Responding to reader requests, we will be taking closer looks at more budget and mainstream boards. What do you give up by not choosing an "enthusiast" class motherboard? Should you care, or perhaps, who should care?
Today's sample uses the very robust H97 chipset, and was $75 on Newegg when this review was prepared, but is now at $70. The ASRock H97M Pro4 is a micro-ATX board with 4+1 power phases and the ability to overclock the unlocked Pentium G3258. Let's take a look at it — but first, a little vindication: I achieved very poor overclocking results in prior testing, so I bought another G3258 to see if the budget boards I'm testing are the issue, or if I had simply lost the silicon lottery, which was my suspicion. The board about to be exposed could not overclock the original chip over 4.0GHz stable either, but the new chip was fairly happy at 4.2GHz on the board-selected 1.28V, just getting a little warm in some tests. That warmth discouraged me from going for an even higher overclock, but a tweaker, using a better cooler, may zoom right on past my efforts. Worth noting is that I couldn't find a spot on or near the VRMs registering as high as 37C on my IR thermometer during my tests.
But a good read anyway, I was a bit disappointed by the overclocking potential for the board/CPU
Would I actually want four slots for a dual channel architecture?
A higher setting than 4.2 is available, but 4.4 appears in a hazardous-looking red font. Being somewhat risk-averse, I just left it at 4.2. Eric Van der Linden is looking at the "Z" overclocking boards, and is pushing higher clocks.
If you want more than 16GB, you'll need four DIMM slots. Or, you get to start with 2x4GB and add another 2x4GB later to get 16GB without having to discard your prior RAM.
If you want to overclock a "K" chip, this won't be the board you buy. Otherwise, it is very hard to beat this one if you might want any of its other features, like RAID.
I did notice that one chart got entered as "Haven" rather than "Heaven."
And I'd actually like to see what this thing could do with a K chip, especially compared to the Z97M Pro4. The two look like they share the exact same PCB. The BIOS is about the only thing different. You won't have the fine control of a Z board, but I'm willing to bet this thing could take a K north of 4.2 GHz for a moderate everyday OC. If that's your goal, this board is by far the better buy.
One last thing, the H chipset can't split lanes for multi-GPU, so a second PCIe 3.0 x16 slot wouldn't be terribly usable.
@HL, even on a dual-channel controller, four DIMMs will give you better RAM bandwidth than two modules. The balance act is that four modules are harder to overclock since the timings can't be as tight. Maximum bandwidth may well be about even between the two configuration if you take the time to optimize every single timings. But if you're just going for XMP values, four is usually faster than two.
You claimed this is a 4+1-phase power design, yet ASRock claims it has a 4-phase delivery system on its site and within the manual. While I can see 5 chokes (4 CPU side, 1 at the 8-pin) surrounding the MOSFET heatsink, I'm not certain that translates to 4+1. Besides, isn't the +x portion of a phase count usually indicative of the memory side of the power delivery system?
Readers should keep in mind that when using a Haswell/Haswell-R CPU that doesn't have a limited IMC (i.e. the G3258's 1333 limitation), Intel XMP 1.2 and 1.3 are fully supported, meaning you can use DDR3-1600 or faster RAM on this board. Memory speed support simply depends upon the specific CPU installed.
Lastly, while this 4- or 4+1-phase power delivery design certainly won't allow "to the gills" K-series overclocking high-end 12-phase designs are capable of delivering, it is capable of overclocking those CPUs. Stating that it's not "the board to buy" for K-series overclocking is an oversimplified blanket claim, while a line like "has the ability to overclock the unlocked Pentium G3258" is a very limiting claim. Writing like that is bit too muddy and lacking specified details I expect within a review here.
You're forgetting that overclocking is a mix of hardware and software. This board looks to have the same hardware as the Z97M Pro4, but the Z board has a lot more settings available in the UEFI. Yes, the H97 can probably get a decent everyday OC, but if you want to fine tune everything, you want a Z board's better UEFI.
Yeah. I also want to see proof K-series overclocking on this board is truly as limited as the author surely desires to lead readers to believe.
P.S. You linked the H97M-Pro4 article, not the Z97M-Pro4 one. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/asrock-z97m-pro4-motherboard,4180.html
If Joe wants to send me the board, I'd be happy to try this. Indeed, this was one of the nagging thoughts I had while reviewing the Z Pro4. Why would someone spend more on this that the H97? The only answer I could come with is the better UEFI and more settings. Soderstrom also reports that some lower-level boards ( and you're perfectly right that while I expect the VRM to be identical between these two, I'm not certain ) have problems running a 4790K at stock clocks due to power management limitations. I'd like to prove if that's the case or not.
Joe, I'll trade you for the Z97M Pro4. You know you want to crank a Pentium in that for no good reason. ;)
Whoops, sorry about that. I had both tabs open at the time and must have copied the wrong one.
Maybe - JUST maybe - this board wasn't specifically designed to solely meet your needs only. Maybe they wanted to offer a board with 32GB RAM capacity? I'm failing to see why this even got your attention.