ASRock Fatal1ty P67 Professional
ASRock is so proud to procure the brand of the well-branded gamer Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel that, at first, it didn’t even stick its own brand on this premium part. An eighteen-phase voltage regulator with an elaborate heat sink system lets users know ASRock is serious about using this name to promote its move forward in overclocking.
ASRock is also serious about addressing every connectivity need, providing eight front-panel and four I/O-panel USB 2.0 ports, two front-panel and four I/O-panel USB 3.0 ports, four SATA 3Gb/s and six SATA 6Gb/s ports, and dual gigabit Ethernet ports. Each USB 3.0 port is connected directly to one of three additional controllers, so the only thing that’s missing is a separate controller for eSATA. That port is shared with one of the internal ports, so users who want to keep it active should leave the internal port unused.
Did we say a separate controller for eSATA was the only thing missing? Well, like every motherboard in this price range, the third PCIe x16 slot is only wired to four lanes electrically, which are provided by the P67 platform controller hub rather than the CPU’s internal controller. SLI is limited to two cards, though a third AMD card in CrossFireX is supported in x4 mode (for more on how that'd impact performance, check out P67, X58, And NF200: The Best Platform For CrossFire And SLI). Four two-pathway switches between the first and second x16-length slots automatically adapt from x16/x4 to x8/x8 connections when the middle slot is used.
ASRock made certain concessions to the gaming market that might not make sense to other enthusiasts by including Ultra ATA, serial communications, and floppy drive interfaces. The floppy makes sense because a few gamers still swear by Windows XP, an OS that’s most easily installed on AHCI or RAID configurations by first creating a driver floppy for the SATA controller. The floppy connector is almost free, since it doesn’t require an additional controller, though the placement of this connector will make those few XP users want to remove the drive after installing their OS. ASRock even includes the ancient four-pin analog audio input previously used by Windows 95 for CD drives (and more recently used by various audio-equipped expansion cards).
Though the Fatal1ty P67 Professional looks great at a glance, two nagging layout issues impact gamers and enthusiasts more than anyone else. The front-panel audio and USB 3.0 front-panel connectors are located in and near the bottom-rear corner, causing cable management issues for the top-panel or top-bay ports of many enthusiast-oriented cases.
ASRock puts the P67 PCH under what most people still think of as a “northbridge” sink, reserving the “southbridge” position for a PEX8608 four-lane-to-eight-lane PCIe 2.0 switch, two 88SE9120 dual 6 Gb/s SATA controllers, and one VT6330 Ultra ATA controller.
A black-painted steel USB 3.0 front-panel adapter fills any available 3.5” external drive bay to upgrade cases that lack this feature. The same adapter also holds a single 2.5” internal drive (such as an SSD) to reduce wasted space, and ASRock adds a slot plate for optional rear-mounting. Our only disappointment is the inclusion of only three SATA cables with a high-end board that supports up to ten internal drives. Six cables would have made us happy.