ASUS Crosshair IV Extreme Review

Editor’s Note: This article was updated 11/29/2010. A log of the changes has been posted in the comment thread.

A few months ago we looked at the Crosshair IV Formula, what was then ASUS’ top of the line AMD motherboard. Now they’ve out-done themselves with the Crosshair IV Extreme. This one is definitely designed for extreme benchmarkers, so take it to extremes we did!

Packaging and First Look

Like the Crosshair IV Formula and Matrix 5870 Platinum before it, ASUS shows that they really know how to present their products.

First Look at the Box

First Look at the Box

Box Rear

Box Rear

Box Flap Lifted

Box Flap Lifted

Box Flap Contents

Box Flap Contents

The Main Event

The Main Event

Crosshair IV Extreme Unveiled

Crosshair IV Extreme Unveiled

Warning: Gratuitous multiple-angle photos to follow!

Gratuitous Angle One

Gratuitous Angle One

Gratuitous Angle Two

Gratuitous Angle Two

Gratuitous Angle Three

Gratuitous Angle Three

Gratuitous Angle Four

Gratuitous Angle Four

Not only is the packaging stellar, the board is a sight to behold. Even my mother in law thought it looked good!

Specifications

CPU AMD Socket AM3 ;Phenom™II /Athlon™II /Sempron™ 100 Series Processors
AMD 140W CPU Support
AMD Cool ‘n’ Quiet™ Technology
Supports 45nm CPU
Chipset AMD 890FX/SB850
System Bus Up to 5200 MT/s ; HyperTransport™ 3.0
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3 2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 ECC,Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
*Due to CPU spec., AMD 100 and 200 series CPUs support up to DDR3 1066Mhz. With ASUS design, this motherboard can support up to DDR3 1333MHz.
Please refer to www.asus.com or user manual for Memory QVL.
When installing total memory of 4GB capacity or more, Windows 32-bit operation system may only recognize less than 3GB. Hence, a total installed memory of less than 3GB is recommended.
Expansion Slots 5 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual @ x16, triple @x16, quad@x16 x16 x8 x8)
1 x PCI 2.2
Multi-GPU Support Support Lucid HYDRALOGIX / ATI CrossFire™X Technology
Storage SB850 Chipset
6 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports Support RAID 0,1,5,10
2 x JMicron® 363 controllers:
2 x SATA 3Gb/s ports (Gray)
1 x Power External SATA 3Gb/s ports at rear (SATA On-the-Go)
1 x External SATA 3Gb/s ports at rear (SATA On-the-Go)
* Due to the Windows XP/ Vista limitation, the RAID array with the total capacity over 2TB cannot be set as a boot disk. A RAID array over 2TB can only be set as a data disk only.
LAN Intel® Gigabit LAN
Audio 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Supports 1 Optical S/PDIF out port at back I/O
USB NEC USB3.0 Controller:
- 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports at rear
AMD SB850 chipset:
- 13 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at rear, 1 port at rear is also for ROG connect)
ASUS Unique Features CPU Level Up
MemOK!
Onboard Switches: Power / Reset / Core Unlocker / Clr CMOS (at rear)
Q-Fan Plus
ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
ASUS Q-Connector
ASUS Q-Shield
ASUS Q-Fan 2
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
ASUS MyLogo 3
Overclocking Features ROG Connect
RC Bluetooth
ROG iDirect
Power Design:
- 8+2 phase CPU power design with ML Cap
USB BIOS Flashback
BIOS Flashback with onboard switch button
Extreme Tweaker
ProbeIt
iROG
PCIe x16 Lane Switch
Loadline Calibration
Intelligent overclocking tools:
- ASUS TurboV Evo
- O.C Profile
Overclocking Protection:
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection – EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Back Panel I/O Ports 2 x External SATA
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
8 -Channel Audio I/O
1 x Clr CMOS switch
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port(purple)
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
7 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (1 port is also for ROG Connect)
1 x ROG Connect On/Off switch
1 x RC Bluetooth switch
Internal I/O Connectors 3 x USB connectors supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS connector
Front panel audio connector
System Panel connector
8 x SATA connectors: 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (Red) & 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (Gray)
8 x Fan connectors: 1 x CPU / 1 x PWR / 3 x Chassis / 3 x Optional
7 x ProbeIt measurement points
3 x Thermal sensor connectors
1 x 24-pin ATX power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
2 x EZ Plug connectors (4-pin Molex Power connectors)
1 x OC Station header
1 x RC Bluetooth header
1 x Core unlocker switch
1 x Power on switch
1 x Reset switch
1 x Go Button
1 x BIOS switch button
1 x Fan connector for thermal module
1 x ROG light connector
BIOS 16 Mb Flash ROM AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS
Manageability WOL by PME,WOR by PME,PXE
Accessories User’s manual
1 x I/O Shield
1 x ROG Connect Cable
1 x ProbeIt cable set
1 x 2-in-1 ASUS Q-Connector Kit
3 x 2-in-1 SATA 6.0Gb/s Cables
1 x 2-in-1 SATA 3.0Gb/s Signal Cables
1 x Multi-functional module (1-port IEEE 1394a + 2-port USB2.0)
1 x Thermal Sensor Cable Pack
1 x Crossfire cable
1 x Cable Ties Pack
1 x ROG Theme Label
1 x 12-in-1 ROG Cable Label
1 x RC Bluetooth card

Bluetooth Module Accessory Card
- Bluetooth V2.0/V2.1+EDR
- RC Bluetooth On/Off Switch

Support Disc Drivers
Kaspersky® Anti-Virus
ASUS AI Suite II
3DMark Vantage
Form Factor Extended ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 10.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 26.9 cm )

Whew, what a list. Apart from the obvious facts that this board uses AMD’s strongest chipset, the 890FX northbridge and SB850 southbridge, it also shows you a very interesting addition – the Lucid Hydra Crosslink 3 chip.

Per ASUS, “Lucid Hydra CrossLinx 3 makes it possible to combine multi-GPU graphics cards from any generation and vendor on the same motherboard. This gives PC users greater flexibility, and enables vastly increased performance, free of compatibility limitations.” Any generation graphics card from either nVidia or ATI combined with one another. It’s enough to make any gamer drool.

If you want to use the most recent generation released (say, an HD 6870) with your next-to-most recent card (say, a GTX 470), you can! Call it SL-Hydra-Fire…call it what you want, your FPS goes up and that makes any gamer happy. While benchmarkers may not take advantage of that particular feature, what this means for them is that you can run SLI on an AMD chipset; a feat not accomplished before now without hacked, potentially unstable drivers.

Author’s Note: Please note for clarity, the Hydra chip offers  “N mode” rather than “SLI”. This is a good thing, in that you can combine different generations rather than being tied to identical cards as with SLI. So while you can run multiple NVIDIA cards, it is not “SLI”.

To go with the native Crossfire-X compatibility and the Hydra addition, the board comes complete with five PCI-e 2.0 x16 slots – configurable as 2 x 16x, 3 x 16x or 2 x 16x + 2 x 8x.

Accessories

There is a strong accessory pack, as motherboards go. First you have the standard – but not quite standard – compliment of a manual, driver/utility DVD, sticker, SATA cables and back plate. The two bumps up from a standard board here are the three white-tipped SATA 6.0G/s data cables and the RoG Connect USB-to-USB cable.

To the right of those is the USB 2.0 / Firewire bracket you can mount in an expansion slot if you wish and the convenient front panel connectors. Just connect the front panel lights / switches once and then use that handy attachment to attach (and detach) them to (from) the board.

"Standard" Accessories

"Standard" Accessories

Expansion Slot Bracket & I/O Easy Connectors

Expansion Slot Bracket & I/O Easy Connectors

There are also several enthusiast accessories included. On the left you see three temperature sensors you can plug into three headers on the board. These can be monitored via BIOS as well as through Probe II via the ASUS AI Suite. On the right-bottom is the included crossfire link.

Enthusiast Accessories

Enthusiast Accessories

The other two we’ll take a closer look at . In the anti-static bag resides an extra RoG light-up blinky thing to ‘bling’ out your case. It is red like the one that’s already installed on the board, so presumably it’s a replacement lest the installed one go out on you. In the baggie to the right are a great addition – plug-in ProbeIt cables.

Extra RoG Light

Extra RoG Light

Voltage Read Dongles

Voltage Read Dongles

The probe dongles plug into the voltage read point of your choosing. Plug your multimeter leads in there and watch the voltage readout. This is a strong functionality improvement over the Formula’s touch-and-read points (which also exist on the CIVE).

Closeup of the Features

Starting in the lower right-hand corner of the board, we see the internal USB 2.0 and front panel headers across the bottom. The left-most header is the ASUS OC STATION connector.

To their right is a very welcome feature for extreme overclockers – dual BIOS chips. The button on the far lower right selects between the two. Bork your BIOS? That’s ok, you’ve got another. Not only are there two BIOSes to choose from, ASUS also gives you a BIOS Flashback option. You load a BIOS onto a USB thumb drive and push the ROG Connect button for two seconds and you’ve got a fresh-flashed BIOS chip. Even better, not only can you flash as easily as that, you can do it with no CPU, no memory and/or no graphics card; all you need is standby power. Nifty!

Above the dual BIOS chips and slightly to the left you see the TurboV chip that facilitates some of the most seamless software overclocking I’ve experienced, both on the Formula and this board.

Bottom Right Corner

Bottom Right Corner

Moving north a little bit you see the full SB / Hydra end of the heatpipe assembly To its right is one of the two JMB363 chips and the future-proof bank of six SATA 6 Gb/s ports. There are even two extra SATA 3.0 ports for your optical drives or any extra SATA 3.0 devices you may have left over after filling the other six ports.

SB / Storage Connections

SB / Storage Connections

Continuing north, there is the 24-pin power connector as well as the LED status indicators. These light up to tell you if something is wrong with your CPU, DRAM, VGA or BOOT_DEVICE. There is also the GO BUTTON, which doubles as the MemOK Button. As the GO button, it will apply a preset overclocking profile you save in BIOS.

As the MemOK button, it will help rescue you from a memory overclock gone too far. It will drop the frequency and/or timings as it attempts to boot so you can get into BIOS. Once there, the settings you input are retained so you don’t have to start from scratch.

LEDs and GO/MemOK Button

LEDs and GO/MemOK Button

Next we have several other enthusiast / extreme cooling-focused features. There are onboard power and reset buttons as well as the core unlocker button. These are in a different position than on the Formula, which has them on the bottom of the board.

There are five on/off switches that control their corresponding PCIe ports. I believe it was EVGA that started this (welcome) trend on enthusiast boards. If you have a card die while it has a dry ice (DICE) / liquid nitrogen (LN2) pot attached to it, you can turn off its port without having to worry about physically removing the card. Doing so would not only take time away from using quickly-boiling / sublimating sub-zero material, but any time the computer is left idle introduces the possibility of untoward condensation. ASUS has one-upped EVGA as well with switches instead of jumpers.

Lastly in this photo we have ProbeIt, which is expanded from the Formula’s implementation. As mentioned when looking at the accessories, not only does it have read points you can probe with a multimeter, but you can use the included ProbeIt cables to make for much easier readings. I used these sub-zero myself and it was very handy to plug the multimeter in, tape the leads down and never think about them again.

All of these solid extreme-overclocker-friendly features are grouped together in the upper right of the motherboard.

PCIe Switches / ProbeIt

PCIe Switches / ProbeIt

Here you can see the NB / MOSFET heatsink as well as the 8-pin CPU power plug (on the right). It looks a tad close to the heatsink, but didn’t prove problematic during use, allowing for easy access. The red RoG illumiated logo is located within the heatsink, which also has a small 40mm fan over the northbridge. It’s definitely not a quiet fan, so you’ll want to regulate it using ASUS’ BIOS fan control if quiet computing is your goal. For benching though, you’ll have a fan running somewhere that will far out-scream this little guy.

NB / MOSFET Heat Sink

NB / MOSFET Heatsink

Moving ever-so-slightly southward, you can get a good look at two features highlighted in white text – the Intel Ethernet controller and RC Bluetooth.

Rather than the industry-standard Marvel controller, ASUS has opted to go with a presumably superior) Intel gigabit LAN controller. This controller comes with a hefty > 100MB install package though. It doesn’t seem to hinder performance, but that’s no small download when you want to update.

More interesting is RC Bluetooth. This fancy gizmo allows you to monitor and control your system wirelessly through a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. Sadly (embarrassingly?) I don’t have one of these to test with, but that would certainly be a neat feature to toy around with.

When not engaged for the overclocking tool, the Bluetooth module also allows normal Bluetooth connectivity to use for things like headphones, keyboards, mice, etc.

Controllers

Controllers

Here you can see the well-spaced PCIe x16 slots. This board could easily accommodate the quad-fire or tri-SLI configurations it is specified to handle. Room is definitely not an issue here. The Lucid hydra and SB heatsink is on the right and is toward the looks end of the looks-to-heat-dissipating continuum. The SB won’t get that hot and while I’m unable to test the Hydra chip, I doubt it will set anything on fire.

Five PCIe Slots

Five PCIe Slots

The rear IO has nothing less than a plethora of connectivity. 1x PS/2 port for us dinosaurs (yep, that’s me) that still use a PS/2 keyboard. 6x USB 2.0 ports, 2x USB 3.0 ports, optical and analogue audio ports, the LAN port, the RoG Connect USB 2.0 port and finally the RoG Connect power switch and Clear CMOS switch. Loaded to the gills.

Some would ask why a super high-end board has only one LAN port. To those people I say – Who cares?? How many people do you know that actually use such a thing? That’s just another cheap add-on ‘feature’ that manufacturers use to fluff specifications. Most people would rather have the extra USB ports and applaud the change.

Rear I/O

Rear I/O

Under the Hood

Pulling the heatsink assembly off, the first thing you can’t help but notice is the POWER of this board. We’ll look at that more closely in a bit. You’ll see the sb in its normal position with the Lucid Hydra chip directly above it. The NB has moved north and west a little bit to help give plenty of PCIe x16 room.

Heatpipe Assembly Removed

Heatpipe Assembly Removed

If you were to pick one single absolutely unique feature on this board, this is it. Allowing you to run cards from either the green or the red team, from any generation, the Hydra chip is unique on the CIVE among all of the 890FX boards manufactured. No one else can say they have one of these. It won’t help with HWBot points, but for gaming and pure fun of seeing what kind of benchmark scores you can obtain, this is a great addition.

Lucid Hydra Chip

Lucid Hydra Chip

Here’s the back side of the heat sink. Contact is good throughout. The thermal pads on the MOSFET and Hydra chips make fine contact and don’t need changing. The thermal paste on the NB and SB sinks though is just awful. It’s different from the yellow nastiness they put on the Formula, but it’s no better.

The assembly was reinstalled and the board was run with the stock TIM to see how it fared. Unfortunately, I was met with ~60°C NB temperatures as a result. The board was immediately pulled, with the stock nastiness replaced in favor of Ceramique and the NB cooled down to a nice 40-42°C. Contact was not the problem; the paste just wasn’t up to par.

Heatpipe Contact

Heatpipe Contact

The Hydra chip is a neat feature to have and very unique, but this is the part that has the overclocker in me excited. Fully eleven chokes and 28 solid capacitors are in this 10+2 phase CPU power section.

Regarding the chokes, ASUS points out “The chokes used on the board are our new design which we have been using on our current ROG boards these offering significantly higher power performance which is important for sustained power delivery to the CPU when under load and extreme temperatures.” By higher performance, they mean each choke has a 40 A current rating. This is quite a substantial increase over conventional chokes, which are rated for only 15 A. Photos of the parts side-by-side will help show what they look like.

Chokes Compared

Chokes Compared

But wait, what’s that little rectangle? Why, it’s ASUS’ ML Cap – a massive 1000μF capacitor, which in addition to all the other capacitance, makes this is one of the most stout power sections I’ve seen on a motherboard. I threw 1.75 V at a hex-core and it felt like the board wasn’t even breaking a sweat!

Power Section

Power Section

The BIOS

The Extreme’s BIOS is very similar to the Formula’s. Immediately upon entering, you see Extreme Tweaker, where all of the main overclocking and tweaking settings are located, from CPU & RAM tweaking to Load Line Calibration (LLC) control, it’s all right here at your fingertips.

There are so many options here any overclocker would be content with the offerings. ASUS’ RAM controls are some of the best and most extensive out there.

Extreme Tweaker Menu

Extreme Tweaker Menu

Extreme Tweaker - 2

Extreme Tweaker - 2

RAM Configuration Options

RAM Configuration Options

RAM Drive Configuration

RAM Driving Configuration

Next we have the Main menu, where you can set the time/date and language, configure storage options and see what’s in the system.

Main Menu

Main Menu

Storage Configuration

Storage Configuration

System Information

System Information

The Advanced menu has a ton of sub-menus to go through. Rather than talk about all of the options, you can see them yourself by flipping through the shots below.

The Power menu has all of your power management options as well as the -somewhat strangely placed- hardware monitor section. There is a lot of sensing/monitoring on this board and it’s all right here at your finger tips. These are also visible through the included AI Suite from within windows.

Inside the Hardware Monitor section is Q-Fan, a very strong BIOS fan control. Most extreme overclockers won’t use this, but gamers and the like will find this a valuable set-it-and-forget-it way to manage their fans. With eight fan headers around the board, there is plenty to control.

The Boot section is pretty self-explanatory. Not all sub-menus are photographed; the options are pretty standard on any motherboard on the market.

The Tools menu is where this board, like the Formula before it, really does a great job for overclockers. First up is the EZ Flash 2 utility. It is the most seamless way to flash a BIOS I’ve ever experienced.

The only drawback is that you typically can’t flash backwards. Thankfully that doesn’t really matter on the Extreme – you have two BIOS chips. Experiment with one and leave the other alone if you want!

Tools Menu

Tools Menu

EZ Flash 2

EZ Flash 2

Another great tool is the O.C. Profile menu. You can name and save eight complete BIOS states (inclusive of storage configurations so you don’t always have to remember to reset AHCI or RAID).

Next is the Go Button Profile, where you set what you want to happen when you press the GO Button on the board. In the BIOS FlashBack sub-menu, you tell it which BIOS you want to boot from, in case you didn’t feel like pressing the button on the board.

O.C. Profile

O.C. Profile

Go Button Profile

Go Button Profile

Bo Button Profile - 2

Bo Button Profile - 2

BIOS FlashBack

BIOS FlashBack

Whew, that is one in-depth, feature-packed BIOS. It’s not so different from the Formula BIOS before it, but the additions are solid and do highlight the Extreme’s benefits over its little brother.

Included Software

AI Suite II is ASUS’ very strong software suite for monitoring and adjusting your hardware from within windows. When installed, it has a ‘bar’ interface, from which you can press buttons to call up the program you want. On the right is a shot of all the menus expanded (chopped and combined to be in one image).

Menu Bar

Menu Bar

Menus Expanded

Menus Expanded

In the Tools menu, from bottom to top, you have the Sensor Recorder, Probe II (temperature/voltage/fan montoring), Fan Xpert and TurboV EVO. Probe II and its accompanying Sensor Recorder do their job very well and are great for keeping track of how your hardware is doing. Probe II also alerts you to sensors that are out of their user-set ranges.

Probe II

Probe II

Probe II - 2

Probe II - 2

Sensor Recorder

Sensor Recorder

Fan Xpert is a powerful piece of software for controlling your fans, with an intuitive and easy-to-use GUI.

Fan Xpert

Fan Xpert

Last in the Tool menu is TurboV EVO. This software controls a hardware-based TurboV EVO -to- BIOS interface. As Windows overclocking software goes, this one takes the cake.

In my own extreme overclocking session, it didn’t give me any headaches what-so-ever when pushing the absolute limits of the hardware. Seamless and easy-to-use, this is what overclocking software should be.

Turbo V EVO

Turbo V EVO

TurboV EVO - 2

TurboV EVO - 2

The rest of the suite includes several other handy pieces of software. There is a smaller monitoring window for easy viewing without the adjustments in Probe II and a CPU frequency monitor. Remaining are the System Information viewer and the AI Suite settings.

The board also has RoG connect, which allows you to remotely control your overclock settings on the fly. A boon to anyone running benchmarks with multiple stages, this can come in handy. For instance, it can be beneficial to run the GPU tests in 3DMark Vantage at one CPU speed and the CPU tests a bit lower. Using RoG Connect, you can do that with ease. Appearance and functionality do not appear to have changed between the Extreme and the Formula. Hey, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!

ASUS RoG Connect

ASUS RoG Connect

Though not explored in detail here for obvious reasons, also included are copies of 3DMark Vantage and Kapersky antivirus.

Test System

The test systems reflected in this review pit motherboard against motherboard. Everything remained the same with the exception of the motherboard itself. Windows was installed fresh for both sets of tests. Everything but the motherboard used in the review consists of:

CPU: AMD Phenom II x6 1090T BE
Cooling: Thermalright Venomous X
with Push-Pull Delta Screamers
RAM: G.Skill Pi DDR3-2400
GPU: ASUS Matrix 5870 Platinum
PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro 600M
OS: Windows 7 x64

At stock, the RAM was run at DDR3-1600 / 9-9-9-24. For 4GHz overclocking results reflected below, the CPU was set at 267 x 15 and the RAM was running at DDR3-1786 / 9-9-9-24 with both the HT and CPU-NB clocks running at 2143MHz. In all of the graphs, results from a 965BE on the Formula were included to flesh everything out a little bit.

Stock Performance

As usual, only one test suite was run at stock only with no overclocked results – Everest. All of the CPU tests and FPU tests were run three times, with the average score reflected below.

Everest CPU Queen

Everest CPU Queen

Everest CPU Photoworxx

Everest CPU Photoworxx

Everest CPU Zlib

Everest CPU Zlib

Everest CPU AES

Everest CPU AES

Everest FPU Julia

Everest FPU Julia

Everest FPU Mandel

Everest FPU Mandel

Everest FPU SinJulia

Everest FPU SinJulia

Well, at stock it doesn’t look like the Extreme offers any performance increase over the Formula and even loses a little bit of ground, more so in the CPU tests than the FPU tests. Nothing here indicates there is anything wrong with the board, but with this particular test the Formula does seem a tad stronger.

Overclocking

Overclocking the Extreme is a blast, just like the Formula. For ambient-cooled 24/7 results, everything was pretty much plug and play with the same settings as on the Formula. The Extreme has the same Vdroop / LLC-overshoot as the Formula. Under load, with LLC off you lose ~.05 Vcore and with LLC on you gain about the same. It’s just a quirk of its implementation in the BIOS code. As long as you know what to expect and how it behaves, this isn’t a problem at all.

With everything at stock, including LLC off, I was able to reach 3.4GHz stable by just increasing the multiplier to 17.0. If LLC had been turned on, this would have increased by quite a few MHz.

3.4GHz Stable - Stock Voltage

3.4GHz Stable - Stock Voltage

Moving up a bit to our planned overclock for testing of 267 x 15, a couple things were tweaked in BIOS. Voltage was raised so that loaded Vcore was 1.404 V. I had forgotten to manually set the CPU-NB and HT clocks for this screenshot, so it’s a bit below what was run for testing below. Sorry about that.

4.0GHz Stable - 1.404 V Loaded

4.0GHz Stable - 1.404 V Loaded

Let’s see how this thing fares when you give it a little overclocking kick.

Benchmark Results – Stock and Overclocked

First up we’ll look at 3D performance using 3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage since they have an independent CPU score we can evaluate.

3DMark06 Total Score

3DMark06 Total Score

3DMark06 CPU Score

3DMark06 CPU Score

3DMark Vantage Total Score

3DMark Vantage Total Score

3DMark Vantage CPU Score

3DMark Vantage CPU Score

Things are looking up for the Extreme here, especially compared to the Everest showing. The Formula and Extreme traded blows for total scores, with the Extreme coming out on top of 06 overclocked and Vantage at stock and the Formula winning Vantage overclocked and 06 at stock. However, for the CPU portion of all the scores, the Extreme rules the roost.

Moving on to 2D, we’ll start with some rendering with Cinebench R10 and R11.5.

Cinebench R10

Cinebench R10

Cinebench R11.5

Cinebench R11.5

The Formula took the crown with Cinebench R10, beating the Extreme at stock and overclocked. It did so in R11.5 at stock too, but overclocked the Extreme shows off quite the advantage. At the same CPU / RAM speeds, it is difficult to produce over a .10 point difference with such a low scoring bench, so that was quite impressive.

Now we’ll check out some SuperPi, both 1M & 32M.

SuperPi 1M

SuperPi 1M

SuperPi 32M

SuperPi 32M

Interesting. I’m sensing a pattern.When overclocked, longer 2D benches are tending to favor the Extreme and shorter are favoring the Formula. That’s borne out in the Cinebench R11.5 results and now the SuperPi 32M results. In all of SuperPi 1M and in 32M at stock, the Formula shows a slight advantage.

Lastly, we’ll look at WPrime 32M and 1024M.

WPrime 32M

WPrime 32M

WPrime 1024M

WPrime 1024M

Again, the longer bench falls for the Extreme, this time at stock and overclocked. The only place the Formula touches the Extreme in WPrime is 32M stock. All others favor the Extreme.

So what’s the moral of these benches? If you buy the Crosshair IV Extreme, it’s for the impressive feature improvements, not for a magical gain in benchmarks with the same hardware. The only conclusion to draw here, and it’s iffy at best, is that the Crosshair IV Extreme does not bench as well as the Formula at stock clocks. I probably don’t have to say this, but if you’re buying the Extreme to run a processor at stock clocks, you either have no clue what you’re doing or have entirely too much money. This board is made to be overclocked and you need to overclock it to reap its rewards. Unless you’re a gamer that wants a Hydra chip. In that case, I suppose you wouldn’t be pitiful for running at stock.

Pushing the Envelope on Ambient Cooling

Remember me saying this board was a blast to overclock? I wasn’t kidding, at all. It’s possible that what I’m about to say is placebo effect, but when clocking, the board feels more solid than the Formula. By that I mean to say the power section delivers every ounce of power that you ask of it and then comes back for more. This is impossible to quantify and don’t let it take away from the Formula, which is very powerful in its own right. It’s just a gut feeling when pushing a CPU on this board.

For high air clocks, I chose to run only a couple benchmarks and see what type of CPUz validation I could get. The max WPrime 32M run came in at 4435 MHz and 6.067 seconds. Not bad at all for air cooling.

WPrime 32M @ 4.4GHz

WPrime 32M @ 4.4 GHz

SuperPi 1M finished at a respectable 4.5 GHz and 15.803 seconds.

SuperPi 1M @ 4.5 GHz

SuperPi 1M @ 4.5 GHz

That 4.5 Ghz actually ended up being the maximum validation I could pull off.

4.5 GHz Screenshot

4.5 GHz Screenshot

So on ambient cooling, it was able to obtain what the Formula was with the 1075T before it – a solid 4.5Ghz. Note there is no stability either express or implied here – these were just run to see top results and stability wasn’t even an afterthought.

This isn’t any ordinary board though. This is the Crosshair IV Extreme. It’s meant to be tortured. So torture it we did, in what was my very first sub-zero overclocking experience.

Extreme Benchmarking

From the start, this board screams sub-zero. To begin with, it is very easy to insulate; the area around the socket is extremely uncluttered. After weighing the available insulation options, forum user (and world renowned overclocker) Ross‘ method struck me as the best combination of ease-of-application and removal – Frost King insulation. This was made significantly easier by the uncluttered socket area mentioned earlier.

Insulation Layer 1

Insulation Layer 1

Insulation Layer 2

Insulation Layer 2

Insulation Layer 3

Insulation Layer 3

After putting on the base insulation, the board was installed on the Lian Li PCQ-06 we reviewed before, which turned out to be a great little sub-zero station.

Pot Installed

Pot Installed

Pot Installed - 2

Pot Installed - 2

Once installed, there is a lot more insulation / absorbing material to put on of course, starting with the neoprene around the pot and ending with a ton of paper towels to make sure nothing gets wet. Once fully insulated, it was time to bench!

Pot insulated

Pot Insulated

System Up and Running

System Up and Running

Benching Setup

Benching Setup

Mmm...Frosty and Foggy!

Mmm...Frosty and Foggy!

The test system changed a little bit for the sub-zero runs. The RAM was swaped out for some G.Skill Flare series DDR3-2000 sticks rated to run at 7-9-7-24 and the video card was swaped for an AMD 6870, both in for review as well. Very helpful for quick booting is an OCZ Vertex 2 SSD, also here for review. So thanks to G.Skill, AMD and OCZ for making this session even more fun!

So what does a bit of dry ice, plus this board and a 1090T get you? Well, it gets you a ton of fun, but here are some benchmark results. To start, 3DMark Vantage. Since the overall score isn’t comparable to the results above really, let’s focus on the CPU score, which went up to a stunning 26,174. Please excuse the screenshot size, it’s tough to fit all that info in 800 x 800.

3DMark Vantage at 5.187 GHz

3DMark Vantage at 5187 MHz

Moving on to 2D, WPrime 1024M managed to pass at 5187 MHz as well, reducing its time to a respectable 154.437 seconds. Wprime 32M passed at 5297 MHz, completing in 4.833 seconds.

WPrime 1024M @ 5187 MHz

WPrime 1024M @ 5187 MHz

WPrime 32M @ 5297 MHz

WPrime 32M @ 5297 MHz

SuperPi 1M was reduced to 12.730 seconds at 5.485 GHz, knocking on the door to the highest clock the 1090T would manage at these temperatures.

SuperPi 1M @ 5485 MHz

SuperPi 1M @ 5485 MHz

Last, but not least was an attempted max validation. It is ‘attempted’ because infuriatingly,at three different speeds – starting at 5.3GHz and ending up here – none of the CPUz dumps were valid. It said the dumps were corrupted in every case and wouldn’t even accept them as results. Regardless, I got the screenshot and that’s good enough for me. The maximum frequency this processor would allow at these temperatures was a not-too-shabby 5518 MHz.

Max Frequency - 5.5 GHz

Max Frequency - 5.5 GHz

After a fun session of about three hours, the pot was heated up and pulled so it could finish thawing out separately. Here’s the aftermath (and the TIM contact).

CPU TIM Post-Cold

CPU TIM Post-Cold

Pot TIM Post-Cold

Pot TIM Post-Cold

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

This board is one for the ages. It took everything I could throw at it (including up to a rather high 1.75 Vcore) and came back for more, scoffing at the efforts of this mere mortal to topple it. Looking at other AMD boards, it would be tough to find one as strong as this. There are other nice looking boards with solid features, but even if other things were equal the Extreme has one important item they do not – the Lucid Hydra chip.

There is one minor draw back – price. At $289.99 it is literally the most expensive 890FX motherboard on the market. …but look up. Just take another breeze through the features this board has. Look at the seamless, smooth operating software package. Don’t forget to look at what it allowed a complete newbie at extreme cooling to do!  So no, it’s not light on the wallet, but it is very heavy on value.

If you want the best, you know you’re going to have to pay for it. What I can say is that this board is worth every penny. It’s not for everyone; I wouldn’t recommend it to someone that never plans on overclocking or gaming with the Hydra advantage. But if you would use the extensive feature set and like what you’ve seen it do here, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this board to you. If you are an extreme overclocker that wants to bench AMD and has the cash to throw down, do not hesitate for one minute. Go and get yourself a Crosshair IV Extreme. You will not be disappointed.

-Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

20 Comments:

MattNo5ss's Avatar
Looks like the CIVE and CIVF are the way to go. Great job
cold.nut's Avatar
yay! after all of the struggle with that damn pot you finally got the article pumped out.

great stuff jeremy!

glad it all worked out.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Thanks for the compliments guys!

It took a while, but it ended up making it. Thanks for all your help cold.nut. Very, very sorry how that worked out.
Voidn's Avatar
Excellent review hookie. You made it on the front page of the bot too!

Not sure that cpu pot is tall enough, might need a bigger cup .
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Thanks! I saw that and was flattered Massman put it up.

It's the one, the only...Giraffe Pot.
gallinka's Avatar
I appreciate the great review on this ASUS MB. This MB is definitely one I would have to take a hard look at. I am actually glad it came out now and not before I built a new computer. It has all the features I was looking for and a few more. The one caveat I have is the brand.
I abandoned ASUS in the pentium III days when I had a motherboard die on me at the end of it's warranty (it failed in warranty, but was the end of year, I could not find the invoice, I was not sure at the time if I had owned it a year, I HATE calling technical support). The motherboard used the notorious Intel 815 chipset and may have been more to blame than anything. However, AOpen offered a three year warranty at the time and I switched to them for a while.
If I was still in the market for a motherboard I would take a serious look a this one. The specs and added features alone are worth it (I may still have a working Abit NF7-S if I could check north bridge voltages via a test point). I have been eying another offering by ASUS, the AT3IONT-I (Deluxe version), and have to say that I think I will try ASUS again on my next purchase.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Well, the Crosshair IV Extreme has a three year warranty, FWIW.

I so miss abit (used to be a mod at their forums), but ASUS has very much impressed me with the boards I've reviewed so far.
Dooms101's Avatar
The Formula and Extreme boards are sooo cool. I don't understand why they all the sudden switched to black and red instead of the typical black, white, blue color scheme. I guess it's to match the ATI colors... I really wish we could have seen some game FPS results with an nvidia and ait card using that hydra chip. I wonder if that thing actually performs well. It'd be cool if it did and they started putting on them on lower end boards eventually. Didn't Gigabyte have a similar feature on a board not too long ago?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
MSI had them on the Big Bang Trinergy IIRC. This is the first one to my knowledge on an AMD chipset. There was a guy at XS that did a little Hydra testing; check out the thread here.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Please note, this article has been updated from its original form with the changes below:

Regarding the Hydra chip, a note was added for clarification:

Author's Note: Please note for clarity, the Hydra chip offers "N mode" rather than "SLI". This is a good thing, in that you can combine different generations rather than being tied to identical cards as with SLI. So while you can run multiple NVIDIA cards, it is not "SLI".

The following paragraph had the bolded item added:

Not only are there two BIOSes to choose from, ASUS also gives you a BIOS Flashback option. You load a BIOS onto a USB thumb drive and push the ROG Connect button for two seconds and you've got a fresh-flashed BIOS chip. Even better, not only can you flash as easily as that, you can do it with no CPU, no memory and/or no graphics card; all you need is standby power. Nifty!

Regarding the RC Bluetooth option, this was added:

When not engaged for the overclocking tool, the Bluetooth module also allows normal Bluetooth connectivity to use for things like headphones, keyboards, mice, etc.

This was added in the power section:

Regarding the chokes, ASUS points out "The chokes used on the board are our new design which we have been using on our current ROG boards these offering significantly higher power performance which is important for sustained power delivery to the CPU when under load and extreme temperatures." By higher performance, they mean each choke has a 40 A current rating. This is quite a substantial increase over conventional chokes, which are rated for only 15 A. Photos of the parts side-by-side will help show what they look like (comparison photo.)
magisterco's Avatar
do you happen to know how to disable fan alert beep (internal speaker) on that motherboard?

I installed water blocks on my CPU and Mobo and ever since the mobo speaker constantly beeps from startup one solid continuous beep.

I tried disabling it from Bios and no luck, i think its because of the mobo fan.

just to make sure i plugged in my stock heatsink cpu fan to rule out the posibility it could be the cpu fan alert (maybe bugging out or something).

so i think its the NB fan being unplugged due to waterblock.

just to make sure, i went to hardware in bios and disabled fans so there wouldnt be any alerts.

please help me out if possible!

thanks
QuietIce's Avatar
There's an AMD board with a FAN on it?!?!?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I'm sorry magisterco, I haven't tried. Typically it should be in hardware monitor / fans. You may be able to set the chipset fan to 'ignore'. That's what works on the CPU fan on a CIVF anyway (I use a controller and don't have a fan plugged into the header, so it beeps telling me that). I've only used the CIVE for sub-zero benching after the review, so I can't boot up to it now unfortunately. Try the hardware monitoring / fan ignore route and see if that gets you anywhere.

Yep QI, it actually has a NB fan on it!
gambz's Avatar
hi
i have a crosshair iii formula and a pair of sapphire 6870 and i really wanted to set up the eyefinity with 3d monitors, but i live in portugal and the 3d monitors for ati 3dhd must be well hidden
so, i was wondering if i can connect both 6870 and a nvidia gtx on this board. that way i could use both 6870 for processing and the nvidia gtx to 3dvision and physics.
is that possible with this mobo?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Good morning. It's certainly possible to run the two cards together with the Crosshair IV Extreme (due to the Lucid Hydra chip).

Unfortunately all I can speak to is that the cards will work. Whether having the GTX + 6870s combination working in NVIDIA's 3DVision & Physics the way you want is a wild card. I don't know enough about Lucid's functionality to determine whether the 6870s would actually be able to assist with processing 3D.

Oh, and welcome to OCF!
gambz's Avatar
hum thats too bad cause i just cant find any ati 3dhd monitors....
thanks anyways
hokiealumnus's Avatar
You could always sell your two cards and get a single GTX580.
gambz's Avatar
and that would be good enough? i mean, idk nvidia very well but that single card can handle 5760x1080 res plus the 3d engine?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Whew....I don't know, that's a hefty resolution for a card with 1.5GB of memory. In SLI they probably would, but if you're looking for a zero sum between selling your cards and getting a new solution, I doubt that's going to be enough. Two GTX570's would likely be ok but that's still expensive.

Sorry, I just don't know enough about resolutions that high to advise you very well.
Leave a Comment