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ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z Review: Cream of the Crop for AM3+

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

More Digging on the Crosshair V Formula-Z

 

ROG Connect is still featured with this board, as with previous generations.  This allows the user to tweak the board while not actually on it.  A USB cable is connected to an external computer/notebook and the ROG software installed.  Theoretically this allows the user to tweak the machine and view the results externally, so in case a change does crash the system the user can more easily identify what all went on from the external, stable station.

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Asus does not skimp when it comes to ROG products.  The board is packed with accessories and goodies.

While the power delivery and memory redesign are important, there is one other area that received the lion’s share of attention.  The audio portion of this board puts it above nearly every other integrated option out there.  The SupremeFX III audio setup is very impressive from a design aspect.  First off Asus drops the Creative X-Fi software functionality and goes with a DTS based software stack.  Asus utilizes what looks to be one of the top end Realtek audio codecs which features up to a 110 db SNR.  I was unable to get a model number as it is covered by a metal shield.  That shield is supposed to protect the chip from any EMI interference.

The primary goal appears to be getting as clean of a signal to the outputs as possible.  The “Redline” feature of the PCB does a couple of things.  First off it glows when power is turned on.  This is a neat effect.  Secondly it separates the portion of the PCB that passes audio to the outputs from the rest of the board.  This keeps interference from the connected layers of the PCB minimized as compared to a traditional board.  Next Asus routes the lines through the middle of what is a multi-layer PCB board.  The extra layers of plastics and copper again shields these connections from external sources of EMI.  Asus claims that in lab tests they are seeing a true 110db SNR.  This may not hold up under all conditions, but this is what they have documented in their testing.

The last big feature of the audio subsystem is that of high quality capacitors combined with a single, large 1500 uF capacitor.  Most caps that are used for audio purposes supplies 10 to 22 uF of power.  In certain circumstances with high output audio, these capacitors can totally drain, and this can lead to clipping and lower quality audio in these high power settings.  Think large explosions, lots of action, and multiple streams all going at once.  By utilizing the large capacitor, it is less likely that it will be drained and it will keep the audio outputs consistent at high levels.

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The design, for being so feature packed, still has somewhat uncluttered feel to it.

I asked JJ Guerero of Asus why they decided to skip on using Creative for this generation of board.  As is well known, the previous Crosshair boards utilized the X-Fi software stack to provide EAX support as well as effects.  JJ was able to get back to me with this information.

The better question is why go with Creative when no current game has been developed with EAX support, or has been in some time. The perception that Creative cards are better for gaming is just perception, in our opinion and that of many others as well. We take our design implementations seriously and process a great deal of feedback when considering how and with what to proceed for the new Supreme FX design. We spent considerable time internally and with the community gauging and evaluating quality and performance measurements and their opinions. Overall the feedback internally and from the community confirmed our findings in that audio is driven by total design not just a singular choice on the codec or controller used. In addition over the years we have continued to see game developers base their audio engines on Dolby or DTS audio technologies. In this respect our experience with onboard codecs and discrete calls controllers under our Xonar line have given us years of experience at making great sounding sound cards. When combined with our innovative ROG development team, time and patience, and a lot of trial and error we were able to maximize full performance of the HD Audio codec and bring Supreme FX III to our ROG series motherboards. We did feel though Creative’s excellent software could still be leveraged to offer more customization and audio processing for end users. This design for software choice varies as we have also utilized the outstanding DTS Ultra II PC audio software suite.

The goal with Supreme FX as we discussed on the call we had…. is total sound quality ( music, movies and games ) and to upgrade the listening experience and improve immersion. We feel we understand this market and user base quite well as we are the only component vendor who has a dedicated audio division to leverage insight and real world experience from. The benefit is we can leverage this experience and insight when we first phased in SupremeFX III and RedLine/Isolated design.In addition we felt this was an area that could be improved upon considerably as integrated audio designs have considerable influencing factors that reduce their operating metrics/performance and effect the total experience and immersion. In the end the goal of achieving fully rated operating specifications was difficult but achieved. 

We felt the performance which translates to tonality, soundstage, clarity, response and even volume range of the onboard solution when fully maximized would really allow for a clear improvement when compared to a standard onboard experience. At the end of the day spec is not what matters but the actual experience of playing games, listening to music and watching movies. Outside of the minimum guarantees like increase in VRMSS driving strength (which will have our solution operate at louder volume level ). Aligning with the spec a true 110db level of operation with a solid performing SnR level and 24bit support is impressive. 

Additionally Creative’s move to Sound Core caused us to re evaluate the design implemented to see if our focus on our design was still sensible. Changes in the design of Sound Core to XFI were considerable including the integrationof a HD Codec similar to the Codec solutions already on motherboard, this is a simplification as there are number of advanced other functions present in their design. With that noted our focus was audio experience not audio processing, effects or features that were present in Sound Core. We felt through comparative testing Sound Core sound wise is inferior to X-Fi. It just did not sound as good to us, additionally we felt from a cost to performance ratio we could offer a solid discrete class audio experience comparable to a $30 to 40 dollar sound card onboard. This will still keep our BOM cost in the right place to introduce/maintain other key innovative technologies like  Intel Lan with Game First, Full AV License, Daemon Tools Pro, USB Bios Flashback, Advanced fan controls and super I/O controller, USB 3 Boost etc. 

In the end sound is about a balanced design offering isolation, improvement in fidelity and flexibility in management of the audio ( profiles, processing etc ). We feel with Supreme FX III we are offering the full operating performance of the integrated codec but with additional design work that also provides a better experience as a whole.

Interesting stuff, I think JJ should be a novelist.

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The audio portion has received a tremendous amount of attention.  Note that white line on the PCB that separates it from the rest of the board?  Keep watch for it later.

I also asked JJ as to why with so many low level changes to the board did they not brand it the Crosshair VI?  The answer to that one is the chipset.  They are still utilizing the 990FX/SB950 that the previous CHV did.  If we remember, going with the 890FX Asus branded the board the Crosshair IV.  I guess this makes sense, but it almost does a disservice to this board.  The Crosshair V Formula-Z is a very different beast from the previous iteration.

March 17, 2013 | 10:51 PM - Posted by Holyneo (not verified)

Im still using the Crosshair III. Best investment ever. Very good read. Thank you for the review.

March 17, 2013 | 11:15 PM - Posted by PapaDragon

I had the Crosshair IV Extreme with the 970, It was a great board and a good chip. The CHV-Z is definitely awesome. What I like most is the amount of native Sata III ports, the audio and the great design. A lot of great features aswell. Also, the 8350 sometimes is on sale for $179 which is cool.

Good read, Great review Josh!

March 17, 2013 | 11:26 PM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

Don't spend any money on ANY AMD boards or AMD CPU's. They're complete and total garbage.

Even if you are going to, get the Gigabyte with the UEFI. It is a better board than this.

March 17, 2013 | 11:43 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

So, compare and contrast the Asus UEFI implementation vs. the Gigabyte one.  I have worked with both, and I have my opinions about what seems to work better for me.

March 18, 2013 | 12:27 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

ASUS UEFI is EASILY better however the Gigabyte is a better board.

The 990FX-UD7 packs much more PCI-E slots, has a more capable mem power phase section, and and overall more robustly put built.

This board is made by ECS. The old Asus factory, Pegatron is now owned my AsRock, which is why AsRock boards are so good and Asus boards are not as much as they used to be.

That said, this indeed is a very nice board however, I WOULD NOT spend ANY money on an AMD setup period.

As far as gaming is concerned, you can just get ANY 2500K with a P67 Fatal1ty and it WILL blow the snort out of ANY AMD setup out of the water once you start pushing it.

March 18, 2013 | 12:57 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I had seen that the UD7 had some serious growing pains, I'm glad they figured out those issues.  I see it uses the DrMOS setup for the PWMs.  Not a whole lot different from MSI, but the actual differences between implementations seem pretty minimal.  The latest Gigabyte board I tested with the IR PowIRstage chips was impressive from an efficiency standpoint.  Still, lots of interesting features between both boards to differentiate.

March 18, 2013 | 01:15 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

Asus still use those old Taiwanese TRIO chokes. Just painted or different models. They aren't as good as the high current chokes used on the MSI boards, also, the caps are also STILL made by Apaq. Sub par Chinese-Taiwanese caps.

The Giga boards use high quality Japanese Nippon Chemi-Con's. The MSI's even go as far as donating the CPU area ENTIRELY to TANTALUMs and NO old cylindirical caps.

As far as built quality is concerned, the 990FX GD-80 and the Giga are easily better built.

Besides, this board looks like it came out of some pre-school project.

Nothing alike the proper, no-BS looks of say Asus WS boards.

March 18, 2013 | 08:37 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

That's reasonable reasoning.  Tantalum has always been an interesting topic since the old Tom's Hardware/Tyan/tantalum days.  I think for the power that we are talking for most boards, tantalum is overkill.  The "all Japanese" caps is again reasonable, especially considering the track record of the Chinese/Taiwanese companies.

When I tested the GD80 I had my fair share of issues with it, but I think a lot of those were fixed by updated BIOS releases.  I would be interested in the UD7, I guess we shall see.  Not entirely sold on all the full length PCI-E slots, as more than half of them are either x8, x4, or x1 electrically.

At least we have some interesting choices and variety there.  Just wish we had better CPUs to drop in them.

June 5, 2013 | 06:14 PM - Posted by Watson S (not verified)

I had a Gigabyte 990FX-UD7. The cheap Realtek Ethernet controller quit, and the Power Management died to the point that it would not properly shutdown (you had to switch the power off on the PSU). It was a great board up to that point, but I have never had an ASUS board die after only a year. I got it switched for free to a Crosshair V- Formula Z. So far so good.

I did prefer the PCI-Express layout...but not worth it given the issues.

March 19, 2013 | 09:44 AM - Posted by 63jax

dumb troll! you know nothing...

March 19, 2013 | 09:46 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

Who the fuck are you talking about and what the fuck are you referring to?

April 19, 2013 | 10:59 PM - Posted by Devildog83 (not verified)

He is talking about you. There is no way on earth a 2500k beats an FX 8350 on any board mostly not this board. I think you need to do some more research. If you don't like AMD that's OK but good lord you could not be more wrong. The caps are 5k japs, look it up. Any Gigagyte is a budget board compared to this board. AMD never said it was going to beat the 3770k or the 3900 series from intel. I fyou want to spend that $ then fine but don't let your bias lead you to beleive that you can even compare any gigabyte board to this. The Asrock is a good board but still takes a big back seat to this, that's why it's way cheaper. From the audio to the OCability this board is the best AMD board made. Since you are not an AMD fan maybe you should stick to what you know.

July 12, 2013 | 10:39 PM - Posted by teiva (not verified)

Nicely put devildog83. I'm in the process of buying the ASUS CROSSHAIR V-FORMULA-Z, 8350, 256GB Samsung 840 Pro and 16GB 2133 DDR3 11C to replace my aging Phenom setup. I think JD just blankedly saying don't buy AMD anything etc. is very single minded. I like both Intel and AMD, just as I like both NVidia and AMD. The AMD setup I'm getting will suit my gaming requirements just fine.

December 12, 2014 | 11:16 PM - Posted by RockinRobbie (not verified)

I just built this very same system. It totally rocks!

March 18, 2013 | 12:22 AM - Posted by derz

Ahh, I'm happy to see Asus giving AMD users some love.

March 18, 2013 | 08:42 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

I'm really happy with my Sabertooth, and will most likely be the last AM3+ motherboard. R2 is not worth it as USB3 is not that important to me.

If AMD released 4 module FM2 CPU, then I would switch to FM2 platform, but that is quite doubtful untill AM3+ exists.

Unless you Josh have heard some rumours of FM2 with 4 modules? ;) And if you didn't any speculations about the fusion of AM3+ and FM2 platforms into one? Or do you think AM3+ will simply die of and FM2 will take its place?

March 18, 2013 | 09:34 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I think I saw some AMD slides that mentioned Kaveri will feature up to 3 modules on the APU.  6 cores + GCN at faster speeds and better single threaded perf than current Piledriver CPUs... yeah, I'm pretty certain AM3+ is a dead end right now.  An AMD exec at CES let slip FM2+, so I am assuming that will mean Kaveri will finally enable PCI-E 3.0.  Trinity has that functionality, but they never went for certification and stayed with PCI-E 2.0.  Apparently saved some time and money to skip that.

March 24, 2013 | 11:11 PM - Posted by meds (not verified)

Recently got annoyed with my Sabertooth 990fx when I was buying some new memory. Sure its really great overall, pushing my unlocked Phenom II 560 slightly over 4ghz on 4 core's which my previous board couldn't do. However there's no OC'ing the Memory above the 1866mhz controllers of the CPU's, somehow manged to squeeze and extra 60mhz out of them, even though they are rated at 2000mhz. Atleast I could tighten the timings quite a lot, an oversight of mine when I bought the board, and somewhat of a slight disappointment from a top-end 990fx board. Even the Rev 2.0 Gen 3 Sabertooth about to be released has the same limitation!

March 18, 2013 | 11:25 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

3 module APU.. that starts to sound interesting, if they also keep the 100W or lower TDP.

Though I am still hopeful to see a FM2 APUless 4 module unit for the work I do.

As for FM2+, totally expected this based on AMD history.

Either way, well done on the article.

March 19, 2013 | 05:33 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

Get a 2600K with a good board.

HT does wonders for multi threaded apps.

A 32M WPrime on a QX9650 OC'ed to 3.6 takes 15 secs at least, while an i7 960 at 3.3 with it's Turbo at 3.45 pulls the same thing in A FEW SECONDS.

March 19, 2013 | 07:09 AM - Posted by Howie Doohan (not verified)

Looks like a decent price but really what is the point of this board this late in the game?

Seems kind of redundant at this point, much like AMD's "high end" CPU offerings which have been redundant for years.

AMD need to ditch the hapless AM3+ socket ASAP.

March 20, 2013 | 02:53 PM - Posted by L'Achigan (not verified)

Seems to me this poor Company is under criticism
Simply because its processors aren't built under a 22nm
Jig...

March 20, 2013 | 04:37 PM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

IDK WTF you are smoking but AMD isn't under criticism "simply because their processors aren't built under 22nm".

They're under critcism because their offerings are BIG TIME INFERIOR and INEFFICIENT and their board offerings also mostly suck.

It has little to do with the lithography of the chips.

March 20, 2013 | 07:50 PM - Posted by Brett from Australia (not verified)

Good write up Josh, this board really is an exciting product for enthusiasts, gamers alike with a plethora of great features. Its a shame that AM3+ socket is dying out but as you pointed out FM2+ looks like the track the are taking. FYI that board here is around $285 AUD and worth every cent.

March 20, 2013 | 10:11 PM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

Bullshit.

Let me see? How in the hell is this thing worth 285 Australian dollars?

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=138_803...

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=187_345...

Damn that stupid red AMD FX logo really gets me twitchy knowing how much of a piece of that that CPU is. That's your Australian AMD setup, for 450 bucks.

Let's try an Intel setup from the same site now.

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=187_346...

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=138_118...

$404.

Do I really need to explain how much better the second setup is over the first one?

You tell me.

March 21, 2013 | 05:49 AM - Posted by Line 1 (not verified)

Fucktard !

September 28, 2013 | 07:52 PM - Posted by Hamzilla (not verified)

John Doe (name alone makes me know your just as dumb as your posts)

So what if intel is better then AMD not everyone has richy rich parents to buy them a gold mine of a computer like you seem to have. and because your a intel freak that means you dont even know how good AMD really is. Instead of typing garbage on a site like this use your fingers and research stuff before you post crap. or use your fingers on your boyfriend instead ya knobb.

March 21, 2013 | 07:45 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

LOL.

Guess I touched a bit too HARD on your AMD fanboyism? Here ya go, this one's especially for ya...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW8S58CYQqs

ole uncle Nuge always shreds that shit that AMD fanboys leave on your ear with his machine gun guitar...

March 21, 2013 | 10:28 PM - Posted by MykSilentShadow (not verified)

Isn't SteamRoller(released next year)supposed to be the EOL CPU for AM3+?

March 21, 2013 | 11:41 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Not according to publicly released roadmaps from AMD.  Vishera looks to be the last for AM3+.  Steamroller is introduced on FM2+.

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