ASRock A770 Crossfire Motherboard
We continue on with the line of ASRock AMD motherboards today as we look at the ASRock A770 Crossfire motherboard. This motherboard is based on the AMD 770 Northbridge chipset and the AMD SB700 Southbridge. This board is not the latest high-end chipset from AMD as it only supports 8x PCIe when in Crossfire mode. Even though these slots are PCIe 2.0, the ability to only run a single card in PCIe 16x mode may put a hamper on the extreme performance numbers you can get from a pair of HD4870 X2 cards. We'll take a look at this board running an Athlon 5000+ X2 processor and drop in a Phenom to see if the IES (Intelligent Energy Saver) feature works on AMD's quad core processors.
First Look & Impressions:
Much like every other ASRock board on the market, the packaging is quite minimalistic in terms of size and flash. There is nothing really catchy about the box, and it is about half as thick as the box from a Gigabyte DX6 board. Surprisingly, ASRock has still managed to cram a lot of goodies in the box to add value to this already value-priced motherboard.
In the package is a Molex-SATA power cable, IDE, Floppy and only two SATA cables. There are not any extra USB or Firewire brackets that many other boards have. That is to be expected on such a value priced board however.
As we take a look at the board above, there are a few things worth mentioning that may be of concern. The power connections are all jammed into the top left corner of the board and will require all of the power cables to run over the CPU HSF. Many motherboards are putting the power connectors on the right edge and this certainly has benefits for cable management. That being said, the power on the ASRock board will likely be cleaner as the voltage regulators are located between the power connector and CPU socket. You'll also notice that ASRock uses a Crossfire/SLI switch card to change from the 16x/4x PCIe configuration to the Crossfire loving 8x/8x configuration. The last thing that bothers me with this board is the relatively small passive cooling solution and the lack of fan headers. There are only two fan headers on this board and one of them is required for the CPU. That only leaves one for a case fan or aftermarket chipset fan.
The SATA connectors are all located at the bottom corner of the board and remain out of the way for long graphics cards. Five are dedicated to standard SATA and the orange port is designated for eSATA. There is also another eSATA port located near the rear I/O of the board. There is no eSATA bracket included with this board so if you want to take advantage of this you'll need to purchase a PCI slot bracket or have a case with this feature built in.
One of the best things about this board is that ASRock has again stuck with their all solid-state capacitor design and this should provide longer, more reliable service than other budget boards that use electrolytic capacitors.
The rear IO on this board is pretty straightforward and not as interesting as the WiFi series of boards from ASRock. This board comes equipped with PS/2 keyboard and mouse connections. Digital audio output is taken care of by a RCA style connector as well as a digital optical connector. There is an eSATA port on the back as well as six USB2.0 ports, 8 channel audio and a GB Ethernet jack. Unfortunately there is no Firewire present on the rear I/O or on the board at all for that matter. Firewire is typically used for external hard drive connections and as eSATA has gained popularity, IEEE 1394 appears to be taking a back seat on some motherboards. The truth is, I prefer Firewire over USB2.0 for data connections, but due to the popularity of USB2.0, I don't use Firewire that much at all anymore. The only thing I still use it for regularly is for downloading data from my digital video camera.
On the next page we'll take a closer look at this board before we boot it up and look at the BIOS.