Asus Crosshair III Formula vs DFI DK 790FXB M3H5 Face-Off

Asus Crosshair III

Packaging & Appearance
 
The Crosshair III is packaged in the same manner as other ROG motherboards on general release today. The red packaging of the Crosshair III is both appealing and sturdy. The matt effect cardboard sleeve has a luxurious feel to it and the omission of any fairytale figurines signifies that this is a serious motherboard for serious enthusiasts. The Crosshair III title is in holographic ROG text with only the obligatory AMD and ATI emblems accompanying the text on the front. However, flipping the box over, Asus begin to go into detail regarding some of the specifications of the motherboard.
 
box front box rear
 
Opening the lid of the box via Velcro tabs, we find that Asus have included a window on the package which allows the user to see the actual product without potentially damaging it by incorrect handling. The top of the 'lid' describes the main feature set of the Crosshair III including MemOK which Asus claim enhances memory compatibility of the motherboard. CPU Level Up is an auto overclocking device, great for folk who do not understand the dark arts of BIOS overclocking and to round off, the Crosshair also includes a separate XFI Supreme FX sound card.
 
box inner box inner top
 
Both the motherboard and accessories are separately packaged which is a great idea and helps keep the contents in place during transit. The accessories included are what you would expect from a premium motherboard including 6 SATA cables, USB/Firewire bracket, Q-Connectors, LED Display, IDE cables, Supreme FX sound card, I/O backplate along with the motherboard manual and driver CD.
 
accessories
 
The main board itself follows on with the ROG theme of blue and white slots upon a black PCB. Initial impressions are that the motherboard is well laid out with everything appearing to be in the right place. The rear of the Crosshair is nothing to interesting barring the fact that Asus deemed it unnecessary to include backplates to the heatsink assembly.
 
board front box rear
 
The CPU socket are is tightly packed a row of ten chokes accompanying 10 solid capacitors leaving very little room to the left of the socket. This cramped area has however left plenty of room above the socket. Upon installation of the test setup I found that the area next to the memory slots was very cramped and therefore using an over sized heatsink and tall memory modules would certainly prove difficult if you intend to use the blue memory slots. Fortunately for me, I had no such issues but it is something to bear in mind. As stated in the introduction, the AM3 affords DDR3 in dual channel, unganged mode and with four slots available on the Crosshair III, up to 16 GB can be fitted.
 
xpu socket memory sockets
 
The PCIe area of the motherboard is well laid out with plenty of space for two GPU's. At the time of writing though, the Crosshair III is only Crossfire certified so SLI users will unfortunately have to look elsewhere. With both GPU slots filled you will only have use of a single PCI slot given that the top PCIe x1 slot will be taken up with the included SupremeFX sound card. To the left of the PCI slots are 5 SATA ports supporting 3GB/s. An IDE port is also included for those using this technology.
 
pcie SATA
 
The bottom of the motherboard has revised Power and Reset buttons which light up white and red respectively when the board is powered on. To the left of these buttons is the MemOK button which loads the failsafe settings allowing greater memory compatibility during non-boot scenarios.
 
The I/O backplate area if fairly sparse compared to what we are used to seeing on premium motherboards with just 6 USB ports, Firewire, e-Sata, Lan port, and a PS/2 keyboard port. The Crosshairs only saving grace is the inclusion of an illuminated (green) CMOS reset button.
  
power connector
 
Dominating the board is the Northbridge heatsink which, along with the Southbridge heatsink utilises the 'Pin-Fin' design found on other Asus boards. Both the Northbridge and Southbridge heatsinks are gun metal grey in colour and are both aluminium. The Northbridge has an illuminated emblem to one side once the board is receiving power. This Northbridge heatsink is attached to both the Southbridge and Mosfet cooler via a heatpipe which snakes its way around the board.
 
NB sb
 
A neat idea we are seeing more of on premium boards is the ability to replace the Northbridge's cooler with one of your own choosing, such as a waterblock. This is great for those not wanting to replace the whole heatsink assembly. As you can see from the picture below, our heatsink had thermal tape applied to transfer heat between the two surfaces.
 
no block
 
Removing the heatpipe was pretty straight forward with minimal of hassle. However users should be aware that both the Northbridge and Southbridge cores are very fragile and this should be done with extreme caution as they are easily 'nibbled' rendering the board useless as well as invalidating the warranty. Strangely, Asus had applied a lot of paste to the cores which was of bubblegum consistency. Also bizarrely, the heatsink had some sort of thermal pad in addition to the paste attached to it which would surely only serve to hinder and not aid thermal transfer. I can only assume that this sponge/tape is there to cushion the cores. This combination however was left in place for the review but no doubt this is something end users may want to consider modifying if they are having issues with chipset temperatures.
 
sb chip
 
It's hard not to be impressed by the lengths Asus have gone to to present the package in the most appealing way possible. From the exterior to the board itself, everything oozed quality. I could not fault the packaging apart from the fact I would liked to have seen some sponge behind the motherboard protecting it as cardboard, while padded itself, seemed a little to harsh for my liking. This however is a very minor point on what for all intents and purposes is a very appealing package. The board is very well laid out and apart from the potential cooling issues noted above and the proximity of the memory slots to the socket,  it's very hard to fault.
 
Let's take a look at the BIOS options of the Crosshair III...
 
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Most Recent Comments

26-07-2009, 16:29:16

Rastalovich
Jeez I'm quite surprized tbh.

Excellent review.

Shame on DFI with some of their onboard choices ALC885 and Marvell ? c'mon - throw in the jumper and I'd expect the mobo to be cheaper.

The ASUS tho, even as the DFI kept up with it (and it can be assumed better with the model up), very very nice figures for the gamer.

Things are looking green whilst blue seems to want to confuse. Weird that cos in other respects AMD would be ... red Quote

26-07-2009, 16:37:36

mayhem
Asus calling that a top of the range bord ...

If i was paying that much id expect 6 sata and water cooling blocks for the chip set and so much more ...

Is it relay worth that much ...

Excellent review.Quote

26-07-2009, 16:39:45

w3bbo
Compared to the cost of i7 motherboards its a freakin bargain!Quote

26-07-2009, 16:41:55

mayhem
yeh i7 is just extortion ...

What happened to our lovely sub £100 boards that used to perform like "some thing off a stick" ..

Now there filled with useless rubbish and fancy packaging that costs more than half the bit's inside the box.

I would like my £100 Sub boards that performed back .... This is a recession were in ...

God if i was a reviewer id be the most hated reviewer out there because im so critical or half the gear they stuff inside these things.

Reviews all say yeah you get 6 sata leads and a LCD and loads of fancy this and that. Me i say remove that and drop the price by £50 / £60 quid and ill be happy.

Half the Gimmicks are just that "Pure Gimmicks" nothing more.

Im trying to avoid this coming out as a rant more trying to point out facts.

Bling is just chav.....

Don't forget im a little old fashioned as well.Quote

26-07-2009, 17:08:18

w3bbo
I totally agree. However I do like a well rounded product. Packaging is a major plus point with me and they score highly if its done right.

Prices have rocketted though I do agree and yeah they could cut out half the crap but when you compare the Asus vs the DFI here, both costing more or less the same the Asus wins hands down for the bling and accessories alone, let alone performance.Quote
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