ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+ Reviewby Ian Cutress on March 19, 2014 11:59 AM EST
ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+ Overview
The AMD Kaveri launch was a bit of a mêlée – two weeks to test a dozen processors in our new benchmarking suite, both in terms of CPU and IGP performance, with the big write up at the end. At the time I used the FM2A88X Extreme6+ motherboard, and in order to avoid complications I put on some rock solid air cooling and it sailed through the process. When I removed the extra cooling, a heat-related issue started to occur. I noticed the VRM heatsink getting hot, and as a result the system was reducing frequencies after extended workloads. After checking everything in the software side was OK, I got an infrared thermometer to probe some of the components. When the VRM heatsink showed 88C after 5 minutes of encoding work, and 97C after an hour, I had found the culprit of the issue. 88C is a rather high temperature, despite these components are usually rated to 105C. Since I finished testing the motherboard, ASRock has launched several new BIOSes, which I tested after consulting ASRock. The final result was that the system till reached 80C after 10-15 minutes of hard CPU work (normal work rather than a power virus) and 92C after 25+ minutes.
This might be seen a stern start to a motherboard review, especially one that has won awards elsewhere and performed well in our high-end air cooled testing. The FM2A88X Extreme6+ is a full sized ATX motherboard using the A88X chipset, supplanted with an 8+2 power phase design. From the chipset we have eight SATA 6 Gbps ports (7 regular + 1 eSATA), 6 USB 3.0 ports, an x8/x8 + x4 PCIe layout and support for up to 64GB DRAM from four memory slots. ASRock's website states that this motherboard can be part of a system that supports 4096x2400 at 60 Hz via DP 1.2. Other video outputs are present as well (VGA, DVI-D and HDMI).
ASRock’s additions to the base chipset include support up to DDR3-2600 on the memory, a Realtek ALC1150 audio codec (rated at 115dB SNR) with a TI NE5532 headset amplifier, a Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 network interface, six fan headers, power/reset buttons, a two digit debug, an ASMedia ASM1042 for two additional USB 3.0 ports and the ASRock BIOS/Software ecosystem that is ever improving.
In our performance testing, the motherboard and CPU combination trades blows with another FM2+ motherboard we are currently testing, winning in a few CPU and gaming tests. The system scores under 10 seconds for a Windows 7 POST time, although the DPC Latency is matching that of our Intel 8-series results oddly enough.
ASRock is often very aggressive on pricing, and the FM2A88X Extreme6+ comes in at $105, near other motherboards from ASUS, GIGABYTE and MSI. ASRock is continually building an ecosystem around the BIOS utilization and software functionality in order to make their products more desirable, though additional cooling on this model might be recommended.
ASRock’s 2013 livery moves to 2014 with the higher end chipset SKUs bathed in black and gold colors – the FM2A88X Extreme6+ is no exception.
The socket area has no obvious outline, but opens up the AMD socket to large coolers in all directions. The power delivery to the left of the socket gives the 8+2 configuration, although the heatsink provided is quite small with no extension or additional fan. There are five fan headers around the socket, three above (CPU 4-pin, CPU 3-pin and PWR 3-pin) and two underneath the power heatsink, both CHA 3-pin. The final fan header on the motherboard is a CHA 4-pin in the bottom right.
Moving clockwise around the motherboard, the DRAM slots are double ended latch mechanisms, although they use the thinner latches with a full sized slot. Underneath the 24-pin ATX power connector is a USB 3.0 port, followed by six of the SATA 6 Gbps ports. ASRock provides two BIOSes on the Extreme6+, both replaceable should one fail. Next follows another SATA 6 Gbps port and a BIOS selector switch.
The chipset heatsink is small to cater for the A88X chipset (~7W). The sole additional controller on the motherboard is an ASMedia ASM1042 – a USB 3.0 controller near the rear IO that does not need a heatsink.
The PCIe layout uses two PCIe 2.0 x1 small slots, two PCI slots, two PCIe 3.0 slots (in either x16/- or x8/x8 mode) and a final PCIe 2.0 x4 slot from the chipset. This final slot is designed for other non-gaming GPU PCIe devices, although it can be used for 3-way CrossFire at a lower-than expected scaling rate. For users wanting to put three power-hungry devices into the full length PCIe slots, ASRock provides a 4-pin molex connector for extra power. In my opinion, the location of this connector is frustrating, requiring cables to reach over the motherboard. Other manufacturers have utilized SATA power, or 6-pin PCIe connector, at the edge of the motherboard. This is a preferred location, as it does not require cables reaching across the system.
On the bottom of the board we have a good combination of power and reset buttons coupled with a two-digit debug LED. If I had my way, these would be on all motherboards to help with debugging issues. Also present are three USB 2.0 headers, a COM header, a Front Panel audio header, a front panel header and one of the aforementioned fan headers.
ASRock’s Purity Sound paradigm on the audio consists of a Realtek ALC1150 audio codec in an EMI shield, filter caps, a headphone amplifier and ASRock also list PCB shielding to help improve the audio signal.
The rear IO of the motherboard consists of two USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 combination port, VGA, dual-link DVI-D, a DisplayPort, a HDMI-out, a HDMI-in, an eSATA 6 Gbps (A88X), two USB 3.0 ports (A88X), two more USB 3.0 ports (ASMedia ASM1042), an Ethernet port (Atheros AR8171), an optical SPDIF output and audio jacks.
|ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+|
|Chipset||AMD A88X (Bolton D4)|
Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 64 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1333-2600 MHz
2600 MHz with two modules
HDMI at 4096x2160 (24 Hz)
DVI-D at 2560x1600 (60 Hz)
D-Sub at 1920x1200 (60 Hz)
DisplayPort at 4096x2400 (60 Hz) or 4096x2160 (60 Hz)
|Onboard LAN||Qualcomm Atheros AR8171|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek ALC1150|
2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16, x8/x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4 (A88X)
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI
7 x SATA 6 Gbps (A88X), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps (A88X)
4 x USB 3.0 (A88X) [2 back panel, 1 header]
2 x USB 3.0 (ASMedia ASM1042) [2 back panel]
7 x SATA 6 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0 Header
3 x USB 2.0 Headers
6 x Fan Headers
1 x Front Panel Audio Header
1 x COM Header
BIOS Selection Switch
Two-Digit Debug LED
1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
1 x 8-pin CPU Power Connector
1 x 4-pin Molex VGA Power Connector
2 x CPU (4-pin, 3-pin)
3 x CHA (4-pin, 2 x 3-pin)
1 x PWR (3-pin)
PS/2 Combination Port
Optical SPDIF Output
2 x USB 2.0 Ports
2 x USB 3.0 Ports (A88X)
2 x USB 3.0 Ports (ASMedia)
1 x GbE LAN (AR8171)
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps (A88X)
|Warranty Period||3 Years|
The addition of a USB 3.0 controller and a high-end Realtek audio codec puts the Extreme6+ high up the product stack for an AMD FM2+ motherboard. Unlike Intel were a $400 motherboard might be common, motherboard manufacturers tend not to splash out on an AMD motherboard (with PCIe PLX switches or obscure lane allocations) purely due to demand and volume.
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fteoath64 - Friday, March 21, 2014 - linkAMD/ATI needs to be very aggressive in lowering the power demands of their gpu. What NV has done in Maxwell should tell them a very important thing. Lowering the power demands means, one can cram more cores into the die, hence it will boost performance. There is so much one can cram into a specific node-technology but the power demands meaning heat dissipation is going to be a real issue that is hard to solve.
With the latest R9 series running at such high heat and high power demands, it is going to impossible to cram even half that performance into an APU without resorting to water cooling so the challenge is huge for AMD to tackle. I hope they can make headway into power optimization so that we can get more serious APU chips with powerful gpus for once and help move the industry along.
Ammohunt - Thursday, March 20, 2014 - linkcpu performance is one thing getting a stable glitch free windows system has always been the true challenge. I had never seen a Win7 BSOD until i ran an FX-6100 AMD Build which i promptly replaced with an intel rig. As a server it runs linux like a champ though.
Demiurge - Friday, March 21, 2014 - linkI have multiple laptops, all Intel based, at work that BSOD Win7. It isn't the CPU, it's the drivers. I know because mine doesn't crash anymore after updating the drivers. I'm pretty sure it isn't the CPU that was the weak point of failure in most problems because the CPU is one of the few things that gets tested and validated the most. Not saying it can't happen, but it is far more likely you or the device manufacturers screwed up. Trust me, I own a Creative X-Fi =)... sometimes I don't get sound on reboot. I know the hardware's good there too.
MrBungle123 - Friday, March 21, 2014 - linkI've noticed instability with AMD rigs before and discovered that the issue was that the stock voltage was too low. AMD is always trying to compete from a process node behind so I think they drive the Vcore as low as possible to try and bring down their TDP numbers and as a consequence bring the CPUs to the edge of instability.
0ldman79 - Saturday, March 29, 2014 - linkOdd.
I've found that most of my AMD chips can work fine with a little less voltage at stock speeds.
Of course they don't stay that way, the tech in me overclocks them and gets Cool'n'Quiet working so they idle nice and cool then ramp up when needed.
Demiurge - Friday, March 21, 2014 - linkNot sure why...I see something a little different...
Tomb Raider is probably very heavily AMD CPU (just assuming relative to the other benchmark performance) optimized because the $200 APU + GTX 770 is actually outperforming (ever so slightly) the $1000 and $320 I7... In the F1 game the exact opposite is happening ~84fps vs ~129fps... from what I see in the other games, it looks like about a -15% typical difference toward the APU just by looking at a high level. That's not bad considering the price/performance ratio.
The numbers (to me) aren't important as a CPU comparison for the vague remarks I made about suspected optimization, but it does matter if you are comparing the game performance in order to make a decision about which CPU to buy if I play a particular set of games.
PUGSRULE! - Monday, August 10, 2015 - linkAs of today 8-10-15 an Intel i7-4960X costs $1,100 versus an AMD A10-7850k that goes for $130. If you have an unlimited budget, yeah go for the Intel. But dollarwise, you cannot do better with the AMD. It's like comparing a Hennessey Venom GT to a Mustang.
TETRONG - Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - linkHmm, I agree. It's confusing why they keep reviewing and devoting so much time to something that hasn't been viable for a long time. Anyone can compare performance/price and conclude that there is no good AMD buy relative to Intels Core/Xeon lineup. It doesn't sound so bad until you factor in electricity which completely negates anything AMD might otherwise have going for them. Whatever you would save with the cheaper chip would get eaten up by the utilities -
tech6 - Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - linkI think they can be viable at a certain price point. Offering "good enough" performance for office and non-3D gaming computers is AMDs strength and that is where OEMs should be aiming also. Making a $100+ "Extreme" AMD board makes no performance sense at all.
bobbozzo - Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - linkA mini-ITX Kaveri is attractive for HTPC builds, thanks to the excellent integrated graphics.