Asia Rock (ASRock) targets the widest possible range of buyers by making its motherboards flexible and inexpensive—the P45R2000-WIFI is no exception. High-end features such as Dual Gigabyte plus wireless networking, RAID and AMD CrossFireX are added to mainstream mainstays such as digital audio connectors and FireWire, which could put superb value on its $140 online price, so long as everything else checks out.
ASRock sent us two motherboards, and this is the higher-market version with support for four DDR3 memory modules. ASRock isn’t leaving out very many people in its DDR3 support however, since the P45R2000-WiFi also includes two DDR2 slots. Buyers can’t use both memory types at once, but they can take some comfort in the ability to start cheap and upgrade later.
Ordinary ’sinks on the P45 Express northbridge and ICH10R southbridge lower build costs on components that likely don’t need anything more extravagant, while a four-phase voltage regulator and “paddle card” PCI Express selector switch help clarify the company’s budget aspirations. Proving that low-budget doesn’t need to indicate low quality, ASRock has fitted the P45R2000-WiFi with solid capacitors in all locations just like its more expensive competition.
A few sacrifices in convenience were needed to make a fully-featured and reliably-equipped motherboard inexpensive. The previously mentioned PCI Express mode selector card must be removed and re-positioned to change from single x16 mode to dual x8 mode PCI-Express x16 slots, but that’s just the beginning. The P45R2000-WiFi has also simplified some of its circuit pathways by moving a few of the connectors around, probably to reduce the number of circuit layers needed to support it wide array of features.
Placement of the 24-pin ATX/EPS main power connector on what we consider to be the wrong side of the board hinders proper cable management, and the eSATA ports on the back panel are simply pass-through connections. ASRock’s third-party Ultra ATA controller doesn’t support eSATA, and relying on the ICH10R for this function requires builders to run cables from the orange ports on the lower front corner to those on the upper rear corner. Besides creating cable clutter and reducing the number of internal drives supported, this design could reduce the maximum cable length supported by the rear ports when activated.
That’s not to say that the layout is totally without merit, as ASRock has provided all seven slot positions with useful functions and placed the Ultra ATA connector perfectly, at the P45R2000-WiFi’s upper front edge, for easy cable reach to legacy external drives, which are often found in the top bay of a case. Likewise, all six Serial ATA ports are located well out of the way of super-large graphics card ’sinks, and face outward rather than forward to allow placement in cases that have a drive bay immediately adjacent to the lower front edge. But those few bonuses are offset by a floppy header located under the lowest PCI Express slot and a front-panel audio connector in the bottom rear corner.
Many buyers will likely be swayed by the P45R2000-WiFi’s low price and excellent feature set, and those willing to make a few sacrifices in the area of cable management might have found themselves a bargain. Our tests should help to settle that debate.