For the AMD Kaveri launch, a number of review publications received the FM2A88X Extreme6+ from ASRock. This is a motherboard that was released several months before the Kaveri processors hit the market, but adhered to specifications for both Richland and Kaveri APUs. Today we are reviewing this motherboard, which threw up a surprise or two.

ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+ Overview

The AMD Kaveri launch was a bit of a mêlée – two weeks to test a dozen processors in our new benchmarking suite, both in terms of CPU and IGP performance, with the big write up at the end. At the time I used the FM2A88X Extreme6+ motherboard, and in order to avoid complications I put on some rock solid air cooling and it sailed through the process. When I removed the extra cooling, a heat-related issue started to occur. I noticed the VRM heatsink getting hot, and as a result the system was reducing frequencies after extended workloads. After checking everything in the software side was OK, I got an infrared thermometer to probe some of the components. When the VRM heatsink showed 88C after 5 minutes of encoding work, and 97C after an hour, I had found the culprit of the issue. 88C is a rather high temperature, despite these components are usually rated to 105C. Since I finished testing the motherboard, ASRock has launched several new BIOSes, which I tested after consulting ASRock. The final result was that the system till reached 80C after 10-15 minutes of hard CPU work (normal work rather than a power virus) and 92C after 25+ minutes.

This might be seen a stern start to a motherboard review, especially one that has won awards elsewhere and performed well in our high-end air cooled testing. The FM2A88X Extreme6+ is a full sized ATX motherboard using the A88X chipset, supplanted with an 8+2 power phase design. From the chipset we have eight SATA 6 Gbps ports (7 regular + 1 eSATA), 6 USB 3.0 ports, an x8/x8 + x4 PCIe layout and support for up to 64GB DRAM from four memory slots. ASRock's website states that this motherboard can be part of a system that supports 4096x2400 at 60 Hz via DP 1.2.  Other video outputs are present as well (VGA, DVI-D and HDMI).

ASRock’s additions to the base chipset include support up to DDR3-2600 on the memory, a Realtek ALC1150 audio codec (rated at 115dB SNR) with a TI NE5532 headset amplifier, a Qualcomm Atheros AR8171 network interface, six fan headers, power/reset buttons, a two digit debug, an ASMedia ASM1042 for two additional USB 3.0 ports and the ASRock BIOS/Software ecosystem that is ever improving.

In our performance testing, the motherboard and CPU combination trades blows with another FM2+ motherboard we are currently testing, winning in a few CPU and gaming tests. The system scores under 10 seconds for a Windows 7 POST time, although the DPC Latency is matching that of our Intel 8-series results oddly enough.

ASRock is often very aggressive on pricing, and the FM2A88X Extreme6+ comes in at $105, near other motherboards from ASUS, GIGABYTE and MSI. ASRock is continually building an ecosystem around the BIOS utilization and software functionality in order to make their products more desirable, though additional cooling on this model might be recommended.

Visual Inspection

ASRock’s 2013 livery moves to 2014 with the higher end chipset SKUs bathed in black and gold colors – the FM2A88X Extreme6+ is no exception.

The socket area has no obvious outline, but opens up the AMD socket to large coolers in all directions. The power delivery to the left of the socket gives the 8+2 configuration, although the heatsink provided is quite small with no extension or additional fan. There are five fan headers around the socket, three above (CPU 4-pin, CPU 3-pin and PWR 3-pin) and two underneath the power heatsink, both CHA 3-pin. The final fan header on the motherboard is a CHA 4-pin in the bottom right.

Moving clockwise around the motherboard, the DRAM slots are double ended latch mechanisms, although they use the thinner latches with a full sized slot. Underneath the 24-pin ATX power connector is a USB 3.0 port, followed by six of the SATA 6 Gbps ports. ASRock provides two BIOSes on the Extreme6+, both replaceable should one fail. Next follows another SATA 6 Gbps port and a BIOS selector switch.

The chipset heatsink is small to cater for the A88X chipset (~7W). The sole additional controller on the motherboard is an ASMedia ASM1042 – a USB 3.0 controller near the rear IO that does not need a heatsink.

The PCIe layout uses two PCIe 2.0 x1 small slots, two PCI slots, two PCIe 3.0 slots (in either x16/- or x8/x8 mode) and a final PCIe 2.0 x4 slot from the chipset. This final slot is designed for other non-gaming GPU PCIe devices, although it can be used for 3-way CrossFire at a lower-than expected scaling rate. For users wanting to put three power-hungry devices into the full length PCIe slots, ASRock provides a 4-pin molex connector for extra power. In my opinion, the location of this connector is frustrating, requiring cables to reach over the motherboard. Other manufacturers have utilized SATA power, or 6-pin PCIe connector, at the edge of the motherboard. This is a preferred location, as it does not require cables reaching across the system.

On the bottom of the board we have a good combination of power and reset buttons coupled with a two-digit debug LED. If I had my way, these would be on all motherboards to help with debugging issues. Also present are three USB 2.0 headers, a COM header, a Front Panel audio header, a front panel header and one of the aforementioned fan headers.

ASRock’s Purity Sound paradigm on the audio consists of a Realtek ALC1150 audio codec in an EMI shield, filter caps, a headphone amplifier and ASRock also list PCB shielding to help improve the audio signal.

The rear IO of the motherboard consists of two USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 combination port, VGA, dual-link DVI-D, a DisplayPort, a HDMI-out, a HDMI-in, an eSATA 6 Gbps (A88X), two USB 3.0 ports (A88X), two more USB 3.0 ports (ASMedia ASM1042), an Ethernet port (Atheros AR8171), an optical SPDIF output and audio jacks.

Board Features

ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+
Price Link
Size ATX
CPU Interface FM2+
Chipset AMD A88X (Bolton D4)
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 64 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1333-2600 MHz
2600 MHz with two modules
Video Outputs HDMI at 4096x2160 (24 Hz)
DVI-D at 2560x1600 (60 Hz)
D-Sub at 1920x1200 (60 Hz)
DisplayPort at 4096x2400 (60 Hz) or 4096x2160 (60 Hz)
Onboard LAN Qualcomm Atheros AR8171
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC1150
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16, x8/x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4 (A88X)
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI
Onboard SATA/RAID 7 x SATA 6 Gbps (A88X), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps (A88X)
USB 3.0 4 x USB 3.0 (A88X) [2 back panel, 1 header]
2 x USB 3.0 (ASMedia ASM1042) [2 back panel]
Onboard 7 x SATA 6 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0 Header
3 x USB 2.0 Headers
6 x Fan Headers
1 x Front Panel Audio Header
1 x COM Header
Power/Reset Switches
BIOS Selection Switch
Two-Digit Debug LED
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
1 x 8-pin CPU Power Connector
1 x 4-pin Molex VGA Power Connector
Fan Headers 2 x CPU (4-pin, 3-pin)
3 x CHA (4-pin, 2 x 3-pin)
1 x PWR (3-pin)
IO Panel PS/2 Combination Port
Optical SPDIF Output
2 x USB 2.0 Ports
2 x USB 3.0 Ports (A88X)
2 x USB 3.0 Ports (ASMedia)
1 x GbE LAN (AR8171)
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps (A88X)
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

The addition of a USB 3.0 controller and a high-end Realtek audio codec puts the Extreme6+ high up the product stack for an AMD FM2+ motherboard. Unlike Intel were a $400 motherboard might be common, motherboard manufacturers tend not to splash out on an AMD motherboard (with PCIe PLX switches or obscure lane allocations) purely due to demand and volume. 

ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+ BIOS
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  • Hawkleberryfin - Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - link

    Why no 8350 or other AM3+ in your comparisons?
  • alexruiz - Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - link

    Ian, I have a few questions from your testing:

    - What mode was the SATA controller set on initial boot to the UEFI BIOS? IDE or AHCI? In my experience, all the AsRock mobos have IDE as default. If if was indeed set to IDE, and this was a ECS or Biostar motherboard, you guys would have eaten them alive, but with the infatuation with Asrock around this forum, they get a free pass on this one.

    - Fan controls, you say you liked them. Are you referring to the graph, or the settings? If you are referring to the settings, again, in my experience, all AsRock motherboards default to full blast. Does it mean you liked all the fans at full speed as default? On a setup that very likely will be used on HTPC duties, having to go and silence every single fan in the BIOS is a NO-NO. Level 9 target as default (full blast)? Really? Again, if this had been ECS or Biostar, you would have eaten them alive for not having an easy "quiet" fan setting (Ironically, Biostar probably has the best fan settings controls, full manual control for power users looking for max coooling, and a "quiet" setting that requires only one selection in the BIOS. )

    - Hot-swap SATA AHCI. Did you have the chance to try and see if windows would recognize a SATA hard drive plugged as hot-swap? Again, in my experience, AHCI hot swap is broken in AsRock mobos, at least the AM3+ and FM2 ones.

    - Did the motherboard post normally on first power up, or did it require a CMOS clear? Again, the AsRock mobos I have used usually require a CMOS clear out of the box. What other FM2+ motherboards are under testing?

    Motherboard flex? How solid and rig did the PCB feel?

    Did you try F11 as boot override? It works, but it takes a lot of luck and several tries to catch it.

    I would like to see the FM2+ motherboards comparison once it is complete. For what I see, the infatuation with AsRock at AnandTech starts with the editors. AsRock is popular because they pack a lot of features (bunch of fan headers for example) so they give a sense of value for the money, but when the product feels unpolished, I prefer to not have the half baked feature (broken hot-swap SATA AHCI for example)
  • SolMiester - Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - link

    I just built an HTPC with the mATX extreme 4 plus A88 chipset, same as this but smaller. You are right, I did need to clear the CMOS, however Sata port were set correctly at ahci, I have no idea why you think they would be set to IDE on a board with no IDE controllers.
  • hrga - Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - link

    I appreciate alex post as most of bugs did indeed be here since implementation like that BIOS boot override feature which really should have been quite a bit better especially when there's default BIOS SpalshUp wallpaper screen before disabling it. Well thats in fact with older legacy BIOS more annoying
    As for IDE option goes thats something present for all chipsets that has ability (drivers) to run under old WinXP w/o AHCI drivers for chipset streamlined. Thou i dont know who would run WinXP full time nowadays.except for some tests. Its quite a bit cleaner to capture screenshots without antialiasing artifacts even when Aero eyecandies fully disabled and put them into nitty 8b palette .png
    But those wishing to run WinXP nowadays i gues would be experienced enough to either go to BIOS to change AHCI to IDE. For a55/A75/A85/A78/A88 i believe there are no ability to run them under "stock" WinXPSP3 so IDE in that BIOS is really a nuance. And Linux kernels that support chipset couldnt pass without providing its basic features and thats AHCI. Did some prehistoric SATA-150 drives ever didnt support AHCI as it was optional in those days?
  • Ian Cutress - Monday, March 24, 2014 - link

    Hi Alex

    - ASRock have default AHCI since Z77 at least, perhaps even a little before that. I have always criticized boards in the past for not having AHCI as default, and in my testing I turn it to AHCI if it is not and explicitly point it out. So you have nothing to worry about there.

    - ASRock tends to vary their fan settings depending on the motherboard. Some of them are, as you say, stuck on full blast. This was set to 'default' by default, which gives the fan profile you see in A-Tuning. The custom multi-point gradient you can see in the BIOS also shows this.

    - I have not tested hot swap. I will have a look in future ASRock motherboards, I'm now four products further down the line in my testing.

    - I've not had issues with Motherboard flex from the big four in a couple of generations. Typically flex happens when motherboards have four PCB layers or less - anything over $100 these days tends to have at least six. But you can still build a solid four layer board.

    - I usually go into the BIOS for boot override so I can double check the settings as I go through. It terms of hitting the button at the right time, it usually depends on when the USB driver from the BIOS is implemented. Best way to help yourself in this is to put the keyboard in a USB 2.0 slot, those are initiated first. Some motherboards are better for this than others, but you have as much chance on the same board of getting into the BIOS as boot override.

    Each of the motherboard manufacturers have their quirks. ASRock likes to try a lot of little things each generation and see what sticks - some of these work well, and some of these do not. They have been amenable to suggestions over the 3+ years I have been at AnandTech, and they are taking some of them on board. There is no infatuation here - if I could look at these motherboards in a double blind study I would do, but enough of the product is personalised that that is not possible. I aim to look at each motherboard afresh, and sometimes there are features on motherboards that don't make sense for 99% of people that inflate cost. Motherboard manufacturers also have to guess a lot of the hardware specifications 8-12 months ahead of launch, and it can be hard to get them right and still remain competitive (and get it all to work). Sometimes each of the companies do come out with some bad stuff, and sometimes they come out with the goods. Awards are well deserved and should be for the best, hence why at AnandTech we rarely give them out compared to some others that have an award fetish because it helps promote their site/get them more review samples. We are lucky enough not to be in that position, and potentially help direct evolution of product, for any company that wants to listen.
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - link

    Pretty nice feature set for the price, especially before any sales or rebates. However the comparatively dreadful CPU performance still makes the market look pretty small. Excellent for HTPC usage or that small subset that wants to do medium settings 720p gaming without a discrete card. 8x 6Gbps is quite nice, but I don't imagine many people going for midrange CPU performance are going to buy oodles of SSDs to fill all of those (mechanical disks or gigabit limited NAS setups won't really see the benefit). Getting your ass kicked by a 3 generation old 2500K that was in the same realm pricing wise is nothing to get excited about. The once meaningful 'budget' advantage mostly disappeared way back with the SB Celeron chips. And with Bay Trail Intel ended the one mainstream segment that AMD was kicking their ass in since Bobcat (yes AMD has the better iGPU, but the CPU isn't fast enough to do anything meaningful with it). And I realize that was mostly an off-topic rambling since this article is about the board not the CPU. I just miss you AMD. Please be competitive again.
  • popej - Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - link

    "Despite the Realtek ALC1150 having a 115dB signal-to-noise rating, our RMAA test gave a result nearer 100".
    Do you mean dynamic range measurement in RMAA? According to ALC1150 datasheet, dynamic range is 104dB.
  • Elmstreet - Thursday, March 20, 2014 - link

    Just so I get this correct, most of the gaming benchmarks are comparing the Intel i7-4960x, which currently sells for over $1,000 on NewEgg, with an AMD A10-7850k that is selling for just under $200. Based upon my disposable income, this is not a fair comparison at all. This is highly biased towards Intel.
    If it was to be a proper comparison, the Intel chip would also need to be in the $200 range. Perhaps an i5-4570?
    I'm not trying to bash on Intel at all. I agree with almost every single post on here about how AMD has been failing for such a long time, and that Intel has taken over. But, come on. At least make the fight balanced.
  • fteoath64 - Friday, March 21, 2014 - link

    True that comparison between Intel and AMD always has a huge price difference. It would be better to compare IGP to IGP and discrete gpu with discrete gpu of the same price range of system. Much like TomsHardware did in terms of setting up a budget and getting the best components for the budget, then optimise it a little like +$100 gives this!. + $200 gives these choices with these performance figures. This in effect, people tend to buy AMD for their gpu and prices than anything else. IF they are into discrete cards, tendency is for Intel cpus.
    Other reason to get Kaveri is HSA, of course for those in the know. But the drivers and OpenCL 2.0 is not available as yet. So, question would be , next version of Kaveri might have bugfixes and optimizations to really boost HSA functions, or might not (as in Richland from Trinity jump). People tends to compare 2 or 3 key components that are "must haves" like 128GB SSD, then discrete gpu or decide only iGPU graphics.
  • Ian Cutress - Monday, March 24, 2014 - link

    This is a review of the motherboard after all, designed to compare against other motherboards of this type as we review them.

    This is also my new 2014 benchmark suite, implemented for Kaveri launch. If every time I updated the suite I tested a bunch of processors for the first review, we wouldn't get any reviews of anything for a few months (and no-one gets paid). So we are testing as we go, as is usually the case. I plan to do an update to my Gaming CPU articles when I get the chance to test a few more CPUs. At the minute the number of motherboards I have in to test is shockingly long.

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