Conclusion: ASRock Succeeds, MSI Survives
It has been our contention that no motherboard used for overclocking should be able to push enough energy through the CPU voltage regulator to damage it, because any motherboard that includes overclock settings should also include over-current protection. We understand that cheaper boards use lower-capacity voltage regulators, but lower capacity simply adds to the need for such protection. Any motherboard too cheaply made to include over-current protection shouldn’t even have manual voltage control, but should instead be marketed towards the non-overclocking whitebox market.
ASRock proved itself by using nothing more than a BIOS update to enable the over-current protection already included in P55 Pro. While leaving the feature disabled in previous BIOS revisions was a big mistake, redemption in the form of BIOS revision 1.80 is enough for us to have some faith in a board that can be pushed to 1.35V and 4.0 GHz with our Core i7-870 processor. Anyone who wants to use higher voltage to reach even greater clock speeds shouldn’t have a big problem choosing a higher-priced product. On this board, upper-range features such as dual eSATA ports, onboard Port 80 diagnostics display, onboard power and reset buttons, a rear-panel CLR_CMOS button, and IEEE-1394 FireWire now make the board a perfect fit for enthusiasts who prefer not to push their luck at high overclock settings.
MSI’s P55-CD53, though far less featured or overclock-capable, can now be viewed as a reliable choice for non-overclockers. But though it boasts modest power savings at stock or very mildly overclocked speeds, we can’t find a reason why any level of enthusiast would choose it over the less-expensive, better-featured, and better-overclocking ASRock P55 Pro.
By now, we’re sure many readers are asking “weren’t there three failing boards in the original comparison?” Unfortunately, ECS was unable to provide a solution to our overclocking and power woes. As the only sub-$150 motherboard to offer x8 mode for the second x16-length PCI Express graphics card slot, the P55H-A could have easily won our previous article’s value comparison, if only the board had survived.
The big remaining question is whether we’d buy any of these platforms, and the answer is yes. Improvements in BIOS 1.80 make ASRock’s P55 Pro an excellent value in spite of its initial overclocking hurdles, and we really love well-featured, high-value parts. It’s unfortunate for ASRock that we don’t hand out value awards retroactively, but we're sure the company will continue to have many chances to impress us in the future.