A review I have done for the Indian sites. Just thought I would share it with you guys. This is my first review of a mobo and would love to get some inputs from you guys. I have done only three benchmarks for this test, as the others were more or less equal and really didnt make sense. INTRODUCTION Hello and welcome to the review of the ASUS CROSSHAIR III FORMULA motherboard. I was thinking about doing a new review for a while, and it struck me that a number of us have picked up new AM3 CPU's over the last couple of months with the 550 BE being one of the favorites. Today, there is barely any competition for the 550 BE at that price point (especially when unlockedhyeah and it is quickly becoming one of the best VFM processors that one can buy today. Keeping this in mind, and looking at how most of us have actually looked at teaming it up with an AM2+ motherboard, specially the Biostar lineup, I decided to give Asus a call and ask them for a review piece of their top of the line AMD solution....the ASUS CROSSHAIR III FORMULA. The ASUS Crosshair III Formula isn't a new kid on the block but that hardly means its old news. This is the third version of ASUS's top of the line AMD motherboards and it is a vast departure from the previous versions in that it no longer uses an Nvidia chipset to provide SLI. ASUS has jumped on the Dragon platform train by using AMD's 790FX chipset and providing two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots with CrossFire functionality. I wish we could have at least one motherboard with SLI functionality but we will leave that rant for later. The Crosshair III comes with AMD's 790 FX and the SB 750 combo. This has proved to be by far one of the best platforms for all AMD chips till date, with all the three top contenders for the AMD motherboard crown running the same configuration. Let’s take a look at the features and specifications first: CPU * AMD Socket AM3 ;Phenom II /Athlon II /Sempron 100 Series Processors * AMD 140W CPU Support * AMD Cool 'n' Quiet Technology * Supports 45nm CPU Chipset * North Bridge: AMD 790GX * South Bridge: AMD SB750 Memory * Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture * 4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 16GB * Supports DDR3 up to DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600 * Supports ECC and non-ECC un-buffered memory modules Expansion Slot * 2 x PCI Express Gen 2.0 x16 slots * 3 x PCI Express x1 slots * 1 x PCI slots Storage * Support by AMD SB750 * 5 x Serial ATAII 3.0Gb/s devices * RAID 0/1/5/10/JBOD * 2 x IDE Ultra DMA 66/100/133 * 1 x eSATA Audio * SupremeFX X-Fi Audio Card featuring 8-Channel Audio Codec * EAX Advanced HD4.0 * X-Fi Crystalizer * Supports 1x S/PDIF output * Supports Coaxial/Optical S/PDIF output Rear Panel I/O * 1 x PS/2 keyboard or PS/2 mouse connector * 1 x RJ45 LAN connector * 1 x eSATA * 6 x USB ports * 1 x FireWire 800 * 1 x Clr CMOS switch Internal I/O * 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector * 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power Connector * 8 x 4-pin fan connections * 1 x Power on button * 1 x Reset button * 1 x IDE connector * 3 x thermal sensor connector * 1 x Front panel switch/LED header * 5 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s connectors * 3 x USB 2.0 headers supporting 6 additional ports * 1 x IEEE1394 header supports 1 additional port * 1 x LCD POSTER port Form Factor * ATX Size, 305mm*245mm * 9 mounting holes Warranty * 36 months on parts Whew...that’s one hell of a list. Let’s take a look at the bundle now. [BREAK=UNPACKING THE DRAGON] UNPACKING THE DRAGON The Crosshair II comes in a nice dark red packaging with the ROG emblem right on top. This is very different from the M4A series, which is much more somber in its choice of colors. When we open the box, we are greeted by two more boxes, one of which holds the motherboard, and the other holds all the accessories, manuals and CD's. The Crosshair III, ships with a separate SupremeFX X-Fi Audio Card as well as something that I have really come to like, the LCD poster. This is one device which really makes over clocking and system monitoring a lot easier. The other thing to really catch my eye was the rear motherboard plate, which has a nice foam lining on the inside. This makes it a whole lot easier to install. The rear panel also has one of the other noteworthy features, which is the clear CMOS button. Now a lot of the top end boards have a clear CMOS button, but you have to open up your case to access it. The button on the rear panel really makes it easier to correct mistakes in your OC settings. Let’s take a closer look at the board now: The board uses the heat pipe technology and connects the PWM area with the Northbridge and the Southbridge. This cooling solution makes the board run a lot cooler than the MSI GD70. The fancy ROG emblem lights up when the system is on and for all those who like BLING - this is it. Right at the bottom you have the power and reset buttons as well as the MemOK buttons. The MemOK button helps you to configure your memory without any extra effort, but I didn't really use this feature, as I dint have any memory problems. And some glamour shots.... The motherboard comes with 2 PCIE X16 lanes, and this is a bit of a letdown as I would love to have the top end model run with a tri-fire or quad-fire solution. The MSI GD70 seems to have got it right on this front. This is a real looker and is probably the best looker among all the AMD motherboards available right now. [BREAK=Test Setup] TEST SETUP For today's test I used my AMD AM3 test bed sitting in the CM 590. The graphics will be handled by the 4890. Windows Vista Ultimate with Service Pack 2 was used in testing along with the latest revisions of our testing applications. The CPU was run at 3.2GHz, with all four cores unlocked to simulate a Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition while the Northbridge was run at 2.4GHz with 1.2v and the memory was run at DDR3-1333 6-6-5-18 with 1.65v. Processor - AMD 720 BE with 4 cores @ 3.2 Ghz 1.35V, under a Vendetta 2 Motherboard - ASUS Crosshair III Formula Ram - OCZ 1600 Mhz AMD CL7 Edition - Platinum GPU - ASUS 4890 Power supply - OCZ Modextreme 700W [BREAK=Bios and Over clocking] BIOS AND OVERCLOCKING When it comes to over clocking, I'd say Asus delivers 9 out of 10 times. They have had a great track record with the M4A and the M3A series and this board just betters it all. I'm not going into every screen of the bios and am going to concentrate on the main features here. First off we have the Extreme Tweaker Menu, which gives us all the options that are required to over clock. A point to note here are the current values given for most of the voltages as well as clocks. This is very helpful while over clocking. The next screen is the LCD poster and the LED control screen. The LED poster can be used to see the voltages, temperatures or the current date and time. The Hardware monitoring screen helps us to see all the temperatures, voltages of the board. It also has a fan control section, which can be sued with PWM fans. Finally we have the Tools menu, where we can update the Bios as well as save our OC settings. Overall, a very comprehensive and well laid out bios and I didn't really find it difficult to use. The best over clock that I was able to achieve with this board was a stable 3.85 Ghz on three cores, which is about 50 Mhz more than what I could do with the MSI. The Load line calibration helps a lot to keep v-drop and droop to a minimum. The Northbridge was also scaling well and I am sure I could have done a lot better if I had more time. [BREAK=Test Results] TEST RESULTS To test the board without any benchmark would be without meaning. Therefore I benched the results with the exact same configuration setup with the MSI GD70. For the tests I looked at basically three benchmarks. 3Dmark vantage, 3DMark 06 and for the memory Everest Memory Benchmark. So let’s get on with the results: EVEREST BENCHMARK Lets start with the memory. The results as expected are very very close and can any differences can be put down to any background processes running at the time of the test, even though I did take an average of three runs for each board. The variance between the two is within 2 percent, so I would rather put that down to testing error. 3DMARK 06 3DMark 06, did give us some variance in the results, with the GD70 narrowly beating the Crosshair III. The results are as below: As you can see the graphics performance is a bit better in the MSI, giving it the edge to beat the Asus. The Asus meanwhile takes away the CPU score round. 3DMARK VANTAGE Finally we come to 3DMark Vantage. Once again the MSI narrowly beats the Asus, again due to the performance of the GPU. Now, since we ran the exact same cards on both the boards, I can only deduce that the implementation is better in the MSI board. But do keep in mind that the Asus is relatively new and therefore this may improve with changes to the bios. [BREAK=Pricing and Conclusion] PRICING AND CONCLUSION The Asus Crosshair III is now available in India at Rs. 13,000 plus taxes. At this price it is about Rs. 500 more than the Gigabyte 790FXT and Rs. 2,500 more than the MSI GD70. The CPU scores in all the testing that we did proves that the Crosshair III is no slouch and out of the three boards has the most well implemented power management system. There is practically no v-drop or droop to speak of. The bios have gone through a couple of revisions and I was using version 0903, which is still to be officially released. This is probably the 4th or 5th bios release for the Asus compared to probably the 20th for the MSI board. I hope further bios revisions do make up for the loss in the GPU scores. The bundle which comes with the Asus, including the LCD Poster, the foam backed motherboard plate, the rear positioned clear CMOS button and the sound card, do add up to quite a bit of extras that cannot be simply ignored. The overall "Bling" on the board is also hard to resist. Overall, for a serious over clocked going the AMD route, this is the board to beat. The CPU scores in all the tests that I did were better than the MSI and the overall features and settings are better suited to over clocking. Future Bios revisions should also help with better GPU performances and take this to the top of the mountain.