MSI A88XM GAMING: Premium FM2+ Motherboard

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MSI A88XM GAMING: Premium FM2+ Motherboard

May 22, 2014 by Lawrence Lee

FM2/FM2+ mATX Motherboard
Street Price

AMD's FM2/FM2+ socket is positioned as their mainstream budget platform for the masses. Rather than world beating performance, their desktop APUs offer decent integrated graphics, energy efficiency, and affordability. Their quad core chips are particularly popular as Intel has nothing comparable at anywhere near the US$100 price-point. AMD's motherboards are cheaper as well, by about US$20 on average, as determined in our A8-7600 review. High-end boards often go for twice the average or more and are jam-packed with every feature you can imagine and may include frivolous bonuses. For a budget socket like FM2+, premium models are somewhat more reserved.


At US$110, the MSI A88XM GAMING is one of the most expensive FM2+ boards on the market, and is easily the priciest microATX model (the smaller form factor is often reserved for more basic fare). Compared to the few FM2/FM2+ boards we've used in the past, the A88XM has a more professional appearance and formidable looking heatsinks. MSI designates it as Military Class 4, that is to say, they claim it's manufactured with higher quality components that run cooler and more efficiently.

MSI A88XM GAMING: Specifications
(from the product web page)
CPU AMD Socket FM2+/ FM2 A-Series/Athlon™ Processors
* Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.
Chipset AMD® A88X Chipset
Main Memory 4 x DDR3 memory slots support up to 32GB
• Supports DDR3 1333/ 1600/ 1866/ 2133/ 2400(OC) MHz
• Dual channel memory architecture
• Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory
• Supports AMD Memory Profile (AMP)
• Supports Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* For the support status of AMP/XMP memory modules, please take MSI’s Memory Support list as reference.
Slots • 2 x PCIe x16 slots
- PCI_E1 supports up to PCIe 3.0 x16 speed*
- PCI_E4 supports up to PCIe 3.0 x8 speed*
• 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
* Only FM2+ processors can support PCIe 3.0
Graphics 1 x VGA port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200 @60Hz, 24bpp
• 1 x DVI-D port, supporting the maximum resolutions of [email protected], 24bpp/ 1920x1200 @ 60Hz, 24bpp
• 1 x HDMI port, supporting the maximum resolutions of [email protected], 36bpp*/ [email protected], 36bpp*/[email protected], 36bpp and [email protected], 36bpp
• 1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of [email protected], 24bpp**
** The DisplayPort does not support "Hot-plug".
On-Board SATA AMD® A88X Chipset
- 8 x SATA 6Gb/s ports
- Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID5 and RAID 10
USB • AMD® A88X Chipset
- 4 x USB 3.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
- 8 x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 6 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
• VIA VL806 Chipset
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports on the back panel*
* These USB 3.0 ports do not support M-Flash recovery function.
Audio • Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
- 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
- Supports S/PDIF output
LAN Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller*
-1 x LAN port on the backpanel
* The Killer Network Manager is only available for Windows 7 and Windows 8 currently. The supported drivers for other operating systems would be available on the website if provided by vendor.
Internal I/O Connectors 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- 4 x USB 3.0 ports
- 1 x VGA port
- 1 x DVI-D port
- 1 x HDMI port
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF-Out connector
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
- 6 x OFC audio jackss
* This platform supports dual-display function (HDMI+VGA, HDMI+DVI, VGA+DVI) and triple-display function (HDMI+VGA+DVI) MSI Reminds You...
• The graphic output can only work with CPUs with GPUs core inside.
Dimension 9.6 in. x 9.6 in. (24.4 cm x 24.4 cm) Micro-ATX Form Factor
Mounting 6 mounting holes

From a feature standpoint, the board is well equipped and has some interesting extras. The A88X chipset allows for eight SATA 6 Gbps ports, and MSI threw in an additional VIA controller to bring the USB 3.0 port count up to four at the back with an additional two available for front connectivity. Two PCI-E 3.0 16x slots are provided (reverts to PCI-E 2.0 for FM2 chips) though the bottom slot is 8x and its positioning almost guarantees you'll need an ATX case for a two-way CrossFire GPU configuration. The board sports "Audio Boost" which means the integrated sound chip is shielded from EMI, its signal traces are isolated from the rest of the board circuitry to cut down interference, and an 600 ohm headphone amplifier has been added for extra aural damage. The onboard gigabit ethernet adapter is a Killer E2205, based on the polarizing Killer NIC that claimed to reduce gaming latency and improve framerates. One of the chief complaints of the Killer NIC was its outrageous price (over US$200) so it's amusing to see the technology built into a US$110 motherboard.

The box.


The A88XM GAMING comes with the usual assortment of accessories including a user guide, driver/utility disc, I/O shield, and four SATA cables. They've also thrown in an oversized case badge, a somewhat ironic "do not disturb sign" for your door, and a report summarizing the benchmark results filled out by an MSI employee, suggesting each board is hand-tested before being shipped out.

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