ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+
By Rafael Coelho on October 28, 2013
The FM2A88X EXTREME6+ is the first socket FM2+ motherboard from ASRock, based on the most high-end chipset for this new platform, the A88X. It is targeted to the forthcoming FM2+ “Kaveri” APUs, but it is also compatible with socket FM2, second-generation APUs from AMD, codenamed “Trinity.” Let’s see what this motherboard has to offer.
APU is a name that AMD coined for their CPUs with integrated video. The integrated video controller found on socket FM2 APUs support up to three video monitors, while the forthcoming socket FM2+ processors will support four video monitors.
AMD launched three chipsets for socket FM2+ platform: A88X, A78, and A68. They are pretty much updated versions of the A85X, A75, and A55 chipsets, but with eight SATA-600 ports instead of six and the support for RAID 5, which is not available on the previous models. A difference between the A85X and the A88X is the support for XHCI 1.0 and Debug Port on the USB 3.0 ports of the A88X, while the A85X supports XHCI 0.96.
AMD socket FM2+ APUs will have an embedded PCI Express 3.0 controller, while the PCI Express controller included with FM2 processors is 2.0. 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.
While socket FM2+ motherboards support socket FM2 processors, when a socket FM2 CPU is installed the PCI Express lanes are only compatible with 2.0 standard.
The ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ does not support 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, a feature that is available on some socket FM2 motherboards.
In Figure 1, you see the ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ motherboard, which is based on the ATX form factor (12.0 x 9.6 inches or 305 x 244 mm).
ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ comes with two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (PCIE2/PCIE4), one PCI Express 2.0 x16 (PCIE5, that always works at x4 speed), two PCI Express 2.0 x1, and two PCI slots. The PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots share bandwidth, which means that if the second one is unused, the first one works at x16 speed, but if both are populated, the will both work at x8.
You also need to keep in mind that PCI Express 3.0 is only supported if an FM2+ processor is installed. With an FM2 CPU, the board only supports PCI Express 2.0.
The portrayed motherboard supports CrossFireX with up to three video cards (maximum of four GPUs).
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. FM2+ CPUs memory specifications are not informed by AMD to date. According to ASRock, the FM2A88X EXTREME6+ supports memories up to DDR3-2600.
The ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ has four memory sockets. According to the manufacturer, it supports up to 64 GiB if four 16 GiB memory modules are used.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install four or two identical memory modules. If you are using two modules, you must skip one socket. It would be nice if the manufacturer used sockets of different colors in order to show which ones to use with two memory modules.
The AMD A88X chipset is a single-chip solution. This chip supports eight SATA-600 ports with RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). On the ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+, one of them was placed on the rear panel as an eSATA-600 port, leaving seven SATA-600 ports available.
The AMD A88X chipset supports 10 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock FM2A88X 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. The two extra USB3.0 ports at the rear panel are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip.
The ASRock FM2A88X 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 ALC1150 codec, which is an excellent audio codec, providing 115 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. These specifications are good even for the user who wants to professionally capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.)
The codec chip is shielded against electromagnetic interference, and the audio interface is equipped with a TI NE5532 amplifier for the frontal headphones output.
The analog audio outputs are independent and the motherboard also comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output. It also has a header labeled “SPDIF_OUT”, where you can install an adapter to have a coaxial SPDIF output or to connect a cable to older video cards that required a physical connection to have audio on their HDMI outputs.
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 the “line in” jack.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 chip.
A very interesting feature is an HDMI input. By a programmable hotkey, you can switch from CPU video output to an external HDMI source, such as a laptop or a video game console, using only one monitor for two devices with no need to switch cables.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared keyboard/mouse PS/2 connector, two USB 2.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, HMDI output, DisplayPort output, HDMI input, one eSATA-600 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.0 ports, an optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
The ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ 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).
The portrayed motherboard has a two-digit POST diagnostic display that shows, by a numeric code, which component is preventing the computer to boot. There are also two buttons (reset and power), and a switch that allows the user to select one of the two available BIOS chips.
In Figure 8, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+.
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ has eight phases for the CPU main voltage (VDD or Vcore) and two for the CPU memory controller (VDDNB). Therefore, it uses an “8+2” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by an IR3565A integrated circuit.
The ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ uses premium gold Japanese electrolytic capacitors. All coils on this motherboard are high-end ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ provides a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones available at the motherboard’s setup:
The main specifications for the ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
The ASRock FM2A88X EXTREME6+ is a good motherboard if you are building a computer with a socket FM2 processor, with the advantage of being compatible with the future socket FM2+ APUs.
It almost has only the basic features provided by the chipset (except for two extra USB 3.0 ports), but they (seven SATA-600 ports, one eSATA-600 port, four USB 3.0 ports, and eight USB 2.0 ports) are more than enough for the average user. The diagnostics display and on-board power and reset buttons are welcome to overclockers and enthusiasts.
One of the highlights of this motherboard is the high-end audio interface, which uses one of the best codec available on the market today. Another one is the presence of VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs, allowing connection to four video monitors (three on socket FM2 APUs) with no need of purchasing a video card.