A Closer Look at the M4A88TD-M/USB3
A Closer Look at the M4A88TD-M/USB3
The M4A88TD-M/USB3 is a mini-ATX motherboard designed to be used in HTPC or small form factor cases. Starting at the top edge of the board, we see a 4-pin 12V power connector and a CPU-fan header in the usual locations. At the top right we have the COM pin header in an unusual spot, but it remains unobstructed and poses no interference to surrounding components.
Continuing on the right edge of the motherboard, there is the standard ITE IT8721F controller commonly found on many other boards including the high-end ASUS Crosshair IV Formula. This controller provides temperature, fan and voltage monitoring and is fully compatible with third-party programs like HWMonitor.
Next to the controller is a set of LPT pin headers, the MemOK! button, a 24-pin ATX connector, and a port for IDE connections.
For the readers who are unfamiliar with the MemOK! Button, it is a useful function which can resolve memory compatibility issues. It does so by loosening RAM timings until the system can boot properly. Because some RAM modules require increased voltages to reach stability at a certain speed, this feature is extremely useful as it allows the user to enter the BIOS menu, and adjust the necessary parameters to get the system running to spec.
At the bottom right of the motherboard, are few things of interest. Firstly, ASUS has implemented a VIA VT6415 IDE controller to provide UltraDMA 133/100 IDE support for up to 2 devices. Just below that we have a BIOS chip and the clear CMOS header at an easily accessible location. There are also 6 SATA 6Gbps ports connected directly to the SB850 southbridge, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.
It is important to note that the two rows of SATA ports are a mirror image of each other. ASUS has designed this so that the use of 90-degree angled SATA cables will not block any ports. In between the ports themselves is a green LED which simply tells the user whether the board is powered or not.
The bottom edge of the ASUS M4A88TD-M/USB3 has the usual case headers for the power and reset switch, LEDs, and speaker. There are also 4 sets of USB pin headers that support USB 2.0.
Continuing along the edge we find a toggle switch that controls the “Core Unlocker” function. This is another feature which was found on the high-end Crosshair IV Formula motherboard we reviewed earlier. Briefly speaking, this toggle switch allows the user to quickly unlock any disabled cores on Athlon II and Phenom II dual-core or triple-core processors. To do the same on competitor motherboards, the user would have to enter the BIOS menu and enable the function. In the case of ASUS motherboards, a simple flick of this switch is all that is needed. Unfortunately, this function is not supported on-the-fly. Enabling “Core Unlocker” while the computer is powered on will not result in any changes to the system. The user must power-off the computer for this function to work.
Beside the “Core Unlocker” switch we have SPDIF and AAFP (Analog Audio Front Panel) pin headers.
8-channel audio and Gigabit LAN are provided by the Realtek ALC892 and RTL8111E chips respectively. These two chips are situated at the bottom left of the motherboard. Behind the rear audio headers we find the usual NEC D720200F1 USB 3.0 controller and a 3-pin fan header for a chassis fan.
Looking at the rear I/O panel, there are various connection ports including a PS/2 keyboard port, 4 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 ports, DSUB, DVI, HDMI, TOSLINK, Gigabit LAN, and audio plugs supporting 8-channel audio.
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