ASRock demos waterproof motherboard

May 24, 2013 | 10:55

Tags: #a-style #liquid-nitrogen #motherboard #water-cooling #waterproof

Companies: #asrock #haswell

Motherboard maker ASRock has shown off another of its upcoming A-Style features to appear on its Haswell-compatible next-generation boards, with a live demo of the waterproof coating selected models are to receive.

Dubbed A-Style Conformal Coating, ASRock's latest gimmick allows the motherboard to survive getting splashed with water - making it a feature the company hopes will appeal to watercooling enthusiasts worried about a leak, or extreme overclockers who are concerned about the inevitable condensation that comes from the use of below-ambient cooling products like liquid nitrogen towers.

The technology isn't exclusive to ASRock: the process of protecting circuits from damage using a conformal coating material is well established. ASRock, however, is claiming its coating goes above and beyond those offered by its competitors.

A demonstration video released by the company shows the Conformal Coating in action. An ASRock motherboard is suspended above a a container full of water at an angle while water is poured over the top, running down the length of the board and pouring from the bottom. While that's something most computer owners would be reluctant to do with their products even while they're switched off, a quick pan upwards reveals that the board is fully operational at the time.

It's an impressive demonstration, but one that uses a little bit of trickery: the Conformal Coating is electrically insulative, which is why the demonstration works without anything releasing the magic smoke, but as a result it cannot be applied to anything that needs to be conductive.This means the exposed headers on the motherboard, its power connectors, PCI Express sockets - anything where you could be reasonably expected to connect a cable or jumper - must stay dry at all times to avoid a damaging short.

To be fair, it's not a limitation ASRock is trying to hide: the company clearly states in its video description that 'the pins need to stay conductive therefore they are not covered by Conformal Coating [and] the water in this video is designed to avoid the pins which still risks [a] short circuit.' Knowing that, however, the demonstration becomes significantly less impressive.

As mentioned, it's very rare for a modern mass-produced and complex circuit board to have exposed traces; instead, the entire board is covered in a protective coating designed to prevent corrosion and damage to what are often hair-fine copper tracks. While ASRock's A-Style Conformal Coating is likely a thicker and more robust example of this, most modern motherboards could equally survive a quick splash of water - providing, as in ASRock's demonstration, the water avoids any exposed contacts on the board - thanks to their own non-A-Style conformal coatings.

The A-Style Conformal Coating is one of the methods by which ASRock is hoping to rise above its competitors when people start looking for Haswell compatible motherboards, along with other A-Style features including HDMI input for pass-through video, on-board 802.11ac WI-Fi, a Home Cloud storage system and A-Style Purity Sound on-board audio.

If you're curious as to how ASRock's Conformal Coating stands up, the company's demonstration video is reproduced below.

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