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AMD A85X Motherboard Roundup

AMD A85X Motherboard Roundup


ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6

ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6

The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 ATX motherboard sports the familiar colors of Extreme6 class motherboards with its large gray heatsinks and premium gilded capacitors set against a dark brown PCB. One of the board's prominent feature is the board's support for ASRock's XFast 555 Technology. Hence, we understand this board represents the epitome of its Socket FM2 boards. The board boasts of a 8 + 2 power phase design with digital power regulation delivered in part by the earlier mentioned gilded capacitors that are touted have stable performance with high reliability.

Besides sporting such pedigree components, the board is able to support overclocking memory modules that have been rated up to DDR3-2600+ MHz.There is also something that will appeal to casual overclockers in the form of a new feature called X-Boost that allows for easy overclocking by simply pressing the 'X' key on the keyboard while the system is booting up. Such a keystroke will enable X-Boost that will overclock the system automatically.

Just behind the FM2 socket, we see the VRM solution for the processor with only a single passive heatsink to cool those components. The voltage regulation system of the board uses an 8 + 2 power phase design; 8 for the APU while the remaining 2 is for its memory controller. As mentioned earlier, the board sports premium gold capacitors for durability and stable performance.

To the right of the FM2 socket lays the four black DIMM slots that are able to support memory modules rated up to DDR3-2600MHz or higher. This feature will definitely appeal to overclockers who want to push the clock speeds of their memory modules beyond the official DDR3-1866MHz. The board also supports XFast RAM that is able to set aside virtual disk from the system memory to boost the performance; hence, with higher rated memory modules, XFast RAM is supposedly able to nudge the system's performance to a higher level. Also note that the higher speed memory modules increase the memory bandwidth that will benefit the integrated GPU to help achieve higher gaming frame rates. Of course, one has to factor in the cost associated to buying high speed memory modules as opposed to buying a discrete graphics card that will likely provide you a far higher performance boost - case in point would be to take advantage of AMD's Dual Graphics Technology for a pretty good performance step-up.

South from the FM2 Socket, we see that the board sports three PCIe 2.0 x16 PEG slots; with the last x16 physical slot capable of supporting an x4 electrical interface. Only the first x16 PEG slot is capable of running at x16 or x8 while the other is wired at x8. According to the manual, they support up to Quad CrossFireX configuration, though we fail to see how that's possible with only three PEG slots available. That shouldn't matter anyway since such hardcore enthusiasts would have ponied up extra cash to pair multiple graphics cards with a high-end CPU and not with a mainstream APU. So for the record, it can support 3-way CrossFire. 

While we're on the topic of graphics support, this board is the only one in this comparison that has software support for Lucid Virtu (which was discussed when the Intel Z68 chipset debuted) which will allow you to enjoy switchable graphics (togging between the integrated and discrete graphics for power savings) even with NVIDIA graphics cards. This support for AMD's graphics already exists natively (since it's an AMD platform and ecosystem), so Lucid Virtu brings this capability if you're fond of NVIDIA's graphics cards for some reason or have already got a fairly powerful NVIDIA graphics card.

One of the oddities we uncovered about this board is the awkward position of the 4-pin Molex power connector right next to one of its PCIe 2.0 x1 expansion slots, this power connector is meant to draw power from the PSU of the system in the event of a multi-GPU setup. We felt that it is high-time that ASRock considered moving the connector to the edge of the board. However, given the low usage of this connector, we're just nitpicking.

Like the passive VRM components heatsink, the chipset's heatsink that is located just beyond the DIMM slots goes about its function in a standalone manner as it is not connected to any other heatsink.

And like all high-end ATX motherboards, the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 has two onboard buttons - power and reset.

Swinging to the rear of the board, we see the red eSATA port as well as the video connectivity options of D-Sub (VGA), HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI-D ports. Motherboard manufacturers seem to have take a liking to PS/2 ports as we see a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port sitting above a pair of USB 3.0 ports. There are a total of four USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports (above the red eSATA port) at the rear. A Gigabit LAN port sits above the USB 3.0 ports; next to them are the block of analog audio jacks and the optical S/PIDF output. All-in-all, the connectivity options looks pretty good on the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6.