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ASUS Crosshair IV Formula AM3 890FX Motherboard Review

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raxen

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It has been a few months since we first previewed the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula motherboard. Since then, we have thoroughly examined other ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) offerings, including the Rampage III Extreme LGA1366, the Maximus III Extreme LGA1156, and a ROG-branded video card. However, for some reason or another, the Crosshair never got the attention that it deserved – until now. For our beloved readers who are anxiously waiting for our review, please sit tight because this will be a very long read since ASUS packed this board full of features.

Today, we finally take an in-depth look at the Crosshair IV Formula. It is currently ASUS’ most expensive motherboard for the AMD platform, and it is marketed towards the high-end enthusiast. It sports an 890FX/SB850 chipset combo, and is priced at a costly $260 CDN which is actually not that bad for an enthusiast-level product. To put things into perspective, the Phenom II X6 1090T processor, AMD’s top-of-the-line consumer CPU, only retails for $330 CDN. So why would someone spend so much money on a motherboard which is arguably negligible in determining a system’s computing power and performance?

The answer to that question lies in the legacy and the reputation of the ROG brand. The ROG lineup of products caters to diehard gamers and enthusiasts who want to push their hardware to the absolute limit. In other words, every conceivable feature that allows for easier and higher overclocks is featured on this motherboard. By using the Crosshair IV, you should be able to tweak your CPU and RAM to speeds not achievable through any other motherboard. What is the end result? Setting new world records for 3DMark Vantage and ultimately fragging your online buddies through the use of unprecedented frame rates.

For this review, we will focus heavily on the capabilities of this to push our AMD Phenom II X6 1090T to the absolute limit. Furthermore, we will take an in-depth look at the long, long list of features ASUS equipped this board with. Based on an 890FX/SB850 chipset combo, it naturally offers its users CrossfireX and SATA 6.0Gbps support also items such as TurboVEvo, ProbeIt!, MemOK, RoGConnect, and many more.

Without further delay, let’s take a look at the best AMD-based motherboard that ASUS has to offer.

 
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raxen

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Specifications

Specifications




The 890FX/SB850 chipset combo featured on the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula is AMD's most advanced and most expensive northbridge/southbridge pair. It is part of the newly introduced "Leo" platform, and it natively supports CrossFireX technology through its 38 PCI-E 2.0 lanes. AMD has given sole discretion to motherboard manufacturers to choose how to distribute the lanes. Theoretically, the 890FX can support up to four 8x PCI-E 2.0 slots for quad-CrossfireX technology. However, fitting four dual-slot video cards onto the motherboard essentially requires space for eight PCI slots, resulting in a very long motherboard outside of ATX size specifications. The GIGABYTE 890FXA-UD7 is a prime example of such a motherboard.

The engineers at ASUS decided to keep the Crosshair IV Formula within ATX size specifications. As a result, the C4F supports only tri-CrossfireX technology with the PCI-E 2.0 slots running in 16x/8x/8x configuration. For users who are satisfied with running only two video cards, the PCI-E slots will automatically switch to a 16x/16x format, ensuring that the PCI-E lane is not the bottleneck in data transfer between the video card and the 890FX.


In terms of connectivity, the new SB850 southbridge provides the Crosshair IV Formula with SATA 6.0Gbps support. While the SB850 does not support the new USB3.0 specification, all manufacturers have implemented this new technology by utilizing a third party USB3.0 controller connected to the 890FX through a PCI-E 1x lane. The PCI-E 1x lane has a theoretical bandwidth of 500MB/s, which is more than enough to support this new technology.

To be honest, the differences between AMD’s previous flagship chipset, the 790FX, and the 890FX are not great. Both are manufactured under the 65nm process, and the main noticeable difference between the two platforms is the lack of support for DDR2. In other words, you won’t be able to find an 890FX/SB850 motherboard supporting DDR2 on the market. Furthermore, the TDP of the 890FX was raised to 19.8W versus 10W for the 790FX. This is due the implementation of IOMMU into the 890FX which benefits virtualization. As a result, for users who never use virtualization, the TDP between the chipsets remains relatively the same.

Anyway, let us now dive into the specifications for the Crosshair IV Formula. For an in-depth look at the 890FX/SB850 chipset combo, venture over to "AMD’s 890FX Chipset: An Evolution for the AM3 Platform" where we discuss the finer details of the combo and its capabilities.

The following specifications were taken from the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula Product Page:

 
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raxen

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The packaging of the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula is exactly the same as other motherboards from the Republic of Gamers product line. The simple design of the front cover seems to actually contradict the advanced technologies featured on this motherboard. On the back of the box, ASUS simply lists the specifications of the board and plainly advertises its 3-year limited warranty program at the bottom.


On the backside of the front cover, ASUS has advertised the advanced technologies that the Crosshair IV has to offer. Readers with a keen eye would notice that the pictures printed on the box are not actually pictures of the motherboard contained within. This is a small point nonetheless, as most people would divert their attention to the transparent plastic cover at the bottom which reveals the CIVF and all its glory.


Inside the box, there are two separate inner sections. One section contains the motherboard, and the other section houses the accessories.

Here is a breakdown of the included accessories:
  • ROG Connect Cable aka Crossover USB cable
  • 2-Way CrossfireX Bridge
  • 2x SATA 3.0Gbps Cables with Straight Connectors
  • 2x SATA 3.0Gbps Cables with One Straight Connector and One 90-Degree Connector
  • SATA 6.0Gbps Cable with Straight Connectors
  • SATA 6.0Gbps Cable with with One Straight Connector and One 90-Degree Connector
  • 3-port eSATA/USB PCI Expansion Bracket
  • I/O Panel
  • Q-Connector Kit
  • User Guide
  • Drivers and Software DVD
  • Zip-Ties
  • Cable Labels
  • ROG Decal


ASUS has paid a great deal of attention into making the installation of the Crosshair as convenient as possible by including a number of convenient accessories. The zip-ties are extremely useful for cable management inside a computer case and the cable labels are also a nice touch. The Q-Connector Kit makes unplugging or installing case pin headers and USB headers quick and painless. Even the I/O shield for the CIVF has a foam backing to prevent accidental cuts and to seal any gaps between the I/O shield and the ports to stop air leakage.

One area of packaging that requires improvement is the lack of a thin piece of foam commonly found in other motherboard boxes. Without this piece of foam, the motherboard’s backside is free to slide around the box and scrape up tiny pieces of cardboard. Before installing your motherboard, take a can of compressed air and blow away any pieces of cardboard that are stuck on the solder points of the motherboard backside.
 
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raxen

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A Closer Look at the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula

A Closer Look at the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula



The ASUS Crosshair IV Formula looks very similar to other ROG motherboards. For the readers who own ATI reference video cards, you will be happy to know that its black and red colour scheme matches the cards perfectly. Going one step further, if you install this motherboard into a case with a black interior and cable-sleeve the PSU wires with black sleeving, you definitely end up with a great looking computer.


The most unique-looking aspect of the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula is the MOSFET and Northbridge heatsinks. With their angled-fin design and diamond-shaped look, these heatsinks are definitely inspired by Daniel Libeskind's architectural work. The Southbridge heatsink is also made from the same anodized aluminum as the MOSFET and Northbridge heatsinks. However, unlike the angled-fin design of the MOSFET and Northbirdge cooler, the Southbridge heatsink features a low-profile design to allow video cards to be installed. Connecting all the coolers together is a heatpipe that allows the heat from all three areas to be shared and dissipated at three different locations.


The CIVF follows ATX-specifications to ensure compatibility with the greatest number of computer cases on the market. Starting at the top edge of the motherboard, we can see the 8-pin 12V connector slightly hidden behind the MOSFET heatsink. To the right of the 8-pin connector are the CPU and 4-pin fan headers. Just slightly below the fan header is the ITE IT8721F; a temperature, fan and voltage monitoring controller that is commonly found on motherboards from other manufacturers. Third party monitoring applications such as HWMonitor have no problem detecting and reading from the IT8721F.


On the right hand side of this board just below the IT8721F controller, we find an innovative feature commonly found on ROG motherboards - ProbeIT. For the experienced overclockers out there, we do not need to emphasize how unreliable software voltage monitoring can be. Very rarely do voltages displayed by monitoring programs correspond to the voltages being delivered by the motherboard. As a result, ASUS has integrated ProbeIT to all of their ROG motherboards.

Using a multimeter, you can confidently determine the voltages being supplied to various components on the Crosshair. Starting at the top, the measure points represent the CPU, CPU PLL, RAM, Northbridge, HyperTransport, Southbridge, and CPU-NB voltages. While this feature is very useful, trying to stick multimeter probes on the tiny contact points was extremely difficult when the motherboard is installed inside a case. We would have liked to see a different design whereby the probes can be attached directly to the motherboard via cables, like on the Rampage II Extreme or even the MSI P55-GD80.

Above the ProbeIT measure points, we find a third 4-pin fan header reserved for a chassis fan. To the left of ProbeIT is the standard 24-pin ATX plug and also diagnostic LEDs that tell the user whether the CPU, RAM, video card, or the boot device is faulty if the computer doesn't boot.


Moving further along the edge we find the “Go Button” – another one of the unique features found in the ASUS ROG line of motherboards. In previous ROG motherboards, this button was also known as the “Mem OK!” button. Its purpose is to resolve any compatibility issues that may arise between the motherboard and the memory. Simply hold the “Go Button” until the red LED blinks and the Crosshair IV will automatically adjust the memory timings until the system boots. The “Go Button” can also be used to quickly overclock your system. In the BIOS, you assign a desired settings profile to the “Go Button” and the board will load the profile once it is pressed.


Directly below the “Go Button”, there are six right-angled SATA 6Gbps ports which are controlled by the SB850 chipset and support RAID 0/1/5/10. Just below the red SATA ports is a black SATA 3.0Gbps port. This SATA port, along with the eSATA port at the rear I/O area, is controlled by a JMicron 363 chip.

In this area we also find a fourth 4-pin fan header. Unlike the previous three, this header can be controlled by an optional temperature probe and ASUS’ Fan Xpert software. With Fan Xpert, users can use temperature readings from the probe to design their own fan control curves in order to reduce unnecessary fan noise. Unfortunately, temperature probes were not included with this board. For a motherboard of this calibre, we would have liked to see ASUS supply all necessary accessories to utilize the features to their full potential.
 
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raxen

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A Closer Look at the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula Pt. 2

A Closer Look at the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula Pt. 2



At the bottom right, we find case headers reserved for the power/reset switch and the usual power/HDD LEDs. To the left of the case headers, is a fifth 4-pin fan header along with 3 sets of USB headers. For users with the ASUS OC Station, you will also find the connecting header here.


In true ROG fashion, the Crosshair IV Formula features race car-like START button and reset buttons along with two new buttons: Turbo Key II OC Button and Core Unlocker. The OC Button takes overclocking to an entirely new level since with the simple push it will automatically overclock your system. Core Unlocker on the other hand is a feature geared towards owners of Phenom X2 or X3 processors which can allow you to quickly and easily unlock "hidden" cores in your processor.

Core Unlocking is not a new phenomenon as it was first discovered when Advanced Clock Calibration was introduced on the SB750 southbridge. However, even though a motherboard may have a SB750 southbridge, core unlocking was not always supported. With the Core Unlocker button, ASUS turns unlocking your processor into the simple action of pushing a button and hoping for the best. There is no more fiddling with modified BIOS flashes or changing BIOS parameters.

Next to the Turbo Key II OC button, are the Firewire, SPDIF/OUT, and front audio headers.


At the bottom left, we find a VIA VT2020 audio codec in place of the Creative SupremeFX X-FI chip that was advertised on the box. While the audio codec does not have Creative branding, the drivers and software for the VT2020 were developed by Creative and offers the advertised functions on the box.

Next to the VIA VT2020 we have another VIA chip – the 6315N which is responsible for the Firewire capabilities. Moving along, we find our sixth, seventh, and eighth (!!!) fan headers, two of which have temperature probe headers along with a Marvell 88E8059 controller supporting 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN.


The rear I/O panel features a PS/2 keyboard port, six USB 2.0 ports, a CMOS reset button, two USB 3.0 ports, an optical S/PDIF connector, a Firewire port, a eSATA port, a Gigabit LAN port and the ROG Connect On/Off switch. There is also an ROG Connect USB port which is where you plug the ROG Connect cable into, and the 8-channel audio ports.
 
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raxen

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A Closer Look at the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula Pt. 3

A Closer Look at the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula Pt. 3


In this section, we take a look at some key features that are unique to the Crosshair IV Formula.


As previously mentioned, the Crosshair IV Formula supports a tri-CrossFire X setup with the PCI-E 2.0 lanes running in a 16x/8x/8x configuration. In the picture above, the left-most red PCI-E slot remains as 16x, while the third PCI-E slot from the left switches between 16x and 8x depending on the number of video cards installed. The second PCI-E slot from the left always runs as 8x. Naturally, because ASUS decided to stay within ATX size specifications, installing a tri-Crossfire X setup will block every PCI slot available.

One unique aspect of this board are the butterfly-like release latches featured on the PCI-E slots. Unlike other designs on the market, the release latches operate similarly to the latches found on DIMM slots. When installing a video card, flick the switch down and insert the card into the slot, after which the switch will automatically lock the card in place. To uninstall the card, simply flick the switch downwards to release the video card and pull.




Another unique aspect of the ASUS' flagship AMD board is the voltage indicator LEDs located at various areas. In total, there are four sets of LEDs which highlight the voltages of the CPU, Northbridge, DRAM, and the Southbridge. Each set has a “Normal”, “High” and “Crazy” LED which are lit depending on your voltage settings in the BIOS. To be honest, these LEDs offer a quick way to verify whether your voltage settings were applied but overall they were not very useful.


As we already said, the heatsinks feature one of the more unique designs to date, with the three pieces joined together by a heatpipe to distribute heat. For the MOSFET heatsink, ASUS used a piece of thermal tape to transfer heat to the heatsink's fins. Unfortunately, not all of the MOSFETs make adequate contact with the thermal tape and as a result, the ones which do not make contact with the thermal tape suffer from higher temperatures. Prior to installing this motherboard, we recommend users tighten all of the mounting screws to make sure all MOSFETs make contact with the heatsink.


For the northbridge and southbridge chipsets, ASUS used some blue thermal paste and yellow double sided tape to ensure adequate contact between the chips and the heatsink itself. However, when it comes to thermal conductivity less thermal interface material (TIM) is better. We are unsure as to why two different types of thermal interface materials were used, but mixing them generally leads to poorer thermal conductivity, thus resulting in higher temperatures.


Flipping the motherboard over, we see that ASUS used screws to secure the heatsink. Compared to pushpins that are generally found on other motherboards, this screw system uses springs and washers to ensure that the heatsink remains properly mounted. Around the MOSFET area at the back, we can also see some transistors which are unfortunately not cooled by any heatsinks.
 
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raxen

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation



First we start at the CPU socket area where a Sunbeam Core-Contact Freezer CPU cooler with a 120mmx25mm fan is installed. Just like any other AM2+/AM3 motherboard on the market, the Core-Contact Freezer interferes with the closest RAM slot to the CPU socket. For the readers who will populate all four DIMM slots, the ram module closest to the CPU socket must have a low profile heatsink and not exceed a height of 32mm.

For our readers with keen eyes, you may notice that the colour of the DIMM slots alternates between black and red. This is different than other ASUS motherboards currently on the market, where slots of the same colour are side-by-side. Arguably, the Crosshair's design is more aesthetically pleasing, but for dual-channel support, ram modules must be installed into DIMM slots of the same colour. As a result, for readers with larger CPU heatsinks or CPU fans thicker than 25mm, the heatsink may block a red AND a black DIMM slot.


Around the MOSFET and Northbridge cooler, there is ample clearance for airflow even with a video card installed.

Below are some pictures with the PCI-E slots populated by video cards of various sizes. In summary, the six right-angled SATA ports remain unobstructed regardless of the length of the video card installed but he black SATA port may be obstructed. When a video card is installed in the third PCI-E slot, none of the headers have any clearance issues, provided that you DO NOT USE the included Q-Connector Kit for the USB and case headers.

 
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raxen

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BIOS Breakdown

BIOS Breakdown



We are happily greeted by the “Extreme Tweaker” menu upon entry into the BIOS in which you can control all of the multiplier, frequency, and voltage settings used for overclocking.

For voltage controls, ASUS has included two options to increase the CPU and CPU-NB voltages: Offset or Manual. You can either apply a voltage offset (+0.1v, 0.15v, etc) or manually enter voltages directly (1.3v, 1.35v, etc) depending on your personal preference. In this menu, you can also set the voltage delivered to other components on the motherboard, such as the Northbridge, Southbridge, RAM, and other more “exotic” voltages which most users will never adjust.

Continuing down the list, we find two very interesting settings not usually found on other AMD motherboards. As it turns out, the ASUS Crosshair supports CPU and CPU-NB Voltage Load-Line Calibration (LLC). Briefly, LLC has been commonly found on Intel-based motherboards and its purpose is to compensate for a drop in voltage when the computer is under load. As most overclocks will know, instable voltage delivery has a profound effect on the stability of an overclocked system. We will investigate later in the review how LLC affects voltage regulation.


In typical ROG fashion, ASUS has included two pages worth of RAM tweaking settings for advanced overclockers. In the first page, we find our more familiar ram settings, such as CL, tRCD, TRP, and tRAS. The second page meanwhile allows you to adjust memory drive strengths – a feature which is not usually included in most motherboard BIOSes.


In the “Main” menu, you can adjust the date and time of the computer. In addition, the BIOS menu can be displayed in many other international languages. We can also enter the “Storage Configuration” submenu, where we can specify whether we want the SB850 to operate at SATA 3.0 or 6.0 Gbps or ACHI/RAID/IDE mode.


In the “Advanced” menu, we are presented with a plethora of options. First, we’ll explore the “CPU Configuration” submenu, where we can enable Cool n Quiet, C1E Support, and most importantly, ASUS Core Unlocker technology and CPU Core Activation – two important functions used to enable/disable hidden cores on certain Athlon II and Phenom II processors.

The “Chipset” submenu allows for the enabling of IOMMU for virtualization or adjustment of more DRAM settings.


In the other submenus, we can find more settings to enable/disable Onboard Devices, adjust USB and PCIPnP settings. However, let’s take a look at the “LED Control” menu.


“LED Control” gives users the ability to enable or disable the assorted LEDs located on the motherboard and also changse what the voltage indicator LEDs signify. For the CPU LED, it can represent the CPU, CPU-NB, and CPU VDDA voltage. NB LED can represent NB, NB 1.8v, and VDDPCIE voltage. SB can represent SB and HT voltage. DRAM can be DRAM or VDDR voltage.


In the Power section, we can enable some options which will help reduce power consumption. The APM Configuration menu allows you to set your computer to be EuP ready which is new European initiative that provides consistent rules for improving environmental performance of energy related products. In other words, products that meet EuP regulations meet certain energy efficiency standards. The Hardware Configuration menu allows you to adjust fan speeds and obtain temperature and voltage readings in BIOS.


Like other ASUS motherboards, the CIVF is equipped with EZ Flash – a straightforward utility which is used for easy BIOS updates. Simply save the new BIOS flash file on a USB key or on an installed hard drive, and EZ Flash will take care of the rest.
 
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raxen

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Included Software

Included Software


Now that we have the motherboard unpacked and installed, it is time to take a look at some of the software utilities which ASUS has included with the Crosshair IV Formula. The DVD contains all the drivers or ASUS-specific utilities that you will need to get your system up & running. However, we obviously recommend that you visit the ASUS website to get the very latest software revisions.

PC Probe II


PC Probe II is a system monitoring utility that displays information regarding fan speeds, component temperatures and voltages, as well as alerting users once preset thresholds have been surpassed. Like on all ROG models, ASUS have really gone to town with the voltage and temperature readouts which is definitely a pleasant sight. While most users will be hesitant to trust a software to report accurate voltages, we were surprised to observe that the voltage readouts of PC Probe II matched the voltages recorded by our digital multimeter to the nearest significant digit. We will provide the exact numbers in a later section of the review when we explore the power delivery performance but in general, we are confident that the voltages PC Probe II displays are the voltages being delivered to the various motherboard components.


ROG Connect and RC TweakIt


ROG Connect and RC TweakIt are both innovative functions commonly found on other ROG motherboards. In our review of the Maximus III Extreme, we have explored this program and its ability to make on-the-fly adjustments to clock frequencies and voltages. However between the Maximus III Extreme and the Crosshair, there are two major differences. Firstly, RC Bluetooth which allows you to connect an Android, Windows Mobile, or Symbian device via Bluetooth to make adjustments to the system, is unsupported by the CIVF. Secondly, because this board does not have two on-board BIOS chips, you are unable to flash the BIOS or switch between BIOS revisions using RC TweakIt.

RC TweakIt allows you to use ROG Connect to link another computer to an RoG motherboard via the included USB cable to make voltage and frequency adjustments on-the-fly. For those who haven’t used RC TweakIt before, the best analogous program would be AMD's Overdrive with the ability to make changes remotely. However, compared to AMD Overdrive, ROG TweakIT is quite rudimentary since with it you can only increase the CPU bus frequency. You cannot make any changes to the CPU, RAM timings or CPU-NB multipliers remotely. On the plus side, you are able to make voltage adjustments to the CPU, CPU-NB, CPU VDDA, DRAM, NB, SB, and HT using RC TweakIT and also monitor vital temperatures in a graphical format.

So how useful is ROG Connect and RC TweakIt? For the seasoned overclocker trying to break the next 3DMark record, RC TweakIt can be very useful as it offers a method of changing your clock speeds while the 3DMark is running. As a result, you can balance between system stability and performance to yield the highest score possible. For others who are simply aiming for an overclock which is 24/7 stable, ROG Connect and RC TweakIt’s usefulness is questionable.


EPU Engine


EPU offers a simple interface for energy concious users to conserve electricity. There are three settings: Auto, High Performance, Max Power Savings. In previous iterations of EPU Engine, only the CPU speed and voltage would increase when the CPU was under load, and decrease when the CPU was at idle. In this version, video card and disk drive power consumption is also tuned to conserve as much energy as possible. Unfortunately, only ASUS video cards are currently supported.

When Auto is selected, the system will restart and automatically tune the system for optimal power savings.


Turbo V


Turbo V is ASUS’ popular overclocking tool. This application allows users to adjust all overclocking settings like the base clock frequency, CPU Multiplier, CPU voltage, CPU-NB voltage, memory voltage, and even the SB, HT, CPU VDDA voltage, when you click on “more settings”. All of these settings can be tweaked without the need to reboot. This program also allows users to also save profiles and load them from within Windows. One shortcoming of Turbo V is the inability to adjust CPU-NB and HT multipliers – a function ASUS definitely needs to include in the next version of Turbo V.


In this version of Turbo V, ASUS has included an automatic tuning function. By choosing your desired “performance”, “voltage parameters”, and “ram divider”, the TurboV would automatically begin tuning your computer. We will benchmark the Turbo V tuned computer later in the review to test whether it can match the performance of a manually tuned system.

In addition to the automatic tuning function, ASUS has also included “Turbo Unlocker” into the program. Turbo Unlocker is analogous to AMD Turbo Boost, a built-in function for AMD Phenom II X6 processors which automatically increases the clock speed of the cores under load. However, Turbo Unlocker’s selling point is that it would work with any Phenom II processor, unlike AMD’s Turbo Boost which is only featured on Phenom II X6 processors.

While the features of Turbo V are innovative and useful, the software can be heavily improved upon. Firstly, the automatic tuning function is similar to the OC button in that it only increases CPU bus speed for overclocking. The software needs to recognize that a Black Edition processor is installed and increase the CPU multiplier instead. Secondly, even when “Flexible Voltage” is selected, the program does not increase CPU voltage but rather it increments the CPU-NB voltage until a stable overclock is reached. This limits the potential overclock of the system. Last but not least, Turbo V is missing the ability to change ram timings on-the-fly – a feature which would make Turbo V into an amazing overclocking tool.
 
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raxen

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Test Setup and Methodology

Test Setup and Methodology



The following hardware configuration was used for all benchmarking:


Temperature testing was done using a Mastercraft 52-0052-2 Digital Multimeter and a K-type Thermocouple.

Power consumption testing was done using a Blue Planet 052-8851-2 Electronic Energy Meter.

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a reboot.

C) To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks were applied to Windows 7:
  • Sidebar – Disabled
  • UAC – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan - High Performance

D) Programs and games are then installed & updated.

E) Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates.

F) Benchmarks are each run three times after a clean reboot for every iteration of the benchmark and the results are then averaged. If they were any clearly anomalous results, the 3-loop run was repeated. If they remained, we mentioned it in the individual benchmark write-up.

Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • 3DMark06 Professional v1.2.0
  • 3DMark Vantage Professional Edition v1.0.2
  • Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
  • Crysis Benchmarking Tool (Retail build 6156)
  • HyperPi 0.99b
  • wPRIME 2.03
  • Lavalys Everest Ultimate v5.50.2143 Beta
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • PCMark Vantage Advanced 64-Bit Edition (1.0.1)
  • ScienceMark 2.0 Build 21MAR05
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R Call of Pripyat Benchmarking Tool
  • WinRAR 3.8.0
  • x264 HD Benchmark v1.0
 
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