ASRock K10N750SLI-WiFi Motherboard

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Product: ASRock K10N750SLI-WiFi Motherboard
Provided by: ASRock
Price: ~$139.99 Online


Introduction:

While many may claim that the AMD platform is dead for enthusiasts and gamers, the truth is that it is still a solid platform that works very well.  It may not be top dog in terms of raw performance numbers, but it is still a valid platform for someone looking to put together a cheap gaming, folding or 3D modeling rig.  The price of AMD Dual Core processors is absolutely amazing and this can make the entire platform worth looking into for many people on a budget.

Today we are looking at the K10N750SLI-WiFi motherboard from ASRock.  This board is long on features and it brings the new nForce 750a SLI chipset to the mainstream AMD platform.  It also does this at a price point that is very inviting.  Keep on reading as we take a look at the first AM2+ board we've seen in a while and find out if it offers nVidia's users anything worthwhile.

K10N750SLI-WiFi Box
K10N750SLI-WiFi Box

 

Bundle & First Look:

When you first look at the box, you quickly see that this board has a lot of features normally found on much more expensive motherboards.  From integrated WiFi, to Firewire, eSATA and even SLI it has a lot of features that we'd expect to see on premium ASUS boards for as much as $100 more.  One thing that typically sets more expensive boards apart from cheaper ones is the bundle - or lack thereof.  However, ASRock includes a floppy cable, IDE cable, four SATA cables, audio cable, WiFi antenna, PCI I/O bracket, and the obvious manual, CD, main I/O plate and driver CDs.  Overall, it is a pretty inclusive bundle with PCI slot USB and Firewire brackets appearing to be the only major thing cut from the bundle.

 In The Box
In The Box
 Cable Bundle
Cable Bundle



The board layout is pretty good on the K10N750SLI-WiFi as well.  There is really no big problem area and the color scheme is pretty catchy.  In truth, there really isn't much of a scheme, but it is flashy without being too overbearing.  It would look great in a case with a window.

 Board Layout
Board Layout

 

The rear IO is pretty straightforward and there are no surprises here.  ASRock still uses legacy PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors while also providing a composite digital audio output as well as a optical audio connection as well.   There is a total of six USB2.0 ports along the back  as well as eSATA, firewire, and GB LAN ports.  To complement the audio connections there is an 8-channel audio block right next to the RPSMA antenna connector for the integrated WiFi.  To call the wireless integrated is actually not quite true as the wireless network chip resides on an add-in card that plugs directly into a motherboard header.

Rear IO
Rear IO

On the next page we'll take a closer look at this motherboard before we take a look at the features of the nForce 750a chipset and the boards specifications.


Closer Look:

We'll quickly cover the areas on interest on the motherboard without going into a lot of detail.  Please click the thumbnails below for a closer look at the motherboard.  At the end of the pictures, we'll cover a few thing that you may have or may not have noticed.

 CPU and RAM
CPU and RAM
Bottom Right
Bottom Right
   
 GPU Area
GPU Area
 Switch Card
Switch Card

 

Where ASRock has saved some money is on the single card/SLI switching method.  They use the older switch card instead of providing a built in IC solution that is selectable through BIOS.  When the SLI card is in SLI/XFire mode it turns each of the PCIe 2.0 16x slots into 8x slots and completely defeats the purpose of PCIe 2.0.  Regardless, most cards don't take advantage of the increased bandwidth of PCIe 2.0 and certainly most systems built around an Athlon 5000+ or better won't be running two 9800GTX cards.

 

ASRock has even saved more money with the switch card as they have labeled it "SLI/XFire".  Don't get too excited.  This board doesn't support both Crossfire and SLI - just SLI, but the switch would work on both boards as it simply routes extra PCIe lanes to the second slot.

 Slots
Slots
Power Connectors
Power Connectors
   
 Power and WiFi
Power and WiFi
 Audio Headers
Audio Headers

 

As with all boards designed for high-power graphics cards and processors, the K10N750SLI-WiFi uses a 24-pin main power connector as well as an 8-pin CPU/Auxilary power connector.  If you are using SLI cards, there is also a standard 4-pin molex connector to help keep the PCIe bus stable.  This isn't too important anymore as the additional power connector on high-end cards provides them power, but ASRock is trying to keep everything as stable as possible - and does a good job of it with the power regulation and all solid-state capacitors.

We'll cover some of the 750a SLI chipset features and the board specifications on the next page before we take a look at the BIOS and overclocking.


nForce 750a SLI Chipset Features:

NVIDIA nForce® 750a SLI® MCPs deliver NVIDIA® SLI® technology for gaming performance at a great price. With PCI Express 2.0 for twice the bandwidth and NVIDIA® HybridPower™ technology for low-power quiet operation, nForce 750a SLI is the price/performance solution for the DirectX 10 gaming experience.

Intelligent Power Management
Plug in select NVIDIA® GeForce® GPU(s) and experience HybridPower technology. Unleash graphics performance for demanding 3D games and applications when you need it or opt for a quiet, low-power PC experience when browsing the web, word processing or watching HD videos.


SLI Performance, Great Price
Get as much as 2x the performance of a single card configuration with support for SLI technology. Play the latest DirectX 10 games at mind-blowing frame rates and resolutions without breaking the bank.



© 1998-2007 Epic Games, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Great DirectX 10 Gaming Experience
Up your game by pairing nForce 750a SLI with two GeForce 9 series graphics cards and experience next generation DirectX 10 games the way they’re meant to be played.



  • Designed for SLI technology
    NVIDIA® SLI® technology is a revolutionary platform innovation that allows you to intelligently scale graphics performance by combining multiple NVIDIA graphics solutions in a single system with an NVIDIA nForce SLI MCP.

  • HybridPower technology
    Unleash graphics performance when you need it or opt for a quiet, low-power PC experience with NVIDIA® HybridPower® technology. Plug your GeForce GPU*(s) into an NVIDIA motherboard* for the ultimate control. Dial up performance when you game or watch video; go green and reduce noise and power consumption when you’re just surfing the web, emailing, and word processing.

  • NVIDIA Control Panel
    Easily adjust PC characteristics for maximum performance. Features NVIDIA System Monitor, so you can seamlessly monitor characteristics in an intuitive and customizable 3D environment.

  • NVIDIA® MediaShield™ Storage
    Suite of features that safeguards your most important digital media assets; always reliable, scalable, and accessible. Includes support for RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 configurations and up to six SATA 3Gb/s drives.

  • Networking with nForce
    NVIDIA networking delivers the highest network throughput at the lowest CPU utilization. The manageable and stable NVIDIA networking solution results in better networking management and a lower total cost of ownership. Only NVIDIA integrates this level of networking features to allow you to take your online experience to the next level.

  • FirstPacket technology
    Be the ‘King of Ping’ with NVIDIA® FirstPacket™ technology. Get the crystal-clear phone conversations and online gaming performance you expect. NVIDIA FirstPacket technology assures your game data, VoIP conversations, and large file transfers are delivered according to preferences set by you in an intuitive wizard.

  • PureVideo HD technology
    NVIDIA® PureVideo® HD technology is the combination of high-definition video decode acceleration and post-processing that delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for movies and video. PureVideo HD includes required content protection circuitry (HDCP) for playing the new Blu-ray and HD DVD movies at the highest quality possible, and is directly integrated with the leading HD movie software players. PureVideo HD delivers the ultimate high-definition movie experience on a PC.

NVIDIA® SLI® Ready SLI technology support with two identical SLI Ready graphics cards
NVIDIA Hybrid SLI Technology HybridPower™ Technology
GeForce Boost Technology
System Performance Tools NVIDIA Control Panel
NVIDIA System Monitor
Expansion Slots PCI Express 2.0 support
19 lanes, 4 links: 2 x8, 2 x1 or 1 x16, 3 x1
Up to 5 PCI Slots
CPU AMD Socket AM2+
AMD Phenom, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2, Athlon 64
Memory DDR2 1066/800/667/533
Storage NVIDIA® MediaSheild™ Technology
Up to 6 Serial ATA 3.0 Gb/s drives
Up to 2 PATA drives (Ultra DMA 133/100/66/33)
RAID configurations 0, 1, 0+1, 5
Networking Native Gigabit Ethernet connections
NVIDIA® FirstPacket™ technology
USB Up to 12 USB 2.0 ports
Audio HDA (Azalia)
Display On board display out
NVIDIA® PureVideo® HD technology

 

Now that we see what the 750a SLI chipset is capable of, let's take a look and see how ASRock has implemented this with the K10N750SLI-WiFi specs.

 

K10N750SLI-WiFi Specs:

 General
CPU - Support for Socket AM2+ / AM2 processors: AMD Phenom™ FX / Phenom / Athlon 64 FX / Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core / Athlon X2 Dual-Core / Athlon 64 / Sempron processor
- AMD LIVE!™ Ready
- Supports AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
- FSB 2600 MHz (5.2 GT/s)
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
- Supports Hyper-Transport Technology
Chipset - NVIDIA® nForce 750a SLI
Memory - Dual Channel DDR2 memory technology
- 4 x DDR2 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR2 1066/800/667/533 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 8GB
*

*Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® XP and Windows® Vista™. For Windows® XP 64-bit and Windows® Vista™ 64-bit with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.
BIOS - 8Mb AMI BIOS
- AMI Legal BIOS
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU, DRAM, NB, SB,VTT Voltage Multi-adjustment
 Audio, Video and Networking
Graphics - n/a
Audio - 7.1 CH Windows® Vista™ Premium Level HD Audio with Content Protection
- DAC with 110dB dynamic range (ALC890 Audio Codec)
- DTS (Digital Theater Systems) support
LAN - Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Giga PHY RTL8211B
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
Wireless LAN ASRock WiFi-802.11g module
- 54Mbps IEEE 802.11g / 11Mbps IEEE 802.11b
- Supports Software Access Point mode (AP mode) and Station mode (Infrastructure mode and Ad-hoc mode)
 Expansion / Connectivity
Slots - 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (green @ x16 mode, blue @ x8 mode)
- 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
- 3 x PCI slots
- Supports NVIDIA® SLI™ and Hybrid SLI™ GeFroce Boost
Connector - 6 x Serial ATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1, RAID 5, JBOD), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
- 1 x eSATAII 3.0 Gb/s connector (shared with 1 SATAII port)
- 1 x ATA133 IDE connector (supports 2 x IDE devices)
- 1 x Floppy connector
- 1 x DeskExpress Hot Plug Detection header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF header
- 1 x IEEE 1394 header
- CPU/Chassis FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- SLI/XFire power connector
- CD in header
- Front panel audio connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x WiFi/E header
Rear Panel I/O ASRock WiFi_SPDIF I/O
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x Coaxial SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x eSATAII Port
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x IEEE 1394 Port
- HD Audio Jack: Side Speaker / Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
 Other Features / Miscellaneous
Unique Feature - ASRock OC Tuner
- Intelligent Energy Saver
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
- ASRock AM2 Boost: ASRock Patented Technology to boost memory performance up to 12.5%
Support CD - Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version)
Accessories - 1 x ASRock WiFi-802.11g Module
- 1 x Antenna
- 1 x ASRock SLI Bridge
- 1 x ASRock SLI/XFire Switch Card
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- Floppy/ATA 133 cables
- 4 x SATA data cables (optional)
- 1 x SATA 1 to 1 power cable (optional)
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF cable (optional)
Hardware Monitor - CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU Fan Tachometer
- Chassis Fan Tachometer
- CPU Quiet Fan
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, Vcore
Form Factor - ATX Form Factor: 12.0-in x 8.8-in, 30.5 cm x 22.4 cm
- All Solid Capacitor design
OS - Microsoft® Windows® XP / XP Media Center / XP 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit compliant
Certifications - FCC, CE, WHQL

 

On the next page, we'll take a quick look at the BIOS before we jump into overclocking.


K10N750SLI-WiFi BIOS:

The motherboard BIOS is probably one of the most boring areas to look at if you're not an overclocker or enthusiast.  Mainstream users will probably want to skip down to the overclocking section to see how easy it is to tweak and overclock this board.  For you hardcore users, check out the BIOS screenshots below.

Before we get into the interesting settings for tweaking, I thought I'd mention that this ASRock motherboard has several different boot screens for you to enjoy.  Yes, I said "enjoy".  Most of the time, a boot screen is lame, but I rather enjoy looking at the following boot screen instead of the standard issue ASRock one.

Boot Screen
Boot Screen

BIOS Main Screen
BIOS Main Screen
 BIOS Advanced Options
BIOS Advanced Options
   
 BIOS Advanced CPU
BIOS Advanced CPU
 BIOS Advanced Memory
BIOS Advanced Memory

 

In terms of tweaking, the CPU Frequency is adjustable from 150MHz to 500MHz in 1MHz increments and the PCIe Frequency is adjustable from 75MHz to 200MHz in 1MHz increments as well.  If you have an unlocked CPU, you can adjust the CPU Multiplier in 0.5x increments all the way from 5.0x to 25.0x.

 BIOS Advanced Chipset
BIOS Advanced Chipset
 BIOS HW Monitor
BIOS HW Monitor
BIOS Boot Options
BIOS Boot Options

 

For a mainstream board, the ASRock K10N750SLI-WiFi has a lot of voltage adjustments and some pretty extreme ones at that.  CPU voltage is adjustable from 0.8 to 1.7125v in 0.125 increments and DRAM voltage can be adjusted from 1.8v to 2.7v in 0.05v increments.  Both chipset and HT voltages are also adjustable in 0.05v increments and can be tweaked from 1.1v-1.25v and 1.2v-1.35v respectively.

 

Overclocking:

With all the adjustments that we just covered, I actually had some hope in this board when it came to overclocking.  Undoubtedly, the thing that will hold is back is an AMD processor.  For this review we used the 5000+ Black Edition in order to play around with multiplier and FSB adjustments.  In the end we were able to run stable at slightly over 3.2GHz no matter if we raised the multiplier and kept the FSB somewhat stable.  The maximum FSB we reached was 255MHz without immediately crashing, but the fastest stable FSB we reached was 251MHz.  For our overclocking results on the following page we opted for 246x13= 3198 which was reported as 3203MHz (246.6MHz actually).  That's not a record for a 2.6GHz AMD processor, but we didn't expect to hit much higher at all.  3.2GHz seems to be a pretty popular ceiling.

ASRock includes a nice little overclocking tool called "OC Tuner" and it works very well.  We used this utility to do some Windows based overclocking then tried to do better by going into the BIOS and fine tuning some settings.  In the end, the software utility worked just as well as the old fashioned way and we weren't able to achieve a stable overclock any higher through the BIOS.

OCTuner Main
OC Tuner Main

 

Below are more images of different settings and capabilities of the OC Tuner program.  Voltage, CPU Multiplier and FSB adjustments can all be made with this simple little piece of software.  Thankfully, it supports Vista x64.

 OC Tuner Monitor
OC Tuner Monitor
OC Tuner OC
OC Tuner OC
   
 OC Tuner Stable OC
OC Tuner Stable OC
 OC Tuner Voltage
OC Tuner Voltage

 

On the next page we'll jump into testing now that we know a lot about this board.


Test Setup:

The last AM2 motherboard we looked at specifically was the Foxconn C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H board and that was back in December of 2006.  While we have looked at some other AM2+ motherboards since - in articles like the AMD Phenom review that featured AMDs Spider platform, this is the first AM2+ board we've reviewed and therefore don't have any current reference data.  As such we are starting fresh and we already have other AM2+ boards in queue and will compare those to the K10N750SLI-WiFi.  Below are the test system specs.

 

Subsystem Tests - HDD:

We start off the subsystem testing with some HDD tests.  During the review I had a 250GB Samsung HDD die on me so I had to start fresh and all I had extra was an older 120GB Hitachi SATA HDD.  The following tests no doubt show the limitation of the HDD - not the motherboard, but the results are still pretty good.

ATTO
ATTO
 HDTach
HDTach

 

ATTO showed that the drive capped out at a little better than 56MB read and 55MB Write.  HDTach shows a similar result as the drive starts out over 60MB/sec at the start and manages to average 49.2MB/sec.  CPU utilization is absolutely nil and this shows that the HDD controller is working efficient.

 



Subsystem Tests - Audio:

ASRock claims that their HD Audio is capable of 110db dynamic range through the ALC890 codec.  We fired up the RightMark Audio Analyzer and took it for a spin.

We tested a few different bit and sampling rates and have posted the chart below for your viewing pleasure.

 RMAA Results
RMAA Results
RMAA Chart
RMAA Chart

   

While it clearly falls shot of 110db Dynamic range, it is a lot better quality than the audio from the Intel Q35 mATX motherboard.

 

Subsystem Tests - Network:

One area that we have started testing is network performance.  It is easy for a company to claim great networking features as many users never test them out and are puzzled when they can only transfer files at a mere 250Mbit/sec on their 1000Mbit/sec NIC.  We use iperf for testing network performance and on this board we tested out both wired and wireless performance.

The K10N750SLI-WiFi comes bundled with an 802.11b/g adapter that plugs directly into a motherboard header.  The nifty thing about this feature is the included software and the 1-click ability to set up the motherboard as either a wireless client or a wireless access point.

 Network Access Point
Network Access Point
Network Monitor
Network Monitor

 

In iPerf, we ran single threaded tests as well as a multi-threaded network test that used five streams at the same time.  Multi-threaded performance always looks better and shows how the network system will hold up when accessed from multiple machines at the same time.  Single thread performance shows client-to-client file sharing performance.

 iperf

CPU load averaged 18% when running the wired tests and 10% when running the wireless tests.  CPU load is quite acceptable considering the high bandwidth that the ASRock K10N750SLI-WiFi network is capable of.  The wired performance is the best we've ever seen and the wireless performance falls on-par with what we've come to expect from 802.11g device.  It is about 37% of theoretical performance.

On the next page, we'll run some performance benchmarks and see how this board rounds out.


PCMark Performance:

To start things off we'll take a look at a couple of CPU-Z screenshots before we look at the PCMark Vantage numbers.  An interesting thing to note is that the K10N750SLI-WiFi clocks up the CPU to 203x13=2639MHz in order to squeeze some extra performance out of the system without the user knowing it.  This is kind of a cheap way to edge out similar products so for our testing, we set the FSB manually to 200MHz for stock performance testing.

 CPU-Z CPU
CPU-Z CPU
CPU-Z Mainboard
CPU-Z Mainboard

 

We only used stock performance results for the PCMark Vantage test.  This will be compared to other motherboards in the future as a reference point.

PCMark
(Click for larger chart)

 

To gauge memory performance on the K10N750SLI-WiFi we used Everest Ultimate.  For this test we used both stock and overclocked numbers and tried to keep the memory as close to DDR2-800 as possible.

 

Everest
(Click for larger chart)

 

Finally we take a look at PM Core - a program that calculates prime numbers.  This program multi-threaded and we used it to calculate 10,000 prime numbers.  The results below are in minutes:seconds.tenths.

 PMCore
(Click for larger chart)

 

On the next page, we'll take a look at some gaming performance then some real-world applications.


Gaming Performance:

We begin our gaming performance section with the new 3DMark Vantage.  While many will argue that this is not indicative of real-world performance, it is a simple and effective way to compare similar systems to judge how tweaking, drivers and different hardware can affect your performance.  This benchmark is effective at producing consistent results as it is scripted and 100% repeatable.  Once again we show stock 2.6GHz scores with overclocked 3.2GHz scores.

 3DMark Performance Stock
3DMark Performance Stock
 3DMark Performance OC
3DMark Performance OC

 

Overclocking the CPU brought the 3DMark overall score up a mere 218 points, but brought the CPU component up by 828 points.  In reality, games will be GPU limited - even at 2.6GHz rather than CPU limited.

 

Because we only have a single 8800GT in this machine we only ran a couple of game benchmarks - and those at stock speeds.  The GPU is the limiting factor here; especially in Crysis.  Crysis was ran at medium detail with no AA while CoD4 was ran at 1680x1050 at high detail and with 2x AA.

Gameplay Performance
(Click for larger chart)

 

Real-World Performance:

We wrap up with a look at video decoding (watching) and encoding.  We've used several HD Video clips at 1080p and 720p on both WMVHD and Quicktime H.264.  The faster CPU on this system, combined with the 750a chipset that features the GeForce 8200 GPU (although no connector present) provides pretty attractive CPU load numbers and the system easily handles HD Video without so much as breaking a sweat.

HDVideo
(Click for larger chart)

 

To encode video we used DVDShrink 3.2 and ConvertXtoDVD.  DVDShrink development has ceased a long time ago, but this program is still very fast and is multi-threaded.  ConvertXtoDVD takes your favorite video files and converts them to a DVD format.  This program is also multi-threaded.  We show both stock and overclocked performance below.

Video Conversion
(Click for larger chart)

 

Final Thoughts and Conclusion:

The ASRock K10N750SLI-WiFi motherboard has a long list of features that should put it in the "Premium" market segment.  It comes equipped with SLI (albeit at 8x/slot), GB Ethernet, 8-channel audio, firewire, eSATA, six additional SATA channels, 12 USB2.0 ports and 802.11b/g WiFi.  It does all of this for under $140 currently - much less than a comparable motherboard from another company.  The K10N750SLI-WiFi also proves to be a decent overclocker and has a lot of adjustments, voltage settings and performance tweaks to keep your system on the bleeding edge.  The only downside to this is that current AMD processors are not as overclockable as they used to be.  Regardless, the board will be able to take you to the limit of your processor with ease.

 

All in all there is really nothing to complain about with this board.  If you're looking to build an affordable gaming system that can run SLI video cards, this board is certainly worth considering.

Pros:

  • Feature rich board
  • Good, clean layout
  • Overclocks well
  • Nice little software bundle
  • Blistering fast wired Ethernet
  • Built-in WiFi

 

Cons:

  • Intelligent Energy Saver doesn't work under Vista x64
  • RAM slots are close together 

BCCRating

Top Pick

 

I'd like to thank ASRock for sending over the K10N750SLI-WiFi for testing.  Make sure you go and post your feedback in the form at the "Comments" link below.