Value & Conclusion
In the end, only 3.5 percentage points separate all the systems, across all of the tests' averages. Judging the trends of the tests, it would appear that the MSI and Gigabyte boards do perform better than both of ASRock's boards, but I would not expect a user to actually detect this difference with an untrained eye.
Efficiency, on the other hand, shows some clear winners. The ASRock ITX+ shows six percent less power consumption compared to the average across all boards, with only a negligible performance hit. The HD+, however, does not have good results in this comparison. It would be interesting to see if these results hold up on another board sample.
At the time of this writing, three of the four boards retail for an average of $60. However, the ITX+ board is retailing for nearly 60 percent more at $84.99! As I shopped around, Newegg shows the ITX+ on sale, and there is an additional rebate that brings this board back into the hunt for a value prize. So, let's use this best-case scenario:
The clear value winner, when on sale, is the ASRock FM2A78M-ITX+. Tie in that value with the ASRock's efficiency and average performance, and this little board is hard to beat. That statement is irrelevant, though, when you look at the retail prices.
The MSI board's retail price gives it a clear advantage when looking just at retail price, but the ASRock HD+ also seems to be a contender due to its average performance and price.
As I said in the previous article, builders looking for value in the APU marketplace who don't need Crossfire or other enthusiast-grade features need look no further than the A78 chipset. We get comparable performance to A88X, and can still adapt this chipset to many usage scenarios and form factors. If you're building an A88X replacement, most of these boards provide formidable overclocking options. For the HTPC crowd, these boards are both efficient and powerful.
The ASRock HD+ is a solid entry-level board that has room to grow. I was disappointed with its efficiency at both idle and load, and its lackluster performance in the test suite. However, if I were looking only at performance, I'd be happy with its performance being less than two percent below average.
Even though the ASRock ITX+ is the smallest board I've used, it's by far the most surprising. With the different back panel options, audio codecs, and other bells and whistles, the ITX+ will stand out on its own just when you compare the specs. After running this board through the paces, I was happy to see that its efficiency is consistent across workloads and power scenarios. Now I just need to find a small enough enclosure and put this little beast in my living room.