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Which A88X-Based Board Should You Buy For Your Kaveri APU?

ASRock FM2A88X+ Killer

Even though the A88X Fusion Controller Hub was released in concert with Socket FM2+, ASRock still sees the need to be clear by adding a plus symbol to the name of its FM2A88X+ Killer. The rest of the name lets us know right away that it’s equipped with a PCIe-based Killer E2205 GbE controller.

Other improved features include an extra pair of USB 3.0 ports via ASMedia’s ASM1042 controller and DTS Connect software for Realtek’s ALC1150 eight-channel audio codec. The extra ports are only needed because the A88X’s aging design supports only four ports natively.

Four USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel take care of basic needs, such as keyboards and mice, while the even more outdated VGA output simply wastes space, since the same function could have been achieved through a DVI-I (rather than DVI-D) connector. The more flexible DisplayPort interface is sorely missing, though users of native 1080p displays might prefer the HDMI output.

ASRock doesn’t outfit the top of the board with a bunch of buttons, though it does add a CLR_CMOS switch to the I/O panel. Instead, we find a tidy collection of AMD-supported features, such as a single PCIe 3.0-capable x16 slot, a four-lane PCIe 2.0 slot in a x16-length connector, two USB 3.0 ports on an internal front-panel header, and eight SATA 6Gb/s ports carried forward to A88X from the older A85X FCH.

Missing are cost-adding PCIe switches that could have allowed the A88X chipset to support two cards in x8 slots using PCIe 3.0 signaling, though ASRock already knows that most of the cards able to benefit from such a configuration overpower AMD's mainstream APU. Whatever bandwidth the company makes available to a second graphics card should be suitable for most non-gaming needs, such as crypto-currency mining and additional display connectivity.

The FM2A88X+ Killer also has two single-lane PCIe 2.0 slots, though adding a graphics card will cover one of them. ASRock appears to favor legacy PCI in this design.

A replaceable BIOS IC simplifies repairs on a board that’s probably too entry-level to justify a dual-BIOS implementation. Other layout advantages include power and USB 3.0 connectors within easy reach of their corresponding cables. Our only criticism concerns the FP-Audio connector that’s shoved all the way into the bottom-rear corner. This isn't relevant to most folks, but we still review cases that lack the cable length to reach.

We feel that two is the minimum number of SATA cables required to fill the needs of most entry-level builders. While we’re not pleased to see a manufacturer skate by on our bare minimums, that’s exactly the number of cables found in the FM2A88X+ Killer installation kit.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.