Though not based on the latest and greatest A85X chipset, the Gigabyte GA-F2A75M-D3H doesn’t give up much, and its attractive price makes it a natural complement to the value offered by AMD’s Trinity APU lineup.
November 15, 2012 by Lawrence Lee
FM2 microATX Motherboard
The launch of Trinity gives AMD a more worthwhile platform for mainstream users put-off by the pricing of the AMD FX and Intel Core i5/i7 product lines. Trinity offers plenty of bang for your buck, with true quad core CPUs and world class integrated graphics starting at about US$100. Often lost in the value equation is the cost of motherboards. Traditionally AMD boards have been more affordable than Intel counterparts sporting the similar features, and we’re glad to say that this trend continues.
The first FM2 board we reviewed, the ASUS F2A85-M Pro at US$130 is actually the most expensive model currently on the market. Though we were pleased with the ample feature-set and in particular, the inclusion of ASUS’ excellent Fan Xpert 2 fan control software, we don’t feel it’s the type of board that the majority of prospective Trinity buyers are looking for. Our general rule of thumb is the motherboard should not cost more than the processor.
A value processor isn’t much of a value without a comparable motherboard and at US$80, the Gigabyte F2A75M-D3H more closely fits the bill. Notably, this model uses the older A75 chipset which debuted with Llano/FM1 last year. The latest A85X chipset incrementally improves the Trinity experience, only adding the option for a 8x/8x CrossFireX mode and a couple of extra SATA ports. The budget A55 chipset, on the other hand, is very basic, lacking native SATA 6 Gbps and USB 3.0 controllers. A75 is a reasonable compromise between the two.
Gigabyte GA-F2A75M-D3H: Specifications
(from the product
1. AMD A series processors
2. AMD Athlon™ series processors
(Please refer "CPU Support List" for more information.)
|Chipset||1. AMD A75|
|Memory||1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 64 GB of system memory|
2. Dual channel memory architecture
3. Support for DDR3 1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz memory modules
4. Support for AMD Memory Profile (AMP)/ Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
“Memory support is dependent on memory module compatibility and system OS”.
(Please refer "Memory Support List" for more information.)
|Onboard Graphics||APU: To use the onboard graphics ports, you must install an AMD APU with integrated graphics.|
1 x D-Sub port
1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 2560×1600
* Support for 2560×1600 resolution requires both a monitor and cable that support Dual Link DVI.
* The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1200
|Audio||1. Realtek ALC887 codec|
2. High Definition Audio
4. Support for S/PDIF Out
|LAN||1. Realtek GbE LAN chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)|
|Expansion Slots||1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)|
* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4)
1 x PCI Express x1 slot
(All PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
1 x PCI slot
|Multi-Graphics Technology||Support for AMD CrossFire™ technology|
Support for AMD Dual Graphics technology
* Only A series APUs support AMD Dual Graphics.
1. 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors supporting up to 6 SATA 6Gb/s devices
2. Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, and JBOD
1. Up to 4 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
2. Up to 8 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB headers)
|Internal I/O Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector|
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x APU fan header
2 x system fan headers
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
1 x USB 3.0/2.0 header
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
1 x serial port header
1 x parallel port header
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
|Back Panel Connectors||1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port|
1 x D-Sub port
1 x DVI-D port
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
1 x HDMI port
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x RJ-45 port
3 x audio jacks (Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
|Unique Features||Support for @BIOS|
Support for Q-Flash
Support for Xpress Install
Support for EasyTune
* Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.
Support for Smart Recovery 2
Support for Auto Green
Support for ON/OFF Charge
Support for 3TB+ Unlock
Support for Q-Share
From the look of it, the F2A75M-D3H has almost everything offered by the A75 chipset but nothing more. The board has six SATA 6 Gbps ports with some RAID options, two USB 3.0 ports and an onboard header, S/PDIF and HDMI. Missing are a DisplayPort output, eSATA, and wireless connectivity options like Bluetooth and WiFi.
Like its feature-set, the F2A75M-D3H’s bundle is quite bare. Just the basics are included: Documentation, driver disc, I/O shield, and a couple of black SATA cables.
The F2A75M-D3H is laid out like other AMD microATX motherboards. Most of
the connectors are at the edges of the board where they are easily accessed,
though the 8-pin EPS12V connector is in the top left corner; if you have a large third party cooler and a case with a top-mounted power supply, it could be a real pain to connect.
Since our last Gigabyte motherboard review (the P67A-UD4), they’ve followed suit with competitors like ASUS, updating to a UEFI BIOS with a fancied graphical user interface.
The F2A75M-D3H doesn’t have a ton of options so some of the menus look a bit sparse. For example, the voltage and frequency settings have only a few items but they’re placed on separate pages. It would not only look better but also be more convenient if they were grouped together.
BIOS Summary: Gigabyte F2A75M-D3H
|BLCK/PCIe Clock||100 to 140 MHz|
|Graphics Clock||300 to 2000 MHz|
|NB Clock||800 to 6000 MHz|
|Memory Frequency||800 to 3360 MHz|
|CPU Vcore||Up to +0.300 V|
|NB Core||Up to +0.300 V|
|DRAM Voltage||1.200 to 1.900 V|
|Memory Timing Options||Advanced|
|UMA Frame Buffer||256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB|
Compared to enthusiast class boards, the settings available are very simplistic and the limits on voltage are a bit restrictive and there’s no undervolting at all. The BLCK clock can only be raised up by 40 MHz over stock but anything more might actually be dangerous for the hardware as it’s tied to the PCIe clock. As a result, it’s probably not possible to raise the BLCK frequency to a substantial level without creating instability, making overclocking, at least with a locked non-K series chip, very difficult.
Fan control settings are available for all three fan headers. There are two presets, "Normal" and "Silent", as well as a manual mode which allows users to adjust the slope from 0.75 to 2.50 PWM value / C in 0.25 increments. Unfortunately you can’t define maximum/minimum temperatures or fan speeds from this menu.
Measurement and Analysis Tools
Video Test Suite
Flash 1080p: The Dark Knight Rises Official Trailer #3, a YouTube HD trailer in 1080p.
Estimating DC Power
The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Seasonic SS-400ET used in our test system:
Seasonic SS-400ET Test Results
DC Output (W)
AC Input (W)
This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our test
system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power input
based on this data. We won’t go through the math; it’s easy enough to figure
out for yourself if you really want to.
If available, the latest motherboard BIOS is installed prior to testing. Certain services/features
like Indexing, Superfetch, System Restore, and Windows Defender are disabled
to prevent them from causing spikes in CPU/HDD usage. We also make note if energy
saving features like Cool’n’Quiet/SpeedStep or S3 suspend-to-RAM do not function
properly. If a WiFi adapter is present, it is disabled unless the system lacks wired ethernet.
Our main test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power consumption
at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel). To stress the CPU, we
use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces higher system power consumption. After 10~15 minutes of load (when temperatures stabilize), we also measure the hottest points on the external heatsinks using an infrared thermometer. To stress the IGP, we use FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility.
Finally, storage subsystems are tested briefly using CrystalDiskMark (1000 MB of 0x00 fill test data) and a Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB solid state drive. For USB and eSATA we use an external eSATA/USB 3.0 dock to connect the drive.
On light load, the A8-5600K and F2A75M-D3H is one of the most energy efficient desktop combinations we’ve encountered, hitting 17W DC when idle, an astonishing 5W improvement over the ASUS F2A85-M Pro.
On heavy load, the scales tip in the opposite direction, with the F2A75M-D3H using 2W more compared to the F2A85-M Pro when encoding video with TMPGEnc and running synthetic CPU and GPU stressors.
Unfortunately it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much of the energy draw
is generated by the processor alone, as the amount of power pulled from the
AUX/EPS12V connector depends on how board power regulation has been implemented. As a proportion of total system draw, the AUX/EPS12V draw on the F2A75M-D3H was noticeably higher than the ASUS F2A85-M Pro. This typically indicative of a more simplistic voltage regulation design that also correlates with better efficiency under low load.
To test the board’s cooling, we stressed the CPU for ~15 minutes with Prime95/CPU Burn. Temperatures of the boards’ chipset and VRM heatsinks (if applicable) were recorded using a spot thermometer. The highest temperatures were taken for comparison.
As the F2A75M-D3H lacks a VRM heatsink we recorded the temperature of the hottest exposed chip instead, so naturally it was substantially higher though we didn’t encounter any stability issues (we’ve also seen much worse temperatures in the past on exposed VRMs). The FCH heatsink did a fairly good job however, running somewhat cooler than the F2A85-M Pro.
The fan control options in the UEFI/BIOS are fairly simplistic and it’s not much better on the desktop. EasyTune, Gigabyte’s multipurpose tweaking and monitoring tool, offers a little more functionality but it’s rudimentary at best.
EasyTune adds the option to adjust the temperature range and the minimum fan speed but the maximum fan speed is locked at 100%. It also only allows you to choose two points so changes in fan speed are completely linear.
Once again, if you’re Windows user, a better fan control experience is available in the form of SpeedFan. Properly configured, it can control all three fans, though SYS_FAN1 only works with voltage control (3-pin) and the same control is tied to the voltage of CPU_FAN. To enable the fan controls, find the "IT8728F" chip in the advanced menu and change its PWM 1-3 modes to "software controlled."
We also discovered through trial and error that the temperature Gigabyte specifies as "System" corresponds to the area around the VRMs to the left of the APU socket. This is a good location for a temperature sensor as the circuitry in that location runs quite hot and lacks cooling aside from any spill-over airflow from the CPU fan.
To test boot time we optimize the BIOS menu by setting the hard drive and other delays set to minimum, taking care not to disable common functionality like USB support, POST messages, etc. and measure the time it takes to reach the Windows loading screen (we stop here because this is the point where the O/S drive speed becomes a factor).
The boot process on the F2A75M-D3H is fairly fast, hitting the Windows loading screen in about 12 seconds.
Storage Subsystem Performance
To test storage subsystems we use CrystalDiskMark (1000 MB setting with 0x00 fill test data) and a Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB solid state drive. The drive is connected to an external dock for eSATA and USB 3.0 benchmarking (limited to 3 Gbps and 5 Gbps respectively unfortunately).
As A85X chipset is only a minor update of the A75 chipset, the speed of the Gigabyte F2A75M-D3H’s native AMD controller was very similar to that of the ASUS F2A85-M Pro.
Strangely we saw a significant disparity in USB 3.0 performance between the two FM2 boards, with the Gigabyte model delivering a good 30~40% improvement in both sequential and random 512K reads and writes against the ASUS board with its USB 3.0 Boost feature enabled. We cannot account for this discrepancy.
Compared to the more expensive ASUS F2A85-M Pro, the Gigabyte F2A75M-D3H lacks a DisplayPort connector, eSATA, and 8x/8x CrossFireX. However, you could argue that most monitors still don’t use DisplayPort, USB 3.0 will replace eSATA (or an internal SATA port with a eSATA adapter is a simple alternative), and CrossFireX is unlikely to be used in a value APU-based system. The main things expected in a modern motherboard are present, namely SATA 6 Gbps and USB 3.0, native to the A75 chipset.
Also missing are a few intangibles not clearly specified in the features list. Users who heavily overclock to get the most for their money will be disappointed as the UEFI/BIOS is a bit restrictive. All the basic frequency and voltage settings are available but in a narrow range. It’s also not as well cooled as most motherboards due to the absence of a VRM heatsink. The fan control system is rudimentary though all three fan headers are controllable, which is rare on such an affordable board. Windows users have the option of using SpeedFan as a more capable replacement to Gigabyte’s EasyTune utility.
The F2A75M-D3H has outstanding idle power consumption at 17W DC (27W AC measured at the wall), a sizable 5W less than the ASUS F2A85-M Pro. If you’re concerned about energy efficiency, it’s one of the more frugal options for a low demand system like a server or home theater machine. However, the harder you push it, the more it uses; on full load, it ended consuming a couple of watts more than the ASUS board and we surmise that trend would continue with a higher power or overclocked processor.
The Gigabyte F2A75M-D3H doesn’t offer a lot of features but that’s forgivable given the price. It’s a better fit than the premium A85X models as Trinity is AMD"s value platform. If you’re really strapped for cash, boards based on the A55 chipset start at ~US$50 but lack pretty much everything mentioned above. An A75 board for US$80 hits much closer to the sweet spot.
Our thanks to Gigabyte
for the GA-F2A75M-D3H motherboard sample.
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