ASUS Crosshair IV Formula is based on the AMD 890FX chipset (AMD 890FX Northbridge + SB850 Southbridge). It supports all Socket AM3 processors and up to 16GB of DDR3-1066/1333/1600 memory. It has 6 x SATA 6Gbps connectors (RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5). Another 2 x SATA 3Gbps ports are supplied by the JMicron JMB363 (PCIe x1) controller. One of those is connected to the backpanel as eSATA, and there's a bracket, if you need to do the same with the other. Strangely enough, while there are three controllers supporting IDE (Southbridge, JMicron JMB363 and VIA VT6315N), the motherboard has no PATA interfaces. Additional controllers are listed below.
- Integrated audio based on the 8-channel VIA VT2020 HDA codec. There's an optical S/PDIF Out on the backpanel as well as a custom Creative X-Fi driver and a corresponding software set (Crystalizer, CMSS-3D). The codec supports EAX 4.0.
- Gigabit Ethernet based on Marvell 8059 (PCIe x1). Supports AI Net 2 cable integrity checker.
- FireWire based on VIA VT6315N (PCIe x1) for 2 x IEEE 1394a 100/200/400 Mbps ports. One is on a bracket, the other is on the backpanel.
- USB 3.0 based on NEC D720200F1 (PCIe x1) for 2 x USB 3.0 ports.
- System monitoring based on ITE IT8712F. BIOS can automatically control CPU and system fans. You can either select a mode (Silent, Standard, Turbo) or set a temperature range for fan control. Both 3 and 4-pin fans are supported. If you have a 3-pin fan, the typical idle rpm is about a half of maximum in the Silent mode. A more complex algorithm is used for 4-pin fans. The remaining 4 fans can also be controlled, but by a simpler algorithm.
We assessed the integrated audio solution in the 16-bit/44kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.3 and an ESI Juli@ sound card.
|Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB:
|Noise level, dB(A)
|Dynamic range, dB(A)
|THD + noise, dB(A)
|IMD + noise, %
|Channel crosstalk, dB
|IMD at 10 kHz, %
Overall grade: Very good. We have already examined this codec before, and according to the data we've accumulated, it's a bit worse than Realtek's modern codec, especially the high-end ALC892. Although subjectively it sounds the same. The rich software set helps this integrated solution in games. Though if you're building a gaming rig, you'll most likely use an external soundcard anyway.
- CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 810
- RAM: 2 x 2GB Apacer DDR3-1333 CL9 9-9-9-24-1T for Socket AM3 boards; 2 x 2GB GoodRAM PRO DDR2-1066 CL5 5-5-5-15-2T for Socket AM2+ boards
- HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200rpm)
- Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD4850, 512 MB GDDR3
- PSU: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
- OS: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit, Catalyst 9.2, latest chipset drivers
- 7-Zip 4.65 x64
- WinRAR 3.80
- XviD 1.2.1
- x264 r1129 x64
- FarCry 2 (Ranch Medium)
- Crysis (DX10, HOCbenchmark, VGA test, built-in demo)
- Devil May Cry 4 (built-in benchmark)
- World in Conlict (built-in benchmark)
To assess performance we measure time required to archive a 297MB set of 277 files of various types and convert a 636MB MPEG2 video using XviD and x264. We also measure frames per second in game demos. In FarCry 2 we run tests in 4 modes: low, medium, high and very high quality. The first three modes imply the aforesaid quality level, 1280x720 resolution, DX9 rendering, High Performance. The last mode implies: 1680x1050 resolution, Very High setting for both graphics and system, DX10 rendering. In Crysis we also use 4 modes at 1024x768 and 1280x1024 and run tests at Low and High quality in each mode. In Devil May Cry 4 we run two tests: 1280x720 (High DX9) and 1680x1050 (Super High DX10). In World in Conlict we run test in 4 modes: 1280x720 Low, 1280x720 Medium, 1680x1050 High, 1680x1050 Very High.
It's obvious which modes should be used with integrated graphics and which, with discrete graphics. Note that if a motherboard has no integrated graphics, performance tests are only used to check for serious layout or BIOS flaws and can be reduced to minimum. Vice versa, performance tests are indicative for motherboards with integrated graphics. And if a certain motherboard review lacks certain details, we might add respective test results to make up for it.
To assess capabilities of a motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock test CPUs (which ones depends on board's market segment) to a stable maximum with the help of Zalman CNPS9700 AM2 and Cooler Master Hyper Z600 coolers. At that we use all motherboard features, like CPU core voltage adjustments and, if needed, bus multiplier and clock adjustments (Hyper-Transport, CPU NB, etc.) For RAM we select a clock rate typical for this class of modules by adjusting its multiplier, or clock rate needed to maximize CPU core clock rate. The stability of an overclocked machine is assessed in Windows Vista with the help of AMD OverDrive stability test (all tests are run for 5 minutes). Note that since overclocking potential somewhat varies from one board to another, we are not focused on finding board's exact overclocking potential accurate to 1MHz. We just try to find out if a board hampers in CPU overclocking (due to insufficient voltage stabilizer power, etc.) and see how it performs in atypical modes, including automatic BIOS recovery in cases of overclocking issues (not requiring CMOS reset) and such.
Power consumption is assessed in the light-load mode (with text editor running) and in the heavy-load mode (FarCry 2, high quality, 1280x720). Processor's standard power-saving features are enabled. Also if a board has proprietary power-saving features, we examine their efficiency separately.
|BIOS overclocking settings
||DDR3-800 to DDR3-1600
|HT bus frequency (multiplier)
|CPU reference frequency
||100MHz to 600MHz
||Cores and CPU NB
||In BIOS, by means of an onboard button
||0.60V to 2.00V or -0.06V to +0.7V (CPU)
0.50V to 1.90V or -0.7V to +0.7V (CPU NB)
2.2V to 3.19V (CPU VDDA)
||1.2V to 2.9V
||0.80V to 2.00V (Northbridge)
1.11V to 1.80V (Southbridge)
0.80V to 2.00V (HT bus)
The BIOS adjustment ranges of CPU voltage, as well as some other parameters, depend on the given processor. We publish the results of our AMD Phenom II X4 810. We used BIOS 0905 released on June 3, 2010.
The CPU core voltage adjustment range is not wide by default, but you can unlock it with a special menu option. There are two ways of voltage management: absolute values and relative increments. The latter is more flexible and suits power-saving algorithms better. If you overclock it too much, you'll be warned by a set of onboard LEDs.
BIOS offers a whole lot of additional parameters mainly related to memory controller. You can save up to 8 memory profiles in CMOS and as many as you want on external media. Another profile stores overclocking data. It can be activated by pushing an onboard button. This is convenient for temporarily activating the overclocked state.
||AMD Phenom II X4 965 3.4GHz
||AMD Phenom II X4 810 2.6GHz
|CPU frequency, MHz
|CPU reference frequency (multiplier), MHz
|Core/CPU NB voltage (according to BIOS), V
|CPU NB frequency (multiplier), MHz
|HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz
||Increase core and CPU NB multipliers
||Increase reference frequency, reduce CPU NB and HT bus multipliers
ASUS did a great job. Overclocking is very close to the maximum that we've achieved before. The proprietary LoadLine Calibration for the core and Northbridge turned out to be very useful. The difference was about 100MHz for a CPU with a locked multiplier. On the downside, we couldn't understand the essence of the iROG feature. The user's manual only has one paragraph on iROG, and it was obviously composed by company's marketing department. But there should be a whole onboard chip responsible for this, um, something. Enabling and disabling iRog Timer Keeper didn't have any effect on anything whatsoever. Well, it's not a surprise, because this timer actually just counts hours worked.
Performance and efficiency
We compared ASUS Crosshair IV Formula with the previuosly tested Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD7 based on the same chipset.
|ATI Radeon HD 4850
||ASUS Crosshair IV
|Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
|Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec
|HDPlay (DXVA Off/On), CPU load
|Far Cry 2 (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps
|World in Conflict (Very High @ 1680x1050), fps
The difference is minor. But ASUS Crosshair IV Formula is a bit ahead of the competitor. This is worth a mention, considering that it's very hard for motherboard manufacturers to excel in this area, because almost everything depends on CPU and chipset makers these days.
Enclosure power consumption
We measured power consumption with the wattmeter built into the PSU.
|AMD Phenom II X4 810 + ATI Radeon HD 4850
||ASUS Crosshair IV
|Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet On, W
|Text editing, Cool'n'Quiet Off, W
|Far Cry 2, W
ASUS Crosshair IV Formula has an EPU chip that is formally responsible for disabling inactive CPU VRM phases. But once again enabling this mode in Windows has no effect on motherboard's appetite for power. The Gigabyte's product behaves the same. Note that Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD7 consumes less in the idle mode, while ASUS Crosshair IV Formula consumes less under load. Anyway, we doubt that buyers of this high-end motherboard will care about power consumption.
ASUS Crosshair IV Formula is undoubtedly an original and interesting product. Its features, like GameFirst and ROG Connect, are actually useful and may come in handy. The bundle includes everything you need, and then a bit more. The lack of PATA support is pardonable, as this is a high-end solution. Although this feature would've only required some PCB space in this case. It's also very important that secondary functionality doesn't interfere with key features -- ASUS Crosshair IV Formula is among the leaders in terms of overclocking and performance.
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