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ASRock P55M Pro Motherboard

A cheap, reasonably featured microATX solution.

December 2, 2009



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Features



The board is based on the Intel P55 unified chipset. In addition it offers:

  • Integrated audio based on 8-channel VIA VT1708S HDA codec, with an optical (Toslink) and a coaxial S/PDIF output on the back panel and an additional S/PDIF output on the PCB.
  • Gigabit Ethernet based on Realtek RTL8111DL (PCIEx1).
  • IDE/FireWire based on VIA VT6330 (PCIEx1) supporting 1 IDE channel for 2 PATA devices and 2 FireWire ports (one of which is on the back panel).

The integrated audio quality was tested in the 16-bit/44kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0 and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card. The total grade is Very Good in both 16-bit/44kHz and 16-bit/48kHz modes.


Test 16-bit/44kHz 16-bit/48kHz
Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB +0,01, -0,14 +0,01, -0,11
Noise level, dB(A) -90,2 -90,4
Dynamic range, dB(A) 90,0 90,4
THD, % 0,0078 0,0075
THD + noise, dB(A) -77,9 -78,5
IMD + noise, % 0,013 0,012
Channel crosstalk, dB -86,8 -87,8
IMD at 10 kHz, % 0,010 0,0095
General performance Very Good Very Good

Of two most popular sampling rates, the digital S/PDIF supports only 48kHz. By means of aforementioned connector on the PCB, the audio codec allows outputting sound via S/PDIF to an HDMI-enabled graphics card. Motherboard drivers support no extras like DTS/Dolby.

The VIA VT6330 controller has been used in all the previous ASRock solutions, and we can only repeat that, architecturally, it's a quite decent solution that completely utilizes, but doesn't exceed throughput of the interface (PCI Express x1). The PATA part (not present in modern Intel chipsets by default), also works well. Optical drives are correctly recognized at boot and at Windows startup, allowing you to boot from CD, etc.



USB/eSATA, top view

USB/eSATA, bottom view

However, combined USB/eSATA interfaces on the back panel are somewhat bewildering. First, they seem to be a bit wider than needed. As a result, inserted USB dongles, for example, are quite loose -- you can tilt them to any side. While all devices are recognized correctly and throughputs are right, the electronics, as a science, is still about connections. Besides, our sample was brand new.

Second, the extending of eSATA contact pads to the USB area looks quite strange. Of course, these pads do not touch, you can see it well on the photo. Since [e]SATA connectors have no power lanes, you cannot accidentally short-circuit them by something metallic, like, say, cable's connector or a USB dongle. But static electricity is always out there somewhere. Besides, there's just no sense in extending the contact pads like that. So it's all very strange. We recommend you to use the other 6 ports on the back panel for connecting USB devices. Just in case.

Conclusions

For one of the cheapest boards on the new chipset, this one looks very decent. If you don't need 6 expansion slots and fully-fledged SLI/CrossFire, then ASRock P55M Pro is a nice choice for an inexpensive machine based on Core i5 (or future Socket 1156 processors). Board's basic features are flavored by the IDE/FireWire controller; the combined USB/eSATA outputs are quite original (though somewhat strange). The manufacture quality is decent as well (remember those high-quality Japanese polymer capacitors).

But if you compare the board to its higher-end rivals, a lot of downsides come to light at once. Poor, uncooled CPU power converter that is obviously not meant for overclocking. Somewhat slipshoddy proprietory utilities and BIOS firmware. Finally, P55M Pro has noticeably fewer peripheral controllers and no newer interfaces. But we won't critisize the board much, we'll just point out its supposed niche: affordable PCs for the masses. In the future, we'll try to review more microATX boards, as the interest in compact rigs is growing without a doubt.


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