The moment AMD presented its new APU (Kaveri), which made a significant step forward in iGPU performances, it was to be expected that soon enough there will be loads of motherboards that can support it. The ASRock model in test has designation FM2A88X Extreme6+, which imply that it will have extreme performances, and whether this board is extreme in practice, you’ll find out in the following review.
Aside from the detailed user manual, the packaging contains a CD with drivers, ASRock stickers, metal sheet with I/0 panels, two pairs of SATA 3 cables, and that’s about it. The cooling profile consists of two aluminium coolers of which one is designated to chipset, and the other to processor’s power unit (VRM), or rather, MOSFET transistors. Both coolers are set in place by screws, without the backplate, and between the cooler and the chips is a thermal band. Since our custom is to practically tear apart almost every motherboard, with the idea to find out which MOSFET transistors exactly are they using, we noticed the fact that cooler which lies on top of them is purposefully dented in the middle, and as such, doesn’t fit above the chips perfectly. To be exact, the cooler doesn’t fit perfectly on top of three pairs of MOSFETs, and later, during the tests, that turned out to be problematic. It should be noted that our test model had that problem before, so it is to be expected that any other model won’t have this problem.
Layout, chips, buttons, hardware level
FM2A88X Extreme6+ is an ATX motherboard and the layout can simply be called excellent. There are three full-sized PCI-Express x16 slots of which two are third generation and one is second generation. Slots are spaced far enough in order to accomodate three dual-slot video cards through which three-way CrossFire can be achieved. In terms of output, in case you fill out all of the x16 slots, video cards will be working in 8x8x4x mode. Aside from that, there are two PCI-E x1 and two PCI slots.
If you take a look at codec results, it will soon be clear that this is an advanced integrated audio solution. It uses a Realtek ALC1150 chip. Still, this chip provides noticeably better results on this ASRock model thanks to the EMI shield technology and the idea is to „cut-off“ the part of PCB where audio codex is located from the rest of the motherboard and in that way remove electromagnetic interferance. According to specifications, this DAC/ADC has 115 dB ratio of signal to noise. In case of Purity Sound, as it is called by ASRock, what really gave Realtek ALC 1150 audio codec the punch are two TI NE5332 amplifiers – one for the headphones and one for the connector on the back panel. These amplifiers have, in practice, brought sharper lower tones (bass). When you look at performances of this audio solution, you can easily conclude that it is very good, and what’s more – it didn’t influence the motherboard’s price. One other proof that ASRock succeeded is the fact that they haven’t used special audio capacitors, as was the case with audio solutions of competitors’ products. Rather, they used more or less standard aluminium polymer electrolytes with 3,6 V and of capacitance of 100 µF. Basically, with a few smart tweaks, they got better sound – Purity Sound.
Motherboard’s power unit uses eight phases, or rather, two for iGPU/NB and power is supplied together with Nichion’s FPCAP aluminium-polymer electrolites which, according to ASRock, have 2,5 times longer compared to the standards. Input electrolites have capacitance of 270 µF and are declared at 16 V, even though input voltage is 12 V. On the output side there are electrolites of 560 µF capacitance, which is more than enough for quality voltage filtration.
However, MOSFET transistors with designation AP4034GMT (made by Advanced Power Electronics Corp.) didn’t leave a good impression. To elaborate – these MOSFET’s aren’t top-notch, in terms of power efficiency that they can deliver. For example, with 5 W of thermal dissipation and with temperatures of 25°C, provide 19,8 A, while at 70°C amperage is 15,8 A – efficiency is somewhere between 70 and 80%. Simply put, this component cope with Ti Power blocks or IR3553/3550 DrMOS transistors, or rather, Semiconductor TMFS4C06N which were present in competitors’ models and in overclock-friendly models. For iGPU’s power phases, N1336 MOSFET drivers have been used, and PMW configuration in this case is PMW – driver – MOSFET. PMW controller of choice was IR3565A (digital PMW controller). IR3565A is intended for controll over 4+2 power units, and everything fell into place there, so we were clear why they used dablers for 8 CPU phases, while for GPU they used only additional drivers. ASRock decided to use austerity measures – it’s cheaper to make a power unit with dabblers and MOSFET transistors, than use a more complex PWM and more efficient MOSFET’s. That approach is maintained by two things – price and overclock potential. Of course, IR3565A on its own is an excellet component, but MOSFET’s efficiency is questionable, especially when both CPU and GPU are employed. On the other hand, MOSFET transistors which are used for VRM of the working memory are identical to processor’s, but in case of that power unit, are more than enough.
ASMedia 1042 controller is in chage for control over additional USB 3.0 ports, which is very reliable, while for control over LAN port, Nuvoton NCT6776 chip is in charge which, aside from that has a task of controlling P80 LD panel. In addition, this controller is in charge for powering the series port and HW screen functions, such as measuring the voltage of vital components or temperatures of various sensors on this ASRock model. Two BIOS chips are becoming a standard, but it can still be commended.
Specifications table lists all the buttons and connectors that PCB of this motherboard contains, so we won’t spend too much time on that, because we can just say that it has everything that it needs, and more.
|Memory||4 x DIMM DDR3, up to 64GB|
|MultiGPU support||CrossFireX and Dual Graphics|
|Expansion slots||2x PCIe 16x 3.0, 1x PCIe 16x 2.0, 2xPCIe 2.0, 2xPCI|
|SATA and USB||7xSATA 3 + 1xeSATA (AMD A88X Bolton D4), 6x USB 3.0 + 8x USB 2.0|
|Audio||Realtek ALC 1150 HDA 7.1 - Purity Sound|
|Network||Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 - 10/100/1000 Mbps|
|Internal connectors||1 x IR, 1 x COM, 1 x CIH, 1 x Power LED , 2 x CPU Fan (1 x 4-pin, 1 x 3-pin), 3 x Chase Fan (1 x 4-pin, 2 x 3-pin), 1 x Power Fan (3-pin), 1 x 24 pin ATX Power 1 x 8 pin 12V Power 1 x XFire Power, 1 x Front Panel Audio, 3 x USB 2.0 (6 USB 2.0 ports), 1 x USB 3.0 (2 USB 3.0 ports), 1 x Dr. Debug LED, 1 x Power LED, 1 x Reset LED, 1 x BIOS switch|
|Back panel||1 x PS/2, 1 x D-Sub, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x HDMI-Out, 1 x HDMI-In, 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x Optical SPDIF, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA, 4 x USB, 1 x RJ-45 LAN, HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone|
Software and Bios
In terms of software support, it has A-Tuning application, whose response time is instant, and that’s very important because this is software for overclocking and monitoring (voltages, fan speed, temperature, etc.). In main menu you can choose from standard power savings modes, as well as overclocking capabilities: Performance Mode, Standard Mode and Power Saving Mode. Within ASRock A-Tuning there’s the Tools section, where from you can start some of the system applications – Xfast RAM, Xfast LAN, Fast Boot, HDMI-in tuning, Dehumidifier settings, fan settings via FAN-Tastic Tuning software. Also, functions such as OMG, Good Night LED, USB Key and OC DNA should also be mentioned and we could talk a lot more about them.
BIOS is of standard type for ASRock. Everything in BIOS is graphically-oriented and very clearly presented and the number of options is imposing, while BIOS itself can be described as bug free. We won’t spend too much time talking about its options, but we will list a few interesting ones. Namely, ASRock was literally the first motherboards manufacturer which implemented AMP support for memory modules, so FM2A88X Extreme6+ also has it. This is a standard similar to Intel’s XMP standard, where the idea is that your motherboard will, on its own, load the predetermined overclock profile from memory modules. Therefore, you don’t have to know anything about overclocking in order to have a heavily overclocked memory, which is important when talking about APU and iGPU performances.
This motherboard’s BIOS can be downloaded directly from BIOS setup over the internet, and it’s itneresting that it has capability of downloading LAN drivers to flash drives. Aside from that, if you don’t use an optic device or if you lost the driver disc, with help of that capability you can download all of motherboard drivers with a simple driver setup. We’ve already mentioned that cooler’s bad fit will cause problems with the overclock potential, as well that choice of MOSFET transistors could have been better. That resulted in throttling the test APU when GPU and GPU are under load at the same time. The worst thing is that the same thing happened with the default values. Still, with an intervention and putting the cooler in a right place we corrected the issue with throttling, and it turned out that this model uses the same amount of energy at a lower voltage, than it was the case with motherboard that have more efficient MOSFET’s, and we’ve already explained why that was the case (dabler). Still, this only means that transistors will have lower temperatures, but not greater efficiency. Simply put, this motherboard isn’t the best solution for serious overclocking, but it’s good enough for casual overclocking.
|Max stable processor overclock||4600 MHz (A10-6790K) , 4500 MHz (A10-7850K)|
|Max stable overclock iGPU||1170 MHz (A10-6790K), 1028 MHz (A10-7850K)|
|Max stable overclock RAM||2412 MHz, 11-13-13-30-37-2T|
|Prime95 in place test - 10min [°C]|
|AMD A10-6790K @1,272V||66.9|
|AMD A10-6790K @1,320V||68.5|
|AMD A10-6790K @1,368V||70.1|
|AMD A10-6790K @1,416V||72.9|
|AMD A10-6790K @1,464V||76.2|
|CrystalDiskMark x64 [MB/s]|
|4K NCQ Read/Write||111 / 81|
|4K Read / Write||16 / 79|
|512K Read / Write||350 / 134|
|Sequential Read / Write||413 / 152|
|RightMark Audio Analyzer [dB]|
|Signal/noise ratio 24-bit 96000/44100 Hz||95.8 / 86.8|
|Signal/noise ratio 16-bit 44100 Hz||86.4|
|THD+noise 24-bit 96000/44100 Hz||82.1 / 79.1|
|THD+noise 16-bit 44100 Hz||78.3|
|Intermodulation distortion 24-bit 96000/44100 Hz*||65 / 133|
|Intermodulation distortion 16-bit 44100 Hz*||136|
|Dynamic range 24-bit 96000/44100 Hz||95.8 / 87.5|
|Dynamic range 16-bit 44100 Hz||86.3|
|Stereo signal crossing 24-bit 96000/44100 Hz||89.1 / 87.7|
|Stereo signal crossing 16-bit 44100 Hz||85.5|
|*less is better|
On the other hand, the specifications table shows that audio results are excellent for an integrated audio solution and that Purity Sound is fantastic. SSD results are at an expected level, i.e., at maximum with this model. Qualcomm Atheros LAN is also an excellent choice, and premium gold electrolites are a positive thing. Also, HDMI-In technology (enables motherboards to forward the image from an external source to the screen, even when the computer is turned off)) is truly great and a useful option, and software support is more than good, and by that, we also mean BIOS. Multi-GPU support, a large number of USB 3.0 and SATA 3 prots, as well as excellently-designed I/0 panel are also a huge plus.
Add to that the price of this model, it’s easy to like this model. Even without overclock potential, this model could win the IHW Approved commendation, and we hope ASRock will pay more attention to quality control in the future.