Articles: Mainboards

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This is our fourth and, probably, last review of a Socket FM2 mainboard for the time being. Why don't we plan to do any more? Well, four reviews are quite enough to cover products offered by all the major brands. The Socket FM2 platform was interesting for us and we wanted to check it out in practice, but we were not really impressed with the results. That's why we plan to return to the more demanded LGA1155 platform in our upcoming mainboard reviews.

We still don’t understand the purpose of hybrid CPUs from AMD that are below average in terms of regular computing performance and feature an advanced integrated graphics core. We can think of applications where the Socket FM2 platform is going to be acceptable, but we don’t find any, where it would be optimal or the most appropriate. HTPCs? Well, an HTPC would work better with a more economical CPU so that you could use a noiseless or even passive cooling system. Entry-level gaming systems? We doubt such a category even exists. A computer’s gaming capabilities are determined by its graphics card in the first place. You get a top-end gaming PC if you install a top-end graphics card or several such cards. If you take a mainstream graphics card, your computer’s gaming functionality will be limited by it. An entry-level graphics card or an integrated graphics core from a Socket FM2 processor will make you an entry-level PC, but not a gaming PC. You would only be able to run games at low resolutions and/or reduced graphics quality settings, which doesn't sound like normal gaming to us.

It’s simpler and far more straightforward with Intel’s LGA1155 platform. You don’t have to look for applications favorable to LGA1155 CPUs because they, as the platform at large, are truly versatile. If you use the integrated graphics core, you have a nongaming PC, its exact specialization being determined by the CPU model. It may be a simple and inexpensive PC for the internet, an HTPC or a high-performance computing station. Now if you add a midrange or top-end graphics card to it, you get a gaming PC of the appropriate level. The LGA1155 platform can be anything you want: a quiet/economical or a fast or even an overclocked computer. It only depends on your needs and budget. You are not limited by cut-down x86 Piledriver cores on one hand (only half the senior AMD FX processors at best but without any L3 cache) and by a cut-down Radeon graphics core of the Northern Islands family on the other hand (about one fourth of a Radeon HD 6970 and with lower clock rates). That’s why we guess we should really switch back to LGA1155 mainboards, but today we’re going to have a look at one more Socket FM2 product.

We started our series of reviews of Socket FM2 mainboards with Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4 and continued it with the ASUS F2A85-V PRO and ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6. All of them are flagship models in their respective series, so we can't help adding MSI's flagship FM2-A85XA-G65 to this list. As we noted in our previous review, the mainboards from Gigabyte, ASUS and ASRock are absolutely different in design but very similar in their specifications. Each of them has an onboard USB 3.0 controller that adds two USB 3.0 ports to the four provided by the AMD A85X chipset. Each offers seven out of the chipset’s eight SATA 6 Gbit/s ports plus a back-panel eSATA port. Each has three graphics slots PCI Express 2.0 x16 which use the same speed formula: 1x16, 2x8 or x8/x8/x4. The MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 doesn’t follow suit. Some of its peculiarities are undoubtedly positive while others seem to be downsides to us. We’ll tell you all about them shortly.

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