I expected the ASUS M5A97 Evo to be a good performing board for the simple fact it was an ASUS one. They make a good habit out of releasing good quality products. The M5A97 Evo, though, surprised me and performed beyond my expectations and I think that's got a lot to do with the overclocking side of things.
On the package side of things there's not too much going on, but considering the $119 US price tag associated with the board, that doesn't come as much of a surprise and we've ultimately got everything we need to get up and running.
On the feature front the board is pretty strong. We've got all the usual stuff we'd expect from a ASUS motherboard like Firewire, Gigabit and SATA III to name a few. One of the more impressive inclusions would probably be the inclusion of the UEFI BIOS. Sure, we've seen it for ages now from ASUS and we've seen it on cheaper boards, but to have such a clean looking BIOS on a board that comes in at $119 US is just super impressive.
Performance is probably where the biggest surprise is seen, though. At stock performance lines up just as you'd hope and expect. Overclocking was the biggest surprise, though, offering us a great overclock of just over 4.5GHz at 1.44v. Considering the price point of the board and the aggressive pricing of the FX CPUs over the Intel options, you end up with a really nice setup here for a really good price.
The two big things that the AMD 970 chipset misses over it's bigger brothers is x16 / x16 SLI and CrossFire support. Instead you have only CrossFire support and the second slot will run at only x4, making the board a better option for people who only want a single card. If you're going to go down the dual card path you're better off looking at a 990X or 990FX based board.
If you're trying to save some money, you might find you're going to really miss out on some things by going for a board that costs $119 US. You are in a sense - it's not the best option for anyone who wants to go with dual card setups and of course SLI isn't supported. You're also not getting native USB 3.0, but it is included via the ASMedia chip and as we could see today, USB 3.0 performance lines up with those boards that support the technology natively.
If you're only interested in going down the path of a single video card and want to save some money, the M5A97 Evo is just a fantastic option. The price it comes in at is fantastic and the overclocking ability is really strong. Combine this all together and you just end up with a really well priced motherboard that's going to be the perfect companion on any AMD based build.