Motherboard Guide

ASRock 775Dual-VSTA review

ASRock 775Dual-VSTA (VIA PT880 Ultra - Core 2 Ready)

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775Dual-VSTA Examined...

Features

The PT880 Ultra is VIA's hybrid chipset for the Intel platform designed at the time when the industry was shifting from AGP to PCI Express and from DDR to DDR2. Based on this chipset, the 775Dual-VSTA carries an interesting premise of having native support for PCI Express and AGP graphics cards as well as featuring DDR and DDR2 DIMM slots. However, users must take note that the PT880 Ultra is an AGP chipset with PCI Express support and not the other way around. Therefore, it carries a full AGP 8X interface, but limits PCI Express to four lanes. As such, the PCIe x16 slot on the 775Dual-VSTA is actually only capable of running at PCIe x4 electrically.

During our tests, we've also noticed that the board sometimes has a tendency to switch the graphics interface down to PCIe x1 intermittently at boot up. This results in a noticeable performance drop in graphics, but is easily remedied by re-booting your PC again. Most graphics card drivers have link width information for checking or you can always use a simple tool like CPU-Z to double check.

As for memory support, the board has four DIMM slots, two each for DDR and DDR2. It supports either dual-channel configurations for DDR-400 memory as well as dual-channel DDR2-533/667, but not mixed of course. Sadly, there isn't support for DDR2-800 memory speeds and no option in the BIOS for different dividers other than those stated. This limits the performance potential of the 775Dual-VSTA, especially since the board is banking on the fact that it is designed to be Core 2 ready.

The board's Southbridge is governed by VIA's VT8237A, just like the AM2V890-VSTA. This gives the board two Ultra ATA-133 and two SATA 1.5Gbps connectors with rudimentary RAID support for RAID 0 and RAID 1. The single 10/100Mbps networking connection onboard is a pair up of the Southbridge MAC and VIA's VT6103 PHY. Last but not least, the 775Dual-VSTA actually packs a decent audio solution in contrast to its other basic features. The board comes with Realtek's newest high performance ALC888 HD Audio CODEC and like many of ASRock's new motherboards, the 775Dual-VSTA also features a HDMI_S/PDIF header to allow S/PDIF audio pass through a HDMI equipped graphics card.

Layout

For the most part, we don't really have any complaints against the 775Dual-VSTA because the board comes in a full ATX PCB with plenty of room for good component airflow and little restrictions. Because of the sparse component placement, cable management is easily maintained even if the main ATX connector is at the rear of the board. However, the close proximity of the PCIe x16 and AGP slot means that only single slot cards can be used if you intend to go with a multi-monitor setup.

Overclocking

  • FSB Settings: 266MHz to 340MHz
  • RAM Frequency: DDR2-533, DDR2-667
  • Memory Voltage Settings: Low, Normal, High
  • AGP Voltage Settings: Normal, High
  • Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)

Budget boards rarely come with comprehensive overclocking options and the 775Dual-VSTA is no exception. The board does not feature CPU and chipset voltage selection and comes with a limited FSB range up to 340MHz. The board does carry memory and AGP voltages, but following ASRock tradition, expect a selection toggle between 'Normal' and 'High' with no actual values. Of course, low overclocking options doesn't necessarily mean low overclockability, a prime example being the MSI P965 Neo. However, the 775Dual-VSTA is the opposite. The maximum stable overclock that can be managed by the 775Dual-VSTA is 285MHz, far from even reaching the 300MHz sweet spot. During our time with the board, we've tried overclocking with both the Pentium 955 Extreme Edition and a Core 2 Duo E6700 and our results were the same. We also noticed that the current BIOS (P1.40) does not support Core 2 Duo multiplier down-stepping as yet.