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ASRock 870iCafe AM3 Motherboard

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Closer look

From the overall layout of the motherboard we can see that ASRock was not intended on it being high end. It is more of a budget motherboard for those that are looking for something simple, as not everyone is after all the bells and whistles. Like we said earlier the iCafe gives you all the needs, leaving out the wants. Even without all the pizazz we see in other motherboards, even some of ASRock's own, the iCafe is still visually a good looking motherboard.

We begin our tour by taking a look around the CPU socket and if you haven’t guess it by now this is an AM3 motherboard, supporting all AM3 processors which includes: Sempron, Athlon II, and Phenom II models X2 through X6. The board also utilizes a 4+1 power phase design which regulates power evenly and reliably to the processor. To help keep the ol' electricity to a minimum the iCafe supports AMD’s Cool and Quiet technology.

The AMD 870 chipset has only one 2.0 PCIe x16 slot so no Crossfire support outside of a dual-GPU card, or even Hybrid-Crossfire since there is no IGP. However we can’t pass blame onto ASRock for the lack of x16 PCIe slots as this is a total lane count restriction of the chipset. The iCafe comes with two PCIe 1x slots and two standard 32bit PCI slots. (Editor's Note: Something we've pointed out in a few of our recent reviews as of late is the placement of the first PCIe x1. Its location is very helpful since if you do decide to use a powerful graphics card along with an x1 card like discrete audio, you can place the x1 card in the above slot which frees up a large area under the graphics card to allow for much better airflow. Was a less common thing until more recently and I'm happy to see a more widespread adoption of this, especially on these lower end boards.)

The integrated memory controller of the CPU natively only supports DDR3 up to 1333MHz, but with overclocking presets the support jumps up to 1800MHz DDR3. Each slot can support a single 4GB ram module for a total of 16GB, but many of you now know is only possible with a 64-bit OS. If you are running a 32-bit OS you will only be able to utilize 3.5GB with the /PAE switch, but the OS itself can allocate up to 64bit for virtual address space, which is more helpful than it may seem. Another important factoid worth mentioning that many may not be aware of, is a memory controller erratum in the AM3 CPUs that would cause instability (or possibly even a no-POST) when all 4 channels were filled with memory and trying to run at 1333MHz. This was fixed in the C3 processors, and subsequently the Thuban as well.

The 870 chipset, like its 800-series brethren, are the first chipsets capable of SATA III with its 6.0Gb/s transfer. The ports are located in the lower corner of the motherboard, well away from the being a clearance/airflow nuisance to the GPU.

This is the first motherboard that I have seen in a long time with such a sparse I/O area. The two main causes are from the 870 Northbridge not having an IGP and the basic 6ch audio. Both of those combine account for the absence of VGA, DVI, HDMI, as well as the S/PDIF (Digital) and three addition 3.5mm audio ports. What we are left with is as we said earlier, just the needs. Two PS/2 connections for keyboard and mouse, an ancient COM port, six USB 2.0, one Realtek RTL8111C Gigabit LAN, and the three remaining audio jacks driven by the Realtek ALC662 which can still supports HD 5.1 surround.