Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

ASUS A88X-PRO AMD Socket FM2+ Motherboard Review

It’s important to take a step back once in awhile and remember that not everyone can afford huge multi-GPU rigs and eight core CPUs. If you are in the market for a shiny new APU, you won’t want to miss our coverage of the ASUS A88X-Pro. This new FM2+ socket motherboard may not be the answer for you, but it could surely be a solution.

Introduction

ASUS is one of the largest motherboard manufacturers in the world and as a result is well known amongst enthusiasts. While ASUS has branched out into video cards, networking gear, laptops, and other things motherboards always remained at the forefront of the business. Of course ASUS has motherboards that cover every major desktop socket, feature set, and price point. ASUS being one of the leading innovator’s in the motherboard world tends to have motherboards based on new or upcoming chipsets out first and include features not yet standardized in the industry.

One such example of this was ASUS’ early adoption of UEFI. While it wasn’t the first to physically sell motherboards that supported it, ASUS was among the first to actually redesign the traditional BIOS and support some of the features that UEFI was capable of over BIOS. It is precisely this forward looking and forward thinking attitude which has placed ASUS in the top echelon of the motherboard market.

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The ASUS A88X-PRO is based on AMD’s A88X chipset supporting socket FM2+ APUs (Accelerated Processing Units). The A88X-PRO supports the latest standards you’d expect such as PCI-Express 3.0, AMD’s CrossFire technology, USB 3.0, and 6 each SATA 6Gb/s ports. The A88X-PRO is based on a digital 6+2 phase VRM design utilizing ASUS’ Dual-Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way optimization. with ASUS 5K solid electrolytic capacitors, ESD guards, stainless steel I/O for high humidity environments, MEMOK, GPU Boost, Remote GO!, USB BIOS Flashback, and USB 3.0 boost.

The feature set on this motherboard is not what you’d call stripped down but it isn’t exactly packed to the rafters either, but on this it is important to note that this A88X-Pro sells for right around $124 with Prime Shipping. It’s definitely somewhere in the low-mid range in terms of its feature set. At a glance it reminds me of the ASUS Z87-A or Z87-Deluxe as these look very similar aside from the CPU socket and a few details here and there.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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When it comes to packaging the bundle for the A88X-PRO is lean. Included are some SATA cables, I/O shield, manual, driver disc, Q-connectors and that’s it.

Board Layout

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The motherboard itself looks a lot like the Z87-A and Z87-Deluxe ASUS motherboards. The same black/gold color scheme is used on the A88X-PRO that’s used on most of ASUS’ offerings these days save for TUF and ROG parts. A single heat pipe based unit cools both the south bridge and the MOSFETs. There are a few cost cutting measures taken with this motherboard to lower the price point which is clearly evident. The single-sided locking DIMM slots are replaced with more traditional style slots, there are almost no onboard controls such as power or reset buttons.

There is no PLX chip or anything like that. The layout itself is virtually flawless though the level of integrated hardware is less than what you’d see from a higher end part making the design and layout less challenging.

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The CPU socket area is very clean. There just isn’t allot to get in the way here.

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The DRAM slots are color coded to denote proper dual-channel memory mode operation. As I said before these aren’t the now-standard single-sided locking slots that ASUS normally uses on its Intel boards. These are the traditional dual-tab style. Fortunately there is enough space to allow these to work without creating clearance issues for graphics card installation.

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The south bridge is cooled via a flat heat pipe cooling unit that connects to the MOSFET cooling hardware. Directly in front of that you’ll find six SATA ports all of which are native 6Gb/s.

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The expansion slot area is clean though for some reason two legacy PCI slots are included here. I doubt there is much call for one of these much less two of these. Still ASUS made good use of the space and there are no glaring oversights with the design. The PCI-Express lane configuration allows for a configuration of 16x0, 8x8, or 8x8x4. This allows for full 3-Way CrossFire certification, but NVIDIA’s SLI is out of the question.

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The I/O panel is full of connectivity options ranging from PS/2, USB 2.0, 3.0, eSATA, RJ-45, D-Sub, HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-D, optical and mini-stereo jacks.