Asrock H55M Pro - Design
The Asrock H55M Pro features a typical design for an Intel H55 MicroATX motherboard, but at the same time it's probably the best designed of the bunch we are reviewing today.
The DIMM slots look as though they back onto the primary PCI Express x16 port, offering just enough room to allow for the installation and removal of memory modules with a graphics card installed. Furthermore, the SATA ports are lined up above the primary PCI Express x16 port in two rows. Although they are not mounted at a 90-degree angle like we usually prefer, at least they won't conflict with the graphics card in this position.
The Asrock H55M Pro features only five onboard SATA ports rather than the full six. This is because the sixth port has been relocated to the I/O panel where it provides eSATA support. Given that this is a mATX motherboard intended for use in a mATX case, it's unlikely that all six SATA ports would be used anyway so this is not a bad idea.
The H55M Pro also features a pair of PCI Express x16 slots. However, while the secondary slot will take a full length PCIe x16 graphics card, bandwidth will be limited to x4. Needless to say this is not ideal for Crossfire configurations, so we wouldn't recommend plugging in a pair of PCIe x16 graphics cards to this motherboard.
To be fair, this applies to all Intel H55 motherboards as there simply are not enough PCI Express lanes available. The PCIe x4 slot can still come in handy to support PCIe x4 expansion cards for users that might like to add additional features down the track, such as USB 3.0 for example.
Whereas the Asus P7H55-M Pro features a 4+2 power phase design, Asrock has gone with a 4+1 design for the H55M Pro. The plus one refers to power delivery for the GPU, so in theory this should not impact the board's overclocking potential. Like most H55 motherboards, Asrock decided not to provide the power circuitry with any kind of cooling. The only heatsink you will find on this motherboard is located on the H55 chip.
There is one design aspect of all LGA1156 motherboards made by Asrock that we really like, and that is the CPU socket. While almost all LGA1156 motherboards only feature mounting holes for LGA1156 coolers, Asrock has seen it fit to support the widely available LGA775 coolers by providing the necessary mounting holes. This means that those coming from the LGA775 platform and who had purchased an aftermarket cooler can still use it.
Finally we have the I/O panel, which features a single PS/2 port, Firewire port, Ethernet port, S/PDIF port, eSATA port and five audio jacks along with five USB 2.0 ports. There are also a DVI, VGA and HDMI connectors, with the only thing missing here being DisplayPort. Overall the Asrock H55M Pro is a well equipped motherboard, especially given the relatively low price tag.