you'd like to use reduced CrossFire), but it's a very good product in all other aspects. Perhaps, the key drawback of ASRock H55M Pro is the lack of support for SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0. Though, implementing these with Intel's current chipsets is not that easy. But if you don't have or need any fast USB storage devices, you can use this motherboard to build various PCs, from regular home machines to home theaters. Another good thing is that the build quality of ASRock H55M Pro is quite high, Japanese polymer capacitors included.

Just don't forget that, unlike other inexpensive ASRock products, this one doesn't come equipped with FDD and IDE (PATA) controllers.

The motherboard has been provided by ASRock.


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