A Closer Look
“Look Ma…No Northbridge!” The lack of a NB on this board does look rather strange, but nice, it leaves room for other stuff. The board is laid out very nicely with all connectors save a few fan buses around the perimeter. ASRock used a black PCB rather than their usual blue one.
The P55 Deluxe has one serious power supply section. I don’t think that I have ever seen this many ferrite chokes on a motherboard. All is cooled by a nice heatpipe cooler. Part of the reason is ASRock’s V-16 Power Phase Design. 16 phases of regulation makes for the cleanest power you will find, adding stability and long life to the CPU, and creating the best power environment possible for overclocking.
The lack of a Northbridge allows for the CPU to be located more towards the center of the motherboard. I suppose that doesn’t make a lot of difference, but it does make building easier. ASRock took advantage of some of that space to put an extra fan power connector next to the CPU_fan connector.
Intel designed a new CPU bracket for the LGA 1156. The locking lever is shaped differently, and the locking mechanism has been completely changed.
As did ASRock’s X58 motherboards, the P55 Deluxe has two sets of CPU cooler holes so you can use either coolers designed for LGA 1156 or LGA 775. Very thoughtful. I can’t say as much about Intel’s decision to use different hole patterns for LGA 775, LGA 1156, and LGA 1366.
The P55 deluxe has three PCI-E x16 slots, and supports SLI and CrossfireX. As allowed by the P55 chipset, a single video card runs at x16, a pair runs at x8 + x8, and running three cards is x8 + x8 + x4. It also has one PCI-E x1 slot (any of the x16 slots can also be used as an x1 slot), and three traditional PCI slots.
As you can see, all of the connectors are along the perimeter. There is a COM1 port and a floppy port. There is also a pair of fan connectors on the bottom of the board, one of them is a 4-pin PWM. There is a total of 5 fan connectors on this motherboard, as many as I have seen on a upper-end board. One of the few complaints that I have ever had about ASRock boards is not enough fan connectors, but that is not a problem here.
The SB cooler is pretty interesting. I suppose the larger cooler is needed with the addition of the I/O hub being located there. There are three internal USB ports allowing for six chassis USB ports or other USB devices. Lots of nice motherboards only have two.
The board has a digital POST readout, using Dr. Debug for coding. I haven’t used these much, but they came in handy every time I needed them. Actually I used one the other day on another ASRock motherboard. The codes are in the motherboard manual. The CCMOS jumper is in a very accessible location, but it is pretty unlikely you will need it.
There are six SATA 2.0 ports that face the front of the case, and immediately above that is the IDE connector.
The motherboard supports up to 16 gigs of DDR3-2600 memory. That’s right, DDR3-2600! I have yet to see any over DDR3-2200, but I suppose that the higher number is coming. Of course the processor has to be overclocked to get a memory speed that high, actually you must overclock to get anything over DDR3-1600, as limited by the P55 chipset and i7 processor.
The P55 Deluxe has onboard “smart” switches, both I/O and Reset. The last few ASRock boards I’ve reviewed has them, I suppose that they are now an ASRock mainstay. I find myself using them more and more during building and testing.
There is definitely a complete I/O panel here. There are PS/2 kb and mouse ports, optical and coaxial S/PDIF, 7 regular USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394, and HD Audio. Unlike most ASRock motherboards, this one has a pair of LAN ports. There is also a combination powered eSATAII/PoweredUSB port. Finally, there is a lighted CCMOS button. You probably won’t use this button unless you overclock your memory beyond the max, ASRock B.F.G. (Boot Failure Guard) is a crash-free BIOS that works very well. But I have yet to find a crash-free BIOS that works when your memory timings are too tight for the rig to POST.
There is an interesting bundle here. Besides the typical I/O shield, ribbon cables, and SATA power adapters, along with ASRock’s excellent locking SATA cables, and an S/PDIF audio cable for geForce video cards….
….ASRock throws in a couple of other items, an SLI bridge and an SATA3 expansion card. SATA3 is a 6 Gbit/s SATA standard that is in its infancy. Of course most mechanical hard drives have a hard time saturating the original SATA’s 1.5 Gbit/s bandwidth, but SSDs are coming close to saturating the SATA II 3 Gbit/s limit at 250MB/s net read speed. I don’t think that there are any SATA3 drives out there yet, so this addition is a little premature, but you’ve got it when the drives arrive on the market. And you also know that ASRock is working with it, which means we will see it on their motherboards.