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Over the past couple of years we have reviewed umpteen Asus motherboards including nine models from the Republic Of Gamers range yet in all that time we have never had an Asus Crosshair on the bench. We're not sure that tells us anything profound but it's intriguing nonetheless.
So this week we're reviewing the Asus Crosshair III Formula which supports Socket AM3 processors by way of the AMD 790FX and SB750 chipset as per the M4A79T Deluxe. This is a major change as previous Crosshair models have used an Nvidia chipset, starting with the nForce 590 SLI chipset on the original Crosshair and moving on to nForce 780a SLI for the Crosshair II, which increased SLI support from two to three Nvidia graphics cards.
The Crosshair III heads off in a new direction as it supports Socket AM3 processors with DDR3 memory and of course the dual graphics slots support CrossFireX rather than SLI. Also, the price of the Crosshair III is significantly lower than the Crosshair II, dropping from £195 to £137. As far as we can see most of the price cut is thanks to the cheaper AMD chipset.
If you trawl through the extensive Asus product range you will come across the M4N82 Deluxe which supports Socket AM3 with Tri-SLI at a cost of £133 and you may leap to the conclusion that it could be a competitor to the Crosshair III. A closer reading shows that the M4N82 Deluxe uses the nForce 980a SLI chipset, which looks spangly and new but is actually the same 780a SLI seen on Crosshair II just with a different label. The CPU socket is Socket AM2+ (which also supports Socket AM3 processors) but the memory slots on the M4N82 are DDR2 rather than DDR3.
The Crosshair III shares most of its major features with the M4A79T Deluxe including the 8+2 power set-up and the performance of the two models is very similar. We reviewed the M4A79T Deluxe with a Radeon 4870 X2 rather than the HD 4890 that we currently use but if you allow for that difference the two motherboards return the same performance. They also overclock to similar speeds with our Phenom II X4 810 going from 2.6GHz standard speed to 3.38GHz on the M4A79T Deluxe and 3.41GHz on the Crosshair III.
The intriguing thing is that the M4A79T Deluxe has dropped in price by a significant amount since our review in February and can now be found at £130 so it is effectively the same price as the Crosshair III. These similarities mean we have to look at the features offered by the Crosshair III to try and separate the two models.
The layout of the Crosshair III is exemplary with plenty of space around the major components. The main change from the M4A79T Deluxe is the wide spacing between the two PCI Express 2.0 x16 graphics slots. You can install the biggest, chunkiest dual slot graphics cards on the market without any worries about the circulation of cooling air.
With dual graphics cards installed you pretty much remove any scope for installing expansion cards but this shouldn't pose much of a problem as the Crosshair III comes loaded with a decent array of ports and connectors.