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Zippy but affordable SLI motherboard

Zippy but affordable SLI motherboard

ASRock's products generally find a sweet spot between price and features. The 939SLI-ESATA2 is no exception, even though it does feature a lesser-known chipset. It's an AMD-based motherboard that uses a ULi instead of an Nvidia- or VIA-based chipset. ULi was recently acquired by Nvidia and the particular chipset that this board uses - the ULi M1697 - is quite similar to Nvidia's own nForce4: it is a single chip solution (it does not have a separate Southbridge and Northbridge). This chipset has support for PCI Express, Serial ATA II (SATA), RAID and 7.1 high-definition audio. The board that we looked at has two PCI Express slots that support SLI.

The ULi chipset is not the only interesting feature of this motherboard: it comes with eSATA and a Future CPU Port. This port is located just above the first PCI Express slot and it will accommodate a riser card for an AMD AM2 slot, which will facilitate upgrades to the next generation 940-pin Athlon 64 chips.

In the meantime, its 939-pin socket will support current Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2 and Athlon 64 FX CPUs. eSATA is a feature that allows you to plug in SATA drives externally of the PC case, as long as they are in a powered external SATA enclosure.

Setting up this board was a little tedious. We had to go into the BIOS and enable key settings that were disabled by default. Operating system installation on a 74GB Western Digital Raptor drive was smooth and we found the board to be stable and quite zippy. Driver installation was almost stealth-like, as Windows XP found all necessary chipset drivers.


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