Welcome to another Gigabyte motherboard review. Today we have Gigabytes F2A85X-UP4 for the new AMD Socket FM2.
FM2 replaces the short lived FM1 socket from AMD. The new FM2 processors are now based on AMD's Trinity cores. This is a variant of the Piledriver architecture which includes a powerful on board GPU and is aimed primarily as a solid, well rounded home use PC. It isn't really aimed at the hard core user, but follows AMD's current strategy of better balancing the CPU and GPU combination. As such, this platform is fully capable of destroying Intel's integrated graphics on any of their current platforms. The CPU side of the equation is still fully Intel's if comparing core count. But if you are comparing on a price basis things start to look pretty good with this new FM2 platform.
Gigabyte has made a real effort to offer a broad range of motherboards to fit any budget on any platform.
That tradition continues with their FM2 offerings and the F2A85X-UP4 is their highest specified offering on this platform.
The UP4 even offers the new Ultra Durable 5 label which provides exceptional power efficiency through the use of the IR3550 PowIRstage? power circuitry. This is a standout in the price category and the F2A85X-UP5 is a very cool running motherboard because of this. It also consumes less power than comparable boards due to this high efficiency power circuitry.
You can read more about Ultra Durable 5 Technology and benefits here: GIGABYTE Ultra Durable? 5 Motherboards
Many enthusiasts might consider the FM2 platform as low end or budget oriented, but for the vast majority of users out there, FM2 offers a well balanced set of features and is able to fill a number of roles. Everything from gaming to HTPC duty, as well as just a solid base for an office machine. The UP4, however, is far from budget oriented and offers a solid list of features that any user can appreciate.
Gigabyte has once again used a tasteful black PCB, they reserve this color for their high performance boards and the F2A85X-UP4 qualifies for this platform. They have paired that with gunmetal grey heatsinks on the power phases and A85X chip. They have added a grey to one of the memory channels as well and I think it all works well together.
It is a good looking board that could be displayed in a windowed case without looking out of place.
Expansion slots are arranged as follows: 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
* The PCIEX8 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16 slot. When the PCIEX8 slot is populated, the PCIEX16 slot will operate at up to x8 mode. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4)
* The PCIEX1_3 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX4 slot. When the PCIEX1_3 slot is populated, the PCIEX4 slot will operate at up to x1 mode. 3 x PCI Express x1 slots
(All PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.) 1 x PCI slot
There is ample space between the two primary PCIE16x slots for cooling and two of the three PCIE 1X slots can be populated even if you are running Crossfire, provided you are using only double slot cards.
The socket area is fairly open and will allow for large CPU heatsinks to be used, as always, the RAM slots can be a bit close so ensure your memory sticks and heatsink will play nice together if you are planning to fill all the available ram slots. AMD has been nice enough to retain the same heatsink mounts as AM3/AM3+ and this hasn?t changed since .........I can?t even remember! This makes using your current heatsink a simple thing in most cases.
To the left of the CPU socket is the small heatsink for cooling the power circuitry. As you can see, it is fairly small, but even so it provides more than adequate cooling due to that very efficient and cool running IR3550 PowIRstage? power circuitry.
To the right of the socket are the 4 RAM slots each capable of holding a 16Gb stick! So the board can support up to 64Gb of RAM! So this is quite good for what would be considered a very mainstream platform.
If we look a bit beyond memory slots we find a welcome addition of Power, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons in the upper right corner.
Just below the traditional ATX24 connector we also find a USB 3.0 front panel connector.
Continue down that right side of the board and we have 6 SATA3 connectors turned at 90 degrees. All ports are SATA 3 capable.
Below the SATA3 slots is something not often found on a motherboard at this price level, a diagnostic LED panel. This is extremely helpful in narrowing down possible issues like incompatible memory. Or as an overclocking tool, as it can point you in the right direction when a no boot situation occurs due to overclocking too far.
Wait a minute... what's this under the LED? Another SATA3 port?
Yes it is. The A85X chip supports up to 8 SATA3 ports in total. There is an additional ESATA port on the back panel.
This is also extremely good for a mainstream platform, Even Intel's higher end offerings still only offer 6 native SATA ports of which only 2 are SATA3.
Following along the bottom of the board are the standard front panel connector, 4 additional USB2.0 front panel connectors, a trusted platform connector, com port connector and a front panel audio connector. Back Panel
This board continues with its impressive list of features with a fully decked out rear panel. There is a standard PS/2 combo port, along side 2 USB3 ports. Then we have D-SUB and DVI ports, HDMI and Displayport, an ESATA port with two USB2 ports, two more USB3, an RJ45 jack for LAN and the traditional analogue 6 port mini jack block.
This board really does have all the bells and whistles. Quite impressive at the low price point that FM2 is squarely aimed. BIOS
Gigabyte have now gone UEFI on the AMD side and the layout follows Gigabyte's current 3D BIOS template with everything logically separated into relevant groups.
This also allows users a choice between a 3D image of the board to work with (Basic), or a more traditional feeling menu based system (Advanced). Everything is easily accessed with a mouse or keyboard.
Test Setup: Motherboard: Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 CPU: AMD A10-5800K GPU: Integrated HD7660D and XFX HD 7870 RAM: Gskill Ares DDR32133 (2x8Gb) HDD: Crucial M4 128Gb SSD
[B]Optical Drive: LG DVD-RW Power Supply: OCZ ZT 750W Heatsink: XSPC RASA RS240 Water cooling
Not a super powerful CPU, but remember the price point here. These chips are priced the same as a current Ivy Bridge i3 processor. And will compete toe to toe in most CPU benchmarks and absolutely destroy the i3 in any 3D benchmarks utilizing the IGP.
Add the long feature list of the A85X chipset to the power and efficiency of the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 and you have a system that will excel at Home Theatre PC duty, Home Server Duty (8 native SATA 3 ports!), Office Duty or General Family Computing (Youtube?) and not break the bank doing it. And the integrated 7660D APU can even handle playing many less demanding 3D games with acceptable frame rates.
This system will be my current go-to recommendation for those looking to upgrade who are not hard core enthusiasts, but want a full list of features at a good price.
I had a lot of fun with this board, it was a new platform for me to play with and trying to learn the proper best methods for overclocking a specific platform can take a bit of time.
Gigabyte makes this pretty simple with the 3DBIOS there are really just a few settings that need to be tweaked to give you a significant boost in power.
BTW, the APU is capable of playing even BF3 at low/medium settings @ 1680 x1050 in campaign mode. And Borderlands 2 is pretty smooth even at medium settings. Although this is with the APU frequency @1000Mhz instead of 800.