We took a look at an AMD FM2 overclocking board built by Gigabyte last week. However, not everyone that is interested in APUs is interested in overclocking. Well, how do board manufacturers appeal to those other users? Biostar has an answer to that question.
Biostar has really changed things up in a big way recently. They launched new VRM designs and adopted a brand new UEFI look with their Hi-Fi A85W while also offering very decent audio rendering for a very decent price. The Hi-Fi series of products from Biostar delivers high-quality audio to every platform for a nice price, something that was exclusive to high-end enthusiast products in the past. It can be compared to AMD's FM2 platform that brought more value and functionality to the entry-level product group. The Biostar Hi-Fi A85W brings something new to the entry-level product group as well, and it couldn't be at a better time.
I covered an Intel Z77X Biostar Hi-Fi product a couple of weeks ago. You can find its review here. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with that one, and this new board, the Biostar Hi-Fi A85W, dropped itself off on my front doorstep right as I finished testing the Z77X Biostar Hi-Fi board:
|CPU SUPPORT:||2nd Gen AMD A Series and Athlon Processors for the FM2 Socket|
|POWER DESIGN:||CPU Power: 6 Phases |
FCH Power: 1 Phase
Memory Power: 1 Phase
|INTEGRATED GRAPHICS:||Dependant on installed APU/CPU|
|MEMORY:||4 x DIMM, Max. 64 GB, DDR3 1066 to DDR3 2400+|
|BIOS:||AMI EFI BIOS with 64 Mb Flash ROM|
|SLOTS:||2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (x16/x4) |
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
2 x PCI slot
|HDD CONNECTIVITY:||8 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (AMD A85X)|
|NETWORKING:||Realtek RTL8111F PCIe Gigabit LAN|
|PORTS:||8 x USB 2.0 ports (4 at back panel, 4 at front panel)|
4 x USB 3.0 ports (4 at back panel, 2 at front panel)
1 x RJ45 LAN connectors
1 x Audio port with 6 audio jacks
1 x HDMI port
1 x VGA port
1 x DVI port
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port
|AUDIO:||Puro Audio HD CODEC|
|FAN HEADERS:||5 x 4-pin PWM|
|FORM FACTOR:||ATX Form Factor (305 mm x 244 mm)|
AMD FM2 Chipsets
You will, in order to get your new APU up and running, need a supporting chipset; not just any supporting chipset, but one that is also mated with the proper FM2 socket. The AMD FM1 socket's usefulness was, although it was only launched last year, pretty short-lived. Instinct tells me that the physical changes made to the socket are quite similar to the change from AMD's white AM3 socket to the black AM3+ socket, which also changed power delivery a fair bit in order to add support for AMD's newest Bulldozer cores. Bulldozer cores themselves never made it to the APU market, and these new APUs are fitted with the new Piledriver cores rather than taking last year's tech and making a new product out of old parts. Those shiny new Piledriver cores need slightly different power delivery and connectivity to the chipset, which is why FM2 is here. No, it is NOT backwards compatible with older APUs, nor can you pop a new AMD A10-5800K into your FM1-socketed motherboard.
AMD has three chipsets lined up to support AMD FM2 APUs: the AMD A55, AMD A75, and AMD A85X. The former two, the AMD A55 and AMD A75, have been on the market since the FM1 APU launch, and the features offered by those chipsets are not going to change at all. The AMD A55 offers a slightly different feature set than that of the AMD A75 chip, and the new AMD A85X simply expands on that.
The AMD A85X supports eight total SATA 6 Gb/s ports with FIS-based switching and adds in CrossfireX support. The new AMD A85X targets gamers and enthusiasts as well as those that like to keep up with the latest and greatest in technology. AMD intends you to pair this chipset up with AMD A10 and AMD A8 APUs, and their "K"-level, "unlocked" APUs.
Each chipset, or Fusion Controller Hub (FCH for short), has a specific use and, thereby, a specific target market. Those that don't need as much can pick a chipset that doesn't give them as much while saving money through features that chipset lacks. It looks like you might get exactly what you pay for. It will be interesting to see how AMD's board partners assess AMD's FM2 APUs, and what products they design for them. Biostar has sent me their "Puro Audio" FM2 offering with the Biostar Hi-Fi A85W. The Hi-Fi A85W is a full ATX-sized board capable of both AMD Dual Graphics and straight-up Crossfire:
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