Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
While I typically review high-end motherboards, lower-end models tend to be significantly more popular because of their affordability. If you don't need to overclock and just want a rock-solid system on the Intel side of things, the H, B, and Q series chipsets make a lot of sense over the Z or X series chipsets. Today I will look at ASRock's Fatal1ty B250M Performance, a fancy B250 chipset motherboard that supports Intel's 6th and 7th generation processors.
You lose the following features when going from the Z270 chipset to the B250 chipset; overclocking, multi-GPU support, 12 PCI-E 3.0 lanes from the PCH, two USB ports, two M.2 storage slots, vPro, SIPP, and Smart Response Technology. Even though you lose those features, ASRock ensured the motherboard has two M.2 32Gb/s slots (no RAID support), RGB LED support, and even a strong VRM.
Let's see how this budget board fairs against its more expensive counterparts.
The Fatal1ty B250M Performance offers Intel LAN, two 32Gb/s Ultra M.2 slots, SATA6Gb/s, USB 3.0, and even four fan headers.
The Fatal1ty B250M Performance costs $84.99.
Packaging and Fatal1ty B250M Performance Overview
Packaging and Overview
The box of the motherboard is similar to that of other ASRock Fatal1ty series motherboards and packaging is in line with what ASRock does with their mid to low-end Z170 motherboards.
The accessory package includes two SATA6Gb/s cables, IO shield, M.2 screws, driver DVD, postcard, and manual.
The Fatal1ty B250M Performance has four fan headers. There are two CPU fan headers rated for 1A; one is a 3-pin voltage/DC-mode header circled in yellow. One chassis fan header circled in blue is a PWM only header. The CPU fan header and other system fan header can change between PWM and DC mode; the system fan headers will detect the type of fan plugged into them.
The motherboard's aesthetics are surprisingly decent for such an inexpensive motherboard. The black PCB and red accents set the stage for a nice red and black build. The back of the motherboard is bare of components except for two drivers for the CPU VRM.
The rear IO panel features PS/2 keyboard, PS/2 mouse, VGA, DVI, HDMI, three USB 3.0 type-A, USB 3.0 type-C, two USB 2.0 ports, 1Gbit LAN, headphone jack, microphone jack, and line-in jack.
The x16 slot at the top is routed to the CPU, it has reinforced aluminum, and it is routed directly to the CPU. The last PCI-E 3.0 x4 slot shares its bandwidth with one of the M.2 slots. There are two extra x1 PCI-E slots that are flexible, meaning you can fit in a larger card in the smaller slot. Six SATA6Gb/s ports are also provided.
There are two Ultra M.2 slots that operate at 32Gb/s; the bottom one shares its bandwidth with the x4 PCI-E 3.0 slot. You cannot use them in RAID.
A USB 3.0 internal header is located below the 24-pin connector. There is an RGB LED header located at the top right-hand corner of the motherboard.
The clear CMOS header is located in the bottom right corner of the motherboard near the case headers. Two USB 2.0 headers are located here as well as the TPM header. There is an LPT port header to the right of a COM header in case you want to hook up your retro printer.
ASRock Fatal1ty B250M Performance Circuit Analysis
The Fatal1ty B250M Performance shows us the goods under the CPU VRM heat sink.
The VRM on this motherboard is a 4+2 phase configuration for the CPU core and iGPU phases. The core phases and the iGPU phases use a dual low-side single high-side configuration. Each phase uses two Sinopower SM4336 and one SM4337 PowerPAKs. The PWM controller is the Intersil ISL95824 4+2 phase PWM controller with two integrated drivers for the main four phases and one for the iGPU rail. Two ISL6625A are used for the CPU core and one for the iGPU to supplement the internal drivers.
An Anpec APW8720 is a single phase PWM with an integrated driver, and it's routed to two sets of power stage components to create a giant single/dual phase VRM which uses Sinopower SM4337 for both the high-side and low-side MOSFETs.
ASRock Fatal1ty B250M Performance Circuit Analysis Continued
Fatal1ty B250M Performance Circuit Analysis Continued
ASRock employs the Realtek ALC892 audio codec along with Nichicon Gold Series audio capacitors and a physical PCB divide to improve audio quality.
The Intel i219v is used as the PHY to complement the integrated MAC in the PCH for the Gbit Intel LAN. The ASMedia ASM1543 type-C switch controller is used to provide a USB 3.0 type-C port on the rear IO panel.
A Realtek RTD2168 provides the VGA/D-SUB port on the rear IO from the digital video signals the iGPu outputs. A nuvoTon N76E885AT20 provides the RGB header and controls the onboard RGB LEDs. There is also a Texas Instruments eFuse in case you reverse the polarity of the header.
The nuvoTon NCT6683D is used as the main SuperIO and provides the PS/2 on the rear IO, LPT port, system monitoring, and fan control. A Texas Instruments GD75232 driver and receiver IC provides the COM header.
BIOS and Software
The UEFI on the Fatal1ty B250M Performance is very similar to that found on ASRock's Z270 motherboards. There is even an OC Tweaker section even though the chipset doesn't support CPU overclocking or memory speeds above 2400MHz. You can change the voltage of the components though. The UEFI offers a GUI for fan control or manual input sections if you would like to type in points instead of using a graph.
ASRock's software suite includes AURA RGB LED, APP Charger, XFast LAN, APP Store, and Key Master.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty B250M Performance
- CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K
- Cooler: Corsair H115i GT - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum (2x8GB) 3200MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Samsung 950 Pro 256GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - SATA6G Drive: Corsair Force LS 240GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - M.2 Drive: Intel 750 400GB U.2
- Storage - USB Drive: Corsair Voyager GS 64GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 900D - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Corsair HX1000 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: ASRock PA328 ProArt 32" 4K - Buy from Amazon
- Keyboard: Corsair K70 LUX - Buy from Amazon
- Mouse: Corsair M65 PRO RGB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Headset: Corsair VOID RGB Wireless - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- BIOS: P1.10
The Fatal1ty B250M Performance offers enthusiast-level aesthetics at a very reasonable price. The red and black color theme is one of the most popular, and the subtle RGB LEDs under the PCH offer a little extra.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
AIDA64 AES and HASH
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
The Fatal1ty B250M Performance's performance is not as strong as some of the other motherboards, especially those that use multi-core enhancement, and that is because overclocking is not support on the B250 chipset and multi-core enhancement is basically overclocking. Performance against other motherboards that do not use it is quite good and comparable.
Some motherboard reviews put a lot of weight into motherboard CPU, memory, and GPU benchmarks, but for me, CPU, memory, and GPU benchmarks on motherboards should be more about finding anomalies, and I do that at standard settings (4.8G in graphs).
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The Fatal1ty B250M Performance's M.2 and SATA performance is solid, but that is to be expected because ASRock does a great job with storage performance. Network performance is also where it should be, and that is because of the Intel NIC.
Audio RMAA 5.5:
I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.
Sound Judgment by Ear: Acceptable. ASRock uses the ALC892, so performance isn't as great as the newer ALC1150 or ALC1220 codecs, but it's still good. There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent
Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption
System power is measured at the wall with an AC power meter.
Note on Thermal Images: In the temperature section, we use our Seek thermal imaging camera to capture the surface temperatures of major components on the board. I look at the VRM and then all other things that light up the screen. If there is something to worry about, then I will state it. Otherwise, I will just show the hotter running parts of the board for fun. Unless some component is over 80-90C, then there isn't anything to worry about.
All systems will act differently, so I will look for commonalities, such as how far from the VRM the heat spreads through the PCB and the difference in temperature between the front side and backside of the PCB. Keep in mind, the majority of the heat from the VRM goes into the PCB as it is a giant soldered on copper heat sink. A larger difference in temperature between the back and front of the PCB points towards a more effective heat sink.
Thermal Testing at Stock Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans above the VRM that cool the CPU cooler's (Corsair H110i GT) radiator are turned on to high (12v).
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
The Fatal1ty B250M Performance's thermal performance is actually decent for the price of the motherboard. Since you can't overclock, it doesn't matter if the temps go a bit high at stock. I would say the VRM is acceptable and won't make your CPU throttle due to overheating.
Anything under 60C is great, 60-80C is acceptable, and anything above 80C is a bit worrisome (if at stock).
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the ASRock Fatal1ty B250M Performance.
Intel NIC: I really didn't expect to find an Intel NIC on such a low-cost motherboard, but alas ASRock comes through with one of the most preferred NICs on the consumer market.
Two M.2: The platform officially only supports a single M.2 slot, but ASRock comes through with a second slot. The downside is that you can't RAID the slots, but still having two is better than one since both are rated 32Gb/s.
RGB LEDs and Header: The motherboard carries a single RGB LED header as well as some RGB LEDs under the PCH heat sinks. At this price point, I didn't expect this, since it requires a controller and eFuse, both of which ASRock incorporates.
Heatsinks and Aesthetics: The CPU VCore VRM has a heat sink as does the PCH. VRM cooling is quite crucial for cost-effective VRMs, and I am glad to see ASRock used one. The red heat sinks also match up with the red on the PCB and the IO/audio shield. The motherboard has enthusiasts aesthetics at a non-enthusiast price point.
Low on Rear USB: The rear IO only offers five USB type-A ports, I would have liked to see more in lieu of the iGPU outputs, but I am just nitpicking.
The ASRock Fatal1ty B250M Performance is an excellent value product. It offers dual M.2 slots, enthusiast-grade aesthetics, and even an Intel NIC at one of the most affordable price points on the market. Most of these types of motherboards go into system integrator products that are used anywhere from arcade machines to computers that control large displays, and we see room for a lot of upgrading or downgrading if we look at the empty solder pads.
However, instead of marketing to system integrators, ASRock has taken a different approach and marketed the motherboard towards gamers who just need a motherboard that supports the latest Core series processors, the fastest storage, and a single GPU. The enthusiast aesthetics are a nice touch, and at this price point, that could sway many gamers towards the motherboard. If you need a low-cost motherboard to build a decent gaming system, you should give the Fatal1ty B250M Performance a look.
The Bottom Line: ASRock's Fatal1ty B250M Performance motherboard offers enthusiast grade features at a price point that won't hurt your wallet.
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