As all enthusiasts know, the top CPU model in the latest generation Ryzen family – 2700X – already out of the box has the maximum frequency settings that the manufacturer was able to offer as part of the Pinnacle Ridge architecture update. For greater acceleration, older, and therefore expensive, motherboards are required, plus a certain level of knowledge from the user. Therefore, there is interest in the segment of devices where this processor will be able to operate at its limit values with the active status of proprietary dynamic frequency increase technologies, but at the same time you will not have to overpay for “extra” functions. Our material will serve as evidence of such successful work with the assistance of the youngest, up-to-date AMD hub – A320, intended for entry-level products.
Inexpensive devices have already passed through our laboratory. The older Ryzen 7 1800X couldn’t make it through the Prime95 test on the ASRock AB350M, but ran flawlessly on the slightly stronger MSI A320M Grenade, but the temperatures there were psychologically uncomfortable. Obviously, for an even more productive R7 2700X, the voltage converter should be better. This, at first glance, can be found in the EX-A320M Gaming – the most expensive model in Ukrainian retail based on AMD A320.
The device belongs to the Expedition series of products, that is, those where a backlog has been created for harsher working conditions than conventional devices (Prime series, if we talk about motherboards). There is a bright design and even a small corner with RGB LED backlighting. At the same time, the device remains a representative of the younger segment, here all the possibilities are based on the resources of the used CPU (APU) and PCH, there are no additional controllers that increase the number of interfaces. Sound and network controllers are also entry-level. The general set of possibilities is collected in the table.
|Model||ASUS EX-A320M Gaming|
|Official product page on the Web||asus.com|
|Processor socket||AMD AM4|
|Processors||AMD Series: Athlon Zen, Athlon X4, A6, A8, A10, A12, Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7|
|Memory||4 DIMM DDR4 SDRAM 2133/2400/2666/2800*/2933*/3000*/3200*(OC), 64 GB maximum|
|PCI slots||1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x16) — CPU
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x8) — APU/Athlon
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x4 (x2) — A320
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 — A320
|M.2||1 x PCI Express 3.0 x4, SATA (Key M, 2242/2260/2280/22110) — Ryzen
1 x SATA (Key M, 2242/2260/2280/22110) — A-Series/Athlon X4
|Integrated video core (in APU)||Radeon Series: Vega, R7, R5|
|Video connectors||HDMI 1.4b, DVI-D|
|Number of connected fans||3x 4pin|
|The port is USB||6 x 3.1 Gen1 (4 connectors on the rear panel, A320)
6 x 2.0 (2 connectors on the rear panel, A320)
|Serial ATA||4 x SATA 6Gb/s (A320)|
|RAID||0, 1, 10 (SATA, A320)|
|Built-in sound||Realtek ALC887 (7.1, HDA)|
|Networking||Realtek RTL8111H (Gigabit Ethernet)|
|Dimensions, mm||244 x 244|
|Additional features||Lighting Control Center (Aura lighting system including Aura RGB Strip Header)|
|Retail price, $||91|
Packaging and equipment
The box is small, but designed brightly and effectively. There is a photo of the board on the front, on the lower right corner of the device you can see the backlight.
Behind is another similar photo and a table with the main characteristics. The advantages of this board in the face of a collage of pictures and accompanying inscriptions are centered around the hardware area, in particular, they marked improved resistance to wet and corrosive environments, whatever that really means.
Starter kit. Available:
- user manual, which illustrates and describes the UEFI sub-items in detail (in English);
- DIY Guide QR code, leading to the page of the official website, which contains detailed instructions for assembling a PC;
- mounting screw and stand for M.2 devices;
- short multilingual user manual for PC assembly;
- an additional booklet with information on the need to comply with a number of safety measures when assembling and operating the system;
- disk with drivers and proprietary software;
- plug for the body, standard version – with embossed symbols and icons for designating sockets;
- two SATA 6Gb / s cables, one of which has an L-shaped connector on one of the ends.
It’s hard not to highlight the abundance of elements of red shades, those that previously personified the belonging of the boards to the ROG series, but now everything has become different. Despite the high status of the device (within its own category, of course), there is no cover over the I/O ports on the rear panel. There are also no “extra” buttons and switches, we have a base for a one-time assembly of the system. Auxiliary indicators of events are also not provided. We are pleased with the fact that it conforms to the mATX format, there are eight holes for fixing the position of the device in the case.
There are practically no electronic components on the back side. The backlight is formed from a trio of multicolor LEDs directed towards the inscription formed by etching copper conductors in textolite layers.
The hub cooler is extremely simple – it is a “two-story” radiator with a slight hint of ribbed surfaces.
The only M.2 port on the board will be able to interact with devices of different sizes, including the longest ones (11 cm). There is no pre-installed heatsink.
SATA sockets are transverse. Three pieces are located along the bottom edge of the device, another one is soldered near the main power connector of the device.
There is no way to use a symmetrical USB socket from the case, one block is provided for outputs of the third generation of the interface and two more for cables of its second, classic version. All of them are also transverse.
The shielded, red PCI-E x16 socket interfaces with the socket, while the smaller black slots interact with the hub. Only two PCI-E lines are connected to the bottom slot, but any device can be mounted due to the lack of a back wall there.
Basic versions of the multicontroller, audio codec and network adapter are used. There are no protective screens, op amps or any other “excesses”. There is only one rack for mounting equipment with RGB illumination.
Installing a CPU cooler is unlikely to be difficult – there is plenty of space around the socket, and the height of the radiator on the power circuits is low.
The construction of the voltage converter is done exactly like in the older ASUS model – Prime B350-Plus. PWM controller – ASP1106GGQW. It is assisted by six external driver models. Thus, the stabilizer circuit is described by the formula “4 + 2 phases”. For the processor group, the elements of the upper arm turned out to be in the singular, all the rest were soldered twice. The transistor models are identical – NTMFS4C09B and NTMFS4C06B from ON Semiconductor. The key difference between the boards is that there is no separate cooler for the SOC Voltage group of elements.
Heat sinks are fastened with spring-loaded plastic nails. There are no questions about the thermal pad area on the hub radiator, which cannot be said about the VRM cooler. The elements of the lower arm of each “phase” of the CPU Voltage are actually half covered. This is due to the small area of the heat-conducting substance. In addition, the cooler itself cannot be called massive either, there are few ribs in it, that is, the total cooling surface area is small here.
The total set of outputs on the rear panel is more modest than on motherboards with AMD B350, which can be easily explained by the lower market segment of the product under consideration. There is no D-Sub, there is no support for the fastest USB ports (red plastic here denotes the “classic” USB 2.0). The optical interface is not supported even by the socket on the board. However, for the assembly and operation of a PC in the style of “minimalism” a sufficient number of outputs of different types has been prepared.
The last thing I would like to focus on is the manufacturer’s information sticker, where you can find information about the UEFI assembly preinstalled from the factory. Here it is located just near the socket, and the inscription “3401” notified me that it was not ready to interact with Pinnacle Ridge processors, during the firmware update it is necessary to use the processor of the previous generation.