The FM2A88X-ITX+ is a socket FM2+ Mini-ITX motherboard from ASRock, based on the most high-end chipset for this platform, the A88X. It is targeted to the FM2+ “Kaveri” APUs, like the A10-7800 (which we tested recently), but it is also compatible with socket FM2, second-generation APUs from AMD. Let’s see what this small motherboard has to offer.
AMD socket FM2+ APUs have an embedded PCI Express 3.0 controller, while the PCI Express controller embedded in FM2 processors is 2.0. It is important to understand that this is a feature provided by the CPU, not by the chipset. So, while socket FM2+ motherboards support socket FM2 processors, when a socket FM2 CPU is installed the PCI Express lanes are only compatible with the 2.0 standard.
In Figure 1, you see the ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ motherboard, which is based on the Mini-ITX form factor, measuring 6.7 x 6.7 inches (170 x 170 mm).
Figure 1: ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ motherboard
The ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ comes with one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot and one mini PCI Express slot (also compatible with mSATA devices).
As mentioned in the previous page, 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 can be found with a Wi-Fi interface installed in its mini PCI Express slot.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
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 and FM2+ processors support DDR3 memories up to 1,866 MHz or 2,133 MHz, depending on the model. According to ASRock, the FM2A88X-ITX+ supports memories up to DDR3-2400.
The ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ has two memory sockets. According to the manufacturer, it supports up to 32 GiB if four 16 GiB memory modules are used.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two memory modules.
Figure 3: memory sockets; install two identical modules for the best performance
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The AMD A88X chipset is a single-chip solution. This chip supports eight SATA-600 ports with RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ offers six SATA-600 ports, plus one port available in the mini PCI Express slot.
The SATA-600 ports are installed on the motherboard edge, as seen in Figure 4.
The AMD A88X chipset supports 10 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on the rear panel and four available through two 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 ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ does not 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 audio interface is equipped with a TI NE5532 amplifier for the front headphones output. 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 an Atheros AR8171.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared keyboard/mouse PS/2 connector, four USB 2.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, HMDI output, HDMI input, one eSATA-600 port, two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
Figure 5: motherboard rear panel
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ has four phases for the CPU main voltage (VDD a.k.a. Vcore) and two for the CPU VDDNB (integrated memory controller, HyperTransport interface controller, and L3 memory cache) voltage. Therefore, it uses a “4+2” configuration, using a digital design.
The voltage regulator is controlled by an Intersil ISL6377 chip. Each phase is driven by a TI NexFET CSD87350Q5D (“87350D”) chip, which includes the two required MOSFETs for each phase.
The voltage regulator circuit is shown in Figure 6. According to ASRock, it supports CPUs up to 100 W.
Figure 6: voltage regulator circuit
The ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ uses golden Japanese high-quality solid electrolytic capacitors. All coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ provides a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones available at the motherboard’s setup:
- Base clock: From 100 MHz to 136 MHz in 1 MHz increments
- CPU voltage: From 0.60000 V to 1.55000 V in 0.00625 V increments
- Integrated video controller voltage (“GFX Voltage”): From 0.600 V to 1.550 V in 0.00625 V increments
- GPU clock: from 400 MHz to 1900 MHz in 11 MHz increments
- Memory voltage: From 1.165 V to 1.800 V in 0.005 V increments
- Chipset (“SB”) voltage: From 1.10 V to 1.40 V in 0.10 V increments
- CPU PCI Express voltage: From 1.208 V to 1.563 V in 0.012 V increments
Figure 7: overclocking options
Figure 9: memory timings adjusts
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ include:
- Socket: FM2+
- Chipset: AMD A88X
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6776D
- Parallel ATA: none
- Serial ATA: six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
- External SATA: one eSATA-600 port, located at the rear panel
- USB 2.0: eight USB 2.0 ports, four on the motherboard real panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: four USB 3.0 ports, two on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
- Thunderbolt: none
- On-board video: controlled by the CPU; VGA, DVI, and HDMI connectors
- On-board audio: produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC1150 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 115 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Atheros AR8171 chip
- Buzzer: no
- Infrared interface: yes
- Power supply required: ATX12V
- Slots: one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot and one mini PCI Express slot
- Memory: two DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2400, 32 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: one four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and one four-pin connector for an auxiliary fan
- Extra features: none
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
- Programs included: motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asrock.com/
- Average price in the U.S.*: USD 84.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
The ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ is an excellent motherboard if you are building an SFF (small form factor) computer with a socket FM2+ or FM2 processor.
It has only the basic features provided by the chipset, but they are more than enough for the average user. Besides that, as seen in our A10-7800 review, the embedded GPU of FM2+ processors have an excellent performance for integrated graphics.
The highlights of this motherboard are the high-end audio interface and a Wi-Fi interface as option.
The small size and the performance of the processors that are compatible with it make the FM2A88X-ITX+ an excellent motherboard if you are building a compact entry-level gaming PC or an HTPC.
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