Result and general impression
++++ The ASRock FM2A85X-ITX/M/ASR motherboard has a price of approx. 90 Euro (06/2013) and is thus in the middle price segment of the Socket FM2 motherboards.
Today we test a tiny AMD Trinity Socket FM2 motherboard on OCinside.de, which is ideal to build a fast HTPC or even a small gaming PC with its Mini-ITX form factor and AMD A85X chipset. Just 17x17cm in size, the ITX motherboard offers many amazing features of the recently tested ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 ATX mainboard, which received our OverClocking Dream award. The ASRock FM2A85X-ITX motherboard has one PCI Express slot, seven SATA3 ports, one eSATA3 port, Gigabit LAN, 7.1 sound with optical S/PDIF output and graphics output over D-Sub, DVI-D or HDMI. We have tested and extremely overclocked the ASRock FM2A85X-ITX Socket FM2 motherboard with an AMD A10-5800K APU. All overclocking-, benchmark-, and test results are published in the current review and in the extensive AMD motherboard comparison.
In this cardboard box the ASRock FM2A85X-ITX Socket FM2 ITX Trinity motherboard is delivered:
Here is a first look in the box:
ASRock FM2A85X-ITX is very well-finished like its bigger ATX counterpart, has also the very high-quality premium Gold caps capacitors, 4+2 power phase design for processors up to 100W and seven SATA3 ports.
Here you can see the very tiny ITX mainboard that is just 17 x 17 cm small and still offers space for some important features which we will explain later in this review:
Here you can see the ASRock FM2A85X-ITX Mini-ITX motherboard and the FM2A85X Extreme6 ATX motherboard in comparison:
Equipment and other features …
The FM2A85X-ITX motherboard from ASRock came with a manual, one DVD, four SATA data cables and I/O shield.
Expansion cards …
The FM2A85X-ITX mainboard provides one PCI Express 2.0 graphics slot with x16 lanes connecting and due to the ITX design it offers no additional slots like PCI or PCIe 1x.
The ASRock FM2A85X-ITX can be equipped with up to two DDR3 modules and is expandable depending upon operating system used (see list) to maximally 32 GB memory.
Here you can see both DDR3 sockets with Dual Channel support:
The Socket FM2 motherboard supports DDR3 memory modules and can be optimized in the BIOS for DDR3-800, DDR3-1066, DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600, DDR3-1866, DDR3-2133, DDR3-2400 and faster Dual Channel modules. Higher clock-rates are currently only possible with overclocking.
Hard disk drive connectors …
The FM2A85X-ITX board offers seven SATA3 connectors (6 Gb/s) and one additional eSATA3 port at the I/O panel. The seven S-ATA3 ports supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, NCQ, AHCI and the Hot Plug function in AHCI mode (AHCI stands for Advanced Host Controller Interface and can be selected in the BIOS / UEFI BIOS). The UEFI BIOS support drives with more than 2TB for a Microsoft Windows 8, Windows 7 x64 or Vista x64 installation. The manual and the included DVD contains all basic information to manage a new installation of Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 with SATA3 drives, and how to make a RAID installation. 32-Bit and 64-Bit drivers for Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 are provided on the DVD and can be downloaded on the ASRock support page.
USB and Firewire …
The motherboard has two USB 3.0 connectors on the ATX-panel, four USB 2.0 connectors on the ATX panel, two internal USB 2.0 plugs for up to four optional USB ports and one internal USB 3.0 plug for up to two optional USB3.0 ports. An optional USB3.0 front panel or enclosure with USB3.0 connector can be connected to the internal USB3.0 20-pin connector. Hint: One should install the new ASRock XFast USB software to accelerate the USB transfer rate for USB drives.
The ASRock FM2A85X-ITX motherboard is provided with the Realtek RTL 8111E chip which offers a 10/100/1000 network connector on the I/O panel. The LAN connection is WoL capable, offers LAN cable detection and supports PXE and energy efficient 802.3az ethernet.
Serial and parallel port …
The motherboard does not provide a parallel port or serial port.
The ASRock FM2A85X-ITX motherboard is equipped with the ALC892 audio codec with content protection, which supports 7.1 surround sound for example analog over 5x 3.5mm connectors on the ATX panel or over an internal audio connector.
For the digital output there is an internal HDMI S/PDIF out (S/PDIF stands for Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format) connector available, to connect it for example with a SPDIF cable to a HDMI suited video card, in order to get the digital audio and video signal to a HDMI equipment like a HD-Ready LCD TV. Additionally it offers an optical digital SPDIF output, premium Blu-Ray audio support and THX TruStudio support. Who uses the onBoard HDMI connection can enable the S/PDIF audio signal in the BIOS. This is a very good basis for building a HTPC.
The AMD A85X chipset offers in combination with a Trinity APU a DX11 graphics solution. AMDs’ A10-5800K CPU used in this test is equipped with the AMD Radeon HD7660D graphics unit.
The graphics unit can be overclocked from 400 to 1900 MHz over the BIOS, but the AMD HD7660D iGPU has even without overclocking a good performance. So the GPU of the AMD A10-5800K APU achieved in Windows 7 with 3DMark 48468 Ice Storm points, with 3DMark11 Entry 2006 3DMarks and with 3DMark06 7651 3DMarks ! In comparison, the HD6550D GPU of the AMD A8-3870K FM1 APU reached on the ASRock A75 Pro4 Motherboard 6181 3DMarks and an Intel HD Graphics Unit of the Intel Core i5-2500K CPU on an ASRock H77 Pro4/MVP achieved with 3DMark06 in Windows 7 a benchmark score of 4310 3DMarks. An AMD HD 4290 IGP of an AMD 890GX chipset achieved with an AMD Phenom II 710 X3 processor on an ASRock 890GX Extreme4 for example a score of 2204 points in 3DMark06. Furthermore the integrated video processor supports DirectX 11, HDCP, Full HD 1080p and offers thanks to its onBoard HDMI connector and the low power consumption optimal conditions for a HTPC or a tiny Gaming PC.
ATX backpanel connectors …
From left to right one can see 1x PS/2 connectors for PS/2 keyboard or PS/2 mouse and 2x USB 2.0, 15-pol Sub-D VGA and DVI-D VGA, HDMI, 2x USB 2.0 and eSATA3, RJ45 Gigabit LAN and 2x USB 3.0, optical SPDIF out for digital sound output and 5x 3.5mm jacks for analog sound.
BIOS and Overclocking …
Let us continue with BIOS options and BIOS overclocking. By pressing F2 or Del, you get access to the AMI BIOS with all important hardware settings.
The ASRock UEFI BIOS of the FM2A85X Extreme 6 offers a graphical surface for an intuitive operation with a mouse or with a keyboard, depending upon desire. User with an USB mouse and USB keyboard should not deactivate the Legacy USB support in the BIOS USB Configuration, because otherwise they can not access the UEFI Setup. In the Auto mode the board decides if the USB device need to operate in Legacy mode. Keyboard and Mouse should be still connected to the USB 2.0 ports.
Another new feature is the “Active Page on Entry” selection, where you can decide which UEFI page you want to see when you enter the UEFI Setup. This is mainly very helpful for overclocking since one have to enter the second OC Tweaker menu very often to find the best OC settings, so ASRock offer it for less mouse clicks.
Here is a screenshot of the UEFI BIOS surface with the new Active Page on Entry selection:
UEFI BIOS Update …
ASRock offers very comfortable ways to flash BIOS updates, like e.g. the very easy ASRock Instant Flash or the latest ASRock Internet Flash with a direct internet connection. By the so-called ASRock Instant Flash option in the Advanced Screen or by pressing F6 during the PC start one can enter the ASRock Instant Flash utility. One can very easy update a downloaded ASRock BIOS without further boot CDs, etc., just start the ASRock Instant Flash utility and select a BIOS Flash ROM from any FAT formatted device like an USB Stick to flash the BIOS without another boot medium.
Here is a screenshot of the new Instant Flash and Internet Flash Update functions:
The board came with BIOS L1.20. At review date, the P1.50 UEFI BIOS was the latest version for download, which we updated for this motherboard review.
BIOS Übertaktung …
The BIOS offers some DDR3 memory settings like e.g. the memory setting from DDR3-800 over DDR3-1066, DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600, DDR3-1866, DDR3-2133 up to DDR3-2400 or with reference clock OC even higher. Up to DDR3-2400 can be selected in the BIOS and higher DDR3 frequencies over DDR3-2400 are only available with manual reference clock overclocking. The frequency of all memory modules is calculated and shown immediately after changing the reference clock and makes it much easier to adjust the right RAM frequency. It is very advantageous that the ASRock FM2A85X ITX motherboard can read both AMP and XMP profile values from the memory modules and setup the RAM modules for their optimal speed.
The host clock is adjustable from 100 MHz up to 136 MHz, the NB frequency can be adjusted between 5x to 31x and the CPU Frequency Multiplier can be adjusted between 14x to 63x, which results at the default APU/PCIE frequency of 100 MHz in a CPU/APU clock from 1400 MHz up to 6300 MHz.
Overclocking with the reference clock should be proceed with caution, because some other frequencies are increased by the internal clock generator as well. When overclocking Black Edition processors, so-called “K” APUs with unlocked multiplier, it is more easy to overclock the APU by increasing the multiplier. But the reference clock is still important at least when one buy high-end OC RAM and like to operate it on the maximum frequency, because this is on most boards only possible with reference clock / APU/PCIE Frequency increasement.
The boot failure guard was checked in this review as well and it was possible to start the PC on standard values with too high overclocking settings without using Clear CMOS. ASRock integrated a “Boot Failure Guard Count” option, where the user can decide, how often the board should try to start with too high settings, before it reduces all necessary frequency settings for a correct boot. If one prevents with wrong values the PC from booting, can press the Clear CMOS button, but the stored profile values are fortunately still saved and can be loaded quickly.
Furthermore, this board offers a Vcore setting on the AMD A10 Trinity test CPU from 0.6000 V to 1.5500 V with an Offset 10%, a CPU NB voltage from 0.6000 V to 1.5500 V, an APU PCIE voltage from 1.208 bis 1.563 V, a SB voltage setting between 1.10 V and 1.40 V and some more settings to reach higher overclocking results. The DDR3 memory voltage can be set between 1.165 V up to 1.800 V in steps between 0.01 V and 0.0125 V, which should be enough power for some DDR3 OC RAM modules. Additionally, the board offers an APU Load Line Calibration, which can be set to Default or 1/2 VCore. The APULLC offers a compensation of the voltage in Idle/Load CPU or APU load alternation. For manual overclocking of FM2 processors, the CPU Load Line Calibration can be set to Disabled to get higher OC results stable.
If these are too many values for you, one can also easily select a predefined overclocking at boot time with the X key – the so-called ASRock XBoost feature, so that the values can be increased easily without OC know-how by a few percent (in our test APU from 3800 MHz to 4400 MHz).
Here is the OC Tweaker UEFI Setup Utility with 4400MHz CPU OC Settings:
As special BIOS feature one can store three different BIOS settings with a desired name. Thus one can save for example balanced BIOS settings, overclocking settings and underclocking settings in a user profile of the BIOS to load them very quickly at any time.
Here one can see UEFI Profilname in the highlighted lower part:
With the CPU Thermal Throttle option, it is possible to lower the CPU frequency on too high internal CPU temperature to protect the CPU from overheating. This is of course only a protection and should be left activated in order to protect the APU, but it is still necessary to select a good cooling for overclocking, especially in smaller ITX chassis.
Additionally all most important overclocking features can be adjusted and temperature monitoring can be checked with the included ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility Software (AXTU example screen).
BIOS Undervolting …
The downclocking or underclocking was also tested in this review, because this is particularly for HTPCs very useful to lower the energy consumption. It was possible to lower the AMD A10-5800K CPU multiplier over the BIOS to 14x and underclock it with 100 MHz reference clock to approx. 1400 MHz.
Underclocking and OverClocking is outside of the manufacturers specification. It’s necessary to have a bit luck, but ASRock give you some useful options to overclock or underclock the system more easily.
The BIOS of the passive cooled FM2A85X-ITX motherboard offers a CPU Quiet Fan Control (temperature fan control) for the 4-pin and 3-pin CPU fans, so it is non-essential to spend money for an additional fan controller.
Power consumption …
Power consumption will vary depending upon the hardware and upon the PC load. The current consumption of the test PC with AMD A10-5800K Black Edition APU, 4GB DDR3-1333 memory, hard disk drive and Cooler Master Silent Pro M 600W test PSU was without overclocking depending upon load: – With Sapphire HD6870 card the power consumption was between 52.9W and 221.0 Watt. – With internal HD7660D GPU the power consumption was between 29.4 W idle and 120.4 W full load. Above all the maximum power consumption of the integrated GPU is very low and offers thus a low power consumption to build e.g. a HTPC, a small office PC or even a small Gaming-PC. In combination of the AMD HD GPU of an APU with a dedicated PCIE graphics card it’s also possible to build a high-performance Gaming PC with low power consumption.
This tiny ASRock FM2A85X-ITX AMD Socket FM2 DDR3 motherboard is designed for AMD Socket FM2 Trinity processors up to 100 Watt TDP, offers thanks to the good basic equipment and the very small Mini-ITX size an optimum basis to build a High-End HTPC or to build a tiny Gaming-PC, which can be even excellent overclocked with good cooling.
The FM2A85X-ITX offers in spite of the small size a good basic equipment with seven SATA3 ports, one eSATA3 port, up to four possible USB 3.0 ports, up to eight possible USB 2.0 ports, one Gigabit LAN connector, 7.1 sound with digital sound output over an optical SPDIF connector and analog sound output over five jacks. With an APU it is possible to use the built-in D-Sub, DVI-D or HDMI video output.
All in all this ASRock FM2A85X-ITX Socket FM2 motherboard is a first-class basis to build a tiny low power ITX HTPC, a powerful ITX office PC or even an ITX Gaming PC without or with overclocked common Socket FM2 processors like AMD A4, A6, A8 and A10 series.
Special thanks to ASRock for their support.
* All Socket FM2 PCIe motherboard reviews since 01.12.2012 are based on an AMD A10-5800K Black Edition CPU,Sapphire HD6870 1024MB ATI Radeon HD6870 PCI Express 2.0 video card, 2x 2048MB Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1333/PC3-10600 memory modules, Cooler Master Silent Pro M 600W power supply unit and the following software configuration: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate, SiSoftware Sandra 2012, Futuremark 3DMark11, 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark06 and 3DMark03 (the software is available in the Links & Downloads section). All benchmark results only offer a comparison among themselves for a rough motherboard performance comparison.