The FM2+ platform can be a tough sell. The APUs are relatively inexpensive, but the CPU performance with a maximum of four threads often has other users looking to the AM3+ platform, or just at Intel in general. The GPU performance of the Kaveri processors is second to none, but anyone wanting to play modern games will likely want a standalone video card. A single GTX 750 or any other $130+ video card is going to thoroughly trounce the integrated graphics of the A10-7850K.
The power MOSFETs have extra support and cooling on the back of the board.
If there is one glimmer of promise for the FM2+ platform for enthusiasts it is the promise of HSA. If software can leverage the GPU power of the Kaveri APU, then we have a much more interesting and compelling solution for the budget enthusiast. AMD is further enhancing the value of their APUs with Mantle support, which takes a significant amount of CPU/driver overhead out of the equation. This will make the CPU portion of the APU a much more competitive option as compared to Intel products.
There really is no question that the Asus Crossblade Ranger is the cream of the crop when it comes to FM2+ motherboards. Better power management, outstanding firmware features and layout, inclusion of the Intel Gig-E chip and software layer, and probably the best onboard audio I have yet experienced. All of this wrapped up in Asus’ ROG branding and color scheme.
The top portion of the board features the extra buttons, dipswitches, and voltage monitoring points.
The price is not terrible for the package that a user gets. This really is a top notch motherboard that likely is being held back from consideration due to APU choices. Then again, the overall price of the top end APU and this board is about the same as the intel i7 4790K by itself. Price is certainly the most appealing feature of this particular combination.
If users decide to go on the AMD APU route, they have a very nice motherboard that they can rely upon without suffering the sticker shock of other Asus ROG boards. The layout is very good, and I especially like how multi-GPU solutions are addressed with the PEG spacing. The audio is again very good and provides excellent software support for users wanting to customize their listening experience. The Intel Gig-E controller is top of its class and provides some peace of mind when it comes to throughput and potential driver issues.
6+2 power phases are not as common on FM2+ boards as one would think. This particular layout really stresses outstanding cooling and space around the APU.
One last consideration for those who may be put off by the lower CPU performance at that particular pricepoint for AMD is that DX12 will be showing up next year, and should have the same effect on CPU performance as we see now with Mantle. More HSA software is on the horizon and programming languages are adapting to these new specifications. Hopefully AMD can further evangelize HSA and we see a wider adoption. Until that time, Kaveri plus the Asus Crossblade Ranger is a nicely performing combination with extensive features which will not empty out the pocketbook of the budget enthusiast. I highly recommend considering this board if building an AMD APU based solution. It is not all that much more expensive than competing products but has a host of features that justifies that extra cost.