Result and general impression
+++ The ASRock ALiveDual-eSATA2 motherboard has a price of approx. 60 Euro (01/2008) and is thus in the lower price segment of the Socket AM2 motherboards.
The ASRock ALiveDual-eSATA2 Socket AM2 motherboard is an exceptional board with AMD Phenom processor support. Well, Phenom support isn’t unusual these days, but which current motherboard offers an AGP port? ASRock once again comes up with something special, because they make it possible for customers to upgrade their older systems more smoothly with less money. Thanks to the nVidia M1695 and nForce3 250 chipset combination, this board is able to manage an AGP 8x video card or a PCI Express 16x video card. Thus users can use their AGP card of the old PC and are able to upgrade it to a Socket AM2 or AM2+ processor without necessarily buying a new PCIe graphics card. This review will show if the performance can keep up with current systems and if this AGP/PCIe motherboard offers enough additional features and high overclocking results.
Equipment and features …
As already mentioned in the introduction, the ALiveDual-eSATA2 offers both an AGP 8x Slot, and a PCIe 16x video card Slot. Before you purchase this motherboard in combination with an AMD Phenom X4 and an AGP card, one should examine ASRocks’ compatibility list if this combination will work together. BTW. the performance of both video card benchmark values (see above) is quite good compared with other current motherboards.
In addition this ASRock ALiveDual-eSATA2 can be equipped with a total of 4 memory modules and is thus upgradeable up to 8GB memory (the total amount depends on the operating system used). The allocation for the DUAL Channel memory assembly is mentioned in the user manual and should be followed exactly.
The board offers two IDE connectors for up to four conventional ATA 133 hard disks, 2x SATA ports (1.5 Gb/s), 2x SATA II ports (3 Gb/s) with RAID support and 1x eSATA-II port for external harddisks, which have to be connected to one of the internal SATA I/II ports. ASRock include a bootable CDROM with Serial ATA I/II drivers and explain in the manual how to manage a new Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Vista installation with a primary S-ATA HDD.
The board offers four USB 2.0 ports at the ATX panel and two internal USB 2.0 plugs for up to four additional ports and a special 11-pin WiFi header for an optional 802.11 g/n W-LAN card. The ATX panel provides also an onboard 10/100/1000 LAN connector with WoL (Wake on Lan), one parallel port, one serial port and two PS/2 ports.
ASRock is using the onBoard C-Media CM 6501 sound chip on this ALiveDual-eSATA2. It supports full 7.1 Surround sound and it is Microsoft Windows Vista Premium level compatible. The ATX panel has six 3.5mm sound connectors and there’s also an internal HDMI SPDIF output for digital sound support.
BIOS and overclocking …
Let us go on with the BIOS options and overclocking with the BIOS. By pressing the F2 key, you get access to the AMI BIOS with all important hardware settings.
The BIOS offers extensive DDR2 memory settings e.g. the memory frequency setting from 200 MHz over 266 MHz and 333 MHz up to 400 MHz (DDR2 400/533/667/800). The host clock is thanks to the Realtek RTM866-895 Clockgen PLL IC adjustable from 150 MHz up to 400 MHz and the HT (hypertransport) frequency is adjustable from 1x to 5x (200-1000 MHz). The PCIe frequency is adjustable from 75 MHz up to 200 MHz, a direct adjustment of the AGP frequency was not possible in the BIOS when using an AGP card. Very helpful is the optional synchronous or asynchronous setting of the CPU/PCIe bus to increase the host frequence independent of the PCI and PCIe clock.
The highest reference clock overclocking result with asynchronous CPU/PCIe setting, lower multiplier and reduced HT frequency was 360 MHz ! This is an awesome result, but the test processor did not run stable with a high multiplier, because the maximum Vcore depends on the CPU used, so it was only adjustable up to 1.400 Volt. If necessary, the Vcore can be increased with this Socket AM2 pin mod guide, but of course we didn’t modify the CPU or motherboard in this review. It was possible to overclock the AMD Athlon64 3000+ Socket AM2 CPU with 1.4 Volt from original 1800 MHz up to more than 2800 MHz and this is a very nice result. And if you overclock too high, it is not necessary to set the clear CMOS jumper, because the “boot failure guard” setting is working fine and lowers the frequencies when the last boot wasn’t successful. The guard did also work properly with much too high OC settings.
Underclocking was also tested in this review and it was possible to underclock the AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor with a lower multiplier of 4x and a host frequency of 150 MHz down to approx. 600 MHz. With this low processor frequency it’s no problem to strongly decrease the Vcore and build a low price energy saving system. And thanks to the integrated “Quiet Fan” CPU fan-control option it is possible to get a quiet PC without additional fan controls on this ALiveDual-eSATA2.
Additionally the ALiveDual-eSATA2 BIOS offers a variable DDR2 memory voltage setting between 1.80 and 2.20 Volt. This maximum Vmem of 2.20V is very positive, because most previous ASRock motherboards did not offer those high voltages. For overclocking with current high-end memory modules it’s mostly necessary to have a very high RAM voltage, so this option is an important improvement.
The ASRock ALiveDual-eSATA2 nForce3 250 Socket AM2/AM2+ motherboard offers AGP and PCIe support, so it is a very inexpensive way to upgrade a previous system to a new AMD Socket AM2 or AM2+ PC.
In addition this motherboard has 7.1 surround sound over six connectors, four SATA connectors, two conventional ATA133 connectors for up to four IDE drives and gigabit LAN for a very fast network connection. But also the high overclocking results satisfy in our extensive OC tests, in spite of the low Vcore.
So this is a nice motherboard for consumers who like to upgrade their PC and don’t like to spend the money for a new PCIe graphics card. Anyway, this motherboard offers also an option to upgrade it to a PCIe card at a later date. With these options, the ALiveDual-eSATA is a very nice deal for price-conscious customers!
Thanks to these nice upgrade options, this ASRock ALiveDual-eSATA2 motherboard got the Redaktion ocinside.de Overclocking Pricetipp award (01/2008) – keep it up!
Special thanks to ASRock for their support.
**** All Socket 939 motherboard reviews since 01.11.2006 are based on an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Orleans CPU, 1x (or SLI systems with 2x) Gigabyte GV-NX66T128VP Nvidia 6600 GT PCI Express video cards, 2x512MB Crucial Ballistix DDR2-800/PC2-6400 memory modules and the following software configuration: Microsoft Windows XP SP2, DirectX 9.0c, Forceware 81.85 video driver and 3DMark 2003. All benchmark results should only offer a comparison among themselves for a comparison.