ASUS A88X-PRO FM2+ Motherboard

ASUS recently released their latest motherboard for the new AMD Kaveri FM2+ APU, the A88X-PRO.  Based on the A88X platform, the A88X-PRO is ASUS's high end enthusiast motherboard that supports both the FM2 Trinity and Richland processors, as well as the new Kaveri.  The FM2+ motherboard adds support for eight SATA 6Gbps ports with RAID 5, PCI-Express 3.0, which requires the Kaveri processor.  While it is a high end motherboard, it maintains a friendly mid-level price of $123.99 shipped with a 3 year warranty.

A88X-PRO Overview

The A88X-PRO features a black motherboard with gold heatsinks and sockets.  Based on the standard ATX form factor it measures 12.0 x 9.6 inches.  Looks isn't everything this board has to offer, 4 DDR3 slots, supporting up to 16GB of memory each (total of 64GB), on board Radeon graphics (dependent on APU), 3-way CrossFireX, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 internal header and much more.  Unfortunately, ASUS did not include the support of Virtu Universal MVP, which allows combining the graphics from the APU with a dedicated graphics card.

ASUS A88X-PRO 4-Way Optimization

ASUS adds features like Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-way optimization, allowing easy changes to performance, efficiency, power and cooling options.  This is controllable by the AI Suite III software that is included with the A88X-PRO.  We will take a closer look at the AI Suite later.

ASUS A88X-PRO Updated UEFI

ASUS doesn't stop with just value added software, they have also updated their UEFI BIOS to make it easier for novices to use.  In the Advanced mode, you can create shortcuts to commonly used functions, make notes on the functions, view a log of changes to the BIOS and even renaming the SATA ports; all to make it as user friendly as possible.

Before we go any further let's take a look at what ASUS has to say about the A88X-PRO; then we will take a closer look.

Features and Specifications:

ASUS A88X-PRO AMD FM2+ Motherboard Specifications  
CPU AMD Socket FM2+ Athlon/A- Series Processors
Supports CPU up to 4 cores
Supports AMD Turbo Core 3.0 Technology
Chipset AMD A88X (Bolton D4) 
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR3 2400(O.C.)/2250(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/2133/1866/1600/1333 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory 
Dual Channel Memory Architecture 
Support AMD Memory Profile (AMP) memory
* The Max. 64GB memory capacity can be supported with DIMMs of 16GB (or above). ASUS will update QVL once the DIMMs are available on the market.
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs. 
* Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
* Due to OS limitation, when installing total memory of 4GB capacity or more, Windows 32-bit operation system may only recognize less than 3GB. Install a 64-bit Windows® OS when you want to install 4GB or more memory on the motherboard.
Graphic Integrated AMD Radeon HD 7000/8000 Series Graphics in A-series APU 
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI/RGB/DisplayPort ports 
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz*1
- Supports DVI with max. resolution 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
- Supports RGB with max. resolution 1920 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 60 Hz 
Maximum shared memory of 2048 MB
AMD® Dual Graphics technology support *2
Multi-GPU Support Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX Technology
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8) *3
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode) 
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 
2 x PCI  
Storage AMD A88X FCH(Bolton D4) chipset:
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), yellow
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD
LAN Realtek® 8111GR, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Audio  Realtek® ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
USB Ports  AMD A88X FCH(Bolton D4) chipset :
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
AMD A88X FCH(Bolton D4) chipset :
10 x USB 2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, black, 8 at mid-board)
ASMedia ASM1042 controller :
2 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue)
Special Features  ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way Optimization :
- The tuning key perfectly consolidates ASUS-exclusive DIGI+ Power Control, TPU, EPU, and Fan Xpert 2 optimize the digital power setting, system performance, power saving and whole system cooling configuration
ASUS 5X Protection :
- ASUS DIGI+ VRM - 6 + 2 Phase digital power design
- ASUS Enhanced DRAM Overcurrent Protection - Short circuit damage prevention 
- ASUS ESD Guards - Enhanced ESD protection 
- ASUS High-Quality 5K-Hour Solid Capacitors - 2.5x long lifespan with excellent durability 
- ASUS Stainless Steel Back I/O - 3x more durable corrosion-resistant coating 
ASUS EPU :
- EPU switch
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- GPU Boost
- Remote GO!
- USB BIOS Flashback
- MemOK!
- AI Suite 3
- Ai Charger+
- USB Charger+ *4
- Anti-Surge
- Low EMI Solution
- ESD Guards
- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface 
- Network iControl
- USB 3.0 Boost
- Disk Unlocker
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- Stylish Fanless Design Heat-pipe solution
- ASUS Fan Xpert 2
ASUS EZ DIY :
- DirectKey
- Precision Tweaker 2
- ASUS O.C. Tuner
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3 
- ASUS EZ Flash 2 
- ASUS MyLogo 2 
- ASUS USB BIOS Flashback 
- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode
- Multi-language BIOS
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Code
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-Connector
Operating System Support Windows 8 , 32bit/64bit
Windows 7 , 32bit/64bit
Windows XP , 32bit
Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DVI
1 x D-Sub
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0 
2 x USB 2.0 
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jack(s)
Internal I/O Ports 1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
4 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 8 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x COM port(s) connector(s)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
4 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x DirectKey Button(s)
1 x DRCT header(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback button(s)
Accessories  User's manual
ASUS Q-Shield
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1) 
BIOS  64 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, F12 PrintScreen Function, F3 Shortcut Function and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information
Support Disc Drivers, ASUS utilities, ASUS Update, Anti-virus software (OEM version)
Form Factor   
Note *1: *Only FM2+ APU can support up to 4096 x 2160 resolution display via HDMI port.
*2: Refer to HYPERLINK "http://www.amd.com/us/products/technologies/dual-graphics/Pages/dual-graphics.aspx"http://www.amd.com/us/products/technologies/dual-graphics/Pages/dual-graphics.aspx#3 for the discrete GPUs which support Dual Graphics technology.
*3: Only FM2+ Processors can support PCIe3.0.
*4 USB Charger+ is only supported in Windows7 and later versions.

Let's take a closer look at what the ASUS A88X-PRO motherboard has to offer users of the AMD FM2+ APU's.

Retail Packaging

A88X-PRO Front of Box

The front of the retail box for the ASUS A88X-PRO is simple and clean.  Providing some detail on what this motherboard has to offer.  At a high level, it identifies five features, System Upgrade, Energy Saving, Precision Power Control, One Click Optimization and One-Stop Entertainment.  In the upper corner it also lists the CPU socket and chipset on the A88X-PRO.

A88X-PRO Back of Box

On the back of the box, ASUS gives a nice view of the motherboard with the important components pointed out, along with a nice description of those components.  However, the majority of the back expands on five of the key features of the A88X-PRO with more than sufficient information in order for a potential purchaser to know exactly what this motherboard has to offer.

A88X-PRO Packaging

Opening the box, the motherboard is visible through an anti-static bag.  It fills the box so no other packaging is necessary.  Along the front edge of the box, a portion of the bottom layer has been folder over the motherboard to keep it in place.

A88X-PRO Accessories

Under the motherboard lay the accessories; ASUS Q-Connector, four SATA cables (2 straight and 2 right angle), a motherboard I/O shield and a multi-language user guide.  Not many accessories are included with the A88X-PRO. 

Motherboard Layout

A88X-PRO Overview

The A88X-PRO uses a black/dark brown PCB with specific components being gold/yellow.  While this color scheme doesn't suit my personal tastes, most of it will be covered once it is installed and the components are installed.  The Southbridge chip has a large gold colored heatsink, which has a heatpipe to the heatsink above the CPU socket, which can be cooled a little by the CPU cooler.  Using a low profile heatsink on the Southbridge allows the dual slot video cards to not run into space issues.

A88X-PRO Lower Right Corner

In the lower right section of the motherboard we find the four DDR3 DIMMs which support up to 64Gb of DDR3-2400, to the right of the memory is the ASUS EPU switch.  Along the bottom edge is the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 internal header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, and the MEMOK! button.

A88X-PRO Lower Left Corner

Along the left edge of the motherboard we find the debug LED, and four USB 2.0 headers.  Then the TPU switch, DirectKey button, power LED, CMOS jumper and the front panel headers, which we will use the ASUS Q-Connector on.  To the left of the SATA ports is 4-pin fan header listed as CHA_Fan3.  On the right is the BIOS flashback button, and another 4-pin fan header (CHA_Fan 4).

A88X-PRO Upper Left Corner

On the top left edge is the front audio header, 4-pin fan header (CHA-Fan2), COM header and the debug LED.  The expansion ports are fairly obvious, there are three PCI-E 16x, two legacy PCI, and two PCI-E 1x.  The yellow PCI-E 16x slot is PCI-E 3.0 at x16, or x8/x8 in dual mode; PCI-E 3.0 is only available on FM2+ APU's.  The PCI-E x16_2 slot is also PCI-E 3.0 but runs at x8.  The far left PCI-E x16 slot only runs at x4.  The Realtek ALC1150 audio chip is found above the PCI2 slot; this chip provides the 7.1 audio.

A88X-PRO Upper Right Corner

Right next to the PCI-E 1x lot, is a dual 4-pin PWM fan header listed as CPU_Fan (on the left) and CHA_Fan1 (on the right).  On the right side, is a standard 8-pin 12v ATX Auxillary power socket.  Solid Japanese made solid capacitors are used across the board.

A88X-PRO SATA Ports

Nothing too exciting, six yellow 6Gb/s SATA connections that face the edge of the motherboard rather than being placed perpendicular to the motherboard where they might interfere with long video cards.

A88X-PRO Rear I/O

The rear I/O ports are fairly standard, on the far left is the combination keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, with two USB 2.0 below that.  Next are the four video out options, DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA and DVI.  Then 2x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and 2x eSATA ports, Gigabit Ethernet and 2x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports.  Finally, the audio cluster which includes the standard 5 analog ports, and one Optical S/PDIF output.

The Legit Reviews Test System

Before we get into the benchmarks, let's take a look at the test system.  All testing is done on a fresh install of Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit with no other software installed.  As this is the first AMD FM2+ motherboard review, it will be compared to an Intel i5-3570k on a Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 TH.  

ASUS A88X-PRO Installed

Before we begin, we'll take a look at what CPU-Z reports on the AMD A10-5700 CPU.

A88X-PRO CPU-Z

As the CPU includes integrated video, we'll take a look at that and compare it to several video cards.

A88X-PRO GPU-Z

As most users will not be using the on board video for gaming, we will also include a mainstream video card with the benchmarks; the previously reviewed XFX R7950 (FX-795A-TDKC).

ASUS A88X-PRO Test System
Component Brand / Model Live Pricing
Processor AMD A10-5700 Click Here
Motherboard ASUS A88X-PRO Click Here
Memory Axiom 16GB DDR3-1600 Click Here
Video Card XFX R7950 DD 3GB Click Here
Hard Drive Intel 520 SSD 180GB Click Here
Cooling Cooler Master  212 EVO Click Here
Power Supply OCZ Fatal1ty 550W Modular Click Here
Operating System Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit Click Here

 

ASUS UEFI BIOS

A88X-PRO UEFI Bios

Entering the BIOS is simple, a press of the Delete or F12 key will allow access to the UEFI BIOS; have to be quick though post is very fast.  Once in the UEFI BIOS, a large amount of information is provided.  In the top half, general system information is provided, while the bottom half starts the customization.  First up is the System Performance level, three quick choices, Power Saving, Normal and ASUS Optimal; the little pyramid chart shows what each one does, ASUS Optimal provides the highest level of Performance while sacrificing Quiet and Energy Savings.  At the bottom is a quick way to modify the boot priority, using a drag and drop interface to make changes.  The very bottom of the screen provides additional menu options; Advanced Mode will take you into the Classic BIOS menus.

ASUS A88X-PRO UEFI SATA

While in the UEFI BIOS, at the bottom, the SATA Information button brings up all the SATA connections available and shows what is connected to each.  As shown here, currently only the Intel 520 Series 180GB drive is connected.

ASUS A88X-PRO BIOS Main Screen

The Advanced Mode is the classic type of BIOS, while still providing UEFI advancements.  The Main screen provides basic information, and allows adjustment of the system data and time.  Under the Security sub-menu, you can set both a user and administrator password to provide some security for the system; an Administrator password gives access to the BIOS, while the User password is a power-on password.

ASUS A88X-PRO BIOS Favorites

The My Favorites menu is a really nice customizable menu, when you select a menu, you can create a shortcut to it by pressing F4.  It's great for those commonly used functions, especially when trying to overclock.  

ASUS A88X-PRO BIOS AI Tweaker

Moving on to the AI Tweaker, also known as the Overclocking options (which will be covered in more detail later), allows for configuring the CPU, memory and power.  As a function is selected, on the right side of the BIOS screen is a button for Quick Note and Last Modified.  The Quick Note stores custom information on that function directly to the BIOS, while the Last Modified provides a log of the changes to that function.

ASUS A88X-PRO AI Tweaker

The AI Tweaker has many options, on the second page we have lots of voltage options.  When you select them you can adjust them within a certain tolerance level.

ASUS A88X-PRO BIOS Advanced Menu

The Advanced menu goes over the standard functions built into the motherboard such as CPU, SATA, USB, NB and many other options.  The configuration options are too numerous to cover.

ASUS A88X-PRO BIOS Monitor

Next is the Monitor tab, it shows what sensors the motherboard monitors and provides the results to the BIOS.  In addition to just monitor the sensors, here the FAN speed can be adjusted for optimal cooling.

ASUS A88X-PRO BIOS Boot Options

The Boot menu allows changes to the boot process, which includes disabling Secure Boot if you do not want that enabled.

ASUS A88X-PRO BIOS Tools

The last menu is Tools, here you find various tools built into the BIOS such as EZ Flash 2 (BIOS update), SPD Information (provides detailed information on the memory), and OC Profile (saving or restoring an Overclock profile).

 

ASUS AI Suite III

A88X-PRO AI Suite III Main Screen

Many motherboards come with additional software to allow fine tuning of the features.  ASUS includes their AI Suite 3, which on the main screen gives a good overview of what is happening with the system.  This information can let you know if the hardware is running well, or if something needs to be modified.  ASUS could have gone the familiar route of separating out all their value added software, however a single interface to access all the features is welcome.  Across the top are four main menus, 4-Way Optimization, TPU, EPU, DIGI+ and FanXpert2; which are all summarized here on the main screen.  There are so many screens and functions available here, it's hard to imagine a more robust set of motherboard tools.

A88X-PRO AI Suite Feature

In the top right corner, is a little grid icon that provides access to additional features, each of them are fairly self explanatory.  

[gallery ids="134264,134265,134263,134266,134267"]

One of the added features is Remote Go!  This allows access to the system through various means.  Clicking on each one of them will provide a brief description of what they do, and allows them to be configured.  For example, the Cloud Go function lets you access your files in a cloud like environment, while Remote Desktop provides access to your system remote from any mobile device.  Sure these functions are available outside the AI Suite 3 package, but it is really nice they are all included in one place with one common interface.

A88X-PRO AI Suite TPU Feature

TPU is one of the four main menu options, it allows high level tuning of the APU Frequency, and Ratio (my APU is locked).  In addition a few voltage options are available here as well such as CPU, DRAM, APU, VDDNB and SB1.1 Voltage can be adjusted.  Finer tuning is possible in the BIOS.  In addition, profiles can be loaded and saved for different situations.

 

 

 

Futuremark 3DMark

Futuremark Releases 3DMark Cloud Gate Video Trailer

3DMark has several preset benchmarks, however the most demanding is Fire Strike.  Fire Strike is a DirectX 11 test that renders detailed graphics in real time and runs simultaneous physics calculations.  This makes it the best one to use when testing a gaming system.  While each of the benchmarks will provide an overall score, this includes a CPU benchmark, which would not be a fair comparison of the components as such, it will not be included.

ASUS A88X-PRO 3DMark Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate is designed for notebooks and home PC's.  It will test DirectX 11, but limit it to Direct3D 10 features, basically making it a DirectX 10 test.  Both systems were tested with the XFX 7950, and received similar sores for the overall Graphics portion.  However the same card in the ASUS A88X-PRO board received around 2,000 marks better than in the Intel based Z77X-UP5 TH.

ASUS A88X-PRO 3DMark Fire Strike

Fire Strike is the most intensive test, at first glance the overall Graphics score is very similar.  However, the Physics test is highly skewed towards the Intel processor as it is more powerful than the AMD processor used in this test.  I would expect similarly rated processors would even the score out.

Benchmark Results:  For 3DMark, taking a look at the overall Graphic scores, the ASUS A88X-PRO performs as one would expect with no decrease in performance on the GPU connectivity.

PCMark 8 v2.0

pcmark8 logo

PCMark 8 is the latest system benchmark by Futuremark.  It has various benchmarks that are generalized for different use cases such as an average home user, office environment, expert users, storage and a test for specific applications which must be installed to test.  Most of these tests take the CPU into account, which we are not concerned with at this time.  The Storage test does not take the CPU into consideration, so we will focus on that benchmark.

A88X-PRO PCMark 8 Storage Test

The Storage Benchmark measures the disk performance by running tests that are recorded in various real world applications and games.  Not only does it provide the results in a generic overall score, it also provides the score for each of the different test.

  Storage Score Bandwidth Battlefield 3 Photoshop Heavy MS Word
ASUS A88X-PRO 4879 179.28MB/s 135.0s 371.3s 28.6s
Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 4916 209.38MB/s 134.0s 369.9s 28.5s

 

Benchmark Results:  For the Storage benchmark, PCMark 8 shows that the storage capabilities are nearly equal between the two different chipsets.

Heaven

Gigabyte HD7870 Heaven

Unigine Heaven benchmark was first released in October 2009, it is now on the fourth generation of the benchmark.  It is a benchmark that tests DirectX 11, the scores provided are 100% based on the GPU’s performance.  Like most benchmarks, it has presets that can be customized for a specific test.  These presets makes it easy to get a good comparison of the results.  In addition to providing the FPS it also monitors the GPU temperature and clock; however that we will not be concerned with at this time.  With Heaven’s presets being able to adjusted, they were set to the Ultra quality, Tesselation to Extreme and Anti-aliasing to x8.  The integrated graphics on the APU was included in this test to show how much more powerful a dedicated graphics card can be instead of using the graphics on the APU.

ASUS A88X-PRO 3DMark Heaven Overall Score

ASUS A88X-PRO Heaven FPS

Benchmark Results:  In both Overall score and the FPS tests, the XFX 7950 performed very well with only a small difference in performance.  While Heaven focuses on the GPU, some processing will be done on the CPU, this could account for the small difference in scores.

 

Bioshock: Infinite

First ‘BioShock Infinite’ DLC Released along with Burial at Sea Trailer

Bioshock: Infinite is another first-person shooter, developed by Irrational Games.  Released in March, 2013 it uses a modified Unreal 3 engine.  The developers included a nice little built-in benchmark system.  This makes it a prime candidate for an apples to apples comparison.  When starting up the benchmark, we will be using option 3, the Ultra DirectX 11 settings.  

R7950 Bioshock Infinite Settings

We will be running at a resolution of 1920×1080, with the quality level set at Ultra in fullscreen mode.  Once again, the Integrated Graphics on the APU is included, this time it shows that the Maximum FPS of the Bioshock Infinite benchmark doesn't really provide much information as it scored much higher than expected when compared to the Average and Minimum scores.  In my opinion, this points to a portion of the integrated benchmark utilizing the CPU.

ASUS A88X-PRO Bioshock Infinite FPS

Benchmark Results:  Taking a look at the Average scores, there is around 12FPS difference between the ASUS A88X-PRO with a weak processor and the Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 with a fairly powerful Intel i5 processor.  The GPU performed on par across both motherboards.

Batman Arkham Origins

Batman Arkham Origins – Bruce Wayne CGI Trailer Released

Batman: Arkham Origins was recently released in October 2013.  It  utilizes the Unreal Engine 3, and is an action-adventure game where the player takes on the role of Batman.  While it is technically the third game in the series, it is actually a prequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City.  

R7950 Batman Origins Settings

Batman has a hidden benchmark tool that runs several pre-configured scenes against the video options.  This is a great feature to be included and makes it an easy way to make a good comparison across multiple video cards.  The resolution was set to 1920×1080, Anti-Aliasing was set to MSAA 2X and DirectX 11 Enhanced features were enabled as all the cards are DirectX 11 compatible.  As with Bioshock Infinite, the integrated video performed poorly against a dedicated video card, which is to be expected.

ASUS A88X-PRO Batman FPS

Benchmark Results:  The ASUS A88X-PRO motherboard performs well with the XFX 7950 video card, receiving 24 less FPS when compared to a more powerful and expensive system.

SATA III 6Gbps Performance Testing

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 is a good benchmark to gauge how well a drive will perform.  Many of the drive manufacturers have used this benchmark to show off the performance of their drives.  It provides a quick benchmark of Sequential and Random read/writes, and included a NCQ with a queue depth of 32.

ASUS A88X-PRO SATA

CrystalDiskMark testing was completed using the OCZ Vertex 4 SSD.

  Seq Read Seq Write 4K Read 4K Write
ASUS A88X-PRO 437.2MB/s 449.8MB/s 24.19MB/s 85.46MB/s
Gigabyte Z77-UP5 458.2MB/s 489.8MB/s 27.37MB/s 83.58MB/s

 Benchmark Results:  The SATA performance of the Z77-UP5 was higher than the A88X-PRO; except for the 4K Write speed.  The largest difference was 40MB/s during the Sequential Write. 

ATTO Benchmark

ATTO is a good benchmark that will provide results over any type of drive; hard drives, SSD, USB and RAID arrays.  It allows the user to set various factors such as data transfer size, length  of transfer, queue depth and several other options.   ATTO provides a wide range of results across the various lengths, we will take a closer look at three of these, and see how the data compares for the read and write speed.

ASUS A88X-PRO ATTO SATA

  64K Read 64K Write 1024K Read 1024K Write 8192K Read 8192K Write
ASUS A88X-PRO 377461 460439 534199 486770 539568 486957
Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 379330 511637 497029 511401 560213 511305

 Benchmark Results: Both chipsets perform well, however ATTO reports the Z77X-UP5 chipset outperforms the A88X chipset..

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance Testing

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 is a good benchmark to gauge how well a drive will perform.  Many of the drive manufacturers have used this benchmark to show off the performance of their drives.  It provides a quick benchmark of Sequential and Random read/writes, and included a NCQ with a queue depth of 32. 

ASUS A88X-PRO USB 3.0

For the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 performance test, the OCZ Vertex 4 256GB SSD will be used in an Ineo USB 3.0 HDD Docking Station I-NA321U+.

  Seq Read Seq Write 4K Read 4K Write
ASUS A88X-PRO 242.3MB/s 255.3MB/s 16.99MB/s 29.78MB/s

Gigabyte Z77-UP5

224.6MB/s 253.1MB/s 15.85MB/s 26.71MB/s

Benchmark Results:  Once again, CrystalDiskMark shows very little difference in performance across the different chipsets; the exception is the Sequential Read speed where the A88X-PRO is close to 20MB/s faster.

ATTO Benchmark

ATTO is a good benchmark that will provide results over any type of drive; hard drives, SSD, USB and RAID arrays.  It allows the user to set various factors such as data transfer size, length  of transfer, queue depth and several other options.   ATTO provides a wide range of results across the various lengths, we will take a closer look at three of these, and see how the data compares for the read and write speed.

ASUS A88X-PRO USB 3.0

  64K Read 64K Write 1024K Read 1024K Write 8192K Read 8192K Write
ASUS A88X-PRO 175828 182044 248477 262528 249707 262528
Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 192752 205293 229950 260839 229923 259357

Benchmark Results:  The SuperSpeed USB 3.0 connection is doing its job well with the OCZ Vertex 4 SSD and INEO Hard Drive Docking Station, slightly surpassing the performance of the Intel based system.

 

System Power Consumption

While performance is important, in today's world power consumption is also important.  With the only difference being the motherboard and processor, we took a look at the power usage of both systems.  Using a P3 Kill-A-Watt meter a measurement was taken while the system was idle, sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes.  A reading was also done during a load test of Heaven run five times.

  ASUS A88X-PRO Gigabyte Z77X-UP5
Idle 54W 105W
Load 207W 272W
Difference 153W 167W

The ASUS A88X-PRO and FM2 A10-5700 CPU used less power overall than the Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 and i5-3570K.  While not a huge difference, overtime it could add up to some savings.  At idle, there was a 51W difference, almost enough to run two of the AMD systems.  At load, there was a 65W difference, once again, more than enough to run a second AMD based system.

Keeping in mind that the power consumption is a factor of all the components, and the A10-5700 is in a totally difference class of processors than the i5-3570K, this should be considered when looking at the power usage between two systems.

Overclocking Options

ASUS A88X-PRO BIOS AI Tweaker

While some Overclocking can be accomplished using the AI Suite 3 software, it is often better to do Overclocking within the BIOS; this is done on the AI Tweaker menu.  The first step is changing the AI Overclock Tuner from "Auto" to "Manual".  On the second page of the AI Tweaker menu, power voltages can be adjusted such as CPU Voltage Offset which can be adjusted by 0.00625V up to +/- 0.5V.

ASUS A88X-PRO CPU Frequency

This provides a new option, APU Frequency; which starts at 100.  It can be adjusted from 90Mhz to 300Mhz in 1Mhz increments.  As changes are made it is immediately reflected in the Yellow text for CPU Speed and DRAM Speed.

ASUS A88X-PRO DDR3 Frequency

Base memory speed can also be selected, which is before any changes to the base APU Frequency of 100Mhz.

ASUS A88X-PRO DDR3 Timing

Memory speed isn't the only thing that can be adjusted for memory; individual timings can also be adjusted.

ASUS A88X-PRO DDR3 Timing

ASUS seems to allow every possible option to be manually set.

ASUS A88X-PRO DIGI+

On the main AI Tweaker screen the main Voltage changes can be made, on DIGI+ Power Control, other power options can be set.

 

Overclocking On The ASUS A88X-PRO

Overclocking greatly depends on the hardware and the skill of the overclocker; even with the same hardware overclocking success can be different.  The APU used in these tests is not designed for the enthusiast, a "K" series APU would be better suited.

ASUS A88X-PRO AI Suite 3 OC

The A10-5700 has a base APU Frequency of 100MHz and Ratio of 34, providing the non-turbo speed of 3.4Ghz.  We were able to adjust the APU Frequency to 114MHz without the system locking up, giving an overclock speed of 3875MHz, a 14% boost. 

ASUS A88X-PRO CPU-Z OC

CPU-Z confirms the overclock speed of 3875MHz.

ASUS A88X-PRO 3DMark OC

Benchmark Results:  With a stable 14% overclock of 3875MHz, the Physics score of 3DMark's Fire Strike increased to 4243 from 3992 at base clock; a 6.4% boost in physics score. 

 

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The ASUS A88X-PRO FM2+ is a great motherboard if you are looking to build an AMD based system.  Not only is it compatible with the current FM2 APU's but it gives the advantage of being compatible with the Kaveri FM2+ APU's.

A88X-PRO Front of Box

The number of connections on this board is probably more than most users will need.  On board, you will find one dual SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Internal header, four USB 2.0 headers, and six SATA 6Gbps.  While the back extends that two eSATA 6Gbps, four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0.  Video connections it has you covered as well with all four of the most common connectors, VGA, DVI, DisplayPort and HDMI.

While the APU used in the testing of the A88X-PRO was not a "K" series APU, it was able to be overclocked by 14% by increasing the APU Frequency.  A more skilled overclocker will be able to make adjustments to many options to get a better overclock.  The A88X-PRO accounts for every possible option to tweak the system and get the best possible overclock; or just to make sure the system is running at its best

As for the performance, I'll admit that the benchmark run do not show a perfect picture of what this motherboard is capable of.  In order to show what it can do, a Kaveri APU needs to be paired with it.  Comparing two high end motherboards with totally different CPU's do not necessarily make for an apples to apples comparison.  What the benchmarks do show however is that the A88X-PRO does perform rather well even with an older FM2 APU that most enthusiast would never use with this motherboard.  The storage benchmarks presented fairly even scores across the different chipsets.

A88X-PRO Overview

When looking at the two test systems used in this review, we should also look at the cost of them.  The Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 motherboard sells for $239.99, while the ASUS A88X-PRO is over $100 cheaper at $123.99 shipped with a 3 year warranty.  If this motherboard was paired with a Kaveri APU, that would cost $179.99; must lower than the $228.98 Intel i5-3570k used in this review.  In fact, purchasing both the ASUS A88X-PRO and AMD A10-7850K Kaveri APU, would cost $303.98; a savings of over $150 which can be applied towards other upgrades such as an SSD, or a good graphics card.

LR Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line:  Pair the ASUS A88X-PRO motherboard with a new AMD Kaveri FM2+ processor and you will have a high-end AMD based system.  Featuring the latest the FM2+ APU offers including PCI-Express 3.0, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps.  In addition you get ASUS's great AI Suite III application set to fine tune the system.