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Closer Look: F2A85X-UP4 Motherboard
The white box that the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 comes in is covered with features and specifications for the motherboard. If you are a patient enough to read through it all, you'll find out an awful lot about the motherboard. The first key feature that is touted is Ultra Durability. You'll find the words Ultra Durable in no less than three places just on the front panel of the box. We'll be inspecting exactly what that Ultra Durability means a little later on.
The backside of the motherboard box for the F2A85X-UP4 details out the methodologies used by Gigabyte to provide extra durability for the motherboard and also lays out it's specifications. All the features of the F2A85X-UP4 are touted. Some of them that immediately catch my eye as something I want to check out in more detail include the 3D, Dual UEFI and the Virtu MVP support. While the Z77 chipset from Intel supports native Virtu MVP, the A85X does not. The addition of Virtu MVP on the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 is something to take note of.
The accessories that come packed in with the F2A85X-UP4 motherboard are a little sparse in my opinion. You have the standard installation DVD, the installation manual, the motherboard manual, the I/O shield and six SATA cables. That's it. Well, there is also a "Powered by Gigabyte" sticker. I suppose there isn't really anything else you need, but I would have liked to see a DVI or HDMI to Display Port adapter since the motherboard comes with a built in Display Port. Considering I still haven't purchased a monitor that comes with a Display Port cable and very few that even have Display Ports on them, I think this is important.
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 is laid out in a very standard format. Unless you are buying an oddly sized motherboard, there is generally very little deviation from the standard pattern on motherboards. I suppose if it's not broken, you shouldn't fix it?
The second generation of AMD A-Series APUs supports the simultaneous use of two discrete graphics cards. For that reason, the F2A85X-UP4 motherboard has two fully functioning PCI-E x16 slots. There is actually a third full PCI-E slot as well, but that one can't be used for a graphics card. The most you'll be able to support here is dual-graphics SLI or CrossFireX. There are a couple of things that must be said about this. First, there are only 16 PCI-E lanes dedicated to discrete graphics. If you use a dual discrete graphics setup, the most you can run is x8/x8. This is also PCI-E 2.0, not 3.0. It makes sense, given the intention of the platform. Most APU users will probably not even use a discrete graphics card, especially after seeing the ability of the onboard graphics. Those that do are likely to get a single card and pair it with the integrated GPU, thereby alleviating the need for a PCI-E 3.0 slot.
One other thing that I want to mention here about the PCI-E slots concerns the ability to pair a discrete graphics card with the on-die GPU on the Trinity APUs. AMD recommends that you pair anywhere from a Radeon HD 7450 (with the A6 series only) to a Radeon HD 7670 with the integrated graphics. From talking with others who have tried such shenanigans, it appears that the 6670 and other 6000 series Radeon HD graphics cards work just fine paired with the integrated graphics as well. The thing to keep in mind is that you cannot pair the integrated graphics to a CrossfireX configuration with two discrete graphics cards. So it's either one discrete + integrated or two discrete cards.
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 also offers three PCI-E x1 slots and a legacy PCI slot, just in case you need that sort of thing.
As for the rear I/O, the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 brings the full spectrum. The I/O panel starts off with a legacy PS/2 port. I've complained about this in the past, but there are some gamers out there who swear that 6 simultaneous keystrokes just aren't enough. If you need more, you'll have to use a PS/2 keyboard. Under the PS/2 port are two USB 3.0 ports. There are plenty of those on this motherboard as well.
Next up are in the video output ports. The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 has all of them. There is an analog D-Sub port over a DVI port. Next to those is an HDMI port sitting atop a Display port. On top of those two is an optical audio port. Following up next are two USB 2.0 ports over the top of an external SATA port. The GbE port over two more USB 3.0 ports comes next and the six standard audio ports finish off the rear I/O.
Down past the last PCI-E port, on the very edge of the board are the front panel I/O connectors. You have the HD Audio port followed by a COM port and a Trusted Platform Module. There are four USB 2.0 headers here, allowing for a total of 8 USB 2.0 ports on the front panel or through add on expansions. A system fan header and the front panel switches and LEDs are next, followed by an SATA port. The SATA port is in a nice place for a front panel eSATA cable.
Down on another edge of the board you can see the SATA 3 ports. There are six of them here. Add the one on the other edge and the eSATA port and you have a total of 8 on the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4. Also down on this side are the dual BIOS chips. The dual BIOS chips are becoming more and more common now. They come in handy in case you fry one or mess up a flash. You can switch to the other one using a jumper on the board and start over. There is also a digital diagnostics module here. The motherboard manual lists the displays and what they mean.
Up near the top edge of the motherboard, near the DIMM slots are a power button and a clear CMOS chip. For overclockers and enthusiasts, or anyone using an open air chassis, these buttons are a must. Speaking of the DIMM slots, they support dual-channel memory, of course. They are laid out DDR3_1, then DDR3_3, then DDR3_2, then DDR3_4. Use either 1 and 3 or 2 and 4 when installing your dual-channel memory if you only have two DIMMs.
Besides those standard features, the Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 offers a lot of proprietary features you won't find anywhere else. Let's take a look at those.