ASUS Crosshair IV Formula - 890FX/SB850 Motherboard
Date: June 7, 2010
Product: Crosshair IV Formula - AMD Socket AM3
Author: Jason Rabel
First Look and Board Layout (cont):
When one first looks at the Crosshair IV Formula, it is truly breathtaking. There is no wasted space on this board, to say it is packed with features is an understatement! The first eye-catching feature is the change from the classic ASUS blue & white theme to the ROG theme of red & black. The next thing one notices are the futuristic heatsinks, each carefully laid out to prevent obstruction, and all three connected by a common heatpipe.
Being an overclocker, the feature which words can not describe how happy I am to see, are the ProbeIt pads. Right in front of the board next to the main 24pin ATX power connector are seven key voltages that one can monitor directly using a volt-meter. The old-school method of accomplishing this often involved tracing paths and lots of probing to find a suitable junction which one could take similar readings. ASUS just made life so much easier (and safer)... why didn't someone think of this 10 years ago?
ASUS has included several diagnostic LEDs in key locations on the motherboard which correspond to voltage levels for primary components (i.e. CPU, memory, northbridge, southbridge).
There are EIGHT PWM fan connectors (that includes the CPU connector), and three thermal sensor connectors (sensors sold separately). The BIOS allows a lot of flexibility in controlling the RPM of all eight of these fan headers. Most people are familiar with the CPU fan control, allowing for different preset speeds like Silent, Standard, Turbo, etc, or even setting high/low temps and corresponding fan speeds. ASUS took it one step further an added similar advanced control over the three chassis fan connectors, so now your chassis fans can operate in concert with your CPU temps. The "power fan" connector can be set either full speed or reduced power between 40%-90%. Likewise the last three optional fan connectors have a similar duty cycle option to the power fan, but also support speed control by using the previously mentioned separate thermal sensors.
ASUS has simplified things by having only two classic PCI slots, along with four x16 PCIe slots. However, if you look carefully in the PCIe connectors, only two slots are electrically wired for x16, the other two are electrically only x8. In the manual, ASUS labels the last slot (nearest the buttons) as only an x4. In theory for graphics, the 890FX supports x16; x16/x16; x16,x8,x8 and x8/x8/x8/x8. One can only assume ASUS had to re-appropriate some of that bandwidth to support some of the other features on board.
Talking about buttons, along the bottom (of left side in the picture below) are the Turbo Key II, Core Unlocker, Power-On, and Reset. With the 8-Series chipset, AMD quietly removed the ACC (Advanced Clock Calibration) feature, and along with that the ability for motherboard manufacturers to "unlock" the extra cores found in some AMD processors. To overcome this issue ASUS implemented the same core unlocking ability in their TurboV EVO chip.
As mentioned on the first page, ASUS added an extra JMicron SATA controller to provide an eSATA port on back, along with an extra internal SATA port. Since most people have an optical drive, the theory goes that the drive can be plugged into the port controlled by the JMicron controller, leaving all six native SATA 6Gb/s ports for traditional hard drives & SSDs.
The back panel I/O adds a few new features aimed towards gamers / enthusiasts. Next to the PS/2 port is a "clear CMOS" button, which eliminates the need to open your case if your system hangs from being overclocked too high. The other button and single USB port is the ROG connect. Using the supplied USB cable, one connects this board to another system and presses in the button. Then utilizing the included software on the DVD, the remote computer can actually control various voltages & speeds on the Crosshair IV Formula.
Everything else on the back panel is pretty standard. The two blue USB ports are the separate 3.0 speeds, while the black ports are the more classic 2.0. Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire, eSATA, optical SPDIF, and analog audio are also present. There are additional headers on the motherboard for more USB, Firewire, SPDIF, front panel audio, and even an ASUS OC Station connector.