One could argue that going out and building a PC using a Phenom II CPU would be a bad idea today. As we saw in our Sandy Bridge Review, Intel pretty easily handles anything AMD can throw at them right now, with as good or better prices. That being said, there will always be people who prefer one company’s products over another. Until AMD responds with their upcoming Bulldozer platform, Athlon II and Phenom II are the best out there from that team.
That’s why we are going to review the Asus Crosshair IV Formula motherboard, which is based on the prematurely dated top-of-the-line AMD 890FX/SB850 chipset. Even if a similarly priced Intel setup performs better (and it will, as you’ll find in the review), we know a lot of you wouldn’t dream of “switching teams”. As you’ll see, the Crosshair IV Formula adds plenty of extra features and gadgets, and is therefore considered a high end motherboard. And that is certainly reflected in the price as it’s selling in the $220 price range, which remarkably makes it more expensive than the fastest AMD desktop processor you can put in it. I guess the idea is that it will take your CPU to greater heights than say, a $130 motherboard using a similar chipset. We’ll find out if this is the case by the end of this review.
How We Review Motherboards
It used to be that motherboards would vary a bit from one another in terms of performance. In those days, there were often several chipsets to choose from, from various manufacturers. In this site’s decade of existence, we have reviewed motherboards with chipsets from AMD, Intel, ATI, Nvidia, Via, and SiS. As you can guess, a board from SiS didn’t quite keep up with one from Intel or Via a lot of the time. Those days aren’t completely gone yet; the rest are still kicking around, serving various niches. But as far as mainstream or high end desktop systems go, you will probably want to stick with an AMD chipset for your AMD CPU, and an Intel chipset for your Intel CPU. This, and the fact that more and more components which once resided on the chipset have moved over to the CPU itself, means that the difference in performance between two motherboards based on the same chipset will be negligible.
Therefore, we have pared down our motherboard review methodology a bit. We will take a brief look at overall performance, just to make sure there is nothing horribly wrong with the motherboard or its drivers. But we will focus more on the actual features of the board – what makes it special? Physical layout is a very important factor on a motherboard, as is overclocking performance on a product like this. Also, boards like the Crosshair IV Formula offer a lot of extra software, and even some hardware features on the board itself. We will also dig deep into onboard peripheral performance. This means things like USB 3.0, SATA speed, and audio features will be investigated thoroughly. This will give us a better idea on why a $220 motherboard might be worth considering over a $130 board for some. If we were to simply throw some benchmarks at it, take some pictures, and paste information from the product page, we would be doing our readers a disservice. On the next page, we’ll look at the board itself, and go from there. As you can imagine, there is a lot to talk about with the Crosshair Formula IV.