ASRock A55 Pro3 Review

tacohunter52 - 2011-09-15 20:28:31 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: tacohunter52   
Reviewed on: November 17, 2011
Price: $74.99

Introduction:

AMD's budget-friendly Llano chips have been overshadowed by the, somewhat disappointing, release of the Bulldozer FX series. However, this is not to say that the Llano series chips aren't still alive and kicking. In the past, OCC has looked at two different motherboards utilizing the A75 chipset. Both performed fairly well and both made for extremely great budget builds. Today we'll be looking at another motherboard meant for AMD Llano APUs, but this time it is not using an A75 chipset. Instead, OCC will be taking its first look at a board utilizing the A55 chipset.

The board we'll be taking a look at today is the A55 Pro3 from ASRock. Like its older brother, the A75 chipset, the A55 chipset is also able to utilize AMD dual graphics. This means, if you're using an appropriate video card, you'll be able to pair it with your APU for a nice little performance boost. Not only that, but ASRock is claiming that its motherboards are able to offer a 20% performance boost over other A75/A55 boards using AMD dual graphics technology. Not only that, but the ASRock A55 Pro3 is also one of the few A55 boards that supports memory speeds of DDR3 2400+. ASRock is also claiming that its motherboards can score over 5,500, as well as 50% better then competitors, in 3DMark Vantage just using the integrated graphics. However, this was done on one of its A75 boards with an overclock, which makes sense. Anyway, enough with the claims, let's pull this board out of its packaging and find out what it can really do!

Closer Look:

Let's start this review off the right way, with the packaging! ASRock took a slightly different approach to the A55 Pro3's packaging than what we're used to. Rather than a bunch of decals and cool graphics, the Pro3 arrived in a fairly bare box. The box was colored to look like brushed aluminum, which turned out pretty cool. The ASRock and A55 Pro3 logos were located directly in the center of the box. Located across the bottom of the box were some decals of key selling points. Flipping the box over reveals a detailed description of the board's key selling points, even the ones that were about A75 boards. The remaining sides of the box follow the same color scheme and feature the ASRock A55 Pro3 logo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon opening the ASRock A55 Pro3's packaging, you'll find the included accessories and manuals. Located underneath the manuals and accessories is the ASRock A55 Pro3 motherboard, nice and snug in an antistatic bag.

 

 

So what exactly comes with this motherboard? For starters, you'll receive a setup guide and a user's manual. Located inside the user's manual is the driver CD. You'll also receive two leaflets on the ASRock A55 Pro3's features, as well as some SATA cables and an I/O Shield.

 

Now that we've gotten everything unpacked, let's take a close look at the A55 Pro3!

Closer Look:

The very first thing I noticed when I looked at the ASRock A55 Pro3 was that the cooling bracket around the socket was different. As opposed to the complete square, it only took up as much room as it needed, which I thought was pretty cool. Other than that, the layout looked pretty decent. Using the first PCIe x16 slot won't prevent you from using any other slot and the memory slots look like they are a decent distance away from the socket. The only thing I was worried about were the non right angle SATA connectors. Flipping the board over reveals a very bare backside. It also showed us that the board's chipset cooler was held on by pushpins, which is something I usually don't like to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I looked at the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum, I was fairly impressed with the amount of connections available to the user. When I look at the ASRock A55 Pro3's rear panel, I felt like something was missing. For display, you'll be able to utilize both an HDMI port and a VGA port. This should be ample for the users planning to use integrated graphics, but I guess I was expecting to see a DVI port as opposed to VGA. As for other ports, you'll be able to utilize two PS/2 ports, one for the mouse and one for the keyboard, as well as four USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports. Along with these, you'll also get your standard audio ports, an Ethernet jack, and an eSATA port. Obviously everything you need is there, but for some reason I still have that feeling that something more could have been located on the rear panel. However, looking at the bottom of the board made me much happier. All three of the USB headers, as well as the audio header, were located right at the edge of the board. This makes managing your wires much easier!

 

 

The remaining two sides of the board were much emptier. The right side featured the only two right angle SATA connectors. The good news is that these two connectors are SATA 3 connectors. The top of the board featured two fan connectors. One was a 4-pin fan connector for the CPU, while the other was a 3-pin connector for a case fan or a secondary CPU fan.

 

 

As usual, the ASRock A55 Pro3 draws its power from a 24-pin connector. This 24-pin connector is located right in front of the board's four DIMM slots. According to ASRock, these four DIMM slots are able to support DDR3 speeds of 2400MHz and higher. The standard however is DDR3 1333, so to reach these higher speeds, you'll need to do some overclocking. The A55 Pro3 uses an 8-pin auxiliary power connector, which was nice and close to the board's edge. Moving on to the socket, we can see that it uses the slightly different brackets. To the left of the CPU socket, we can see the board's power phase, which did not have a heat spreader. The board did however have mounting holes for a heat spreader. I guess if you really wanted one, you could mount one yourself.

 

 

 

As far as expansion slots go, the ASRock A55 Pro3 is equipped with two PCIe x16 slots and does support CrossFire. With that being said, the A55 chipset is aimed more for budget builds, so I don't expect too many people to be running a CrossFire setup with this hardware. Along with the two PCIe x16 slots are a PCIe x1 slot and three standard PCI slots. Behind the board's expansion slots are the remaining five SATA 2 connectors. Unfortunately, none of these connectors are right angled, which can cause some problems with wire management. Right above these connectors is the ASRock A55 Pro3's A55 chipset. It is covered by a blue/silver heat spreader that sports the ASRock logo.

 

 

Now that we've had a detailed look at the motherboard, let's move on to the BIOS!

Closer Look:

The BIOS

ASRock went ahead and equipped the A55 Pro3 with an EFI BIOS. The A55 Pro3 is a budget board, so I wasn't expecting it to use an EFI BIOS, however, the inclusion was nice. Especially because there are now some users who won't even touch a motherboard that is not equipped with an EFI BIOS. Upon entering the BIOS, you'll be greeted with the main page. Here you'll be able to view system information, as well as the date and time. Moving to the right gives us the OC Tweaker menu. Here you'll be able to adjust all the options needed to overclock your hardware. Just as with the A75 motherboards, the ASRock A55 Pro3 will allow you to adjust the multiplier higher than your CPU's max, in my case 29. Doing so will not actually change anything, instead it will just confuse any unsuspecting victims. If you intend to overclock your Llano hardware, you may also want to disable any power savings features. This can be done by heading over to the Advanced tab and fiddling with the CPU, Northbridge, and Southbridge configurations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Advanced tab is followed by the H/W Monitor. Here you'll be able to monitor idle voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. Oddly enough, the H/W Monitor in the BIOS reported higher temperatures, while idle, than any temperature monitoring program in Windows at any point in time. This is now the second Llano motherboard that I've seen weirdness on when it comes to temperature monitoring. After the H/W Monitor is the Boot section. Here you'll be able to change your boot order or adjust other boot settings.

 

 

The remaining two sections of the BIOS are the Security section and the Save and Exit section. The security section will allow you to set a BIOS password for both a supervisor and a user. The Save and Exit section will allow you to save your changes and exit, or load optimized defaults.

 

 

Now that we've seen the BIOS, let's get to the benching!

Specifications:

CPU
- Support for Socket FM1 100W processors
- V4 + 1 Power Phase Design
- Supports AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
- UMI-Link GEN2
Chipset
- AMD A55 FCH (Hudson-D2)
Memory
- Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 4 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 2400+(OC)/1866/1600/1333/1066/800 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 32GB*
 
BIOS
- 32Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with GUI support
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- DRAM, VDDP, VDDR, SB Voltage Multi-adjustment
Graphics
- AMD Radeon HD 65XX/64XX graphics
- DirectX 11, Pixel Shader 5.0
- Max. shared memory 512MB
- Dual VGA Output: support HDMI and D-Sub ports by independent display controllers
- Supports HDMI 1.4a Technology with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports D-Sub with max. resolution up to 1920x1600 @ 60Hz
- Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI (Compliant HDMI monitor is required)
- Supports Blu-ray Stereoscopic 3D with HDMI 1.4a
- Supports AMD Steady Video™: New video post processing capability for automatic jutter reduction on home/online video
- Supports HDCP function with HDMI port
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback with HDMI port
Audio
- 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray audio support
- Supports THX TruStudio™
LAN
- PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111E
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports LAN Cable Detection
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports PXE
Slots
- 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (PCIE2 @ x16 mode; PCIE3 @ x4 mode)
- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
- 3 x PCI slots
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX™ , CrossFireX™ and Dual Graphics
SATA3
- 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by ASMedia ASM1061, support NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports by Etron EJ168A, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
Connector
- 5 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
- 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x CIR header
- 1 x COM port header
- 1 x HDMI_SPDIF header
- 1 x Power LED header
- CPU/Chassis/Power FAN connector
- 24-pin ATX power connector
- 8-pin 12V power connector
- Front panel audio connector
- 3 x USB 2.0 headers (support 6 USB 2.0 ports)
Rear Panel I/O
I/O Panel
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x D-Sub Port
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 4 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x eSATA2 Connector
- 2 x Ready-to-Use USB 3.0 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- HD Audio Jack: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Unique Feature
- ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility (AXTU)
- ASRock Instant Boot
- ASRock Instant Flash
- ASRock APP Charger
- ASRock SmartView
- ASRock XFast USB
- ASRock XFast LAN
- ASRock On/Off Play Technology
- Hybrid Booster:
- ASRock U-COP
Support CD
- Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), AMD Live! Explorer, AMD Fusion, CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 Trial, ASRock Software Suite (CyberLink DVD Suite - OEM and Trial; ASRock MAGIX Multimedia Suite - OEM)
Accessories
- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- 2 x SATA Data Cables (optional)
Hardware Monitor
- CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU/Chassis/Power Fan Tachometer
- CPU/Chassis Quiet Fan
- CPU/Chassis Fan Multi-Speed Control
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, Vcore
Form Factor
- ATX Form Factor: 12.0-in x 8.6-in, 30.5 cm x 21.8 cm
- All Solid Capacitor design
OS
- Microsoft® Windows® 7 / 7 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit / XP / XP 64-bit compliant
Certifications
- FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP Ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

 

Features:


 

Information on this page courtesy of Asrock @ http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=A55%20Pro3

Testing:

Testing the ASRock A55 Pro3 will include running it and comparison products through the OCC test suite of benchmarks that includse both synthetic benchmarks and real world applications to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also include both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play to see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. Instead of leaving the gaming tests to a discrete video card, the gaming prowess of the IGP will get a small workout as well. The APU will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition and I've used the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 6970. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages, and latencies — unless otherwise stated.

 

Testing Setup: AMD Socket FM1

 

Comparison Boards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

The first time I overclocked an AMD Llano chip was when I tested the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum motherboard. It was a different experience, but I felt like this time around it would be better... it wasn't. The ASRock board seemed to not like BCLK increases at all. Anything higher than 115MHz would result in almost instant errors from OCCT. At 115MHz, I wasn't able to make it through the entire benchmarking suite, so I dropped the clock speeds down to 114MHz. This worked, but an overclock of 3.3GHz when another board was able to hit 3.6GHz fairly easily was a little discouraging. I tried dropping the multiplier, but with a lower multiplier I wasn't able to remain stable without further dropping the BCLK. I am using a different A8 3850 chip than I did with the Sapphire review, so that could be the problem. Either way, I was still rather disappointed in the overclock I got out of this setup.

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. Bibble 5
  3. WinRAR
  4. Geekbench
  5. Office 2007
  6. POV-Ray 3.7
  7. PCMark Vantage Professional
  8. Sandra XII
  9. ScienceMark 2.02
  10. Cinebench 10
  11. Cinebench 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  3. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

ZIP:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

 

Geekbench:

Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy to use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.

  

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting 100 8.2MP RAW images to JPEG format. The file size is 837MB. The measure used for comparison is time to convert the file in seconds.

  

Lower is Better

 

For the most part, the ASRock A55 Pro3 came out behind the two A75 offerings. However, it did perform in the middle at stock settings in both the Geekbench and Bible 5 benchmarks. When it came to the overclocked scores, the ASRock board fell farther behind due to the 300+ MHz lower speeds than the other two boards.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower Is Better

 

POV-Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.

  

Higher Is Better

 

The ASRock A55 Pro3 once again came out behind the rest of the pack. It was however able to perform almost exactly the same as the Sapphire A75 Pure Platinum in the POV-Ray benchmark. As for the overclocked settings, the Pro3 was once again held back by its inferior overclock.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

  

  

Multi-Core Efficiency

  

  

 

Memory Bandwidth

  

  

 

Memory Latency

  

 

Cache and Memory

  

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

  

 

At stock settings, all three motherboards performed almost exactly the same. However, when it came to the overclocked settings, the ASRock A55 Pro3 fell noticeably behind.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

Higher is Better

 

 

 

CineBench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

  

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

 

  

 

  

Lower is Better

 

Despite the ASRock A55 Pro3's lower overclock, we saw it perform much closer to the A75 boards in the overclocked benchmarks. As for the stock benchmarks, the A55 Pro3 performed more or less the same as the A75 boards.

Testing:

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species. The Alien, the Predator or the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

The ASRock A55 Pro3 matched the two A75 boards in both the stock and overclocked portions of this benchmark!

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

Once again, the ASRock A55 Pro3 was able to hold its own against the two A75 motherboards.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024 x 768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

  

  

Higher = Better

 

At stock settings, the ASRock A55 Pro3 was once again able to perform the same as its competitors. Once overclocked, however, the Pro3 began to fall behind.

Conclusion:

Socket FM1 hardware may not be the most beastly hardware available, but it can still hold its own if used in a budget gaming rig or multimedia PC. In fact, AMD Llano hardware is priced perfectly for it! If you decide you're going to build a computer based around a Llano chip, you'll have two choices of chipsets, A75 or A55. Both perform very well for their price point. From what I've seen, with the A55 Pro3 being the only A55 board I've used, the only major difference between the two is that the A55s don't overclock as well. That being said, for $75 you can get a decent little motherboard that has both AMD Dual Graphics and CrossFire support.

As far as layout and features go, the ASRock A55 Pro3 did ok. The layout of the board was great, except for the fact that a majority of the SATA cables were not right-angled. As far as features are concerned, I would have liked to see a bit more. I know I can't expect much from a motherboard that costs $75, and what you're getting for the price is great, I just felt as though something more could have been done. The included software may have actually fed my need for more, but the included CD did not work.

As for the board's performance, well, it was great. I was expecting a slight performance decrease from the A55 chipset, but it was able to hold its own against the A75 boards, performing more or less the same as them on stock settings. The ASRock A55 Pro3 was held back in the overclocking race, but that's because it was clocked more than 300MHz lower than its competition. I would have liked to see a better overclock come out of this board, and I'm hoping it was just something as simple as a BIOS issue and that it doesn't affect every motherboard. Really, other than that, the board was great. In my honest opinion, the ASRock A55 Pro3 is a great bang-for-your-buck motherboard!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: