Demand for Sandy Bridge paraphernalia will be high—for almost a year now, the question has always been: Shall I upgrade from X to Y? One of the more popular responses, especially as Sandy Bridge has gotten closer, has been "wait until Sandy Bridge is released; it’s just around the corner." Therefore, each motherboard manufacturer will be trying their hardest to get attention by creating the best product line they can—with as many accessories at the lowest possible price. ASRock are, of course, no exception.

At release, ASRock will have several board on offer, ranging from micro-ATX H67 to top-line P67. The Extreme4 is our candidate today, and represents a standard product that people may actually buy when deciding which Sandy Bridge motherboard to get.

Visual Inspection

ASRock have produced a board in blue and black livery featuring a black PCB. The 8+2 phase power design sports additional heat sinks connected via a heatpipe. The socket itself is relatively empty, and ASRock have included mounting holes for socket 775 coolers as well as the socket 1155/1156 coolers. A few people will say this is a bad idea, as it weakens the board, it increases the tracing route length from RAM to CPU, or that some manufacturers will try to put traces between in the mounting holes. I have never had an issue with it, personally.

The SATA connectors are blue for SATA 3 Gb/s and white for SATA 6 Gb/s. Only two of these white connectors are applicable to RAID, so double check before setting this up. The power and reset buttons are located just below this, in usually what is the easiest spot for testing on an open bench, but not always the easiest spot when the board is inside a case. These buttons are also an issue when running dual GPUs with long PCB lengths—to the extent that the reset button is not useable.

Some people may wonder why new chipsets still have a floppy drive connector on the motherboard. The simple reason is that a lot of industrial hardware still calls for it, and it is cheaper to replace a PC than a piece of industrial equipment costing five or six digits. We will not be seeing the floppy drive connector go away in the near future. However, there is no IDE connector on this board.

The chipset cooler is quite small, and large GPUs will rest on it. If the GPU gets quite warm, or likewise the chipset, then these two components will transfer heat quite easily between them, possibly limiting overclocks. Power hungry 4870X2, GTX 480 and GTX 580 users take note! The PCIe slots are laid out ideally here, with a x1 slot at the top, and if all x16 slots are filled a PCI slot is still available. Certain manufacturers fail in their layout slot, but ASRock have used their brains, giving a tri-slot gap between the main GPU PCIe slots.

There are five fan headers on this board, two of them are labelled CPU and three are labelled chassis. Two of the chassis headers are located above the first PCIe x1 slot, right next to each other, and the other is between the 24-pin power connector and the SATA ports. I would have liked at least one of them to be on the bottom of the board—for wide cases that require a fan further down, this would be ideal.


The back panel is standard, with PS/2 connectors, SPDIF outputs, USB 2, USB 3, Firewire, gigabit Ethernet, and the audio panel. As I will state in most reviews, I always prefer dual Ethernet ports, however this motherboard only has one without utilizing a PCI card. One of ASRock’s marketing statements is their XFast USB technology, designed to increase throughput of their USB ports; we've seen it on a number of previous ASRock boards also. In pure synthetics, ASRock claims up to a 97% increase in USB 3.0 writing speed and a 360% increase in USB 2.0. We will test these in the benchmark suite.

Sandy Bridge: The New Era Board Features, In The Box, Software
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  • GTVic - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    On page 3 there is a BIOS version listed?
  • cmdrdredd - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    no SATA 6Gbps, only two 8x PCIe lanes not two 16x, and it's generally low end.
  • IanCutress - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    The PCIe bandwidth for P67 is double that of P55/X58, so an 8x here is equivalent to an old 16x. A lot of people gloss over this fact, similar to wondering why the 6xxx cards have less SPs than 5xxx counterparts - it's an architectural change.

  • drvelocity - Monday, January 3, 2011 - link

    Why was the ASUS p8p67 getting spanked so hard in the single GPU tests? Any insight on that?
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    Please stop stating that mouse use is something new. I could use the mouse in the BIOS setup of my Tyan 440BX motherboard in 1998.

    Also, you state that you prefer two ethernet ports but never explain why. Unless you're using the computer as a gateway, why do you need more than one?
  • IanCutress - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    We never state that using a mouse is something new. We state it's an improvement or a major benefit over the majority of previous BIOS implementations, especially in the last ten years of mainstream computing and to most consumers.

    In terms of dual Ethernet ports, there are many options:
    1) Link Aggregation
    2) Large format printers/plotters
    3) Various file/server systems require a second NIC for metadata

    It's true 99.99% of people won't need it, but for the low price of the chip, it's not too much to ask. Ideally, we'd want the Intel NIC every time - it's more configurable.

  • Spivonious - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    "Major benefits include a graphical interface, the ability to use a mouse..."

    Maybe you didn't mean to, but it definitely implies that these things are new with UEFI.

    1) Gigabit switches are under $30. The average broadband connection is well under 100Mbps. There is also very limited support for link aggregation in consumer-level products.

    2) Yeah, let me pull that one out of the closet. Again, P67 is targeted at home users.

    3) Can you name a few? And again, the average home user might have a simple file/media server.

    I would be surprised if the next X series boards don't feature dual ethernet ports, but to mention it more than once on a board targeted towards the midrange is more than a bit silly.
  • IanCutress - Saturday, January 8, 2011 - link

    P67 may be targeted at home users, but industry will look at it as well as a viable option, regardless of where it's targeted. It's easy to get roped into a home-users own little world when that's the only thing that maybe important to you. As a reviewer, it's important not to overlook that fact.

    The point we make is that it is easy enough for a manufacturer to increase the range of appeal of the hardware, by adding a small hardware element for which there is space. If you read through recent Anandtech motherboard reviews, there is a trend for industry level readers to take note of various products we review and add comments on the benefits/drawbacks certain products have for their line of industry, regardless of where the board is actually aimed for. This is why we cover things like dual Ethernet in reviews.

  • mapesdhs - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    I could use a mouse for my SGI's equivalent setup in 1992. :D

  • ibudic1 - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - link

    Thank you for posting your benchmark. We do 3D rendering, and some 3D computation (planned), and your benchmark makes sense for us.

    If I were to produce a benchmark for you to test would you be interested?

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