The ECS A85F2-A Golden is a motherboard based on the most high-end chipset for the new FM2 platform, the A85X (codenamed “Hudson D4”). It is targeted to the 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. 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 with the second-generation APUs. 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||4||4||4|
|UMI||2 GB/s||2 GB/s||2 GB/s|
“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 ECS A85F2-A Golden 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.
So far, ECS has released two motherboards based on the A85X chipset, the A85F2-A Golden and the A85F2-A Deluxe. The only difference between them is the color.
In Figure 1, you see the ECS A85F2-A Golden motherboard. It is based on the standard ATX form factor (12 x 9.6 inches or 305 x 244 mm).
Figure 1: ECS A85F2-A Golden motherboard
The ECS A85F2-A Golden 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.
[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 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,866 MHz. According to ECS, the A85F2-A Golden supports memories up to 2,600 MHz.
The ECS A85F2-A Golden 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 ECS A85F2-A Golden, all memory sockets are black, an occurrence that doesn’t happen on the Deluxe version, where two are white and two are gray. In order to enable the dual-channel mode when installing two memory modules, you must install the first memory module in the first socket and the second memory module in the third socket (and not in the second).
Figure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
The AMD A85X chipset is a single-chip solution. This chip supports eight SATA-600 ports with RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). Six of them that are located at the motherboard’s edge are rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. The seventh SATA-600 port may be blocked when a second video card is installed. See Figure 4.
The eightth SATA-600 port supported by the chipset was installed on the motherboard’s rear panel as an eSATA-600 port.
The AMD A85X chipset supports two USB 1.1 ports, 10 USB 2.0 ports, and four USB 3.0 ports. The ECS A85F2-A Golden 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 additional USB 3.0 ports are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip.
The ECS A85F2-A Golden doesn’t have FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports the 7.1 audio format, i.e., eight channels. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the VIA VT1819S codec, which is a good product, providing a 100 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 98 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. This means you are able to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) with this motherboard without adding any background noise.
The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output. A header labeled “SPDIFO” also provides SPDIF output 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 only if you use a 5.1 analog speaker set. If you install a 7.1 analog speaker set, you will need to use either the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks.
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 VGA output, DVI-I o
utput, DisplayPort output, HMDI output, clear CMOS button, two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA-600 port, four USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The portrayed motherboard has a legacy serial port, which is available through a header labeled “COM.” You will need to buy an adapter if you want to use this port.
In Figure 6, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ECS A85F2-A Golden.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ECS A85F2-A Golden has three phases for the CPU main voltage and two for the CPU memory controller (“CPU-NB”). Therefore, it uses a “3+2” configuration.
Figure 7: Voltage regulator circuit
This motherboard uses solid capacitors and ferrite-core coils.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ECS A85F2-A Golden provides a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones available at the motherboard’s setup (1.0 BIOS):
- Base clock: From 90 MHz to 200 MHz in 1 MHz increments
- CPU clock multiplier: From x5 to x64 in x1 increments
- Integrated video controller (“IGD”) clock: From 400 MHz to 2,000 MHz in 1 MHz increments
- CPU voltage: From 1.470 V to 1.950 V in 0.010 V increments
- VDD voltage: From 1.21 V to 1.35 V in 0.05 V increments
- Memory controller (“CPU NB”) voltage: From 1.295 V to 1.775 V in 0.020 V increments
- Chipset voltage (“FCH voltage”): From 1.11 V to 1.21 V in 0.03 V increments
- Memory voltage: From 1.200 V to 2.010 V in 0.01 V increments
Figure 8: Overclocking options
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ECS A85F2-A Golden include:
- Form Factor: ATX
- Socket: FM2
- Chipset: AMD A85X
- Super I/O: Fintek F71869ED
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Seven SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
- External SATA: One eSATA-600 port controlled by the chipset
- USB 2.0: Eight USB 2.0 ports, two soldered on the motherboard rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Six USB 3.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header on the motherboard, four controlled by the chipset and two controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): No
- On-board video: Yes, controlled by the CPU; HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-I, and VGA connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a VIA VT1819S codec (7.1 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 100 dB SNR for the outputs, and 98 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (x16/x0 or x8/x8), three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two standard PCI slots
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2600, 32 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: None
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.ecs.com.tw
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 117.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
The ECS A85F2-A Golden is a good mainstream motherboard for the new socket FM2 processors, presenting two additional USB 3.0 ports in comparison with competing products that only carry the basic features provided by the A85X chipset.
One of the highlights of this motherboard is the use of a top-of-the-line audio codec, which is not usually seen on motherboards targeted to the mainstream market.
Competing products are positioned in the same price range; however, they don’t have the two additional USB 3.0 ports and have a lower-grade audio codec.
If you want to save USD 20, you can pick the ECS A85F2-A Deluxe, which is exactly the same motherboard but with a different color.
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