ASUS Crosshair V Formula 990FX Motherboard Reviewajmatson - May 30, 2011
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ASUS comes to market with the latest implementation of their AISuite II utility. This new look is a tremendous step away from a fractured utility with everything having an individual interface. Now it's all under one comprehensive suite accessed through a toolbar menu. This toolbar has five separate functional areas plus an "Auto Tuning" tab that is accessible in the Turbo V submenu. When you dig under the surface, the Republic of Gamers version used with the Crosshair V Formula is the same application with the ROG Logo up top to let you know you have an ROG product. It's a nice added touch.
Tool: Under the tool section there are a total of six separate functional areas to look through. TurboV Evo, DIGI+ VRM, EPU, Fan Expert, Probe II, Sensor Recorder and Ai Charger+. Sensor Recorder will show you the system status over time. You can monitor voltages, temperatures, fan speed and set the duration of the monitoring and the interval in which it polls the system. Probe II allows you to choose what functions you can set alerts for. You can set thermal, voltage and fan speed thresholds that will throw an alert. Fan Expert allows you to set up fan profiles as well as choosing from a set of pre-set profiles from Standard to Turbo. The EPU Control Panel is used to define the power profile of the system from High Performance to Maximum power saving modes that reduce the carbon footprint of the system using the EPU processor to its fullest capability. Ai Charger+ is new with the USB 3.0 support allowing you to charge your external devices such as iPads, iPhones, iPods and more with 3x the faster charge speed than the normal USB port.
DIGI+ VRM offers some pretty unique features that allow you to really fine tune the capabilities of the 990FX lineup from ASUS. Under this submenu there are a total of five areas that can be manipulated. The first is the familiar Load Line Calibration to change the Vdroop when the CPU is loaded from 0-100% in 25% increments. DIGI+VRM CPU Current Protection allows you the ability to increase the current flow to the CPU with a wider range of up to 180%. DIGI+ VRM Switching Frequency can be set to auto or fixed frequency mode. This helps when overclocking and the frequency range is from 250Khz to 1100Khz in 50 Khz increments. Much like most of the adjustments we make, this one has a trade off between stability and overclocking potential. DIGI+ VRM PWM Mode can be set to T.Probe or Extreme. Phase control can be set to one of three presets as well as a manual adjustment option to set how fast the phase switching of the VRM circuit occurs.
TurboV Evo is the section where you set the voltages and target frequency you are shooting for. You can use the Auto Tuning section to let the TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) take over and set up an overclock using the Fast or Extreme options. When running the Auto Tuning, I saw varying success with it depending on the board with the Crosshair V Formula delivering an overclock of 3.91Ghz using the Extreme option while I was able to pull a stable 3.82GHz with the TurboV using the Fast mode. Using the Manual configuration option you can push to almost the extreme maximum your chip is capable of reaching through this interface. Under the More Settings section of TurboV Evo is an advanced mode section with additional voltage options as well as the CPU ratio tab that allows for adjusting the CPU Turbo Boost ratio. Once you find your sweet spot, the profile can be saved so that changing between settings can be a simple process so that you can step up on a new setup slowly or fall back to the saved settings when things don't go so well when overclocking.
ASUS Update is used to update the BIOS in several different ways. You can download the file from the ASUS FTP site, load from a file, save a file or download from the internet. Updating the BIOS via this method would have been unheard of a few years back but after using this method to update the BIOS, it went off without a hitch. If it goes bad, you do have the BIOS Backup feature. System Information allows you to look at information much the same way you would with CPUz. There is the motherboard section, CPU section and the SPD tab that provides the memory information stored on the SPD chip of the installed memory DIMMs.
In the 'Settings' tab you can configure the AI Suite GUI so that you can change the view and add or subtract components. All in all, this application looks better and seems to bring added functionality to the table.
As part of the ROG series, the Rampage III Formula is equipped with ASUS's own ROG Connect feature that lets you use another computer to not only monitor the vital statistics of your ROG baby but to overclock it remotely using the RC Tweakit software installed on a netbook, notebook or smartphone. You can increase the bclock and PCIe clock speeds for added performance and to make sure the changes are stable, you can modify voltages much like in the aforementioned TurboV Evo section of the AI Suite software. There is a post code monitor to tell you where you are in the post process to help with diagnostics of a failed boot process. In this way, you can find out if the settings you applied will do the trick for that next level of performance. One thing I was surprised to not have included is the new Bluetooth features that we have seen on other ROG boards. It would have been nice to have the ROG Connect via cellphone or iPad on the Crosshair V Formula.
The last application I will look at is ROG GameFirst. This little utility can be configured to give your game data priority over other applications that interact with the internet. With this application, you can decide what data has the highest priority to maximize your gaming experience.
Now that we have seen the board and the supplied applications that make the ROG series what they are, it's time to see what ASUS has done for us in the BIOS.