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Six Socket FM2 Motherboards For AMD's Trinity APUs

Six Socket FM2 Motherboards For AMD's Trinity APUs
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After just one generation, Socket FM1 is dead. We test six Socket FM2-based motherboards able to take AMD's newest APUs built using the Trinity architecture. Can any of these platforms, armed with AMD A85X Fusion Controller Hubs, get us to upgrade?

Once upon a time, processor reviews were simpler. Isolating x86 performance made it easy for us to draw comparisons. Today, though, we have on-board graphics, integrated memory controllers, and ISA extensions to look at. The benchmarks we run play a huge part in exposing the benefits of each piece of a modern host processor, and we're naturally very careful about testing as thoroughly as possible.

AMD's Trinity architecture received a lot of attention from us when it launched:

AMD Trinity On The Desktop: A10, A8, And A6 Get Benchmarked!
AMD Desktop Trinity Update: Now With Core i3 And A8-3870K
Gaming At 1920x1080: AMD's Trinity Takes On Intel HD Graphics
AMD's Trinity APU Efficiency: Undervolted And Overclocked

In those stories, we discovered that AMD's Piledriver-based modules are faster than their predecessors based on the Bulldozer architecture. But because AMD never released a Bulldozer-based APU, we also had to face the fact that, in some cases, older Llano-based parts were as quick or quicker. Hardly a reason to toss your old Socket FM1 motherboard and upgrade to Socket FM2, right?

Fortunately, the new APUs do manage to nudge graphics performance forward. And because AMD's on-die graphics engines are already significantly faster than Intel's best effort, the extra speed only served to hammer that point home.

And so, you're faced with an interesting conundrum. On one hand, we wouldn't mind a Trinity-based APU specifically for its 3D capabilities. On the other, we're still compelled to build with an add-in graphics card in mind. Really, then, the ideal customer for an APU is someone able to enjoy the cost savings of an A10 or A8, who won't be stymied by the chip's limitations, and who won't then go get frustrated and buy a discrete GPU. At that point, you're just watering down the platform's value and compounding its power consumption.

With that in mind, we're curious about AMD's latest driver optimizations. We also wonder if motherboard vendors have any graphics performance-optimizing tricks up their sleeves. So, rather than dropping some unrealistically-expensive discrete board into today's test beds, we're evaluating six Socket FM2-equipped platforms using an AMD A10-5800K operating all on its own.

Socket FM2 Motherboard Features
 ASRock
FM2A85X Extreme6
Asus
F2A85-V Pro
ECS
A85F2-A GOLDEN
PCB Revision1.041.011.0
ChipsetAMD A85X FCHAMD A85X FCHAMD A85X FCH
Voltage RegulatorTen PhasesEight PhasesFive Phases
BIOSP1.30 (10/12/2012)5104 (09/14/2012)10/12/12
100.0 MHz RCLKVariable Variable Variable 
Internal Interfaces
PCIe 3.0 x16NoneNoneNone
PCIe 2.0 x163 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)
PCIe x1/x42/02/03/0
USB 2.03 (6-ports)4 (8-ports)3 (6-ports)
USB 3.01 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)
SATA 6.0 Gb/s777
SATA 3.0 Gb/sNoneNoneNone
4-Pin Fan251
3-Pin Fan4None2
FP-Audio111
CD-AudioNoneNoneNone
S/PDIF I/OOutput OnlyOutput OnlyOutput Only
Internal ButtonsPWR, RSTBIOS Flash, MemOK, DirectKeyNone
Diagnostics PanelNumericNoneNone
Legacy Interfaces2 x PCI, Serial2 x PCI, Serial2 x PCI, Serial
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 211None
USB 3.0444
USB 2.0222
IEEE-1394NoneNoneNone
Network111
eSATA111
CLR_CMOS ButtonYesNoYes
Digital Audio OutOpticalOpticalOptical
Digital Audio InNoneNoneNone
Analog Audio565
VideoVGA, DVI-D, DisplayPort, HDMIHDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, DVI-DVGA, DVI-D, DisplayPort, HDMI
Other DevicesNoneNoneNone
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA7 x SATA 6Gb/s
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s
7 x SATA 6Gb/s
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s
7 x SATA 6Gb/s
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 10, JBOD0, 1, 5, 10
Add-In SATANoneNoneNone
USB 3.0ASM1042 PCIe (2-ports)
A85X Integrated (4-ports)
ASM1042 PCIe (2-ports)
A85X Integrated (4-ports)
ASM1042 PCIe (2-ports)
A85X Integrated (4-ports)
IEEE-1394NoneNoneNone
Gigabit Ethernet
Primary LANRTL8111E PCIeRTL8111F PCIeRTL8111E PCIe
Secondary LANNoneNoneNone
Audio
HD Audio CodecALC898ALC892VT1819S
DDL/DTS ConnectNot SpecifiedNot SpecifiedNot Specified
WarrantyThree YearsThree YearsThree Years

Socket FM2 Motherboard Features
 Gigabyte
F2A85X-UP4
MSI
FM2-A85XA-G65
Sapphire Pure
Platinum A85XT
PCB Revision1.01.11.0
ChipsetAMD A85X FCHAMD A85X FCHAMD A85X FCH
Voltage RegulatorEight PhasesEight PhasesEight Phases
BIOSF3g (10/03/2012)V1.1 (10/09/2012)0.40 (09/12/2012)
100.0 MHz RCLKVariable VariableVariable
Internal Interfaces
PCIe 3.0 x16NoneNoneNone
PCIe 2.0 x163 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)
PCIe x1/x43 (1 shared with x4) / 03/02/1
USB 2.04 (8-ports)3 (6-ports)2 (4-ports)
USB 3.01 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)
SATA 6.0 Gb/s787
SATA 3.0 Gb/sNoneNoneNone
4-Pin Fan531
3-Pin FanNone25
FP-Audio111
CD-AudioNoneNoneNone
S/PDIF I/OOutput OnlyNoneInput andOutput
Internal ButtonsPWR, RST, CLRPWR, RST, CLR, OC GeniePWR, RST, CLR, ROM selector
Diagnostics PanelNumericNoneNumeric
Legacy InterfacesPCI, Serial2 x PCI, Serial (mini)2 x PCI, Serial
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 2112
USB 3.0422
USB 2.0244
IEEE-1394NoneNoneNone
Network111
eSATA1NoneNone
CLR_CMOS ButtonNoNoNo
Digital Audio OutOpticalOpticalOptical
Digital Audio InNoneNoneNone
Analog Audio666
VideoVGA, DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPortVGA, DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPortHDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, DVI-D
Other DevicesNoneNoneBluetooth Transceiver
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA7 x SATA 6Gb/s
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s
8 x SATA 6Gb/s7 x SATA 6Gb/s
1 x mSATA 6Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD0, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 10
Add-In SATANoneNoneNone
USB 3.0EJ168A PCIe (2-ports)
A85X Integrated (4-ports)
A85X IntegratedA85X Integrated
IEEE-1394NoneNoneNone
Gigabit Ethernet
Primary LANRTL8111F PCIeRTL8111E PCIeRTL8111F PCIe
Secondary LANNoneNoneNone
Audio   
HD Audio CodecALC892ALC892ALC892
DDL/DTS ConnectNot SpecifiedNot SpecifiedNot Specified
WarrantyThree YearsThree YearsOne Year
Display all 55 comments.
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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    cangelini , November 26, 2012 8:32 AM
    americanbrianWhy no GPU OC as has been requested many times? This platform allows easy GPU OC's as mentioned in your previous PD articles. You still have never posted your 1GHz+ clocked GPU results. I am also upset that you didn't run the gaming benches with the OCed RAM. I want to know how a PROPERLY configured setup like this could perform.8% gains approx from going to 1866 over 1600, does higher clocks after this have any effect?How does OCing the GPU part limit your CPU clock OCs? or is the heat not too bad ? So many questions unanswered....

    These sound like great ideas for a platform-oriented story. In fact, Thomas and I have discussed doing a piece on memory and Trinity. Maybe we could expand that to include an exploration of graphics and processor bottlenecks, too. Thanks for the feedback!
  • 14 Hide
    americanbrian , November 26, 2012 8:26 AM
    Why no GPU OC as has been requested many times? This platform allows easy GPU OC's as mentioned in your previous PD articles.

    You still have never posted your 1GHz+ clocked GPU results.

    I am also upset that you didn't run the gaming benches with the OCed RAM. I want to know how a PROPERLY configured setup like this could perform.

    8% gains approx from going to 1866 over 1600, does higher clocks after this have any effect?

    How does OCing the GPU part limit your CPU clock OCs? or is the heat not too bad ?

    So many questions unanswered....
  • 12 Hide
    cangelini , November 26, 2012 6:29 AM
    I fixed the typo earlier tonight guys, thanks.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    buzznut , November 26, 2012 3:27 AM
    And I would penalize Asrock for the brown PCB. Its an otherwise nice looking board, but this is a trend I don't care for.
  • -8 Hide
    Cryio , November 26, 2012 4:16 AM
    Why, why do you keep posting Skyrim as being a DirectX11 title? It IS NOT. It's just DX9
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , November 26, 2012 4:42 AM
    CryioWhy, why do you keep posting Skyrim as being a DirectX11 title? It IS NOT. It's just DX9
    Why don't you point to where you see that?
  • 4 Hide
    Sakkura , November 26, 2012 5:38 AM
    CrashmanWhy don't you point to where you see that?

    Sneaky, lol. Now he's going to be downvoted.
  • 8 Hide
    Crashman , November 26, 2012 6:00 AM
    SakkuraSneaky, lol. Now he's going to be downvoted.
    Not sneaky, I just see a lot of sniping in here. I checked the article and didn't find it, and I really need to find it before I can gripe at the person who made the final revisions to this article. His comment could be completely false for all I know...
  • 12 Hide
    cangelini , November 26, 2012 6:29 AM
    I fixed the typo earlier tonight guys, thanks.
  • -5 Hide
    abbadon_34 , November 26, 2012 7:06 AM
    Sounds like someone is owed an apology
  • 5 Hide
    Darkerson , November 26, 2012 7:18 AM
    buzznutAnd I would penalize Asrock for the brown PCB. Its an otherwise nice looking board, but this is a trend I don't care for.

    Penalizing a company over a PCB's color is asinine and petty. Even if you have a case with an acrylic window, do you stare into your PC all day and night? If so, that is trend I don't care for.

    There are much more important things to worry about, like quality, price, and features, to name a few...
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , November 26, 2012 8:20 AM
    cangeliniI fixed the typo earlier tonight guys, thanks.

    "Adoby Creative Suite"

    just one?

    :lol: 
    who cares, good job to crash and the rest of the crew . . .

    edit: i had to fix a typo . .oh karma!
  • 10 Hide
    cangelini , November 26, 2012 8:25 AM
    looniam"Adoby Creative Suite"just one? who cares, good job to crash and the rest of the crew . . .edit: i had to fix a typo . .oh karma!

    Heh, apparently, editing motherboard round-ups in a Thanksgiving food coma is not conducive to catching typos. Got that one as well--thanks looniam! :) 
  • 14 Hide
    americanbrian , November 26, 2012 8:26 AM
    Why no GPU OC as has been requested many times? This platform allows easy GPU OC's as mentioned in your previous PD articles.

    You still have never posted your 1GHz+ clocked GPU results.

    I am also upset that you didn't run the gaming benches with the OCed RAM. I want to know how a PROPERLY configured setup like this could perform.

    8% gains approx from going to 1866 over 1600, does higher clocks after this have any effect?

    How does OCing the GPU part limit your CPU clock OCs? or is the heat not too bad ?

    So many questions unanswered....
  • 0 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , November 26, 2012 8:32 AM
    Is it just me or is there no list of prices for the boards? There's relative price, and some board is worth $25 more than another (which is enough if you want to do half a page of simultaneous equations), but I can't find an actual list.
  • 14 Hide
    cangelini , November 26, 2012 8:32 AM
    americanbrianWhy no GPU OC as has been requested many times? This platform allows easy GPU OC's as mentioned in your previous PD articles. You still have never posted your 1GHz+ clocked GPU results. I am also upset that you didn't run the gaming benches with the OCed RAM. I want to know how a PROPERLY configured setup like this could perform.8% gains approx from going to 1866 over 1600, does higher clocks after this have any effect?How does OCing the GPU part limit your CPU clock OCs? or is the heat not too bad ? So many questions unanswered....

    These sound like great ideas for a platform-oriented story. In fact, Thomas and I have discussed doing a piece on memory and Trinity. Maybe we could expand that to include an exploration of graphics and processor bottlenecks, too. Thanks for the feedback!
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , November 26, 2012 11:59 AM
    Also, a detailed look at the effects of undervolting Trinity. :) 
  • 7 Hide
    silverblue , November 26, 2012 12:08 PM
    buzznutAnd I would penalize Asrock for the brown PCB. Its an otherwise nice looking board, but this is a trend I don't care for.

    Well, in days gone by we'd have had green or gold boards. To be perfectly honest though, unless you're going to have a side window, you're not likely to care about the PCB colour. I'm far more interested in features and performance than the aesthetics, personally.
  • 5 Hide
    blazorthon , November 26, 2012 12:52 PM
    buzznutAnd I would penalize Asrock for the brown PCB. Its an otherwise nice looking board, but this is a trend I don't care for.


    I thought that the brown PCB meshed decently with the black and grey color scheme utilized by most of the rest of the board. Hey, at least it doesn't look like those ugly low end FoxConn boards :lol: 
  • -3 Hide
    bentonsl_2010 , November 26, 2012 2:08 PM
    CrashmanWhy don't you point to where you see that?


    Here is a relevant quote from a randomly-googled article:

    Longtime Elder Scrolls fans hoping Skryim would take full advantage of the PC's strengths: unfortunately we have to disappoint you. Game director Todd Howard says besides higher quality textures and bigger resolutions, it "looks the same" as on consoles, and it's "mostly a DirectX 9 game in terms of how the shaders work."

    He does note DirectX 11 support is a possibility down the line, however: "When it comes to DirectX 11 there are things they get us for free, like performance gains. You’re going to get performance gains out of it versus an older version. But the specifics DX11 does, like tessellation and all that kinda stuff, we aren’t taking advantage of that right now. That doesn’t mean we won’t in the future. We aren’t right now because we want to author it so it looks great.”

    On the bright side, the new engine means Skyrim looks quite lovely as is, just nothing mind-blowing, which it could be. No doubt the modding community will improve the situation before long, though.
  • 6 Hide
    blazorthon , November 26, 2012 2:38 PM
    Bentonsl_2010Here is a relevant quote from a randomly-googled article:Longtime Elder Scrolls fans hoping Skryim would take full advantage of the PC's strengths: unfortunately we have to disappoint you. Game director Todd Howard says besides higher quality textures and bigger resolutions, it "looks the same" as on consoles, and it's "mostly a DirectX 9 game in terms of how the shaders work."He does note DirectX 11 support is a possibility down the line, however: "When it comes to DirectX 11 there are things they get us for free, like performance gains. You’re going to get performance gains out of it versus an older version. But the specifics DX11 does, like tessellation and all that kinda stuff, we aren’t taking advantage of that right now. That doesn’t mean we won’t in the future. We aren’t right now because we want to author it so it looks great.”On the bright side, the new engine means Skyrim looks quite lovely as is, just nothing mind-blowing, which it could be. No doubt the modding community will improve the situation before long, though.


    He wasn't asking for proof of what DX is utilized by Skyrim, he was asking where in the article was it claimed that Skyrim used DX11.
  • 3 Hide
    unempit , November 26, 2012 2:42 PM
    It must be Monday...my first thought was how did they get 6 sockets on one motherboard... :) 
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , November 26, 2012 2:52 PM
    That 16C over ambient on the ASRock board is a little worrisome. That looks like the only real outlier in all the measurements. Was that at stock clocks, or with the OC?
    As far as performance goes, there doesn't appear to be any difference worth noting (which I'd expect).
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