ASRock has been gaining ground in India and the company has been expanding its product portfolio steadily over the years. Today, we have its flagship H77 motherboard with us – the Pro4/MVP. This also happens to be one of the few boards out there with the Lucidlogix Virtu feature – all at a very affordable price. Let’s see how it fares.
Design and Layout
The Pro4/MVP is a full ATX motherboard and is not the most visually striking board you’ll come across. The CPU area is relatively free of capacitors and heatsinks, so you can easily install a larger third-party CPU cooler. We didn’t have much trouble installing our Thermaltake heatsink. There’s good amount of spacing between the RAM slots and the GPU, so it’s possible to swap out the RAM sticks without having to remove the card.
Good layout and design
You get a total of two PCIe x16 slots; however, only the main one is PCIe 3.0 while the other one runs at x4 speed. ASRock says CrossFire X is supported, but we wouldn’t recommend it as the second card will only run at x4 speed since the chipset isn’t designed for multiple cards. You also get a PCIe x1 slot and three PCI slots. What we really like about this arrangement is that there's clear space after the first graphics card slot, so even if you install a dual slot card, you don’t lose any of the other expansion slots. The rear ports include a PS2 keyboard port, six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, VGA, DVI and HDMI. There are also Gigabit LAN and multi-channel audio ports.
Expansion slots are laid out well
The board has a total of 8 SATA ports, two native SATA 6Gbps and two additional ports from an ASMedia controller. The ports aren’t facing outwards but instead facing upwards. This could be a problem if you have an expansion card installed, but mostly it shouldn’t be an issue since ASRock has grouped them towards the corner of the motherboard. The Pro4/MVP is a well-designed and laid out board with plenty of room to work with.
ASRock uses a 4+2 phase power design for the CPU and RAM. The H77 chipset uses the LGA 1155 socket, so it’s backwards compatible with Sandy Bridge CPUs too. The one feature that’s removed from the chipset is the ability to increase the multiplier from the BIOS for unlocked CPUs, so you can’t really overclock using this board. Video-out lets you easily make use of the onboard GPU in the CPU and the addition of Lucislogix’s Virtu MVP is a bit of a bonus as you can dynamically switch between the discrete and onboard GPU.
ASRock has bundled along a UEFI BIOS with the motherboard from AMI. The BIOS is easy to get around although the GUI itself is not as refined as what we’ve seen from the likes of Asus or MSI, but it gets the job done. You also get a whole bunch of utilities like Extreme Tuning, Instant Boot, Instant Flash, SmartView, XFast USB, XFast LAN, Crashless BIOS etc. One unique feature that we don’t see too often is a dehumidifier function, which is said to reduce the humidity of the system when activated in the BIOS.
Test rig configuration
- Processor: Intel Core i7-2600k
- Memory: G.Skill RipjawsX 8GB (4 GB x 2 @1866MHz)
- Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6870
- SSD: Plextor PX-256M2S
- Power supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit
Good number of ports
Before we began testing the board, we updated the BIOS to the latest version. The memory speed officially supported with a Sandy Bridge CPU installed is 1333MHz, but we used the memory’s XMP profile and ran it at full speed (1866MHz) in dual channel mode. We didn’t face any problems setting it up and the board ran stable throughout the tests. We got a score of 5081 points in PCMark 7 and 4485 points in 3DMark 11 (performance mode). The PCMark 7 score was slightly higher as compared to the same setup on the B75 chipset we tested a while back. It took 26 seconds to transcode a 1 minute MPG video H.264 format and Cinebench R11.5 reported 6.86 points, which is ideally what the Core i7-2600k should give at stock speed. At 1920 x 1080 with ‘Ultra’ preset and AA turned off, Crysis II and Unigine Heaven logged 36.7 fps and 820 points respectively, again slightly higher than the B75 chipset.
The overall performance of the ASRock H77 Pro4/MVP is very good and is close on the heels of other Z77 board in the market.
Verdict and Price in India
For Rs. 7,000, the ASRock H77 Pro4/MVP offers good value for money if you’re looking for an Intel solution and don’t want to bother with overclocking. The motherboard offers most of the features of the higher end Z77 boards but at a more affordable price.