Asus Crosshair V Formula Layout
We have seen black PCBs for a long time, but in my opinion, nobody does it better than Gigabyte. As we saw in our review of the Z68XP-UD4, the matte black finish attained by using an extra layer of PCB stands up to all lighting conditions, and looks absolutely gorgeous. The Crosshair V Formula follows a more traditional manufacturing process, which makes the black appear brown under certain lighting conditions, especially when brightly lit. Obviously that doesn’t mean a whole lot once it’s installed in a dark case, and aside from that, the ROG colour scheme works very well.
The Crosshair V Formula is equipped with a total of four full-length PCI-E slots, with variable lanes going to them depending on installation. Only the top slot gets 16 lanes at all times; if using dual video cards (both Nvidia SLI and AMD Crossfire X are supported), both cards will get 16 lanes each. If three video cards are installed, the board switches to a 16/8/8 configuration. The bottom slot always gets 4x PCI-E, and there is another 1x that will certainly be blocked by a video card most of the time. There is also a single PCI slot, just in case you need it.
The AMD 990FX/SB950 chipset supports six SATA ports, all running at full SATA 3.0 speed, or “6 Gbps”. These are supplemented with an ASMedia M1061 SATA controller for an extra internal port. As you’ll see later though, you will only want to use this as a last resort if all other ports are taken. Most of the ports are mounted horizontally, which keeps the SATA cables out of the way of full length video cards.
At this point, I’ll bring up my first complaint about the layout – none of the internal headers are color coded! Although the front panel header includes one of those nifty clearly “Q-Connector” adapters, if you compare the bottom area of this board to Gigabyte’s design, one appears to be more clearly labeled and laid out than the other. There is one internal USB 3.0 header on board, but it is not placed with the rest of the headers, where you’d expect to find it. (it is right below the DIMM slots, so using it in conjunction with a long video card is somewhat troublesome).
Once again, we see the use of ‘single tabbed’ dimm adapters here, which actually makes dimm installation quite a bit easier when a video card is installed. However, I normally don’t like installing dimms one side at a time, as I think it can lead to damaged connectors if you’re not extremely cautious.
Along the right edge of the board in this picture, you can see a number of contacts that Asus calls “ProbeIt”. This is basically an easy way to check voltages manually with a multimeter, instead of digging around for contacts on various power circuitry components. Alternatively, you could just use the software which should be pretty accurate.
Finally, you can see the “Go Button” on the bottom corner. This serves two functions – hold it before booting, and it will run through various settings to see if it can get the memory to boot before the CPU is even initialized. If it cannot boot with the settings saved in the BIOS, it will adjust the timings. If this is not successful, it will lower the frequency. If it still won’t initialize, it will try different voltages. If nothing works, you probably have some bum ram, and need to swap them out and/or continue troubleshooting. Secondly, if pressed from within Windows, it will reboot the system and load the OC profile saved in the BIOS.
Rotating the board one more time, you can see a 4-pin eATX adapter in addition to the standard 8-pin one you would normally use. This is added specifically for sub zero cooled systems.
Just behind the rear panel header is what Asus calls “EZ-Plug”. This is a 4-pin Molex header that can be used to supplement power delivery to the video cards. You won’t ever need to use this in most normal cases, but if you are running two or three video cards and are overclocking all of them, this will certainly come in handy.
On the rear panel, you will find four USB 3.0 ports, seven USB 2.0 ports (there are two internal headers making for eleven total), six analog audio ports for 7.1 surround, an optical audio out, ethernet, external SATA, and a CMOS reset switch. That white USB port you see is the “iROG” connector, which allows you to control the overclocking settings on this board remotely via a USB cable. This can be disabled manually, which turns it into a normal USB 2.0 port.
One interesting feature of this board is the amount of LEDs that are found throughout. Although you can’t really see them in the pictures here, they are everywhere, and each set monitors a component with three colours (green, yellow, red) depending on current voltage. The best way to spot them all would be to look at the layout graphic from the manual.
You may have also noticed that all 8 (!) of the fan headers are 4-pin headers, meaning that if you have a fan that supports PWM control for smooth speed variations, you can install it on any header on the Crosshair V Formula. Additionally, there are three headers for external thermal sensors, which can then be used to control the fans via Fan XPERT software. This allows fine tuning control through direct thermal readings rather than ambient readings.
Now that we’re acquainted with the general layout of the Crosshair V Formula, let’s take a much closer look at each individual component, and see what really makes it tick!