ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review

We check out the cheapest Bulldozer supported board so far. Let's find out how the ASUS M5A97 Evo goes.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Nov 11 2011 9:36 AM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Package

Introduction

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 02 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 39 IMAGES

Prior to the launch of the new Sandy Bridge-E platform, we have to work our way through the AMD based boards we received. Today we're looking at the ASUS M5A97 Evo and this is one of the more interesting boards we've looked at due to the fact it carries with it a price tag of only $119 US.

With support for the new FX series of AMD processors along with being part of the new 900 series chipsets, this could be a really great option for people who want to get in on the AMD FX fun without breaking the bank. This looks to be very much a board that represents what the AMD platform is all about with some strong features and a really aggressive price tag.

The first thing we need to do, though, is check out the package to see what's going on in that department. Once we've done that we'll start to move closer into the motherboard itself to see just what the ASUS M5A97 Evo offers.

From there it's time to move into the BIOS to see what's happening in that department before we see just what kind of overclocking potential the board can give us on our FX-8150. It's at that point we then get into the benchmark side of things to see just what kind of performance the board can give us with the thing we're probably most looking out for being how it compares against the more expensive 990FX options that we've looked at over the past few weeks.

The Package

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 03 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 04 | TweakTown.com

Looking at the box, we haven't got anything too out of the ordinary. We've got the model on the front, mention that it supports the new AM3+ processors and some of the main features. Turning over, we've got a picture of the board, some of the main specifications and an explanation on some of the main features that are on offer.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 05 | TweakTown.com

Moving inside the box, we've got a fairly simple bundle going on with our manual, driver CD, three SATA cables, Ez Connector headers and our I/O back plate. Nothing much at all going on, but considering the price point of the board, it doesn't come as a surprise.

The Motherboard

Moving onto the board itself, we can see that the overall design of the board is similar to Pro / Deluxe models we've seen before. We've got the darker colored PCB going on with the blue theme throughout the board. Considering the price of the board, it's not a bad color scheme and should look good within your case.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 06 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 07 | TweakTown.com

Moving in closer, we can see what's going on with our expansion slots. We've got two older legacy PCI slots on the right, two PCIe x1 slots and two PCIe x16 slots with one running at x16 and the other at x4.

One of the main differences between the AMD 970 chip that's used here over the 990X and 990FX is that we don't have support for SLI. Instead our only option for people who want to go down the multi card path is CrossFire. When you go with two cards, though, they will be running at x16 / x4 and that's probably not something you want.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 08 | TweakTown.com

Moving away from our expansion slots and to the bottom of the board, we've got our front audio panel header, FireWire, three USB 2.0 headers, COM1 header, front panel header on the far right and to the left of that, two SATA III ports.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 09 | TweakTown.com

Those two SATA III ports we saw on the bottom of the board in conjunction with the four SATA III ports here give us a total of six which all run off the SB950 south bridge. The positioning of two are a little weird as it does look like there's room around here to place them, but it's not really a big deal. Also around here we can see our little TPU switch.

The Motherboard Continued

Moving to the top of the board, we've got our four DDR3 RAM slots which like the 990 series chipsets also support speeds of up to 2133MHz DDR via overclocking, and below that you can see our main 24-Pin ATX power connector.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 10 | TweakTown.com

Two other pieces that stand out around here include a USB 3.0 header on the left hand side, while on the right hand side we can see our EPU switch and below that our Mem OK button.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 11 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 12 | TweakTown.com

Moving around to the CPU area, we've got our 8-Pin CPU connector in a typical position and you can see our AM3+ socket and the heatsink setup that's going on. Like most motherboards these days, it's pretty clean around here and you can see that ASUS are using that newer AMD bracket which frees the sides up.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 13 | TweakTown.com

Finally, we finish off with the I/O side of things with two USB 2.0 ports and a combo PS/2 port. Next to that we've got an optical port, two USB 3.0 ports off the ASMedia controller, Firewire off the VIA 6308P and four more USB 2.0 ports and two eSATA ports running off the JMicron JMB362 controller.

We've got a further two USB 2.0 controllers, Gigabit networking via the Realtek 8111E controller and six Auxiliary ports which run off the Realtek ALC892 codec which runs the optical port as well.

BIOS

Getting into the BIOS, the first thing you notice is that we're dealing with the ASUS UEFI BIOS which we've been seeing on all ASUS boards for a while now. Like most ASUS boards as well, we see that we're greeted with EZ Mode when we get into the BIOS the first time.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 14 | TweakTown.com

Of course, if you want to have a bit of fun you'll want to jump into Advanced mode and you'll see the standard setup we're used to seeing once we've ventured inside there.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 15 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 16 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 17 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 18 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 19 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 20 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 21 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 22 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 23 | TweakTown.com

If you're going to do any overclocking, you'll no doubt want to be in the Ai Tweaker section which gives us all the voltage and speed options while we move across to the standard Advanced, Monitor, Boot and Tool sub sections of the BIOS.

Test System Setup

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 99 | TweakTown.com

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

Having looked at the board, it's time to get into the performance side of things to see what's going on. From the testbed side of things there's nothing out of the ordinary that has to be covered, so instead we can just get into the overclocking side of things.

Getting into the BIOS, we start to mess around with our overclocking options a little. Since we had an FX-8150 die on us earlier last month when we did some overclocking, we've begun to go a little easier on it since then and just be really light on the voltages. It's meant that we haven't been able to overclock as high as we could when we originally looked at the FX-8150 in our Crosshair V Extreme, but we just don't want to risk losing it.

To find our maximum overclock, we just pushed our voltage to around the 1.45v mark and used our multiplier to see just how high we can get. As you can see below, we ended up with a final multiplier coming in at 22.5x.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 01 | TweakTown.com

Looking above, you can see that brings our final clock speed in at 4.515GHz or 4.52GHz as illustrated in our graphs. Considering this is a cheaper board, I was surprised to see such a strong overclock out of it still. Looking at the board itself, though, you can see we've got a very strong looking heatsink setup, so it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that the board was able to overclock well.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

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.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 30 | TweakTown.com

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.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 31 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 32 | TweakTown.com

Starting off with our CPU benchmarks, we can see that the performance of the M5A97 Evo is very strong and lines up well with our more expensive 990FX options that we've looked at. You can see when we overclock we're able to push performance out a bit and separate itself from the pack of 900 series boards.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 33 | TweakTown.com

MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 34 | TweakTown.com

Looking at PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso, we can again see performance lines up with our more expensive boards. We can again see a nice boost in performance when we overclock and the best gain as always is seen in MediaEspresso where we manage to shave a nice chunk of time off our encode process.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

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.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 35 | TweakTown.com
ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 36 | TweakTown.com

USB 2.0 performance sits between the other boards we've looked at, while USB 3.0 performance lines up just as we'd expect against all the other boards too.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

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.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 37 | TweakTown.com

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 38 | TweakTown.com

Having a look at the SSD performance, we can see our SATA III drive performs very well under both HD Tune Pro and AIDA64. ASUS boards tend to always love our Corsair SSD and this one is really no different.

Memory 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.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 39 | TweakTown.com

Out of the box memory performance is really strong; it actually is the highest amongst our AMD boards which is very impressive considering the price point.

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.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 40 | TweakTown.com

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 41 | TweakTown.com

Looking at 3D performance, we can see that there's no real change amongst all the setups which is exactly what we'd expect. Overclocking yields a bit of a boost to our Performance preset under 3DMark 11, but for the most part we don't see any other changes which is just what we'd expect.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 42 | TweakTown.com

Looking at the idle power draw, it comes in a bit lower than the other boards we've got here, while load sits between the other 990FX boards we've looked at.

Core Temperature

ASUS M5A97 Evo (AMD 970) Motherboard Review 43 | TweakTown.com

Checking the load heat of our CPU, it sits pretty well. You can see overclocked brought with it only a small bump in overall heat which is good.

Final Thoughts

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.

What do TweakTown.com awards mean? Click for details!

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

Related Tags

Newsletter Subscription

Latest News

View More News

Latest Reviews

View More Reviews

Latest Articles

View More Articles