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Asrock 880GMH/USB3 – Design
The Asrock 880GMH/USB3 might be an affordable AM3 motherboard, but you would never know it just by looking at it. In terms of appearances there is nothing cheap about this motherboard, featuring an excellent design, color scheme and cooling setup.
Starting with the cooling, Asrock's 880GMH/USB3 features two passive heatsinks constructed from aluminum. The north bridge heatsink measures 7 x 4cm and 2cm tall and the smaller south bridge heatsink measures 4 x 4cm and 1cm tall. The lower half of the former uses a smaller profile to avoid conflicting with long PCI Express x1 cards.
Directly under the PCIe x1 is a full length PCI Express slot (16x bandwidth). However, Crossfire or SLI setups are not possible as this MicroATX board has just a single PCIe x16 slot present. Additionally, there are a pair of traditional PCI slots should you need them.
Given that the mATX form factor doesn't provide a great deal of spare room, the CPU socket is positioned very close to the north bridge heatsink as well as the DDR3 DIMM slots. When using standard heatsinks this won't become an issue, however, larger tower heatsinks will make using the first and second DIMM slots quite difficult. Low profile memory modules will likely be required here if that's your plan.
Adjacent to the CPU socket is a fairly typical 4+1 power phase designed to deliver power to the CPU. Something we found interesting about the Asrock 880GMH/USB3 is that it only uses a 4-pin 12v power connector for the CPU rather than the more commonly used 8-pin connector. This is not an issue for low-end processors that generally use less power, but we tend to think that a motherboard designed to cater for the newer six-core Phenom II X6s would use an 8-pin connector.
In the opposite corner of the Asrock 880GMH/USB3 are five vertically placed SATA ports connected to the SB710 south bridge chip. The sixth port can be found on the I/O panel where it provides eSATA (3Gb/s) support. Typically, five onboard SATA ports should be enough as few mATX cases can accommodate for more devices anyway.
The design of the Asrock 880GMH/USB3 doesn't suffer from the common PCIe x16/DIMM slot conflict. This means that it's possible to install and remove memory modules without first having to remove the graphics card. Although the three onboard USB 2.0 headers are directly below the DIMM slots, we didn't run into any issues with their orientation.
Finally we have the I/O panel, which features a single PS/2 port, Ethernet port, S/PDIF port, eSATA port and five audio jacks along with four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports. There are also DVI, VGA and HDMI connectors, with the only thing missing here being DisplayPort. Overall the Asrock 880GMH/USB3 is a well equipped motherboard, especially given the relatively low price tag of just $85.