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Micro ATX Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XM DS2

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Full ATX? Makes sense. It’s the proper tower PC shizzle. Mini-ITX? Yup, it’s what you need for a tiny PC. But microATX? At best, it’s a niche form-factor.

GIGABYTE FM2+ series motherboards based on AMD A88X chipset

Of course, any chassis that can take a full ATX board will also swallow microATX, but it is a bit betwixt and between in terms of size. Then again, there are a few small form-factor chassis optimised for it.

What’s more, you could argue that microATX is the best compromise of all. In theory, it allows for a much smaller chassis than full ATX, but sufficient board space to avoid limiting features and functionality. That, surely, is the remit for the Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2.

Or it would be if this wasn’t such a budget-oriented board. For just $73, it’s unrealistic to expect the F2A88XM-DS2 to pack anything like a full atx feature set. And so it proves. The first thing you’ll notice is the stingy SATA setup. Just four SATA 6Gbps ports are provided. There’s no eSATA on the back panel either, or mSATA support.

Designed to leverage the awesome potential of
the latest AMD Fusion A-series APUs

As we’ve mentioned the back panel, you’ll notice the video-out options are limited to DVI and VGA. The DVI port is dual-link, thank goodness, but the lack of HDMI makes this less attractive as a proposition for a cheap home theatre rig or living room game box. The analog audio-out doesn’t offer full surround, if you care about that sort of thing, and there’s no digital S/PDIF either.

Budget limitations

That said, if we’re honest, nearly all of those objections are non-critical. For an SFF PC, four SATA ports are probably enough. Most people only need analog stereo audio out, and the DVI port will actually drive most 1080p HDMI displays with an adapter. Like we said, for $73 you have to keep your expectations in check.

What the extra board size does buy you, however, is a single lane PCIe slot and an old-school PCI port. Depending on your needs, both could be either very welcome or entirely irrelevant.

Either way, it’s probably performance that’s going to make or break the Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 as a budget proposition. Perhaps not surprisingly, this isn’t a great overclocking board. All the options are there in the bios, but we hit the wall at 4.1GHz – well down on the 4.5 GHz achieved with the same APU by ASUS’ full-ATX A88X-Pro.

Description: http://www.gigabyte.us/fileupload/product/2/4726/8920.jpg

GIGABYTE motherboards feature GIGABYTE DualBIOS™, an exclusive technology from GIGABYTE that protects arguably one of your PC's most crucial components, the BIOS

Elsewhere, the news is mostly better. The F2A88XM-DS2 has no problem running the integrated GPU at over 1,000MHz, with memory at 2,400MHz for much improved bandwidth. The performance of the SATA implementation is nice and solid too, albeit nothing special. Likewise, there’s little to choose between any of these boards running a high-end GPU for gaming at stock clockspeeds. indeed, it could be argued that the AMD Kaveri chip isn’t well suited to high end gaming; its CPU cores aren’t really up to keeping a powerful 3D card busy. But then we’re back to value and being reasonable about expectations. Pairing Kaveri with a really high-end GPU isn’t going to make sense on any motherboard.

Instead, with the right chassis and a mid-range GPU, this board will make for an affordable and effective budget gaming box. You can’t say fairer than that.

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 AMP/XMP

·         Onboard graphics: 1 x D-Sub port, 1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 2560x1600, Maximum shared memory of 2 GB

·         Operating system: Windows XP 32-bit, Windows 8.1/8/7 32-bit/64-bit

 

 

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