It’s been a while since we’ve seen a -G65 board from MSI, the most recent being a microATX model. We expect a larger board to have more slots, and AMD's newer chipset helps enable the FM2-A85XA-G65’s expanded feature set.
The A85X Fusion Controller Hub even lets MSI give up an add-in controller, since the core logic integrates four USB 3.0 ports. The chipset also integrates support for DisplayPort output, and MSI chooses to ditch eSATA in favor of more internal ports.
Sporting a pair of second-gen PCI Express x16 slots that automatically switch from x16-x0 to x8-x8 transfers whenever the second is filled, the FM2-A85XA-G65’s closest layout match in today’s comparison comes from ECS. Both boards lack a x4 slot that competing boards do offer, so we're hoping to see lower prices accompany the feature reductions of both products.
The FM2-A85XA-G65 adds a few minor features compared to its closest rival, including power, reset and CLR_CMOS buttons. MSI OC Genie is also present, alongside a handy row of voltage detection points. Those additions are most useful to reviewers and the hardcore overclockers who use open test beds on a regular basis. Because AMD's Socket AM2 platform is decidedly budget-focused, competitive overclockers probably won't be spending much time tuning APUs. These features would come in handy if MSI ever decided to to sponsor a budget-oriented overclocking event.
One minor layout issue is that the front-panel audio connector might be a little too far away from the associated jacks for the cables of certain cases to reach. That’s really a chassis problem though, and it still affects many older enclosures. As a result, you see us pointing out when a motherboard manufacturer moves this connector into a more accessible position. Forward-facing SATA ports can also be problematic for certain older cases, though most folks prefer this design for its ability to avoid conflicts with long graphics cards.
A small bag of extender leads for the FM2-A85XA-G65’s voltage detection points adds a little value to MSI's installation kit, but four SATA cables is barely adequate for this eight-port board.