Motherboard Guide

ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 review

ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 (ULi M1695)

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939Dual-SATA2 Examined....

Features

The ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 is a hybrid motherboard based on the ULi M1695/M1567 chipset combination, what ULi terms as their TGi (Triple Graphics Interface) chipset that allows a flexibility of using graphics cards in all three PCI, AGP and PCI Express buses. The 939Dual-SATA2 is definitely not the first motherboard to feature hybrid graphics support, but it can certainly boast to being a true hybrid. The M1695 is a full PCI Express chipset with 20 PCIe lanes available and the M1567 Southbridge comes with native PCI and AGP 8x features. Combined, the ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 supports full PCIe x16, AGP 8x and PCI graphics either independently or simultaneously up to six displays. This would possibly be a dream for users with high-end AGP graphics cards and be able to upgrade to newer AMD processor platforms. For users who have jumped onto the PCIe bandwagon, you can now fully make use of your AGP card again too. Of course, then comes the question of how many people have six monitors lying around to make full use of an ideal TGi setup; let alone four monitors that are easily supported on many modern motherboards.

As we talk about the board's nifty graphics acrobatics, you may have noticed a bright yellow slot on the board that looks suspiciously like a second AGP slot, but it isn't. ASRock has a long-standing tradition to offer motherboards with platform upgrade capabilities. In the past we've seen bridge cards for upgrading Socket A to Socket 754 and then Socket 754 to Socket 939, thus it isn't surprising to find that the 939Dual-SATA2 features a 'Future CPU Port' that makes it possible for the board to support AMD's upcoming Socket M2 processors and DDR2 memory.

While TGi and Future CPU Port features alone are enough to make the 939Dual-SATA2 a very desirable board, it does come with the basic necessities. Like the last few mainstream motherboards we've reviewed from ASRock, the 939Dual-SATA2 only comes with a single Fast Ethernet port powered by Realtek's RTL8201CL PHY. While the M1567 Southbridge does feature two SATA ports, it doesn't support the SATA 3Gbps interface. So in order for ASRock to market the board such, they included the very minimalist JMicron JMB360 controller, which provides one extra SATA 3Gbps port to the board for compatibility sake. Audio-wise, the board comes with a Realtek ALC850 CODEC, a common AC'97 onboard solution seen on numerous AMD-based motherboards due to their lack of HD Audio support. Although the board comes with full 8-channel analog ports, it lacks S/PDIF connectivity.

Layout

While the motherboard doesn't sport a plethora of functions, its two main features basically dictated its design layout. ASRock had to design a motherboard capable of at least dual graphics and still have sufficient space for a slotted bridge card for CPU and memory upgrade. Because of this, the board is a little tight for space, especially on to top half. Both the CPU slot and Northbridge have been moved closer towards the front side of the board, literally squeezing the DIMM slots to the corners. This is required to make space around the area for the future and eventual AM2 socket upgrade.

Because the CPU socket, DIMM slots and Northbridge components have been moved close to the edge, there is little space for component placement. IDE and Floppy connectors are located towards the bottom of the board, while the ATX power connectors are along the rear I/O panel. What is most perplexing about the board however, is the standard 20-pin ATX power supply. From our tests, the 939Dual-SATA2 holds up well with a standard setup, but considering the use of the board with multiple graphics and future AMD processor requirements, a 24-pin compatible connector would have been prefered. Still, this shouldn't pose much of an issue (other than needing converter plugs) as the underlying fact is to ensure that you have a power supply that can handle more than your expected needs.

Overclocking

The following overclocking options are available to the ASRock 939Dual-SATA2:-

  • FSB Settings: 140MHz to 300MHz
  • RAM Frequency: DDR-266, DDR-333, DDR-400
  • PCIe Frequency: 70MHz to 150MHz
  • CPU Voltage Settings: 0.800V to 1.550V (in 0.025V steps)
  • DIMM Voltage Settings: Normal, High, Auto
  • Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)

Overclocking doesn't seem to be one of the strong points of the 939Dual-SATA2. The board features the basic overclocking options, including a healthy FSB overhead selection and PCIe bus locking. What it lacked though was enough voltage options. The board doesn't come with chipset voltage controls and memory voltage is limited to a simple Normal/High toggle control.

Although we were able to play around with both the CPU and Southbridge HyperTransport link settings, our maximum FSB overclock was a mere 225MHz up from 200MHz. This number may seem awfully low, but our review of the reference ULi M1695 motherboard also yielded low overclocking headroom. At the time of writing, tests were conducted on ASRock's latest public BIOS v1.60.