AMD A85X Motherboard Roundup


MSI FM2-A85XA-G65

MSI FM2-A85XA-G65

This is the second normal sized ATX board in our comparison for this article (the other is the ASRock) and the FM2-A85XA-G65 is the first AMD A58X Socket FM2 board to be released by MSI. With its signature black and blue color scheme, the board sports a more enthusiast-grade appearance, mainly due to the presence of its large VRM heatsinks. Such heatsinks are missing from the mATX boards while the ATX ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 packs all the critical VRM components in one location and didn't spread it apart like MSI's design. Furthermore, the heatsinks on the MSI board are larger.

 The FM2-A85XA-G65 is an ATX board that was the first in the stable of AMD A85X chipsets from MSI. Since its launch, MSI has added other models, albeit with less features to pander to more basic needs.

With a digital VRM controller and Military III class power regulation components, it is truly befitting that MSI has implemented VRM heatsinks to cool the components in order to extend their durability and reliability. The board comes with a 6 + 2 power phase configuration (for CPU and memory respectively) while its ASRock counterpart has a 8 + 2 power phase design. Take note though, if your cooler has an oversized heatsink, you may find it difficult to latch its retention catch with the plastic mounting bracket on the board as the memory VRM heatsink on the right of the socket is a little too large for comfortable mounting.

The VRM heatsinks are joined together by an 8mm thick heat-pipe which is dubbed SuperPipe. In front of the VRM heatsinks, we can see the super ferrite chokes (SFC) and solid capacitors of Military III Class branding.

To the right of the FM2 socket, we see the black and blue color-coded DIMM slots to denote the dual channel feature of the board. As a nod to overclockers and power users, the board supports memory modules that have been rated up to DDR3-2400+MHz. With an accompanying 64-bit operating system, the board is able to support up to a maximum capacity of 64GB for its system memory.

The FM2-A85XA-G65 has a mix of expansion slots that is very similar to the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6; however, the latter sports three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots while the MSI board only has a pair of them. The FM2-A85XA-G65 has three PCIe 2.0 x1 slots and a pair of legacy PCI ones.

The board supports a dual graphics cards configuration with both the PCIe 2.0 x16 physical slots operating at x8 mode each. If the second PEG slot is empty, the first supports up to PCIe x16 speed.

There is also a whole host of features located at the edge of the PCB just beyond the DIMM slots; there is a set of onboard buttons for power/reset and overclocking the system, as well as a set of voltage checkpoints housed in a bright blue connector. These checkpoints allow for monitoring the operating voltages of the processor with a multimeter. Pretty handy enthusiast tools.

The FM2-A85XA-G65 board has the Easy Button 3 feature with the OC Genie button that provides for easy overclocking. Next to the Easy Buttons, we see the voltage checkpoints in their blue connector housing.

At the other edge of the PCB, there are a number of connectors; however, the USB 3.0 header is positioned away from the rest as it is meant to connect the cable of a USB 3.0 front panel without overextending it. The rest of the USB connectors, in their black plastic shrouds, are USB 2.0-compliant. Note that one of them is denoted as a Super Charger (in red) which works with MSI's SuperCharger application installed on the operating system to provide increased current, hence facilitating quicker USB charging of your devices. It works somewhat similarly to Gigabyte's more publicized On/Off Charge technology.

The USB 3.0 header is framed in red and we assume that its position should make it easier to connect a USB front panel's cable. The chipset of the board is passively cooled by a diminutive heatsink, which was surprisingly effective as you'll soon see in our test results section.

Two of the eight SATA 6Gbps connectors are in a vertical orientation while the other six are positioned at a 90-degree orientation to the PCB.

The six angled SATA 6Gbps connectors and to the left of them, a pair of vertical-facing ones.

As we examine the rear I/O panel of the board, we see that the FM2-A85XA-G65 offers a full range of video connectivity options from D-Sub (VGA), DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort. The USB 2.0 ports are conveniently located next to each other while the USB 3.0 ports sit between the video and audio connectivity options. We expected to see a "clear CMOS" button at the rear; however, this button has been reduced in size and it sits just slightly beyond the pair of black legacy PCI slots.

A decent array of real I/O ports, but what we felt missing was an eSATA port. For those wondering why so few USB 3.0 ports, MSI has routed two of them to a header onboard to interface with the USB 3,0 ports found on modern casings. This is more important and convenient when thinking about new systems.

The clear CMOS button, which is the small red button highlighted in the photograph, is positioned away from the rear I/O panel so that it will not be accidentally pressed. It's a well thought placement too considering it doesn't sit in the way of the PEG slots and is behind the lesser used PCI slots. Chances are you would get a clear shot of pressing the button if required and it's no less trouble than reaching out to the back of the system in other motherboard implementations.