MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on October 12, 2012
The MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65, also known as MS-7793, 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.
The FM2A85X doesn’t 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 competing products.
In Figure 1, you see the MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 motherboard. It is based on the standard ATX form factor (12 x 9.6 inches or 305 x 244 mm).
The MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 comes with two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two standard PCI slots.
The 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. These slots support the 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 MSI, the FM2-A85XA-GD65 supports memories up to 2,133 MHz.
The MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 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 MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65, two memory sockets are black and two are blue. In order to enable the dual-channel mode when installing two memory modules, simply install the memory modules in sockets with the same color.
The AMD A85X chipset is a single-chip solution. This chip supports eight SATA-600 ports with RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). 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 MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 offers 10 USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard; and four USB 3.0 ports, two located on the motherboard rear panel and two available on a header located on the motherboard.
The MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 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 ALC892 codec, which is a mainstream-grade product, providing a 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 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 for the average user, but if you want to work professionally with audio editing or converting analog audio sources into digital format, you will need to pick a motherboard with at least 100 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs.
The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output. Differently from most motherboards, the FM2-A85XA-GD65 doesn’t have an SPDIF header 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, so you won’t need to “kill” the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks when using a 5.1 or 7.1 analog speaker set.
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 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, optical SPDIF output, two USB 3.0 ports, and the analog audio jacks.
The MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 allows you to install a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) on its “JTPM1” header, which increases security by encrypting data that is handled by the computer.
In Figure 6, you can see all of the accessories that come with the MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65.
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 has six phases for the CPU main voltage and two for the CPU memory controller (“CPU-NB”). Therefore, it uses a “6+2” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by an IR3567A integrated circuit, using a digital design.
MSI used military-grade components on the voltage regulator circuit of the FM2-A85XA-GD65. Electronic components rated as military-grade have a higher operating temperature range, tighter specifications, and higher life-span. All capacitors used on the voltage regulator circuit are SMD (Surface Mount Devices), also known as highly-conductive polymerized or simply Hi-c.
All coils used on this motherboard are solid ferrite coils, called “Super Ferrite Chokes” by MSI. According to MSI, these coils work 20° C cooler than traditional coils. Capacitors used outside the voltage regulator circuit are solid.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 provides several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones available at the motherboard’s setup (1.0 B15 BIOS):
The motherboard also has voltage monitoring points, where you can read the voltage of the CPU (CPU_CORE, CPU_NB, CPU_1.2V, and CPU_PLL) and memory using a voltmeter. The MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 also provides the “OC Genie” button, where you can overclock the system automatically.
The main specifications for the MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 include:
The MSI FM2-A85XA-GD65 only brings the basic features provided by the A85X chipset. These features, however, are more than enough for the average user, with eight SATA-600 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, and two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots. The highlight of this motherboard is the military-grade components on the voltage regulator circuit, which set it apart from most of its competitors.
Overclocking wasn’t overlooked, and as of this writing, this motherboard holds the world record for overclocking: 7.38 GHz with an A10-5800K processor.
This motherboard is more than enough for the average user, but if you need more features and/or a better audio codec, you will need to look for a competing product or wait until MSI comes out with a high-end model for the FM2 platform.