We have mentioned before that AMD A series processors are a good basis for building an HTPC. The CPU might be slower than Intel processors, but the GPU performance is actually better compared to Intel CPUs of the same price. You can read our review of the latest generation AMD processors here.
If you want to assemble a compact Mini ITX system using Trinity or Richland AMD A processors, there aren't that many motherboards to choose from. There are four, actually, and only one using the AMD A85X chipset. Today we will take a closer look at that one, called the ASRock FM2A85X-ITX.
The AMD A85X doesn't have that much added value for ITX boards, at a first glance. If you look at the table here, you can see that the A85X chipset has eight instead of six Serial ATA 600 ports. It also makes it possible to split the PCI-Express lanes from the CPU in two, for Crossfire. Using more than two video cards isn't an option for Mini ITX, however, since there physically isn't any space for two graphics cards slots. And it's doubtful whether you will actually use that many SATA ports, but for a small server it could be practical.
On the ASRock board, the Socket FM2 processor socket is combined with two DDR3 RAM slots. The only expansion slot is the PCI-Express x16 slot. Here you could place a graphics card, but PCI-Express x1 or x4 expansion cards will also work. Out of the eight Serial ATA 600 ports from the A85X chipset, seven are internal and one is used for eSATA. The board features 4x USB 3.0 and 8x USB 2.0, half of which are located on the back by the I/O connectors.
For the intergrated graphics in the CPU, the board has VGA, DVI and HDMI monitor connectors. There's no DisplayPort. Giganbit LAN is provided by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, and the 7.1 audio comes from a Realtek ALC892 codec. The board has a digital audio output, and ASRock bundles THX TruStudio Pro software.
Two of the three fan connectors are of the PWM variety, and there's a 6-phase CPU power supply. The BIOS is comprehensive and even includes overclocking options that you can use on this board. As you can see in the screenshots below, it's the latest generation EFI shell.
The motherboard has an average price of $109, which is slightly more than the other Socket FM2 ITX motherboards using the A75 chipset. Compared to ATX or Micro ATX motherboards with the A85X chipset it's very affordable, however.