ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on October 11, 2012
The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 is a motherboard based on the most high-end chipset for the new FM2 platform, the A85X (codenamed “Hudson D4”), and is targeted to the second-generation APUs from AMD, codename “Trinity.” Let’s see what this motherboard has to offer.
APU is a name that AMD coined for their CPUs with integrated video. They are also known as A-series, as models start with the letter “A” (A4, A6, A8, and A10).
There are three chipsets available for the new FM2 platform: A85X, A75, and A55. The A75 and A55 chipsets were released in 2011 with the FM1 platform, which is used by the first-generation of APUs from AMD. The A85X is a new chipset, released this month. In the table below, we compare the main differences between these three chipsets. As you can see, the main difference between the A85X and the A75 is the addition of two more SATA-600 ports on the A85X.
PCI Express 2.0 x1
“FIS-based switching” is an eSATA port multiplier technology, which allows you to install more than one hard drive to a single SATA port. Click here to learn more. UMI stands for Unified Media Interface; it is the interface that connects the CPU to the chipset.
AMD APUs have an embedded PCI Express 2.0 controller, with one PCI Express 2.0 x16 port and four PCI Express 2.0 x1 ports. Second-generation APUs allow the x16 port to be divided into two x8 ports. It is important to understand that this is a feature provided by the processor, not by the chipset.
In addition, the FM2A85X Extreme6 supports the Virtu Universal MVP, which allows you to combine the performance of the integrated graphics processor available in the CPU with the performance of any video card installed. This is similar to what occurs with the Hybrid SLI and ATI Hybrid Graphics technologies, with the notable difference of not being limited to GPUs from a specific manufacturer.
In Figure 1, you see the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 motherboard. It is based on the standard ATX form factor (12 x 9.6 inches or 305 x 244 mm).
The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 comes with three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two standard PCI slots.
The first two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, with the first slot working at x16 when only one video card is installed, and with both working at x8 when two video cards are installed. The third PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (PCIE5) is controlled by the chipset and always works at x4 speed. You will need a computer case with at least eight expansion slots if you want to install a dual-slot video card in this slot. (Computer cases usually have seven expansion slots.)
The PCI Express x16 slots support CrossFireX technology.
AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket FM2 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,866 MHz. According to ASRock, the FM2A85X Extreme6 supports memories up to 2,600 MHz.
The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GB, you can have up to 32 GB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6, all memory sockets are black. In order to enable the dual-channel mode when installing two memory modules, you have to skip one socket, i.e., install the first memory module in the first socket and the second memory module in the third (and not in the second) socket.
The AMD A85X chipset is a single-chip solution. This chip supports eight SATA-600 ports with RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). On the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6, one of these ports was routed to the motherboard’s rear panel as an eSATA-600 port.
All SATA ports are located at the motherboard’s edge, and six of them are rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. See Figure 4.
The AMD A85X chipset supports two USB 1.1 ports, 10 USB 2.0 ports, and four USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 offers eight USB 2.0 ports, two soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard; and six USB 3.0 ports, four located on the motherboard rear panel and two available on a header located on the motherboard, near the main power supply connector. The two additional USB 3.0 ports are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip.
The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 doesn’t have FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC898 codec, which is an outstanding solution, providing an impressive 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. This means you are able to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) with this motherboard without adding any background noise.
The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output. A header labeled “HDMI_SPDIF1” also provides SPDIF output for you to install a coaxial SPDIF output or to route digital audio to older video cards that require this physical connection in order to have digital audio output in their HDMI connectors.
The analog audio outputs are independent only if you use a 5.1 analog speaker set. If you install a 7.1 analog speaker set, you will need to use either the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, four USB 3.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, clear CMOS button, two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA-600 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 has a POST diagnostics display that shows through a two-digit code which component is preventing the computer from turning on.
The portrayed motherboard has a legacy serial port, which is available through a header labeled “COM1.” You will need to buy an adapter if you want to use this port. The portrayed motherboard also has an infrared interface, making it inexpensive for you to add an infrared sensor to be able to use a remote control or to connect devices using infrared technology (IrDA).
In Figure 7, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6.
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 has eight phases for the CPU main voltage and two for the CPU memory controller (“CPU-NB”). Therefore, it uses an “8+2” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by an IR3565A integrated circuit, using a digital design, which is superior to the hybrid design usually seen on motherboards from ASRock.
The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 uses solid capacitors. Coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models, which can provide up to a 20% improvement in efficiency.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 provides several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones available at the motherboard’s setup (1.10 BIOS):
The main specifications for the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 include:
The ASRock FM2A85X is a good motherboard for the new “Trinity” CPUs from AMD. Its highlights include the presence of three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, four different video connectors (HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-D, and VGA), seven SATA-600 ports, one eSATA-600 port, six USB 3.0 ports, a very decent voltage regulator circuit, a myriad of overclocking options, and an outstanding audio codec (Realtek ALC898), which provides very high signal-to-noise ratios (110 dB for the outputs and 104 dB for the inputs), i.e., unnoticeable background noise.