ASRock H55M Pro
ASRock usually overwhelms its competition by expanding value across multiple markets, providing the chipset’s full set of features, plus its legacy connections and overclocking capability. The H55M Pro continues that trend, beginning with its triple-interface, dual-display, and integrated video outputs.
Yet, most of its competitors also offer HDMI, DVI, and VGA capabilities, so ASRock enhances value by also including two graphics card slots. Bandwidth limited by its four 2.5 Gb/s pathways, the second slot doesn’t interfere with onboard graphics. A card placed in the white slot can therefore be used in addition to any CPU-integrated controller or primary graphics card, to enhance multi-display capability.
Layout for the H55M Pro is superb, with USB 2.0 and IEEE-1394 FireWire front-panel connections located at the bottom-front corner of the circuit board for easy cable connections in any microATX case. The five SATA ports are also ideally located for reaching drives at either end of the case, and the front-panel audio header is even found near the midpoint of the motherboard’s rear, rather than the harder-to-reach bottom corner. The blue PCI Express (PCIe) x16 and x1 slots are even perfectly located for use with dual riser cards in low-profile cases.
Budget overclockers will be thrilled that this LGA 1156 motherboard also supports many LGA 775 CPU coolers via a second set of mounting holes. This only applies to coolers that use spring pressure to hold pressure against the heat spreader, since the thinner LGA 1156 package won’t make contact with solid-mount devices like Swiftech’s Apogee Drive.
One thing noticeably missing from the H55M Pro is the floppy connector, although the solder points for its pins are still present. Windows XP users who would like to add AHCI drivers during installation without jumping through hoops will be disappointed, as the rear-panel eSATA port is connected to the same H55 Express SATA controller. Also lacking pins is the CD In connection used by legacy TV tuner cards for an internal audio pass-through. However, parallel and serial port breakout connections still make the motherboard a drop-in upgrade for some business applications, which are features that are attractive to system integrators.
ASRock was one of the first companies to apply its full range of overclock settings to low-cost microATX motherboards, although many of its competitors have followed suit. Opening the OC Tweaker menu reveals a range of settings typically found on similarly priced full-sized models.
Basic frequency and voltage controls should allow the H55M Pro to at least reach the stability limits of its onboard hardware, if not the limits of some processors. ASRock adds access to three custom BIOS profiles at the bottom of this menu.
A simplified DRAM timing menu still contains all the settings we typically use with automatic settings for those not manually adjusted.
With no Ultra ATA or floppy interface on the H55M Pro, the presence of only two SATA cables marks our only disappointment in its installation kit. System integrators will probably want to contact ASRock directly concerning availability of legacy-interface breakout cables.