ASRock P45X3 Deluxe Motherboard

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Product: ASRock P45X3 Deluxe Motherboard
Provided By: ASRock
Price: Find Lowest Price Online

 

Introduction:

While Core i7 and the upcoming Core i5 processor seem to be getting a lot of press, there is still a huge market for motherboards that people can actually afford.  The ASRock P45X3 Deluxe motherboard is one of the latest boards from ASRock for the Intel Core 2 platform that features DDR3 and some high-end features that make it worth looking at.  As is often the case with ASRock boards however, it has a few little annoyances as well.  You can't have everything for $110 though.  Let's see what you get for your money and if it is well spent on this motherboard.

 Mobo Box
Mobo Box
Mobo Box Contents
Mobo Box Contents

 

While ASRock brags on the "Deluxe" status of this board, once you open the box you find that there is nothing super deluxe with the bundle.  It is pretty standard for an ASRock board and includes SATA cables, IDE and Floppy cables as well as documentation, a driver CD and of course the rear I/O shield.  There are no extra USB or Firewire brackets included and while the motherboard includes a COM port, there is no 9-pin serial cable either.  This is not a big deal for most people at all but other "Deluxe" boards include these accessories.


 Included Bundle
Included Bundle

 

First Look at the Board:

The P45 chipset from Intel isn't anything too incredible, and the layout of the board is pretty standard as well.  As you can see below, ASRock has opted for extra cooling on the VRMs next to the CPU Socket.  Passive cooling is the name of the game on this board and the Northbridge (P45) and Southbridge (ICH10) chipsets are passively cooled.

Full Motherboard
Full Motherboard

 

A couple of interesting things worth noting before we move on are the power and reset switches located at the bottom corner of the board.  These have LED indicators adding to the slickness of this idea.  The right-angled SATA ports are a nice touch as well and ensure that you can install large graphics cards without interfering with your HDD and ODD cables.  The two PCIe 16x ports operate at 16x and 8x speed and can be used at 8x each when running CrossfireX.

Below the CrossfireX Switch-Card is a nice numeric display that shows error codes and helps you diagnose issues with your system.  This can be especially helpful when overclocking.  Other mentionable are onboard 7.1 audio, 8-phase voltage control for the CPU, as well as power-over-eSATA.  If you have a speedy OCZ eSATA flash drive, this board is one of the few non-X58 motherboards that will let you unleash that particular beast.

On the next page we'll take a closer look at the board before we take a look at the specs and features.

 

Closer Look:

Like many other motherboards, the P45X3 Deluxe from ASRock uses a completely passive cooling solution that seems to work very well.  If you plan on doing any extreme overclocking you will probably want to beef up the cooling - at the very least add a fan to create airflow over the heatsinks.  With that in mind, the cooling worked very well for us though and we were able to gain a FSB of 460 for some testing on this board.  435MHz FSB was rock solid - not bad for a passively cooled setup.  The heatsinks aren't very large and none of them get in the way of the CPU socket area or the graphics cards.

Cooling
Cooling

 

The rear I/O brings some of the "Deluxe" features that ASRock is claiming with this board.  The board still ships with legacy keyboard and mouse ports, but has a CMOS reset button just below those old PS/2 ports.  Moving down we see a pair of digital audio outputs in the flavors of SPIDF as well as Optical.  A nice touch on this motherboard is the nine USB2.0 ports on the back accompanied by a Power-Over-eSATA port and a single Firewire port.  These sit just above the GB Ethernet port and 8-channel audio block.  There should be something for just about everyone here.  If you need more USB ports than are included on the rear I/O you can get another four on the bottom of the board.

 Rear IO
Rear IO
 Bottom View
Bottom View

 

The spacing of the graphics card slots allows you to use a pair of graphics cards with very large coolers.  With two extra slots between the PCIe 16x slots, you've got a lot of options for aftermarket cooling - as long as your satisfied with blocking all other slots.  The DDR3 area is a little crowded and the slots are squeezed in pretty close to each other.  I had no issues using Crucial DDR3-1600 with heat spreaders in these slots.

 Slots
Slots
 DDR3 Slots
DDR3 Slots

 



The last thing that I'll mention before we jump into the specs and features of this board and chipsets, I thought I'd point out the six SATA ports that adorn the bottom right corner - as well as the Power and Reset buttons.  This isn't the most convenient place for the buttons, but they have come in handy when doing some preliminary testing.

SATA Ports
SATA Ports

 


Intel P45 Chipset Features:

P45The heart of the ASRock P45X3 Deluxe motherboard is of course the P45 Express chipset.  This chipset is made for the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad.  While the Core i7 and Core i5 processors are gaining popularity, I'm not sure how much longer the P45 chipset will be a viable option.  Below are some features and specifications of this chipset for the aging platform.

Desktop PC platforms based on the Intel® P45 Express Chipset, combined with either the Intel® Core™2 Quad processor or Intel® Core™2 Duo processor, drive performance and state-of-the-art technology to mainstream and performance platforms. The Intel® P45 Express Chipset supports the latest 45nm Intel® Core™2 processor family at 1333MHz FSB, dual-channel DDR3, Intel® Extreme Memory Profiles (Intel® XMP), dual PCI Express* 2.0 graphics and Intel® Extreme Tuning.

 

Intel P45 Express Chipset Block Diagram



1333/1066/800 MHz system bus Supports the Intel® Core™2 Duo and Intel® Core™2 Quad processors with Intel® Virtualization Technology◊1, and Intel® Celeron® processor.
PCI Express 2.0 interface The PCI Express 2.0 provides 16 GB/s bandwidth for platform graphics.
Intel® Fast Memory Access Updated Graphics Memory Controller Hub (GMCH) backbone architecture that improves system performance by optimizing the use of available memory bandwidth and reducing the latency of the memory accesses.
Dual-Channel DDR2 memory support Delivers up to 12.8 GB/s (DDR2 800 dual 6.4 GB/s) of bandwidth and 16 GB maximum supported memory size for faster system responsiveness and support of 64-bit computing.
Dual-Channel DDR3 memory support Delivers up to 17 GB/s (DDR3 1066 dual 8.5 GB/s) of bandwidth and 8 GB maximum supported memory size for faster system responsiveness and support of 64-bit computing.
Intel® Flex Memory Technology Facilitates easier upgrades by allowing different memory sizes to be populated and remain in dual-channel mode.
Intel® High Definition Audio
Integrated audio support enables premium digital surround sound and delivers advanced features such as multiple audio streams and jack re-tasking.
Intel® Matrix Storage Technology With additional hard drives added, provides quicker access to digital photo, video and data files with RAID 0, 5, and 10, and greater data protection against a hard disk drive failure with RAID 1, 5, and 10. Support for external SATA (eSATA) enables the full SATA interface speed outside the chassis, up to 3 Gb/s.
Intel® Rapid Recover Technology Intel's latest data protection technology provides a recovery point that can be used to quickly recover a system should a hard drive fail or if there is data corruption. The clone can also be mounted as a read-only volume to allow a user to recover individual files.
Intel® Remote Wake Technology Intel Remote Wake Technology allows users to remotely ‘wake up’ and access the home PC over the Internet while in energy efficient sleep mode. This unique feature enhances many existing usages such as remote media access, remote downloads, Instant Messaging, and receiving VOIP calls.
Intel® Turbo Memory Intel's innovative NAND cache designed to improve the responsiveness of applications, application load times, and system boot performance. Intel® Turbo Memory, paired with the Intel P45 Express Chipset, also allows the user to easily control the applications or data in the cache using the new Intel Turbo Memory Dashboard interface, boosting performance further.
Serial ATA (SATA) 3 Gb/s High-speed storage interface supports faster transfer rate for improved data access with up to 6 SATA ports.
eSATA SATA interface designed for use with external SATA devices. It provides a link for 3 Gb/s data speeds to eliminate bottlenecks found with current external storage solutions.
SATA port disable Enables individual SATA ports to be enabled or disabled as needed. This feature provides added protection of data by preventing malicious removal or insertion of data through SATA ports. Especially targeted for eSATA ports.
USB port disable Enables individual USB ports to be enabled or disabled as needed. This feature provides added protection of data by preventing malicious removal or insertion of data through USB ports.
Intel® Quiet System Technology Intelligent system fan speed control algorithms use operating temperature ranges more efficiently to reduce system noise by minimizing fan speed changes.

 



ASRock P45X3 Deluxe Features & Specs:

The highlights for this motherboard are posted below, for full specs and features please visit the product page here.

  • 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
  • ASRock DuraCap (2.5 x longer life time), 100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
  • Intel® P45 + ICH10 Chipsets
  • Advanced V8 Power Phase Design
  • Compatible with FSB2000/1600/1333/1066/800 MHz
  • Supports Dual Channel DDR3 1600/1333/1066/800, 4 x DIMM slots, Max. capacity up to 16GB
  • Supports ATI™ CrossFireX™
  • 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (blue @ x16 mode, orange @ x8 mode)
  • 6 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
  • 1 x Powered eSATAII/USB Connector
  • Supports 2 x IEEE1394 ports (one port on back panel, one header on board)
  • PCIE Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
  • Supports ASRock Instant Boot, Instant Flash
  • Supports Smart BIOS, ASRock OC Tuner, Intelligent Energy Saver
  • 7.1 CH Windows® Vista™ Premium Level HD Audio (ALC888 Audio Codec)
  • Windows® Vista™ Premium 2008 Logo Ready
  • I/O Panel: 1 x Coaxial SPDIF Out Port, 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port, 1 x IEEE 1394 Port, 7 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports, 1 x Powered eSATAII/USB Connector, 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED, 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED

 

ASRock P45X3 Deluxe 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 of the 1.10 BIOS below.  During testing, ASRock released the 1.20 BIOS, but it didn't apply to our particular test setup so we stuck with the 1.10 BIOS.  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

 

As you can see below, the "SMART" features of the BIOS include multiple profiles that allow for simple overclocking or power savings.  Also the Instant Flash utility allows you to quickly, easily and safely flash your BIOS when the file is located on a flash drive, floppy or even a CD.  The Advanced settings will be covered a bit more as we go on.

 BIOS - Smart
BIOS - Smart
 BIOS - Advanced
BIOS - Advanced

 

The Advanced CPU Configuration shows off the CPU clock frequency setting as well as PCIe frequency.  CPU Frequency can be set anywhere from 100MHz to 800MHz while PCIe is adjustable between 50MHz to 150MHz.  Other features shown here are CPU Thermal throttling, Virtualization and more.  Chipset settings include memory speed that can be selected from DDR3-800, DDR3-1066 and DDR3-1333 by default.  If you choose manual overclocking mode, you can select up to DDR3-1600, but that will require you to run at 400MHz FSB in order to run your RAM at that speed.

 BIOS - CPU Config
BIOS - CPU Config
 BIOS - Chipset
BIOS - Chipset

 

Voltage adjustments are as follows:

  • CPU - 0.81875v to 2.0v in 0.00625v increments.
  • DRAM - 1.561v to 2.429v in 0.014v increments.
  • GTLRef - 0.615 x Vtt to 0.67 x Vtt in ~0.02 increments.
  • NB - 1.11v to 2.21v in 0.02v increments.
  • NB GTL Ref. - Auto, Low, Normal
  • SB Core - 1.536v to 1.8v in 0.009 increments.
  • SB 1.1v - 1.11v to 1.51v in 0.02v increments.
  • VTT - 1.21v to 1.91v in 0.02v increments.
  • PLL - 1.5v to 2.78v in 0.02v increments.
 BIOS - IDE Config
BIOS - IDE Config
BIOS - HW Monitor
BIOS - HW Monitor
BIOS - Save
BIOS - Save

One of the nice features of this board is the ability to control fans based on temperatures as well as saving your BIOS tweaks to different profiles.  I've used the latter feature quite a bit as it allows me to select between a whole bunch of tweak settings without having to go through and figure you just what I was doing before I crashed something - which only happened once.

 

Overclocking:

This board was actually a pleasure to overclock and while we didn't break any records, you have to keep in mind that due to time constraints we didn't spend hours tweaking this board to perfection.  Out of the box, I was able to raise the FSB to 400MHz and get the CPU running at 3.6GHz at stock voltage.  My real concern though is how high we can run the bus speed as this is typically the limiting performance factor in LGA775 setups.

CPU-Z Stock
CPU-Z Stock
CPU-Z Mem
CPU-Z Mem
CPU-Z Mobo
CPU-Z Mobo

 

We did manage to boot and run a few benchmarks at 460MHz FSB x 8 = 3.68GHz, but we weren't rock stable until we backed the bus to 433MHz.  At this speed we were rock stable.

  Stable OC
Stable O/C

 

On the next page we'll start testing out the board and dive into the HDD, Audio and Network subsystems before we get into overall performance testing.

 

Test System Specs:

It's been so long since we did a Intel LGA775 motherboard review that we had to start fresh and don't have any current hardware to compare this setup with.  We are also using the RTM version of Windows 7 on this machine and this will become the main Operating System for many of our tests going forward.  Because of the dated hardware in other reviews, new operating system and a few other variables, we feel that this board will have to stand alone this time around.


Intel Core 2 Duo
CPU
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3.0GHz
Motherboard
ASRock P45X3 Deluxe
Memory
Graphics
Cooling
Hard Drives
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit
ATI Drivers
Catalyst 9.8 Drivers

 

Subsystem Tests - HDD:

We start off the subsystem testing with some HDD tests.  For the HDTach test below we are using the data from the Crucial 128GB MLC SSD.  This doesn't compare very well with other systems as this is one of the fastest SSDs on the market.  It does show however the capability of the motherboard.  With an average read speed of 221MB/sec, the board certainly can handle a fast drive.

HDTach


 

Subsystem Tests - Audio:

ASRock uses the ALC888 codec that is technically capable of 97dB signal-to-noise ratio. As you can see with all of the results below although the sound quality is labeled as "HD", you can see that the quality is not "high quality".  Even though it is capable of 192kHz audio, it doesn't do it that well.  The truth is that most people won't hear the difference when plugged into a $50 pair of speakers or $15 headphones, but for those of you that care about audio quality on the integrated audio, RightMark Audio Analyzer results are below.

 RMAA

 

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.

 

iPerf

 

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.  This board held up to the competition and provides very good transfer rates over the 10/100/1000b network.

On the next page we'll cover some synthetic benchmarks relating to system performance and memory before we jump into real world tests and gaming.

 

Synthetic Performance:

To start things off we'll take a look at PCMark Vantage numbers.  This system is pretty standard and is by all means a mainstream system.  The only edge it has over other systems is the speedy 128GB SSD.  We won't be comparing this setup to other systems, but we will be comparing stock and overclocked performance in a few tests.  Memory tests are taken at DDR3-1333 setting.

As you can see in PCMark Vantage below, the HDD performance is definitely the fastest part of the system.

PCMark Vantage

 

To gauge memory performance we used Everest Ultimate and SiSoft Sandra.  This memory is the same Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3 memory that we tested on the Core i7 platform.  It shows you how much difference there is between Core i7 and Core 2 Duo platform in terms of memory bandwidth.   If you want to compare your triple-channel DDR3 performance, you can head on over and grab SiSoft Sandra here and compare away.  Please keep in mind that if you are using a dual-channel kit, your performance numbers will look dismal.

 

Benchmarking - Everest & SiSoft:

There is a lot of system tweaking that goes along with clocking up memory to non-standard speeds and because of this we haven't included any "real-world" memory benchmarks.  In order to get the memory to run at speeds other than 1066MHz, 1333MHz, 1600MHz or 1866MHz the motherboard bus and CPU must be clocked up in order to achieve these speeds.  As we've shown before the CPU plays a huge roll in benchmark performance and so it's not fair to compare WinRAR compression when the CPU is clocked up 400MHz faster.  Of course the "RAM" will look faster, but in reality the CPU is the one doing the work.  For this reason we use two simply synthetic benchmarks to show memory performance.  How it affects performance in the real-world will depend largely on CPU, motherboard and other hardware bottlenecks so we have to be content with synthetic benchmarks to gain our number metric.  Both Everest and SiSoft performance is shown in the chart below.

 Memory
Memory

 

Memory timings were 7-7-7-21 1T at 1333MHz (Stock) and 8-8-8-24 1T at 1733MHz for the overclocked results.  the 400MHz bump in speed help overall bandwidth - even though the timings are slower.


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

 PMCore
PMCore

 

The Core 2 Duo E8400 and ASRock P45X3 Deluxe put up respectable numbers in this benchmark.  They certainly don't compete with a Core i7 system, but the entire system costs much less than half that of the Nehalem.

On the next page we'll carry on with some real-world application tests before we go gaming with this motherboard.

 

Cinebench and x.264:

It's no secret that 3D Rendering and modeling through programs like 3DStudioMax, Blender and others are very CPU intensive.  Of course with all the stream processors available in today's graphics cards, some of heavy workload is now being offloaded to the GPU, but a good 3D program can bring a system to its knees - especially when rendering lighting effects and very smooth models.  We've put Cinebench 9.5 as well as Cinebench R10 to the test and see how overclocking helps out and speeds up the process.  Both of these programs can be ran on a single core, or multiple cores to speed up the work process.

 Cinebench

 

Finally, we take a look at some video encoding through the x.264 and x.264HD benchmarks.  These programs are multi-threaded and take advantage of fast clock speeds, hyper threading, if available as well as a fast subsystem.  This system is not nearly as fast as an overclocked Core i7 920, but it still does much better than real-time on standard definition video and manages a little better than 25 FPS on HD video when overclocked - slightly better than real-time speeds of a 24FPS HD video.

x264

 

Gaming Performance:

The original Far Cry games blew us away with its high detailed graphics, incredible field of view as well as amazing water effects.  Far Cry 2 has left me feeling a little disappointed with its overall look as the game has a much grittier look and feel.  That being said, it is still a popular game and it includes a very handy benchmarking tool.  We ran a couple of resolutions with two detail settings to get a feel at how the CPU affects performance in the game.  Keep in mind that the game is being powered by a single HD4850 - par for the course with an E8400 processor.

 Gaming Performance

 

The other game we threw in was Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and both games were ran at 1280x720 at maximum image quality - they both looked very good on my TV.

 

Final Thoughts:

The ASRock P45X3 Deluxe is a good motherboard with a nice list of features that put it on the borderline of a true "Deluxe" motherboard in my opinion.  I love the diagnostic LED display on board as well as the power and reset buttons.  The overclocking recovery BIOS feature works well and if you're truly stuck, the CMOS reset button is located on the back I/O for your convenience.  Those features are certainly deluxe, but the Switch-Card for the PCIe slots is not so deluxe.  Also the lack of rear USB, Firewire and Serial brackets also detract from the Deluxe moniker.  In the end, for just over $100, it is pretty hard to beat and should be considered if you're building a Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad system.

 

Pros:

  • Good layout
  • 8-phase power regulation for the CPU
  • Excellent overclocking capability
  • Supports CrossfireX
  • Good passive cooling on critical components.
  • Onboard power, reset, post and CMOS reset buttons

 

Cons:

  • No rear brackets and poor accessories
  • No Crossfire bridges
  • Crossfire Switch card - still


 

  BCCRating

Silver Award

 

I'd like to thank ASRock for sending over this board for us to review.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.