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The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 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 Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 supports the Virtu Universal MVP technology, which allows you to combine the performance of the integrated graphics processor available in the CPU with the performance of any video card installed.
So far, Gigabyte has released four motherboards based on the A85X chipset. In the table below, we compare the main specifications of these motherboards. As you can see, the F2A85X-UP4 is, so far, the most complete model offered by Gigabyte. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.
|PCI Express 2.0 x16||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||2 (x16/x4)||2 (x16/x4)||2 (x16/x4)|
|PCI Express 2.0 x1||3||3||1||1|
|Mini PCI Express||0||0||0||0|
|Price||USD 130||USD 100||USD 90||NA|
In Figure 1, you see the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 motherboard. It is based on the standard ATX form factor (12 x 9.6 inches or 305 x 244 mm).
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 comes with three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and one standard PCI slots.
The first 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. The third PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot is controlled by the chipset and always works at x4. These slots support the CrossFireX technology. If you want to install a dual-slot video card in the third PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, you will need a computer case with at least eight slots. (Cases usually have seven.)
[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. Unlike competing models, the F2A85X-UP4 doesn’t support memories above DDR3-1866.
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 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 Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4, the first and third memory sockets are black, while the second and fourth are gray. In order to enable the dual-channel mode when installing two memory modules, you must install the modules in the black sockets.
[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 is located at the corner of the motherboard.
The eighth 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 Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 offers ten USB 2.0 ports, two soldered on the rear panel and eight available through four 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 EtronTech EJ168A chip.
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 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. A header labeled “SPDIF_O” 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, so you won’t need to use the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks, even when installing an analog 7.1 speaker set.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111F chip.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared keyboard/mouse PS/2 connector, four USB 3.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, optical SPDIF output, HMDI output, DisplayPort output, two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA-600 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio jacks.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 has a few additional features. It has two BIOS chips, so if the main BIOS chip is corrupted by a virus or a bad BIOS upgrade, you can still recover the motherboard.
This motherboard also has a POST diagnostics display, where you can see, through a two-digit code, which component is preventing the computer from turning on.
Figure 6: POST diagnostics display and two BIOS chips
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, and a connector for a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), a module that encrypts data in order to increase the computer’s security level.
In Figure 7, you can see all of the accessories that come with the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 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.
This motherboard uses solid capacitors and ferrite-core coils.
If you want to l
earn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 provides a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones available at the motherboard’s setup (F3 BIOS):
- Base clock: From 100 MHz to 200 MHz in 1 MHz increments
- CPU clock multiplier: From x8 to x79 in x1 increments
- Memory controller (“NB”) clock: From 800 MHz to 6,000 MHz in 100 MHz increments
- Integrated video controller (“IGD”) clock: From 300 MHz to 2,000 MHz in 1 MHz increments
- CPU voltage: From 0.80000 V to 1.80000 V in 0.00625 V increments
- VDD voltage: From 1.000 V to 1.500 V in 0.010 V increments
- PLL voltage: From 2.200 V to 2.800 V in 0.010 V increments
- Memory controller (“CPU NB”) voltage: From 0.80000 V to 1.80000 V in 0.00625V increments
- Chipset voltage (“FCH voltage”): From 1.000 V to 1.400 V in 0.010 V increments
- Memory voltage: From 1.100 V to 1.900 V in 0.010 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 include:
- Form Factor: ATX
- Socket: FM2
- Chipset: AMD A85X
- Super I/O: ITE IT8728F
- 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: 10 USB 2.0 ports, two soldered on the motherboard rear panel and eight available through four 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 EntronTech EJ168A chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): No
- On-board video: Yes, controlled by the CPU; HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-D, and VGA connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC892 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 97 dB SNR for the outputs, and 90 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111F chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4), three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and one standard PCI slot
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1866, 32 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and four four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: Dual BIOS, POST diagnostics display, and support for TPM
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.gigabyte.us
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 130.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 is a good mainstream motherboard for the new socket FM2 processors, presenting one additional PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, two additional USB 3.0 ports, a POST diagnostics display, and two BIOS chips in comparison with competing products that only carry the basic features provided by the A85X chipset.
The only negative we see with this motherboard is the audio codec used (Realtek ALC892), as competing products may use a better codec (Realtek ALC898 or VIA VT1819S). However, they don’t have the additional features listed above.
We think the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 is correctly priced and will please the user who is looking for the extra features it offers.