- Review Price: £134.10
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.
There is a single PS/2 port for the keyboard, one Firewire port, six USB ports and Gigabit LAN – this is a Formula model rather than an Extreme Edition so extra bells and whistles such as a second LAN ports are absent. The I/O panel also carries an eSATA port that is connected to the SB750 Southbridge rather than a separate controller, with the result that there are five SATA ports on the board rather than the usual six. Integrated audio is handled by the SupremeFX card which plugs into a dedicated PCI Express x1 slot and which carries six audio mini jacks along with coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs.
Asus includes a bracket that carries two more USB ports and a second Firewire port and there are headers for four more USB ports on board.
As this is a Republic Of Gamers board you naturally get a few extras such as the external Reset button on the I/O panel and at the foot of the board there are three more micro buttons for Power, Reset and Clear CMOS.
There’s a new feature that is included with all new Republic Of Gamers models i.e. Rampage II (Core i7 on X58), Maximus II (Core 2 on P45) and Crosshair III which is a connector on the board that is compatible with the new Republic Of Gamers OC Station. OC Station allows you to adjust voltage and clock settings using the control knob and pin-sharp LCD screen without any need to dive into the BIOS. It is fairly expensive at £125 and requires a pair of external five and a quarter inch drive bays in your PC case for installation. The OC Station also acts as a fan control unit but it seems like an expensive way to avoid navigating round the BIOS screen.
Asus includes another goodie in the package in the shape of its External LCD Poster which we have covered in previous reviews. The short version is that it is a small LCD gizmo that displays POST debug messages in English instead of the usual numeric code.
The passive coolers on the chipset and power regulation hardware have been given a cosmetic makeover and look very smart in their gunmetal grey finish. Asus claims that its Pin Fin Thermal Module technology increases the surface area of each heatsink to help the efficiency of each cooler.
The BIOS contains the usual Republic Of Gamers features including CPU Level Up where you can select a preset profile to automatically overclock your processor. Our 2.6GHz Phenom II 810 offered three options which were 2.8GHz, 3.0GHz and 3.2GHz and they worked perfectly well however we had no trouble manually overclocking to 3.41GHz.
In essence the new Crosshair III is an M4A79T Deluxe with some useful extra features that are essentially free of charge. Brilliant!
Score in detail
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