Asus CrossHair NF590 SLI: Republic of Gamers

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For almost as long as there have been PC enthusiasts, it seems that Asus has been there catering to them with feature laden, high-performance products.  Nowhere is it more apparent that Asus caters to enthusiasts than with their motherboards. Yes, some of their notebooks and graphics cards are cutting edge as well, but the company has released literally hundreds of enthusiast-class motherboards in their history.

Over the years we have evaluated a myriad of Asus-built mobos here at HotHardware, and with the exception of only a couple of designs, they have all been stand-out products in their respective classes. In this article, we'll be shining the spotlight on yet another stand-out product from Asus, the CrossHair. The Asus CrossHair is the first member of the company's flagship "Republic of Gamers" series of desktop motherboards. It's based on NVIDIA's nForce 590 SLI chipset for AMD socket AM2 processors and sports a number of features an innovations that make it truly unique. There is a lot to cover in this article, so what do you say we get down to business and see what the CrossHair is really made of?

      

Asus CrossHair NF590 SLI Specifications & Features
For HardCore AM2 Gamers

CPU
Support AMD Socket AM2 Athlon 64 X2 / Athlon 64 FX / Athlon 64/ Sempron
AMD Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
AMD64 architecture enables simultaneous 32-bit and 64-bit computing
AMD Live! Ready

Chipset
NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI MCP
NVIDIA LinkBoost Technology
Front Side Bus 2000 / 1600 MT/s

Memory
Dual channel memory architecture
4 x DIMM, max. 8GB, DDR2-800/667/533, ECC and non-ECC, un-buffered memory

Expansion Slots
2 x PCI Express x16 slot with NVIDIA(R)SLI technology support, at full x16, x16 speed
1 x PCI Express x4
3 x PCI 2.2

SLI
Support two identical NVIDIA SLI-Ready graphics cards (both at x16 mode)
ASUS two-slot thermal design
ASUS PEG Link

Storage
NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI MCP supports:
* 1 x Ultra DMA 133 / 100 / 66 / 33
* 6 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
* NVIDIA MediaShield RAID supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD span cross Serial ATA drives
Silicon Image 3132 SATA controller supports
* 2 x External Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s port on back I/O (SATA On-the-Go)
* Support RAID 0, 1, and JBOD

LAN
Dual Gigabit LAN controllers support NVIDIA DualNet technology
NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI MCP built-in dual Gigabit MAC with external Marvell PHY
* Support Teaming and fail-over functions
* Support TCP/IP Acceleration

Audio
SupremeFX Audio Card
featuring ADI 1988B 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Support Jack-Sensing, Enumeration, Multi-streaming and Jack-Retasking
8 channel audio ports
Coaxial, Optical S/PDIF out on back I/O port
* ASUS Array Mic
* Noise Filter

IEEE 1394a
TI 1394 controller supports 2 x 1394a ports

Overclocking Features
* ASUS AI NOS (Non-delay Overclocking System)
* AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
* AI Clock Skew
* ASUS PEG Link - automatically performance tuning for graphics cards
* ASUS O.C. Profile: overclocking configuration-sharing tool
* ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
* Extreme Tweaker
ASUS AI Booster Utility
Adjustable FSB/DDR2 ratio.
Fixed PCI/PCIe frequencies.

USB
Max. 10 USB2.0/1.1 ports

Special Features
LCD Poster
EL I/O
Onboard LED
Onboard switches: Power / Reset / Clr CMOS
Q-Connector
Q-Fan Plus
ASUS CrashFree BIOS3
ASUS EZ Flash2
ASUS Music Alarm
ASUS MyLogo3

Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port
1 x PS/2 Mouses
1 x Optical + 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
2 x External SATA
2 x LAN (RJ45) port
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x IEEE 1394a port
1 x onboard LED switch
1 x LCD Poster

Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB 2.0 connectors supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector for two devices
6 x SATA connectors
1 x CPU / 7 x option Fan
3 x thermal sensor connector
1 x IEEE1394a connector
1 x S/PDIF output connector
Chassis Intrusion connector
Front Panel Audio connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
System panel connector
1 x EL I/O Shield Connector

BIOS
8Mb AWARD BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3

Manageability
WOL by PME, WOR by PME, Chasis Intrusion, PXE

Accessories
1 x SLI bridge
1 x ASUS Array Mic
1 x ASUS Optional Fan
1 x ASUS Q-Connector Kit (system panel; Retail version only)
3 x thermal sensor cables
1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
1 x Floppy disk drive cable
6 x SATA cables
7 x Cable Ties
3 x SATA power cable for 6 devices
1 x 2-port USB2.0 module
1 x IEEE1394a module
1 x EL I/O Shield
InterVideo Media Launcher (OEM version only)
User's manual

Support DVD
Drivers
ASUS PC Probe II
ASUS Update
ASUS AI Booster
Futuremark 3DMark06 Advanced Edition
NVIDIA MediaShield RAID
Kaspersky Anti-Virus
Form Factor ATX Form Factor, 12"x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)


        

      

There were a whole slew of accessories included in the CrossHair's bundle. Along with the motherboard itself, we found a very detailed user's manual, a driver / utility CD that contained copies of 3DMark06 and Kaspersky AV, and another CD dubbed Media Launcher that contained Intervideo's WinDVD Enhanced Suite. There were also floppy and IDE cables included, along with six SATA cables, and three 4-pin Molex to dual-SATA power adapters.

A custom I/O shield was in the box as well, but what makes this one really different is that it is illuminated. The port labels all light up, which facilitates plugging in cables in the dark recesses under your desk.  In addition to the aforementioned items, Asus also includes a couple of USB and Firewire expansion brackets, some wire ties, a pack of Q-Connectors, an SLI bridge, and a three thermal probes with the CrossHair.

Finally, there is an optional fan included with the board, which should be used when the CPU is being water-cooled, along with a "Republic of Gamers" key chain, a SoundMax SupremeBeam microphone, and a SupremeFX audio riser card. The SupremeFX audio riser is powered by an ADI1988B 8-channel HD audio codec and gets installed into a proprietary slot near the I/O backplane on the CrossHair.

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