ASRock A75 Pro4 AMD Socket FM1 Motherboard Review

Result and general impression

++++ The ASRock A75 Pro4/A/ASR motherboard has a price of approx. 75 Euro (11/2012) and is thus in the lower to middle price segment of the Socket FM1 motherboards.

AMD Socket FM2 Trinity APUs are already on sale, but Socket FM1 AMD Llano processors and motherboards are still well purchased. For this reason, we have again reviewed a socket FM1 ASRock A75 Pro4 motherboard, which we tested and overclocked with an AMD A8-3870K Black Edition APU. The FM1 motherboard is based on the AMD A75 chipset and offers four PCI Express slots, four USB3.0 ports, five SATA3 ports, one eSATA3 port, Gigabit LAN, 7.1 sound and much more.

In this cardboard box the ASRock A75 Pro4 FM1 motherboard is delivered:

The ASRock A75 Pro4 is well finished and has high-quality Solid Caps capacitors, V4+1 Power Phase Design up to 100W, 7-segment post code display, LED lighted Power, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons.

Here we can see among other things the two illuminated buttons and the 7-segment post code display:

Equipment and other features …

The A75 Pro4 motherboard from ASRock came with a manual, software setup guide, one DVD, four SATA data cables, 3.5 mm audio cable and ATX I/O shield.

Expansion cards …

The 2-Way CrossFireX motherboard offers two PCI Express 2.0 video card slots, whereby either one video card can operate with x16 band-width and one in x4 mode. A SLI/XFire switch card is not necessary to get the optimal performance for single or CrossFireX operation. If one like only use one video card on the A75 Pro4, one should insert the PCI Express video card into the PCIe2 slot, in order to get the fastest x16 bandwidth. Additionally to both PCI Express 2.0 slots there are two x1 PCIe 2.0 slots and three PCI slots.

Memory …

The ASRock A75 Pro4 can be equipped with up to four DDR3 modules and is expandable depending upon operating system used (see list) to maximally 32 GB memory.

Here you can see the four DDR3 sockets with Dual Channel support:

The Socket FM1 motherboard supports DDR3 memory modules and can be optimized in the BIOS for DDR3-800, DDR3-1066, DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600 and faster Dual Channel modules. DDR3-2400 or higher clock-rates are currently only possible with overclocking.

Hard disk drive connectors …

The A75 Pro4 offers no floppy connector and no IDE connectors for PATA-133 drives, but this A75 Pro4 board offers one straight and four bent SATA3 connectors (6 Gb/s) and an additional eSATA3 port at the I/O panel. The five S-ATA 3 ports supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, NCQ, AHCI and the Hot Plug function in AHCI mode (AHCI stands for Advanced Host Controller Interface and can be selected in the BIOS / UEFI BIOS). The UEFI BIOS support drives with more than 2TB for a Windows 7 x64 or Vista x64 installation.

The manual and the included DVD contains all basic information to manage a new installation of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 with SATA3 drives, and how to make a RAID installation. 32-Bit and 64-Bit drivers for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows7 are provided on the DVD and can be downloaded on the ASRock support page.

USB and Firewire …

The motherboard has two USB 3.0 connectors on the ATX-panel, two USB 2.0 connectors on the ATX panel and three internal USB 2.0 plugs for up to six optional USB ports. A special 20-pin connector for the optional USB3.0 frontpanel or for a PC chassis with 20-pole USB3 connector is not available. Hint: One should install the new ASRock XFast USB software to accelerate the USB transfer rate for USB drives clearly. Additionally, the board has one IEEE1394 Firewire port on the I/O panel and another optional internal IEEE1394 port.

Network …

The ASRock A75 Pro4 motherboard is provided with the Realtek RTL 8111E chip which offers a 10/100/1000 network connector on the I/O panel. The LAN connection is WoL capable, offers LAN cable detection and supports PXE and energy efficient 802.3az ethernet.

Serial and parallel port …

The motherboard does not provide a parallel port. A serial port is optionally available as internal onboard connector.

Sound …

The ASRock A75 Pro4 motherboard is equipped with the ALC892 audio codec with content protection, which supports 7.1 surround sound for example analog over 5x 3.5mm connectors on the ATX panel or over an internal audio connector.

For the digital output there is an internal HDMI SPDIF out connector available, to connect it for example with a SPDIF cable to a HDMI suited video card, in order to get the digital audio and video signal to a HDMI equipment like a HD-Ready LCD TV. Additionally it offers an optical digital SPDIF output, premium Blu-Ray audio support and THX TruStudio support. So most users do not need to buy an additional sound card with digital outputs.

Graphics …

The AMD A75 chipset offers in combination with a Llano processor a full integrated graphics solution with DX11 support. Depending upon processor used there is an AMD Radeon HD 65xx/64xx graphics unit, whereby the AMD A8-3870K CPU used in this test is equipped with the AMD Radeon HD6550D GPU.

The AMD HD6550D iGPU has already without overclocking a good performance. So the Graphics Unit of the AMD A8-3870K APU achieved in Windows 7 with 3DMark06 a benchmark score of 6181 3DMarks. In comparison an Intel HD Graphics Unit of the Intel Core i5-2500K CPU on an ASRock H77 Pro4/MVP achieved with 3DMark06 in Windows 7 a benchmark score of 4310 3DMarks. An AMD HD 4290 IGP of an AMD 890GX chipset achieved with an AMD Phenom II 710 X3 processor for example a score of 2204 points in 3DMark06 (tested with an ASRock 890GX Extreme4). Furthermore the integrated video processor supports DirectX 11, HDCP, Full HD 1080p and offers thanks to its onBoard HDMI connector and the low power consumption optimal conditions for a Home theatre PC. But more on that in the energy consumption comparison test below.

ATX backpanel connectors …

From left to right one can see 1x PS/2 connectors for PS/2 keyboard or PS/2 mouse and 2x USB 3.0, 15-pol Sub-D VGA and DVI-D VGA, HDMI, LED lighting Clear CMOS button, 2x USB 2.0 and IEEE1394 and eSATA3, RJ45 Gigabit LAN and 2x USB 3.0 ports, optical SPDIF out and 5x 3.5mm jacks for analog sound.

BIOS and Overclocking …

Let us continue with BIOS options and BIOS overclocking. By pressing F2 or Del, you get access to the AMI BIOS with all important hardware settings.

Here is a first splash screen, the full screen logo can be deactivated in the BIOS:

The ASRock UEFI BIOS of the A75 Pro 4 offers a graphical surface for an intuitive operation with a mouse or with a keyboard, depending upon desire. User with an USB mouse and USB keyboard should not deactivate the Legacy USB support in the BIOS with the USB Configuration, because otherwise they can’t access the UEFI Setup. In the Auto mode the board decides if the USB device need to operate in Legacy mode. Keyboard and Mouse should be still connected to the USB 2.0 ports.

Here is a screenshot of the UEFI BIOS surface with the first system information:

ASRock offers again the very comfortable Instant Flash to flash BIOS updates. By the so-called ASRock Instant Flash option in the Advanced Screen or by pressing F6 during the PC start one can enter the ASRock Instant Flash utility. One can very easy upgrade a downloaded ASRock BIOS without further boot CDs, etc., just start the ASRock Instant Flash utility and select a BIOS Flash ROM from any FAT formatted device like an USB Stick to flash the BIOS without another boot medium.

The board came with BIOS P2.30. At review date, this was the latest UEFI BIOS version for download.

The BIOS offers some DDR3 memory settings like e.g. the memory setting from DDR3-800 over DDR3-1066, DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600 up to DDR3-1866 or with OC even higher. The frequency of all memory modules is calculated and shown after changing the reference clock and makes it much easier to adjust the right RAM frequency. Higher DDR3 frequencies over DDR3-1866 are only available with overclocking.

The host clock is adjustable from 75 MHz up to 250 MHz and the NB frequency can be adjusted between 228 MHz and 654 MHz at stock frequency.

In our tests, it was possible to overclock it up to 145 MHz reference clock, which was of course added to our OCinside Team rankings. Overclocking with the reference clock should be proceed with caution, because some other frequencies are increased by the internal clock generator as well. When overclocking Black Edition processors, so-called “K” APUs with unlocked multiplier, it is more easy to overclock the APU by increasing the multi, but the reference clock is still important at least when one buy high-end OC RAM and like to operate it on the maximum frequency, because this is on most boards only possible with reference clock / APU/PCIE Frequency increasement.

The boot failure guard was checked in this review as well and it was possible to start the PC on standard values with too high overclocking settings without using the Clear CMOS Jumper. It was just necessary to press the Reset button. ASRock integrated an “Boot Failure Guard Count” option, where the user can decide, how often the board should try to start with too high settings, before it reduces all necessary frequency settings for a correct boot. Only with absolutely high overclocking values it was necessary to press the Clear CMOS button, but the stored profile values could be were still saved and could be loaded quickly.

Furthermore, this board offers a Vcore setting on the AMD A8 Llano test CPU from 0.6000 V to 2.0000 V, a CPU NB voltage from 0.6000 V to 2.0000 V, an APU PCIE voltage from 1.208 bis 1.804 V, a SB voltage setting between 1.10 V and 1.40 V, an APU DRAM voltage setting from 1.200 V to 1.400 V and a few more settings to reach higher overclocking results. Additionally, the board offers the CPU Load Line Calibration, which can be set to Auto, 1/2, 1/4 and Disabled. Load Line Calibration / LLC offers a compensation of the voltage in Idle/Load CPU load alternation. For manual overclocking of FM1 processors, the CPU Load Line Calibration should be disabled to get higher OC results stable. The DDR3 memory voltage can be set between 1.250 V up to 2.065 V in steps between 0.01 V and 0.0125 V, which should be enough power for most DDR3 OC RAM modules.

With the CPU Thermal Throttle option, it is possible to lower the CPU frequency on too high internal CPU temperature to protect the CPU from overheating. This is of course only a protection and it is still necessary to select a good cooling for overclocking.

As special BIOS feature one can store three different BIOS settings with a desired name. Thus one can save for example balanced BIOS settings, overclocking settings and underclocking settings in a user profile of the BIOS to load them very quickly at any time.

BIOS Undervolting …

The downclocking or underclocking was also tested in this review. It was possible to lower the AMD A8-3870K CPU multiplier over the BIOS to 16x and underclock with 75 MHz reference clock to approx. 1200 MHz.

Underclocking and OverClocking is outside of the manufacturers specification. It’s necessary to have a bit luck, but ASRock give you some useful options to overclock or underclock the system more easily.

The BIOS of the passive cooled A75 Pro4 motherboard offers a CPU Quiet Fan option (temperature fan control) for a 4-pin and a 3-pin CPU fan and a 4-pin chassis fan (chassis fan 1). And also both other chassis fans can be adjusted manually in this UEFI BIOS, so it is non-essential to spend money for an additional fan controller.

Power consumption …

Power consumption will vary depending upon the hardware and upon the PC load. The current consumption of the test PC with AMD A8-3870K Black Edition CPU, 4GB DDR3-1333 memory, hard disk drive and Cooler Master Silent Pro M 600W test PSU was without overclocking depending upon load: – With Sapphire HD6870 card the power consumption was between 75W and 200 Watt. – With Sapphire HD4870 video card the power consumption was between 116W and 216 Watt. – With internal HD6550D GPU the power consumption was between low 25-55 Watt idle and 133 Watt with full load. Thus, above all the maximum power consumption of the integrated GPU with full load is very low.

Additionally all most important overclocking features can be adjusted and temperature monitoring can be checked with the included ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility Software (AXTU example screen).

Result …

The ASRock A75 Pro4 AMD Socket FM1 DDR3 motherboard is designed for AMD Llano Socket FM1 processors up to 100 Watt TDP, achieved high overclocking results in our OC tests with the AMD A8 Black Edition APU and offers a good basic equipment for a low price.

The A75 Pro4 offers a basic equipment of five SATA3 ports with RAID support, one eSATA3 port, four USB 3.0 ports on the I/O panel, up to eight possible USB 2.0 ports, two possible IEEE1394 ports, one Gigabit LAN connector, 7.1 sound with digital sound output over an optical SPDIF connector and analog sound output over five 3.5mm jacks.

All in all the ASRock A75 Pro4 is a high-quality but still inexpensive ATX motherboard for AMD FM1 processors. The motherboard can be equipped with different AMD Socket FM1 processors like A4, A6 and A8 series, as well as with an Athlon or Athlon II or Sempron FM1 processor. Depending on the CPU or APU the built-in D-Sub, DVI-D and HDMI video output options can be used to build for example a power-saving PC with sufficient power reserves for office or HTPC applications.

Here you can buy the ASRock A75 Pro4 motherboard.

Special thanks to ASRock for their support.


* All Socket FM1 PCIe motherboard reviews since 01.11.2012 are based on an AMD A8-3870K Black Edition CPU,Sapphire HD6870 1024MB ATI Radeon HD6870 PCI Express 2.0 video card,Sapphire HD4870 512MB ATI Radeon HD4870 PCI Express 2.0 video card, 2x 2048MB Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1333/PC3-10600 memory modules, Cooler Master Silent Pro M 600W power supply unit and the following software configuration: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate, SiSoftware Sandra 2012, Futuremark 3DMark11, 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark06 and 3DMark03 (the software is available in the Links & Downloads section). All benchmark results only offer a comparison among themselves for a rough motherboard performance comparison.

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