Review Index:

ASRock K8 Combo-Z ALi M1689 Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASRock

Design and Features

The big feature of the K8 Combo-Z is obviously the support for both Socket 754 and Socket 939 CPUs on two sockets. Though the K8 Bombo-Z looks like a dual-processor motherboard, the K8 Combo-Z can only support one processor at a time. You select which processor you want to use by moving columns of jumpers. Because of the large number of jumpers and the cramped layout of the board, it's not a simple task moving jumpers around even for users with nimble fingers. I'm not sure why ASRock did not engineer a simpler method of switching socket modes. Hopefully you won't have to do this too often.

According to the ASRock specifications, the K8 Combo-Z is ready for dual core X2 CPUs up to the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ and the unreleased Sempron 3000+ and 3200+.

Each socket is paired with a set of DIMMs - 3 DIMMs for the Socket 939, and 2 DIMMs for the Socket 754. Unfortunately, you can't use all 5 DIMMs for 5GB worth of memory, so you're limited to the 3GB on 939-pin and 2GB on 754-pin. The DIMMs are also very close to the sockets which is a problem for large heatsinks and RAM.

The heatsink clips surrounding the socket support AMD heatsinks using the standard retention design. However if you are using an after-market cooler with a different mechanism, you may be unable to use it because the motherboard clips cannot be removed unless you cut off the plastic fasteners. This isn't a big deal for those of you with the experience.

Because the retention clip could not be removed I could not test to see if the Zalman CNPS7700-Cu fits.

Careful not to break these capacitors off.

When I was installing the CPU into the 754-pin socket, I almost broke off some of the capacitors lying next to the retention bracket. Just be extra careful as these capacitors didn't feel like they were soldered too securely.

Because there are two sockets and two sets of DIMMs on the motherboard, the board itself only has three PCI slots and a single AGP slot (compare to the five or six PCI slots found on other ATX boards). Since the K8 Combo-Z comes with LAN and audio, three PCI slots should be enough.

For storage devices, there are two plain ATA133 channels, and two SATA (1.5Gb/s) connections that are usable in RAID 0, 1, and JBOD. There is AC'97 8-channel audio (Realtek ALC850), 10/100MB LAN (Realtek RTL8201), and USB 2.0 connections (four usable on the back I/O panel, and two onboard headers). Some notable features that are missing is Firewire, SPDIF output, and gigabit LAN.

Before concluding, it's also worth mentioning that the Combo-Z has only two fan headers onboard. So if you're looking to connect more than one case fan, you will have to use an adapter on your 4-pin molex.

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