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AMD 990FX Mobo Round-Up: Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte
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Date: Aug 24, 2011
Section:Motherboards
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and the 990FX Chipset

In preparation for the impending arrival of its Bulldozer-based FX-series of processors, AMD recently released their 9-Series chipsets. The AMD 9-Series currently consists of three products, the 970, the 990X, and the flagship 990FX chipsets.

At their core, all of the current AMD 9-Series chipsets are similar, and offer support for socket AM3 and AM3+ processors, DDR3 memory, PCIe 2.0 (with a varying number of lanes), and SATA III (6Gb/s). The chipsets differ in their support for AMD CrossFireX technology, however, due to a different number of PCI Express lanes available on each. The flagship 990FX supports up to four graphics cards, the 990X two cards, and the 970 only a single card. We should point out that some motherboards based on the AMD 990FX chipset will get official support for NVIDIA’s SLI technology as well, so those enthusiasts chomping at the bit for an 8-Core Bulldozer chip can enjoy some multi-GPU action with their graphics vendor of choice.

With AMD’s FX-Series process due to arrive sometime in the not too distant future, we thought it was a good time to check out a few high-end 990FX-based motherboards. We want to give you prospective AMD buyers a glimpse at some ‘boards designed with the FX-Series in mind. With that said, the 990FX chipset technically isn’t new. Take a look at the features and specifications ganked from AMD’s page below and then we’ll explain what we mean under the block diagram further down the page...


The ASUS CrossHair V Formula, ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional, and Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7 we'll be looking at here all offer official support for upcoming 8-Core AMD FX-Series processors

AMD 990FX / SB950 9-Series Chipset
Specifications & Features
  • Ready to take AMD FX processors beyond all expectation Full socket compatibility for AM3+ and AM3 processors with Hypertransport 3.0 interconnects means you can upgrade your components when you’re ready to, and help ensure you get the most performance.
     
  • Support for up to 4 AMD Radeon HD Graphics boards with AMD CrossFireX technology PCI Express 2.0 technologies enable 2x16 or 4x8 configurations to enable higher levels of performance on your graphics applications. The AMD 990FX enables our best scalable platform for game-dominating performance with support for 2, 3, or 4 graphics cards.
     
  • Get ready to take control of your PC with the next generation AMD OverDrive software for full FX control. Customize your PC by getting full control of your different AMD components.
     
  • Take advantage of advanced technology like SATA 6Gb/s to help accelerate your connectivity. Enjoy the latest in performance benefits on your multiple RAID configuration support and enhanced SSD configurations with motherboards built around AMD 990FX.
Graphics Not Included, Up to 4 slots for Graphics Upgrade 
CPU Compatibility AMD Athlon, AMD Athlon II, AMD Phenom, AMD Phenom II, AMD FX
Memory Support AM3 and AM3+ socket motherboards support DDR3
PCI Express PCI Express 2.0
USB Up to 14 USB 2.0
SATA Supports SATA 6Gb/s devices


AMD 990FX / SB950 Chipset Diagram

Although the 9-Series chipsets, including the 990FX we’re featuring here, offer official support for upcoming Socket AM3+ based FX-Series processors, the chipsets themselves are not new. In fact, the 990FX chip and its companion SB950 Southbridge are identical to the 890FX and SB850. Socket AM3+ motherboards, like the ones we’re going to show you here, are outfitted with a newer 942-pin socket that’s backward compatible with socket AM3 processors. These boards will also offer full support for the frequency and power scaling technologies coming with Bulldozer. In effort to minimize the confusion that could stem from using 8-Series branded chipsets on motherboards with official support for Bulldozer, AMD thought it best to rename the chipset. AM3+ motherboards that will exploit all of the features of and officially support Bulldozer, will employ 9-Series chipsets.

Now, let’s get to some specifics. As you can see, the 990FX chipset supports AMD socket AM3 / AM3+ processors with DDR3 memory (including Athlon II, Phenom II and FX processors), and features a total of 42 PCI Express lanes, with flexible configuration options.

Other features of the 990FX chipset are HyperTransport 3.1, which is a 6.4GT/s link between the CPU and 990FX--an upgrade from the HT 3.0, 5.2GT/s link of the 890FX enabled by the new socket configuration. The chipset also features an A-link Express III interface with 4GB/s of bandwidth between the 990FX and SB950. The SB950 features almost all of the typical amenities of a modern chipset: USB 2.0, HD Audio, Gigabit Ethernet, PATA, and PCI are present. In addition, the SB950 also features an additional pair of PCI Express Gen 2 x1 lanes, along with native support of 6Gbps SATA. No native USB 3.0 support is present, however.

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Asus CrossHair V Formula

The Asus CrossHair line of motherboards for AMD processors has long been a favorite amongst enthusiast and this latest addition seems poised to carry on the tradition. As we've mentioned, the CrossHair V Formula is based on the AMD 990FX chipset and supports all current socket AM3 processors and future AM3+ based processors as well. Asus has also augmented the board with a number of additional controllers to further enhance it's feature set and connectivity options.


The Asus CrossHair V Formula

Asus CrossHair V Formula 
Specifications & Features
CPU AMD AM3+ FX/Phenom II/Athlon II/Sempron 100 Series Processors
Supports AM3+ 32 nm CPU
Supports CPU up to 8 cores
Supports CPU up to 140 W
AMD Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
Chipset AMD 990FX/SB950
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Hz ECC, Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA 3-Way SLI Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX Technology
Expansion Slots 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual x16 or x16, x8, x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
1 x PCI
Storage AMD SB950 controller :
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
 
ASMedia ASM1061 controller :
1 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
LAN Intel, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller
Audio SupremeFX X-Fi 2 built-in 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity
- EAX Advanced HD 5.0
- THX TruStudio PRO
- Creative ALchemy
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
USB Ports ASMedia USB 3.0 controller :
6 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)

AMD SB950 controller :

12 x USB 2.0 port(s) (8 at back panel, black+white, 4 at mid-board)
Form Factor ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

In addition to exploiting all of the features inherent to the 990FX chipset, the CrossHair V Formula also sports a pair of ASMedia controllers that add additional SATA 6G ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The board supports both 3-Way NVDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX multi-GPU configurations and the board is outfitted with an advanced UEFI BIOS and DIGI+ digital VRM design as well. As you'll see a little later, the UEFI setup menu on this board is about as good as it gets.

As expected from an Asus RoG (Republic of Gamers) board, there are plenty of overclocking tools built in too and an onboard SupremeFX X-Fi 2 chip delivers decent audio, especially for an integrated solution.

    

    
The Asus CrossHair V Formula AM3+ AMD 990FX-Based Motherboard

In addition to the CrossHair V Formula pictured here, a Thunderbolt edition is on tap as well. The CrossHair V Formula/ThunderBolt will come with Asus’ ThunderBolt audio/LAN combo expansion card. The ThunderBolt card is outfitted with XONAR audio technology which provides better sound quality than integrated solutions, and also offers a built-in headphone amplifier with adjustable impedance settings for fine tuning of the audio output. The Crosshair V Formula/Thunderbolt also incorporates the Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 NIC.

Other noteworthy features of the Asus CrossHair V Formula include its "CPU Level Up" tool which allows for easy overclocking, RoG Connect for accessing PC health status via a secondary system like a notebook or netbook, ProbeIt voltage check points, and its Intel Gigabit LAN controller. The layout of the board is also very good and there is ample cooling for the chipset and voltage regulators. As you can see in the final image above, there is also plenty of connectivity in the board's backplane, including USB 3.0, USB 2.0, eSATA, PS/2, LAN, digital and analog audio, and RoG connect port.

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Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7

Next up we have the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7. As you can see in the images below, this board sports Gigabyte’s newer black, grey and gold color scheme and as we’ve come to expect from high-end motherboards from the company, the 990FXA-UD7 is a very full-featured product. It’s outfitted with USB 3.0 ports and features an 8+2 phase CPU power design, Gigabyte’s “Ultra Durable 3” technology with two ounces copper layers within the PCB, 4-way CrossFireX and SLI support, DualBIOS technology, and On/Off Charge support.

Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD7
Specifications & Features
CPU AM3+ Socket:
  1. Support for AMD AM3+ FX processors
  2. Support for AMD AM3 Phenom II processors / AMD Athlon II processors
Hyper Transport Bus
  1. 5200 MT/s
Chipset
  1. North Bridge: AMD 990FX
  2. South Bridge: AMD SB950
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 32 GB of system memory (Note 1)
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2000(O.C.)/1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz memory modules (Note 2)
Audio
  1. Realtek ALC889 codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby Home Theater
  5. Support for S/PDIF Out
LAN
  1. 1 x Realtek RTL8111E chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
  1. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2) (Note 3)
  2. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1, PCIEX8_2) (Note 4)
  3. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1, PCIEX4_2)
    (All PCI Express slots conform to the PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  4. 1 x PCI slot
Multi-Graphics Technology
  1. Support for 2-Way/3-Way/4-Way AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI technology
Storage Interface South Bridge:
  1. 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3_0~SATA3_5) supporting up to 6 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID5, RAID 10 and JBOD
2 x Marvell 88SE9172 chips:
  1. 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (GSATA3_6, GSATA3_7) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  2. 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s connectors (including 1 eSATA/USB Combo connector) on the back panel supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  3. Support for RAID 0 and RAID 1
USB South Bridge:
  1. Up to 14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 ports on the back panel, including 1 eSATA/USB Combo connector, 6 ports available through the internal USB headers)
2 x Etron EJ168 chips:
  1. Up to 4 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
IEEE 1394 VIA VT6308 chip:
  1. Up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports (1 port on the back panel, 1 port available through the internal IEEE 1394a header)
I/O Controller
  1. ITE IT8720 chip

Looking at the specifications and overview above, it should be evident that Gigabyte seemingly went all out on the 990FXA-UD7. While the board is feature laden and clearly targeted at enthusiasts, it does lag behind the Asus and ASRock boards in our opinion in terms of its BIOS—notice we didn’t say UEFI setup utility. More on that later.

  

  
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7 Motherboard

The Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7 has an excellent layout and its expansion slot configuration is top-notch. All of the slots of the board except for one standard PCU slot are of the PCI Express x16 variety, and all of the board’s headers and expansion ports are clearly labeled and situated well around the edges of the board. With that said, while we do like the dark color scheme, having everything black or gray can get a little confusing. Case in point, the DIMM slots. Without color coding the DIMM slots, you’ve got to whip out the manual or carefully inspect the tiny print on the PCB to figure out which slots to use for a dual-channel configuration.

In terms of its features, the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7 is arguably the leader of the three boards included in this article. In addition to all of the features offered by the chipset itself, the 990FXA-UD7 is outfitted with USB 3.0 support, Firewire, a POST code error reporter, two additional Marvell 88SE9172 SATA controllers, on/off USB charging support, and a Realtek ACL889 HD audio codec that’s capable of 108dB Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) playback quality.
 

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ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional

Here we have the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional. Those familiar with the Fatal1ty brand (and professional gamer of the same name) will know that it adorns products targeted at hardcore gamers. And believe it or not, the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Pro actually has a gamer-specific feature of Fatal1ty’s design, unlike some older boards that featured the brand only. In the board’s IO backplane is a “Fatal1ty” USB mouse port set for a 500MHz polling rate, which is the same polling rate Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel likes to use when gaming competitively.

ASRock Falat1ty 990FX Professional
Specifications & Features
CPU - Support for Socket AM3+ processors
- Support for Socket AM3 processors: AMD Phenom II X6 / X4 / X3 / X2 (except 920 / 940) / Athlon II X4 / X3 / X2 / Sempron processors
- Supports 8-Core CPU
- Supports UCC feature (Unlock CPU Core)
- Advanced V12 + 2 Power Phase Design
- Supports CPU up to 140W
- Supports AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet Technology
- FSB 2600 MHz (5.2 GT/s)
- Supports Untied Overclocking Technology
- Supports Hyper-Transport 3.0 (HT 3.0) Technology
Chipset - Northbridge: AMD 990FX
- Southbridge: AMD SB950
Memory - Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 4 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 2100(OC)/1866/1600/1333/1066/800 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 32GB

Audio, Video and Networking
Audio - 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray audio support
- Supports THX TruStudio
LAN - PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Broadcom BCM57781
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports Dual LAN with Teaming function
- Supports PXE

Expansion / Connectivity
Slots - 3 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (PCIE2/PCIE4: x16 mode ; PCIE5: x4 mode)
- 2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
- 2 x PCI slots
- Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX and CrossFireX
- Supports NVIDIA Quad SLI and SLI
SATA3 - 6 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1, JBOD and RAID 5), NCQ, AHCI and "Hot Plug" functions
USB 3.0 - 2 x Rear USB 3.0 ports by Etron EJ168A, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
- 2 x Front USB 3.0 headers (support 4 USB 3.0 ports) by Etron EJ168A, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s

Other Features / Miscellaneous
Smart Switch - 1 x Power Switch with LED
- 1 x Reset Switch with LED
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
Form Factor - ATX Form Factor: 12.0-in x 9.6-in, 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm
- All Solid Capacitor design (100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors)

The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional’s specifications reveal a very feature rich motherboard. Like the other boards shown here that exploit all of the features of the 990FX chipset, the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional does so as well, and compliments the chipset with a four-port Etron USB 3.0 controller that adds front and rear USB ports. The board even includes a slot- or bay-mountable USB 3.0 bracket so users can place the additional ports on the front of rear of their systems. Firewire is available on the board too.

  

  
ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional

Additional features of the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional include integrated power and reset switches, a POST code error reporter, all Japanese solid capacitors, a Realtek ALC892 7.1CH HD audio Codec, dual gigabit PCIe LAN controllers (with teaming) and a digital 12+2 VRM design. The cooling hardware on the board is also quite good. There is a tall finned heatsink in the VRM, linked to the 990FX and SB950 via a thick heatpipe. The 990FX and SB950 have their own heatsinks as well. Although the setup does a good job of cooling the chips, the high VRM heatsink may get in the way of some oversized aftermarket coolers that overhang the socket area, so keep that in mind if this board tickles your fancy.

The overall layout and color scheme of the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional is very good. The black, red and white expansion slots and headers are all clearly labeled and the positioning of all of the components is good. There was one oddity with the DIMM retention brackets, however. Like Asus board, only one side of the DIMM slots has a moving retention clip—the other side is a simple, locking notch. But the side without the clip is facing the top of the board. This is usually done the other way around so the movable clips don’t interfere with the back-side of a graphics or other expansion card when open. Luckily there is enough room between the DIMM slots and first PEG slot that this isn’t a cause for concern, but it did catch our eye.

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BIOS Comparo and Overclocking

All three of the motherboards featured in this article have well-appointed UEFI setup utilities or BIOS menus. In lieu of showing you a dizzying array of pictures from each board, however, we decided to shoot a little video of each one in action. As you’ll see, the graphical UEFI utilities of the Asus and ASRock boards clearly stand apart from the traditional BIOS menus of the Gigabyte board.
In our opinion, the Asus CrossHair V Formula’s UEFI setup utility is among the best we have ever come across. Not only does it just plain look good, navigating through the menus via mouse or keyboard is intuitive and responsive. Asus has done an excellent job here and should be commended. ASRock has also done a good job with their UEFI setup utility, although it lacks a touch of the refinement of Asus’ offering. Gigabyte’s 990FX-UD7 has a full-featured standard BIOS, which would have been great if this was early 2010, but it seems antiquated in light of updated UEFI setup utilities. 

Overclocking With The 990FX
No Issues Here 

With all of that said, these three boards all offer a very complete set up tweaking and overclocking tools in their respective setup utilities that should appease novices and hardened enthusiasts alike. We should also point out that we flash each board with the latest UEFI / BIOS as of this writing before doing any testing. What you see in the video above is representative of the most recent versions available on each company’s website.

Of course, we spent some time overclocking with all three boards as well to see how each would fare with our Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition at the helm. This particular CPU will reliably hit about 4.2GHz on air cooling with stock voltages. With the CPU in each board we first raised the multiplier via the BIOS / UEFI until the test system was no longer stable and all three boards hit the same 21x multiplier before we started seeing random instability. We also tested the CPU and boards with lower multipliers and increased HT clocks and were able to hit 255MHz – 260MHz without issue on all three boards, with stock voltages.

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Test Systems and PCMark Vantage

Test System Configuration Notes: When configuring our test systems for this article, we first entered their respective system BIOSes and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High performance Defaults". We then saved the settings, re-entered the BIOS and set the memory frequency to DDR3-1333. The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we updated the OS, and installed the drivers necessary for our components. Auto-Updating and Windows Defender were then disabled and we installed all of our benchmarking software, performed a disk clean-up, defragged the hard drives, and ran the tests.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel and AMD - Head To Head

System 1:
AMD Phenom II X4 980
(3.7GHz Quad-Core)

Asus CrossHair V Formula
(AMD 990FX Chipset)

2x4GB G.SKILL DDR3-1866
(@ 1600MHz)

Radeon HD 6570
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows 7 x64

System 2:
AMD Phenom II X4 980
(3.7GHz Quad-Core)

ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Pro
(AMD 990FX Chipset)

2x4GB G.SKILL DDR3-1866
(@ 1600MHz)

Radeon HD 6570
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows 7 x64

System 3:
AMD Phenom II X4 980
(3.7GHz Quad-Core)

Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7
(AMD 990FX Chipset)

2x4GB G.SKILL DDR3-1866
(@ 1600MHz)

Radeon HD 6570
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows 7 x64

Preliminary Testing with PCMark Vantage
Synthetic Benchmarks

First up, we ran our test systems through Futuremark’s total-system performance evaluation tool, PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity.

Most of the sub-tests used to come up with the final scores in each category are multi-threaded as well, so the tests can exploit the additional resources offered by a multi-core CPU.

 

The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Pro technically took the top spot in our PCMark Vantage tests, but the deltas separating the boards were minimal. For an unknown reason, the MSI 890FX board performed poorly in the Memories sub-test, which dragged down it's overall score.

 

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Futuremark PCMark 7
Futuremark's PCMark 7 is the latest version of the PCMark suite, recently released this spring. It has updated application performance measurements targeted for a Windows 7 environment. Here's what Futuremark says is incorporated in the base PCMark suite and the Entertainment suite, the two modules we have benchmark scores for you here.

Futuremark PCMark 7
General Application and Multimedia Performance
The PCMark test is a collection of workloads that measure system performance during typical desktop usage. This is the most important test since it returns the official PCMark score for the system
Storage
  • Windows Defender
  • Importing pictures
  • Gaming

Video Playback and transcoding
Graphics

  • DirectX 9

Image manipulation
Web browsing and decrypting

The Entertainment test is a collection of workloads that measure system performance in entertainment scenarios using mostly application workloads. Individual tests include recording, viewing, streaming and transcoding TV shows and movies, importing, organizing and browsing new music and several gaming related workloads. If the target system is not capable of running DirectX 10 workloads then those tests are skipped. At the end of the benchmark run the system is given an Entertainment test score.

 

The two PCMark7 tests we ran show the 990FX boards all running within a couple of percentage points of one another. However, they were all every so slighty faster then the older 890FX-based MSI board we've included for reference. The only explanations for the 990FX's advantage are software differences between the platforms and perhaps better tuned firmwares on the newer boards, because the underlying silicon is the same.

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LAME MT Audio Encoding and Cinebench R11.5

In our custom LAME MT MP3 encoding test, we convert a large WAV file to the MP3 format, which is a popular scenario that many end users work with on a day-to-day basis to provide portability and storage of their digital audio content. LAME is an open-source mid to high bit-rate and VBR (variable bit rate) MP3 audio encoder that is used widely around the world in a multitude of third party applications.

LAME MT
Audio Conversion and Encoding

In this test, we created our own 223MB WAV file (a hallucinogenic-induced Grateful Dead jam) and converted it to the MP3 format using the multi-thread capable LAME MT application in single and multi-thread modes. Processing times are recorded below, listed in seconds. Shorter times equate to better performance.


Audio encoding doesn't show any real variation between the boards. The one-second differences shown the the graph are more likely fractional differences, since this benchmark only reports tests results to the nearest second.

Cinebench R11.5
3D Rendering

Cinebench R11.5 is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by 3D animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others. It's very demanding of system processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput. This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders and animates 3D scenes and tracks the length of the entire process. The rate at which each test system was able to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below.

All of the boards performed similarly in the Cinebench benchmark as well. If you want to nit-pick, the ASRock technically had the highest score, but we're talking about the tiniest of deltas here.
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Low-Res Gaming: Crysis and ET:QW

For our next set of tests, we moved on to some in-game benchmarking with Crysis and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. When testing processors with Crysis or ET:QW, we drop the resolution to 1024x768, and reduce all of the in-game graphical options to their minimum values to isolate CPU and memory performance as much as possible. However, the in-game effects, which control the level of detail for the games' physics engines and particle systems, are left at their maximum values, since these actually do place some load on the CPU rather than GPU.

Low-Resolution Gaming: Crysis and ET: Quake Wars
Taking the GPU out of the Equation (Well, trying to at least)



Our low-resolution game tests show all of the 990FX-based boards holding onto slight leads over the older 890FX-based board, but again the margins are quite small. The same 990FX boards were all grouped tightly together as well, but the Asus board did manage to put up the highest score in both tests, even though they were only slightly higher than the competitions'.

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Total System Power Consumption

Before bringing this article to a close, we'll take a look at power consumption of the AMD A8-3850 and some competing platforms. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power this new APU was consuming with a power meter, versus other test systems we used for benchmarks in the previous pages. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling on the desktop and while under a heavy workload Keep in mind, this is total system power consumption being measured at the outlet and not the the individual CPUs or GPUs alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

All of the motherboards we tested pulled down similar amounts of power while under load, but there were some more notable differences at idle. The ASRock, Gigabyte, and MSI boards idled within 7W of one another. The Asus CrossHair V Formula, however, consumed 9-13 more watts then the other 990FX-based boards while idling. While measurable, those differences can easily be attributed to only slightly higher voltages being used on the Asus board and are not cause for concern.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: All three of the AMD 990FX-based motherboards we tested here performed well. Although based on the same silicon as the older 890FX, all of the 990FX-based boards we tested were ever so slightly faster throughout our suite of benchmarks, perhaps due to more finely tuned BIOS / EUFI utilities, more aggressive stock clocks, product maturity, or even a combination of all three. Comparing the performance of the three 990FX-based boards from Asus, ASRock, and Gigabyte directly, it’s impossible to declare a “winner” in terms of performance alone. All three of the boards performed with a percentage point or two of one another, which falls well within the margin of error of our benchmarks.


Asus CrossHair V Formula - Editor's Choice

Picking our favorite 990FX motherboard of the three represented here was tough, but ultimately we’ve decided to give the Asus CrossHair V Formula our Editor’s Choice award. We have been using this motherboard for weeks and through multiple driver releases, OS installs, and UEFI updates, it has been nothing but rock-solid and reliable throughout. We also think the Asus CrossHair V Formula looks good and its layout is excellent. Asus includes a nice array of accessories, and the board’s UEFI setup utility is among the best we have come across on any motherboard to date, and not just with AMD-based boards either. The CrossHair V Formula is also priced right in the middle of the pack at $229. Those of you looking to lay the foundation for a future Bulldozer build would be well served by the Asus CrossHair V Formula.

With that said, the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional was right there alongside the Asus board throughout and it offers more features, like Firewire, dual-Gigabit LAN, and a front-mountable USB 3.0 panel, for less money. The ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional has a nicely equipped UEFI setup utility as well and it was a perfectly stable and good performing board in every respect. Although we feel the Asus board has a little something extra in terms of refinement, for just under $200 the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Professional is solid product worthy of consideration for your next AMD build.

We have mixed feelings toward the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7. Out of the box, and before doing any formal testing, we initially experienced some random instability with the board. Clearing the CMOS, flashing to the latest BIOS, and doing a clean OS install prior to testing resolved the issues and the board was rock solid afterward, but there are some other things that hold it back in light of competing products. While we like the overall look of the board, the complete lack of color coding could be confusing for less experienced builders. The board's older BIOS utility seems antiquated next to newer UEFI utilities and the 990FXA-UD7 is the most expensive board of the bunch at around $250. The Gigabyte 990FX-UD7 is nice, but considering its price, there are more compelling options currently available.

Asus CrossHair V Formula  

ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Pro 

Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7 



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