With the recent leak of Intel's CPU roadmap confirming the Sandy Bridge processor lineup, it's tempting to hold out and wait. After all, the mainstream Socket LGA1156 solution now looks to be the end of the upgrade path when these Sandy Bridge processors, which use a new, incompatible Socket LGA1155, are released. One can go into long debates about the number and frequency of Intel's socket changes but technology inevitably progresses and one cannot always keep waiting.
Of course, Sandy Bridge may not hold that much attraction if even lower power consumption and integrated graphics are not high on your priority list. In which case, the mainstream Intel P55 chipset and a current Core i5/i7 processor will fit the bill, especially if you have plans for discrete graphics and perhaps even dual cards in a SLI or CrossFireX setup.
With this in mind, we take a look at one of the new crop of P55 motherboards, enhanced by vendors with features that will improve its future relevance, including SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0. ASRock has decided to take this one small step further with a board they dubbed 'Extreme4' and which gets the '4' label presumably because it has four SATA 6Gbps ports and four USB 3.0 ports. ASRock also claims to be the first in the world to offer front USB 3.0 ports, thanks to a front bracket with those ports included in the box.
The ASRock P55 Extreme4 is hence one of the more premium offerings from the vendor, with some of its latest proprietary technologies and other updated features. Before we delve into what makes it tick, here are some opening shots of this board and do check the specs tab for the full motherboard support details:-