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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  • geforce912 - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Just so you know, the supremefx x-fi 2 on the crosshair v is still a realtek chip but with higher grade capacitors and a creative software overlay. Definitely not a creative chip. Please correct it. Reply
  • TerdFerguson - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Instead of repeatedly calling $130 cheap for a motherboard, why don't you step up and breakdown the costs associated with construction?

    This reviewer is backwards, as usual - the other boards are horribly overpriced, following the modern trend.

    I'd like to see a cost breakdown for any of the very overpriced boards. Please show us how they justify their high costs. It looks to me like Biostar simply didn't get the price-fixing memo.

    It's insane how many folks are continuing to support AMD because of its former stance as a budget option and how many of those purported fans seem to turn up their nose at any components that aren't marketed (and priced) as being premium-tier.
    Reply
  • MadAd - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    sata 3, cool
    usb 3, cool
    good overclocking, cool
    dual channel ram, itll do

    four graphics slots.....groan

    am fed up paying out the wazooo for these so called enthusiast boards when I only intend to run 1 graphics card ... yes im a gamer, i want the best in all other areas (esp best sata 3 perfomance) but jeez can we have some 'normal' boards reviewed along with these high end monsters pls?
    Reply
  • gilmoreisu - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    I'm a little disappointed in not seeing the ASRock Fatal1ty board. Any reason why this was left off? Otherwise, great round-up. Thank you! Reply
  • waldojim42 - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    One of the things I see skimmed over far too often these days are the actual audio capabilities. In the day of digital audio connections and receivers, why do we still have enthusiast level boards with stereo digital audio!? This is something That needs pointed out in the motherboard reviews. MSI makes such ridiculous claims, like "Lossless 24bit/192kHz HD Audio" and "THX TruStudio PRO", yet in the end mean NOTHING when you are playing a game, as you are still limited to 3(or 4) analog 3.5mm to RCA cables for your audio.

    So which boards support DTS/Dolby Digital encoding mid game?
    Reply
  • funguseater - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    Thank you for taking the time to review these motherboards. It is a relief to know that my old Gigabyte MA790X-UD4P still overclocks to the same levels with a thuban (1090t). It will be interesting to see if the next 1090 chipset will support the old Thubans.

    I only have DDR2 on my board but it doesn't seem to affect performance as much as I thought it would so I can wait for the next gen boards.

    Anyway thanks for including the 1100t in the review!
    Reply
  • ranger429 - Saturday, April 07, 2012 - link

    It would have been nice to see how a FX-4170 or 4100 would do in this test Reply
  • brahma - Saturday, April 07, 2012 - link

    excelent job, congratulations! ,... but what a shame! do you forget the asrock 990fx fatality, the unique with a fase power 12+2 !!
    salutations.
    Reply
  • Sunny129 - Saturday, April 07, 2012 - link

    Ian,

    First of all, thank you for the informative review and comparison of 990FX boards. Is there any particular reason you reviewed Gigabyte's GA-990FX-UD5, and not their big dog, the UD7? would it be worth while to review the UD7, since you seem to have reviewed the top 990FX boards from ASUS and MSI? specifically, i'd like to see if the UD7 suffers from the same downsides that the UD5 does, for instance the VRM heat issues while under load, lack of decent fan control, etc.

    thanks,
    Eric
    Reply
  • kukreknecmi - Saturday, April 07, 2012 - link

    What does this mean? Doesnt video encode is Floating Point intensive task?? Reply

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