AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Reviewajmatson - April 26, 2010
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With the new six-core processors, AMD is also releasing the new 890FX motherboard chipset. This chipset is the latest in the enthusiast class and is designed for the AM3 series processors including the new Phenom II X6. The particular board that was sent to us for testing the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T was from ASUS. This board is the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula and just from the looks of it, is quite impressive. The ASUS Crosshair IV Formula uses the above mentioned 890FX Northbridge and the SB850 Southbridge to control the board and provide the speeds needed to push your system to the limits. The Crosshair IV Formula is part of the ROG series, which stands for Republic of Gamers. ASUS has designed this series for hardcore enthusiasts. The ROG boards are manufactured using top-quality components that are constructed to be pushed to the limits, giving you the best performance and the longest life from your purchase. The ASUS Crosshair IV Formula uses the same red and black color scheme we have seen on other ROG based boards. As with other Republic of Gamers boards, ASUS has included several nice features designed to help you get the most of your investment which we will see a little more below.
For the back panel on the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula motherboard there are enough connections for everything you might need. Starting from the top there is one PS/2 Keyboard port for legacy support, six USB 2.0 ports (black colored ports), two USB 3.0 ports (blue colored ports), a clear CMOS button, an optical audio port, a firewire 800 port, an eSATA port, the audio jacks, and the ROG Connect USB port and switch. The ROG Connect feature on some of the newer Republic of Gamers boards from ASUS allows you to tune your motherboard settings using another computer such as a netbook on the fly without having to use resources on the overclocked computer giving you the ability for finer tuning.
Moving on down the motherboard we get to the expansion slots. Right off the bat you can see the four red PCI Express x16 slots that the Crosshair IV Formula has. This design allows you to run up to quadfire with four single GPU ATI graphics cards such as the 5800 series. The first and third PCI Express x16 slots will operate at x16 for single or dual card configurations and for a three card setup, slot one will run at x16 while slots two and three will opperate at x8 speeds. The fourth slot while an x16 slot only opperates at x4 speeds. In addition to the x16 slots, there are two black PCI slots which support legacy hardware such as sound cards.
The ASUS Crosshair IV Formula motherboard supports socket AM3 processors including the Athlon II, Phenom II and Sempron 100 series up to six cores. The board uses a 10+1 phase power design for clean voltage to your CPU for maximum overclocking and stability. There is plenty of space to work around the processor socket which should make no problems for large heatsinks or water cooling setups. For memory, the board supports up to 16GB of DDR3 memory, 4GB per slot, with a maximum speed of 1866MHz when overclocked. ASUS has the memory slots on the Crosshair IV Formula staggered as we recently saw in their 890GX motherboard. This design makes it easier to install memory with larger heatsinks when using only two slots since they are not right up against each other. Each channel are different colors, making the red slots one channel and the black slots the second channel. ASUS recommends populating the red slots first for better performance.
Getting down to the bottom of the motherboard is where the headers and switches are for operation and expansion. Starting from the bottom left, there is the front panel audio connector, an SPDIF connector, a firewire header, Turbo Key II switch, Core Unlocker switch, Power switch, Reset switch, three USB 2.0 headers, the OC Station headers, clear CMOS headers and front panel system headers. Moving up the right side of the board, there are seven SATA 6.0GB/s ports, the six red ones are controlled by the SB850 Southbridge chip and the one black one is controlled by the JMicron JMB363 chip. There is also the Go Button for automatic memory setting, the post LED's which alert you to any hardware troubles during start up and the ProbIt contacts which let you check voltage in real time using a voltmeter.
A couple of special items I want to point out on the board are some of the enhancements that ASUS has included for end users to get the best performance out of their product. The first is the inclusion of USB 3.0 which we have seen more and more of lately. This new standard provides transfer speeds up to 4.8Gbps. The USB 3.0 controller for the ASUS Crosshair IV is manufactured by NEC just as we have seen on other recent motherboards. The next feature I want to point out is the iROG chips on the board. iROG is a hardware based management system which allows you to have better control and monitoring over your system for fine tuning and temperature control.
To keep the Crosshair IV Formula cool, ASUS has employed a unique heatsink and heatpipe design. The aluminum fin style heatsink over the voltage area of the board allows the components to remain stable during high overclocks. Connected with a small heatpipe that leads to the Northbridge heatsink which uses the same space style fin design as the voltage heatsink. Another heatpipe runs down to the Southbridge heatsink which is a square, smaller fin design. The shape and style of the heatsinks allow the air flowing over them to be disrupted causing more air pressure and subsequently better cooling for the components.
Now that we have seen the CPU and supporting chipset, we can move on to the testing phase.