Asrock 880GMH/USB3 – Features
The Asrock 880GMH/USB3 is the only MicroATX board in this three-way round up and the only to utilize the AMD 880G chipset. In addition, this is also the only motherboard that doesn't sport the feature-rich SB850 south bridge and instead uses the older SB710. At $85, the 880GMH/USB3 is the cheapest of the three products in our comparison.
Opting for the older SB710 south bridge chip has its disadvantages, naturally. Apart from the fact that it is based on a 130nm process and requires more power, it's also not quite as feature packed as the newer SB850. In a nutshell, the SB710 supports six SATA 3Gb/s ports with AHCI 1.1 and RAID 0,1,10 along with twelve USB 2.0 ports.
By comparison, the SB850 features six SATA 6Gb/s ports with AHCI 1.2 and RAID 0,1,5,10 alongside fourteen available USB 2.0 ports. For the most part, these missing features will not impact the Asrock 880GMH/USB3 too severely, as SATA 6Gb/s devices are scarce at best while a dozen USB 2.0 ports will have most users well covered.
The 880GMH/USB3 supports a pair of USB 3.0 ports using the Fresco FL1000G two-port controller. We haven't had any experience with this chip before. It appears that Asrock is using it to provide USB 3.0 functionality on lower end products, while the mid-range and high-end boards receive the more popular NEC controller.
Unfortunately we were unable to test the Fresco FL1000G controller's performance, as our only USB 3.0 device at hand, the OCZ Enyo, simply refused to work with it. There appears to be some compatibility issues we haven't had with the NEC controller. The drive would appear occasionally, but when trying to access it the system would lockup. Interestingly, USB 2.0 devices worked fine in the USB 3.0 ports and the OCZ Enyo worked fine when connected to a USB 2.0 port.
The Asrock 880GMH/USB3 uses the AMD 880G chipset with Radeon HD 4250 integrated graphics. Compared to the more powerful Radeon HD 4290 engine of the 890GX chipset, the only real difference is the operating clock frequency. Specifically, the Radeon HD 4250 is clocked 20% slower than the HD 4290, which reduces the gigaflops throughput from 44.8 to 40 GFLOPS.
The Radeon HD 4250 supports DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.1. On thie motherboard it carries outputs for D-Sub (2048x1536), DVI-D (2560x1600) and HDMI (1920x1200).
For audio support the Asrock 880GMH/USB3 relies on the Realtek ALC892 codec to provide 7.1 channel high definition audio. The Realtek ALC892 is a tried and true audio solution found on a wide range of motherboards. Another such chip is the Realtek RTL8111DL, which provides a single Gigabit Ethernet port using the PCI Express bus for maximum throughput.
Finally, the 880GMH/USB3 offers a few trademark Asrock features such as Turbo UCC, Turbo 50, OC DNA and Instant Boot. We will particularly rely on Asrock's UCC (Unlock CPU Core) when testing out the 880GMH/USB3 board to transform our Phenom II X2 555 processor into a full blown quad-core.