Asrock FM2+ Motherboards
Last year, Asrock supplied us with a few of its new FM2+ motherboards and we're finally getting a chance to look at them with a Kaveri APU. Asrock already offers 21 new FM2+ motherboards -- considerably more than the previous FM2 platform, so they seem to have a lot of faith in AMD's new APUs. For this review, we have the most feature-packed model, the FM2A88X Extreme6+, along with the tiny FM2A88X-ITX+.
Asrock FM2A88X Extreme6+
Compared to some of the recently reviewed Intel Z87 motherboards, Asrock's FM2A88X Extreme6+ isn't exactly bursting with features. That said, at $105 it isn't nearly as expensive either.
It's important to note that Asrock's most extreme A88X motherboard costs a little over $100. Pair that with the $190 asking price of the AMD A10-7850K and you have the makings of a killer budget system.
The highlights of the FM2A88X Extreme6+ include support for up to quad CrossFireX along with Asrock Purity Sound, 7 SATA 6Gb/s ports, eSATA and dual PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots.
While CrossFire is supported, the FM2A88X Extreme6+ (and all A88X motherboards for that matter) do not support Nvidia SLI technology. This shouldn't be a big deal for most users as we wouldn't suspect someone who is investing in an AMD APU platform to be interested in an Nvidia graphics card.
When using CrossFire, the primary and secondary slots are limited to x8 bandwidth though with an FM2+ APU that's PCIe 3.0 bandwidth, while with an older FM2 APU it's PCIe 2.0 bandwidth. When using 3-way CrossFire the third slot is limited to x4 mode and again depending on the APU used, that will either be 3.0 or 2.0 bandwidth.
The motherboard touts four graphics output options including D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort. When paired with an FM2+ processor, quad monitor support is a possibility while FM2 APUs are limited to triple monitor support.
AMD's A88X chipset supports eight SATA 6Gb/s ports and Asrock has included seven of them onboard, with the eighth being placed on the I/O panel as an eSATA port. Complementing the eSATA connector are four USB 3.0 ports powered by the A88X along with two more as an onboard header via the ASMedia ASM1042 chip.
Asrock's Purity Sound, a Realtek ALC1150 audio codec with a few enhancements. Included is a 115dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier, TI NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier (Supports up to 600 ohm headsets), Direct Drive Technology, EMI shielding cover and PCB isolate shielding. Additionally this 7.1 Channel HD audio solution comes with Content Protection and DTS Connect support.
The Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 chip provides Gigabit Ethernet and supports Qualcomm Atheros security wake on internet technology, Wake-On-LAN, Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az and PXE.
Overall, the FM2A88X Extreme6+ is well equipped for its price with a solid layout, aesthetics and build quality.
The Asrock FM2A88X-ITX+ is essentially a Mini-ITX version of the above board. As such, a variety of features have been removed, such as the Asrock Purity Sound, CrossFire support and the DisplayPort output.
It's understandable that a Mini-ITX board can't support multi-GPU technology and other features that require a lot of PCB real estate, but we are surprised DisplayPort was dropped. Nonetheless, the board still provides D-Sub, DVI-D as well as HDMI (in and out).
Despite missing CrossFire, there is still a PCI Express x16 3.0 slot for a discrete AMD or Nvidia graphics card. There are also two DIMM slots that officially support DDR3-2133 memory while DDR3-2400 is supported via overclocking.
Although the A88X chipset can handle eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, there simply wasn't room to fit them all onboard and given the limited storage capabilities of almost all Mini-ITX cases, there wasn't a need. Still, there are six SATA ports onboard with a seventh serving as eSATA in back.
USB 3.0 connectivity is limited to the chipset with four ports offered, two on the I/O panel and two via an onboard header. There are also four USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel and another four onboard via two headers.
Network support is provided by the same wired Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 solution along with a Mini-PCIe card offering wireless LAN support. The wireless solution supports IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n (Dual-Band 2.4/5 GHz) for speeds up to 300Mbps and Bluetooth 4.0 Class II.
Like the FM2A88X Extreme6+, the FM2A88X-ITX+ is well designed and at $100 it seems like a wallet-friendly Mini-ITX option.