ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD mATX

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Product: ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD mATX Motherboard
Provided By: ASRock
Price:


Introduction:

The last mATX board we looked at for the Intel LGA775 platform was the Intel DQ35JO Desktop Board.  This board was a "cheapy" that offered basic functionality for a motherboard, but was a little lean on extra features and performance.  Today we are looking at a board from ASRock that is based on the newer G43 chipset.  We've got a review of the G43 Twins-FullHD motherboard and this one is future-friendly thanks to a better integrated GPU as well as support for the upcoming DisplayPort technology.  When you combine that with the newly released "Instant Boot" technology, you've got a board that boots fast, works well and should work for a long time.  Make sure you keep on reading for all the details.

The G43 Chipset from Intel is not their powerhouse or flagship chipset.  It is a low-power, mainstream performance chipset that does support DDR2 and DDR3 on the LGA775 platform and also brings some multimedia performance to the table.  The way ASRock has implemented this chipset shows that they are thinking about the users of today and tomorrow on both mainstream and HTPC computers.

 G43 Box
G43 Box

 

Bundle & First Look:

The ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD is a standard mATX board measuring 9.6" x 9.6".  Although the board measures quite small, the layout is pretty decent and there is plenty of room for vital components.  The board comes with four memory slots (2x DDR2 and 2x DDR3) and can support up to 8GB of DDR2 memory or 4GB of DDR3 memory.  The bundle that ASRock ships with this board is pretty inclusive and has almost everything you need to get a basic system up and running in short order.

 In The Box
In The Box
Bundle Of Goodies
Bundle Of Goodies

 

In addition to the standard SATA cables, Molex-to-SATA Power cables, Floppy cable, IDE Cable, I/O Shield, Manual and Driver CD, ASRock has also thrown in a small PCIe DisplayPort/DVI-D card to further enhance this board's capability.  DisplayPort is an interesting technology that aims to take over from DVI and HDMI on future computers and offers several technology advances over current display connection implementations.

 Display Port Card
Display Port Card
 Display Port Rear
Display Port Rear

 

The board layout is pretty standard for an mATX motherboard.  Things are a bit crowded in places and there is only a single PCIe 16x slot, but that is pretty much expected.  The CPU Socket area is pretty bare and should allow installation of almost every HSF on the market.  The Northbridge HSF may cause some issues with low-profile large HSFs, but should work find for over 90% of aftermarket HSFs on the market.  In addition to a single PCIe 16x slot, there is also a PCIe 1x slot as well as two PCI slots.  The Floppy drive connector is located at the bottom of the board while the IDE cable is located more conveniently on the front side of the board - just below the main 24-pin power connector.  At the bottom corner of the board is a collection of 6-SATA ports and in addition to the IDE connector, the board will support a total of 8 devices.  In addition to the 6 USB2.0 ports on the rear of the board, there is also support for 4 USB2.0 ports located on headers on the motherboard.



Board Layout
Board Layout

 

Along the rear I/O are standard PS/2 connections for keyboard and mouse.  As previously mentioned, there are 6 USB2.0 ports along the back as well as support for 8-channel audio.  On the motherboard are a lone VGA connector and an accompanying GB Ethernet port.  In order to get DVI and DisplayPort support, you will have to use the included card in the PCIe 16x slot.  This limits your options when it comes to quickly adding a gaming card while keeping DisplayPort on-board, but this would likely end up in major hardware and driver conflicts anyway.

Rear I/O Profile
Rear I/O Profile

 

On the next page we'll look more closely at the board before we jump into the specifications and features.


Closer Look:

The ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD packs quite a few features into such a small package.  The heart of this board is the newer G43 Northbridge chipset as well as the ICH10 Southbridge.  This chipset provides the board with integrated graphics in the flavor of GMA4500.  Video out on this board is taken care of by independent D-Sub VGA, DVI-D and DisplayPort connectors.  This means that you can hook up this motherboard to your favorite 30" LCD for a spacious desktop environment, while using a nice 27" display on the VGA adapter for a large "Extended Desktop" experience.

 CPU Socket
CPU Socket
DDR2 and DDR3
DDR2 and DDR3

 

As previously mentioned the CPU Socket area is pretty clear of obstructions and there are absolutely no issues with the stock cooler as well as most large after-market coolers.  The G43 Chipset HSF is quite close to the CPU socket, but many coolers go up instead of out and this shouldn't present any issues.  To the right of the CPU Socket are the four DDR2/DDR3 slots and even farther right is the main 24-pin power connector.

 

While this board has adequate video performance for watching movies and surfing the web, if you want to do any hardcore gaming on this little board you'll want to drop in a new graphics card.  Thankfully this is possible thanks to the presence of a PCIe 16x slot.  There are also a couple of PCI slots below the large PCIe 16x and a single PCIe slot just above the PCIe 16x slot.

 PCI Slots
PCI Slots

 

One of the downsides of this board is the jumper block that is located to the left of the Northbridge chipset.  These are required for selecting different CPU FSB frequencies, DDR frequencies and CPU-DDR ratios.  This takes me back to the days of the Slot 1 CPUs from Intel, but it seemed to provide decent stability for stock speeds.  This is no doubt required as a cost-savings measure as well as to more easily support DDR2 and DDR3.

 Jumper Block
Jumper Block

 

Chipset Cooling As you can see in the previous pictures, ASRock has opted to use a lot of electrolytic capacitors instead on the better solid-state capacitors that we've seen on many other ASRock boards in the past.  This saves ASRock a bunch of money based on a few cents savings per board.  Multiply that by thousands of motherboards and you've just saved the company a bunch of money.  The downside is that these capacitors aren't as reliable as solid state capacitors.  This disappoints me a bit as the build quality of other ASRock boards has been stellar, but this definitely cheapens things.  That being said, this board should cost under $70 and you can get everything for a song.

Chipset cooling is taken care of by a pair of passive heatsinks.  The G43 chipset as well as the ICH10 chipset are traditionally run pretty cool and the passive cooling should perform adequately and without any noise.

On the following page, we'll cover the features and specifications of this board before we take a peek at the BIOS and start testing.


 

Main Features:



G43Twins-FullHD
  1. LGA 775 for Intel® Core™ 2 Extreme / Core™ 2 Quad / Core™ 2 Duo / Pentium® Dual Core / Celeron® Dual Core / Celeron®, supporting Penryn Quad Core Yorkfield and Dual Core Wolfdale processors
  2. Solid Capacitor for CPU power
  3. Intel® G43 + ICH10 Chipsets
  • Supports FSB1333/1066/800MHz CPUs
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR3 1066/800 (2 x DIMM slots) with max. capacity up to 4GB and Dual Channel DDR2 1066(OC)/800/667 (2 x DIMM slots) with max. capacity up to 8GB
  • Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X4500, Pixel Shader 4.0, DirectX 10, Max. shared memory 352MB
  • 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (green @ x16 mode)
  • 6 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
  • PCIE Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
  • Three VGA Output options: D-Sub, DVI-D and DisplayPort with ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card
  • Supports HDCP function with ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card
  • Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback with ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card
  • 7.1 CH Windows® Vista™ Premium Level HD Audio (ALC888 Audio Codec)
  • 1 x WiFi/E header
  • Supports ASRock Instant Boot
  • Supports ASRock OC Tuner, I. O. T. (Intelligent Overclocking Technology)
  • Supports Smart BIOS, Energy Saving Design
  • Free Bundle: 1 x ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card
  • Windows® Vista™ Premium 2008 Logo Ready
  • ASRock GLAN_8CH I/O: 1 x VGA Port, 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
This model may not be sold worldwide. Please contact your local dealer for the availability of this model in your region.

Product Specifications
 General
CPU - LGA 775 for Intel® Core™ 2 Extreme / Core™ 2 Quad / Core™ 2 Duo / Pentium® Dual Core / Celeron® Dual Core / Celeron®, supporting Penryn Quad Core Yorkfield and Dual Core Wolfdale processors
- Supports FSB1333/1066/800 MHz
- Supports Hyper-Threading Technology
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
- Supports EM64T CPU
Chipset - Northbridge: Intel® G43
- Southbridge: Intel® ICH10
Memory - Dual Channel DDR3/DDR2 memory technology*
- 2 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 1066/800 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 4GB
**
- 2 x DDR2 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR2 1066(OC)/800/667 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 8GB
**

*DDR3 and DDR2 are supported separately.

**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
- Supports I. O. T. (Intelligent Overclocking Technology)
- Supports Smart BIOS, Energy Saving Design
 Audio, Video and Networking
Graphics - Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X4500
- Pixel Shader 4.0, DirectX 10
- Max. shared memory 352MB
- Three VGA Output options: D-Sub, DVI-D and DisplayPort with ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card
- Supports DVI-D and DisplayPort with ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card
- Supports HDCP function with ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback
* with ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card

*Minimum H/W requirement on 1080p playback:
Items Configurations
CPU Intel® E1200
VGA G43 onboard DX10 VGA
Memory DDR2 800 1GB x 2
OS Windows® Vista™ or Windows® Vista™ 64
Playback Software CyberLink PowerDVD8 with patch 1830U
* BIOS setup option PAVP Lite mode enabled.
Audio - 7.1 CH Windows® Vista™ Premium Level HD Audio (ALC888 Audio Codec)
LAN - PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111B/RTL8111C
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
 Expansion / Connectivity
Slots - 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (green @ x16 mode)
- 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
- 2 x PCI slots
Connector - 6 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
- 1 x ATA133 IDE connector (supports 2 x IDE devices)
- 1 x Floppy connector
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x COM port header
- CPU/Chassis FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 4 pin 12V 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 GLAN_8CH I/O
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x VGA Port
- 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port
- HD Audio Jack: Side Speaker / Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
 Other Features / Miscellaneous
Unique Feature - ASRock OC Tuner
- Instant Boot
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
Support CD - Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version)
Accessories - Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- Floppy/ATA 133 Cables
- 1 x SATA Data Cable (optional)
- 1 x SATA 1 to 1 Power Cable (optional)
- 1 x ASRock DVI_DisplayPort Card
Hardware Monitor - CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU Fan Tachometer
- Chassis Fan Tachometer
- CPU Quiet Fan
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore
Form Factor - Micro ATX Form Factor: 9.6-in x 9.6-in, 24.4 cm x 24.4 cm
- Solid Capacitor for CPU power
OS - Microsoft® Windows® 2000 / XP / XP 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit compliant
Certifications - FCC, CE, WHQL

 

On the next page we'll take a quick peek at the BIOS before we jump into testing.


ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD BIOS:

The motherboard BIOS is probably one of the most boring areas to look at if you're not an overclocker or enthusiast.  Even if you're an enthusiast, the BIOS on a mainstream board is generally devoid of tweaking features.  The ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD BIOS shows some promise in terms of overclocking, but as we'll see later, it doesn't actually deliver higher performance.  In the meantime, you hardcore users can check out the BIOS screenshots below.  This BIOS is pretty straightforward and we've only included a few of the BIOS screens that will be of interest.  Many sections like "Boot Order" have been left out as we simply can't handle that much excitement.  For now, the advanced bios settings will have to keep you happy - and tweaking your RAM, CPU and voltages until your heart's content.

 BIOS - Main
BIOS - Main


 

 BIOS - Advanced Menu
BIOS - Advanced Menu
BIOS - DRAM Settings
BIOS - DRAM Settings
   
 BIOS - Advanced Chipset
BIOS - Advanced Chipset
 BIOS - Advanced Setup
BIOS - Advanced Setup

 

In terms of tweaking, the CPU Frequency is adjustable from 100MHz to 800MHz in 1MHz increments and the PCIe Frequency is adjustable from 50MHz to 150MHz in 1MHz increments as well.  If you have an unlocked CPU, you can adjust the CPU Multiplier in 1x increments all the way from 6x to Unlimited.  CPU voltage can be adjusted from 0.81875v to 1.6v.  The voltages of both the Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets are adjustable in "Low, Medium, High and Highest" as well as "Auto".  DDR2 voltage can be adjusted from 1.8v to 2.73v and DDR3 voltage is adjustable from 1.5v to 2.2v.  All of this shapes up to offer a bit of promise for our test setup.

 BIOS - HW Monitor
BIOS - HW Monitor
 BIOS - Multiple Profiles
BIOS - Multiple Profiles

 

Basic hardware monitoring is present as well as support for saving BIOS setting to different profiles.  This is a nice touch if you've found settings that improve performance and want to be able to quickly choose some stock setting as well. Nothing too exciting in these last two screenshots so we'll carry on to overclocking.

 

Overclocking:

With all the adjustments that we just covered, I actually had some hope in this board when it came to overclocking.  We even used a QX6850 processor that has quite a bit of headroom for overclocking.  In Windows, I tried in vain to use ASRocks OC Tuner program.  Every time I tried to apply FSB settings about the 333FSB that the QX6850 runs at, the machine would lock up.  I tweaked voltages, RAM timings and switched the jumper blocks around in order to get some better settings and nothing worked in Windows.  Not to be easily defeated, I jumped into the BIOS to try out some BIOS level overclocking - which generally yields the best results in both performance and stability.  No matter what I did, I could not get the board to boot over 340FSB and even at that, results were unstable.  After about another hour of trying and many CMOS resets, I gave up.  With the QX6850 in the socket, this board is not overclockable at all.  Perhaps with a 266FSB or 200FSB processor your results will be different.

On the next page we'll cover some preliminary subsystem tests before we really jump into benchmarking.



Subsystem Testing - Instant Boot:

A few weeks ago - and much later than the initial release of this motherboard, ASRock launched their "Instant Boot" technology.   Instant Boot promises to start your PC in the "blink of an eye".  While some people may complain that it doesn't technically boot your computer from an "off" state, it does make your computer turn on very fast - much faster, safer and it allows the OS to be "Cleaner" than if you simply suspend or hibernate the system.  Make sure you check out all the details over here.

The only real downside to this technology is that it will only work on a single-user machine and the user cannot use a password.  You won't have a secure workstation, but it will boot faster and save the company money.

Instant Boot

 

Subsystem Tests - HDD:

We start off the subsystem testing with some HDD tests.  For the HDTach test below we used an older single SATA drive that we had kicking around.  The drive used is a 200GB Western Digital SATA unit that definitely shows its age, but it shows the same performance on this board as other boards - take that for what it's worth though as this is a synthetic benchmark.

HDTach
HDTach

 

Memory Performance: 

For testing out memory performance we used SiSoft Sandra 2009 as well as Everest Ultimate 4.0.  Grab your copy of SiSoft Sandra 2009 here.  You'll have to keep in mind that we are using a 4GB kit of DDR2-800 that has relatively slow timings of 5-5-5-15 as well as a 4GB kit of DDR3 at 1066MHz running at 5-5-5-15 as well.  Even though the DDR3 was capable of 1333MHz, the board limits DDR3 to 1066MHz.  Tighter memory would provide better benchmark scores, but a solid kit of 4GB memory is fantastic for a HTPC running a 64-bit OS.

Memory Chart

 

Subsystem Tests - Audio:

ASRock claims that some of their motherboards have HD Audio that is capable of 110db dynamic range through the ALC890 codec.  You can find our results of those boards here.  The ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD doesn't make those claims however, so we expected it to have slightly poorer audio quality.  The truth is that most people won't hear the difference when plugged into a $50 pair of speakers or headphones, but for those of you that care about audio quality on the integrated audio, RightMark Audio Analyzer results are below.  We tested a few different bit and sampling rates and have posted the chart below for your viewing pleasure.

RMAA

The last ASRock board I looked at was the A770 Crossfire and that board had slightly better audio quality than this board all around.  Take a look at this page for the comparison.

 

 

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.

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 Chart
iPerf Chart

 

Please keep in mind that the network performance numbers indicate maximum throughput that the networking hardware is capable of.  In reality, you won't see these numbers due to Operating System overhead, CPU and even Hard Disk Drive limitations.  The truth is though; the G43 Twins-FullHD has pretty decent multi-thread performance but is the slowest single thread performer we've seen when it comes to network throughput.

CPU load averaged 14% when running the wired tests.  CPU load is quite acceptable when using a fast CPU, but a slower CPU such as an E4300 may suffer higher CPU load and slow the system even further.

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


Test Setup:

We've been using Windows Vista for our software platform for a while now and while we've had some issues in the past, these seem to have been resolved since SP1.  While Vista is still a slower OS due to higher overhead, it is here to stay and we'll continue to use it as it is the only option for DX10 game testing.  ASRock has claimed full support for Vista and the Intel G43 chipset actually supports DX10 and Pixel Shader 4.0 so we thought we find out how full their support really is.  This board has been rock solid at stock speeds.  Below is the test setup as it stands for this review.

  • Intel Core 2 Duo QX6850 CPU @ 3.0GHz (Stock)
  • 4GB Crucial PC2-6400 (DDR2-800 @ 5-5-5-15) - Crucial
  • Also tested 4GB Crucial DDR3-1333 kit (review pending)
  • Samsung 245BW 1920x1200 LCD
  • ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD Motherboard - ASRock
  • Western Digital WD2000JB 200GB SATA HDD.
  • LG 18x SATA DVDRW
  • Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit SP1 w/ all updates

 


GPU-Z

Our goal was to if the ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD could be a capable HTPC motherboard so we ran some benchmarks in that regard.  One of the main tests we ran was CPU load when playing back HD-Video content.  We also fired up a few games on the GMA X4500 to see if it had enough power to actually play anything.  The results are below.

HD - CPU Usage
HD - CPU Usage

 

 

HD Video Playback:

We've seen some pretty interesting results when it comes to HD Video playback over the past year or so.  Some graphics cards do the processing which frees up the CPU for other tasks.  Even systems with fast CPUs can bog down if the video card or chipset doesn't help processing the video.  We ran several Windows WMV-HD videos at 720p and 1080p as well as a Quicktime HD 720p video to find out how the ASRock G43 would operate as a HTPC without an additional graphics card installed.  Results are shown below from the Intel DQ35JO running a mere E4300 CPU.  For this review we didn't have the same CPU handy and in fact have a powerhouse in the QX6850 so the comparison below is shown merely for reference.

 HD Video Chart

 

The fast CPU makes the biggest difference on the CPU load, but the system never exceeds 14% CPU load - even when running 1080p HD video.

On the last page we'll take a quick look at gaming performance on the GMA X4500 chipset before we draw some conclusions.


 

 

Gaming Performance:

To keep things straight up we tested a few games using only the Intel GMA X4500 DX10 chipset.  Even though the chipset supports DX10 features, it can't be used to play any major DX10 titles at a decent resolution or detail.  That being said, it did impress me as far as how well it was able to play older games.  We ran some Call of Duty 4, Counter Strike 1.6 and Unreal Tournament 2004.  I'm sure that it has enough horsepower to play CS:Source, but we ran into issues trying to play any Source-based games through Steam.  The games would launch, then crash to desktop as Steam warned that the GPU hardware was not recognized.  Hopefully a driver update in the future resolves this issue.

Gaming Chart

 

Final Thoughts:

Intel-based mATX motherboards have a reputation of being solid performers and from what we've seen on the ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD, this board is no exception.  Performance is good and the board is rock solid throughout stock testing.  It has a nice layout, adequate cooling and runs virtually silent with the stock cooler.  HD Video playback works very well using the integrated video and thanks to the DisplayPort, DVI-D and D-Sub out, you can hook your favorite HDTV and a computer monitor to this at the same time for some extra fun.  The DisplayPort extends this motherboards life and as long as the electrolytic capacitors hold out, you'll be in good shape for a few years.


6 USB2.0 ports on the back are quite nice and coupled with the 8-channel audio, multiple video outputs and GB Ethernet, the ASRock G43 Twins-FullHD is quite a well rounded budget package.  I would have liked to see an eSATA or Firewire port on this board as well in order to increase the flexibility and performance of external storage.  Overall, this board is enough to get you by, but isn't really that exciting.  Combined with the fact that jumper adjustment is required for CPU/memory combinations and our overclocking results were zilch, I'm left feeling a little disappointed.  A couple of redeeming features are DDR2/DDR3 support and the DisplayPort.  It is one of the few boards that support DisplayPort and if this is in your future, it may be worth considering.

 

Pros:

  • Well-laid out mATX motherboard
  • 6 SATA ports + 1 IDE port
  • DDR2 and DDR3 support
  • DX10 capable GMA X4500 integrated video
  • DisplayPort
  • Very affordable - expected price ~ $70

 

Cons:

  • DDR3 support to 1066MHz only
  • No eSATA or Firewire
  • If DisplayPort card is used PCIe 16x is unavailable
  • Largely electrolytic capacitors

 

BCCRating

 

I'd like to thank ASRock for sending over this little board for us to review.  If you're looking for a no-frills board this may be a worthy choice, but if you want to do some tweaking and have some faster external storage available, there are better choices around.  That being said, it's one of the few boards that come equipped with DisplayPort and that may be the feature you're looking for.

Please post your comments and questions in the forum at the "Comments" link below.