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Conclusion

It is not the first time in our tests that two seemingly identical mainboards with similar specs and prices turn out to be incomparable in practice. Although not perfect itself, the ASUS A88XM-Plus is head above its today’s opponent. Besides the typical downsides of ASUS products such as wrong processor information in the startup screen (which still has no full list of active hotkeys), a clumsy BIOS structure, etc., the A88XM-Plus is unstable with XMP memory profiles, doesn’t enable power-saving technologies for the integrated graphics core at overclocking and doesn’t change the North Bridge clock rate correctly at overclocking too. But apart from these minor downsides, the mainboard is good overall. It offers sufficient functionality and a modern BIOS with lots of setup options.

Notwithstanding similar specifications, the Gigabyte GA-F2A88XM-D3H has much fewer BIOS options. It doesn’t support visual customization and can’t regulate 3-pin CPU fans as other Gigabyte mainboards do. It is inconvenient to change the graphics core clock rate with it but the main problem is that it cannot overclock processors. That would be a fatal blow for any product but we're talking about a Socket FM2+ one, so it is not as bad as it seems. We don't really think that Socket FM2+ processors and their integrated graphics cores should be overclocked. We overclock them only to put the mainboard under stress conditions in our tests and thus reveal any features in its behavior which are not evident at default settings. Overclocking for practical purposes doesn't make sense because you won't get the same performance as with Intel's competing solutions whereas the integrated graphics core, however overclocked, cannot replace even a midrange discrete graphics card. The performance benefits from overclocking Socket FM2+ processors are small but the power consumption grows up significantly. Overclocking system memory is a better solution because it ensures a considerable performance boost without affecting the power draw much. And the Gigabyte GA-F2A88XM-D3H is quite good at overclocking memory.

The Socket FM2+ platform at large has remained a niche solution just like its predecessor. It is meant for people who want to play some games but don't have enough money to buy a discrete graphics card. Serious gamers who play the most advanced titles can't do without discrete graphics. And if you are not interested in games at all, Intel's platform is going to be faster and more economical than AMD's. The Socket FM2+ platform will help you save some money yet you are going to be limited in your choice of games and visual quality settings. If you suspect you will want more speed or visual quality, you may want to prefer an Intel platform with a discrete graphics card right away rather than buy a Socket FM2+ mainboard and add such a card to it later on.

We also don’t like the Socket FM2+ platform because we don’t see many innovations about it. We explained our opinion about AMD's APUs in our FM2 platform review a year and a half ago and there's no cause for us to change it now. The new chipsets have the same specs as the old ones. The new mainboards are still incompatible with the new APUs until you update their firmware. We have some old stability issues, too. The performance is still rather low while the power consumption is high. The Kaveri APU series features an enhanced graphics core, but has lower clock rates, so the overall performance level hasn't changed. The new APUs are faster than their predecessors in certain applications but may be slower in others. They are still inferior to Intel's products and come at a higher price.

AMD calls its new APUs revolutionary and some reviewers view them as an ongoing evolution of the APU series, but we think that they are generally the same as before. When you change nothing but your product’s name, it is neither revolution nor evolution. It is stagnation.

 
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