Basic Features: ASRock 939Dual-Sata2

 ASRock 939Dual-SATA2
CPU Interface Socket 939 Athlon 64
Future CPU Upgrade Slot for AMD M2
Chipset ULi M1695 Northbridge - ULi M1567 Southbridge
BUS Speeds 200 to 400Mhz in 1MHz Increments
PCIe Speeds 75-125MHz in 1MHz Increments
Selected Frequency, Synchronous or Asynchronous (Fixed) to CPU Speed
PCI/AGP Fixed at 33/66
Core Voltage Auto, 0.80V to 1.55V in 0.025V increments
CPU Clock Multiplier Auto, 4x-21x in 1X increments
HyperTransport Frequency 1000MHz (1GHz)
HyperTransport Multiplier Auto, 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000
DRAM Voltage Auto, Normal, High
HyperTransport Voltage NO Adjustments
Memory Slots Four 184-pin DDR DIMM Slots
Dual-Channel Configuration
Regular Unbuffered Memory to 4GB Total
Expansion Slots 1 PCIe x16
1 AGP 8X
1 PCIe x1
3 PCI Slots
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 SATA1 Drives by ULi M1567 (RAID 0, 1, JBOD)
1 Sata2 NCQ 3Gb/s Drive by JMicron JMB360
Onboard IDE/IDE RAID Two Standard ATA133/100/66 (4 drives)
Onboard USB 2.0/IEEE-1394 8 USB 2.0 ports supported by ULi M1567
No Firewire (Optional)
Onboard LAN 10/100 Ethernet by ULi & Realtek PNY
Onboard Audio AC '97 2.3 8-Channel by Realtek ALC850
BIOS AMI 8/12/2005

ASRock provides a decent selection of adjustments in the AMI BIOS. Almost everything the enthusiast needs to squeeze a bit more from the CPU is available in the BIOS options. This includes CPU ratios, CPU voltage adjustments, memory timing adjustments, CPU clock speed adjustments, and PCIe speed adjustment. There is even a crude, but effective option for memory voltage - which just offers normal, high and auto settings. Fortunately, the High setting must be around 2.8V, since it was effective with our standard Samsung TCCD test memory.

CPU voltage has a wide adjustment range down, but it's a bit lacking at the top. The 130nm Clawhammer stock is 1.5V, and 1.55V is the top option with this chip. Install a 90nm 4800+ X2, with a 1.35V default voltage, and the top voltage slides to 1.40V. This .05V voltage range at the top is not really adequate for many users. The wide 200 to 400 CPU speed range is plenty, as is the 75-125 PCIe range and asynchronous PCIe option.

The ASRock would move from adequate to outstanding with a few additions to the BIOS. The ULi chipset is too good not to offer a wide range of memory voltage adjustments. It would also be useful to have CPU voltage extend to at least 1.65 to 1.7V, even if this requires a ULi motherboard with the Asus brand instead of ASRock.

The good news is the limited DRAM "high" setting does work well with most common RAM. The ASRock also has no problem with Athlon x2, FX, or other Socket 939 CPUs.

We did find extremely irritating cold boot issues with the ASRock in our testing. Even at standard stock speeds and settings, the 939Dual often required several starts to boot. Perhaps this was due to some setting in BIOS, but we could never discover the source of the cold boot issue. Overclocking seemed about the same with cold boot issues as stock operations. This kind of problem is often fixable with a BIOS upgrade and we hope that ASRock will address the cold boot issues very soon. It's a shame to have a board this good plagued with annoying cold boot issues.

UPDATE: ASRock has released BIOS 1.20 dated 9/02/05 which can be downloaded from their web site. Version 1.20 fixed the cold boot problems we experienced.

Board Layout: ASRock 939Dual-Sata2 Overclocking: ASRock 939Dual-Sata2
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  • Furen - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    Well, there are no master cards to test this on but I think HKPC did this and it worked ok (with a hacked driver, most likely). Performance wasnt that hot, though. Reply
  • murak - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    I have had this mobo for like 2 days and I am VERY happy with it! It was the only way for my unlocked 6800LE to come along to the 939 platform (and not be crippled in the process) Currently running my 3200+ @ 10x240=2400mhz 1.45v wich was way more than I expected. Corsair XL @ 2-2-2-5 (will change the last to 10, tnx Anandtech!) dualchannel @ "High" memvolt.

    I have flashed the new 1.20 BIOS and have had NO stability issues (as with my last Asrock board, a K7S8X) Time will tell if the quality is good enough. 7.1 surround and SATA II with NRQ is a nice bonus for me wich I will use in time.

    At this time I can´t see a better "bang-per-buck"-board. Nice one Asrock/ULi!

    Reply
  • WT - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the detailed post, Wes ! It stands to reason that any vendor that wants to stay in business will 'follow the leader' and use those same optimized enhancements to make their product a better buy. Like you said, no one had heard of DFI 3 years ago, and Abit and Asus were everyones top choice. With bad news from the Abit camp lately, I would not be surprised to see them fold like a bad poker hand. I wouldn't <i>LIKE</i> it, but this is a tough industry to make a go of it too. I'm currently happy as a clam with my Soltek NF3 board, but this Asrock board is my #1 choice when my next upgrade comes along. Reply
  • FriedRiceBob - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    I liked this article, this is type of board that I'm contemplating for an upgrade.

    However, I would like to see, for a more fully rounded comparison, a benchmark of an equivalent NF3 939 AGP system, and maybe a KT800, included in the results. Am I the only one that seems to think that inlcuding a multitude (6 actually) of similarly (within 2fps) performing NF4 boards to be bordering on pointless?

    I know that NF4 is the current de-facto standard, but it would be interresting to have these other results included.
    Reply
  • KayKay - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    How is it that every motherboard reviewed since the beginning of this year seems to have better and better overclocking results? i just find it hard to believe that boards from sapphire, jetway and ASRock seem to outperform boards from EPox DFI etcetc. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    We are told by industry analysts the DFI nForce4 boards are now the top seller among all Socket 939 boards. Since no one had heard of DFI 2 or 3 years ago in the AMD market, other manufacturers have been paying attention to what got DFI to this sales level. There are many clever overclocking tricks used on the DFI boards and we are told other mfgs have been x-raying the board and trying to do even better in performance in their new chipsets and boards.

    ATI had a pretty basic Rx480 motherboard in August 04, but they devoted a whole development team at targeting the enthusiast. We suspect that Jetway, ULi and other recent great overclockers did not get to these OC levels by accident.
    Reply
  • Furen - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    Well, AMD's integrated northbridge seems to help out a lot since chipset manufacturers dont have to deal with the mem controller. Also, most of the new chipsets have been aimed at the "enthusiast" market so of course they all overclock better than the old via chipsets. Reply
  • Tetsuro - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    For those that like this board so much, one bad bios flash and bye-bye mobo...Asrock doesn't support bios boot block recovery. They use 2 phase power regulators instead of the industry standard of 3 and there is no voltage adjustment regardless of what is claimed. Asrock cuts alot of corners resulting in horrible quality mobos. Even ECS is a lot better lately. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    As we reported in the review, this board is 3-phase and not 2-phase as you state. Please look carefully at the board pictures.

    There is no doubt ASRock is a value brand built down to a price point, and that means corners are cut. However, the value component is sometimes a much cheaper chipset. We report what we find in our tests, and you are certainly right to point out the potential downsides of buying a value motherboard.
    Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    The board might be value in everything, but certainly isn't in performance. And the fact that it overclocks so well could suggest it is thought out well, and that stability (at least for the board brand new) is not at all a problem Reply

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