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