What can we say about the micro ATX form factor that we have not already talked about? In our opinion this form factor has pretty much run its course and is in need of replacement soon. However, it looks like none of the players involved are thinking this or at least none of them are willing to talk about it.
Having said that, ASRock has made a couple of departures from the usual micro ATX layout. The 24-pin ATX power connector has been moved to the very upper edge of the board. The RAM slots have also been pushed up to this area. I imagine this was a difficult thing to incorporate into the design as the tracing layout of the board will end up being very complex.
The CPU mounting area and socket also seem to be much closer to the top edge of the board than normal. It is like ASRock just pushed everything up by about an inch. The 4-pin 12Volt aux connector is nicely unobscured, but can become quickly crowded with an oversized cooler in place.
The bottom half of the board has two PCIe slots and two PCI Gen 2 slots. The single x1 slots place any add-in board directly over the 890 Northbridge. While this does help with space considerations, I would be concerned about heat build-up, especially if you are using an add-in graphics card.
The SATA port placement is unusual; ASRock has placed all five along the bottom edge running up to the lower right hand corner. This is the spot normally left for the front panel header. ASRock has also lined up all of the USB headers. They are in a neat little row between the RAM slots and the 850 Southbridge.
The ports are about what you would expect from a current board with an IGP. We see the same annoying DVI-D port that restricts what cable you can use. It would have been better to go with a DVI-I port for more flexibility. Being a lower cost board, you are more likely to have purchases that would need this type of connection than a straight dual link DVD-D connection.
Overall ASRock has made some interesting and unusual departures from traditional motherboard design. We are not sure if these will pay off or if they will be a hindrance with the more complex tracing layout. We will find out that later in the performance section.
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