AMD’s Kaveri launches today in the US, Canada and several European countries, but we’re going to have to wait for the hardware to reach our shores before we can enjoy all its goodness. Because today is only the launch day, some motherboard manufacturers are still getting on board the Kaveri bandwagon and readying themselves for what could be the biggest change to how computing has been done in the past decade. MSI is one of AMD’s board partners readying themselves for the onslaught of APUs and their new socket FM2+ lineup shown off at CES 2014 looks good to go.
The first board ready for the market is the MSI A88XI, a mini-ITX board for the HTPC and small-form-factor markets. It boasts 4+1 power phases, four SATA 6GB/s ports, Wi-Fi through a bundled Intel 802.11ac mini-PCIe board and two DDR3 slots, enough for 16GB of DDR3-2400 goodness. There’s also a full-size PCI-E 3.0 16x slot for discrete graphics, HDMI, VGA and DVI-D video ports, six USB ports and Optical Out for external audio amplifiers.
Its good to see that more manufacturers are paying attention to the need for ITX motherboards for AMD’s APU family. They’re perfectly suited to that kind of form factor and, especially if you’re only going to be using the built-in GPU anyway, why splurge on a bigger board that won’t offer much more in the way of connectivity or features?
Next on show was the A88XM-E45, a mATX-sized budget board aimed at consumers who don’t need all the bells and whistles. MSI’s VRM phase layout on the A88XM-E45 sticks to a 4+2 configuration but adds in another two RAM slots (up to 32GB DDR3 support), tacks on more PCI-E connectivity, is capable of running two discrete Radeon graphics cards in Crossfire over two PCI-E 3.0 8x links and bumps up the SATA port count to 8.
As a mATX board it’ll fit into a lot more rigs than the niche market that ITX still finds itself in, but the board disappointingly only has a single 4-pin 12v EPS connector and a tiny heatsink for the VRM bank. Overclocking capability will be there, but severely limited compared to other, better boards.
The MSI A88XM Gaming is similar to the A88XM-E45, but changes the PCI layout a little and rotates all the SATA ports at a 90° angle for cleaner builds and making installing longer graphics cards less of a pain. It retains the E45’s 4+2 power phase layout but covers all of them with a single heatsink connected by a copper pipe. The EPS connector is now an 8-pin one and there should be a decent amount of overclocking headroom here.
As a Gaming variant of MSI’s family, it includes Killer NIC Ethernet and MSI’s Audio Boost logic courtesy of Realtek, which is also separated from the rest of the board components by a sliver of empty PCB space. This, MSI hopes, is enough to ward off audio interference from the rest of the system components and will net you a better quality audio experience.
Last on the list is the A88X-G45 Gaming. It shares the same DNA as the A88XM Gaming in terms of component layout, Killer NIC networking and the Audio Boost solution. The VRM layout is bumped up to a 6+2 configuration and is again cooled by a single heatsink. Like the A88XM, MSI retains the power, reset and OC Genie buttons directly on the board itself. MSI also includes a debug LED display below the SATA ports and includes a set of status LEDs by the on-board buttons to let you know more about what’s going on in your system.
Kaveri launches today on 14 January 2014 at 8AM EST time (approximately four hours from now at the time of writing). Its going to be AMD’s first stab at making a commercially available HSA-compliant APU and it will be the first readily available product to integrate Steamroller and GCN together on a single die to sell to consumers.