Although Taiwanese motherboard maker ASRock has been present in the international market for a few years, it says it is only now starting to act independently of ASUS. After all, ASUS originally created Asrock as a budget brand. Its product line is beginning to expand from the bottom end of the motherboard arena to include higher-level segments as well. However, high-end boards are not in the cards - for now.
At the ASRock booth we found a full line-up of motherboards based on all of Intel's current chipsets including the P45 and X48. The Nvidia-based motherboards with their support for HybridSLI were the more interesting products to us, though, since we haven't had a chance to test them yet in greater detail. The K10N78FullHD-hSLI is based on Nvidia's integrated GeForce 8200 graphics core which can be considered the direct competitor to AMD's 780G chipset. The AMD part has already proved its worth as a full-fledged HD aficionado, as it can play back Full-HD video content even with a simple Sempron processor.
Nvidia's chipset goes a step further with its HybridSLI functionality, though. On the one hand, it also allows users to add another PCIe graphics card and combine it with the on-board GPU to form an SLI setup, increasing 3D performance. ASRock showed a demo of this principle in operation, combining a GeForce 8400GS and the on-board 8200 GPU of the K10N78FullHD-hSLI to increase the 3DMark06 score from 2030 to 2475 .
The other innovation is that the add-in card can be deactivated in 2D mode so that the system only uses the integrated graphics unit, saving power. While the power savings that can be realized by turning off a GeForce 8400GS like the one used in ASRock's demo are rather slim, the concept certainly has its merits.