Asus Crosshair nForce 590 SLI AM2 Motherboard Review
Layout and Features
As I said before, upon receiving the Asus Crosshair board, I was actually excited and looking forward to a motherboard review; something that hadn't really happened to me in some time. Let's see what features and layout decisions Asus' engineers brought to us on the Crosshair.
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An initial glance at the motherboard itself shows nothing extremely out of the ordinary. The Crosshair uses a silent heatpipe cooling design for the motherboard's core logic and the board has support for dual NVIDIA GPUs in an SLI configuration.
Encompassing the new AM2 processor socket (see more details on AMD's move to DDR2-based AM2 processors) is the main heatpipe that Asus has used to cool both the NVIDIA north and south bridge chips. Without a heatsink fan on the chipset, the motherboard is definitely going to be quiet (depending on your CPU cooling of course) and should be more dependable without the possibility of the fan on the chipset dying. The location of the heatsink fins is purposely around the processor socket though; Asus' design uses the airflow from the processor fan to cool these heatpipe fins as well.
If you are using water cooling or other non-standard cooling methods for your processor, Asus has included a small module-based fan that attaches to the heatsink fins at the top of the motherboard for proper cooling if necessary.
Here you can see both the north (left side) and south bridge (right side) chips covered by the heatsinks that are connected via the heatpipe. The pipe moves the heat up to the top of the motherboard to get cooled.
Right around the processor socket, underneath the heatpipe cooling fins themselves, you can see Asus' implementation of a capacitor-less power design. I first saw this design idea from DFI at Computex, though they were using digital power design that was also capacitor-less. The Asus Crosshair motherboard implements an 8-phase power design that will allow users to overclock their hardware more reliably as the power supply to the processor should be very stable.
The ATX power connector and the single IDE connection (yes, only one on this board...) are teamed up here just below the DIMM slots on the far right side of the motherboard. Since the top portion of the motherboard was crowded with cooling components for the chipsets, Asus had to move the ATX power connector down to about mid-level on the PCB itself. The location doesn't really add any complications to the layout though plugging and disconnecting the IDE channel with a longer graphics card could be a pain.
You'll also notice there is a small button just above the ATX power connector that is labeled "CLR CMOS." Care to guess what it does? That's right, now with the hit of an on-board button, you can clear the CMOS if your overclocking goes beyond your hardware's limits. No longer do you need to get out the needlenose pliers to get to the jumper or remove the battery from the moherboard.
The secondary ATX power connection is right up at the top of the motherboard, in an 8-pin configuration.