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Six Socket FM2 Motherboards For AMD's Trinity APUs

ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6

The first thing we noticed about ASRock’s entry into our first Socket FM2 motherboard round-up wasn't the board itself, but rather its name. It follows a convention that some competing vendors make even more complex, adding socket and chipset identification to the series (Extreme6) name. We prefer nomenclature that's easy to remember, and ASRock gets us halfway there.

Opening the box, we were pleased to find ASRock's familiar Extreme6-class feature set extended to this A85X-based board, including the CLR_CMOS button and an extra pair of USB 3.0 ports added through ASMedia’s ASM1024 controller. AMD was an early proponent of DisplayPort, so we aren't surprised to find a full-sized DisplayPort output next to the platform's HDMI, VGA, and DVI connectors.

The A85X chipset originally surprised us by enabling eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, in spite of the FCH's 2 GB/s connection to the CPU. ASRock wires one of those connectors to an eSATA interface on the rear I/O panel and faces the eighth leftover connector outward, next to six forward-facing ports on the board's bottom-right edge.

ASRock also makes full use of the APU’s PCIe lanes by adding a third x16-length slot. PCIe 2.0 x16-x0-x4 lane connections automatically switch to x8-x8-x4 when a card is detected in the middle slot.

The A85X FCH’s four lanes connect two PCIe x1 slots, a gigabit Ethernet controller, and the previously-mentioned secondary USB 3.0 controller. In theory, the chipset’s UMI interface could be a pretty severe bottleneck. Fortunately, it'd be rare to see accesses to all attached devices at the same time.

Layout is good, with a few exceptions. Namely, there's a front-panel audio header on the bottom-rear corner and an ATX12V connector that’s a little too close to the CPU socket. If you own an oversized heat sink, you could have a tough time connecting or disconnecting that auxiliary power source. Moreover, if you're using an older case, you might find its built-in front-panel audio cable a little too short. Forward-facing SATA ports provide room for extra-long expansion cards, but could be blocked out by the hard drive cages of some older cases, too.

Top-side power and reset buttons, plus the two-digit diagnostics display, aid in motherboard troubleshooting. But while those features are handy for reviewers and competitive overclockers, they're typically inaccessible in a buttoned-up build.

Seven of eight SATA ports are accessible internally, yet ASRock includes only four of the seven cables. Color us satisfied, though. That's two times more cables than most folks need, giving you the flexibility to attach an SSD, two storage disks, and an optical drive right out of the box.

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