Motherboards based on the Intel B75 chipset are most ideal for building budget PCs using Intel processors that come in the socket 1155 package (including second and third generation Intel Core processors). The most affordable motherboards are those based on the Intel H61 chipset, which are still available. However, unlike the B75 chipset, H61 doesn’t natively support USB 3.0 ports, SATA 6Gb/s and PCIe 3.0. The price difference between boards based on the H61 and B75 chipsets being only around Rs 1,500, it makes complete sense opting for the latter.
ASRock is known for its motherboards that are good value for money, and its latest B75M is no different. Let’s find out what this budget-friendly board has to offer.
An absolute 'value for money' board for Ivy Bridge processors
Design and features
In order to keep the price low, most manufacturers implement the Intel B75 chipset in its simplest form. So, you get only the features supported by the chipset—four USB 3.0 ports, one SATA 6 Gb/s port, and so on. ASRock has gone a step further and included an additional SATA 6Gb/s controller that provides two additional ports in addition to the one supported natively by the chipset. These are placed in a tiny cluster (grey ports) below the power connector. The SATA 3Gb/s ports are placed at the bottom right corner. The SATA ports are convenient to access as they are located at the edge of the board, but routing the cables would have been more convenient had the ports been placed facing out sideways. At the bottom you’ll find a pair of USB 2.0 headers (supporting two ports each) and headers for Parallel and Serial ports. So, if you still use older peripherals that use legacy interfaces, you’re sorted. But you have to buy the rear panel brackets for Parallel and Serial ports separately, which shouldn’t be difficult to find.
The placement of the SATA ports could have been better
The combination of expansion slots provided is useful. You get two PCIe x16 slots, out of which the one at the bottom runs at x4; along with them comes support for CrossFireX. Between the two PCIe slots are a pair of PCI slots. Note that the slots are placed quite close to each other due to space constraint. So, if you use a dual-slot graphics card in the first PCIe x16 slot, you will have to forgo the PCI slot below it. Also note, while installing a graphics card in the first PCIe x16 slot, you have to take care that the retention clips of the RAM slots are closed so that they don’t get accidentally damaged; when open, the clips are almost in line with the PCIe x16 slot. The ASRock B75M supports up to 16GB of RAM via the two slots. The maximum supported memory speed is 1600MHz if you use an Ivy Bridge processor, whereas it is 1333MHz if you use a Sandy Bridge processor.
The rear I/O panel has a good selection of ports. You get separate PS/2 ports for the keyboard and mouse, three kinds of video outputs (D-sub, DVI and HDMI), four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port and jacks for multi-channel audio (courtesy Realtek ALC662 chip).
A good selection of ports on the rear panel
Except for the placement of the SATA ports that we mentioned earlier, the layout of the board is excellent. There’s ample clearance around the CPU socket, which should make it easy to install large coolers. Another good thing is the use of all-solid capacitors all over the board.
Test rig configuration
Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K
Memory: 8GB G. Skill RipjawsX DDR3-2133
Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6870
SSD: Plextor PX-256M2S
Power supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold, 800W
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit
Given the same set of hardware, the scores delivered by this motherboard and a Z77 motherboard with default settings would be very close. Our test rig logged 4136 and 4420 points in PCMark 7 and 3DMark 11, respectively. It took 26 seconds to transcode a 1 minute MPG video to H.264 format and 30 seconds to compress 100MB of assorted files to 7.zip format using the ‘Ultra’ preset. The gaming performance was very good, which makes this board a good option for building a budget gaming PC. At 1920 x 1080 with ‘very high’ quality, Crysis Warhead and Mafia II reported 36 fps and 51 fps, respectively.
Verdict and price in India
At Rs 4,499, the ASRock B75M is priced at par with the Gigabyte B75M-D3H, which is currently retailing for slightly less than Rs 4,500. The feature set of both the motherboards are quite similar, except that the one by Gigabyte has four RAM slots, a header for USB 3.0 and dual-BIOS. The only advantage of the ASRock B75M is the provision of two extra SATA 6Gb/s ports. Both the boards are good value for money, but we suggest you base your buying decision on your requirements.
Updated 20 Jun, 2013, 9:08 am IST
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