ASUS Crosshair III Formula Motherboard Review

ASUS releases yet another Republic of Gamers motherboard, this time for our AMD users. The Crosshair III Formula is the latest incarnation of the ROG series which means that it comes from excellent pedigree. The Crosshair III Formula has some big shoes to fill. Is the Crosshair III AMD 790FX chipset motherboard is up to the challenge?

continued...

Subsystem Testing

NOTE: For all Subsystem Testing, an AMD Phenom II X2 550 (3.1GHz) Black Edition and 2 x 2048MB Patriot VIPER PVV34G2000LLK DDR3 (8-8-8-27-1T @ ~1.66v) memory modules running at DDR3 1333MHz (ganged mode) were used. The CPU was cooled with a Corsair Nautilus 500 paired with a Swiftech Apogee GT water block.

Sound Hardware

The ASUS Crosshair III Formula comes bundled with an ADI Soundmax PCI-Express card. It is EAX4.0 compatible and supports CMSS 3D and claims to be 24bit. In other words it is a software X-Fi card. To put it yet another way, the included card is pretty good for "onboard" sound but it still isn't on par with some of the hardware based X-Fi's and other cards found on the market.

Article Image

As you can see in the image above, once the "X-Fi" shroud is removed all that remains is a single chip and some capacitors. There isn't any hardware here to speak of. The card itself has six-mini headphone jacks, one SPDIF out and finally one optical out.

Audio آ– Subjective Listening

For subjective listening you want to listen to something that covers a range of sound types. For this portion of the review I went with Disturbed, Indestructible.

As expected the faux Creative X-Fi did its job nicely. There was no audible distortion heard while playing back CD audio. In fact the sound was rich and vibrant.

Audio آ– Microphone Port Testing

The onboard audio MIC-IN port was tested using a Logitech Internet Chat Headset. Spoken words were recorded from the Windows Sound Recorder found under the Accessories\\Entertainment folder in the start menu within Windows XP. The recording was made with the Microphone Boost option disabled, then enabled. The Microphone Boost option is found within the advanced menu under the microphone section within the Volume Control Menu.

As is typical of such solutions the recording quality left much to be desired. While playback of the recording sample was audible with the microphone boost option enabled, it did have quite a bit of distortion present. With the option enabled I could barely hear playback of the sample.

Drive Performance

To test the capabilities of the on board USB 2.0 connections, we used an ACOMDATA HD060U2FE-72-USB 2.0/FireWire HDD connected first to the USB port. SATA and IDE drive tests were performed using Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD hard drives on the primary SATA header and Samsung 40 GB SATA 3G with NCQ hard drives on additional SATA headers. The SATA drives were used for testing in RAID 0 16k block size configurations on all applicable controllers. Testing was also conducted using a standalone SATA drive on all applicable controllers, and an EIDE drives connected in a primary slave configuration on the appropriate controller All drive benchmarks were done using the open source Iometer program.

Article Image

Article Image

Article Image

As expected the RAID-0 configuration was the fastest overall configuration tested. Given that there is only the SB750 involved here there isn't much else to say. I had no trouble with the RAID controllers or AHCI modes. The only annoyance I had was with the Windows XP installation. This board does not have a floppy port and has a result I was forced to use a USB floppy drive which wouldn't work half the time. I had to try installing the drivers 3 times before it worked. The previous two attempts resulted in a blue screen and a hard lock of the machine. With our Windows 7 Ultimate installations, no issues were had at all with drivers.

Network Utilization Tests

Hagel Technologies’ DU Meter software was used with Windows Task Manager to determine the performance levels of the onboard network interface. DU Meter was used to measure bandwidth and transfer speeds, while Windows Task Manager monitored CPU utilization on the test system. For the testing, a 750MB Archive file consisting of several compressed WMA/MP3 files was used for the large file transfer, and 750MB worth of MP3/WMA files were used ranging in sizes from 3 to 30MB was used for the small files transfer test. The test was performed using a plenum rated category 5e crossover cable to bypass any traffic, routing or other transfer issues and possible packet loss or corruption that can be caused by a router/switch or hub. The cables were connected between two test machines, one using the onboard NIC(s) of the board being reviewed and the other is an Intel EXPI9400PT 10/ 100/ 1000Mbps PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet adapter installed into a test machine using an Intel DX48BT2 motherboard.

ASUS integrated the Realtek 8111C PCI-Express 1.0a Gigabit Ethernet controller for the network interface. It is capable of 10/100/1000 speeds, auto negotiation and offers full or half duplex operation.

LAN1

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The small files download test gave a maximum transfer speed of 66.66MB a second with an average of 53.50MB a second. CPU usage was a little high at 11% but still well with in what I would call an acceptable range for this type of setup. The small files upload test showed much slower results than I saw in the download test. The maximum transfer speed here was 49.49MB a second with an average speed of 26.02MB a second. CPU usage was higher than I would have liked to have seen given this level of performance at 9%.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The large files download test showed a peak transfer speed of 47.46MB a second with an average of 38.83MB a second. CPU usage was the highest I'd seen on this test setup thus far at 12%. The large files download test showed fairly slow transfer rates. The maximum was 35.96MB a second and averaged 21.90MB a second. CPU usage was 11% which was within the expected range I've come to expect from Realtek adapters.

Test Systems

The following system configurations were used for the Sandra memory benchmark graph, as well as all graphs listed under the Application and Gaming Benchmarks sections:

Article Image

Graphs are labeled as follows: Motherboard - CPU Clock - FSB Clock - Memory Clock

Sandra Memory Bandwidth Buffered Integer

Article Image

Memory bandwidth was less than impressive as has come to be the norm on AMD based boards when it comes to synthetic benchmarks. However the ASUS boards looks to be right at home compared to our other 790FX board.

Sandra CPU Dhrystone ALU (2009 v1542)

Article Image

The CPU performance out matched that of the MSI 790FX-GD70 by a small margin.

Hiper Pi v 0.99B

Article Image

Hiper Pi performance was well within expectations. It performed nearly identically to the MSI 790FX-GD70. Again, the Crosshair III is a tad faster than the GD70 compared.

wPrime v2.00

Article Image

The wPrime results are a bit flip flopped from what we would have expected, but still only 3 tenths of a second delta.