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ASMedia’s ASM1042 controller adds an additional pair of USB 3.0 ports to the rear panel of Asus' F2A85-V Pro, while a set of PCIe 2.0 pathway switches contributes a second graphics card slot for converting x16-x0 configurations to x8-x8. Asus uses the CPU’s remaining four lanes to add a third PCI Express 2.0 slot with lower bandwidth.
Though its layout appears familiar, a closer look at the F2A85-V Pro reveals better CPU power connector and front panel audio header placement. An even closer look reveals a few tiny buttons for the Asus-exclusive features MemOK, USB BIOS Flashback, and Asus DirectKey.
MemOK automatically underclocks poorly-programmed memory to at least facilitate boot-up into the UEFI for adjustment. USB BIOS Flashback gives you the ability to update the board's firmware with no other hardware installed. Finally, Asus DirectKey allows users to enter the UEFI at any time during motherboard initialization.
Asus is particularly proud of its Fan Xpert 2 feature, which facilitates control over and monitoring of the motherboard's fan headers. Attached coolers can be set to spin up or down automatically, or configured to operate at fixed speeds.
USB BIOS Flashback is particularly useful when purchasing a newer CPU and older motherboard simultaneously, since it circumvents the issue of hardware compatibility and a firmware mismatch. Previously, that might have required you to buy an older APU just to update the board's UEFI to properly recognize the new chip. On this platform in particular, BIOS Flashback isn't as necessary, though, since Socket FM2 and Socket FM2-compatible APUs are both new. This could change in the future if AMD maintains backward-compatibility with its next-gen architecture.
The secondary function of Asus DirectKey is that of a power button. Touching the DirectKey button when the system is already up and running in an operating system triggers a shut-down, and touching it while the system is off causes it to boot directly to UEFI. That function is increasingly practical as the window for hitting the Del key to enter the UEFI gets shorter with each new motherboard generation (and even more so with Windows 8).
We’ve noticed that AMD fans are more likely to be frugal, but perhaps the time has come to quit being frugal about cases? While a good case can last through several builds, many older designs lack space to connect SATA cables to the forward-facing ports common on modern motherboards. The F2A85-V Pro can be counted among these modern designs, with six of its seven internal SATA ports facing forward to allow increased card clearence.
The F2A85-V Pro has seven internal and one external SATA connector, but users will only be able to connect half of those out of the box. The installation kit includes four internal cables, though Asus also adds a pair of its quick-connecting cable extenders.