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ASUS M5A97, M5A99X, and Crosshair V Motherboard Review Roundup

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Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Asus

900 Series: Bulldozer Ready

The rumor on the street is that Asus makes a few motherboards.  They may or may not be the world’s leading motherboard manufacturer.  Asus may also have a pretty good reputation for quality and innovation in their products.  It is tongue in cheek hour at PC Perspective.  All joking aside, Asus anymore is the gold standard for quality manufacturing and design in motherboards.

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Some months ago AMD released their AM3+ capable chipsets, though the release was not nearly as exciting as we had hoped.  The AMD 900 series of chipsets are essentially the same silicon as those that power the non-integrated AMD 800 series.  There are three SKUs that are currently available for the 900 series that Asus makes motherboards around.

Read the entire article here.

The 990FX is the top product and it features 42 PCI-E 2.0 lanes.  This allows it to support 2 x 16X PEG slots, and upwards of 4 x 8X slots (with a few lanes left over for use in connecting to the southbridge component).  The big news here is that NVIDIA has finally relented and allowed AMD’s motherboard partners to license SLI support using these AMD chipsets.  Otherwise, this chip is identical to the 890FX of yesteryear.  It again features the IOMMU functionality for VM support.

The 990X is a cut down version of the 990FX in that it only has 22 PCI-E lanes.  It does allow the use of a single 16X PEG slot, or can be divided into 2 x 8X PCI-E connections.  This then allows the use of 4 x PCI-E lanes to connect to the southbridge.  This chip supports Crossfire and SLI, though the stipulation for SLI is that the motherboard manufacturer must have a current SLI license from NVIDIA and has supported that technology in the past (such as the Intel X58 and P67 chipsets).  This chip includes the IOMMU functionality as well.

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Finally we have the 970, which sits at the low end.  This is put forward as the budget member and does not natively support Crossfire and SLI.  It has the full 22 PCI-E lanes, but cuts down on the number of concurrent connections.  So it supports at max 1 x 16X PEG, with the southbridge handling any other PCI-E connections.  This chip also shares the IOMMU functionality, so it could be of interest for those wishing to create an inexpensive VM server with actual hardware support.

All of these chips interface with the SB950 southbridge.  This is again the same chip as the previous SB850.  It features 14 USB 2.0 ports and a full six SATA 6G ports.  It has eight PCI-E 2.0 lanes altogether, though four of which are relegated to the A-Link Express III connection.  Even though we do not hear much about it, this chip does in fact feature a built-in 1 Gig-E MAC.  Most of the time though we will see a Realtek or Marvell PCI-E 1X based controller on the vast majority of boards.

The primary reason for the number change on these chipsets is that it helps to differentiate boards that are primarily designed for use with Bulldozer CPUs.  AMD has changed the power specifications slightly for Bulldozer, and while previous 800 series boards can support these new CPUs, they will not do so as efficiently and effectively as the new boards.  The Hypertransport specification has been increased for these boards to 3.1, which allows a maximum speed of 3200 MTPS over the previous max of 2600 MTPS of the HT 3.0 specification.

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Asus currently has a handful of motherboards out supporting the 900 series of chipsets.  I have previously reviewed the 990FX SABERTOOTH, and that was a simply fantastic product considering the price and featureset.  The other three have been making a visit to my test bench over the past few weeks.  Ready for a hint?  I liked them all.

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

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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