ASUS ROG Crosshair IV Extreme AM3 Socket Motherboard

Posted by on Friday, December 10, 2010 - 5:07pm

Crosshair IVAs great as those features may be, it is all the other things that ASUS has integrated into the new Crosshair that set the motherboard apart from the competition. First, it begins with the CrossLinx 3 which with the help of the Lucid HYDRALOGIX engine gives the end users the ability mix and match different graphic cards and allows them to run together, enhancing the gaming experience. Not only does this give nVidia fans the option of running SLi on an AMD chipset, but to have an Crossfire-SLi hybrid if you so choose. 

The above is enough to have many of us begging for more money in our allowance to go out and grab this motherboard. There is still so much more to the Crosshair IV Extreme, which we will be talking about in the review, and it is only going to add to your desire to own this board.

Introduction to the ASUS ROG Crosshair IV Extreme

There are several great motherboards currently available on the market that are what I call “wishers”. A wisher is a product that, simply put, we wish we could get our hands on. It usually begins with an early leak of an image or photo from a foreign web site, then come the launch day reviews we read on our favorite web site, finally landing in the hands of the world’s best overclockers and we see the impressive numbers they achieve. Eventually it hits the market and we are all over it like the NY Giants defense on Chicago Bear’s Jake Cutler. (Or if you're not a sports fan: like thermal paste on a cpu! -Editor)

One of these motherboards would be the just released ASUS ROG Crosshair IV Extreme. Over the years the ROG series has always been a step ahead in features than the other models that ASUS produces even when sharing the same chipsets. And in many instances have other manufacturers following in similar footsteps.

The new ROG was just released in the early part of October and have been met by reviewers raving about it. Like the M4A89TD Pro/USB3 we reviewed a few weeks ago, the ROG is based on the AMD 890FX/SB850 chipset, meaning all latest AMD processors are supported including the hexa-core Thuban. Not only that but also supported via southbridge is the ultra fast SATA III, and thanks to an additional NEC chip you get the benefit of the SuperSpeed technology.

As great as those features may be, it is all the other things that ASUS has integrated into the new Crosshair that set the motherboard apart from the competition. First, it begins with the CrossLinx 3 which with the help of the Lucid HYDRALOGIX engine gives the end users the ability mix and match different graphic cards and allows them to run together, enhancing the gaming experience. Not only does this give nVidia fans the option of running SLi on an AMD chipset, but to have an Crossfire-SLi hybrid if you so choose. 

The above is enough to have many of us begging for more money in our allowance to go out and grab this motherboard. There is still so much more to the Crosshair IV Extreme, which we will be talking about in the review, and it is only going to add to your desire to own this board.

ASUS's take on the ROG Crosshair IV Extreme

The Republic of Gamers consists only the best of the best. We offer the best hardware engineering, the fastest performance, the most innovating ideas, and we welcome the best gamers to join in.

In the Republic of Gamers, mercy rules are only for the weak, and bragging rights means everything. We believe in making statements and we excel in competitions. If your character matches our trait, then join the elite club; make your presence felt, in the Republic of Gamers.


Specifications

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 AMD 890FX/SB850

System Bus Up to 5200 MT/s ; HyperTransport™ 3.0
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3 2000(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 ECC,Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Please refer to www.asus.com or user manual for Memory QVL.
xx
*Due to CPU spec., AMD 100 and 200 series CPUs support up to DDR3 1066Mhz. With ASUS design, this motherboard can support up to DDR3 1333MHz.
Expansion Slots 5 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual @ x16, triple @x16, quad@x16 x16 x8 x8)
1 x PCI 2.2
Multi-GPU Support Support Lucid HYDRALOGIX / ATI CrossFire™X Technology
Storage SB850 Chipset
6 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
Support RAID 0,1,5,10

2 x JMicron® 363 controllers: 2 x SATA 3Gb/s ports (Gray)
1 x Power External SATA 3Gb/s ports at rear (SATA On-the-Go)
1 x External SATA 3Gb/s ports at rear (SATA On-the-Go)
* Due to the Windows XP/ Vista limitation, the RAID array with the total capacity over 2TB cannot be set as a boot disk. A RAID array over 2TB can only be set as a data disk only.

LAN Intel® Gigabit LAN
Audio 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Supports 1 Optical S/PDIF out port at back I/O
USB NEC USB3.0 Controller:
- x USB 3.0/2.0 ports at rear
2 AMD SB850 chipset:
- x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at rear, 1 port at rear is also for ROG connect)
13
ASUS Unique Features CPU Level Up
MemOK!
Onboard Switches: Power / Reset / Core Unlocker / Clr CMOS (at rear)
Q-Fan Plus
ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
ASUS Q-Connector
ASUS Q-Shield
ASUS Q-Fan 2
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
ASUS MyLogo 3
Overclocking Features ROG Connect
RC Bluetooth
ROG iDirect
Power Design:
- 8+2 phase CPU power design with ML Cap
USB BIOS Flashback
BIOS Flashback with onboard switch button
Extreme Tweaker
ProbeIt
iROG
PCIe x16 Lane Switch
Loadline Calibration
Intelligent overclocking tools:
- ASUS TurboV Evo
- O.C Profile
Overclocking Protection:
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Back Panel I/O Ports 2 x External SATA
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
8 -Channel Audio I/O
1 x Clr CMOS switch
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port(purple)
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
7 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (1 port is also for ROG Connect)
1 x ROG Connect On/Off switch
1 x RC Bluetooth switch
Internal I/O Connectors 3 x USB connectors supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS connector
Front panel audio connector
System Panel connector
8 x SATA connectors: 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (Red) & 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (Gray)
8 x Fan connectors: 1 x CPU / 1 x PWR / 3 x Chassis / 3 x Optional
7 x ProbeIt measurement points
3 x Thermal sensor connectors
1 x 24-pin ATX power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
2 x EZ Plug connectors (4-pin Molex Power connectors)
1 x OC Station header
1 x RC Bluetooth header
1 x Core unlocker switch
1 x Power on switch
1 x Reset switch
1 x Go Button
1 x BIOS switch button
1 x Fan connector for thermal module
1 x ROG light connector
BIOS 16 Mb Flash ROM AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS
Manageability WOL by PME,WOR by PME,PXE
Accessories User's manual
1 x I/O Shield
1 x ROG Connect Cable
1 x ProbeIt cable set
1 x 2-in-1 ASUS Q-Connector Kit
3 x 2-in-1 SATA 6.0Gb/s Cables
1 x 2-in-1 SATA 3.0Gb/s Signal Cables
1 x Multi-functional module (1-port IEEE 1394a + 2-port USB2.0)
1 x Thermal Sensor Cable Pack
1 x Crossfire cable
1 x Cable Ties Pack
1 x ROG Theme Label
1 x 12-in-1 ROG Cable Label
1 x RC Bluetooth card

Bluetooth Module Accessory Card
- Bluetooth V2.0/V2.1+EDR
- RC Bluetooth On/Off Switch

Support Disc Drivers
Kaspersky® Anti-Virus
ASUS AI Suite II
3DMark Vantage
Form Factor Extended ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 10.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 26.9 cm )

Features

  • AMD Phenom II X6 support / AMD 890FX + SB850 chipset
  • Dual DDR3 2000 (O.C.) support
  • CrossLinx 3 Technology - Experience true graphics freedom
  • ROG Connect- Plug and Overclock - Tweak it the hardcore way!
  • RC Bluetooth - Smashes through all the barriers of conventional overclocking!
  • USB BIOS Flashback - Refresh the BIOS can never be that easy

Closer look

First, we will begin by saying the Crosshair IV is an Extended ATX, or E-ATX, meaning a motherboard slightly larger than the standard ATX size. This also means that you will have to be more selective in the case in which you decide to put the motherboard into. With all the features this motherboard is packing I can understand the reasoning for going with the larger size.

The overall styling is somewhat futuristic but also very today. Confused? Don’t be. The black and red color coordination is pretty common today, but the heat sink design reminds me of the new building over in the U.A.E. The mixture of the two just screams "bad ass!"

We begin the tour looking at the spacing around the CPU socket. Without the board sitting in front of you one would think there is not much space for larger heat sinks. Not true. There is plenty of room for the mounting of any cooler capable of cooling today’s high demanding processors. The chipset utilizes a  three tier actively cooled heat sink setup, that's right we said "active" as there are fans underneath the fins of the cooler for greater cooling performance. The majority of the larger cooler is used to lower the operating temps of the 8+2 phase power/MOSFET modules and is where you'll find the first fan The section of that cooler below the ROG logo is used to cool the SB850 chip and is where you'll find a second fan. To the right of the PCIe slots is where you will find another decently sized heat sink and whose job is to keep the SB850 and Lucid HYDRA chip cool. Linking the two heat sinks is a single heatpipe, which actually runs the full length of each.

The Crosshair IV is based on the 890FX chipset from AMD and will support all the current AM3 processors. This includes the popular Thuban six core models like the 1090T and new 1100T, or any of the others ranging up to 140W. No AMD based motherboard is complete without Cool-n-Quiet technology which allows for CPU speed throttling to help run cooler and for power saving depending on the system usage.

For those that plan to use dual or tri core processors in the Crosshair IV Extreme will be happy to know it comes with Core Unlocker, just like the M4A89TD. More on that later though. Another way to increase system performance is by tinkering with the plethora of BIOS options ASUS stuffed into the Crosshair, or to check out some of the overclocking programs that ASUS offers. TurboV EVO and CPU Level Up are probably two of the simplest options to use in order to achieve good overclocks. The overclocking section will also have more on this.

The area surrounding the DIMM slots is a busy one and will take us a few paragraphs to inform you of all the features in this area. First we will talk about the DIMM support which is same as the M4A89TD which is 1600MHz natively and 2000MHz when overclocking. We are glad to see the permanent DIMM locks (the lower tabs) on this board they really help to make sure the ram modules are secure in their slots. (Editor's Note: Keep in mind that the AM3 CPUs technically only support DDR3-1333 native, but that is really a non-issue. What can be a problem, and what even less are probably not aware of, is that C2 stepping CPUs have an issue that when all four dimm slots are filled the memory controller can only do DDR3-1066. This was fixed in the C3 revision, and carries over to the E0 [Thuban] cores, but could lead to a lot of frustration for some. While not relevant to the review, the older AM2 cpus had a similar issue but I am not sure of it's full details and/or if it was ever fixed. When trying for four DDR2 sticks @1066 it seems to get bumped down to DDR2-800.) 

The ROG has several options that no other, or very few motherboards have, but is evident here. ProbeIt channels are located on the very edge of the motherboard. These seven plug headers and probe points allows the user to measure several specific voltages on the motherboard. It’s much easier to measure voltage this way than sniffing out reading points scattered across the motherboard. The five toggle switches next to the ProbeIt ports allows you to cut power to the corresponding PCIe slots. Perhaps to help figure if there is a defective card in that slot, orr in the middle of a benching session could allow you to activate different slots at different times.

Above them are the on-board Power (labeled "Start") and Reset buttons, also present is a Core Unlocker button which is something common on higher end ASUS AMD-based boards. Pressing the latter button when powering up the system will scan the CPU to see if the extra cores or L3 cache are indeed unlockable. If so, the rest of the process is done automatically and safely. The little red button peaking out of the left side is the GO Button, which will overclock the processor to a predetermined level. Or if needed will allow the system to continue to POST after a memory error. So, basically the button serves as the Mem Ok button as well a neat overclocking utility.

The Crosshair has a total of eight SATA III ports which six of them are controlled via the SB850 and the other two by a JMicron 363 controller. The natively controlled SATA ports offer RAID support in the form of 0, 1, 5 and 10. Off picture, located on the bottom edge of the motherboard is the BIOS button which allows for you to switch between the dual socket BIOS chips (also not pictured) that the Crosshair has.

Chances are many of you willing to go out and purchase the Crossfire IV would be for the PCIe expansion and what they are capable of. This is our first look at a board with as many PCIe x16 slots as this one. There are a total of five of them. The first and third slots allows for Crossfire setups which we are very familiar with. And yes these two slots will run at full x16 bandwidth. The other three use the HydraLogix engine which will allow the user to use both nVidia and AMD video cards at the same time, rending together for enhanced performance. ASUS states that the cards used even required to be of the same generation.

There is a whole list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to HydraLogix usage so reading the manual is highly recommended. A few of the limitations of the technology are that it is only supported by Windows Vista and 7. Original manufacturer drivers are to be installed before the HydraLogix ones. One that we thought was very interesting is the lowest performing card is not to be more than twice as slow as the highest performing card.

Finally, we get to the rear of the motherboard which houses all the exterior connectors for the Crosshair IV Extreme. It begins with a single PS/2 port that be used for either a mouse or keyboard. Next, there is the Clear CMOS button that many of us cannot do without. There are a total of seven USB ports: four standard, two SuperSpeed and one used for the ROG feature. Two eSATA and a single firewire port at present. ASUS didn’t use any combo connections like we see on many boards, so you will not see a single port that support eSATA and USB. There is also a Bluetooth switch which we will get to in a few. Next, we have the audio which is a series of eight 3.5mm (1/8th") jacks and a single optical. To give the end-user more for their money ASUS elected to use an Intel-based LAN rather than the typical Realtek, resulting in better performance and latency.

If you intend on water-cooling the motherboard chipsets ASUS made the heat sinks on the board easy to remove. No plastic push pin stand-off but real metal screws.


BIOS


Extreme Tweaker Frequency Settings


Extreme Tweaker Voltage Settings


CPU Level Up


DIMM Frequency


CPU/NB Frequency


HT Link Speed


DRAM Timing and Driving Configurations

 

 


Unique Features of the Crosshair IV Extreme

We will quickly hit on some of the fine points of the features that make up the Crosshair IV Extreme. Some of these features maybe present in a select few motherboards on the market but many are fairly unique to only ASUS's offerings.

CrossLinx 3

With the aid of the Lucid HYDALOGIX powered CrossLinx feature, the ASUS Crosshair IV is able to mix and match video cards from both AMD and nVidia via an on-board controller and not some hacked software drivers. Slots 2, 4 and 5 are dedicated to this process, with slots 1 and 2 being used for single and Crossfire configurations.

Depending on the configuration you decide to use determines the bandwidth of the slot used. Running native Crossfire in slots 1 and 3 will result in full 16x bandwidth through each slot. If you add a third to another slot and  for whatever reason do not activate the CrossLinx technology, then the third slots used only runs at x4 by default.

When CrossLinx is added to the setup then all slots will run at x16. Which means a card has to be present in slot 1 no matter what and cards in either 2 or 4.

The concept means better and faster video rendering than just a single card configuration or even better than Crossfire. The application included within the Lucid driver install list the games and benching programs the technology is compatible with.

RC Bluetooth

Pressing the button on the back of the motherboard will allow you to step into a new way of accessing the motherboard’s overclocking features. All of which is done on the fly. With a Bluetooth capable phone you are able to connect to the overclocking parameters of the board, such as voltage and frequency settings, and make adjustments to them. It is like having TurboV in the palm of your hands. You can even keep a watchful eye on the status of the motherboard, like for example the system temperatures.

ROG Connect

ROG Connect begins with the vertical USB port on the rear of the motherboard. When connected to the USB port of your notebook you are able to keep a keen eye on whatever is going on with the motherboard. Just like RC Bluetooth you can adjust settings or simply monitor the status of the board. And to add you can even reboot the system if you so feel.  ASUS says it best ‘it is like being an engineer in the cockpit keeping an eye on the driver and the race car'.


System Monitor

ProbeIt

ProbeIt is a simple feature but very helpful depending on what level of overclocker you are. During heavy benching it is good to know the exact voltage of specific points on the motherboard, like the memory, CPU or even South Bridge. This isn’t all as there are four additional voltages that can also be referenced.

Extreme Tweaker

Is basically the overclocking session of the BIOS. The BIOS of the Crosshair is no joke. Its vast array of options can easily overwhelm the novice overclocker. But for the more experience overclocker you will feel right at home here as it is one of the most robust and complete BIOS on an AMD motherboard.

Voltiminder LED

Voltiminder is a series of tiny LEDs on the surface of the motherboard that remind you of status of the CPU, North/South Bridges and memory. This will help to eliminate in forms of overvolting by warning you before it happens.

Q-Fan Plus

The Q-Fan Plus feature within the BIOS allows the user to set predetermined speeds for which the CPU and chassis fan operate.

QLED

Instead of screwing around simple post code indicators and having to look up what the PLED's displayed code number means as to what is ailing your system and keeping it from booting.

BIOS Flashback and Dual BIOS

With FlashBack you are able to flash back to any previous BIOS. Simple feature but makes the whole BIOS flashing experience easier. Or if you are a real enthusiast you can have two different BIOSs for different reasons like one for overclocking and one for gaming.

USB BIOS Flashing

A very unique feature of the Crosshair and one we love is the ability to flash up to the newest BIOS without having to install a VPU, GPU or memory. All that is needed is a flash drive, the latest BIOS ROM and connection to the ROG Connect USB port on the rear of the motherboard.

AI Suite

If you have had the pleasure to build a rig around an ASUS you will know for a long time ASUS has bundled the AI Suite software package with their motherboards. Along with other applications like Probe II and BIOS Update software, each board came with everything that one would need to help deal with it's features. Now ASUS has fused all these applications into one to make installation easier and not having to deal with opening a multitude of different applications in order to get things done.

Granted, if you don't want to see all these applications the user has the ability to hide the ones he/she does not want to use via this screen.

TurboV is one of the most advance overclocking software applications available. The engineers of ASUS took their time to make sure even the most extreme overclocker would not mind using it as a form of getting the most from their benching sessions.

You can still keep tabs on all the voltages and temps of the motherboard under the Sensor tab.


Test Hardware:
Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair IV Extreme
Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 965BE C3
Ram: Patriot Sector 5 1600 4GB Dual Channel (8-8-8-24)
Video Card: Sapphire/Gigabyte HD 5750 (Crossfire)
HDD: Hitachi 1TB
Power: Thermaltake Tough Power XT 850 (Sponsored by Thermaltake)
Case: NA
Cooling: Scythe Yasya
OS: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit
Thermal compound: Arctic Silver 5

Overclocking the ASUS Crosshair IV Extreme and the AMD Phenom II 965 Black

The CIVE begs to be overclocked, if not assuming by the its looks, then by the features. The motherboard has every option there is in order to make the overclocking process as simple as can be. For automated options there is the CPU Up feature where you are able to select a CPU frequency and the board does the rest, Then also the famous TurboV, which is a Windows-based option where you can let the board make all the adjustment it needs to get you a more extreme overclock. We love each feature the CIVE has to offer for overclocking, but for this overclocking test we relied on our own skill set. We mixed BIOS adjustments along with TurboV to get our final results.

We tested for max FSB frequency as well as max CPU frequency. For each the voltage was set at 1.5 for the CPU and 1.65 for the memory. Memory timings were relaxed to 8-8-8-24 and 1066MHz to eliminate it from being a bottleneck.


A max of 335MHz HTT.


A max 4233MHz.

For those that do not want to take the time it take to get a good overclock from their rig can elect to use the CPU Level Up application. Simply select the megahertz that you want and let the motherboard adjust all the perimeters like FSB and voltages itself.


Quick Lucid Vs Crossfire Testing

This section of the review is going to be short as we will be detailing more of the differences between SLI, Crossfire and Lucid technology in a later article using the Crosshair IV Extreme. But we did take the time to run a few rounds of Futuremark 3D Vantage just to see which of the two were the faster and the more beneficial gaming technology.


Performance using Crossfire (14625 Score)


Performance using Lucid Technogoly (15213 Score)


Conclusion

The ASUS Crosshair IV Extreme is absolutely the most feature-rich motherboard we have ever tested and we have tested our fair share here in the Pro-Clocker’s lab. It seems that ASUS did not take any shortcuts when it came to this motherboard. From the actively-cooled Northbridge/MOSFET heatsink, to the Intel based NIC, the CIVE offers more than any other motherboard on the market.

Visually, the Crosshair is stunning. The mixture of red and black is a modder’s dream. We know that looks aren’t everything but when it comes down to building the ultimate gaming rig you want it to look as good as it runs. Placing this motherboard inside a black or red case that supports the eATX size is a must as far as I am concerned. The aggressive heat sink styling with the ROG logo just oozes gamer motherboard.

This motherboard is aimed at a very select few: the gamer, the enthusiast and the extreme overclocker. If any of these are you then the Crosshair IV Extreme has something to offer you. For the gamer you have the support of so many video card configurations it is unreal. You can elect to go the standard Crossfire route, opt for a hybrid with couple of high-end GPU (AMD or Nvidia) and mix them to your desire performance level, or take the straight SLi path. All of these options are all thanks to the CrossLinx feature and wouldn't be possible without the help from the Lucid technology.

You will have to sit and study the Crosshair like a text book to really be able to take in all the features this motherboard has to offer. Every time we set the board down on the bench we found something different to amaze us. If you are an extreme overclocker you can measure various voltage points directly from the motherboard. If you plan to apply some extreme cold to the motherboard the BIOS offers some really high voltage settings, and the board can provide you these voltage levels due to the usage of high power delivering caps and chokes.

We can go on and on about the good things this board has to offer but it is time to state the solitary down side of it: the asking price. Which ranges from $288 to as high as $389 depending on the retail you decide to buy from.

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