ASUS Crosshair V Formula AMD AM3+ Motherboard Review

The Crosshair V Formula is ASUS' ROG-based answer for the next generation AMD silicon, codenamed "Bulldozer." Built with all the bells and whistles you've come to expect from a Republic of Gamers' motherboard, the Crosshair V Formula looks to be the perfect companion for any AMD processor.

Introduction

ASUS has a proven track record for performance and quality when it comes to computer components. The company's commitment to excellence is unrivalled in the industry, leveraging its technological innovations to push the performance envelope further to deliver its customers the best product possible. With its Republic of Gamers (ROG) line of products, ASUS has built a brand name that is designed to stand up to the punishment that enthusiasts put their products through. ASUS' newest member of the ROG family is designed with exactly those goals in mind.

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The ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard is designed to support the next gen AMD processors, thanks to the AMD 990FX and SB950 chipsets. The board has built in support for the following technologies: the AMD Socket AM3 and next-gen AM3+ processor lines; DDR3 memory operating in Dual Channel memory mode up to 1600 MHz officially; and either NVIDIA 3-way SLI or AMD 3-way CrossFireX graphics mode using matched video cards. ASUS integrated the listed devices in to the Crosshair V Formula: 6 SATA III 6Gb/s ports (RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 capable) on the AMD SB950 controller; 1 SATA III and 1 e-SATA 6Gb/s ports on the ASMedia controller; 12 USB 2.0 capable ports (8 in rear panel, and 2 onboard headers supporting 2 ports each); 6 USB 3.0 capable ports (4 in rear panel, and 1 onboard header supporting 2 ports each); 1 Intel GigE Ethernet port in the rear panel; SupremeFX X-Fi 2 8-channel HD audio codec with integrated S/PDIF optical output port; power, reset, CPU level-up, and Go buttons; and a PS/2 keyboard / mouse port in the rear panel.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Mainboard Specification List:

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Packaging

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The Crosshair V Formula's box art features the ROG product logo, with the supported technologies clearly shown in the lower left quadrant of the box front. The board is package with the following components: locking connector SATA drive cables; NVIDIA SLI connectors; an AMD CrossFire connector; the rear panel shield; the Q-Connector modules; the ROG-connect cable; cable label stickers; and the normal complement of manuals and drivers discs. The Q-Connector modules allow for an easy interface for connecting in to the motherboard headers. You simply plug in your front panel jumpers in to the white connector and the USB 2.0 jumpers in to the blue connector block, and then plug both blocks in to the motherboard headers. It makes for a much easier install for those typically hard to reach header areas.

Board Layout

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The Crosshair V Formula motherboard is well designed, with more than enough room around the critical components. The board revision is located in between the secondary PCI-Express x16 and PCI slots, with the board under test being a revision 1.01 board. The serial number is located on a white sticker along the outside edge of the ATX power connector. For the board's power components, ASUS paired the board with high quality polymer solid-electrolyte capacitors and metal alloy chokes.

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The CPU socket area is free of close-in components, with adequate space for use of the large CPU coolers. The CPU cooler is held in place using the 3 piece AMD AM3+ style hold-down mechanism. ASUS freed up a lot of space for the CPU by placing the Northbridge to the upper left of the CPU instead of its typical location to the left of the CPU. The AMD 990FX Northbridge is covered by a large heat sink, which is connected to the CPU power circuitry heat sinks via a heat pipe. Just above the Northbridge chipset is a 4-pin female MOLEX power connector, the ROG connect switch, and the OPT_TEMP2 and OPT_FAN2 headers. The MOLEX power connector can be used to supply extra power to the onboard PCI-Express slots when multiple videos cards are in use. To the upper right of the CPU socket is the 8-pin ATX12V connector, with an additional 4-pin ATX12V power connector and the CPU_FAN header to the socket's lower right. The addition 4-pin ATX12V power connector is provided to ensure that the system has enough power with multiple graphics cards in use.

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The system's DDR3 memory slots are located directly below the CPU socket arranged into 2 bi-colored sets. Dual Channel memory mode activates with modules populating the same colored DIMM slots. The USB 3.0 header, 24-pin ATX power connector, the OPT_FAN3 and OPT_TEMP3 headers, the CPU_OPT header, and the Go button are located below the DIMM slots. The Go button can be used to reset problematic memory settings in the case of a non-booting system. Additionally, the button will load profile settings tied to the Go profile from the BIOS.

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The board's AMD SB950 Southbridge chipset is covered by a stand-alone thin-finned heat sink just below the secondary PCI-Express x16 slot. The six Southbridge controlled SATA 3 ports are located just below the chipset along the board's edge and sitting parallel to the plane of the board. The SATA 6 port to the left of the chipset controlled ports is the ASMedia controlled port. To the lower left of the chipset are the CMOS reset jumper, and the front panel, CHA_FAN1, and CHA_FAN2 headers. Just above the FAN headers is a trusted module port, and the 2 onboard USB 2.0 headers.

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The Crosshair V Formula comes standard with a total of 6 onboard slots: 4 PCI-Express x16 slots, 1 PCI-Express x1 slot, and 1 PCI slot. The USB 2.0 port, power, reset, and CPU Level-Up buttons, and the OPT_FAN1, OPT_TEMP1, S/PDIF output, and front panel audio headers are located along the outside edge of PCI-Express slot 4. The CPU Level-Up button will load settings tied to profiles created with the ASUS windows utilities, without the need to go in to the BIOS.

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The board's rear panel includes the following integrated ports: a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo-port; 8 USB 2.0 ports; 4 USB 3.0 ports (blue colored USB style ports); 1 e-SATA 6 Gb/s ports; 1 Intel GigE Ethernet port; a CMOS reset button; and 6 analogue and an S/PDIF optical audio output ports.

TurboV EVO

For overclocking the Crosshair V Formula board from within windows, ASUS provides the TurboV EVO application, with version 1.00.80 provided on the installation DVD. TurboV EVO integrates seamlessly in to its AI Suite utility, which offers many other system monitoring related applications as well.

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The TurboV EVO applet can be access via the Tool button after opening the AI Suite application. The TurboV EVO screen is broken in to two separate tabs - TurboV and Auto Tuning. Notice the CPU bar along the right side of the app window as well. The TurboV tab displays current system voltage and bus speed settings, allowing for configuration of all displayed settings. Within the Advanced Mode tab are other adjustable system voltages, while the CPU Ratio tab allows for manual configuration of the current CPU multiplier setting. For all settings listed in the applet, the configurable settings shown mimic the settings available through the BIOS menus. The Auto Tuning tab allows for selection and configuration of the profiles tied to the onboard CPU Level-Up button.

DIGI+ VRM

ASUS also chose to include its DIGI+ VRM applet, also accessed using the Tools menu in the AI Suite utility.

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The DIGI+ VRM applet is used to configure the board's power regulation circuitry, with the same options available as shown in the BIOS.