ASUS Crosshair V Formula 990FX Motherboard Reviewajmatson - May 30, 2011
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The Crosshair V Formula uses the same red and black scheme that we have grown to either love or hate with the Republic of Gamers series boards. I personally love the scheme as it looks fierce and fiery inside my HAF 932 case. This board uses the ATX form factor and packs a lot into the space it has to work with. The 990FX chipset was built to base the new eight core Phenom II processors we are patiently awaiting and offers some high end features for the gamer and enthusiast alike. ASUS then takes the base of the chipset and throws their own spin on it giving you a board that is designed to take you to virtual battle. The 990FX chipset is designed to support up to 5.2GT/s HyperTransport 3.0 interface speeds and multi-GPU graphics. The chipset is optimized for multicore CPU systems including the Sempron 100 series, Athlon II series, Phenom II series and the upcoming FX series processors including the Bulldozer eight core series. The AM3+ socket features AMD Turbo Core Technology 2.0 and supports the new 32nm manufacturing process. The system as a whole is designed to support up to 8-native cores with better overclocking capabilities and more efficient power consumption.
As with the rest of the offering, the back panel has some really great additions to it. Starting from the top we have a lone PS2 port that can accept either a mouse or keyboard should you still need them, four USB 3.0 ports, a BIOS reset button, one eSATA port, seven USB 2.0 ports, an optical audio port, one LAN port powered by Intel, the standard analog audio ports powered by SupremeFX X-Fi 2 technology and a white USB 2.0 port for the ASUS ROG Connect features.
Down below the back panel are the numerous expansion slots for your use. To start there is a single black PCI Express x1 slot and a single PCI slot for legacy devices and other peripherals. Then we have the four red PCI Express x16 slots which allow you to run up to four video cards for AMD Quadfire or now up to three NVIDIA cards for tri-SLI. The fun doesn't stop there either, as the Crosshair V Formula also supports the ROG Xpander which allows the ability to run up to four NVIDIA cards in a quad-SLI design. Ok ok you can wipe the drool away from your mouth now, you're slobbering on my motherboard. The first and third PCI Express x16 slots run at full x16 speeds and should be the first ones populated with dual cards. The second PCI Express x16 slot runs at x8 speeds and the last slot runs at x4 speeds. ASUS recommend populating the 1st slot for a single card setup and using the last slot for accessories unless running a four card GPU setup.
The top CPU area of the board looks crowded but it actually has a lot of room to play with. The new AM3+ socket now has a black color which really meshes with the design of the board quite well. The AM3+ socket support AM3 and AM3+ processors including the Sempron, Athlon II, Phenom II and the upcoming Phenom II eight core processors code named Bulldozer. The Crosshair V uses an 8 + 2 Phase Extreme Engine Digi+ VRM design to supply your components the cleanest power for maximum clock speeds. The memory also has a 2 Phase power design to keep them powered just as cleanly. The board also uses a five step Load-Line Calibration for all power needs when pushing your system to the maximum. There are four DIMM slots which support DDR3 memory up to 32GB with a top speed of 2133MHz when overclocked. ASUS recommends to use the red slots first when running a six core or larger processor and the black ones first when running a two to four core processor for maximum results. At the top of the board above the CPU area you will notice that there is an additional 4-pin CPU power plug included with the 8-pin standard one. This is to support the power requirements for the upcoming eight core processors that will be hitting the market soon. That should tell you right there how beefy they should be.
At the bottom of the board are the majority of the headers and ports. Starting from the left side to the right there is the front panel audio header, the switches for CPU Level Up, system start and system reset, two USB 2.0 headers, a number of fan headers, and the front panel headers which are used with the Q-Connectors. Turning the corner of the board there are the seven SATA 6Gbps ports for all of your hard drive and SSD needs. The SATA ports also support onboard RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. Right above the SATA ports is something I have not seen on other AMD boards before. There is a USB 3.0 header which will allow cases to use the internal headers for front USB 3.0 support instead of having to route a cable to the back panel and occupy one of the back USB 3.0 ports. This is a killer addition as USB 3.0 is really taking off for the storage industry.
As I mentioned earlier, ASUS puts some special additions to their Republic of Gamers boards and the Crosshair V is no exception. At the top right of the board there is the Go Button which when pressed enables the MemOK! feature that tests the installed memory and sets them to working speeds, timings and voltages with no fuss allowing you to boot without having to figure out the settings to start up. For the audio, ASUS has included the SupremeFX X-Fi 2 chipset which offers ultra real in-game cinematic sound without the need for an external audio card. Down near the Southbridge is the iROG chips. These chips are what offer the true Republic of Gamers overclocking with the TurboV software for auto overclocking and stability. There are several chipsets used on the Crosshair V which add more to the package. There is the Intel 82583V chip which powers the integrated Intel LAN port and the ASMedia ASM1042 chips that power the USB 3.0 ports and headers. Finally for stability, ASUS has included the ProbIt contacts which allow you to exactly monitor the voltages of the board with a voltmeter as well as POST LEDs and voltage LEDs spread around the board. There is one hidden switch that you will want to know about as well which is the ROG Connect switch positioned right behind the back panel audio ports. When the switch is off the white port is in USB 2.0 mode and when switched on it is in ROG Connect mode ready to be used with your laptop for extreme overclocking and tweaking.
Too cool all of these components down ASUS has employed a passive cooling system. There is a large fin type heatsink and heatpipe combination covering the 990FX Northbrige and voltage regulation area and a smaller flat heatsink which covers the SB950 Southbridge keeping them in top operating condition.
Now that we finally have the board out let's get her installed and take a look at the software side of things.