ASRock H97M Pro4 Motherboard Review

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Nuckles_56

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May 25, 2014
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"Limited by the Pentium, the RAM can only be set to DDR3-1400."
DDR3-1600?
But a good read anyway, I was a bit disappointed by the overclocking potential for the board/CPU
 

Onus

Titan
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The G3258 cannot run the RAM at DDR3-1600; DDR3-1400 is indeed as fast as it gets.
A higher setting than 4.2 is available, but 4.4 appears in a hazardous-looking red font. Being somewhat risk-averse, I just left it at 4.2. Eric Van der Linden is looking at the "Z" overclocking boards, and is pushing higher clocks.
If you want more than 16GB, you'll need four DIMM slots. Or, you get to start with 2x4GB and add another 2x4GB later to get 16GB without having to discard your prior RAM.
If you want to overclock a "K" chip, this won't be the board you buy. Otherwise, it is very hard to beat this one if you might want any of its other features, like RAID.
I did notice that one chart got entered as "Haven" rather than "Heaven."
 

RedJaron

Splendid
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I found the Pentium's RAM speed actually depends on the mboard. On H chipsets it won't go above 1400. However I've dropped my G3258 into a Z board and 1600 and higher were available. Why anyone would put a Pentium in a Z board for daily use is beyond me. I only did it to check my Pentium's silicon ceiling.

And I'd actually like to see what this thing could do with a K chip, especially compared to the Z97M Pro4. The two look like they share the exact same PCB. The BIOS is about the only thing different. You won't have the fine control of a Z board, but I'm willing to bet this thing could take a K north of 4.2 GHz for a moderate everyday OC. If that's your goal, this board is by far the better buy.

One last thing, the H chipset can't split lanes for multi-GPU, so a second PCIe 3.0 x16 slot wouldn't be terribly usable.

@HL, even on a dual-channel controller, four DIMMs will give you better RAM bandwidth than two modules. The balance act is that four modules are harder to overclock since the timings can't be as tight. Maximum bandwidth may well be about even between the two configuration if you take the time to optimize every single timings. But if you're just going for XMP values, four is usually faster than two.
 

RazberyBandit

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In the Conclusion "Recommended" pic, you stated the board supports RAID 0, 1, and 5. It also supports RAID-10 should someone desire it. Would you please amend that?

You claimed this is a 4+1-phase power design, yet ASRock claims it has a 4-phase delivery system on its site and within the manual. While I can see 5 chokes (4 CPU side, 1 at the 8-pin) surrounding the MOSFET heatsink, I'm not certain that translates to 4+1. Besides, isn't the +x portion of a phase count usually indicative of the memory side of the power delivery system?

Readers should keep in mind that when using a Haswell/Haswell-R CPU that doesn't have a limited IMC (i.e. the G3258's 1333 limitation), Intel XMP 1.2 and 1.3 are fully supported, meaning you can use DDR3-1600 or faster RAM on this board. Memory speed support simply depends upon the specific CPU installed.

Lastly, while this 4- or 4+1-phase power delivery design certainly won't allow "to the gills" K-series overclocking high-end 12-phase designs are capable of delivering, it is capable of overclocking those CPUs. Stating that it's not "the board to buy" for K-series overclocking is an oversimplified blanket claim, while a line like "has the ability to overclock the unlocked Pentium G3258" is a very limiting claim. Writing like that is bit too muddy and lacking specified details I expect within a review here.
 

RedJaron

Splendid
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This is actually a combination of CPU and mboard. A G3258 in a Z board doesn't limit the RAM frequency.

You're forgetting that overclocking is a mix of hardware and software. This board looks to have the same hardware as the Z97M Pro4, but the Z board has a lot more settings available in the UEFI. Yes, the H97 can probably get a decent everyday OC, but if you want to fine tune everything, you want a Z board's better UEFI.
 

RazberyBandit

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I didn't forget it's a mix at all. Even the "dud" 4670K and 4690K CPUs will typically hit ~4.2GHz at 1.2V on just about any Z87 or Z97 board, while the choice ones can hit 4.5 to 4.6 GHz at the exact same voltage on the exact same motherboard the dud couldn't. These 84/88W CPUs are fully-supported by the initial BIOS/UEFI release of this H97M-Pro4 board. Even the 95W Xeon E1285v4 Broadwell is supported with an update. The chokes and MOSFETs under the heatsink could be different than the Z97M-Pro4, but the rest of the circuitry is identical, so...

Yeah. I also want to see proof K-series overclocking on this board is truly as limited as the author surely desires to lead readers to believe.

P.S. You linked the H97M-Pro4 article, not the Z97M-Pro4 one. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/asrock-z97m-pro4-motherboard,4180.html
 

RedJaron

Splendid
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I didn't take it that Joe was trying to lead readers to think this board can't take a K chip. Indeed the final verdict says this board can likely fulfill all your needs and then some, so long as you're not trying to overclock to the gills. That is quite true. Mild to moderate overclocking would likely be just fine.

If Joe wants to send me the board, I'd be happy to try this. Indeed, this was one of the nagging thoughts I had while reviewing the Z Pro4. Why would someone spend more on this that the H97? The only answer I could come with is the better UEFI and more settings. Soderstrom also reports that some lower-level boards ( and you're perfectly right that while I expect the VRM to be identical between these two, I'm not certain ) have problems running a 4790K at stock clocks due to power management limitations. I'd like to prove if that's the case or not.

Joe, I'll trade you for the Z97M Pro4. You know you want to crank a Pentium in that for no good reason. ;)

Whoops, sorry about that. I had both tabs open at the time and must have copied the wrong one.
 

SylentVyper

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Dec 30, 2014
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...Pros: 4 DIMM slots...

Would I actually want four slots for a dual channel architecture?
Maybe - JUST maybe - this board wasn't specifically designed to solely meet your needs only. Maybe they wanted to offer a board with 32GB RAM capacity? I'm failing to see why this even got your attention.
 

RedJaron

Splendid
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Only two? ;) That means you're going faster than me. I've got four in the queue right now. Remember when they told us this was just going to be periodic projects?

Just kidding, Fritz! We love doing this.

 

Onus

Titan
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Two are being tested; one B85 on the bench as a part of this project (I want to wrap that one up this weekend), and one a personal build that I will slip in if wanted. Then I've got two more B85s and another H97. So no, not only two; only two underway.
 
This article is pretty good. I'd like to see articles on the lesser boards as well. I see too many people advocating for high end motherboards for budget builds in the forums. H81 and B85 is fine in most situations where overclocking is not a factor.
 

Onus

Titan
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Thank you. There is absolutely no denying that some users will only be satisfied with a loaded "Z" board, and I'm not disparaging them; they know what they want, and why. For the vast majority of people, who do not overclock, it's quite clear to me that a much cheaper board has all the necessary features for them.
Imho, H81 is an excellent business-box chipset. Companies buy PCs by the dozens or hundreds to put on their networks, and for most corporate users, H81 offers all they'll ever need or use.
Even most home users will likely be satisfied with H81, although going up to B85 gives you PCIe3.0 and a few more native ports. I'm looking at the add-ons in this segment though, like the Codec; some are clearly better than others.
Personally, I really like H97, because I prefer RAID1 pairs for my data drive, yet I still only need a single PCIe 3.0 slot.
If you could plot people's needs in a motherboard on a bell curve, the H97M Pro4 would cover most of it, losing the bottom only to those on a super-tight budget, and the top only to those who particularly enjoy overclocking, or who need multiple graphics cards. For the vast majority, I could recommend this board and know I did not give bad advice.

 

RedJaron

Splendid
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And the funny thing is with the unofficial overclocking support in the 9-series chipset, even moderate overclockers can be satisfied with an H board.
 


With just a little advice and a bios update another user in the forum user hit 4.4Ghz with a g3258 and a msi h81. Even my b85 came with overclocking support and it was among the cheapest boards I could find.
 

RedJaron

Splendid
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CrossFire on this board is near useless. Technically it meets the minimum specs for it, but the H97 chipset does not support the PCIe lane splitting. The bottom slot in which the second GPU would go is wired to the chipset, not the CPU, at four lanes on PCIe 2.0 speeds. Any card sufficiently powerful enough to warrant a CFX setup will starve for bandwidth in that slot. Also, any double-slot GPU will also block nearly every header along the bottom of the board, including the front panel connector. Finally, putting a double-slot card there means you would have to have a full ATX case since you've gone over the four slot limit of mATX cases.
 

CTurbo

Titan
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Yes I know I didn't say it was the best idea. I have a lot of hands on experience with that board. I've even xfired two 7850s on it to poor results of course.

I still thought it should have been mentioned since it IS an option. The full ATX version doesn't support it ironically.
 

RedJaron

Splendid
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4.4 on a cheap board with stock cooling is higher than average, but do-able if you get lucky. Power delivery usually limits you before the thermal ceiling of stock cooling in those situations. My G3258 tops out around 4.2 - 4.3 unless I drop it in a premium board or get better cooling. That's not terribly real-world applicable since most people don't like spending twice the price of their CPU on mboard and cooling. If you haven't read them, you can see me and Joe's previous reviews where we experiment with overclocking on the cheap.


Eh, the only reason I'd mention CFX on this board is to warn people against doing it. As you said yourself, the results are very poor. Just because I can do something with a product doesn't mean I want to, especially if it means worse performance than if I didn't do it.
 

Onus

Titan
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If the AM1 system I'm testing as a daily driver turns out to be intolerably slow for its intended uses (unlikely, but I'm not done testing), I will probably use the H97M Pro4 with a "T" series i3.

I'm testing a B85 now, and hit an initial snag that required a complete reload of Windows on it.
 
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