CES brought us a vast cornucopia of new Z270 motherboard releases that were predictably timed to match Intel's Kaby Lake release, but the new range of AM4 motherboards that support the upcoming AMD Ryzen processors was a nice surprise.
AMD's pending Ryzen launch has brought a new level of excitement to the PC space that we haven't seen in years, but the incremental updates to the Z270 chipset left us with little to be excited about. ASRock brought some flavor to its new products with the addition of 2.5G and 5G Ethernet connectivity, which it extended to both of its high-end Z270 and AM4 products. We've already looked at some of ASRock's latest Z270 motherboards, but let's drill down on the AM4 models on display at CES.
ASRock's new AM4 motherboards support Ryzen processors along with the Bristol Ridge and Summit Ridge APUs, which means we will likely see the latter two appear on shelves soon. The X370 Professional Gaming motherboard, which features the X370 chipset, slots in as the high-end model with support for DDR4-2677, AMD Quad CrossFireX, and Nvidia Quad SLI. The motherboard has an integrated HDMI 2.0 port along with 7.1 channel audio. The board also supports two USB 3.1 (1 Type-A, 1 Type-C) and 10 USB 3.0 ports. Storage connectivity comes in the form of eight SATA 3 and two M.2 SSD ports, while power delivery comes via the 16+2 phase power design.
ASRock provides the onboard Aquantia AQC108 5G LAN connection and an integrated Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter, which interestingly brings Intel and AMD onto the same motherboard. ASRock's newest motherboard also features two PCI 3.0 x16, two PCIe 2.0 x1, and one PCIe 2.0 x4 slots.
We've been stuck on 1G Ethernet for ages even though the IEEE 802.3 group ratified the speedy 10G standard back in 2006. We've seen several halting attempts to bring 10G into the mainstream with onboard controllers or dedicated network cards, but high prices and cabling restrictions prevented mass adoption (Biostar also released a new motherboard with an integrated 10G NIC at CES 2017). The lack of affordable 10G routers and switches, along with the requirement for Cat 6 cable for long cable runs, still stand in the way of broader 10G adoption.
The IEEE ratified the 2.5 and 5 Gigabit standards in 2016 to help jump-start adoption. The new standard allows us to use Cat5e cables and should reduce the cost of both NICs and routers into a more wallet-friendly price range. Unfortunately, there still aren't any affordable specialized 2.5G or 5G consumer routers or switches on the market, but this is largely due to the classic chicken-and-egg scenario. ASRock is obviously optimistic about the future of the faster interface, so it infused its new high-end motherboards with Aquantia 5 Gigabit NICs to help jump start the 5G ecosystem.
The X370 Taichi sports a much different look than its Professional Gaming counterpart, swapping out the bold red scheme in favor of a stylized black and white design, along with a less robust I/O shroud, but it has a similar feature set as its high-end counterpart. The X370 Taichi also features 16+2 phase power design, and aside from aesthetics and shroud, the 1G NIC is the only difference between the two boards. The X370 Taichi will have a lower price point, though ASRock hasn't shared details yet.
The AB350 PRO4 also features a striking black and white scheme, but its VRM heatsinks are smaller than its full-featured counterparts. The AB350 chipset offers less connectivity, though the board also supports up to DDR4-2667. The PRO4 offers one PCIe 3.0 x16, one PCIe 2.0 x4, and four PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. Graphics output comes courtesy of an HDMI output, and the AB350 also offers 7.1-channel HD audio. We also have six SATA 3Gb/s ports and two M.2 ports, along with eight USB 3.0 (five rear, two front, one USB Type-C).
We expect to learn more details, including pricing, of ASRock's AM4 products as they come closer to launch.