The P55 Extreme4 is an interesting motherboard. Its layout is fairly clean given the sheer amount of items that are sandwiched onto it. ASRock appears to have listened to customer wants for the mid-range market segment and included a PATA and Floppy port in addition to SATA. You get a very nice mix of new and legacy technology for some great flexibility.
On the upper half of the board we find one of the highlights of the P55 Extreme4; that is the bank of four SATA 3.0 ports. They are hanging out up by the RAM slots and the 24-pin power connector.
The CPU socket area is clean and has a nice touch certain to make many upgraders happy. This is the dual mounting system that ASRock uses. You can reuse that high-end socket 775 cooler that you own on this board without too much of a problem. The dual heatsinks here are great for keeping the power regulation components cool under pressure, but are very reminiscent of another manufacturers color scheme (but that is competition).
The 4-pin 12V Aux power port is stuck in the open space between the two coolers on the board. It is not hard to get to if your fingers are not overly fat. This shot shows us something interesting, though; looking at the profile of the cooler you can see that it was built with a heatpipe in mind, but one is not used here. This may or may not be a good decision. On the one hand keeping them separate lets each one cool on its own without any extra overhead. On the other, well, if the air flow is setup right then a heatpipe can assist in keeping things cool. I guess we will find out later when we put the board to our tests.
Looking to the bottom of the P55 Extreme4, it is pretty clear that ASRock has set this board up to have a great mix of technology for flexibility. There are three PCIe x1 slots mixed in with two PCIe x16 slots (that will run at x8 when combined for SLI or Crossfire). Below this are two PCI 2.0 slots for older devices. If you look at the bottom edge of the board you will see the single Floppy port. Right next to this is an odd sized port (light blue); this is for the USB 3.0 front bracket.
Looking at the opposite side, we find the six SATA II ports along with the diagnostic LEDs, the board mounted power and Reset switches and a 90 degree angled PATA port. It really is a great combination of options.
The ports on the rear I/O are nothing fancy, although the extra two USB 3.0 ports along with the front panel USB 3.0 ports is a nice touch.
In general the P55 Extreme4 is well laid out considering all the stuff that is packed onto it. We will have to see if all the extra tracing, power and other demands from this design and layout will hinder its performance.
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