ASRock 870iCafe AM3 Motherboard

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Posted by  on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 5:13am

asrock 870icafeFor those who are looking to keep things truly budget oriented, ASRock is not leaving the people out in the cold. Thus enter the 870iCafe; a simple motherboard with basic features, yet still retaining great looks. The 870iCafe may be lacking some of the features that'd make it an ideal gaming or video editing platform (namely Crossfire, 7.1 surround sound and USB3 support), as it has just the bare essentials; however, this review is not about what the 870iCafe isn't offering, but what it is. So you may be left asking "What pray tell do you have to say that is positive?" Well read on and find out!

Introduction to the ASRock 870iCafe

As of late all the motherboards coming out of the ASRock camp have been on the higher-end. A level that ASRock has being working hard at conquering (and doing pretty well, if you ask us). They have come a long ways since their early years when they were known for OEM or inexpensive workstation components. With the attention that they have been getting with the release of their X58 Extreme and 890FX series motherboards, ASRock can now be mentioned in the same breath as the other big name manufacturers when talking about performance.

One thing ASRock has been known for since the early years is their quality, and that certainly hasn't change. No matter the performance levels of the product at hand you know that you are getting a piece of equipment that is reliable and trustworthy.

For those who are looking to keep things truly budget oriented, ASRock is not leaving the people out in the cold. Thus enter the 870iCafe; a simple motherboard with basic features, yet still retaining great looks. The 870iCafe may be lacking some of the features that'd make it an ideal gaming or video editing platform (namely Crossfire, 7.1 surround sound and USB3 support), as it has just the bare essentials; however, this review is not about what the 870iCafe isn't offering, but what it is. So you may be left asking "What pray tell do you have to say that is positive?" Well read on and find out!


Specifications

CPU - Support for Socket AM3 processors: AMD Phenom™ II X6 / X4 / X3 / X2 (except 920 / 940) / Athlon II X4 / X3 / X2 / Sempron processors
- Six-Core CPU Ready
- Supports UCC feature (Unlock CPU Core)
- V4 + 1 Power Phase Design
- Supports CPU up to 140W
- Supports AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
- FSB 2600 MHz (5.2 GT/s)
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
- Supports Hyper-Transport 3.0 (HT 3.0) Technology
Chipset - Northbridge: AMD 870
- Southbridge: AMD SB850
Memory - Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 4 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 1800(OC)/1600(OC)/1333/1066/800 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 16GB*

*Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS with a 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.
BIOS - 8Mb AMI Legal BIOS
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumper-free
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU VID, VCCM, NB, SB Voltage Multi-adjustment
 Audio, Video and Networking
Graphics - n/a
Audio - 5.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC662 Audio Codec)
LAN - PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Realtek RTL8111C
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports LAN Cable Detection
 Expansion / Connectivity
Slots - 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (blue @ x16 mode)
- 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
- 2 x PCI slots
SATA3 - 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID10 and JBOD), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
Connector - 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors
- 1 x IR header
- 1 x Power LED header
- CPU/Chassis/Power FAN connector
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- Front panel audio connector
- 3 x USB 2.0 headers (support 6 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x Dr. Debug (7-Segment Debug LED)
Rear Panel I/O I/O Panel
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
- 1 x Serial Port: COM1
- 6 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- HD Audio Jack: Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
 Other Features / Miscellaneous
Unique Feature - ASRock OC Tuner
- Intelligent Energy Saver
- Instant Boot
- ASRock Instant Flash
- ASRock OC DNA
- ASRock AIWI
- ASRock APP Charger
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
Support CD - Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), AMD OverDrive™ Utility, AMD Fusion, AMD Fusion Media Explorer, ASRock Software Suite (CyberLink DVD Suite - OEM and Trial; Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi MB - Trial)
Accessories - Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- 2 x SATA Data Cables (optional)
Hardware Monitor - CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU/Chassis/Power Fan Tachometer
- CPU Quiet Fan
- CPU/Power Fan Multi-Speed Control
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, Vcore
Form Factor - ATX Form Factor: 12.0-in x 8.2-in, 30.5 cm x 20.8 cm
- All Solid Capacitor design (100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors)
OS - Microsoft® Windows® 7 / 7 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit / XP / XP 64-bit compliant
Certifications - FCC, CE, WHQL
- ErP/EuP Ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

Features

  1. Phenom II X6 6-Core CPU Ready
  2. ASRock DuraCap (2.5 longer life time), 100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
  3. Supports ASRock Turbo UCC
  4. Supports ASRock UCC - Unlock CPU Core
  5. Supports CPU up to 140W
  6. Supports Dual Channel DDR3 1800(OC)
  7. 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot
  8. 6 x SATA3 connectors
  9. PCIE Gigabit LAN
  10. ErP/EuP Ready
  11. Supports ASRock Instant Boot, Instant Flash, OC Tuner, IES, OC DNA, Multi-Speed Fan Control, AIWI, APP Charger, Dr. Debug
  • Free Software : CyberLink DVD Suite - OEM and Trial; Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi MB - Trial

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.


BIOS

System Overview


OC Tweaker


CPU frequency multiplier up to 31.5x


CPU core voltage up to 2.00v


North Bridge frequency multiplier up to x31


North Bridge voltage up to 1.55v


DIMM voltage up to 2.05v


Memory timings


CPU OC setting


Testing Begins

Test Hardware:
Motherboard: ASRock 870iCafe
Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 965BE C3
Ram: Patriot Sector 5 1600 4GB Dual Channel (8-8-8-24)
Video Card: Sapphire HD 5750
HDD: Hitachi 1TB
Power: Thermaltake Tough Power XT 850 (Sponsored by Thermaltake)
Case: NA
Cooling: Scythe Yasya
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit
Thermal compound: Arctic Silver 5


Futuremark PCMark Vantage
3DMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed to test the DirectX10 performance of your graphics card. We’ve been making 3DMark for over 10 years, with each new edition using the latest 3D technology to determine real-world performance.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
3DMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed to test the DirectX10 performance of your graphics card. We’ve been making 3DMark for over 10 years, with each new edition using the latest 3D technology to determine real-world performance. A 3DMark score is an overall measure of your system’s 3D gaming capabilities, based on comprehensive real-time 3D graphics and processor tests. By comparing your score with those submitted by millions of other gamers you can see how your gaming rig performs, making it easier to choose the most effective upgrades or finding other ways to optimize your system. 3DMark is widely used by the PC industry, press and media as well as individual users and gamers, for comparing performance levels between whole systems or even specific components


SiSoftware Sandra Lite 2007 SP1
SiSoftware has announced the availability of Service Release 2 (SR2) for SiSoftware Sandra 2005, the latest version of its award-winning utility. The focus of this service release has been improved support, compatibility and reliability rather than new features. We have been working closely with more hardware vendors than before to be able to bring greater direct support of an increased market share of commodity and server technologies.

Lavalys Everest
Lavalys EVEREST Home Edition is freeware system information, system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for home PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. It offers the world's most accurate system information and diagnostics capabilities, including online features, memory benchmarks, hardware monitoring, and low-level hardware information. EVEREST Home Edition is uniquely available for home users without any charges, based on the freeware license.


Maxon Cinebench
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

Super PI Modded 1.5
In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi in collaboration with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center. This record should be the current world record. (Details are shown in the windows help.) This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95. In order to calculate 33.55 million digits, it takes within 3 days with a Pentium 90 MHz, 40 MB main memory and 340 MB available storage.


S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
The events of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat unfold shortly after the end of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. Having discovered about the open path to the Zone center, the government decides to hold a large-scale military "Fairway" operation aimed to take the CNPP under control.

According to the operation's plan, the first military group is to conduct an air scouting of the territory to map out the detailed layouts of anomalous fields location. Thereafter, making use of the maps, the main military forces are to be dispatched.
Despite thorough preparations, the operation fails. Most of the avant-garde helicopters crash. In order to collect information on reasons behind the operation failure, Ukraine's Security Service send their agent into the Zone center.
From now on everything depends on the player.

Tech ARP x264 HD 3.15
Simply put, it is a reproducible measure of fast your machine can encode a short HD-quality video clip into a high quality x264 video file. It's nice because everyone running it will use the same video clip and software. The video encoder (x264.exe) reports a fairly accurate internal benchmark (in frames per second) for each pass of the video encode and it also uses multi-core processors very efficiently. All these factors make this an ideal benchmark to compare different processors and systems to each other.

HD Tune
HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more.


Overclocking with the ASRock 870iCafe and the AMD Phenom II 965 Black

Honestly, when I started this motherboard's overclocking session I thought I would never reach 4000MHz, given that this is a budget motherboard after all, but it turns out that the iCafe actually isn’t that bad of an overclocker. I was originally going to let the BIOS do its own overclocking, but that really didn't go according to plan. Instead I went straight for the 4080MHz option within the feature drop down list, there was a reboot and... Overclock failed. Not terribly disappointed I proceeded on with my attempts to reah my goal of getting the board to at least POST at the desired 4080MHz. This was easily accomplished by upping the CPU VCore from the default 1.3v to 1.5v. Bingo we have a POST!  A quick SuperPi run for stability. Done.


Conclusion

You can’t help but fall in love with the looks of this motherboard, as simple as they may be. ASRock continues to impress us all with the changes they have been making with their motherboards. No longer are we graced with the present of that teal colored PCB that for years we saw ASRock use. Now we have black PCB with bold blue and bright white accents.

One aspect of the new 870iCafe we admired was its overclocking ability. It's not often that one can get a sub-$100 to overclock as well as this board did. We reached 4GHz with just a couple of BIOS changes. That’s up over 600MHz from the default 3.4GHz of the AMD Phenom II 965BE.

The 870iCafe can currently be found on store shelves for $100; not that bad of a price for a new chipset. However, our opinion is that $85 is a more reasonable price given its lack of USB 3.0 or second PCIe x16 slot.

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