Asus F1A75-I Deluxe
When you look at Asus mainboards designed in Mini-ITX form-factor you can notice certain general principles used by the company developers across the board. Almost all miniature platforms from this maker boast extensive functionality and obviously, Asus tries to win the users’ hearts by offering them numerous additional functions, which are not available on other Mini-ITX mainboards. So, no wonder that Asus F1A75-I Deluxe designed following the same exact principles boasts functionality similar to that of a full-size mainboard rather than a Mini-ITX product. Therefore, it proudly bears “Deluxe” title in its model name.
Speaking about the features of the Asus F1A75-I Deluxe mainboard, we should start by saying that it is based on AMD A75 chipset, which is the most feature-rich option for Socket FM1 CPUs. Thanks to the chipset the board immediately acquired support of USB 3.0 and SATA-600, which didn’t require any additional onboard controllers. But the chipset functionality on this mainboard is extended with special controllers for WiFi and Bluetooth implementation.
The integrated Wi-Fi module is designed as a daughter card, which goes into a mini-PCIe slot on the mainboard. The Wi-Fi adapter itself is AzureWave AR5B95 based on Atheros chip supporting 802.11b/g/n standards. However, this model works only in 2.4 GHz frequency range, which may be insufficient for some users. Luckily, Wi-Fi module can be replaced because the exiting mini-PCIe slot is compatible with any half-size cards. As for the Bluetooth, it is implemented as a miniature Atheros AR3011 controller built into one of the USB ports on the back panel.
Besides two antenna ports and a Bluetooth module, the back panel also has four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, eSATA 6 Gbps port, PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse, a Gigabit network port implemented via Realtek RTL8111E controller, Clear CMOS button, a digital optical SPDIF out, three analogue audio-jacks working through eight-channel Realtek ALC892 codec and a set of monitor outputs. I have to stress that Asus F1A75-I Deluxe only supports monitors (and TV-sets) with digital interfaces, but there is a variety of choices available for them. The mainboard back panel has DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort connectors. I would like to remind you that integrated graphics of the Llano processors allows using two monitor-configurations and the maximum supported resolution is 2560x1600 (in this case it is available if you connect the monitor using DisplayPort).
In addition to the ports and connectors on the back panel that we have already listed, there are also onboard pin-connectors for two more USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports.
While the features and functionality of the Asus F1A75-I Deluxe mainboard are quite impressive, the PCB layout doesn’t have the same positive effect on us. We have problems with two things: the location of the 24-pin power connector and the location of the processor socket. By moving the power connector for the thick PSU cable closer to the back panel Asus created a very non-standard layout, which may make proper cable management in some Mini-ITX cases very challenging. The fact that the CPU socket has been placed right at the PCI Express x16 slot is an even bigger problem, because many low-profile processor coolers will block this only expansion slot completely.
Asus F1A75-I Deluxe ended up with this pretty strange components layout because Asus engineers were trying to move the chipset and the processor voltage regulator close enough to one another so that could be cooled by the same heatsink. Of course, they accomplished this goal: the components are cooled by a single shaped aluminum heatsink with secure screw-on retention.
The actual processor voltage regulator circuitry has four phases, but Asus engineers also utilized their latest invention – Digi+ VRM, which promises high efficiency and power-saving at the same time. As a result, Asus F1A75-I Deluxe is not just compatible with all Socket FM1 processors including models with 100 W TDP, but also allows overclocking these processors by raising their Vcore and enabling a special feature counteracting the voltage drops under heavy load. At the same time, this voltage regulator dynamically controls the number of active phases depending on the operational load thus providing even bigger energy savings.
The board is equipped with two four-pin fan connectors. The rotation speed of both four-pin fans connected to them can be adjusted using PWM method, while the three-pin fans will rotate at their maximum speed at all times. Moreover, I have to point out that these connectors are not in the most convenient spots and will be very hard to reach when the entire system has already been put together.
The board belongs to the Deluxe series not only due to its extensive characteristics and features. The accessories bundle is also worth the “Deluxe” title. Besides the pretty ordinary SATA cables with connector locks, a pair of WiFi antennas and I/O Shield for the system case back panel, there is also a remote control unit with a USB receiver.
This remote control unit is pretty unique. Besides the standard multimedia functions it may also serve a fully-fledged QWERTY-keyboard with all keys located on the back side of the unit.
Of course, the keys layout is not the most convenient one and the infra-red communication between the unit and the receiver has its shortcomings, too, but one fact is undeniable: Asus did come up with a pretty unique way of communicating with media centers based on their F1A75-I Deluxe mainboard. This keyboard certainly won’t suit for office application, but in home multimedia systems it will definitely keep you seated comfortably on your couch no matter what.
Asus F1A75-I Deluxe uses Asus’ standard EFI BIOS with typical graphics interface.
I have to say that the functionality of this BIOS has hardly been limited in any way compared with the BIOS of full-size mainboards. It has everything necessary for processor overclocking, memory timings fine-tuning and adjusting the voltages. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the board supported XMP profiles, which is a pretty rare feature in mainboards for AMD processors. It also allows downclocking – the processor and memory voltages may be set below their nominal values. Although, the minimum DDR3 SDRAM voltage is only 1.35 V and not 1.25 V.
Asus F1A75-I Deluxe did perfectly fine during our overclocking experiments. It tolerates well significant increase in the clock generator frequency allowing AMD processors to function stably in non-nominal modes, namely, during CPU and graphics core overclocking. However, remember that Asus F1A75-I Deluxe is the most expensive Socket FM1 mainboard of all models participating in our today’s review, so we honestly didn’t expect anything less from it.