ASRock H61M/U3S3 Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on May 23, 2011
The ASRock H61M/U3S3 is an entry-level socket LGA1155 motherboard, based on the Intel H61 chipset and using the microATX form factor, costing only USD 80. Even though it is a budget model, it features two SATA-600 ports (which are not usually found on H61-based motherboards), two USB 3.0 ports, and one PCI Express x16 slot. Let’s take a look at it.
The difference between the H61 and H67 chipsets is the absence of SATA-600 ports on the H61. This motherboard, however, has two SATA-600 ports controlled by an external chip. ASRock probably realized that in order to design an inexpensive entry-level socket LGA1155 motherboard supporting SATA-600 ports, it was cheaper to use the H61 chipset and add an extra chip, rather than using the H67 chipset.
Other minor differences between these two chipsets include the number of available PCI Express x1 lanes (eight on the H67 and six on the H61) and USB 2.0 ports (14 on the H67 and 10 on the H61).
The ASRock H61M/U3S3 comes with one PCI Express x16 slot, one PCI Express x1 slot, and two standard PCI slots. The PCI Express x16 slot is controlled by the processor and works at x16.
If you install a dual-slot video card in the PCI Express x16 slot, you will “kill” one of the standard PCI slots.
It is important to understand that Intel chipsets no longer support standard PCI slots, and the PCI slots are provided by an ASMedia ASM1083 bridge chip.
Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1155 processors support only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture.
The ASRock H61M/U3S3 has two memory sockets, supporting up to 8 GB each, for 16 GB total.
You must install two identical memory modules in order to enable the dual-channel architecture and achieve the maximum performance of which your system is capable.
The Intel H61 chipset is a single-chip solution which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip is targeted to entry-level motherboards and supports only four SATA-300 ports, with no support for SATA-600 ports or RAID. The ASRock H61M-U3S3, however, provides two SATA-600 ports, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip. The SATA ports are located in a position that the installation of a video card won’t block them.
This motherboard has eight USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. It also has two USB 3.0 ports located on the rear panel, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip.
No FireWire (IEEE1394) ports are available.
The ASRock H61M/U3S3 comes with six-channel audio, generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC662 codec. This chip provides a 98 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, up to 96 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, 24-bit resolution for its outputs, and 20-bit resolution for its inputs. These specs are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB and 24-bit resolution for the analog input.
As it normally happens with low-end products, there are only three audio jacks (line out, line in, and mic in). Therefore, if you want to install a 5.1 analog speaker set, you will have to use the line in and mic in jacks, and they won’t be available for use.
Digital audio is available through the on-board HDMI connector, but this motherboard doesn’t have an SPDIF header, preventing you from installing SPDIF connectors or route digital audio to your video card to have digital audio in its HDMI connector.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Atheros AR8151 chip.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with mouse and keyboard PS/2 connectors, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports (blue), Gigabit Ethernet port, and shared 5.1 analog audio jacks.
The ASRock H61M-U3S3 has other smaller yet important features. It has an infrared circuit, so if you want to have infrared communication (e.g., install a remote control), you will only need to buy the receiver/transmitter module, and install it on the available header on the motherboard.
It comes with a legacy serial port, available on the “COM1” header, and a legacy parallel port, available on the “LPT1” header. You will have to buy adapters if you want to have these ports available.
On this motherboard, you can install CPU coolers originally designed for the socket LGA775 platform, thanks to the presence of supporting holes compatible with this kind of CPU cooler. See Figure 6.
In Figure 7, you can see all the accessories that come with this motherboard.
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock H61M-U3S3 has three phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), one for the CPU VTT voltage (integrated memory controller and L3 memory cache), and one for the CPU VAXG voltage (integrated video controller). Therefore, it uses a “3+1+1” configuration.
Although this motherboard uses an entry-level voltage regulator, it uses solid capacitors and ferrite coils. If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The ASRock H61M/U3S3 has only one overclocking option and some voltage adjustments:
The main specifications for the ASRock H61M/U3S3 include:
The ASRock H61M/U3S3 is an interesting option for users that want to build an entry-level PC based on a second-generation Core i3 or even Core i5 CPU. It is very inexpensive and, at the same time, provides two SATA-600 ports (a feature not usually available on H61-based motherboards), two USB 3.0 ports, and one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot.The main drawbacks with this motherboard, in our opinion, are the shared audio connectors and the lack of an SPDIF header. The absence of overclocking features also can be seen as a drawback, however, this is a limitation imposed by Intel, not ASRock, as virtually all H61 and H67 motherboards have the same limitation.