Unique to Intel is the I/O panel’s “Back to BIOS” button, a feature that temporarily disables custom settings so that users can boot up and make changes. This feature takes away the need to “CLR_CMOS” after a boot failure, and even beats the boot failure prevention routines of most other brands by not losing any of your customizations.
A good overall layout begins with triple-slot spacing for graphics cards, allowing better airflow to the top card. The lower x16-length slot borrows eight lanes from the upper slot whenever a card is installed there, using automatic pathway switches to change from x16/x0 to x8/x8 modes. That good layout continues with a front-panel audio connector located above the lower graphics card slot, placing it closer to the ports it serves. Putting the Port 80 diagnostics display next to the DIMM slots finalizes a design where no important features are blocked by installed cards or the CPU cooler.
All of those features lend themselves to the development of a micro-ATX variant, as does the location of its SATA connectors. While using one basic design to serve two different markets might not seem very innovative, it actually facilitates the only product in today’s roundup that gets zero layout complaints.
Layout aside, we were perplexed by some of the board’s other features, or lack thereof. We were surprised, for example, not to find any front-panel USB 3.0 header, given that ASRock credited the company for this universal interface’s design. Conversely, we question the addition of IDT’s 89HMPEB383ZA PCIe-to-PCI bridge, along with two connected PCI slots and a FireWire controller, since it was Intel that felt legacy PCI was no longer worth integrating into the chipset.