ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0 Motherboard ReviewWaco - December 29, 2013
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ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0 Motherboard Closer Look:
Behold, the ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0! Fans of the black and blue will surely fall in love right about here – there's not a single color on the board that isn't a shade of blue aside from the I/O ports on the back and the single green LED near the SATA port cluster. I'm not generally a fan of blue (I'm a red and black sorta guy), but this is definitely an attractive board compared to some of the abominations on the market. You'll also notice not two, not three, but four full-length PCI Express slots for quad-SLI and quad-Crossfire goodness. Unfortunately two of the four slots run at 4x PCIe 2.0, which might limit scalability for extreme setups, but they could be used for fast RAID cards, PCIe SSDs, or sound cards without worrying about slot length.
The CPU VRMs are covered by reasonably beefy heat sinks connected together via a flattened heat pipe. While some heat sinks are clearly designed first for aesthetics and second for cooling capability, the sinks on the M5A99FX Pro R2.0 look like they will be efficient at removing heat while not being a total eyesore at the same time. I have to say, overall, I like the way this board looks. Keep reading for a closer look at what makes it tick!
Looking at the front edge of the board we are greeted with six edge-mounted SATA ports. The four in white are powered by the SB950 Southbridge, while the two in blue run off of the additional ASMedia controller. While I tend not to like additional controllers for primary drives, additional SATA ports almost never go unused, whether they are powering extra storage or Blu-Ray drives. The seventh internal SATA port is at a right angle to the board near the DIMM slots (the eighth SATA channel powers the eSATA port on the rear panel). The USB 3.0 front panel connector sits next to the 24-pin ATX power fitting. This placement is convenient since many cases commit the cardinal sin of annoying short front panel connector cables.
Spinning the board around we are greeted with a rather busy I/O panel. Dual PS/2 connectors allow for gaming-grade keyboard access along with 1980s-esque mousing. Honestly I don’t know anyone with a PS/2 mouse these days nor do I know of any advantages of using one, so I wish manufacturers would stick to the single dedicated PS/2 port for keyboards. Moving on, there is a Toslink optical output to drive external receivers or optically driven speakers, dual USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, and an RJ45 jack for the built-in gigabit Ethernet. Eight channel audio is also supplied with plug detection and remapping available on the fly.
Moving down to the "bottom" of the board you'll find the complement of four full-length PCIe slots. As I mentioned before two of these run at x16 bandwidth while two run at x4 bandwidth. Thankfully ASUS has laid these out logically where the two blue slots are x16 allowing for a full slot width between a pair of graphics cards in SLI or Crossfire. Seen just below the bottom PCIe slot is the BIOS Flashback button, which allows you to flash the BIOS with a USB stick, a power supply, and the motherboard. This could be extremely handy if your CPU or memory won't allow the board to boot up with its shipping BIOS, but probably not much use beyond that.
In the bottom left of the second picture you can see the tiny little Realtek ALC892 that powers the onboard 8-channel audio. Adorning the bottom of the board are the connectors for front panel audio and USB 2.0 (all six of them!). Continuing along the bottom edge of the board we are greeted with a white COM port header, the direct-to-BIOS DirectKey button, and the front panel switch/LED header. Just above the DirectKey button is the TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) that manages the power distribution among the CPU VRM phases. Just above that lies the small blue heat sink covering the AMD SB950 Southbridge chipset.
Spinning around 90 degrees reveals a bit better detail on the SATA configuration and the front panel USB 3.0 connector. It is worth noting that absolutely every single fan header on the ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0 is a 4-pin PWM-capable header for computing in silent bliss. Not only will it power five fans directly from the board, but it will also allow for digital control over their speeds without the annoying buzzing, clicking, and humming sometimes associated with voltage-controlled fans. At the top corner of the board, next to the DIMM slots, lies the MemOK! button that confirms your memory is seated properly and ready to game on.
At the very top edge of the board we are greeted by another pair of PWM fan headers, the 8-pin EPS connector for CPU power, and the massive heat sink that keeps the VRMs from becoming molten slag. Just under the 8-channel audio header are the last two PWM fan headers. The two very blue heat sinks are connected by a flat heat pipe that is sure to balance the heat load between the two.
Last but not least, the AM3+ socket. Here you can house up to 140 watt CPUs and still keep your warranty intact. There is more than enough room around the socket to mount even the most ludicrously large air coolers on the market as long as your memory isn't of the annoyingly tall variety. While ASUS doesn't specifically support it, I'd bet that you could sneak an FX-9590 or FX-9370 into the socket here and game all day long to your heart's content – the power circuitry certainly seems like it is up to the task! The larger of the heat sinks sports a "Dual Intelligent Processors III" label that refers to the pairing of the EPU (Energy Processing Unit) and the TPU (TurboV Processing Unit).