PCB Design and Functionality
Socket FM2 processors can work with the already existing AMD A75 or A55 Fusion Controller Hubs, which were used in Socket FM1 mainboards that is why there are quite a few new mainboards on these chipsets announced by now. The junior model supports only old USB 2.0 and SATA 3 Gbps ports, while the senior model supports all contemporary interfaces including four USB 3.0 and six SATA 6 Gbps ports. AMD also prepared a new A85X chipset for their Socket FM2 processor launch, which supports CrossFireX, up to 8 SATA 6 Gbps ports, and RAID storage sub-system configuration. Of course, we could claim that these are not very significant changes, but what else would you want to see there anyway? Integrated wireless interfaces? Even the functionality of the not so new AMD A75 is more than enough to build a mainboard with very up-to-date features. This situation is very different from what’s happening in the Intel camp, where the chipsets are refreshed very slowly, and in fact, no longer meet contemporary needs and wants that is why their functionality must be expanded with additional onboard controllers and chips. But even though previous AMD chipsets are still quite current, we are going to focus on the mainboards based on the new AMD A85X in the first place, and will start with our today’s hero - Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4.
I have to once again draw your attention to the fact that Gigabyte mainboards have a very simple and easy to follow naming strategy for their mainboard models. F2 stands for the Socket FM2, A85X is the chipset name. We already know that UP index indicates that the mainboard is designed using Ultra Durable 5 technology. The current version of Ultra Durable 5 includes everything typical of all existing generations of Gigabyte mainboards: 2 oz copper PCB, high-quality component base, protection against overheating and voltage fluctuations, anti-static and anti-humidity technologies. The major distinguishing feature, which determined the decision to assign this technology a new number, is the use of updated component base. The voltage regulator circuitry of Ultra Durable 5 mainboards uses IR3550 PowlRstage components with enhanced characteristics from International Rectifier. They are more efficient, consume less power, heat less and can work fine under very heavy loads. Finally, the last number in the model name, 4, stands for the model category: the higher the number the higher the rank. All of that combined gives us a very easy-to-read Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4 name.
The board supports all contemporary Socket FM2 processors. Four DDR3 DIMM slots will be able to take up to 64 GB of RAM, when the corresponding memory modules become available in retail. They support not only AMD Memory Profile (AMP), but also Extreme Memory Profile (XMP), which appeared due to Intel’s initiative. The board features three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, because AMD hasn’t yet implemented the third version of the interface in their products. A single discrete graphics accelerator will work at the full x16 speed, with two cards the slots will share the bandwidth (2x8), and the third slot will only allow connecting devices at x4 speed. On top of that, there are three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots and one PCI slot for expansion cards. Out of eight SATA 6 Gbps ports provided by the AMD A85X chipset, we have seven, and one more laid out as an eSATA port on the back panel.
Overall, we find the following ports and connectors in the back:
- Universal PS/2 connector for mouse or keyboard;
- Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Etron EJ168 controller, and two additional USB 3.0 ports and one internal pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 ports implemented in the chipset;
- D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort video Outs;
- Two USB 2.0 ports, with eight more available as four internal onboard pin-connectors;
- eSATA 6 Gbps port uses the chipset functionality, just like the other seven SATA 6 Gbps ports;
- A local network port (network adapter is built on Realtek RTL8111E Gigabit network controller);
- Optical S/PDIF and six analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC892 codec.
As you can see, the extensive functionality of the AMD A85X chipset allowed Gigabyte ton design a very feature-rich product without a plethora of controllers and add-on chips from third-party makers. However, this is the top model in the Gigabyte’s Socket FM2 lineup that is why it boasts a number of additional features, such as Power On, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons and a POST-code indicator. Moreover, I can’t help mentioning that it is also equipped with two BIOS chips for increased reliability, and although the users can only access one of them, the reserve chip is available in case the contents of the primary must be restored. Graphics card slots have very handy wide latches on them, and there are five onboard fan connectors.
We summed up all major technical specifications of Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4 mainboard in the following table: