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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  • tayhimself - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    What about SATA, USB, sound, and ethernet performance. This seems like an incomplete review to me. I find these side performance issues are becoming more and more important. The RS480 for example has lousy SATA and USB performance which would rule it out for some who use those heavily. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    We covered ULi SATA, USB, IDE, and other peripheral performance in our review of the 2nd ULi cReference Board at http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2489">http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2489. It seemed redundant to test features in the chipset again or external chips that we have just benchmarked. The ULI IDE and SATA performance were top-notch, and the USB was competetive (much better than ATI). Please refer to the ULi review for chipset benchmarks.

    We did not test the JMicron SATA2 3Gb performance since we have not yet standardized on a 3Gb test platform. The Holy Grail at AnandTech is that a benchmark by itself is an advertisement - it takes 2 or more benchmarks compared for a review. AnandTech has been working on a chipset performance comparison for storage, and you will soon see comparison benchmarks for SATA2 performance in addition to SATA1.
    Reply
  • OvErHeAtInG - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    AFter rereading the review of the ULi ref board rev 2, I did notice that the ULi reference board had used the Realtek ALC655, and this board (ASRock) lists the ALC850. I don't really know much about this topic, but based on the review of the reference board I would be a little bit worried about the CPU utilization of the ALC850? This is frankly critical to budget gamers I think. One doesn't want to use the on board audio if it will use 30% CPU. Can you enlighten me Wesley?

    Tnx
    Reply
  • tayhimself - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    Thanks for this reply and the others. Good to see the reviewers checking comments. Props! Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    If this is priced equivalent and not more (and we know that won't be the case) then it might be worthwhile. If it costs $50-100 more, it would be no better than selling one's current AGP gpu and picking up a PCI-I gpu and ignoring any issues that might come from this freaky PCI-E/AGP/M2 board. :) Reply
  • bhtooefr - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    It's $68 at Newegg.

    Newegg's cheapest Socket 939 PCIe (RS480 in this case) mobo is $66, and it's an ECS (ECS is on my blacklist).

    The cheapest non-ECS board that has Socket 939 and PCIe is this, and the nearest board in that class (non-ECS, S939, PCIe) is $75.

    Also, keep in mind, in performance, it keeps up with the big dogs. So, let's make it RS480s and NF4Us as the competition. Now, you're talking $80 for a Biostar NF4U, $84 for a Jetway RS480 (again, the ECS board is an RS480...)

    So, it's DEFINITELY worth it.

    BTW, this can run dual-GPU (not SLI). Wanted to run four heads, with two 3D render jobs running at once? This is the board to get. (Heck, ULi calls it "triple graphics technology", because of good ol' PCI GPUs. For that matter, there's PCIe 1x GPUs...)
    Reply
  • Powermoloch - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    This is marvelous :) !! for 68 $?? AsRock my be crazy by setting that price range. In any case, This is great for me and users who are in a similar situation, those who didn't want to blow wads of cash on another high end pci-e card for an upgrade. This is great news, kudos to everyone who made the product and a great review too from anandtech.com Reply
  • SynthDude2001 - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    I don't know what to say other than "awesome". It's been a long time in coming, but finally there's a solution out there for all of us high-end AGP owners that don't want to ditch last year's $350 video card just yet. ASRock has also already released one new BIOS version since the board was introduced, so I'm not worried about small issues.

    Unless another manufacturer comes out with a board based on this chipset/southbridge within the next month or two, this will be the board I buy to finally move into the Athlon 64 world. For $65, you can't really go wrong.
    Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    At its time, I bought a SIS735 board (with RAM support of up to PC133 and PC-3200, two memory slots for each). This looks like the new "transition" board to have :) Reply
  • flatblastard - Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - link

    "It will likely sell very well regardless, as many will also notice the slot for a future M2 expansion board."


    .....A slot that likely will never be populated and even more likely not to be supported by Asrock in the future. But hey, if it helps sell a few thousand more mobo's, more power to them.
    Reply

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