ASUS Crosshair V Formula

As the most expensive board in our tests, the Republic of Gamers branded Crosshair V Formula has to pack a punch in every area.  I found it surprisingly easy to test, and it comes with a good bundle in the box.  For users wanting a little more of an experience from their product, ASUS also has dedicated forums to their ROG lineup so similar minded users can exchange setups, ideas, and read ASUS materials on how to get the most out of their system.

Onboard, the use of an Intel NIC and the X-Fi 2 audio solution are big bonus points, which more than likely attribute to the price tag.  The BIOS is also a good representation of what the BIOS should be, and we have it here garnished in Republic of Gamers’ flair.  The AI Suite software too is a nicely packaged system well worth investigating if you own an ASUS board.  If you want supreme control over your onboard fans, you will not do much better than having fun with the ASUS solution.

I was a little disappointed with the overclocking scenario, with the Extreme function not being that much more than the Fast setting, and trying to push the processors, especially the Bulldozer, led to a certain amount of instability under heavy loads.

Performance wise the board is no slouch as anyone would expect.  However it does come in at under twice the price of the Biostar, so users will have to decide whether they want a system that just runs, or one that costs an extra $85 and the extra features will be used.

You could do a lot worse than the Crosshair V Formula, but with the feature set it provides (NIC + Audio especially), the only thing that may hold you back is the price.  If you have the cash to splash, this board ends up being a good part of any AMD build.

ASUS Sabertooth 990FX

The main selling point of the ASUS Sabertooth range is a magical five-year warranty.  With this in hand, ASUS are confident that their product will run and run and run.  In order to preserve this warranty, the Sabertooth range gives options and software in order for users to customize their cooling capacity.  The six fan headers on board, coupled with almost a dozen temperature sensors, are conjoined by the AI Suite software to allow the user to determine which fans are controlled by which sensors (or a combination therein), as well as the temperature ramp of each of the fans.

This being said, the Sabertooth 990FX as a product actually runs very warm with a Bulldozer product in it.  With the FX-8150, the overclocks were horrendously limited by the CPU temperature sensor going above 90 degrees Celsius, causing the processor to declock.  However, with a Thuban processor, the board flew quite well with its overclock range, with more than one occasion suggesting that if more voltage had been applied than our standard testing, it would be perfectly stable and within a power envelope.  Such is the difference between the processor families, and it seems that this Sabertooth is more optimized for Thuban than Bulldozer.

At around $185, coupled with that warranty, the Sabertooth comes with what I would consider the bare minimum in the box – several SATA cables and a single SLI connector.  In terms of on the board features, we are also treated to a Realtek NIC/Audio combination, and a lack of Power/Reset buttons on the product itself.  Of the audio, the AI Suite software and its sensor control causes our DPC Latency test to spike by a factor 10x, so I would suggest users turn AI Suite off if they are dealing with sensitive audio work.

The Sabertooth is a great board to have at stock or with a Thuban, and the level of customizability is nothing to be sniffed at.  A lot of people will be happy with this board, and at the price at the time of writing, offers more than its competitors.  A serious contender for a 990FX AMD system is right here.

Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5

When you go through so many motherboards and motherboard reviews in a given space of time, the writers block runs high and the amount of adjectives (superlative or not) runs low.  It is hard to describe how I exactly feel about this Gigabyte board.  Gigabyte is a master of advertising, and by scraping together here and there, they can offer a seemingly better board in a lower price bracket.

However this is the 990FXA-UD5, near the top of the 9-series range.  So hopefully they should not be trying to compromise the user experience.  When you read the specifications sheet and see a dual Realtek Audio/NIC combination, that is usually where it starts, and with an ALC 889 nonetheless.  Despite the board I tested being an earlier version (with pronounced CPU voltage ripple), the later boards have the same functionality but it should all be tightened in a bit and a little more optimized.

The main concern to note over the whole product was the temperature of the VRM heatsinks when under load (and overclocked).  There seems to be a lot of heat under there, and when it reaches a certain temperature (in my case, when the X6-1100T CPU read 65ºC), the CPU will throttle down to preserve the life of the components.  Some form of active cooling should have been employed if this was the case.

Layout is a little flaky as well, with dual GPU users needing to put their GPUs together in order to maximize PCIe lane usage.  Audio users will have to turn off the Gigabyte monitoring software to ensure that audio remains as smooth as possible.  Fan controls, as with previous Gigabyte iterations, are not that fancy, with only one OS control for all the fan headers on the motherboard.

For $180, the 990FXA-UD5 does come up a little short, and in my mind, it would be worth digging a little deeper into the pocket to pick up something else from the 9-series range. 

Gaming Benchmarks Final Words (MSI, Biostar) and Conclusion
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  • mmstick - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    The primary problem with AMD FX is that in order to use the full power of the FPU the program needs to be compiled with FMA4 support, else it is only using half of the FPUs, thus making it a quad core. Secondly, many Windows-based programs are compiled with the Intel C+ compiler, so although the FX may support AVX and many other instructions, the compiled program sees it as a non-Intel CPU so it disables those instruction sets, allowing Intel CPUs to be optimized, and AMD CPUs to remain deoptimized. This is what happens when you are up against someone with the most market share, whom has the ability to dictate what instruction sets they want programmers to use. As well, when people say they are going to buy Intel CPUs instead because they claim AMD didn't make a good processor, why do you think they can't be on top of performance? Without R&D budget there isn't much that can be done, and when you face someone who practically owns a monopoly, that makes it even moreso harder to compete. Reply
  • Omoronovo - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    The IC++ compiler has not done that since 2010 when they were forced to settle their antitrust dispute with AMD. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    " This is what happens when you are up against someone with the most market share, whom has the ability to dictate what instruction sets they want programmers to use. As well, when people say they are going to buy Intel CPUs instead because they claim AMD didn't make a good processor, why do you think they can't be on top of performance? Without R&D budget there isn't much that can be done, and when you face someone who practically owns a monopoly, that makes it even moreso harder to compete."

    Waaaaah. It's always someone else's fault.
    Reply
  • anubis44 - Friday, November 09, 2012 - link

    "Waaaaah. It's always someone else's fault."

    Well, sometimes it really IS someone else's fault. If the mafia had it in for you, and cut your brake cables and burnt your house down when you weren't looking, you'd say it's 'someone else's fault' too. Intel's blackmail and threats to suppliers who used AMD processors kinda screwed AMD over just a tad.

    That said, I think now that Jim Keller is back at AMD and head of AMD's CPU division, it won't be too long before AMD is seriously back in the game.
    Reply
  • Monkeysweat - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    I saw them on some of the benchmarks, why didn't you post them along side the AMD benchies for gaming?

    If we are looking at a roundup of the best of what AMD and it's partners have to offer, I'd like to see what the competing team brings to the table,, just leave em stock and even let the AMD ones get overclocked.

    I wouldn't even worry about cherry picking the Intel combos,, just something random.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    AMD has not abandoned the highend CPU market. Their focus may be broadening but that does not mean they will discontinue discrete highend desktop CPUs for at least several years. Eventually everyone except a small group will use APUs as they will deliver the best performance/value proposition. Only extremists will bother with a discrete CPU/GPU with higher power consumption, increased heat and little practical benefit for mainstream users. Reply
  • Articuno - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    It's a pretty nice chipset and the lower tier boards are quite cost-effective. Just wish Bulldozer was competitive with Intel, let alone their last gen chips. Reply
  • Mathieu Bourgie - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Thank you for this article Ian.

    Are there any chance that we'll see a review of the newer FX-6200 CPU or at least have data for it in the CPU bench? Considering that it's 500MHz faster than the model that it's replacing and no major site (or any that I can see) did a review of it, it'd be interesting to see how it performs.

    I'm curious to see if it's a valid alternative, in any way, for $170, vs the Intel Core i5-2300 ($180).

    I don't expect any miracle for gaming performance, but for workstation workloads (Photoshop, video editing and the like), who knows?

    Thanks,
    Mathieu
    Reply
  • cosminmcm - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    There is a review at pcper, a good one. The processor is pretty weak, nothing exciting there. Thuban walks all over it. Reply
  • Mathieu Bourgie - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    Thanks, I didn't see that.

    Quite disappointing indeed.

    Here's about that Piledriver or Trinity are more competitive.
    Reply

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