FM2-A85XA-G65 Review – When we reviewed the AMD Trinity APU, we felt that it fit a very specific niche almost perfectly. I think it makes for a fantastic home-theater gaming build, with the ability to play all the latest games without a discrete GPU at 720p or higher with settings that make the current gen consoles look like an Atari.
However today we’re going to look at it from a different angle, because we have the MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 in for review, and it is a full ATX motherboard that takes the Trinity APU and puts it up against the likes of the Core i3 3220 and AMD FX-4300.
The MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 packs some pretty impressive features for an FM2 board, including full digital PWM for the CPU (a first for MSI), a nice UEFI interface, and plenty of software extras that make it a good value for around $100.
In our review, we’re not really going to tell you if a full sized Trinity based build is better than a similar Core i3 or AMD FX build. Instead, we are going to assume that you are looking into a full ATX Trinity motherboard, and want to know if the MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 is worthy of attention.
By the end of this review, you will know for sure, because we take the time to tell you what matters in a motherboard. Specifically, we will consider:
- Motherboard layout – is the FM2-A85XA-G65 designed well for enthusiasts?
- VRM details – the most important part of a motherboard, and we look into everything in detail. The FM2-A85XA-G65 features a 6+2 phase VRM and a digital PWM controller.
- Component Tour – We will go over the FM2-A85XA-G65 with a fine tooth comb, and look at just about every component on the board in full detail.
- MSI software – We review all the software that comes with the FM2-A85XA-G65, including the tweaking and monitoring software, and the BIOS
- Overclocking – A big part of this board is its overclocking features, something you won’t see very often with motherboards in this price range. We are going to see how far we can take the A10 5800K APU.
- Software performance – since chipsets are highly integrated nowadays, we will quickly go over performance numbers to make sure everything is running correctly. There is no need to do anything more, unless something is not working properly.
- Peripheral performance – More importantly, we test every integrated component in the motherboard thoroughly. This includes ethernet performance and efficiency, and audio quality.
As you can see, this isn’t a “cut and paste some benchmark screenshots” kind of review. We have been doing reviews for a very long time, but that doesn’t mean we’re in “autopilot” mode. Instead, we know exactly what matters in a motherboard, and we’re going to deliver that information to you.
So let’s get on with it, starting with the layout! If you want to look at a quick overview of the specs, check out MSI’s product page for the FM2-A85XA-G65.
MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 Layout
Instead, it is that glossy brownish color that we’ve been seeing for quite some time. It is very tricky to take photos of this board – I did my best using HDR combinations of multiple exposures. It’s not that it looks bad, it just doesn’t look awesome. Of course that is just my subjective opinion – some may actually prefer the glossy look with blue accents. At the very least, there are plenty of RAM and CPU coolers that will go with the color scheme. A set of Kingston HyperX along with a blue Phanteks CPU cooler would look great sitting on this board, for instance.
Starting with the expansion slots, there is a full length slot in the #2 position, with an X1 PCI-E above it. I actually like this layout, as it allows the installation of a small x1 device without it getting in the way of the graphics cards. The top full length slot has x16 lanes going to it when one device is installed. When the second blue slot is occupied, the 16 lanes get split across the two slots, allowing for AMD Crossfire support. This feature is unique to the A85X chipset – other FM2 chipsets don’t support Crossfire.
Between them are a pair of X1 slots, one of which will be blocked if a dual width graphics card is installed. With two more X1 slots, that’s not a big deal.
Interestingly, there are two legacy PCI slots, something we’re not used to seeing anymore. Usually a motherboard will have one sitting at the bottom of the board, but the FM2-A85XA-G65 gives you two. I actually still use my PCI WiFi adapter – it’s the most reliable and compatible one I’ve had, so I prefer a board to have at least one PCI slot.
Moving to the bottom corner area, we have the USB headers, one of which is a high-current header. This allows a USB 2.0 device to draw up to 1.5 amps, which is well over the 0.5A default specification. The main purpose of this is to allow devices to quick charge if they support it, or allow the use of high current devices like an iPad while it charges.
The front panel header isn’t marked at all, but MSI does include an “mConnector” which makes installation in a case easy. When there are power and reset buttons onboard, I don’t mind an unlabelled front panel header so much.
One odd thing is that the USB 3.0 header is situated right above the second graphics slot. I don’t think I’ve seen a motherboard with perfect USB 3.0 header placement yet, and I’m not sure why. Most manufacturers know by now that the best place to put these headers is along the bottom, which is why all the rest are down there. This isn’t a huge issue of course, but it won’t make for the cleanest install possible.
I actually like that the SATA headers are a mix of standard and horizontal ports. This allows you to choose whichever is easier for you, since all eight ports support full speed SATA 3.0.
Moving to the DIMM area, there are a set of “V-Check Points” which I always like to see (it makes my job a bit easier!). They are fully labelled and even come with a set of adapters that allow you to plug a multimeter probe and keep it in place easily. Beside those are a set of buttons – the power and reset button, and an “OC Genie” button which we’ll get to later.
The DIMM slots are placed a decent distance above the top PCI-E graphics slot, allowing for easy installation even with a full length video card installed.
You can tell right away that the FM2-A85XA-G65 might be packing some nice voltage circuitry components, with a massive heatsink that covers both sides of the 6+2 phase VRM. We’ll get to that on the next page.
We tested this board with a huge Phanteks PH-TC14PE CPU Cooler, and the VRM heatsink didn’t get in the way at all.
Finally we have the rear panel, which is made up mostly of display outputs from the APU. No matter what kind of monitor you have, you are covered with the FM2-A85XA-G65, which offers DVI, “VGA”, HDMI, and DisplayPort (only one of the latter two can be used at a time, so if you want to use three displays, one will have to be analog). You also get a full 6 ports of analog audio headers, and a digital optical port. There is even a legacy PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard port, for those who want to poll the CPU as little as possible during record breaking OC runs.
Along with the manuals, the FM2-A85XA-G65 comes with everything you see here – four SATA cables, all of which are angled. Sometimes angled connectors like this are preferred, but sometimes straight cables work better, which is why I prefer it when both types are included.
Some nice extras are the “mConnector” and “V-Check” accessories you see on either side of the backplate.
On the next page we’ll take a much closer look at the FM2-A85XA-G65, including the VRM and just about every auxiliary chip that matters.