ASUS Crosshair V Formula (AMD 990FX) Motherboard Review

Today we see the launch of the new 990FX and we check out the ROG offering from ASUS, the Crosshair V Formula.
| May 31, 2011 at 12:57 am CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Package

Introduction

VIEW GALLERY - 43 IMAGES


Alongside the launch of the new AMD 990FX chipset, I think most people would like to be seeing the next generation of AMD CPUs come with it. As AMD don't hop around changing the socket every 5 minutes like Intel, though, the interesting thing is, that while we've got a delay in the Bulldozer line of CPUs the 990FX based motherboards can still be released.

What's interesting is that AMD and its partners don't seem all that keen on getting the new 990FX based boards reviewed. There are two major features that the new 990FX chipset offer; SLI and Bulldozer CPU support, neither of which we'll be looking at today. The reason for this is because one isn't released, and the other isn't going to be nearly appreciated as much using CPU architecture that has been around for ages now.

Without Bulldozer, a comparison of the new chipset against Intel's Sandy Bridge platform will look incredibly negative from a performance perspective. The latest chipset isn't aimed at users who are looking at picking up a Phenom II X6; instead it's for people who want to jump on the Bulldozer bandwagon that we should see passing through sooner rather than later.

It's for that reason that we won't be comparing any 990FX based boards to Intels current Sandy Bridge platform. The 990FX chipset is only half of what will make up the new platform from AMD that will take on the Sandy Bridge platform. The 990FX and the Phenom II X6 1100T we've got today isn't designed to go head to head with Sandy Bridge, instead the 990FX and Bulldozer CPUs are.

Of course, when we finally get our hot little hands on a Bulldozer CPU, we will see how that platform goes against the Sandy Bridge platform. For today, though, we'll instead look at what the AMD 990FX chipset offers us via the very sexy looking ASUS ROG Crosshair V Formula. We'll start by looking at the package before taking the time to have a closer look at the motherboard itself. Once that's done, we'll get into the BIOS to see what's going on, cover some overclocking and then check out what kind of performance the board is giving us with the Phenom II X6 1100T.


The Package

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Being part of the Republic of Gamers series, the package is pretty full on with an absolute heap of information on the box covering some of the main features the Crosshair V Formula offers. Opened up, we can also get a bit of a sneak peak at the board itself.

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Inside we've got lots of bits and pieces with paperwork, driver CD and some stickers that let us label devices. In the cable department we've got our ROG Connect cable, six SATA cables, I/O back plate, Q-Connector kit, SLI and CrossFire cables along with a 3-Way SLI bridge.

It's not a massive package, but it's indeed larger than what we see from a lot of other motherboard companies. With that out the way, though, let's take the time to have a closer look at the board itself.

The Motherboard

The Motherboard

The ROG boards from ASUS are great looking boards and this one is no different. We've got a black and red theme throughout There's nothing too crazy going on and you can see just a nice clean setup from top to bottom.

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Moving closer to the board, we can start to look at the expansion slots that are on offer. We've got a single legacy PCI-Express port, single PCI-E 1x port and four PCI-E 16x ports that are all in red.

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Of course, our four PCI-E 16x ports don't all run at 16x speed. With support for SLI and CrossFire you're going to want to know how to use the ports that are available. If you're using just the one card, you'll use the top one which runs at 16x. If you throw a second card into the mix you want to use the third port. This will allow both your cards to run at 16x. When using two cards the second port will run only at 1x.

If you throw a third card into the mix you'll use the top three ports and your setup from top to bottom would be 16x / 8x / 8x. At all times your forth slot will be running at 4x, but if you're opting for a multi GPU setup that takes up more than one slot, which is more than likely, you won't have a real need for the fourth PCI-E 16x slot.

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Moving away from our expansion slots, we can check out the bottom of the board. On the right hand side you can see our main systems header, two fan headers and next to that two USB headers. The most stand out bit across the bottom would have to be our three buttons, though, which offer both power on / off and reset along with easy overclocking. With the press of the OC button when your system is off, it will then proceed to overclock the system itself. Just what kind of performance we achieved via this button, we'll discuss later on.

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Turning the corner, you can see a total of seven SATA headers. The six pointing out are all SATA 6G ports that are controlled via the AMD SB950; the seventh port which sits by itself is also SATA 6G, but is controlled via the ASMedia chip.

The Motherboard Continued

The Motherboard Continued

Moving to the top half of the board, we have our four DDR3 RAM slots which via overclocking can support speeds of up to 2133MHz DDR and 32GB of total memory in Dual Channel mode. Just below our RAM slots you can see we've got a red USB 3.0 header.

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The other main item up in this corner is of course our main 24-Pin ATX Power Connector. Next to that we've got a fan header, while moving over to the right hand side we can see another three fan headers running up the board. The most interesting part around this area, though, would be our little red "GO Button". Pressing this before POST will enable MemOK! Or pressing it quickly will load the preset profile for temporary overclocking within Windows.

Continuing around this section, we also have the ROG Probelt feature. Using a multi-meter, you're able to test the voltage with true accuracy on a number of different areas. Located all in one place you're able to quickly and easily find the voltage you need. Most people will probably find themselves not using this feature, but it's of course on offer for people who really want to do some high level overclocking.

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Moving to our CPU area, you can see the black AM3+ socket which will offer support for the Bulldozer lines of CPUs when available. You can see power to the board can be done via an 8-Pin connector or older 4-Pin and you can also see the new mounting system that is slightly redesigned. We can see a really nice heatsink setup that is designed to keep some of our warmer components cooled, including the 990FX chip itself just above the first PCI-E 16x slot.

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Finishing up with the I/O side of things, you can see we've got a pretty strong lineup of connectors. We've got a single PS/2 Keyboard / Mouse Combo Port, four USB 3.0 ports via ASMedia controller, eight USB 2.0 ports with one reserved for ROG connect (White) via the AMD SB950 chipset, optical and analogue audio ports via the Supreme X-Fi 2 Codec, eSATA via the ASMedia controller, Intel Gigabit networking and a clear CMOS switch for when you overclock just a little too much.

BIOS

BIOS

As we're seeing on most ASUS boards these days, the Crosshair V Formula uses a fancy UEFI BIOS. While not the first screen you'll see when you enter the BIOS, the board does offer EZ Mode from the top right corner.

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Normally when you go into the BIOS you'll find yourself greeted by the Extreme Tweaker menu. Doing the extreme name justice, you'll find an absolute bucket load of options under this section which will help you do everything you'd possibly want when it comes to overclocking the board.

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Throughout there's even more sub sections that let you control the boards power properties and adjust the timings on the RAM. Of course, you can also use the mouse if you want as that's indeed a feature, but I think most will find themselves sticking to the trusty keyboard.

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Moving through the rest of the BIOS, there's not going to be much that really will surprise you with advanced options for your CPU, monitoring information, boot order and the ability to save your BIOS via profiles or setup the "GO Button" file. Within the final tool area, though, you'll be able to access ASUS EZ Flash 2 utility which gives you the ability to flash the motherboards BIOS with ease.

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As long as you have the BIOS handy, you're able to quickly fire EZ Flash 2 up and get the latest BIOS installed with ease. Long gone are the days of having to mess around with DOS and crossing your fingers you've put the right parameters in when doing a flash.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

Because we're having a look at the chipset and motherboard more so than the AMD platform itself, we'll check out the ASUS Crosshair V Formula against the ASUS M4A89TD Pro which uses the AMD 890FX chipset.

We'll also be looking at the Crosshair V Formula with our CPU running at stock speeds and our CPU overclocked. Before we talk about the maximum overclock we achieved, let's first cover what we managed to achieve using the "OC" button that is present on the motherboard.

With the machine turned off, we press the button and then powered up our machine. Our machine then does a bit of a song and dance and after a minute or two we end up in Windows.

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Firing up CPU-Z, we can see what we ended up at and as you can see above we managed to get into Windows at 3840MHz. This is a nice overclock from the stock 3300MHz made even better by the fact that all we had to do was press a button before turning the machine on.

With that done, though, we figured we'd just reboot and get into the BIOS and do some manual overclocking to see what we could achieve from our Phenom II X6 1100T.

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While we could get in to Windows at 4.1GHz - 4.2GHz, our benchmarking was a little hit and miss with some tests having problems dealing with the speed. What we ended up at, though, was 4056MHz or 4.06GHz. This is overall a nice overclock and we'll see what kind of performance it brings over the default clock speeds.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at our AIDA64 CPU benchmarks, you can see that performance between the 890FX and 990FX is similar with the 990FX coming out a little ahead in L3 Cache Read speeds. Overclocked, though, you can see a nice boost in performance in both our write and read tests.

CPU Benchmarks Continued

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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Comparing the two chipsets, you can see there's really no difference. Pushing our 1100T to 4.06GHz, though, we can see a nice performance boost that shaves near 4 minutes of our Hyper Pi time.


AutoGK

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55
Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Download It Here

AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.

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At stock both platforms continue to perform very close to each other; it's not until we overclock that we start to see the board separate themselves a bit.

Storage Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Comparing both SSD and USB 2.0 performance between the chipsets, you can see there's a clear difference with the 990FX based Crosshair V Formula offering strong performance in both tests.

Memory Benchmarks

Sisoft Sandra

Version and / or Patch Used: 2011
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Buy It Here

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SiSoft Sandra doesn't really show us anything when it comes to memory performance.

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at memory performance under AIDA64, you can see that write performance is just a little slower on our new 990FX board, but you can also see that read performance is up. Overclocked, though, you can see some extra performance again in read performance.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
Buy It Here




3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/




Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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You can see across the board performance is near identical between all the setups with the only change really being seen in 3DMark 11 and the Performance preset which sees a little bump.

Temperature and Power

Core Temperature

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Core temps are similar between the boards, but you can see when we overclock there's a bit of a bump in core temperature when it comes to load.


Power Draw Tests

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Looking at power draw, you can see our 990FX ROG based board draws a bit more power and that doesn't surprise me considering all the trinkets on tap.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

As you'd expect, the ROG Crosshair V Formula is a great board; it's got a strong feature set, some fantastic quality components, gives us some nice overclocking ability and features all the ASUS software we've grown to love. We'd expect nothing less from ASUS and as usual, the company delivers an awesome quality board.

Then there's the AMD 990FX chipset which is what we're really looking at today. How's it? - It's good, it brings some nice features to the table like SLI support, and in the Crosshair V Formulas case it brings 3-Way SLI support. Its USB 2.0 and SSD performance is also up when compared to the AMD 890FX chipset, which again is something that's appreciated.

The AMD 990FX chipset is only half the picture, though; to what AMD hope will be a strong competitor to Sandy Bridge. The board and chipset alone only tells us some of the story and while the 990FX looks like it's going to be a great platform, it needs to have that new AMD CPU in it for people to really appreciate what the chipset is able to offer.

What's funny is that what we like about AMD and dislike about Intel is what makes the AMD 990FX chipset less exciting at the moment. If AMD was using a completely new socket that only Bulldozer worked in, the 990FX launch would've been delayed and instead we'd see it launch side by side with Bulldozer CPUs. Because the 990FX chipset supports the current crop of CPUs, though, we are able to get the new chipset, but not enjoy the benefits on the new CPUs which are currently not here.

People are getting excited about Bulldozer; and for good reason, it indeed looks like it's going to be something special. That and the fact that it needs to be something special, but if we've learnt anything from our $599 US PC endeavors in the last few weeks, AMD systems are extremely capable gaming machines.

If you're getting excited for the new Bulldozer line of CPUs, though, you can go out and pick yourself up the 990FX based Crosshair V Formula and slide your current Phenom II CPU into it. Maybe take the plunge and buy yourself an SSD and setup Windows and enjoy what the board offers you now. When you can get your hands on a Bulldozer CPU, though, you can swap your current CPU out and enjoy the benefits that Bulldozer will bring you without the need to mess around with formatting your PC and all that other annoying stuff.

We would've loved to have been looking at the AMD 990FX and new AMD CPUs here today, but instead we only get a taste of what the new platform will bring. No doubt when we see Bulldozer CPUs the Crosshair V Formula will be able to really spread its wings and fly.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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