ASRock ALiveNF5-eSATA2+ AMD Socket AM2 Motherboard Review

Result and general impression

+++ The ASRock ALiveNF5-eSATA2+ motherboard has a price of approx. 60 Euro (06/2007) and is thus in the lower price segment of the Socket AM2 motherboards.

The ASRock ALiveNF5-eSATA2+ Socket AM2 motherboard is based on the nForce 520 chipset and offers many overclocking options for a very good price.

It is not only easy to overclock with this board, it is also easy to underclock. For some users with 24/7 PCs it became a sport to underclock processors in order to lower the temperature and to lower the power consumption enormously. It was possible to run an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Socket AM2 CPU instead of the default 1800 MHz underclocked down to 750 MHz and overclocked up to 2790 MHz.

However, let us start with the equipment of the PCIe 16x mainboard for Socket AM2 processors.

Equipment and features …

The ASRock ALiveNF5-eSATA2+ can be equipped with a total of 4 memory modules and is thus upgradeable up to 8 GB 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.

In addition the board offers one IDE connector for up to two conventional ATA 133 hard disks, 4x SATA II ports (3 Gb/s) with RAID support and 2x eSATA-II ports for external harddisks, which have to be installed at two of the four internal SATA-II ports. A bootable CDROM and a short guidance for the correct installation of the Serial ATA-II driver is included in the scope of delivery and the manual also offers all informations you need to manage a new Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Vista installation with a primary S-ATA HDD.

The board offers two USB 2.0 ports at the ATX panel and four internal USB 2.0 plugs for up to eight additional USB ports and two IEEE1394a firewire ports. A slot bracket for two additional USB ports and for one firewire port is included. 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 new onBoard RealTek ALC-888 sound chip on this ALiveNF5-eSATA2+. It supports full 7.1 Surround sound and it’s 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 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. And the optional synchronous or asynchronous setting of the CPU/PCIe bus is helpful to increase the host frequence independent of the PCI and PCIe clock.

The highest reference clock overclocking result with asynchronous setting was 310 MHz. It was possible to overclock the AMD Athlon64 3000+ Socket AM2 CPU with locked 9x multiplier up to a very high result of approx. 2790 MHz.

But also the underclocking was tested in this review and it was possible to underclock the AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor down to e.g. 5x 150 MHz = approx. 750 MHz. It’s no problem to strongly decrease the Vcore with such a low frequency.

BTW., the BIOS offers a variable DDR2 memory voltage setting between 1.85 and 2.05 Volt and a variable setting for the CPU voltage (Vcore). If necessary, the Vcore can be increased with this Socket AM2 pin mod guide. Thanks to the integrated “Quiet Fan” fan-control option it’s possible to save money for additional fan controls on this ALiveNF5-eSATA2+.

Result …

The ASRock ALiveNF5-eSATA2+ nForce 520 Socket AM2 PCIe motherboard offers many overclocking features and is available for little money.

In addition the equipment is very interesting for such a low motherboard price, because 7.1 surround sound over six connectors, up to ten USB ports, two firewire ports, four SATA II connectors and much more is rarely the case on most inexpensive boards.

All in all, the ASRock ALiveNF5-eSATA2+ motherboard got the Redaktion Overclocking Pricetipp award (06/2007), because except of the missing BIOS explanations in the manual, there is nothing to criticise.

Special thanks to ASRock for their support.


Click to enlarge !

Click to enlarge !

**** 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.

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