AMD 890FX Roundup - A Quartet of AMD's Finest

ASUS Crosshair IV Formula

ASUS Crosshair IV Formula

First up, from its Republic of Gamers series, we have the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula, which packs the high-end 890FX chipset with ASUS' own in-house features, some of which are pretty extreme. While we have seen ASUS' proprietary features in the past, there's one significant addition that's meant to complement AMD's Turbo Core technology. As you may know, what Turbo Core does is to basically increase the clock frequencies of active cores by a fixed amount when there are idle cores (three or more on a 6-core Phenom II X6). This feature is expected to make its way to future quad-core 'Thuban' based AMD processors, but ASUS has something special for its users.

Known as Turbo Unlocker, this feature works on Phenom II X6 processors and all other 'Black Edition' AMD processors and according to ASUS, will improve the performance beyond that from AMD's Turbo Core. In our tests, we found that to be true, though the amount of improvement could be quite minor. Turbo Unlocker will increase the CPU multiplier even further - on a Phenom II X4 955, we saw the default 16x go up to 16.5x when this feature is enabled (you'll need to install a small desktop application before using it). On a Phenom II X6 1090T, the increase was slightly more, going up to 3.8GHz for singly threaded apps (compared to 3.6GHz without) and 3.3GHz for multi-threaded workloads, (compared to 3.2GHz without).

No doubt, it's a small gain of at best, 3% in our benchmarks, but since you have already paid for it and there's little penalty at such small increments, we say keep it enabled. This small multiplier increase also explains why it needs an unlocked 'Black Edition' to work, since this feature directly tweaks the multiplier. 

ASUS has gone with a striking red and black motif that fits with its other ROG designs. Expect nothing less than the whole suite of ASUS' ROG technologies.

Besides the useful and necessary Clear CMOS button (which could have been smaller so as to avoid accidents), this board has ASUS' ROG Connect feature, which allows you to hook up the board to another system for monitoring and tweaking purposes (using the reserved USB port). As you can tell, it's for pretty hardcore users. The rest of the ports are rather normal, with the blue USB ports being version 3.0 while the Gigabit LAN connection has ASUS' GamerFirst feature, which claims to optimize your internet connection such that your gaming experience will not be adversely affected by other concurrent internet usage like downloading of files.

Six SATA 6Gbps ports aligned just the way we prefer. The black SATA port there is from the JMicron controller is only 3Gbps capable.

The standard configuration of four DIMM slots supporting up to 16GB memory, up to DDR3 2000 (O.C). Note too ASUS' unique single-sided lock mechanism for the DIMMs.

ProbeIT is another of ASUS' ROG features, which is basically a set of five voltage detection points for enthusiasts who prefer to use a multimeter to take readings.

Pressing this Go button before booting up will enable MemOK!, ASUS' memory compatibility check utility. If you press it when the OS is running, it instead loads the preset profile for temporary overclocking.

Besides the obvious Power and Reset buttons, ASUS has two of its proprietary features here with Core Unlocker, which unlocks your AMD processor if it has cores disabled, like the Phenom II X2. The Turbo Key II is an auto-overclocking utility which kicks in when the button is enabled prior to booting the system. The amount of overclock can be controlled within the BIOS settings.

ASUS relies on this custom iROG chip to handle the ROG related technologies.

While it used to be a separate audio module, the SupremeFX X-Fi (VIA VT2020 inside) appears to be onboard now. It supports X-Fi and other Creative technologies, though like the previous version, these effects will be handled through software. This onboard integration is surely a cost saving move, but we think it's fine given that folks who're really concerned with their audio quality would further invest in a dedicated sound card, while the onboard audio is to take care of basic audio needs.

The Crosshair IV Formula comes with three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots (dual x16 or x16/x8/x8) for 3-way CrossFireX. The last slot is a PCIe 2.0 x4 and there are two PCI slots, all of which becomes unusable if you opt for three dual-slot graphics cards in tandem.

The NEC controller for USB 3.0 support.

ASUS certainly has quite a fancy and visually arresting heatsink design which is also reasonably low-profile.

There's no doubt that the Crosshair IV Formula is targeted at the niche enthusiasts users, with many of its features too extreme for the average user. Of course, if you're considering an AMD 890FX, then you possibly fall within this group. The board itself oozes style with its red and black theme, a plus point for some users, while ASUS has naturally gone with the expensive components. Finally, layout was excellent and we could really find no fault here. The only sticking point is that 3-way CrossFireX is about as good as you can get here, and not the quad version that some may be expecting from such a high-end board.