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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  • IanCutress - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Unfortunately we don't have an infinite amount of kit to review with. We're individual reviewers here, not all working in a big office. Obviously we can't all request top end kit from manufacturers either. Plus for every time we do use new high end kit, we also get comments about testing something 'more realistic' to most users. In that circumstance, we can't win and please everyone, but we do try and be as consistent as possible.

    Ian
    Reply
  • phocean - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    I bought the Sabertooth a few weeks ago... and it throws an annoying buzzing sound in the speakers, especially when a USB port is used (in other words, all the time).
    It is the sign of an isolation issue between chipsets and shows poor design and testing from Asus.
    Needless to say that the support was of no help (and no willing to help).
    So don't buy it, unless you don't plug any speaker in it.
    Reply
  • richaron - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    Mine doesn't have this problem. You either got an unlucky board, or your psu is funky. Reply
  • extide - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Seem to me like you were probably using a bit too much voltage for the BD. I would assume that is why you had so many issues with thermal runaway. 1.4-1.45ish would probably be a better place to stay with an air cooler :) Reply
  • extide - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    EDIT: Nevermind I forgot you are using the AMD kit watercooler, which is better than straight air cooling but I'd think it would take more of a fully custom built water setup to run 1.5v vCore. Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    I was going to build a new computer based on Ivy Bridge this Fall, I'm still running a Core 2 Duo E8400. But I've decided I'm not building myself a new computer until the motherboard has USB 3.0 and ONLY USB 3.0. A LOT of them, EVERYWHERE!

    I just built a guy a Z68 based computer with an i7 2700K but I had to order a VERY hard to find adapter card to plug in the USB 3.0 based memory card reader and the USB 3.0 on the front of the Fractal Design case. Because the Asus motherboard has ZERO USB 3.0 headers on it. It never even occurred to me that was a possibility. Not only has USB 3.0 been out for years now, but it was released WAY over-due. WTF is the hold up. Make the switch. USB 2.0 is for the 2000's decade, it's 2012. I am done with USB 2.0. I shouldn't have to buy an add-in card for BRAND NEW motherboard to support basic accesories, like a memory card reader and front usb port.

    This is related to this article because I think if AMD was actually competitive with Intel AT ALL, like they were with Athlon XP/64/64 X2, then Intel would step up their game all around. Or maybe I wouldn't even have to buy Intel because they constantly make shit decisions like this, and changing the motherboard socket constantly, and charging 300 dollars for a quad core with HT. Their shit is endless and I really don't want to buy their products but AMD is simply not an option; if I wanted something that slow I'd just put a quad core Penryn based CPU in my current rig and save a bunch of money.
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    There are only two Asus Z68 boards that don't have the USB 3 header, but somehow it's *Intel's* fault that Asus didn't use a USB 3 header on the board you bought?
    Huh...
    Maybe you should have been a little more attentive when board shopping.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    Hi Hrel,

    I actually like USB 2.0 on my boards. If you have solely USB 3.0 and use them all, there's a big chance of a bottleneck in the bus somewhere. Also, I install a fresh operating system on every board I test via USB as it is a lot quicker than CD. Unfortunately during the install program, it doesn't process anything through the USB 3.0 ports - mouse, keyboard, or even the USB stick with the OS on. So I ideally like to have three USB 2.0 ports for that purpose. It's more a fault of Windows7 than the chipset, but otherwise if a board only has two USB 2.0 ports, I have to disconnect the mouse and use the keyboard and USB install drive only. Saying that, I have a board in that is solely USB 3.0, so it's going to be fun to install an OS on that... :/

    Ian
    Reply
  • fic2 - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    I have a Dell keyboard that has 2 USB ports on it. That would solve your problem with a 2 x USB 2 mb. I currently have the mouse daisy chained off the keyboard. Reply
  • B - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Your article should note that sound blaster provides a software overlay, but under that aluminum skin overlay lies a Realtek chip. I was fooled by this marketing and very disappointed after configuring this motherboard and discovering this fact. You don't get soudblasters hardware acceleration or the crystalizer. You should note this in any article about the asus line with x-fi2. Had I known I would have done things differently. Reply

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