ASUS RoG Crosshair V Formula and MSI 990FXA-GD80 Motherboards Review
The now familiar Republic of Gamers branding and box design is used once again for the latest Crosshair board, now on version 5 of the Formula series and we get some decent product information around the box and under the front flap. Inside the motherboard and bundle are separated into two separate boxes and included with this board is a huge amount of extras. These include SLI and 3-way SLI bridges, a crossfire connector, padded IO shield (Q-Shield), drive cables and a USB cable for the boards RoG Connect which allows us to monitor and control the system from an external device such as a laptop.
The board itself is similar in appearance to the Crosshair IV Formula, using a red and black colour scheme to great effect. A large passive heatsink is used to cool the area surrounding the CPU and this features a single heatpipe to move heat between the three sections around the 8+2 phase power components. Further down the board we see a second, smaller heatsink on the boards Southbridge chipset.
As with most of the boards launching today the Crosshair V Formula uses the 990FX/SB950 configuration and a black CPU socket which is designed to differentiate the AM3 of older boards (white/cream) from AM3+. As with past AMD launches the new first batch of products released fully support existing CPUs such as the Phenom X6 1100T.
Also worth noting is that a new style of bracket is used by ASUS for CPU cooler attachment, it works with existing coolers but lacks the two bars which run down the sides of the processor. Other minor tweaks on the board include dual 12v connectors at the top edge (1x 4-pin and 1x 8-pin) along with dual CPU fan headers for those who use large, multi-fan products.
Down at the bottom left of the 30.5×24.4cm PCB we find on-board power and reset buttons which sit beside the one touch overclock button. This allows novice users to have the board configure itself for safe overclocking settings, maximising performance of the components installed. To the left of these we find our Realtek based 7.1 audio chip which is certified to work with Creative X-Fi 2 software and then we have our PCI/PCIe slots. On the Crosshair V Formula these run from PCIe 16x through PCIe 1x, PCIe 8x, PCI, PCIe 16x to PCIe 4x. This means that AMD and ASUS are suggesting that users use slot 1 and 3 for dual GPU configurations, leaving plenty of airflow for the top graphics card.
Over at the bottom right of the board are our SATA sockets, six are 6Gb/s capable (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10) and run through the AMD Southbridge, the other is connected to the ASMedia SATA controller which is 6Gb/s enabled also. This combined with the eSATA which sits on the back panel means we have eight SATA3 ports on the latest Formula board.
Also dotted around this area are a few of ASUS on-board control chips such as DIGI+ and TurboV which combined with features such as Component Overheat Protection and ASUS CPU Parameter Recall make for a board which maximises performance, stability and energy efficiency.
Up at the top right of the board we find our dual channel memory slots, these are capable of holding 32GB of DDR3 and speeds of up to 2133MHz are officially supported. Beside the slots we see a standard 24-pin PSU connector and board status LEDs. To the left of these a red header which provides us with front panel USB 3.0 connectivity via the ASMedia USB3 controller that sits beside the memory slots. In the very corner of the board we also find voltage monitoring points and the ASUS GO button for easy selection of boot profiles.
Over at the back panel we find plenty of connectivity which starts with PS/2 and continues through 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, eSATA3, optical audio out (Realtek), 2x USB 3.0, Intel GB LAN, 2xUSB 2.0, 4x USB 2.0 (one RoG connect) and ends with our Realtek based 3.5mm audio connectors with gold hardware. An external Clear CMOS button is also present.
Back when the P67 chipset was launching for Intel we saw motherboard manufacturers start to move in earnest to GUI based BIOS layouts with mouse and keyboard functionality. Until now AMD boards had remained on the traditional style but that changes with these latest boards. Upon turning on the Crosshair V Formula we are presented with layout and functionality which is near identical to the Intel boards ASUS offer. We can go with basic settings which are displayed on one screen or move to advanced mode for full control of the system and it is great to see that ASUS EZ-Flash 2 is still present for quick and simple BIOS updates from a USB drive.
Once in Windows we have the option to use AMD Overdrive to control the motherboard or alternatively we can go with AI Suite, ASUS own software. This suite of applications gives us huge control over the Crosshair V Formula so that me can maximise performance and tweak energy saving to our needs.
Finally, ASUS also fully support 3TB drives on this board and fast charging of portable devices is also present as are free copies of Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Daemon Tools Pro Standard.
On our test bench today is the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE which looks to deliver many of the features of the competition such as enhanced audio and M.2. support but at a more aggressive price point.
Last month Intel launched their Z97 chipset, essentially an evolution of Z87, which in many cases brought new features such as SATA Express and M.2 compatibility to the mainstream desktop market. There was of course no new CPU at that time with the existing socket 1150 processors working without issue in the new boards. Since then though Intel launched (along with some lower spec models) the Core i7-4790K, a model which sits at the top of their mainstream platform. Today we see how it compares to various other models when installed on Gigabytes Z97X Gaming 5 and paired with PowerColors new dual core 290X Devil 13.
Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming G1 WiFi-BK vs. MSI Z97 Gaming 5 vs Asus Maximus VII Hero It is probably fair to say that Intel don't stealth launch their products... sure they have NDAs but by the time those expire we know pretty much everything about a new product. Part of this is of their own...