ASRock H55DE3 Motherboard Review
Price: £75 inc VAT
Best Price: http://pricebomb.co.uk
ASRock is best known for its expansive range of affordable motherboards, but in recent years the firm has also developed a reputation for innovation. Unique features like Instant Boot help to differentiate ASRock's products in a crowded market, but the company's primary focus remains dedicated to delivering better value than its more illustrious rivals. The H55DE3 we are looking at today is a full-ATX solution for the newly released Core i3 and Core i5 Clarkdale CPUs.
As you'd expect for an H55 chipset product, the board features video outputs to support these processor's integrated GPU. Although Intel's previous IGP efforts were laughably bad, the new GMA-HD has made great strides and is broadly comparable to AMD's equivalents in both multimedia capabilities and gaming. The H55 therefore serves as a tempting backbone for an affordable media centre PC as with no need for a discrete video card, money can be invested elsewhere.
In terms of output selection Asrock has most bases covered with VGA, DVI and HDMI. The rest of the rear I/o panel is also well equipped providing six USB 2.0 ports, an optical SPDIF audio output, gigabit networking, analogue outputs and a legacy PS2 port for that ancient IBM keyboard you just cant bare to part with. Two of the USB ports also double up as eSATA connectors which will please external storage junkies, but do come at a cost to the board's internal storage capabilities.
Layout and Features
With four SATA ports the ASRock H55DE3 delivers fewer options than we'd expect for a modern motherboard, and although 4 drives will be enough for most users it may not be enough to satisfy enthusiasts. This is a shame because this is an otherwise exemplary example of how to design a modern board. Expansion slots are well spaced and are perfectly allocated, with two full-length PCI Express slots, two 1x slots and two PCI slots. The primary video card slot has been placed sufficiently far away from the four DDR3 slots to avoid clashes when upgrading your memory and there is enough space around the CPU socket to fit a tower cooler of epic proportions. The power plugs are also exactly where we like to see them and the SATA ports are positioned out of the way at the bottom-right hand corner of the PCB.
Common sense also prevails in ASRock's decision to axe much of the legacy connectivity still polluting all too many motherboards. A 3.5" floppy has no place in a 2010 PC, nor do slow IDE optical and hard drives. Although belligerent users may malign the fact that they are no longer able to use their older drives, any new PC based on the H55DE3 will be faster for their omission. Enthusiasts should note that the H55 chipset does not support RAID modes, though AHCI is included. If you need RAID, you'll have to opt for an H57 or P55 based motherboard instead.
BIOS and H55DE3 Overclocking Guide
Asrock has provided a wealth of options in its well-laid out BIOS, with enough CPU memory and chipset options to please most advanced users. The base clock can be increased from the default 133MHz all the way up to 300MHz in 1MHz increments whilst CPU voltage can be raised to a chip-burning 1.6V. Users can also tweak the VTT, memory and PCH voltages and CPU ratio can also be increased or reduced within the chip's allowable range. We were able to overclock our Core i3 to a stable 3.75GHz by using the following settings;
Overclock Mode - Manual
BCLK Frequency (MHz) - 170
PCIE Frequency (MHz) - 100
CPU Ratio Setting - 22
DRAM Frequency - 680MHz
Asrock VDrop Control - Without VDrop
CPU Voltage 1.2V
DRAM Voltage 1.65V
VTT Voltage 1.23V
PCH Voltage 1.15V
PCU PLL Voltage 1.81V
GFX Voltage +100mv
There is also the facility to save various BIOS settings as different profiles, and you can also overclock the integrated GPU if you wish. Beginners are also able to overclock their CPU by up to 40 or 50% at the touch of a button with the BIOS's "Turbo 50" feature, though this increase only applies to 3DMark 2006 results and also relies on overclocking the processors GPU.
Testing Results and Stability
The ASRock proved to be a capable motherboard, with results somewhat faster than the reference H55 board provided by Intel in Sysmark and PCMark Vantage. It is also slightly quicker than the Asus P7H55D-M EVO, though the best P55 solutions we have seen were a little faster still. We are also happy to report no memory compatibility issues, with the board correctly setting the SPD timings for our Crucial, Corsair and G.Skill parts and running them with full stability. The board also passed our 24 hour torture test, running Prime 95's SmallFFT test and Orthos in Blend mode at 100% whilst looping 3DMark Vantage.
The ASRock H55DE3 is a smart and capable motherboard with surpringly good overclocking potential. It is also fast, stable and has an excellent layout. A couple of extra internal SATA ports would have rounded this out as a near-perfect H55 motherboard but even as it stands it is an excellent choice for those looking for a new Core i3 based PC this spring.
|- Well Priced
- Great Performance
- Good overclocking
- Superb Layout
||A superb H55 chipset motherboard with an excellent layout. Considering its price it also overclocks extremely well and has a wealth of BIOS options. Highly Recommended
|We Don't Like
|- Too few SATA ports