If you’re looking for a build that is intended to perform well on a budget, the H61 chipset motherboards just may be the ideal, low cost solution for a basic Intel Sandy Bridge processor. Obviously there are some pros and cons to this platform, but that goes without saying. The biggest downside, if you can call it that, is the lack of any overclocking ability to the CPU, but that’s to be expected on a budget Sandy Bridge platform.
Of course, the H61 chipset is handcuffed by the lack of support for features native to other chipsets in the Sandy Bridge family, but thankfully ASRock has gone and added some of those features to this board like SATA and USB 3.0. Really, the only feature ASRock didn’t add to the H61iCafe was RAID support, which we believe isn’t any sort of loss if you’re on a tight budget anyways.
Aesthetically speaking, the H61iCafe looks very attractive in the blue and white colour styling. As for the board layout, we don’t have any real complaints. There is plenty of room around the socket area for many different styles of coolers, although nothing massive will be required to cool the processor, and the stock cooler will likely do just fine.
Essentially what it boils down to is that ASRock has added the missing features in the H61 chipset here on the iCafe, which is a huge benefit at the price point of only $70. You get some great built-in HD video performance, SATA/USB 3.0 6GB/s connectivity, and 7.1 HD audio, giving you one heck of an inexpensive HTPC. Or you get the basis for a great family PC. If you decide to drop in a discrete graphics card then the package really rounds itself out giving you a gaming rig that you can certainly be proud of on the cheap.
While flagship motherboards may command much of the buzz in the market, they do also command hefty price tags. Budget boards like this one from ASRock don’t normally garner much hype and may not elicit dreams of powerhouse computing grandeur, but we haven’t seen such an excellent budget board like this in a long time. While we wouldn’t place the H61iCafe on an equal plane as those premium boards, it remains an outstanding motherboard in its own right, and we absolutely love what ASRock has done here.
The Pure Point: At a price of only $70, the ASRock H61iCafe is a fantastic and full-featured budget board for the Sandy Bridge platform.