Today our Motherboard Memory Lane series sets its sights on the FM2 Socket, an update to the previous FM1 platform that arrived with a new Chipset and an updated range of AMD APUs. Let’s crack on and check out the new technologies that AMD brought to the table, the motherboards that helped define the era and of course, some of the more impressive scores that were submitted to the HWBOT database using the FM2 platform.
AMD Socket FM2: Overview
The first iteration of AMD’s budget to mid-range APU lineup arrived in Mid-2011 using the FM1 socket. AMD hoped to woo gamers and enthusiasts with a new kind of processor that combined a quad-core CPU with a GPU that actually resembled something similar to a discrete part. AMD’s strategy involved leveraging the graphics technologies that it acquired when it had bought ATi, offering a more complete and heterogeneous design that was beyond Intel’s capabilities. The platform failed to really compete with Intel’s Sandy Bridge offerings however, and ultimately disappointed, despite having a clear advantage in most gaming tests when compared with Intel’s HD Graphics offerings.
The FM2 platform arrived in October 2012 and gave AMD a second chance to impress. The new platform arrived with an updated A85X FCH (Fusion Controller Hub), or chipset for the more traditionally minded among us. It also sported new Trinity architecture APUs which were based on a Piledriver architecture CPU fused with a TeraScale 3, Cayman-based graphics chip. The new platform was joined by a yet another new socket in the shape of FM2 which was incompatible with first generation Llano APUs due to the fact that the FM2 Socket featured 904 pin holes, one fewer than on FM1.
At launch AMD offered motherboard vendors the choice of three FCH options; the budget oriented A55, the mainstream A75 (the enthusiast option from FM1) and the new A85X which was notable for having 8 6Gbps SATA ports and Crossfire multi-GPU support, a feature usually set aside for enthusiast, high-end systems..
Aside from these minor changes from the previous generation very little actually changed on the general design of the platform. The APU offered 16x PCIe 2.0 lanes with a further four general purpose PCIe Gen 2.0 lanes from the FCH. Both A75 and A85X FCHs offered 4 USB 3.0 ports, 10 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 1.1 ports.
The new FM2 platform hoped to win the hearts and minds of entry-level to mid-range gamers enthusiasts with what was essentially a product refresh. A higher clocked CPU and an improved GPU, supported with much the same features that we encountered on FM1. Trinity APUs were built in the same 32nm process and in terms of memory support, featured the same dual channel DRR3-1866 integrated memory controller. In mid-2013 the FM2 platform was expanded to include Richland architecture APUs, a minor platform refresh with a bump in frequencies that retained the Piledriver architecture CPU part.
Most Popular AMD Socket FM2 Motherboard, the GIGABYTE F2A85X-UP4
Let’s take a look at the most popular FM2 boards used by overclockers on HWBOT. As with the FM1 era, we again find that the four big names in motherboard manufacturing again are found in the top ten. Alongside GIGABYTE with three boards, we find ASRock enjoying some success with four models while ASUS and MSI have to make do with one a piece. Biostar also have one board in the top ten.
- -GIGABYTE F2A85X-UP4 – 27.44%
- -MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 – 13.45%
- -ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 – 12.51%
- -ASUS F2A85-V Pro – 6.42%
- -Biostar – Hi-Fi A85X – 3.78%
- -ASRock FM2A88X Extreme4+ – 3.55%
- -GIGABYTE F2A85X-D3H – 2.99%
- -ASRock FM2A75M-DGS – 2.65%
- -ASRock FM2A75 Pro4-M – 2.57%
- -GIGABYTE F2A85XM-D3H – 2.27%
As a platform designed to span the mid-range to budget segment, it’s no surprise to see a distinct lack of ROG offerings from ASUS who have only one board on the list. It would appear that on this occasion ASUS was content to let ASRock and GIGABYTE steal the show. ASRock is well represented with four boards on the list, but combined these represent only 21% of all submissions. The most popular board from GIGABYTE commands a significantly larger share.
The popular GIGABYTE F2A85X-UP4 motherboard.
It’s fair to say that when it comes to HWBOT members, GIGABYTE clearly stole the show with their F2A85X-UP4 motherboard which was marketed as having superior power delivery, using more expensive PowIRStage components from International Rectifier. As components usually reserved for high-performance platforms, GIGABYTE successfully managed to garner a 27.44% of submissions with this one board. Did the fancier VRM design really make a difference to Overclockers? Is this what drove HWBOT users to the board in such numbers? Perhaps. The high-end VRM certainly helped with efficiency when overclocking with LN2, but it may also have been that the F2A85X-UP4 was simply the most high-end FM2 board on the market.
Most Popular AMD Socket FM2 Processor: AMD A10-5800K
The AMD Trinity architecture was initially launched on the company’s mobile processors, arriving on October 2012, some three months after it debuted in notebook PCs. The new Trinity desktop processor series arrived with six A-Series APUs and a pair of regular Athlon X4 CPUs. The flagship model was the A10-5800K, a quad core APU with a base clock of 3.8GHz, boosting to 4.2GHz. It was manufactured using the 32nm process, had a L2 cache of 4MB and a TDP $122 USD.
The AMD A10-5800K also proves to be the most popular processor in terms of submissions on the HWBOT database, accounting for 39.78% of all FM2 submissions. In terms of general popularity it actually was used by a 48.99% of FM2 users. A Richland product refresh a year later gave us the A10-6800K APU, a chip that is the second most popular FM2 APU being used 16.36% of all FM2 submissions.
The eagerly awaited Piledriver architecture debuted on Trinity ahead of the FX-Series (AM3) processor series with most enthusiasts keen to see if Bulldozer’s replacement could show genuine improvements in single threaded performance, an area where AMD was way behind Intel. The Piledriver cores did indeed offer better single-threaded performance, with most media testers reporting an improvement of around 6%. A clear improvement, but nothing to trouble Intel. A Sandy Bridge Pentium G850 still had the upper hand over AMD’s latest and greatest APU. In multi-threaded performance, AMD did better, but still could not find any way to beat Sandy Bridge equivalents.
In terms of overclocking AMD launched Trinity with three unlocked APUs that carried the familiar K suffix, devised by Intel. With Trinity and the newer Piledriver cores, AMD had done as as possible to allow for higher frequencies in an attempt to squeeze the maximum performance. For most ambient A10-5800K users a boost of 4.4GHz was possible with a 0.125v boost in voltage. More sophisticated custom water cooled systems could enjoy 4.5GHz stable. However, with LN2, the Piledriver cores proved to be capable of very high clocks of 8GHz and above, as we will soon see.
AMD Socket FM2: Record Scores
We can now take a look at some of the highest scores posted on HWBOT using AMD’s Socket FM2 platform.
Reference clock overclocking may not be the most important benchmark in today’s world, but back in the AMD Socket FM2 era, it remained an important way to determine a motherboard’s ability to perform well. The highest reference clock submitted on HWBOT using the AMD FM1 platform did not in fact use a GIGABYTE A75-UD4H board. The highest FM2 platform Reference Clock submission was submitted by Greek overclocker apostolosgt who managed to hit a reference clock of 281.75 MHz using an LN2 cooled AMD Athlon X4 740 and an ASUS M4A89GTD Pro motherboard .
Here’s a shot of the apostolosgt rig in action:
You can find the submission from apostolosgt here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/2368564_apostolosgt_reference_frequency_m4a89gtd_pro_281.75_mhz
Although raw CPU frequencies are not really treated as true benchmarks today, they remain an important performance metric for most overclockers. The highest CPU frequency ever submitted to HWBOT on the FM2 platform came from CHERV from Hong Kong who pushed a Richland-based AMD A10-6800K to a pretty incredible 8,520.22MHz (+106.82%) using LN2 and an ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+ motherboard.
You can find the submission from CHERV here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/2438627_cherv_cpu_frequency_a10_6800k_8520.22_mhz
Finally, we come to the classic SuperPi 32M benchmark, an important benchmark in terms of historical relevance. The fastest SuperPi 32M run submitted on HWBOT on the FM2 platform was submitted by French legend Wizerty. He managed a run of 19min 54sec 812ms using an AMD A10-6800K ‘Richland’ clocked at 7,636MHz (+86.24%).
The submission was made as part of the GIGABYTE sponsored Pi is Returned contest on HWBOT. Here’s a shot of the LN2 cooled Wizerty rig and a GIGABYTE F2A85X-UP4 motherboard looking very frosty indeed:
Check out the submission from Wizerty here: http://hwbot.org/submission/2426602_wizerty_superpi___32m_a10_6800k_9min_54sec_812ms
Thanks for joining us for today’s trip down Motherboard Memory Lane. Return next week when we hone in on the AMD Socket FM2+ platform, plus the motherboards, chips and scores that defined it.