Last month AMD launched its new generation A10/A8/A6/A4 desktop processors. These CPUs need a new type of processor socket, called Socket FM2. Hardware.Info reviewed three motherboards with the new AMD socket based on the most high-end A85X chipset, the ASUS F2A85-V Pro, the Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4 and the MSI FM2-A85XA-G65. See all technology buying advice.
Socket FM2 motherboards can also utilise the existing AMD A75 and A55 chipsets that were used for Socket FM1 motherboards. The deluxe A85X version is new. This chipset allows the 16 PCI-Express lanes for the graphics card to be divided into two times eight lanes, which means CrossFire support. The A85X includes eight SATA 600 ports, 4x USB 3.0 and 10x USB 2.0. RAID 0, 1, 10 and 5 are all supported. The fact that the chipset has eight SATA and four USB 3.0 ports means that motherboard manufacturers don't have to include extra controllers, which saves money. The three motherboards in this review cost an average of about £105, less than the high-end Intel Z77 boards.
ASUS sent their F2A85-V Pro, which is available for an average of £114. Along with the Socket FM2 processor sock and the four DDR3 memory slots, the F2A85-V Pro has three PCI-Express x16 slots (16/0/4 or 8/8/4), two PCI-Express x1 and two PCI. Out of the eight SATA600 ports, seven are internal and the eighth serves as eSATA. Two out of the four USB 3.0 ports are external. An extra ASMedia controller adds two more external USB 3.0 ports, bringing the total to six. You also have 10 USB 2.0 ports.
Like its competitors, ASUS used a Realtek ALC892 audio codec. The single Gigabit LAN port is provided by a Realtek RTL8111F controller. The board has four monitor connectors: VGA, DVI, HDMI en DisplayPort. This is also the same as the other two motherboards.
Gigabyte provided their GA-F2A85X-UP4, in the colour dark grey instead of the traditional Gigabyte blue. This motherboard is part of the Ultra Durable 5 series and therefore should have the most high-quality components, according to the manufacturer.
This board also has three PCI-Express x16 slots (16/0/4 or 8/8/4), but three PCI-Express x1 and one PCI. Eight out of the seven SATA600 ports are internal, and the eight is eSATA. Gigabyte also added two USB 3.0 ports, provided by an EtronTech controller. You get 10 USB 2.0 ports.
Like ASUS and MSI, Gigabyte uses a Realtek ALC892 7.1-channel audio chip. The network controller is a Realtek RTL8111F. The board has the same four monitor connectors as the ASUS board.
The board comes with five PWM fan connectors. The Gigabyte board has the most extra features out of the three in this review. You get onboard power and reset buttons, and a HEX display for BIOS POST codes. It's also the only board with two BIOSes, so that when a BIOS update gone awry doesn't automatically kill your motherboard.
The third and last board in this review is the MSI FM2-A85XA-G65. MSI also claims only the best components are used, using the Military Class 3 moniker. MSI has 'only' two PCI-Express x16 slots, with a total of 8 lanes. That's a bit of a shame, because if you use a PCI-Express x4 expansion card, you lose 8 lanes for your graphics card. The board has three PCI-Express x1 and two PCI. MSI left the number of USB 3.0 ports at four, of which two are external. The internal connector is located in a very unfortunate position, next to the second PCI-Express x16 slot. That doesn't make it easier to hide away your cables. You get 10 USB 2.0 ports. All eight SATA ports are internal, so you don't have eSATA.
To learn about the performance of these three motherboards, read the full review on Hardware.