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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.