Full-size ATX boards with feature-rich integrated chipsets and overclocking leeway have been popular for a long time, performing on a par with mid-end discrete boards. As far back as 3-4 years ago each product like that (mostly made by ASUS and Gigabyte) was regarded with a fixed attention. Now every vendor has similar motherboards thanks to newer integrated graphics from AMD and NVIDIA. The graphics core of a chipset like AMD 785G/790GX offers basic support for a large number of modern games, offloads CPU during HD video playback, and supports non-graphical computation in video transcoding (the list of tasks should grow as OpenCL and DirectX 11 become more widely used). Today we shall examine yet another motherboard of the kind.
It's nice that both power connectors are located at the very edge, so cables will not obstruct the board. It's interesting that while both connectors are full-fledged -- having 24 and 8 pins, respectively -- the "optional" pins are concealed by stickers. Obviously, this has been done for the owners of older PSUs assembling inexpensive low-power rigs with CPUs of 95W TDP or lower and mid-end graphics like Radeon HD 4770/5770. In this case, the motherboard can be powered by means of 20-pin and 4-pin connectors. On the other hand, those willing to overclock may want to use the additional pins to supply more power to graphics cards, especially those without own power connectors.
The original location of the IDE port is the result of board's reduced width. This is still acceptable, however, if you consider installing a lengthy graphics card. Since there are also horizontal headers provided for some of the SATA ports, you can install a second full-fledged graphics card as well. This feature may actually be in demand, since the support for symmetrical x8 + x8 CrossFire is the board's special appeal.
We must say that ASRock sure likes to experiment and offer original design solutions. This chipset has no official support for x8 + x8 CrossFire. When a manufacturer wants to install two graphics slots on such a board (e.g. Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H), lanes for the second slot are allocated from the reserve which forms an asymmetrical configuration of x16 + x4. This is not critical in terms of performance, because all PCI Express lanes in AMD chipsets meet the version 2.0 requirements. Thus, even 4 lanes provide enough throughput for a graphics cards, especially if it's a secondary in a CrossFire couple. Still, other things being equal, a symmetrical configuration is better in technical terms. Its only formal disadvantage is that you will have to switch modes manually by means of a special card.
The AMD 785G chipset provides sufficient leeway for cooler engineers. In this case, the cooler design is adequate. Even if you are going to overclock the graphics core, a correctly directed CPU cooler may be enough. Even small airflow will be sufficient, because the chipset heatsink is rather advantageously aligned with the CPU socket. The video buffer utilizes the Nanya NT5CB64M16AP-CG chip (128MB DDR3-1333) which does fine without a heatsink, because it barely grows warm in the normal mode.
The boards features a 5-channel CPU voltage stabilizer. Each of 4 channels powering CPU cores utilizes 3 FETs. The 5th channel responsible for powering CPU NB has two FETs. The circuit features five 820µF and three 270µF solid capacitors. The board is claimed to support CPUs with the TDP of up to 140W. Its power circuitry doesn't seem to offer sufficient redundancy though, so it won't be enough to power highly overclocked processors.
The box has a fancy holographic coating. The bundle includes 1 x ATA/133 and 2 x SATA cables, and even an FDD cable. Also provided are two software CDs for Windows XP and Vista. Proprietary utilities include OCTuner which has fewer features than AMD OverDrive, and IES which lets you manage power-saving modes. Third-party software includes Norton Internet Security. The user's manual is thick, offering lots of translations. There are also two illustrated posters explaining the Instant Boot mode and IES power-saving modes.
The board is based on the AMD 785G chipset (AMD 785G Northbridge and SB710 Southbridge). Since SB710, like SB750, supports Advanced Clock Calibration, the board can be used to unlock the cores of Phenom II 500 and 700 series processors.
The list of compatible CPUs contains all products for Socket AM3. The board supports up to 16GB of DDR3-800/1066/1333/1600 RAM. Drives can be connected to 6 internal SATA/300 ports which can form RAID 0, 1, 0+1. One of the ports (orange) can be used as eSATA when connected to a corresponding orange port near the rear panel. The board also has the following additional controllers:
- 7.1-channel Realtek ALC888 HDA codec with an S/PDIF-Out on the rear panel.
- Gigabit Ethernet based on the Realtek RTL8111DL chip, PCIe x1.
- FireWire based on the VIA VT6308S chip, PCI, supporting 2 x IEEE1394a ports, one of which is on the rear panel.
- System monitor based on the Winbond W83627DHG chip. Supports automatic CPU fan rotation speed control. The BIOS has the option to set a temperature threshold to maintain (45-65°C), as well as a desired speed range in the form of numbers 1 to 9 (higher number means higher minimal fan rotation speed). The maximum rotation speed cannot be limited to avoid overheating, it depends on actual heat emission. Only 4-pin fans can be controlled.
We assessed the analog output quality of the integrated audio system in the 16-bit/44kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.3 and the ESI Juli@ sound card.
|Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB:
|Noise level, dB(A):
|Dynamic range, dB(A):
|THD + noise, dB(A):
|IMD + noise, %:
|Channel crosstalk, dB:
|IMD at 10 kHz, %:
Total score: Very good.
A typically good implementation of the audio codec which has long been a popular choice for mid-end boards.
Check the price of this board at Newegg, Amazon.
Write a comment below. No registration needed!