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ASUS M5A97, M5A99X, and Crosshair V Motherboard Review Roundup

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Asus

M5A99X EVO

At first glance the M5A99X EVO is very similar to the previously mentioned M5A97 EVO.  This board retails for around $149 US.  The overall layout in terms of color and heatsink placement take the eyes away from where the real differences sit.  The first obvious change is that of the extra PEG slot.  The 990X chipset features either a 1 x 16X slot, or 2 x 8X PEG slots.  This is unlike the 970, which cannot split its single 1 x 16X connection.  The third PEG slot is a 4X unit electrically, which is powered by the lanes off of the southbridge.

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The second big change is that of the SATA ports.  All six of the SATA6G connections off of the SB950 southbridge are present, with two other JMicron controllers handling two internal SATA3G headers and the e-SATA connectors (one of which is a fully powered unit).  The board also features two ASMedia USB 3.0 controllers; one powers the two external ports, while the other powers the USB 3.0 header mounted on the board.  To use this header a compatible case or riser card must be used.  These are not backwards compatible with older USB 2.0 cases and expansion brackets.

This board is also part of the first series of products that natively support NVIDIA’s SLI technology.  When the 900 series was released some months ago NVIDIA finally licensed SLI for AMD chipsets.  Since NVIDIA got out of the chipset business altogether, it made sense to finally offer that ability to companies still making AMD based boards.  The board itself is one of the lowest priced offerings for the AM3+ socket architecture that supports both CrossFire and SLI.  It is capable of powering 2 x dual GPU cards (either Quad-CrossFire or Quad-SLI).  There are two intervening PCI-E 1X slots between the two primary PEG slots, so that should give more than adequate ventilation for even the largest cards (which includes the latest triple slot Asus video cards).

The M5A99X EVO retains the same power circuitry as the previous board.  It is a 6+2 power delivery setup and has both the TPU and EPU processors onboard.  This again has the Digital VRM design that Asus has implemented across most new motherboard designs.  These can be toggled either in the BIOS or with the physical switches on the board.  It also has the “Memory OK” button which sets memory timings and speeds to the lowest levels available.  The same Realtek and VIA chips power the networking, audio, and Firewire functionality for the board as were present on the M5A97. 

The UEFI BIOS is identical to that of the 970 board.  It has the same layout and settings of the previous.  Nearly everything that could and should be adjusted is present.  Even the lower level memory settings which should not be touched are available.  The auto-overclocking and O.C.M.P. settings are present and work as advertised.  Again I cannot stress how nice it is to be able to read the XMP settings on an AMD based boards.  Most high end DIMMs these days have the XMP SPD functionality, and this removes the guess work out of setting correct timings for those who are not comfortable with such things.

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The build quality is again excellent with good soldering and an excellent collection of components on the board.  Pretty much everyone has gone to solid capacitors rather than risk the issues of power these high current components with electrolytic capacitors which have the unfortunate tendency to sometimes fail under harsh circumstances.  Solid ferrite chokes are also in attendance.

The back I/O plate again features the single PS/2 port for either a keyboard or mouse.  There are 6 USB 2.0 ports as well as two USB 3.0 ports.  The back panel supports up to 7.1 audio with line in and mic in.  Rounding out the collection are two e-SATA ports (SATA 3G, one of which is powered), optical SPDIF output, and the lone Firewire port.  There are three 3-pin fan headers and two 4-pin units onboard.  Fan control is considered “well above average” in terms of granularity of control.

The bundle for the board is much more extensive than that of the M5A97, but that is to be expected for the price point of the product.  Four SATA cables, the padded backplate cover, SLI cable, manual, CD, and the removable case pin headers for the motherboard.  This obviously is not a huge bundle, but it is more extensive than other budget offerings.

Overall I had no complaints with this board whatsoever.  Component tolerances were very good as well as slot placement.  The only potential issue would be if the user had two triple slot cards in either CrossFire or SLI and also wanted to use either a PCI or PCI-E 1X card for sound or RAID purposes.  A user can get away with having dual slot video cards in CF or SLI and still have the use of the PCI-E 1X and 3rd PEG slot.

The board was identical in overall functionality as the previous product.  It booted up with no problems and getting into the BIOS was a breeze.  I found that mouse support in the BIOS was excellent, which is a step above some competitors.  Auto tuning and power save again work as advertised.

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This is a nice step up from the more basic implementations of the 900 series of chipsets.  Full CF and SLI support is a big plus for those looking to do multi-GPU on a budget.  Connectivity is not an issue as well.  There are plenty of USB ports both externally and internally (in the form of headers), along with the new USB 3.0 header support.  For the price ($149) it does offer a big step up in terms of SATA support and CF/SLI.  This is an excellent board for people wishing to jump into multi-GPU on a budget.

November 10, 2011 | 11:55 AM - Posted by KungFu_Toe (not verified)

You may want to check the UEFI photo at the end of the article. It appears to have the wrong manufacturer.

November 10, 2011 | 12:38 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

You are absolutely correct. That is the new MSI ClickBIOS II. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I will get that swapped out here shortly.

November 10, 2011 | 12:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

seems biased to me

the board does not perform much greater then the m5a99x on some or most tests you perfromed it was the same speed
sure you get dual pcie x16 but this is the only benefit i can see
if your not interested in dual x16 then by looking at your benchmarks nobody would buy it

Gold award just because its the so called "top of the line"
did you get paid for this

November 11, 2011 | 10:26 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Nope, not biased. I wasn't paid for it either. Pretty much all AM3+ boards perform the same, as they all are based around the SB850/SB950 southbridge, which controls the majority of all I/O functions. Also, since the memory controller and northbridge is integrated into the CPU, this further lessens the effect of motherboard performance.

What we are essentially looking at in terms of differences in these boards is slightly better overclocking potential on the Crosshair V.  With the V you also get the improved sound due to the THX and Supreme FX II implementations, improved networking due to the Intel controller vs. the cheaper Realtek solutions, full 2 x 16X functionality (which does make a difference in multi-GPU solutions with top end cards), the extra SATA 6G controllers that the previous boards do not have, ROG connect, and a more granular control of the board from a voltage standpoint due to all of the other bell's and whistle's that Asus implemented.

There is no denying that the M5A99X is a very solid and well fleshed out board, but the Crosshair V takes that to a whole 'nother level.  Better cooling, 6 USBB 3.0 connections, pro-belt for voltage monitoring... I could go on and on.  It is a significant upgrade overall from the 990X board.  So yes, I do believe that it deserved the Gold award.  It has packed all of these features into one board, for a decent price (it is cheaper than the Intel based ROG implementations), and all of it works flawlessly and matches the performance of less featured and more focused motherboards.

November 11, 2011 | 11:12 AM - Posted by Tighe (not verified)

I bought this board with the fx 6100 ozc series 3 120gb solid state, 16gb vengeance ram 1tb segate a blueray drive and regular dvd drive with 2 XFX 6950 gpus in crossfire and a h80 water cooler in the Coolermaster scout. I put MSI afterburner on and also use AMD overdrive. I was taught by this com how to overclock the cpu and the gpus in 2 weeks. I have 4.899 for my 6 cores stable and with MSI Kombuster I get 403 fps. I just started learning and I think thats pretty good. I would have to say its the boards ease of use that made that possible. I'm having tons of fun with this. Next is learning to overclock the ram. Please keep up the great work and tell everyone there that frozen Grand Rapids MI listens to your pod casting.

November 12, 2011 | 11:44 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Sounds like a really good overclock!  I wonder if you can unlock those other cores though?  I haven't heard much about doing that, but it was certainly possible in the older Phenom IIs.  Still, 6 cores at 4.9 GHz is gonna give you a pretty good experience.

As for memory overclocking... I would just do the max amount on those particular dimms.  If it is 1600 MHz, then just go for that.  If you can get to 1866 MHz, which is the top supported speed, then that would work too.  Good luck!

November 16, 2011 | 03:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well, you have realy good PC. What was the total cost of the project? Is your power supply 1200 wats? Do you think SDD was smart choise?

href="http://www.digitalloupe.blogspot.com">My Link

November 16, 2011 | 08:38 PM - Posted by Tighe

I have a cooler master pro gold 80+ 1000 watt. I like the snappiness of the ssd though. I've had no probs with it yet and hope not to. But the computer in a whole has taught me I need to get back into school. Some things are learned better in the environment of others around you knowing and learning about the same things, I don't know anyone I can ask questions so I will probably stop trying to mess around with the clocks before I fry this thing. Some people only get to make their dream machine once. I don't want to kill it to fast. Oh the whole project after rebates costs 1200, but I don't know now with the hard drive prices still going up. I got mine for 54 bucks for the 1tb, now maybe 125-150 for the same drive.

November 24, 2011 | 12:16 AM - Posted by Tighe

Mr. Josh, I've been tweeking out the com some more. I bought a sound card for it, slid it in between the 2 graphics cards and hooked it up. The sound card runs fine, SoundBlaster X-FI Titanium Fatality Champion Series. But it looks as though having it plugged in is affecting the crossfire setup with the 2 XFX 6970s. I pulled them and reseated them, and reseated the crossfire bridges. I got my crossfire back but the gpu1 still doesn't do what it used too. I have the M5A97 EVO for my board. Should I take out the sound card? It will only fit on the board in between the 2 cards. Will I have to keep one gpu in the desk drawer and pop it in the com when its time to play or lose the sound card? Your thoughts please, this is pissin me off but I am a real newb. Thanks for the time to read this.

November 27, 2011 | 10:02 PM - Posted by Tighe

Never mind I figured out what I had to do, make sure everything was seated right. LOL

March 10, 2012 | 10:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

hello i just got the asus m5a97 evo and when i reformat my hhd i lost the auto tuning in the bios how can fix it

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March 17, 2013 | 07:35 PM - Posted by Bronzen (lady) (not verified)

I cannot get this board to accept any of the video cards I have. Any suggestions as to video cards. Thanks

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