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Enthusiast P55: Eight LGA 1156 Boards Between $150 And $200

ASRock P55 Deluxe

The only motherboard in today’s roundup to provide SATA 6.0 Gb/s capability, ASRock’s P55 Deluxe is also the least-expensive board to include every high-end feature of its competitors.

A modest $160 gets buyers an extensive collection of two Gigabit Ethernet controllers, eSATA, active PCIe pathway switching (x16/x1 or x8/x8 transfer modes) for the top-two PCIe x16-length slots, a third x16-length slot with x4 transfer rates, dual-format digital audio outputs, internal power and reset switches, I/O panel CLR_CMOS for easy recovery of failed overclock attempts, and a two-digit Port 80 display for diagnosing boot failures.

ASRock places its shared PCIe x16 slots three spaces apart to help cool double-thick VGA cards and even makes things easier for legacy OS and hardware users with a floppy and an Ultra ATA interface.

This combination of features and layout is almost perfect, so let’s take a minute to examine what isn’t so fresh. Windows XP users who need to load AHCI or RAID drivers will be inconvenienced by the floppy connector’s lower rear-corner placement, while the vast majority of mid-tower system builders will be inconvenienced to a much greater degree by the front-panel audio connector shoved even farther into that same corner. Also, though forward-facing SATA connectors are ideal for many modern case designs, a few legacy or otherwise smaller cases have a drive cage blocking access to the board’s front edge. Having noticed all those concerns, our biggest difficulty was adding memory to an already-assembled system, since the slot latches are extremely close to the back of any long graphics card.

But most of those problems are nothing more than a minor nuisance to an experienced builder, and the fact that we didn’t find any significant problems should be enough to convince most readers to jump straight to our performance and overclocking results. However, there is one detail no buyer should overlook.

ASRock’s included 6.0 Gb/s capability comes by way of a dual-port PCIe expansion card. Using the same Marvell 88SE9128 controller found in our previous performance preview, ASRock strategically places its corresponding slot two spaces beneath the top graphics card. Short enough not to block the intake fan of most oversized graphics cards, the only problem we perceive for this two-port solution is the 2.5 GT/s bandwidth limit of its single PCIe link.

BIOS

ASRock puts its frequency, ratio, and voltage settings on a single menu for easier configuration. Less aggressive overclockers are even welcome to try one of the board’s pre-defined overclocking profiles.

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ASRock provides DRAM reference voltage in addition to the essentials. We found that while the Without VDrop setting had some voltage-stabilization effect, CPU-core voltage still fluctuated by around 50mV between full and idle CPU load.

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ASRock provides Auto configuration for individual memory timings, thus easing manual configuration of high-performance RAM.

Accessories

In addition to the already-discussed SATA 6.0 Gb/s expansion card, ASRock provide buyers with four SATA cables, two SATA power adapters, an internal S/P-DIF cable for the pass-through function of current Nvidia graphics cards, 80-conductor Ultra ATA and floppy cables, and an SLI bridge.

  • enzo matrix
    interesting
    Reply
  • skora
    There's two market segments. Once you get the features you need, there's overclockers, and stock users. I've never seen a mobo recommended based on its application performance and all thats looked at is how well it OCs. Hopefully, people read the article and don't just go buying biostar expecting the regular quality of gigabyte or asus though the asus is a little overpriced here for my taste. That $25 can go towards a better GPU, but I'm a gamer.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    enzo matrixinteresting
    Gigabyte had some additional interesting news about the new P55A-UD4P, where the addition of the letter "A" supposedly means "Advanced" and refers to the addition of SATA 6.0 Gb/s and USB 3.0 controllers. Unfortunately, it wasn't ready when the comparison was written. The "A" also cost slightly more.
    Reply
  • ibnsina
    For $15 more is best to go for the newly released Giga-byte GA-P55A-UD4P, the extra’s you get are:-

    2 x USB 3.0
    2 x SATA 6Gb/s.

    $184.99 on newegg.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    ibnsinaFor $15 more is best to go for the newly released Giga-byte GA-P55A-UD4P, the extra’s you get are:-2 x USB 3.0 2 x SATA 6Gb/s.$184.99 on newegg.
    $15 for all that sounds great, unless those features are useless to you. SATA 6.0 Gb/s will remain completely useless until long after the board is outdated, and USB 3.0 is nothing more than an eSATA substitute at the moment.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    Why do we bitch about IDE and FDD connectors? If your using windows xp and IDE hdd/dvd drives your should be ashamed, and even then you can get USB floppys etc, and if you are using those fittings you are not getting the true performance out of your modern system, and IDE also makes boot times longer thanks to detection and legacy delays - cudos to those who ditch those ports in an effort to modernise modern systems, and to those who keep them - its like adding ISA ports to the board - times up.
    Reply
  • cahl
    The new P55A-UD4P has better power phasing, 12+2 vs 8+2 on the old gigabyte UD4P, and probably more stuff aswell, like the LOTES socket, well worth the extra $15 to me.
    Reply
  • bigballinggpr
    You don't bring up MSI's board at all in the conclusion. . . i'm a little curious as to what your final thoughts are on it.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    apache_livesWhy do we bitch about IDE and FDD connectors? If your using windows xp and IDE hdd/dvd drives your should be ashamed, and even then you can get USB floppys etc, and if you are using those fittings you are not getting the true performance out of your modern system, and IDE also makes boot times longer thanks to detection and legacy delays - cudos to those who ditch those ports in an effort to modernise modern systems, and to those who keep them - its like adding ISA ports to the board - times up.
    You mean complain? Like you're complaining right now? It's all a matter of logic: There are probably more Windows XP users carrying over their old OS into a new build than there are Ultra ATA users carrying over their ancient hard drives. Therefor, the floppy interface, as outdated as it is, is more useful than the Ultra ATA interface.

    The problem as described is that you PAY for an Ultra ATA controller. Why bother? Even if you're an XP devotee you probably don't WANT to pay for an Ultra ATA connector.

    But for most motherboards, the floppy interface is free. It doesn't slow down boot times or performance either, if you don't need it you can ignore it.

    Well, maybe you can't ignore it, but a logic dictates over emotion in reviews.

    THG has no reason to love or hate the floppy connector, no stake in the legacy OS game, but anyone reader who wants to play the hater deserves to be called out for it. As for the manufacturers, honest reporting is Tom's Hardware's goal. Personally, I like the fact that some manufacturers provide legacy features and others don't, both types of products work well.
    Reply
  • doomtomb
    with only a single PS/2 port left behind to support the older mice occasionally preferred by seasoned gamers

    This is from the page on the EVGA P55 but you can clearly see it is a purple PS/2 port which is for keyboards... lol
    Reply