ASUS Crosshair V Formula Motherboard Review

Today we look at ASUS’ top of the line AMD board, the Crosshair V Formula. The Formula houses AMD’s newest chipset, the 990FX northbridge and SB950 southbridge.

Packaging and First Look

ASUS doesn’t fix what isn’t broken and they’ve presented their Crosshair V Formula as they did the Crosshair IV series before it. There is a flap covering a window that allows you to peer into the board without even opening up the box. There are detailed specifications as well as feature highlights all over.

Crosshair V Formula Box

Crosshair V Formula Box

Crosshair V Formula Box Rear

Crosshair V Formula Box Rear

Crosshair V Formula Box Flap

Crosshair V Formula Box Flap

Crosshair V Formula First Glimpse

Crosshair V Formula First Glimpse

You didn’t come here to see the box though; let’s pull the board out and have a look at it from plenty of angles.

ASUS Crosshair V Formula, In the Flesh

ASUS Crosshair V Formula, In the Flesh

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

ASUS Crosshair V Formula

First impression: this is one really good looking board. I like the IV Formula, but the V is in a class by itself. Top to bottom this is one of the best looking motherboards out there. I don’t even really like the red/black RoG theme, but what they did with it here is second to none.

Specifications and Features

As usual, ASUS has one of the longest feature sets you’ll ever find. Here is the complete laundry list:

Specifications

CPU
  • AMD AM3+ FX™/Phenom™ II/Athlon™ II/Sempron™ 100 Series Processors
  • Supports AM3+ 32 nm CPU
  • Supports CPU up to 8 cores
  • Supports CPU up to 140 WAMD Cool ‘n’ Quiet™ Technology
Chipset AMD 990FX/SB950
Memory
  • 4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Hz ECC, Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
  • Dual Channel Memory Architecture
  • * Refer to www.asus.com or user manual for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
  • * Due to OS limitation, when installing total memory of 4GB capacity or more, Windows® 32-bit operation system may only recognize less than 3GB. Install a 64-bit Windows® OS when you want to install 4GB or more memory on the motherboard.
Multi-GPU Support
  • Supports NVIDIA® 3-Way SLI™ Technology
  • Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
Expansion Slots
  • 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual x16 or x16, x8, x8)
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode)
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
  • 1 x PCI
Storage AMD SB950 controller : 6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), redSupport Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
ASMedia® ASM1061 controller : 1 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red1 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
LAN Intel®, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Audio
  • SupremeFX X-Fi 2 built-in 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
  • Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking

Audio Feature :

  • X-Fi® Xtreme Fidelity™
  • EAX® Advanced™ HD 5.0
  • THX® TruStudio PRO™
  • Creative ALchemy
  • Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
  • Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel

USB Ports ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller : 6 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
AMD SB950 controller : 12 x USB 2.0 port(s) (8 at back panel, black+white, 4 at mid-board)
Overclocking Features ROG Connect : 

  • RC Diagram
  • RC Remote
  • RC Poster
  • GPU TweakIt


Extreme Engine Digi+ :

  • 8 + 2 phase power design


UEFI BIOS features :

  • ROG BIOS Print
  • GPU.DIMM Post


GameFirstiROGExtreme
TweakerOverclocking Protection :

  • COP EX (Component Overheat Protection – EX)
  • Voltiminder LED
  • ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)

Special Features ASUS TPU : 

  • CPU Level Up


Core UnlockerASUS Exclusive Features :

  • MemOK!
  • Ai Charger+

ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :

  • ASUS Fan Xpert

ASUS EZ DIY :

  • ASUS Q-Shield
  • ASUS O.C. Profile
  • ASUS EZ Flash 2
  • ASUS MyLogo 3


ASUS Q-Design :

  • ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
  • ASUS Q-Connector

Back I/O Ports
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
  • 1 x eSATA 6Gb/s
  • 1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 8 x USB 2.0 (white port can be switched to ROG Connect)
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF out
  • 6 x Audio jack(s)
  • 1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
Internal I/O Ports
  • 1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional
  • 2 USB 3.0 port(s)
  • 2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional
  • 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
  • 7 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
  • 2 x CPU Fan connector(s)
  • 3 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
  • 3 x Optional Fan connector(s)
  • 1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
  • 1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
  • 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
  • 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
  • 1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
  • 1 x System panel(s)
  • 8 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
  • 3 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
  • 1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS header(s)
  • 1 x EZ Plug connector(s) (4-pin Molex power connector)
  • 1 x Power-on button(s)1 x Reset button(s)
  • 1 x CPU Level Up button(s)
  • 1 x ROG Connect switch(es)
  • 1 x Go Button(s)
Accessories
  • User’s manualI/O Shield
  • 6 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
  • 1 x 3-Way SLI bridge(s)
  • 1 x SLI bridge(s)
  • 1 x CrossFire cable(s)
  • 1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
  • 1 x ROG Connect cable(s)
  • 1 x Cable ties pack(s)
  • 1 x ROG theme label(s)
  • 1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
BIOS
  • 32Mb Flash ROM
  • UEFI BIOS
  • PnP
  • DMI2.0
  • WfM2.0
  • SM BIOS 2.5
  • ACPI2.0a
  • Multi-Language BIOS
Manageability
  • WOL by PME
  • WOR by PME
  • PXE
Support Disc
  • Drivers
  • Sound Blaster® X-Fi 2
  • UtilityKaspersky® Anti-Virus
  • DAEMON Tools Pro Standard
  • ROG CPU-Z
  • ASUS Utilities
Form Factor ATX Form Factor 12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

They also highlight several of the features on their web site, which are copied here verbatim. Some of these mirror comments on the box, others are in addition to them.

CPU Feature

FX™/Phenom™ II/Athlon™ II/ Sempron™ 100 Series Processors (AM3+ CPU)

This motherboard supports latest AMD Socket AM3+ multi-core processors with up to 8 native CPU cores and delivers better overclocking capabilities with less power consumption. It features AMD Turbo CORE Technology 2.0 and accelerates data transfer rate up to 5200MT/s via HyperTransport™ 3.0 based system bus. This motherboard also supports AMD CPUs in the new 32nm manufacturing process.

Chipset Feature

AMD 990FX Chipset

AMD 990FX Chipset is designed to support up to 5.2GT/s HyperTransport™ 3.0 (HT 3.0) interface speed and dual PCI Express™ 2.0 x16 graphics. It is optimized with AMD latest AM3+ and multi-core CPUs to provide excellent system performance and overclocking capabilities.

Multi-GPU Technology

SLI/CrossFireX On-Demand

Why choose when you can have both?
SLI or CrossFireX? Fret no longer because with the ROG Crosshair V Formula, you´ll be able to run both multi-GPU setups. The board features SLI/CrossFireX on Demand technology, supporting SLI or CrossFireX configuration. Whichever path you take, you can be assured of jaw-dropping graphics at a level previously unseen.

Memory Feature

DDR3 2133(O.C.) Support

This motherboard supports DDR3 2133(O.C.) that provides faster data transfer rate and more bandwith to increase memory computing efficiency, enhancing system performance in 3D graphics and other memory demanding applications.

Sound with Clarity

SupremeFX X-Fi 2

Play with ultra-real cinematic in-game surround sound!
SupremeFX X-Fi 2 delivers incredible gaming audio experiences to ROG die hards. It features EAX 5.0 and OpenAL for ultra-real cinematic in-game audio. It even comes with THX TruStudio PRO branding, which makes games, music and movies sound way better! SupremeFX X-Fi 2 also implements gold-plated jacks and high quality capacitors to ensure high definition adventures in audio.

ROG Exclusive Features

Extreme Engine Digi+

Powerful combination of analog and digital design elements
Extreme Engine Digi+ equipped with high performance digital VRM design can easily achieve the ultimate performance with adjustable CPU PWM frequency. It expedites heat dissipation and achieves better electric conduction keeping critical components reliable. Now you’ll be able to push your spanking new CPU to the limit, hitting benchmark scores that others only dream of. Extreme Engine Digi+ balances the need for voltage and the desire for rock solid performance to bring the ultimate user experience.

ROG Connect

Plug and Overclock – Tweak it the hardcore way!
Monitor the status of your desktop PC and tweak its parameters in real-time via a notebook—just like a race car engineer—with ROG Connect. ROG Connect links your main system to a notebook through a USB cable, allowing you to view real-time POST code and hardware status readouts on your notebook, as well as make on-the-fly parameter adjustments at a purely hardware level.

GameFirst

The speed you need to pwn
Low Internet latency allows you to frag more, and get fragged less. That’s why ROG has introduced GameFirst, a feature that manages the flow of traffic according to your needs so that you can still listen to online music, download and upload files, and engage in Internet chats without sacrificing the low ping times you need to pwn your opponents.

CPU Level Up

A simple click for instant upgrade!
Ever wish that you could have a more expansive CPU? Upgrade your CPU at no additional cost with ROG’s CPU Level Up! Simply pick the processor you wanted to OC to, and the motherboard will do the rest! See the new CPU speed and enjoy that performance instantly. Overclocking is never as easy as this.

GPU.DIMM Post

Easily check the status of your graphics cards and memory in the BIOS!
Notice potential problems even before you enter the OS! Overclockers can save valuable minutes in detecting component failure under extreme conditions. With GPU.DIMM Post, quickly and easily check your graphics cards and memory DIMMs status in the BIOS, potentially keeping that record-breaking overclock!

BIOS Print

One click, easily share your BIOS settings
ROG offers a whole new EFI BIOS feature to handle the demands of an overclocking experience. Crosshair V Formula features ROG BIOS Print which allows users to easily share their BIOS settings to others with the press of a button. The days of using a camera to take BIOS screenshot are over.

ROG Bundled

ROG CPU-Z

Whole new design of CPU-Z
ROG CPU-Z is a customized ROG version authorized by CPUID. It has the same functionality and credibility as the original version, with a unique design. Use the whole new look of ROG CPU-Z to truly report your CPU related information and your uniqueness.

Kaspersky® Anti-Virus

The best protection from viruses and spyware
Kaspersky® Anti-Virus Personal offers premium antivirus protection for individual users and home offices. It is based on advanced antivirus technologies. The product incorporates the Kaspersky® Anti-Virus engine, which is renowned for malicious program detection rates that are among the industry’s highest.

DAEMON Tools Pro Standard

The real tool for optical and virtual discs
DAEMON Tools Pro offers essential functionality to backup CD, DVD and Blu-ray discs. It converts optical media into virtual discs and emulates devices to work with the virtual copies. DAEMON Tools Pro organizes data, music, video and photo collections on a PC, notebook or netbook.

Other Features

Intel Gigabit LAN

Experience the fast network connectivity!
The LAN solution from Intel has been long known to have a better throughput, lower CPU utilization as well as better stability. With the Intel Gigabit LAN solution onboard, the ultimate network experience can therefore be delivered to its users like never before.

———-

Whew, that is one looooooong list. Can’t really knock them though; the board does have a ton of features and you can’t blame them for wanting to show them off.

Accessories

The accessories bundle is full of connectivity. There are six SATA 6 GB/s cables, two- and three- way SLI bridges, a crossfire bridge and the ROG Connect USB cable. In addition, you get a quick start guide, manual, driver disc, rear I/O plate, easy-connectors for front-panel connections and that gawdy, horrible RoG stocker they insist on sending with their boards.

Crosshair V Formula Accessories

Crosshair V Formula Accessories

Crosshair V Formula Accessories

Crosshair V Formula Accessories

It’s a strong accessory package, but words can’t do justice to how awful that sticker is. Who uses those things? They can do better than that. It doesn’t look bad on the manual, but when translated to sticker form it just looks….bad.

Up Close and Personal

Moving the camera a bit closer to the board, let’s have a look at some of its features, a lot of which are contained in this very first photo. Most conspicuous is the expansion card area. There is are one each of PCI and PCIe x1 slots. To compliment that, there are four PCIe x16 slots. Not all of these operate at 16x though. The top slot is, of course, 16x. The bottom one is dedicated at 4x.

The two middle x16 slots operate at 8x or 16x, depending on the configuration. If you run two-card SLI/Crossfire, ASUS recommends using the first and third slots; both cards will operate at 16x. If you run tri-SLI or tri-Fire, use all three (but not the one that operates at 4x). Tri-SLI/tri-Fire configurations will operate at 16x on the top card and 8x on the bottom two.

To the lower left, you see the SupremeFX X-Fi2 sticker residing over the sound chip. At the bottom is the on-board power and reset switches -very important to overclockers- as well as the CPU Level Up button.

Expansion Slots / Onboard Switches

Expansion Slots / Onboard Switches

Moving to the upper right section of the board, we see the four DIMM slots. If you’re using an x6 (or greater, when FX arrives) CPU, ASUS recommends using the two red slots first to get the best performance. After some testing though I found the gray slots to be equal or ever so slightly faster. They may be referring only to FX, only time will tell. You can see just below the RAM slots in this picture the two alloy chokes and MOSFETs that make up the board’s two-phase dedicated RAM power.

At the bottom of this photo (it’s hard to see) below the power connector are the Q_LED indcators. These have grown on me since first seeing them on the Crosshair IV Formula and then the IV Extreme. Earlier, I was partial to a POST code indicator, but the more I saw these in action, they seem more and more practical. For people that aren’t uber-geeks that have memorized the POST codes, these are a quick and easy way to know where the system is failing at boot. Thus, consider earlier criticism of the lack of a POST code incdicator retracted. This solution is better for 99.9% of users, from extreme overclockers to gaming enthusiasts and in between.

On the far right at the top is an extra 4-pin CPU power connector to bolster the CPU power section when overclocking at high voltages. Below that is the first of two CPU 4-pin fan headers. Across the adjacent capacitor is the second CPU fan header. These are positioned close to each other and can easily be used to power push-pull fans on an air cooler.

DIMM Slots Plus Lots More

DIMM Slots Plus Lots More

Coming a little closer to the far upper right side of the board, we see several more overclocker-friendly features. You can see a little better the 2nd CPU fan header (CPU_OPT) and even a third fan header positioned on the far upper right of the board. It’s actually hard to get a photo without a fan header on this board, considering that there are eight of them.

At the top of this photo, those silver contacts are the ProbeIt voltage read points for you to use a multimeter for accurate, real-time voltage monitoring. Most ‘regular’ users won’t use this feature, but they are very important for extreme overclockers. My only wish is that they had easy multimeter probe connections like the Crosshair IV Extreme. That can be solved by soldering wires onto these, but it’s easier to plug in a connector that easily fits multimeter probes.

Lastly in this photo is the GO button, which also serves as the MemOK! button. When used as the GO button, press this and it automatically applies the profile you save for the GO button in the UEFI. Even more practical for overclockers that love to push their memory hard is the MemOK! function. When the system fails to boot due to memory settings (overclocked too far, timings too tight or voltage too low for instance), hold this down for two seconds and the UEFI will automatically drop the memory speed and/or loosen the timings until the board can boot. This is invaluable to save yourself from having to clear CMOS and obliterating all of your settings just because you pushed the memory too far.

GO Button, Voltage Read Points

GO Button, Voltage Read Points

Here we have two of the important chips on the board. To the left is ASUS’ Digi+VRM/EPU controller that handles the advanced power management on this board. To the right is the Intel Ethernet controller.

Digi+ VRM / EPU Chip

Digi+ VRM / EPU Chip

Intel Ethernet Controller

Intel Ethernet Controller

ASUS considers the Intel controller to be a big deal, reducing CPU cycles you need to dedicate to your controller under heavy usage. Their GameFirst software even allows you to set the network priority of your game to help reduce lag.

Intel Ethernet - Image Courtesy ASUS

Intel Ethernet (Courtesy ASUS)

 

Moving on to connectivity, the Crosshair V Formula has six SATA 6 GB/s ports (can we call that SATA III yet?) controlled by the SB950 southbridge. The seventh is controlled by a separate controller and isn’t side-facing like the rest of the ports. It’s nice to have the option to use a seventh port (for, say, an ODD), but to put it in that orientation just seems odd, like it was an afterthought. With the added controller, I’d like to have seen two new ports and have it in the same orientation as the rest of the ports.

The rear panel’s contents are described in the specification list above. Needless to say, just looking at it, you can see there is a plethora of connectivity available. The only thing that may give some enthusiasts pause is the lack of two ethernet ports. I applaud them for not including it though and have always thought it extraneous and unnecessary for the vast majority of people. It seemed like a lot of manufacturers just did it on high end boards because they felt the need to throw the kitchen sink at them. This was a step in the right direction – focus more on the board and less on extraneous options few, if any, use.

Of course, as important as anything else to overclockers is the rear clear CMOS button, which is present on this board as it was on the IV. Those are a godsend for overclockers; I wish every board had one.

SATA 6Gb/s Ports

SATA 6Gb/s Ports

Rear Panel Connectivity

Rear Panel Connectivity

Last, but not lest, we present socket AM3+, or as Foxconn labels it, socket AM3b. It has the same hold-down mechanism as its predecessor but the pin count has increased to 942 from 941.

Socket AM3+

Socket AM3+

Time to get down to the nitty gritty and pull those heatsinks off.

Under the Hood

There are two heatsinks on this board. One for the MOSFETs and northbridge combined and one for the southbridge. These aren’t connected like they are on some boards (Gigabyte’s 990FXA-UD7 comes to mind).

MOSFET / 990FX Northbridge Heatsink

MOSFET / 990FX Northbridge Heatsink

SB850 Heatsink

SB950 Heatsink

Board Back (Notice Rear MOSFET Heatsinks)

Board Back (Notice Rear MOSFET Heatsinks)

There are actually MOSFETs on the back of the board too. They are two slim pieces of metal that serve both to dissipate extra heat and as backplates for the main heatsink. The main assembly is quite stout and does a good job of keeping the board cool. The southbridge heatsink actually seems to be designed like a heatsink rather than the typical slab o’ metal. The branding doesn’t help much but the southbridge doesn’t get very hot anyway. All of the heatsinks had good contact throughout.

Heatsinks Removed

Heatsinks Removed

Naked Board

Naked Board

Good Heatsink Contact Throughout

Good Heatsink Contact Throughout

My only complaint, and it is consistent through every board from pretty much any manufacturer – the TIM is a massive pain to remove. You knew that already though, it’s nothing knew. Do I wish they’d stop that? For sure. Are they going to? Probably not – the stock stuff is sufficient for 99% of people. The few that will change it are those that just want to replace it to be doing so, those that want to use water blocks and those who want to take photos of the north- and southbridges (you know…us).

ASUS has outfitted the Crosshair V Formula with an 8+2 phase “EXTREME ENGINE DIGI+” digital power section. All of the inductors are ally chokes (better than ferrite used on other boards), the MOSFETS are low RDS(on) and the capacitors are FPCAP 5K Graded Premium Caps.

One question I had of ASUS was precisely why alloy chokes are better than ferrite chokes. Their answer was that they offer lower temperatures, increased frequency response and tend to last much longer than alternatives. That all, of course, depends on the quality of the alloy chokes employed and ASUS says theirs are at the top end of that spectrum.

To the average user, does this really mean much? Not really. Your board may last a little longer, but considering the audience interested in boards of this caliber it will be replaced long before one of these chokes fails, regardless of whether it’s ferrite or alloy. It’s still a nice thing to have and they do claim at the bleeding edge of your system’s capabilities when overclocking on extreme cooling these do offer some more stability, which is probably a reasonable assertion. Regardless, I’d rather have overkill components than ones not up to the task.

Power Section

Front Power Section

Rear Power Section

Rear Power Section

Last on our board tour are the 990FX northbridge and SB950 southbridge. The only change from the 890FX/SB850 is a model number. The silicone is the same. It has some different features from firmware/software implementation (the biggest being purported power saving features of the upcoming Bulldozer-based Zambezi CPUs), but for all intents and purposes not much has changed here.

990FX Northbridge

990FX Northbridge

SB950 Southbridge

SB950 Southbridge

Enough looking around, let’s turn the system on!

The UEFI

This UEFI is very similar to the one we saw on the P8P67 WS Revolution earlier this year, except for the AMD options of course. When you first enter the UEFI, you are put right in the Extreme Tweaker menu. From here you do pretty much anything associated with overclocking your system. There are bus clock, multiplier and voltage controls right there when you first enter the UEFI.  This board is made for overclockers.

Voltage control is extensive and plentiful. There is a control for everything and then some. The settings in the photographs are what ran 4093 MHz 24/7 stable on this CPU.

UEFI Main Menu

UEFI Main Menu

UEFI Main Menu 2

UEFI Main Menu 2

UEFI Main Menu 3

UEFI Main Menu 3

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – ASUS loves their RAM tweakers. Every timing you can think of is in their RAM menu. Timings not enough? How about DRAM driving controls for even more flexibility? There is even a GPU.DIMM Post window to show you what GPU and, more importantly, what RAM you’re running, where it’s running and at what speed it’s running. ASUS hearts RAM nuts.

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control 2

DRAM Timing Control 2

DRAM Driving Control

DRAM Driving Control

DRAM Driving Control 2

DRAM Driving Control 2

DIMM Info

DIMM Info

Next up, we have the Digi+VRM menu. I’m torn on Digi+VRM. For most people, especially those that value power saving and efficiency, Digi+VRM is wonderful. It offers granular control over many settings to get the most efficiency out of your system.

That said, for many overclockers, it would be easier to have just voltage and LLC. The rest can go for a lot of folks. Most want to set their Vcore, set LLC to where it needs to be and then overclock. With Digi+VRM, you absolutely must tweak it or you’re in for a rude awakening at high Vcore. As a person who loves to tinker, I enjoy the challenge and the extra functionality Digi+VRM  offers, but it does take some getting used to and you should know that going in.

In the screenshot you can see the settings I used for this overclock (4093 MHz). As my concern is mostly for performance rather than efficiency, I went with ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ a lot. High LLC holds Vcore pretty much where you set it. Extreme overshoots set Vcore a little bit. I also bumped up the VRM frequency and voltage over-current protection.

Digi+VRM Menu

Digi+VRM Menu

The Advanced menu is where you’ll find your other CPU options like Cool n’ Quiet (CnQ) and where you can turn cores on and off at will. If you have a capable CPU, it’s also where you can attempt to unlock extra cores.

Advanced Menu

Advanced Menu

Advanced / CPU Configuration

Advanced / CPU Configuration

Advanced / CPU Core Unlocker

Advanced / CPU Core On/Off Function

Another nice item in the UEFI is the strong fan control available to go with the many fan headers on the board. Not all of them can be controlled, but several can. The controls are extensive and flow perfectly between settings in the UEFI and with Fan Xpert, a program in AI Suite (see below). So I get this right, I’ll just quote ASUS – “Only the CPU and Chassis fan headers offer multiple control paths (three presets or manual with temp and/or cycle settings plus full customization of the ramp mapping under Fan Expert).  The OPT fan headers offer either duty or temp settings.”

Fan Control

Fan Control

The other main menu we’ll look at in-depth is the Tool menu. This houses several of ASUS’ best UEFI features. The first is excellent for at-a-glance checking your RAM’s timings and sub-timings if you want to tweak them – ASUS SPD Information. More snuggling up to RAM tweakers, I love it!

Tool Menu

Tool Menu

ASUS SPD Information

ASUS SPD Information

Next up is the EZ Flash 2 Utility. It has received the GUI sprucing up of a UEFI interface, but it’s the same old EZ Flash 2 and there is absolutely no reason to change it. Its job is to flash your UEFI and it does a great job of it. Coming from someone who used to use DOS to flash many-a-beta-BIOS back in the day, this tool is a godsend.

It’s important to note that ASUS blocks flashing backwards to a prior UEFI if the new version contains updated AGESA code from AMD. So if there is a beta floating out there, make sure you can live with the consequences if you want to flash it. UEFIs without AGESA code updates will allow flashing to the previous version. In special cases their tech support has a tool you can use to flash back to a prior UEFI even with AGESA code update, but it’s not publicly available. This isn’t a change to their previous policy with BIOS flashes, it’s just a clarification for anyone that doesn’t know the policy.

EZ Flash 2 Utility

EZ Flash 2 Utility

Last, but not least is another godsend for overclockers – O.C. Profile. You can store eight total UEFI profiles here. As you can see, I have one ‘stock’ (with RAM dialed in and things like the extra storage controller turned off to save boot-up UEFI time), one 24/7 OC and the other a high overclock base level to start from. This is a great tool that keeps you from pulling your hair out after you clear CMOS when overclocking.

O.C. Profile

O.C. Profile

Go Button File

Go Button File

Finally, we have the remaining windows that house your other, more typical system settings. Every screen is photographed below for your perusal. They contain everything you need to dial the rest of your system in just the way you want it.

 

All in all a solid UEFI. It’s quick and responsive to input. You can navigate equally quickly with both mouse and keyboard. The features ASUS ads are superb all around. Certainly no complaints on the UEFI front.

AISuite Software

To to with their UEFI, ASUS has also supplied AISuite. This is a departure from the earlier Crosshair IV Formula, which came with TurboV EVO in a standalone installer. To get AISuite on the AMD side with the previous generation, you had to go with the Crosshair IV Extreme.

I’m not sure if this means we won’t see a Crosshair V Extreme at this point.With this software suite and SLI native on AMD chipsets now, there isn’t much for it to add. The Lucid Hydra chip added SLI and the ability to use NVIDIA and AMD cards in conjunction with each other, but anyone that actually purchases a system with multiple cards (as opposed to using what you happen to have lying around) will get two identical cards so they’re not limited by their next motherboard. Other than the improved voltage read point interface of the IV Extreme, there isn’t much to differentiate the two that comes immediately to mind.

Anyway, sorry for the tangent. On to AISuite! First we’ll look at the main menu and the available sub-menus. The AISuite interface is quick and responsive. It doesn’t take very long to load on system boot-up either because it doesn’t load the individual programs until you actually select them. That said, I was using an SSD, so it may increase bootup time by just a little bit if you’re using a HDD.

AISuite Main Menu

AISuite Main Menu

AISuite Tool Menu

AISuite Tool Menu

AISuite Monitor Menu

AISuite Monitor Menu

AISuite Update Menu

AISuite Update Menu

First up in our screenshots is the most important for overclockers – TurboV EVO. It hasn’t changed much from the Crosshair IV other than to insert it into AISuite. You can control pretty much everything you can from the UEFI with the exception of RAM, HT and CPU-NB multipliers (which require a hard reset from UEFI and couldn’t be changed on the fly even if ASUS wanted to include that). The implementation of changed settings is fast and bug-free. There isn’t any reason to change anything here because it works so darn well to begin with.

TurboV EVO

TurboV EVO

TurboV EVO (Multipliers)

TurboV EVO (Multipliers)

Next up are two new features not present on the earlier Crosshair IV models – Digi+VRM and EPU control. The Digi+ VRM is especially impressive. Because of that little chip photographed earlier, you have complete in-OS control of the power section of motherboards with this feature. Before Digi+VRM, no one could change features such as LLC from inside the OS. This is the first implementation of the feature on an AMD-based ASUS board and it works just as well as its Intel-based predecessors. For power management on AMD, this is a leap forward.

EPU is not necessarily as mind-blowing but does bear mention that it too has complete OS functionality. Those of you that wish to save power (and thus money) will have that ability too.

DIGI+ VRM

DIGI+ VRM

EPU Control

EPU Control

Fan Xpert, Probe II, Sensor Recorder and the sensor readers are unchanged from previous AISuite implementations. They all work great, as they should, and do their job admirably.

Fan Xpert

Fan Xpert

Probe II

Probe II

 

Sensor Recorder

Sensor Recorder

Sensor Monitor

Sensor Monitor

CPU Monitor

CPU Monitor

AISuite has spoiled people that have it. It’s easy to take for granted something that does its job so well. ASRock’s software (which we explored in reviewing their P67 Extreme 6 earlier this year) just doesn’t compare. Gigabyte has EasyTune 6, which isn’t as seamless as AISuite in many respects. ASUS did right by overclockers, tweakers and just everyday users with this software and it continues to impress.

This board also comes with RoG Connect, which allows on-the-fly adjustment of pretty much everything other than multipliers via the included USB cable. It also offers monitoring capabilities.

RoG Connect Screenshot

RoG Connect Screenshot

This is a great tool for extreme overclockers on the edge of stability. They can, for instance, begin running 3DMark Vantage at on CPU overclock, then reduce the overclock for running the CPU tests with a quick bus clock adjustment. This allows for higher graphics scores (which don’t stress the CPU quite as much) while maintaining stability through the grueling CPU tests.

Test Systems

In this review, we’ll look at the Crosshair IV Formula and Crosshair V Formula head-to-head. Everything was as close as you could get it. Windows 7 had the standalone Service Pack 2 installed as well as any applicable updates. To keep it reasonable for what you can expect out of daily use, Avira antivirus and AISuite were installed as well (well, TurboV EVO on the IV).

Processor Phenom II x6 1100T BE Phenom II x6 1100T BE
Stock / Overclocked Speeds (GHz) 3.3 3.3 / 4.09
Motherboard ASUS Crosshair IV Formula ASUS Crosshair V Formula
RAM G.Skill Flare DDR3-2000 G.Skill Flare DDR3-2000
RAM Speed DDR3-1600 DDR3-1600 / DDR3-1920
RAM Timings 7-9-7-24 7-9-7-24
GPU (for total 3DMark Score) AMD HD 6970 AMD HD 6970
Operating System Windows 7 x64 Windows 7 x64

This is a photo of the test set up. The Crosshair IV was tested under air in a case, but with Bulldozer coming I went with the benching station and water loop combo.

Crosshair V Formula Test Setup

Crosshair V Formula Test Setup

Let’s get to it!

Overclocking

Overclocking this board was a breeze. With the new UEFI I found it was even a little bit easier than with the previous BIOS, mainly because you can use the scroll wheel to go up and down in menus. A person could get used to that kind of pampering.

The 24/7 overclock reached for purposes of benching in this review was 240 x 17, or officially 4,080 MHz. It actually ran at 4,093 MHz due to a little bus clock overshoot of ~.8 MHz. This was a little higher than I could get previously with this CPU on air, at least while maintaining good temperatures (thanks to the water loop). No motherboard will make a CPU better, and this one overclocked similarly to the IV before it. No surprises, but certainly no disappointments.

4093 MHz, 24/7 Stable

4093 MHz, 24/7 Stable

One very important point to mention is that the Crosshair V does not suffer from bus clock fluctuation that plagued the Crosshair IV. After staring at CPUz for five minutes under load, I saw literally 0.0MHz bus speed deviation. HT freq deviated max 0.3MHz and CPU-NB freq deviated max 0.2MHz. I’d call that a vast improvement over the 890FX fluctuations of the past. Those fluctuations didn’t much affect most people other than to exist. However, those that pushed the Crosshair IV under extreme cooling at the bleeding edge of stability were hampered by their system crashing due to too much bus fluctuation.

Priming Bus Test

Priming Bus Test

I didn’t run any push-the-overclock benchmarks. You can read all of those in the 1100T review we wrote on its release. What I did do was see how far the CPU could go on a water loop. Turns out, at excessive voltages identical to the ones used on air last time, it managed 25 MHz more than previously. Whether that has to do with cooling or the motherboard isn’t something that can be determined for sure. The highest CPUz validation I could manage was 4575.6 MHz and did manage to actually validate through CPUz.

CPUz Valid at 4575 MHz

CPUz Valid at 4575 MHz

Overall a very similar overclocking experience to its predecessors, which is nothing less than expected. We’ll push this board hard and cold when Bulldozer shows up!

Benchmark Results

Now on to the benchmarking results. The tests were run three times each and the results you see are averaged. The only exceptions were PCMark 7 (which runs three iterations within itself and was run twice rather than three times), 3D benchmarks and overclocked benchmarks, which were run once each.

The results you see below are graphed relative to the Crosshair V Formula’s stock performance. This means that results by the Crosshair V at stock all equal 100% and the IV and overclocked results are graphed as a percentage relative to the V’s performance. So, for instance, if the Crosshair V scored 100 points on a benchmark and the Crosshair IV scored 95 points, on the graph the V would = 100% and the IV would = 95%.

CPU, FPU and Memory Performance

To start with, we’ll look at the one benchmark that was only run at stock speeds – AIDA 64. The first and second graphs on our plate are the AIDA 64 CPU and FPU tests, respectively.

AIDA64 CPU Tests

AIDA64 CPU Tests

AIDA64 FPU Tests

AIDA64 FPU Tests

Well then, as you might expect with the same CPU and RAM all set at the same speed, there was very little variation. Nothing meaningful can be gleaned from these results other than that the 890FX / 990FX difference really is only a model number. How about memory?

AIDA64 Memory Tests

AIDA64 Memory Tests

In the case of memory, there was at least one test with significant variation – the Memory Copy test. It seems when copying to and from memory, the Crosshair V Formula falls slightly behind the IV. No variation in all 13 AIDA 64 tests was greater than 4.2%, and that was only one result. Removing that one result, the greatest difference was 0.9%.

Rendering and Compression

Now some ‘real world’ results. We’ll use Cinebench R10 and R11.5 to test rendering performance and 7zip to test compression performance.

Cinebench 10 & 11.5 / 7zip

Cinebench 10 & 11.5 / 7zip

Cinebench R11.5 is a wash, with little noticeable difference. R10 is a different story, with the IV out-performing the V again by a noticeable (but still negligible) margin. The very-close-to-even scale tips back to the V when compressing and decompressing files.

3D Performance

3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage are both pretty CPU bound at this point. These results are graphed with the subtests too so you can see where the differences lie.

3DMark06

3DMark06

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

The biggest difference there is one test in 3DMark06, which pulls down the overall score it would seem. In Vangage, the Cross V is consistently 0.5% better than the IV. Except for that one 06 anomaly the graphics tests were spot on with each other. The CPU tests were so close as to be indistinguishable.

3DMark 11

3DMark 11

3DMark 11 shows nearly identical graphics performance but falls slightly behind when the CPU is introduced to handle physics.

Now we’ll look at the ‘real world’ graphics tests. You may notice one of stalker’s sub-tests is missing. For some reason, throughout its life, the Cross IV bugged out on that one test and maxxed out FPS around 181 no matter what, thus it was eliminated.

Stalker & Aliens vs. Predator

Stalker & Aliens vs. Predator

It would seem the Crosshair IV has a slight, but noticeable advantage when it comes to graphics. That said, it’s only noticeable in graphs; is anyone going to notice three FPS when playing a game? I doubt it.

Overall Performance

Now we see how the two boards compare on a full system test, inclusive of storage.

PCMark 7 Overall and Storage Tests

PCMark 7 Overall and Storage Tests

PCM7 Video, Graphics, Image & Web Tests

PCM7 Video, Graphics, Image & Web Tests

The overall system score was only 0.1% different. Storage went both ways but in two out of three tests the Crosshair V holds an advantage. The second graph above is a hodge podge of every other system test. What does it really tell us? That the two boards are virtually identical in performance, just like we’ve established pretty well already. I didn’t list the actual result numbers in that graph because they wouldn’t fit and I didn’t think you needed an extra graph just to fit that.

2D Performance

2D benchmarking performance will come to us courtesy of two benchmarker favorites – both iterations each of SuperPi and WPrime. Remember, unlike everything else above, in these graphs lower is better.

SuperPi and WPrime

SuperPi and WPrime

They are pretty even here too, but SuperPi 32M shows slightly stronger memory subsystem performance on the V, beating the IV’s time by only 0.8% – however, that 0.8% equals nine seconds, a substantial amount in the end, at least as far as SuperPi 32M goes. Wprime both go to the Crosshair V but, like everything else are very close.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

The Crosshair V Formula is one stellar motherboard. There is nothing this board can’t do. Well, I’m sure there is but do you need it to?

The stout power section will help push your clocks to the max. The cooling solution does its job well. Performance is precisely on par with its predecessor as you’d expect from essentially the same chipset. It even looks good, in my opinion improving on the Crosshair IV’s looks greatly.

Now, please excuse a slight tangent. The only thing I would caution against is running out and replacing your 890FX motherboard quite yet, even if you’re planning on upgrading to a new Bulldozer-based Zambezi chip. If you already posess a board with that chipset, the frugal clocker in me suggests giving FX a try with whatever BIOS support your current board’s manufacturer supplies. See how it works. If you need the power saving features you’ll be lacking, by all means at that point go get yourself a 990FX board.

At the same time, if you want to have your BIOS/UEFI mature with Zambezi, go ahead and get a 990FX board. Manufacturers were quick to tout 890FX board compatibility, but how far will that go? Will any of them upgrade the BIOS/UEFI on a now-obsolete chipset past initial compatibility? As the magic 8 ball would say “Outlook not so good.”

Which brings us back to the subject at hand. The Crosshair V Formula is the absolute top of ASUS’ line of current AMD motherboards, and you’re going to pay a bit for that. Without a doubt, there’s a premium for having the best as well as a premium for all of the many features this board has. Currently it will set you back $229.99 (with free shipping) at Newegg. For what you’re getting, honestly, it’s not a bad price. A cheap motherboard it’s not, but if you’re looking at this board you’re looking for performance and features, both of which it excels at. If you’ve got the money to spend, the Crosshair V Formula is definitely worth the price.

Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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Discussion
  1. hokiealumnus
    I'm reviewing the UD7 now. Good, solid board. It's a very tough decision between the two. Likely a tie all told, depending on what feature set you need. They're similar, but different such that they offer significant enough differences to meet the needs of two distinct audiences.

    Better stop before I preemptively write my own conclusion. :p


    haha, yea i can say that I am very happy with it so far. I have the cpu OC to 4ghz so far but the few times i have tried to OC the NB i have had some problems so I need to work on that some more. However, that will have to wait longer as I am headed to Vegas tomorrow morning. I suspec that I may have to decrease the cpu to 3.8 or 3.9 to get the NB between 2600-2800
    I'm reviewing the UD7 now. Good, solid board. It's a very tough decision between the two. Likely a tie all told, depending on what feature set you need. They're similar, but different such that they offer significant enough differences to meet the needs of two distinct audiences.

    Better stop before I preemptively write my own conclusion. :p
    hokiealumnus
    I mean the replacement board you received; did it function properly? Or did you RMA to the vendor and get that UD7 in your sig?

    I won't bother my contact about it then; if Raja notified them, they know. :)


    I just got the UD7 when it was RMA'd to newegg. I figured that i did not want to risk having another board not working properly and for $10 more i could go ahead and have the ability for 4way SLI in the future but mainly because i want to add an OCZ revodrive SSD and still have plenty of room for SLI.

    .....and i dont mind not having UEFI as BIOS is simple enough
    I mean the replacement board you received; did it function properly? Or did you RMA to the vendor and get that UD7 in your sig?

    I won't bother my contact about it then; if Raja notified them, they know. :)
    hokiealumnus
    Input is certainly welcome. I'll bring your post to ASUS' attention and ask if there are any known issues.

    Did your RMA'ed board function properly?

    EDIT - Can you link to your issue and similar issues at the RoG forums? I'd like to be thorough if I do email them.


    http://www.asusrog.com/forums/showthread.php?3147-Crosshair-V-Formula-will-not-POST

    that is the main thread, i would try and find the other sites and threads where others have stated the same problem but im at work and dont want to get in trouble. Raja(the moderator) says that he has informed ASUS of the problem and that they were working on a solution.

    I am not sure what you mean by my board functioning properly because i could never get mine to POST and had the DRAM light up. however everything else did power up, the fans ran, the cd drive had power and would open and close and my cpu fan would spin when turned on....
    Input is certainly welcome. I'll bring your post to ASUS' attention and ask if there are any known issues.

    Did your RMA'ed board function properly?

    EDIT - Can you link to your issue and similar issues at the RoG forums? I'd like to be thorough if I do email them.
    if you would not mind i thought it may be helpful to add to this that there are a number of people who have had problems with this board where the red DRAM led lights up and stays lit up and I could not get my computer to POST at all. I tried different kinds of Memory in all the different slots with only one and two channels plugged in. Still, the board would not POST. I logged on to asusrog.com and found quite a few others with the same problem and the only suggestion made is that the ram wasnt under the recommended list....but mine was it was one of the Kingston hyperx accepted ram sticks.

    Last time I checked there were still people having problems with this and there has not been any solution given.

    I eventually RMA'd my board to get one from another manufacturer.

    If this post is not wanted here then please delete it. I just thought it would be helpful information to anyone who is looking at buying this board.
    Thanks a ton for this. I've been wanting one for a month or so now. As we are expecting our next child any day now. Im hording as much money as I can. But in a few weeks I just may be getting this. By far the most impressive review I've read. I would be upgrading from a 770 board to this, so quite a jump in hardware.

    Thanks again.