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Mini-ITX Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI

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There’s one in every test – the review sample that’s not quite right. Actually, during our recent CPU super test, if felt like every other component was made of pure Bork, such was the failure rate. If the Battle of the some involved hurling broken motherboards at the Germans, the result would have looked a lot like the PCF test bench after day two. Dead boards lay strewn across the land.

GIGABYTE FM2+ series motherboards based on AMD A88X chipset and feature the new
FM2+ APU socket, and are designed to get the most from forthcoming Kaveri AMD APUs

But enough of the borderline tasteless digressions. This time, it was the Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI that proved a bit flaky. As the benchmarking process progressed, it became clear that something wasn’t quite right. First it was the odd sluggish moment, including 30 seconds of unresponsiveness as soon as we hit the Windows desktop, but the real problem came with our integrated graphics testing. It wouldn’t get through the Rome II benchmark without falling over. That was at stock clockspeeds. Overclocking the GPU was completely off the menu. Oddly, it had no problem running the more GPU-intensive heaven benchmark.

Hard luck

We’ve no doubt that we just got unlucky with our sample, but it’s a pity because this is a well-featured proposition that we’d have liked to see take on the ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ for the title of best mini-ITX Kaveri board. It matches the ASRock with integrated wireless networking, but it ups the ante with super-fast 5 GHz ac connectivity for a theoretical 867mbps performance. You’re not going to get close to that in reality, but then you’re not going to get close to the ASRock’s on-paper 300mbps max either.

Close detail of Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI

Elsewhere, the boards are closely matched. Both sport DVI and dual HDMI, digital audio, multi-point surround sound and a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the back panel. It’s neck-and-neck stuff. Putting aside the integrated graphics Bork, the benchmarks results are a case of tit for tat, too.

Gigabyte has the edge in terms of storage performance, with the fastest sequential reads and writes of any board here, while the ASRock puts out some seriously duff sequential numbers. on the other hand, it’s the ASRock that cranks up the CPU core clocks to 4.4 GHz – a very nice result for a mini-ITX board. The Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI only manages 4.2 GHz. Gigabyte has added a few nice little extras too though, including phone-friendly quick-charging from its USB 3.0 ports.

It’s a very nice package, and we’re confident that the integrated graphics issues during testing are essentially a one-off thanks to a dud sample. The only problem is that we can’t be sure how the board would perform when overclocking the GPU.

GIGABYTE uses All Solid Caps (Capacitors) and Low RDS (on) MOSFETs
which are rated to work at higher temperatures to provide a longer lifespan.

Add in mediocre CPU core overclocking and there’s enough to doubt the Gigabyte board overall. The one possible exception is using this board for a client box in a steam-based game-streaming setup. Maximum wireless networking performance could well be a factor in that scenario, and the reduced interference that comes with the ac standard - at least until it’s more common – could give a smoother, less laggy streaming experience. On that basis, this is probably the pick of the bunch if you’re looking for a mini-ITX steambox board.

Specifications:

·         APU: AMD A series processors, AMD Athlon™ series processors

·         Chipset: AMD A88X

·         Memory: 2 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 64 GB of system memory, Support for DDR3 and AMD Memory Profile (AMP)/Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules

·         Onboard graphics: DVI-D, HDMI, Maximum shared memory of 2 GB

 

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