The AMD Trinity group of APUs has become quite popular for those looking to build a low cost, but well performing system. Unfortunately, the new Trinity APUs were built on a new FM2 socket design that will require a motherboard to support it. We’ve done our fair share of reviews on the Trinity platform, but this will be our first time looking at an ASUS offering. Today’s review will be on the F2A85-V Pro, which is a top-end offering from ASUS’ FM2 line of motherboards. So, let’s take an in-depth look and see how it stacks up against previously reviewed FM2 Trinity motherboards!
Specifications and Features
As is the case with most ASUS motherboards, the specification and feature list is a lengthy ordeal. ASUS typically does a nice job of packing as many features as the price point will allow, and the F2A85-V Pro is another example of this. There is a fine line that motherboard manufacturers need to consider when developing a pricing structure for socket FM2 motherboards. Because Trinity APUs typically sell in the $60.00 to $130.00 range, it doesn’t make sense to offer motherboards that cost $300.00 or more. Having said this, let’s find out how many “goodies” ASUS was able to incorporate into this offering.
ASUS F2A85-V Pro Specifications CPU AMD Socket FM2 Athlon™/A- Series Processors
Supports CPU up to 4 cores
Supports AMD® Turbo Core 3.0 Technology
Chipset AMD A85X FCH(Hudson D4) Memory x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR3 2400(O.C.)/2250(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Support AMD Memory Profile (AMP) memory
* The Max. 64GB memory capacity can be supported with DIMMs of 16GB (or above). ASUS will update QVL once the DIMMs are available on the market.
* Refer to www.asus.com or user manual for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
* Due to OS limitation, when installing total memory of 4GB capacity or more, Windows® 32-bit operation system may only recognize less than 3GB. Install a 64-bit Windows® OS when you want to install 4GB or more memory on the motherboard.
Graphic Integrated AMD Radeon™ HD 7000 Series Graphics in A-series APU
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI/RGB/DisplayPort ports
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1080 @ 60 Hz
- Supports DVI with max. resolution 2560 x 1600 @ Hz
- Supports RGB with max. resolution 1920 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 60 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 2048 MB
AMD® Dual Graphics technology support *1
Supports DirectX 11
Multi-GPU Support Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports LucidLogix® Virtu™ MVP Technology *2
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode)
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI
Storage AMD A85X FCH(Hudson D4) chipset :
7 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD
LAN Realtek® 8111F, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s) Audio Realtek® ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
USB Ports ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
2 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue)
AMD A85X FCH(Hudson D4) chipset :
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, , 2 at mid-board)
AMD A85X FCH(Hudson D4) chipset :
10 x USB 2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, , 8 at mid-board)
Overclocking Features Overclocking Protection :
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special Features ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 3 with New DIGI+ Power Control :
SMART DIGI+ :
- Smart DIGI+ Key- Quickly delivers optimized VRM frequency, voltage and current for superior APU/DRAM overclocking performance with one click.
ASUS TPU :
- Auto Tuning
- GPU Boost
- TPU switch
ASUS EPU :
- EPU switch
ASUS Digital Power Design :
- Industry leading Digital 6 +2 Phase Power Design
- CPU Power Utility
- DRAM Power Utility
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- Remote GO!
- USB BIOS Flashback
- AI Suite II
- Ai Charger+
- USB Charger+
- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
- Network iControl
- USB 3.0 Boost
- Disk Unlocker
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- Stylish Fanless Design Heat-pipe solution
- ASUS Fan Xpert 2
ASUS EZ DIY :
- Precision Tweaker 2
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS MyLogo 2
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-Connector
100% All High-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DVI
1 x D-Sub
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x eSATA
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
2 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
Internal I/O Ports 1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
4 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 8 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x COM port(s) connector(s)
7 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 x -pin)
4 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 x -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
1 x DirectKey Button(s)
1 x DRCT header(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback button(s)
Accessories User’s manual
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1) *3
BIOS 64 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, F12 PrintScreen Function, F3 Shortcut Function and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information Support Disc Drivers, ASUS utilities, ASUS Update, Anti-virus software (OEM version) Form Factor ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
Note *1 Refer to AMD website for the discrete GPUs which support Dual Graphics technology
*2 LucidLogix Virtu MVP supports Windows 7 operating systems.
*3 Retail version only
As we dive in for a look at the features associated with the F2A85-V Pro, the first thing we’ll mention is the Windows 8 exclusive features. Included in this group is Fast Boot, which ASUS claims can be used to boot a system in as little as two seconds. They do quantify that claim with “Bootup time may vary on selected models”, but suffice to say, hardware and software designs have been implemented to help speed boot times. Older versions of Windows will benefit from this technology as well. However, when coupled with the Windows 8 Fast Startup feature, you should see some very quick boot times.
Also in this feature group are ASUS Boot Setting and DirectKey. ASUS Boot Setting is a multi-startup utility that allows you to select between a few different boot options, including booting direct to BIOS upon a system reboot. DirectKey allows you to automatically enter BIOS with the press of a button as long as standby power is present.
All images provided by ASUS. Click on any of the images for a larger view.
The APU, FCH, and Graphics features are specific to the AMD A85X chipset and the HD 7000 series graphics built into the Trinity APUs. The board supports up to Quad-GPU CrossFire X. However, with only three PCI-e slots, a dual core video card would be needed to get there!
The TurboV Processing Unit (TPU) and Energy Processing Unit (EPU) make up what ASUS claims is the worlds first dual intelligent processor chips. Couple that with the New DIGI+ Power Control and you have the makings of ultra precise control over the APU and memory configuration.
The all new DIGI+ Power Control promises better power delivery by way of two digital voltage controllers. In addition to the precise memory tuning and APU voltage control, the new DIGI+ Power Control is said to offer better efficiency, stability, and performance.
If you’re new to overclocking, you might enjoy using the the SMART DIGI+ Key feature in conjunction with TPU to get you started. At the press of a button, you can enable the SMART DIGI+ Key and then go about raising the APU multiplier from there. For more information, ASUS has a nice write up about it here. That page pertains to Intel platforms, but the general idea is the same.
The ASUS exclusive features encompass a wide array of software and hardware technologies, so let’s dive into them!
One of the more attractive aspects of the FM2 platform is its potential use as a HTPC. The Remote GO! feature is the perfect accessory for use with a HTPC. With Remote GO!, you can link PCs, tablets, smartphones, and TVs wirelessly within the same network. You can use a smartphone or tablet to control your PC in realtime, transfer files, stream DLNA media, and a whole lot more.
USB 3.0 Boost technology supports the latest UASP compatible USB 3.0 devices. This technology will automatically detect USAP compatible devices and implement the performance boost with no user interaction.
I’ve always found ASUS to have a feature packed UEFI BIOS, and the F2A85-V Pro seemingly doesn’t disappoint in this area. For a simple interaction with the UEFI BIOS, there is an Easy Mode option. For the more advanced user, you can switch over to the Advanced Mode. We’ll get a better look at all of this later in the review when we do our UEFI BIOS tour.
Next up is a mixture of software and hardware features available on the F2A85-V Pro. USB BIOS Flashback takes all the worry out of a corrupt BIOS due to a bad flash. Just plug in any USB device with the BIOS file on it, and press the BIOS Flashback button…. Done! You don’t even have to have a CPU or memory installed, how cool is that?
For network bandwidth control and prioritizing, Network iControl software is provided. Network iControl has the ability to set up custom profiles to prioritize your favorite software; or at the press of a button, you can give the software currently being used instant priority.
USB Charger + offers three times faster charging through a dedicated onboard controller. What I really like about this feature is that it will charge your devices even when the computer is powered off. This effectively turns your computer into an “Always Ready” charging station.
We already spoke about the DirectKey feature above, so lets move on to Fan Xpert 2. Without question, Fan Xpert 2 is the most advanced fan control software provided with any motherboard. From the desktop, you can control every aspect of any fan connected to a motherboard fan header. We’ll show you more about this software when we get to that section of the review, but suffice to say, it really is a unique piece of software that has been made even better with version 2.
Complete USB Integration offers a total of six USB 3.0 ports with connectivity available for the front panel and at the rear I/O area. For SATA connectivity, the motherboard offers seven SATA 6BG/s connection points, all of which are native to the A85X FCH..
Other ASUS software and hardware features are included on the F2A85-V Pro. On the software side, TurboV, Auto Tuning, EPU, and GPU Boost are all aimed at energy efficiency, tweaking, and overclocking your system the easy way… through software. Most of the tweaking software can be accessed through the AI Suite II package. On the hardware side, there is an included eSATA port at the rear I/O area for additional data transfer options. The MemOK! feature is a button on the motherboard that helps configure memory that might not otherwise work or keep the motherboard from booting properly. The MemOK! button can also act as a semi-clear CMOS button. It will only clear clock and voltage related values when used, and leave all other settings intact. Q-Design is a series of items incorporated into the design of the motherboard in an attempt to make the assembly process easier. The three Q-Design’s on this motherboard are the Q-Connect for the front panel wiring, the Q-Slot for locking and unlocking PCI-e graphics cards, and the Q-Shield for the rear I/O.
The box is a rather attractive affair with numerous icons spattered about to describe what’s inside. On the front, we have the model number, some ASUS branding, and large icon that references the DIGI+ Power Control. There are additional icons here too, which describe compatibility and ASUS features.
On the back of the box, we get a more detailed list of the specifications and more details about other ASUS unique features. ASUS sure packed a lot of information on the back of the box!
Most of the box sides are the same, except for the one side that has a multilingual mention of a few features.
Inside the box, we find the star of this show, the F2A85-V Pro! Sitting at the top you’ll find the motherboard wrapped in an anti-static bag, and below that is where the accessories are packed. Speaking of the accessories, here is the list of what you get.
- User Guide
- I/O Shield
- Driver/Software DVD
- 4 x SATA Cables (90° At One End)
- Q-Connectors (FP and USB)
- Case Badge/Sticker
Certainly not the most accessories I’ve seen packaged with a motherboard, but adequate for the task at hand.
Before we dive in for a closer look at the F2A85-V Pro, here are some glamour shots taken from various angles.
A Closer Look/Under The Hood
Let’s begin this section of the review by looking at the outer areas of the motherboard. Starting off at the bottom of the F2A85-V Pro, we find a connections for S/PDIF, Comm Port, and a 4-pin chassis fan. Just to the right are four USB 2.0 headers, the TPU switch, and the Direct Key button. Finishing off the bottom area is the CLRTC jumper, front panel connections, and the DRCT header. We previously discussed that the DirectKey can be used to automatically enter UEFI BIOS, but what if your system is already installed in a case? You probably won’t want to bother with the button once your case side is on. ASUS has that problem covered with the DRCT header. Simply attach your case’s reset wires to these pins, and every time you hit the reset button, you’ll be taken directly to the UEFI BIOS during boot up.
Most of our audience will prefer to overclock manually through the UEFI BIOS. However, for those who are not comfortable with doing that, the TPU switch can be set to enabled. When set to enabled, the motherboard will attempt to find a stable overclock for both the CPU and iGPU for you. What that exact overclock ends up being is dependent upon what hardware has been installed. With an A10-5800K, you will probably land around 4.2 GHz CPU and 950 MHz iGPU if you let the TPU switch do its thing. To use this switch, set it to enabled while the system is off and then boot.
Moving up the right side of the motherboard, we come to the BIOS Flashback button, seven SATA 6 Gb/s ports, another 4-pin chassis fan header, and the USB 3.0 header. The BIOS Flashback button can be used to flash the BIOS using only standby power and a USB flash drive connected to the bottom USB port under the eSATA connector. The upper section of the motherboard’s right side is where the 24-pin ATX power connector and the MemOK! button are located. Located just next to the MemOK! button is a LED that will illuminate if there is a memory incompatibility problem keeping the system from properly booting. If you find yourself in this situation, press the MemOK! button until the LED begins a flashing pattern. The MemOK! feature will then try to configure the memory to a compatible state, so the system can boot.
Along the top of the motherboard, we find the EPU switch and two more 4-pin fan headers (one of which is intended for the CPU fan). If you enable the EPU switch it will execute a hardware based undervolt to the APU, but it will not impact performance in a non overclocked environment. EPU is intended for stock users who are looking to improve thermal performance, and lower power consumption. If you leave the EPU switch in the disabled position, you can still manipulate the feature in BIOS or by using the AI Suite II Software. Rounding out the top of the motherboard is the smaller MOSFET heatsink and the 8-pin AUX CPU 12V connector.
The left side of the motherboard is home to the rear I/O area and many of the onboard ICs. We’ll have a closer look at these ICs later, so let’s concentrate on the I/O area for now. At the top, we have a combination PS/2 port that can be used for either a keyboard or mouse and two USB 2.0 ports. Next is the optical S/PDIF out port with the HDMI and DisplayPort connections right below it. Next in line is the VGA port and the DVD-D port just below it. The next slot down includes the eSATA port and two USB 3.0 Ports. These two USB 3.0 ports are native to the A85X FCH and support the ASUS USB 3.0 Boost UASP feature. The bottom USB 3.0 port at this location is the one that supports the BIOS Flashback and USB Charger+ features. The next I/O block has the LAN port and two more USB 3.0 ports provided through a third party ASMedia controller. The last area to cover here is the audio I/O jacks, which support the onboard Realtek ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC. The entire I/O are is outfitted with stainless steel covers that are bonded with a thin layer of chromium oxide to aid in anti-corrosion properties. Other manufacturers typically use a carbon steel cover here, which will corrode over time.
The PCI and PCIe slot area includes two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, two PCI slots, and three PCI 2.0 x16 slots. A single video card in the top PCIe slot will run at x16 speed. Two cards installed in the top and center PCIe slots will run at x8x8 speed.
The four DIMM slots support the DDR3 memory standard and up to 64 Gb total capacity. When 16 Gb memory modules become readily available, you’ll be ready for them. Supported memory speeds range from 2400 MHz (OC) down to 1066 MHz.
A look around the CPU socket area reveals an unobstructed layout as far as CPU cooler options go. Other than having to consider memory height versus cooler size, there shouldn’t be a problem fitting just about any cooler here. I can’t think of any water cooling CPU block that would have trouble fitting either. The picture below also gives us a good look at the 6+2 all digital power phase design and some of the 5K solid capacitors used throughout the motherboard. A lot of motherboard manufactures still use analog power phase designs and 2K capacitors, but ASUS has opted for quality components here. Even the Super Alloy Chokes you see in the picture below are a better design than found on competitor motherboards. These fully enclosed and molded chokes have no hollow areas, thus holding EMI in check and eliminating coil whine or buzzing sounds.
We’ve already touched on what the onboard buttons and switches do, but here are some up close pictures of them.
To control the 6+2 all digital power phase design, we have the new ASUS VRM DIGI+ Power control which features the “Dual Intelligent Processors 3″ feature for the APU and DRAM. One aspect of this feature is its ability to switch frequencies as APU, VRM, and DRAM tuning takes place. VRM EMI reduction is another item incorporated into the power delivery. This reduces any electromagnetic interference to nearby components, thus providing more precise voltage to them. As you’ll see when we get to the UEFI BIOS tour, you have complete control over these functions with the ability to increase capacitance to the CPU, DRAM, and CPU/NB.
For additional USB 3.0 ports at the rear I/O area, the ASMedia ASM1042 IC has been called to duty. ASMedia was also called upon to provide automatic assignment to the video ports by use of their ASM1445 IC, which will switch the voltage levels accordingly. ASMedia also provides the PCIe switching functions via the four ASM1440 ICs found on the motherboard.
The single BIOS chip is a Winbond 25064FVA1G 64 MB. This style BIOS chip is removable should that need ever arise. The Nuvoton NCT6779D IC handles the super I/O functions, such as fan speed control and system hardware monitoring.
Realtek ICs are in change of the onboad Gigabit LAN (RTL8111F) and the 8-channel HD Audio CODEC (ALC892).
There is a small heatsink over the smaller MOSFET area that is held in place with two push-pins. After taking this off, the thermal pad was found to be making excellent contact with target points. The larger MOSFET area is covered with another heatsink that is joined with a heatpipe to the heatsink that covers the FCH chip. Again, the thermal pad over the MOSFET was making excellent contact, and the TIM applied to the FCH was well applied. Push-pins are used to secure the heatsink over the MOSFET end of this assembly, but the FCH end is held in place with screws.
You may have noticed a couple of enthusiast level items missing from the motherboard. We don’t have onboard power/reset buttons or a post code LED display. Remember that pricing “fine line” we spoke of earlier? This is one area where the price was held down. Unless your system lives on a benching station, I doubt you’ll miss the onboard power and reset buttons. The post code LED would be nice to have, but I can understand why it was omitted.
The UEFI BIOS
Even though the F2A85-V Pro isn’t one of ASUS’ monster $300 ~ $400 motherboards, it does have a UEFI BIOS that rivals them. I couldn’t really find anything missing from the UEFI BIOS when compared to the more expensive motherboards. ASUS has gone almost exclusively to the new CAP UEFI format where applicable. Many other motherboard makers are still using the ROM format, which isn’t ideal for Windows 8 installs.
When you first enter the UEFI BIOS, you are greeted with the EZ Mode screen. Here you get some basic system information, along with limited tweaking options. Most of our readers will want to bypass this EZ Mode and boot straight into the Advanced Mode, which you can do by changing a setting we will come to later. From the EZ Mode screen, you can hit the F7 key to get into the advanced mode interface. Once in the Advanced Mode interface, you land at the Main tab. Again, you get some basic system information and the ability to change the date/time. Also located here are the security settings if you wish to activate boot passwords. A pretty cool feature is the shortcut option you can access anywhere within the EUFI BIOS. Simply hit the F3 key and a table of contents menu will come up giving you quick access to that section of the UEFI BIOS. No more spending valuable time hunting for a specific setting!
The next tab is the Ai Tweaker area. This is where you will find all of the overclocking controls. From here, you set such things as APU multiplier, memory frequency, and voltages. Some of you may be interested to know that 1.9 V is the maximum available voltage for the CPU. Also worth noting is that memory frequency is BIOS selectable up to 2400 MHz.
The Ai Tweaker section has three sub-menus, the first of which is OC Tuner. If you click on this, a pop-up window comes up where you choose between “OK” or “Cancel”. Press “OK” and the automatic overclocking process will begin.
The DRAM Timing Control sub-menu is loaded with just about every memory setting you can imagine. The memory timing options are separated by Primary, Secondary, and Third Timings.
The last Ai Tweaker sub-menu is DIGI+ Power Control, which is where ASUS really separates itself from the competition. From here, you have total control of the more fine overclocking options. Not only do you get a CPU load line calibration (LLC) option, but ASUS has also provided LLC control for the CPU/NB. To aid in achieving higher overclocks, the Current Capability can provide a wider total power range for the CPU, CPU/NB, and Memory. You can set the Current Capability up to 140% for the CPU and 130% for the CPU/NB and memory. But wait, there’s more! How about the ability to control the CPU power phases? No problem with the CPU Power Phase Control. You can let the UEFI BIOS handle the power phases based on CPU load or set them manually for maximum power delivery and response times. These same options are available for the memory power phases as well.
ASUS has supplied full support for both AMP and XMP memory profiles. If you choose the D.O.C.P. option under the Ai Overclock Tuner you can view and apply the XMP profiles from there.
Under the Advanced tab, we have seven sub-menus that deal with system configuration. Most of these settings you have seen many times over. Some of the highlights include the option to set the APU C-States and Core Performance Boost within the CPU Configuration sub-menu. Under the SATA Configuration sub-menu is where you can set the SATA controllers to IDE, AHCI, or Raid mode. The USB Configuration sub-menu has a pretty neat feature called “USB Single Port Control”. From here, you can enable or disable any of the onboard USB ports. The NB Configuration deals with graphics control settings. The IGFX Multi-Monitor setting must be changed to enabled to use AMD Dual Graphics or LucidLogic Virtu MVP. The Onboard Devices Configuration sub-menu is where you enable or disable such things as the Realtek LAN, Realtek Audio, and the ASMedia USB 3.0 controller. The APM sub-menu gives you a few “Power On” options and sleep configurations. The last sub-menu here is the Network Stack where IPV4 and IPV6 PXE settings can be adjusted if enabled.
The Monitor tab has the real-time temperature and voltage readings and the Q-Fan control options for each of the onboard fan headers. Having Q-Fan control in BIOS is nice, but to be honest, the best way to control fans is with the FAN Xpert 2 software. It’s much more refined and has a plethora of options not found in the UEFI BIOS.
The Boot tab is where you set your boot order and BBS drive preferences. This section also has the setting for booting directly into the Advanced Mode upon entering the UEFI BIOS.
Under the Tools tab, we have the EZ Flash 2 utility, which I personally recommend using for flashing the UEFI firmware. The ASUS SPD Information area gives you a quick look at the JEDEC and profile SPD tables associated with the installed memory. The ASUS O.C. Profile section lets you save up to eight UEFI BIOS profiles, that should be plenty for the vast majority of users.
Last on the tour of the UEFI BIOS is the exit tab. I’m only talking about this screen because I have a small issue with the way it’s laid out. I don’t like that the “Load Optimized Defaults” is at the top. I can’t tell you how many times I have used the right/left arrow key to get to the exit screen and then quickly hit the enter key twice thinking that “Save Changes and Reset” is at the top. I get the fact I should probably be using the mouse to navigate my way around the UEFI BIOS, but I know I’m not the only one out there that still prefers to use the keyboard. Yea, call me old school!
Without question, the ASUS AI Suite II software is the most feature rich set of tools ever bundled with a motherboard. Simply put, it has no equal amongst its peers. I’ll briefly touch on each area here. For detailed instructions on how to use all of the different utilities, you can download this PDF file. All of the images below have been pulled from the PDF file, which I recommend you read through. Once you have the AI Suite II software installed, there is an icon that appears in the system tray. If you click on the icon, a menu comes up that is your navigation tool for accessing all the different utilities.
The Auto Tuning button will display options related to configuring CPU and memory power. It’s basically a shortcut to the Auto Tuning Mode in TurboV.
By clicking the tools button, you can gain access to all the different utilities AI Suite II offers. The Remote GO! utility is used for streaming media files, controlling your PC remotely with mobile devices, and transferring files between your computer and mobile devices.
The DIGI+ power control utility offers all the same controls we talked about during the UEFI BIOS tour, but in a GUI interface from the desktop. The Smart DIGI+ Key feature allows you to automatically deliver higher VRM frequency, voltage, and current. From there, you can press the OC Now! button and adjust the APU multipler in TurboV to your desired overclock. The DIGI+ power control utility also allows for complete control over the CPU and memory power options.
FAN Xpert 2 gives you total control of every fan connected to any of the motherboard fan headers. Fan Xpert II can also control both 3-pin and 4-pin wired fans. FAN Xpert 2 can automatically detect and tweak all fan speeds for you based on position and the specifications of the fan. You can also assign a location to each fan based on where in your case it is installed. There is an Advanced Mode option within FAN Xpert 2 that allows for reaction speed settings by choosing the Smart Mode. For fixed RPM settings, you can choose the RPM Fixed Mode option. This option allows you to set the fan speed based on CPU temperatures below 75 °C. If the CPU reaches the 75 °C threshold, the fans will operate at full speed. What I have described are just a few of the many options at your disposal when using FAN Xpert 2, it truly is an amazing piece of software!
To satisfy the “green” in all of us, EPU can be used to provide maximum energy efficiency. There are three available presets – Auto, High Performance, and Max Power Saving. You can dive even deeper into each preset and customize their settings as well.
Inside the TurboV EVO utility, you have the option to try out the Auto Tuning feature. You have two options to try out, fast and extreme. If you prefer to handle the overclocking task yourself, choose the Manual Mode tab for more precise control. Once in Advanced mode, you have control of all the frequencies, multipliers, and even the IGPU.
Probe II is a full featured system monitoring utility that provides you with real time information on voltages, temperatures, and fan speed. You can also set alert notifications for anything Probe II monitors based on customizable thresholds you prefer. Anytime you are alerted, you can quickly determine what went wrong by viewing the Alert Log.
If Probe II isn’t enough of a system monitoring tool for you, the Sensor Recorder is another option to try. Sensor Recorder monitors real time changes in system voltage, temperatures, and fan speed. Alternatively, you can utilize the History Record option to record values over a specific period of time.
The AI Charger+ utility promises USB charging at a 3X faster rate than normal USB port charging. Your device must support the BC 1.1 function in order to take advantage of this utility.
Just in case you’re not happy with the AI Charger+ utility, ASUS also provides the USB Charger+ option to try out. This USB charging utility has more functions than AI Charger+ does and may be the better choice for some people. There are charging modes that apply directly to ASUS, Apple, and Kindle devices; but it should work with most any device that can be charged via a USB port. Another cool thing about this utility is its ability to charge a device while the computer is in a sleep state or powered off.
USB 3.0 Boost is said to increase transfer speeds up to 170% if your device supports UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol). This utility will automatically detect a USB 3.0 device and switch to turbo mode or UASP mode as appropriate.
With the USB BIOS Flashback utility, you can schedule automatic checks to see if a new UEFI firmware update is available. If an update is found, you will be given the opportunity to save it to a USB flash drive, which can be used to update the firmware via the BIOS Flashback button located on the motherboard.
Network iControl is a network bandwidth managing utility, which allows you to monitor, schedule, and set bandwidth priorities for any program that accesses the internet. Within the Network iControl utility, you will find four tabs with various customization options.
The ASUS Update utility allows you to flash the UEFI BIOS from within the Windows environment. I almost didn’t mention this utility because I am strongly opposed to flashing your BIOS from within Windows. However, to ASUS’ credit, you can recover from a bad flash by using the BIOS Flashback option should a problem arise. Given the other safer methods of flashing the BIOS that ASUS provides, doing it from Windows would be my last choice.
MyLogo is a pretty cool little utility that can customize the boot logo to just about any picture you like. MyLogo will automatically adjust the image for you, or you can use the sliders to perform this function yourself. You can either flash the BIOS with the new image, or save the BIOS file to flash with at a later time.
All and all, you’ll have to agree the AI Suite II software package is quite extensive. There are a few utilities that overlap a bit, but in this case, more is better!
Overclocking and Benchmarks
ASUS FM2A8-V Pro Socket FM2 Motherboard
AMD A10-5800K Trinity APU (Overclockers Approved!)
G.Skill 2X8 DDR3-2400 MHz Gb F3-2400C10D-16GTX
Toshiba HDS721050DLE630 500 GB SATA 6 Gb/s Hard Drive
Swiftech Apogee XT Water Block/3X120 mm Radiator/MCP35X Pump
Corsair HX1050 Power Supply
Window 7 Pro x64
The list of FM2 comparison motherboards is growing all the time, here is the up-to-date list:
Biostar Hi-Fi A85W (Overclockers Approved!)
Sapphire Pure Platinum A85XT (Overclockers Approved!)
Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4 (Data Collected From the AMD Trinity Review)
ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 (Overclockers Approved!)
ASUS F2A85-V Pro
For the purpose of keeping everything on a level playing field, we’ll run the comparison tests at stock and with a 4.4 GHz CPU overclock, just as we did on the other motherboards. The memory will be set to 1866 MHz to comply with AMD’s official memory speed support for the A10-5800K APU. Further overclocking will be reserved for the “Pushing the Limits” section.
First, we need to test system stability at stock and at 4.4 GHz. I left the UEFI BIOS settings at bone stock, other than to set the memory speed to 1866 MHz. A 15 minute run of AIDA64 Extreme system stability test showed no problems.
The 4.4 GHz overclock was easy enough to obtain with a change in multiplier and a bump in APU voltage. I set the voltage to 1.4 V in BIOS, but I think it would have passed the stability test with less. Another 15 minute run of the system stability test revealed no issues.
As we move into the testing phase, please keep in mind the baseline for the percentage values are on the ASUS FM2A85-V Pro results at stock speed. For time based testing, a lower percentage obviously means a better result. Scored testing would be the opposite, meaning a higher percentage would be better. Below each percentage is the actual score/time in parenthesis. Got it? Good!
The first benchmarks are SuperPi 1M and 32M. There isn’t much difference between all the results here, but the ASUS did manage to beat the competition at both stock and overclocked. The margin of victory was a fraction of a second, but that’s to be expected given the exact same APU and memory were used with all the motherboards.
WPrime 32M and 1024M show a little wider gap between the ASUS and the other competing motherboards, but still the margin of victory is razor thin.
Next up is a run of Cinebench R10 and R11.5. In Cinebench R10, the ASUS motherboard again managed to just squeeze out a victory over the other motherboards. The ASRock offering had almost identical scores, so close in fact, we’ll call it a tie. Cinebench R11.5 was a 3-way tie for best scores while at stock and overclocked. The Gigabyte and Sapphire motherboards fell substantially behind here.
The PoV Ray 3.7 benchmark showed the Sapphire board coming out on top at both stock and when overclocked. The margin of victory was slim, and the ASUS motherboard finished a strong second here.
The x264 benchmark showed the ASRock motherboard coming out on top by the slimmest of margins. Because the scores were so close, I think we’ll have to call this one a tie too!
To spice things up a bit and offer comparisons over a wide variety of systems, I used a few of AIDA64′s benchmarks to judge performance against its built in comparison platforms. The testing was done with the memory still set to AMD’s highest officially supported speed of 1866 MHz. I locked down the CPU at its Turbo Core speed of 4.2 in an effort to keep fluctuating frequencies from influencing scores. This should provide insight into the peak performance levels the CPU is capable of while not overclocked. Peruse at your leisure!
Pushing The Limits
As I mentioned earlier in the review, the F2A85-V Pro offers BIOS selectable memory speeds up to 2400 MHz. Not all motherboards have this option. In fact, most top out at 2133 MHz. This is only the second FM2 motherboard I have come across that allows this option, the other being the ASRock motherboard we reviewed earlier this year. I simply selected 2400 MHz for memory frequency, set the timings manually, and the system booted right to the desktop with no issues at all.
With the memory set to its rated 2400 MHz speed, we set off for a 4.6 GHz overclock on the CPU. A little fidgeting of voltages coupled with a few adjustments within the DIGI+ power controls, and we’re there! I was also able to keep the memory speed at 2400 MHz, which is something most FM2 boards I’ve tested so far can’t handle. Below are a few benchmarks I was able to complete, which includes a full 1024M run of WPrime that shows the overclock to be pretty darn stable.
Next, I pushed for 4.8 GHz. A little more tweaking in the BIOS and I managed to get there too. The ASUS F2A85-V Pro managed to allow the 4.8 GHz overclock, while still leaving the memory at 2400 MHz. This is a first among the FM2 motherboards reviewed so far. All the other reviewed FM2 boards that were able to get to 4.8 GHz required dropping the memory speed down to 2133 MHz, if there was any hope of getting to the desktop. Chalk one up for ASUS here!
As we have discussed in previous FM2 motherboard reviews, AMD really missed the boat when it comes to temperature monitoring on the Trinity APU. That being said, it makes no sense to push the APU any further without proper temperature monitoring available. Still, a 4.8 GHz overclock combined with the ability to keep the memory at 2400 MHz is a step forward from previous FM2 motherboard reviews.
ASUS has done everything possible to make the F2A85-V Pro a full featured motherboard and still keep it priced to fit the Trinity APU platform. Currently, Newegg has the F2A85-V Pro for $139.99, which makes it the most expensive FM2 motherboard available there. However, there are clear advantages that come along with the purchase of this motherboard. First of all, the AI Suite II software package is the most full featured set of utilities you’ll find anywhere, bar none. Whether you prefer overclocking from within BIOS or from the desktop, you have everything you need in both locations. The DIGI+ power controls add an extra layer of options not usually found on other motherboards in this class. They really are an overclockers friend! The power control isn’t just for the user looking to take their system to the max either as there are plenty of options available for making your system energy efficient too. Quality components are found in abundance on the F2A85-V pro, many of which are far superior to those used by competitor brands.
As our testing showed, the F2A85-V Pro was the best overall performing motherboard of the five we have reviewed. Moderate overclocking is a breeze to accomplish, either manually or by letting the motherboard do it for you with a click of a button. More aggressive overclocks are relatively easy to accomplish by tweaking some more advanced BIOS options.
In a nutshell, we have a great performing motherboard that offers a terrific software package, excellent overclocking, and a very robust set of power management/delivery options. If you’re looking to build a FM2 platform system, the F2A85-V Pro is definitely worthy of consideration.
-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)