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ASRock FM2A55M-DGS

With the release of AMD’s ‘Trinity’ APUs, we’ve been treated to a varied selection of new motherboards to suit. Today we will be taking a look at ASRock’s ‘budget’ offering, the FM2A55M-DGS, a M-ATX board featuring a great price and decent feature set. It looks good, but is this a solid performer?

AMD’s Trinity APU series is based off the HD6000 graphics processing units, and ‘Piledriver’ CPU cores. While the Piledriver CPU portion has been controversial, the HD6000 technology is a proven performer. ASRock has developed various boards for the FM2 APUs, from this budget offering to high end ATX boards.

Specifications

CPU Support for Socket FM2 100W processors
Supports AMD’s Cool ‘n’ Quiet Technology/span>
UMI-Link GEN2
Chipset AMD A55 FCH (Hudson-D2)
Memory Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
2 x DDR3 DIMM slots
Supports DDR3 2400+(OC)/2133(OC)/1866/1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
Max. capacity of system memory: 32GB*
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 1.3 / 1.2
Supports AMD Memory Profile (AMP)
*To reach the maximum 32GB of system memory, memory modules with 16GB capacity or above are required. ASRock will update the memory support list on the official website once these memory modules are available on the market.
**Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation.
BIOS 64Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with GUI support
Supports “Plug and Play”
ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
Supports jumperfree
SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
DRAM, VDDP, VDDR, SB Voltage Multi-adjustment
Video Integrated AMD Radeon HD 7000 series graphics in A-series APU
DirectX 11, Pixel Shader 5.0
Max. shared memory 2GB
Dual VGA Output: Support DVI and D-Sub ports by independent display controllers
Supports Dual-link DVI with max. resolution up to 2560×1600 @ 75Hz
Supports D-Sub with max. resolution up to 1920×1600 @ 60Hz
Supports AMD Steady Video™ 2.0: New video post processing capability for automatic jutter reduction on home/online video
Supports HDCP function with DVI port
Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback with DVI port
Audio 5.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC662 Audio Codec)
LAN PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
Realtek RTL8111E
Supports Wake-On-LAN
Supports LAN Cable Detection
Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
Supports PXE
Expansion / Connectivity 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (PCIE1 @ x16 mode) -Supports AMD Dual Graphics
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
1 x PCI slot
Connector 6 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10), NCQ, AHCI and “Hot Plug” functions
1 x IR header
1 x CIR header
1 x Print port header
1 x COM port header
1 x CPU Fan connector (4-pin)
1 x Chassis Fan connector (4-pin)
1 x Power Fan connector (3-pin)
24 pin ATX power connector
4 pin 12V power connector
Front panel audio connector
3 x USB 2.0 headers (support 6 USB 2.0 ports)
Rear I/O 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
1x D-Sub Port
1x DVI-D Port
4x Ready-To-Use USB 2.0 Ports
1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
HD Audio Jack: Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Form Factor M-ATX
Other Unique Feature- ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility (AXTU) ASRock Instant Boot
ASRock Instant Flash
ASRock APP Charger
ASRock XFast USB
ASRock XFast LAN
ASRock XFast RAM
ASRock Crashless BIOS
ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard)
ASRock Internet Flash
ASRock UEFI System Browser
ASRock Dehumidifier Function
ASRock Easy RAID Installer
ASRock Interactive UEFI
Hybrid Booster
ASRock U-COP
Support CD- Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 Trial, Google Chrome Browser and Toolbar
Accessories- Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield, 2 x SATA Data Cables
Hardware Monitor- CPU Temperature Sensing
Chassis Temperature Sensing
CPU/Chassis/Power Fan Tachometer
CPU/Chassis Quiet Fan
CPU/Chassis Fan Multi-Speed Control
Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, Vcore
Solid Capacitor for CPU power
OS- Microsoft® Windows® 8 / 8 64-bit / 7 / 7 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit compliant
Certifications- FCC, CE, WHQL
ErP/EuP Ready (ErP/EuP ready power supply is required)

(Borrowed from the ASRock product page)

As usual, ASRock has used the ‘black’ color scheme, with very few components not being this colour. This achieves a solid look which should please the modding community – except ASRock’s board coating has left the appearance of the PCB more brown than black due to the copper traces. This is a bit disappointing, but is to be expected in this price range – we saw the same on the ASRock H61M-ITX that we saw late last year.

ASRock FM2A55M-DGS Overview

ASRock FM2A55M-DGS Overview

ASRock FM2A55M-DGS Expansion Slots

ASRock FM2A55M-DGS Expansion Slots

The board features 2 DDR3 RAM slots, a PCIE v2 x16 slot, a PCIe v2 x1 slot and a PCI slot for older cards. 6 SATA 2.0 (3 gb/s) ports cover storage, and a multitude of headers are available for any other ports you need to add (LPT, Serial, etc). 3 fan headers cover your cooling needs, with the CPU and front fan fan headers being 4-pin PWM items.

ASRock FM2A55M-DGS Rear I/O

ASRock FM2A55M-DGS Rear I/O

Rear IO ports cover the basics, with PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard, a VGA and DVI-D port for display outputs from the AMD APU, 4 USB 2.0 ports, the RJ45 jack for gigabit ethernet, and 3 audio jacks for 5.1 surround sound. Note the DVI-I port cannot be used with an adapter to run a VGA monitor, however you can run dual screens (hence the DGS/ Dual Graphics System moniker) from the board.

ASRock FM2A55M-DGS Back Side

ASRock FM2A55M-DGS Back Side

With the ‘budget’ target for this product, we expect some missing features – the board lacks USB3.0 and SATA 6gb/s connectors, has a simple 3+1-phase voltage regulation for the APU (we will cover this more on the next page), fewer audio channels and so forth. This may sound disapointing, but remember we are looking at ASRock’s cheapest FM2 board here.

Rumours, photos and profanities have been flying around the hardware discussion forums about ASRock FM2 boards and some power supply issues. Basically, a growing number of users have had PWM phases fail (quietly or spectacularly) under normal use on their ASRock FM2 boards. The most common board to have this issue is the now discontinued FM2A75M-ITX board. So what’s the cause here?

Simply put, AMD’s Trinity can be thirsty. Real thirsty for those tasty amperes. Without sufficient cooling, budget FM2 boards may have PWM overheating issues as the APU tries to draw a lot of current through lower spec power phases. Sharing a similar power phase design, the FM2A75M-ITX and the FM2A55M-DGS both have instability issues. In the 4 weeks our review sample has been in regular use, it has seen over 40 power-related Blue Screens of Death, even with a known quality FPS Hexa 500w PSU. In our experience the board is unstable without aftermarket cooling of the power phase MOSFETs, which is completely unnaceptable on a production board. Keep in mind we were using a 65w A4-5300, and the board is rated for 100w APUs!

So whats the issue here? Driving the APU’s graphics core is the problem – the boards are designed in a way that the GPU is powered by a single phase! This would normally be acceptable, if the MOSFETs had sufficient cooling (i.e. Heatsinks). I can’t imagine it would cost that much to add a MOSFET cooler to the board at the factory.

BIOS

The BIOS interface used on this board is a graphical UEFI system, like we saw with the H61M-ITX board last year. ASRock has obviously improved their code as the UEFI on this board is smooth, easy to use, and big free.

Conclusion

Sometimes when buying hardware, pinching pennies can lead to frustration, as it did here. The board was unstable in daily use as an office system, let alone as a gaming or media system. With some additional cooling on the MOSFETs with a larger top-down cooler such as the Scythe Big Shuriken or Prolimatech Samuel, and some small heatsinks for the MOSFETs, we imagine this board will be a solid product for years to come.

Overall, the stability issues has dropped the mark on what is otherwise a good value for money product:

Pros:

  • 2400MHz RAM support for that extra APU boost
  • Great price
  • Adequate expansion capability
  • Good colour scheme

Cons:

  • Unstable in regular use
  • No USB3.0
  • No SATA 6gb/s

Overall Score:

Criteria Score out of 10
Build Quality 5
Features 6
Value 8
Appearance and Layout 8
Ease of Use 7
Total 34/50

SFFReview.com does not recommend this product without modification.

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