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Now that we’ve had a look at the basic features of the chipset let’s start having a look at the features that are specific to this board from ASRock. This board features the 1366 socket for use with all of Intel’s i7 processors. This means that it’s fully Hyper-Threading capable and supports unlocked multipliers for overclocking. There are quite a few things that ASRock has added to this board to make it an even greater value that a standard X58 offering.
The first of these features is its expansion capabilities. This board features 2 full x16 PCI Express slots for use with either SLI or Crossfire. This is a great feature for those that want the ability to add a second graphics card. Being that they are both x16 means that they offer the full bandwidth that is available through the PCI Express slots. Many boards offer two or more x16 express slots but at a reduced bandwidth if you are using more than one slot. The third x16 PCI Express slot runs at x4 and therefore isn’t really suited for graphics. It’ll work great for a storage expansion or audio card.
This board also features a legacy IDE port for use with older IDE hard drives and optical drives. This is a nice feature to have but it’s beginning to get a bit dated. Most of the newer boards on the market have removed this feature from their boards. It would have been nice if instead of including this feature they added some more SATA connectors. The other problem with this is that there aren’t any Blu-Ray players or burners that use this interface. So in order to install a Blu-Ray player you’ll be taking up one of your SATA connectors. This might not be such a big deal for some but it is something to consider.
It comes with lots of rear I/O connectors that will make this board appealing for expansion. It has two legacy PS/2 ports as well as 5 USB 2.0 ports. There are also 2 USB 3.0 ports. This is nice to see on an X58 board. There is also a powered eSATA 3/USB 2.0 port for connecting external hard drives. One of the nicest features on the rear I/O is a clear CMOS switch. I would like to see this implemented more often on boards of this kind. You will also find the legacy audio ports as well as coaxial and SPDIF ports. With the RJ-45 LAN port and Firewire port this is a nicely populated rear I/O.
The Smart Switches on this board are a great feature for the enthusiast. On the board itself you’ll find a power and reset switch. As I mentioned above there is also a clear CMOS switch on the rear I/O. These are nice because it gives you the ability to make sure everything is running properly without having to hook up everything inside your case. This is also a great feature if you plan on using this on an open-air test bench. For the overclocker and enthusiast these are great features to have.
This board also features really good audio support through THX TruStudio Pro. This technology reproduces really good audio. Whether you’re listening to music or watching a movie the audio is going to sound really clear and immersive. To experience this properly I would suggest a really good set of surround speakers. With a decent headset this is also going to sound really good. Just remember though that this was made for speakers that can reproduce sound like a theater. Video games are also going to sound really realistic with this. Be prepared to be surprised by the audio quality.
Another really nice feature is that with this board you aren’t stuck having to use a strictly 1366 CPU cooler. This board has the mounting holes so that you can also use a 775 socket cooler if you choose. This is really nice for ASRock to have included this feature. This flexibility gives you the option to use your older 775 cooler that you’ve previously purchased. Some will find this very useful. A 775 cooler that you paid an arm and a leg for will get an extended life with this board. For those that have a water cooling system with an older 775 water block will also be really pleased with this feature. It will make upgrading a much easier and less costly task.