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HARDWARE

Mini-ITX Motherboard ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+

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Just a glance across a crowded room. A glimpse of its mSATA port. A flash of dual-HDMI. We’ve fancied this mini-ITX ASRock board right from the get go.

Mini-ITX boards for AMD Kaveri

For starters, when it comes to AMD Kaveri-based rigs, we tend towards the tiny. Building a value small form-factor rig is a big part of the APU appeal. So, two points to Gryffindor for the mini-ITX form-factor.

Next up, SATA support. Board space is at a premium, obviously, but ASRock has still managed to squeeze in six SATA ports. You could argue that you’re not going to be hooking up huge numbers of SATA devices to such a tiny board, but it’s far better to have the option, and it gives this Mobo desktop credibility.

At the other end of the storage scale, we’re equally pleased to see an mSATA slot. In other words, the ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ has all your storage bases covered. You can have a battery of SSDs in a big box, or slimline mSATA storage in a slinky chassis.

The rear panel looks good, too. There’s optical S/PDIF, multi-port audio, a couple of USB 3.0 sockets and, critically, a pair of HDMI ports to go with the dual-link DVI output and VGA connectivity. DisplayPort is notably absent, which puts a slight limit on desktop appeal, but in small form-factor and home-theatre terms, HDMI is the important interface.

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Integrated wireless networking adds to the appeal. It’s N-spec rather than AC, which effects range and interference more than performance numbers. Unless you have pretty exceptional networking requirements, N is probably fine.

So, the feature set looks damn fine. What about the performance? At stock clocks, there’s not a huge amount of variation between any of these boards, but the ASRock is one of the deviants, both for better and worse.

Hit and miss

On the downside, SATA performance is a bit patchy. It’s tricky to know why, but we can’t help noting that the only other board to put in poor SATA numbers was the other ASRock effort, the FM2A88X+ Killer. Clearly ASRock has cocked something up with its SATA implementation. there’s no denying that the sequential write throughput of below 300mb/s looks ugly when the competition is all well above 400mb/s. You probably won’t feel that day-to-day since 4K random access performance is fine, but it’s a bit off-putting.

On the other hand, the FM2A88X-ITX+ CPU core overclock of 4.4 GHz is second only to the full-ATX ASUS A88X-Pro, and that’s something you will notice. It also passes our integrated GPU overclocking test, with the required 1,020MHz graphics core and 2,400MHz memory frequencies. Okay, the average frame rate of 60 is a little off the pace, but minimums are arguably more important and 49fps is a good result by that metric.

PCI Express 3.0 can maximize the bandwidth of the
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The FM2A88X-ITX+ makes for an awfully appealing mini-ITX package. It ticks a lot of our most-desired spec boxes, and the overclocking is surprisingly good for a mini-ITX board. Okay, the SATA performance is a bit wonky and it looks pricey next to something like Gigabyte’s F2A88XM-DS2, but we’d take it home for the night. Get your coat, love. You’ve pulled.

Specifications:

·         CPU: Athlon/A-Series (FM2+)

·         Chipset: AMD A88X (Bolton D4)

·         Maximum memory supported: 32GB

·         Storage devices: 6 x SATA 6Gb/s

·         Rear Panel Ports: PS/2, HDMI, USB 1.0, USB 3.0, eSATA, S/PDIF

 

 

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