ASUS Crosshair V Formula 990FX Review Page: 1

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

Introduction

It's been quiet on the AMD front for a little while now. Thankfully the wait for something groundbreaking to appear is nearly over with the much vaunted Bulldozer (Zambezi) processors just over the horizon.

In anticipation of those CPUs the first 990FX motherboards are starting to appear and we've got the ASUS Crosshair V Formula on the bench table today.

Obviously this is only a part of the new wave of AMD products. However as the Bulldozer processors have yet to appear and in keeping with the AMD business model of gradually upgrading your PC whilst still retaining the majority of components, we're going to take a look at the Crosshair V Formula partnered to the current top of the line AMD processor, the 1095T.

Like the Boy Scouts it's best to be prepared, so is the Crosshair V Formula worthy of your pennies?

Technical Specifications

With the very latest chipset on board there is an extraordinary amount of technology squeezed into the Crosshair V. From the inclusion of official SLI support, through the plentiful USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbp/s ports, and on to the ability to support a whopping 32GB of Memory, this breathes yet more life into the AM3+ socket. Proof that the AMD method of allowing the user to gradually upgrade without needing a whole new system is one that still keeps on rocking. Intel could learn a lot from AMD in this department.

CPUAMD AM3+ FX™/Phenom™ II/Athlon™ II/Sempron™ 100 Series Processors
Supports AM3+ 32 nm CPU
Supports CPU up to 8 cores
Supports CPU up to 140 W
AMD Cool 'n' Quiet™ Technology
ChipsetAMD 990FX/SB950
Memory4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Hz ECC, Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Multi-GPU SupportSupports NVIDIA® 3-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
Expansion Slots3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual x16 or x16, x8, x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
1 x PCI
StorageAMD SB950 controller :
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
ASMedia® ASM1061 controller :
1 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
LANIntel®, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller
AudioSupremeFX X-Fi 2 built-in 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- X-Fi® Xtreme Fidelity™ 
- EAX® Advanced™ HD 5.0 
- THX® TruStudio PRO™
- Creative ALchemy 
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection 
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
USB PortsASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
6 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
AMD SB950 controller :
12 x USB 2.0 port(s) (8 at back panel, black+white, 4 at mid-board)
Overclocking FeaturesROG Connect :
- RC Diagram
- RC Remote
- RC Poster
- GPU TweakIt
Extreme Engine Digi+ :
- 8 + 2 phase power design
UEFI BIOS features :
- ROG BIOS Print
- GPU.DIMM Post
GameFirst
iROG
Extreme Tweaker
Overclocking Protection :
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special FeaturesASUS TPU :
- CPU Level UP
Core Unlocker
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- MemOK!
- AI Charger+
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS EZ DIY :
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS MyLogo 3
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Connector
Back I/O Ports1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0
8 x USB 2.0 (white port can be switched to ROG Connect)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
Internal I/O Ports1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s)
2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
7 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
2 x CPU Fan connector(s)
3 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
3 x Optional Fan connector(s)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
8 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
3 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS header(s)
1 x EZ Plug connector(s) (4-pin Molex power connector)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x CPU Level Up button(s)
1 x ROG Connect switch(es)
1 x Go Button(s)
AccessoriesUser's manual
I/O Shield
6 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x 3-Way SLI bridge(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x CrossFire cable(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
1 x ROG Connect cable(s)
1 x Cable ties pack(s)
1 x ROG theme label(s)
1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
BIOS32Mb Flash ROM, UEFI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI2.0a, Multi-Language BIOS
ManageabilityWOL by PME, WOR by PME, PXE
Support DiscDrivers
Sound Blaster® X-Fi 2 Utility
Kaspersky® Anti-Virus
DAEMON Tools Pro Standard
ROG CPU-Z
ASUS Utilities
Form FactorATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

 



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ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

Up Close

Naturally the Crosshair V Formula comes with ROG branding and so the packaging is exactly what you'd expect, appearing in the now classic ASUS Red box. Everything is laid out clearly as always and there is a Velcro flap on the front so that you can have a gander prior to purchase. Or just scroll down a bit.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review     ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review  

The CH5F comes with a plethora of accessories. There are so many packets to open it's like Christmas has come early to the OC3D offices.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review     ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review  

On the left the ever useful ROG Connect which allows for overclocking via an external computer. On the right, yes that is a SLI bridge included along with the Crossfire bridge.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review     ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review  

Here it is in all it's red and black glory. ROG Branding ahoy. It's great to see that AMD are still finding new ways to make the most of the AM3+ socket. Design it well to begin with and reap the rewards for years to come.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review     ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review



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ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

Up Close Part 2

Just below the PCI-e sockets we have the on-board power and reset buttons alongside the CPU Level-Up which allows for a one-button overclock.

Multiple GPUs and hefty overclocking require plentiful power and tucked just behind the audio jacks is a molex, should you require yet more juice at the extreme end of things.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review      ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review  

All the latest and greatest performance features are included, from a USB 3.0 header to the SupremeFX audio.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review     ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review  

The PCI-e slots are spaced well enough that Triple GPU pleasure is easily obtained. ROG Branding always looks great and matches the Red and Black colour scheme nicely.

Yes your eyes are correct, a full compliment of SATA 6Gbp/s ports are the order of the day. It's great to see this as SATA3 is backwards compatible with SATA2 so there is no reason, besides cost, to retain the older format.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review     ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

The CPU socket is surrounded by matte-black heatsinks keeping the 8+2 Power Phase cool. Four DIMM sockets are enough with modern density to allow 32GB of Memory.

The Crosshair V Formula is absolutely stacked with outputs and even the most addicted peripheral junkie would struggle to fill all the USB ports available.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review    ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review



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ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

Test Setup

As we said in the intro, a large proportion of the features of the 990FX are designed to be taken advantage of by the Bulldozer CPUs from AMD which aren't available yet. So we're testing with the 1095T Hexcore. It's just worth remembering that the board will be limited by the earlier processor.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula
AMD 1095T @ 4.2 GHz
8GB Mushkin Redline @ 1900MHz
nVidia GTX570
Corsair AX1200 PSU
Noctua NH-D14 CPU Cooler
Windows 7 x64

Overclocking

With the Multiplier dropped the board is capable of an excellent 350MHz, which is good for a 4.2 GHz overclock once the multiplier is set back to normal. If it's this good with the older 1095T we really can't wait to see what can be squeezed from the next generation of CPUs that the CH5F is designed for.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Overclocking Review  

The Mushkin can be pushed on to just past 1900 MHz. Impressive stuff from the Crosshair.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review



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ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

AIDA64

CPU Benchmarks

When you compare the improvements from the Crosshair IV to the Crosshair V it shows there is a huge amount of untapped potential. A greatly improved score using identical hardware.

Memory Benchmarks

The 990FX is designed to go up against the Intel Sandybridge. However we're hugely limited by the processor here so once again it's worth noting how well the CH5 goes when compared to the CH4.



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ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

SiSoft Sandra

Processor Arithmetic

AMDs business model of giving the user better performance without having to buy a whole new system is sharply illustrated by the Sandra Arithmetic result. Identical hardware, yet the Crosshair V Formula trounces the Crosshair IV and isn't far behind the Core i5-2500K it's designed to compete with. Albeit with 2 extra cores.

Processor Multi-Media

Those extra cores help the Crosshair V to the top of our MultiMedia graph. Although the Integer x16 result is slightly behind the Crosshair IV it's likely an aberration as the rest of the scores are suitably improved.

 



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ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

PC Mark 7

The very latest version of the excellent PC Mark benchmark package from Futuremark gives us a glimpse of the potential awaiting us when the next CPUs arrive. Despite the memory bandwith being vastly inferior than the Sandybridge boards, the score remains highly competitive.

PC Mark Vantage

The elder PC Mark Vantage relies far heavier upon the memory bandwidth to obtain its test results and the Crosshair V Formula clearly suffers for us only being able to use the 1095T in it.



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ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

3D Mark 11

With the GTX570 in place there is no doubt that the AMD setup can still be a beastly gaming rig.

 

3D Mark Vantage

Although in the Vantage P-Score there is a little bit of a drop behind the very best Sandybridge boards, once the image quality and resolution are upped to a level people actually use the difference is negligible.



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ASUS Crosshair V Formula Review

Conclusion

Today's review is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand we can directly compare it against current AM3-based motherboards, but on the other we know that the primary reason for its existence, the Bulldozer CPUs, aren't yet upon us and so we're only scratching the surface of the potential available.

However we have always had a belief that we can't review things based upon potential, but rather we want to see how it performs right now so that if it was our money, would we be happy?

With the ASUS Crosshair V Formula we definitely would.

Even using a processor that isn't designed to maximise the board, the AMD 1095T, the Crosshair V Formula gave us results significantly better than we'd achieved on the Crosshair IV Formula.

The cornerstone of the AMD philosophy is that you can upgrade gradually without your current hardware being rendered obsolete the second your new motherboard is out of the packaging (are you listening Intel?). Rather you can retain your current AM3 based system, slot the Crosshair V Formula in and know that when we're all singing "Zambezi, Zambezi, Zambezi, Zam I'll find a way" you've already got a way, because your whole system is just a CPU swap away from awesomeness.

The ASUS Crosshair V Formula is bristling with features to take advantage of in the interim. So many design choices hit the sweet spot from the plethora of USB 3.0 ports to the choice of all SATA3 all the time, the CH5F is deserving of its ROG branding.

Whilst pricing isn't available at the time of going to press, knowing the Formula moniker ensures this wont be priced to the enthusiast sector is encouraging. There certainly isn't anything that springs to mind which would make the Extreme variant, if one such thing exists, worth holding out for.

The Formula is well built, looks the business, has the brilliant UEFI BIOS and will breathe new life into your current setup. Assuming it comes in under the £200 bracket we expect, there is no reason why it isn't worthy of anything other than Gold.

Now bring on the Bulldozers.

     

Thanks to ASUS for providing the Crosshair V Formula for review. Discuss in our forums.