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Asus Crossblade Ranger Review: FM2+ gets the ROG Treatment

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Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Asus

A Step Up for FM2+

I have been impressed by the Asus ROG boards for quite a few years now.  I believe my first encounter was with the Crosshair IV Formula, followed by the CH IV Extreme with that crazy Lucidlogix controller.  These were really outstanding boards at the time, even if one was completely overkill (and not terribly useful for multi-GPU via Lucidlogix).  Build quality, component selections, stability, and top notch features have defined these ROG products.  The Intel side is just as good, if not better, in that they have a wider selection of boards under the ROG flag.

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Asus has had a fairly large hole in their offerings that had not been addressed until fairly recently.  The latest AMD APUs based on FM1, FM2, and FM2+ did not have their own ROG member.  This was fixed in late summer of this year.  Asus released the interestingly named Crossblade Ranger FM2+ motherboard for the AMD APU market.

FM2+ motherboards are, as a rule, fairly inexpensive products.  The FM2+ infrastructure does not have to support processors with the 219 watt TDPs that AM3+ does, instead all of the FM2+ based products are 100 watts TDP and below.  There are many examples of barebones motherboards for FM2+ that are $80 and less.  We have a smattering of higher end motherboards from guys like Gigabyte and MSI, but these are hitting max prices of $110 to $120 US.  Asus is offering users in the FM2+ market something a little different from the rest.  Users who purchase an AMD APU will be getting much the same overall experience that the top end Intel based ROG customers if they decide to buy the Crossblade Ranger, but for a much lower price.

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The bundle is functional, but not overly impressive.

Click here to read the entire Asus Crossblade Ranger Review!

 

The Asus Crossblade Ranger

Asus has one of the strongest reputations in the motherboard business.  While others will argue that based on personal experiences with problematic motherboards, the general consensus is that Asus does a pretty good job.  They lead the market in sales followed by Gigabyte and MSI.  The Crossblade Ranger features many of the hallmarks that define the Asus motherboard experience.  This board is simply packed with features.

The use of higher end components such as the 10K Black Metallic Caps, over current protection for ports and DIMM slots, as well as more extensive electrostatic protection for the commonly used ports set this board apart from others in its class.  The chokes are the solid, pressed units with slightly better heat dissipation due to the design of the covering plus the elimination of coil whine.  It also features the TI NexFET MOSFET chips to deliver power to the CPU.

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Did I mention a FREE MOUSEPAD!?

The power delivery system is the full 6+2 setup that is the higher end option for FM2+ processors.  This is branded the Extreme Engine Digi+ III.  Quite a mouthful for what is essentially a digitally controlled power delivery system for an APU that will run at max some 100 watts TDP (the newer Kaveri desktop APU maxes out at 95 watts).  Future AMD APUs will likely go below that, and we have heard rumors that Carrizo may have a max TDP of some 65 watts on the desktop.  The design looks solid, and the heatsinks covering up these VRMs are substantial.  Heat will not be an issue with this board, even when overclocked.

The memory subsystem is spec’d to go up to DDR-3 2666 speeds, though this is overclocked.  The latest AMD APUs can hit DDR-3 2400 speeds natively.  This gives a little extra headroom for tweaking.  There are two PEG slots that are rated up to PCI-E 3.0 speeds, and these can be used in CrossFire applications.  If two video cards are installed then they both become PCI-E 3.0 x8 connections.  The board is not licensed for SLI from NVIDIA.  There is a third PEG slot that can be utilized for 3 way CrossFire, but it is only a x4 unit and routes the PCI-E lanes from the southbridge.  It really would not be a great option for such an implementation.

The board features a total of 6 USB 3.0 ports.  Four of these are powered by the native controller in the AMD A88X southbridge.  The other two are provided by the ASMedia controller.  The AMD controller powers one set of rear ports as well as the front panel USB 3.0 connection.  The ASMedia controller supports UASP, which in theory should improve overall throughput in data reads and writes.  There are also another 8 available USB 2.0 ports, two of which are located on the back and six on the board via plugs.

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The board features an outstanding layout for multi-GPU setups.  So odd to see two PCI slots.

The AMD A88X chipset natively supports up to 8 SATA-6G connections.  These can be configured to RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.  AMD’s SATA-6G performance is not as good overall as what Intel offers with the latest Z97 chipset, but it is very close.  Asus makes a wise choice and does not offer e-SATA ports.  I have been in the business a long time and I have yet to utilize e-SATA.

The rear panel sports a single PS/2 connection as well as the two aforementioned USB 2.0 ports.  It has the four USB 3.0 ports, a single optical S/PDIF connection, and the USB BIOS Flashback button.  Video outputs are covered by a single d-sub, a dual link DVI, and a HDMI 1.4 connection.  There is no DisplayPort option on this particular board.  Finally we have the Ethernet port and the 8 channel audio outputs.


December 10, 2014 | 10:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

finally! and not just the FM2 APUs get love, the FM2 athlons as well!!

the FX boards are $$$$$$ so FM2 is a great budget.

December 11, 2014 | 04:38 PM - Posted by Dusty

Now we just have to wait for more AMD Mini-ITX boards to show up. I would think that an APU equipped system would be perfect for a Media Center PC.

December 11, 2014 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

they have some pretty small micro atx boards, just find the case of your choice and you are good to go.

won't be mini itx but no bigger then an xbox.

December 11, 2014 | 05:30 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

... maybe post more game benchmarks, instead of the above posted benchmarks. I can think of no reason anyone would buy this board other than as a low to mid range gaming replacement.

December 11, 2014 | 06:33 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I was considering approaching AMD about a gaming scenario with testing centered around that.  I want to try out the Crossfire perf of say 2 x R9 285s in such a solution and see how it matches up with the i7 3770K or something like it.

December 16, 2014 | 04:16 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

No need to compare to an i7-3770k. AMD will have a hard enough time competing with an i5-2500k.

December 11, 2014 | 06:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

won't be the highest end but don't snuff your nose up at this board.

Quad core athlon with a beefy video card and you'll have a pretty smoking system on the cheap.

December 12, 2014 | 01:20 AM - Posted by praack

well nice board, just hope something comes along that is better than the 860quad core.

December 13, 2014 | 05:45 AM - Posted by JohnB (not verified)

A high end m-itx FM2+ would sell well I think.

December 13, 2014 | 01:11 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

You mean something like this?  http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4745#ov

December 13, 2014 | 01:44 PM - Posted by Supercat (not verified)

Whenever someone reviews an FM2 board they always say the end user could just buy a dedicated GPU and everything would be rosy. I think 95% of the pc community misses the point of AMD's venture into APU and built in graphics: to give the end user an affordable decent gaming platform that does not need a dedicated GPU. Combine it with high performance ram, tweek the video settings and many games can be very playable. Just keep it in perspective, don't expect the moon and the end user won't be disappointed with these very affordable parts !

December 14, 2014 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Rafael (not verified)

So, how much more FPS does it give you compared to the other budget FM2+ boards for lots more of $$$? 1 or 2?

Also, AMD APUs' CPU performance will bottleneck any mid-end X Fire or SLI setup. You'd need at leasr an i5 and this is just a fact, I'm not Intel fanboy, I always go with AMD whenever I can.

But a high-end FM2+ motherboard, it's useless. Not worth it.

Current APUs are for budget gaming builds without the need to spend on a dedicated GPU, not this.

December 15, 2014 | 10:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Athlon will stack up just fine with an i5

FM2+ isn't just for APUs.

December 21, 2014 | 12:41 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

It is unfortunate that the TrueAudio portion is bundled in with the GPU on APUs.  The Athlons don't enable that particular functionality.  Not a big deal if you use a couple of R9 285s or R9 290s, but still... if you go for an NV part, you are out of luck.

May 12, 2015 | 11:27 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Just bought this new motherboard and doing a new install and the motherboard runs for one second and then shut down abruptly.

June 18, 2015 | 04:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Your mention of the ASUS Crosshair Extreme was a bit harsh to say the least.See it's people like yourself that weren't educated enough to know how the logix setup even worked and still don't, so you dismiss it. Like alot of far advanced technology. To say I still crank mad benchmarks with this board do to the lack of support for the AMD chipset, there is not much to work with. Do to intel fanboys flipping noobs to that side of the road so AMD gets no true support in sales leading makers to build intel crap boards.

August 30, 2015 | 03:49 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Wait... what?

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