As the performance computing world anxiously awaits the release of Intel’s next mainstream platform, ASRock's P67 Transformer reminds the entry-level folks that, if you don't like Intel's new approach to overclocking (completely locking the Core i3 and limiting non-K-series SKUs), then ASRock's board gives you a way to drop in a previous-gen Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor and continue to tweak it as you did before. Thanks to the continuation of Intel’s DMI interconnect, pairing the new chipset with an old processor is as simple as ignoring the added clock signal. This kind of reminds us of the upgrade from AMD’s Socket AM2+ interface to AM3. But there’s a big difference in how the upgrade was executed.
While AMD’s new processor worked in its older boards (with a BIOS update), Intel’s next-generation CPU will not. The major reason why Intel’s Core i3/i5/i7-2x00-series CPUs need a new motherboard is that the clock generator has been integrated into the chipset, so that the CPU gets its clock signal from a different source. But wait...there’s more!
Had Intel integrated its clock generator into the CPU, rather than the P67 chipset, it could have made its new processor compatible with the older socket, but not vice-versa, as was the case with AMD’s AM2+ to AM3 conversion, which required AMD to keep older DDR2 memory controller logic in order to retain compatibility. Something as simple as an added key notch could have assured that the mechanical compatibility went only in the “right” direction. The P67 is an improvement over the P55, but we’re sure a great many CPU upgraders would have accepted a sacrifice in motherboard features in order to avoid the expensive of a complete replacement. Many of these potential customers will surely be turned away by the need to upgrade both parts simultaneously, just as they were when LGA 775 disappeared in favor of LGA 1156 a little more than a year ago.
On the other hand, buyers who want the latest chipset features without the expense of a new CPU have one place to turn: ASRock. The P67 Transformer provides chipset-integrated SATA 6Gb/s and enough PCIe bandwidth for full USB 3.0 performance using mature LGA 1156 processors. That's perfect for folks who already have a capable Core i7-875K, for example, but are just missing the other motherboard-oriented features made possible on P67. We didn’t see as much performance gain as we anticipated from this particular product, but some level of gain was still there. We hope that continued BIOS development will bring this board’s controller performance up to par with the latest LGA 1155 products. After all, we like choice, and we have to commend ASRock for thinking outside the box on this one.