Asus launched the first of the Republic of Gamers (ROG) series for the AMD platform way back in 2007, calling it the Asus Crosshair for the AM2 platform, which was based on the Nvidia nForce 590 chipset. The second in the series was the Asus Crosshair II Formula, which was based on the Nvidia 780a chipset. The third in the series is the Crosshair III Formula and this time Asus did the smart thing and ditched the Nvidia chipsets. They went ahead with the brand new 790FX chipset and made one of the best overclocking and feature rich boards for the AM3 platform.
The ROG series has always been the top end of the Asus line up of motherboards and the Crosshair III lived up to it’s pedigree. Today, we have the opportunity to take a quick look at Asus Crosshair IV Formula, which is the latest iteration in the legendary series of AMD based ROG boards.
The Crosshair IV is now based on the latest high end 890FX chipset from AMD along with an 850 series southbridge, allowing a total of 32 usable PCI-E lanes, 6 Gbp/s SATA III and USB 3.0 support. Let’s take a quick look at the specifications before going ahead:
As you can see, this board comes with all the features that were available on the previous Crosshair series, with a few differences. We will get into that in the next part of our review.
The Asus Crosshair IV Formula comes in a box very similar to almost all the ROG series motherboards. The only difference is the AMD/ATI badges at the bottom.
The rear of the box has a whole list of specifications, along with pictures of the more innovative features of this board.
Once we open the box, we are greeted by two small black boxes, stacked one on top of the other. The first one contains all of the accessories and the second, the board itself. Let’s first take a look at the accessories.
The list of accessories is quite large and consists of everything that you could ever want or need with a new motherboard. They have even included stickers for your SATA drive cables, a large ROG sticker for your cabinet, and a smaller ROG sticker for your case or what have you. They have also included six SATA III cables and they are thankfully black in color. The only thing missing from this accessory list is the LCD screen, which I did miss during my OC session. There is also a white USB connector, which is used for the ROG connect feature.
Now let’s move on to the highlight of this preview and that’s the board itself.
Beautiful right? Asus has changed the colors on this board from Blue/Black to Red/Black and this in my opinion only goes better for all of the AMD/ATI fans around. On to a closer look at some of the features of this board.
Lets start with the rear connectors first and contrary to expectations, there are a few things worth checking out here.
To start with, we have the usual sets of USB, LAN, 1394 and Audio connectors. What I would like to draw your attention to are the USB 3.0 connectors, marked in blue, the clear CMOS button (it’s extremely helpful in a closed case) and the ROG connect button. The ROG button is a new feature on an AMD board, which basically helps you to monitor and overclock the system using another computer. Now this is quite an interesting idea and Asus did demonstrate this earlier this year, using an Asus Eee PC to overclock an i7 system. The system uses a special USB connector, which is a part of the accessories list.
Moving on to the board, let’s look at the CPU area.
The board uses a single 8 Pin E-ATX connector for power. The PWM area has a beefy heatsink which keeps the 10+2 phase VRM’s cool. You also have the Game First chip, which helps to give priority to your online gaming sessions and maintain a low ping time, even as you use the internet for other tasks.
Moving on, the CPU area remains the same as previous generations, with AMD stubbornly holding on to the same bracket type, which in a way is great news for those who want to carry over their existing cooling setups. The things to look out for are the alternate slot arrangement for memory. AMD boards have had adjacent slots running dual channel for a while now on most boards, but in this board it’s the alternate slots which provide the same feature. Asus has also made it so that the ram slots need only one side to be closed now which makes it a bit easier to install ram.
The second important feature is the “Probe It” points, which will give you accurate and real time information on all the major voltages using a multimeter. The CPU area does look a little cluttered, but I did use a Noctua NH D14 on the board and it cleared everything fine. Ram using tall heatsinks will probably cause a problem however. If you look carefully, you will also notice that Asus has done away with the IDE/Floppy drive connectors and that in my mind is not a bad idea at all.
We can see the NB heatsink in the picture above with the three heatsinks on this board being connected by a heatpipe. This should help to dissipate the heat better than individual heatsinks can, but mostly it’s just for flash. The heatsink does look a bit close to the first PCI-E slot, but it does not interfere with the 5850 that I installed there.
I would have loved to take the heatsinks off to show you the new chips, but that’s not possible at this point in time.
As we get closer to the bottom of the board, we can see the southbridge heatsink as well as the six sata ports. The SB heatsink covers the new 850 series SB chip. There is also a small red “GO” button, which will help to configure your ram for optimal performance settings automatically. Moving along to the bottom, we can see the ROG chips, as well as a bunch of headers for various front panel connectors.
And finally we come to one of the last parts of this preview, the on board buttons area.
The board comes with a total of five on board buttons or switches. We have already seen the first, which is the “GO” switch. The other four are at the bottom of the board and consist of the start, reset, core unlocker and the turbo key. The first two are pretty straight forward. The third switch, which is the core unlocker, is used to unlock hidden cores on AMD chips. Theoretically AMD had disabled the ACC unlocking functionality on the 890 series chipsets, but Asus was able to re-implement this feature on their own.
The last switch is the Turbo Key, which is also a pretty nifty feature to have. The Turbo key helps to overclock the computer while in the OS. You have to set a predefined OC, which is then activated at the press of a button.
A little higher up we see a VIA chip, which is part of the Supreme X-Fi chipset for the audio. This should provide a superior audio solution to what most boards offer with Realtek HD Audio solutions.
This is one good looking board which also brings a lot of the features from the high-end Intel line up to AMD. In the final review we will take a look at various benchmarks as compared to the MSI GD70, which has been one of the top selling, high performing 790FX boards on the market. As of now we have the following list of benchmarks that we will be working on:
1. 3D Mark ’06
2. 3D Mark Vantage
3. PC Mark Vantage
4. HD Tune Pro
6. Everest Memory and System Benchmarks
And of course we will also be trying to OC the hell out of it.
Overall, this looks and feels like a really solid board, which should work well for both beginners as well as advanced users. There are a lot of features built in and we will be spending a lot of time on benchmarking this board, so do come back for the final review.
Thanks for reading!