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LGA 1156: ASRock P55 Extreme4

USB 3.0 To The Front Panel: ASRock Leads The Way
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Intel doesn’t support SATA 6Gb/s, but that doesn’t mean ASRock can’t add it. The P55 Extreme4 includes an impressive array of dual SATA 6Gb/s and dual USB 3.0 controllers, in spite of Intel’s unfortunate chipset restrictions.

Those restrictions handicap many of this board’s key features. The LGA 1156 platform gets all of its PCIe 2.0 pathways from the CPU, and there are only sixteen of these, all devoted to two graphics card slots in x16 mode (single card) or x8 mode (two cards).

The P55 Express PCH has eight PCIe pathways that are labeled as version 2.0, but provide only version 1.1 signaling rates. Every x1 device connected to those pathways is thus restricted to 2.5 Gb/s, or half of the PCIe 2.0 specification. That includes two SATA 6Gb/s controllers that connect to the motherboard at a lower data rate than even the chipset’s native SATA 3Gb/s ports.

Other shared items include an eSATA connector that steals its port from internal SATA 6Gb/s, reducing available SATA 6Gb/s ports from four to three. Yet, internal drives should at least be able to communicate with each other at rates higher than that of a single PCIe 1.1 lane, so long as the drives are connected to the same controller.

The rear panel and front panel get separate NEC D720200F1 controllers, each restricted to 2.5 Gb/s bandwidth shared between its two ports as a result of Intel’s chipset design. That’s still far superior to the 0.5 Gb/s bandwidth available through USB 2.0, however.

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