AMD A85X Motherboard Roundup



The ASUS F2A85-M is the first of our two mATX motherboards in this lineup and it sports a minimalist look with the familiar blue, dark brown and black color scheme associated with most ASUS boards. The first thing, or rather lack of it, that struck us is the absence of any cooling solution for the VRM system of the board. This is due to the fact of the reduced power phase design of such mATX boards (usually due to limited PCB space). As a result, the board features a 4 + 2 power phase design with digital VRM components. Without passive or active cooling elements on the VRM system, if the need to overclock arises, we would recommend setting up the rig in an air-conditioned environment and investing in a good custom CPU cooling solution to increase the success rate.

The ASUS F2A85-M is an mATX board that doesn't skimp on features; it packs digital power regulation components and supports AMD CrossFireX configuration.

Due to the nature of the mATX form factor, the expansion slots are standard fare for a well designed mATX board. There's a healthy mix of two PCIe 2.0 x16 PEG slots, one PCIe 2.0 x1 slot and a lone PCI slot. Thanks to this configuration, the ASUS F2A85-M officially supports AMD CrossFireX multi-GPU configurations. In a dual discrete graphics card setup, the first PCIe 2.0 x16 slot will run at x8 while the other will operate at x8 as well. The first PCIe 2.0 x16 slot is capable of operating at x16 if the user opts for a single discrete graphics card setup. In contrast, low-end boards tend to fix their PEG slot electrical assignments to skimp on the switching components.

To the right of the FM2 socket, we see the color-denoted DIMM slots that are capable of supporting DDR3-2400+ memory modules, up to a maximum capacity of 64GB.

Without the visual hindrance of the VRM heatsinks, we see the ASUS Digi+ Energy Processing Unit (EPU) that is highlighted in red below. The EPU, together with the TPU (TurboV Processing Unit), are part of the ASUS Smart Digital Power Control system.

Next to the FM2 socket, we can see the exposed MOSFETs that are usually covered by cooling heatsinks. The ferrite chokes and capacitors are also laid bare in this instance. Outlined in red is the ASUS Digi+ Energy Processing Unit (EPU).

The bottom edge of the ASUS F2A85-M sports three USB 2.0 headers; they are the ones in bright blue color. This ASUS board has the most USB 2.0 headers, even beating out the normal ATX sized boards in our lineup. Also seen in this photo is the only heatsink across the entire board that's used for cooling the chipset.

In terms of storage connectivity options for SATA devices, there is a top-facing SATA 6Gbps connector near the ATX power connector, while the other six are at a 90-degree orientation with respect to the PCB of the motherboard.

The six SATA 6Gbps connectors that are bunched together.

In terms of video connectivity options, the board supports D-Sub (VGA), HDMI and DVI-D interfaces - everything but a DisplayPort. Given that the board is an mATX form factor and that DisplayPort compatible screens are still limited in availability, this shouldn't be a concern for most users. Also noticeably visible is the red eSATA port that sits above a pair of USB 3.0 ports that are bright blue in color, while the PS/2 keyboard/mouse port seems to have become standard fare for any self-respecting motherboard manufacturer.

The rear I/O ports are adequate for a mATX board, like the ASRock board, ASUS has opted to put one of the eight supported SATA 6Gbps connectors as an eSATA port.

Although the board has no onboard power or reset buttons (due to the lack of space on the mATX board), it does sport an onboard MemOK! button to swiftly ensure memory compatibility at the press of a button. The board also feature the GPU Boost switch that allows the user to enable or disable the option of overclocking the integrated graphics core engine of the installed APU on-the-fly.

The board features two prominent onboard control devices that will make short work of system tweaking; MemOK! and GPU Boost are both unique to ASUS.