A few months ago, we reviewed a handful of budget AM3 motherboards and were surprised at the quality offered by sub-$100 products.
Since AMD owns the entry-level CPU market, it only makes sense that there are plenty of affordable motherboards, but with the Phenom II X6 range gaining popularity, users are once again looking to invest big in the AM3 platform.
The Asus Crosshair IV Extreme is set to sell for $300, easily making it the most expensive AM3 product around and costing considerably more than the already opulent Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD7. With most high-end AM3 motherboards priced below $200, you have to wonder what is so special about Asus' offering.
Without beating around the bush, what separates the Crosshair IV Extreme apart from the pack is Asus' CrossLinx 3 technology. This allows users to mix and match multiple graphics cards from both AMD and Nvidia, including models of different GPU generations. CrossLinx 3 uses the Lucid HydraLogix engine, which bridges various graphics cards to enable their simultaneous usage.
The HydraLogix engine accomplishes this by removing the numerous compatibility hurdles making it possible to experiment with different configurations of graphics cards for maximum performance. At least that is the theory, and today we plan to put this new technology to the test in order to see how well it fares compared to a traditional CrossFireX setup.
The Crosshair IV Extreme implementation features a unique layout design that boasts a total of five PCI Express x16 expansion slots. Two of these provide dedicated native graphics card support for either a single GPU or CrossFire configuration. The other three are connected to the HydraLogix controller and support a mixture of graphics cards from different vendors and generations.
It goes without saying that while the Asus Crosshair IV Extreme supports a number of new features, such as USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s, it is the CrossLinx 3 technology that has piqued our interest and everybody else's, let's not forget this motherboard was showcased back in May and it just became available for purchase late September. With that in mind, we will focus primarily on testing CrossLinx 3 to see how well it works, but you can expect us to run our typical battery of tests as well.
Just Cause 2 is a heavily GPU-dependent video game so the CPU/motherboard combination makes very little difference here. We found that the Asus Crosshair IV Extreme, which was using the GeForce GTX 480 graphics card, produced the same performance as the Formula.
Unlike Just Cause 2, Far Cry 2 relies on both the GPU and CPU. Here the Asus Crosshair IV Extreme was a fraction quicker than the Formula. However, the Phenom II X4 1090T is considerably slower than the Core i5 and Core i7 processors in this game.
When testing Resident Evil 5, we found the Crosshair IV Extreme to be slightly faster than the Formula.
There's no question that the Asus Crosshair IV Extreme is a high quality motherboard. It's undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, AM3 motherboard we have seen in terms of features and performance. Having said that, compared to Crosshair IV Formula, the "Extreme" version doesn't seem all that much more extreme — except maybe its price tag, which is ~25% higher than the Formula's.
When you compare both motherboards on paper, it becomes clear how little they differ. Other than a few minor changes to components such as the Gigabit LAN controller, they are very much the same. The key addition to the Crosshair IV Extreme is of course the Lucid HydraLogix engine, and as much as we like the idea behind it, its drivers still need a lot of work and we seriously question its worth at the moment.
If the technology worked as advertised, users wouldn't have to rely on AMD or Nvidia to implement multi-GPU support for new games. However, folks would have to wait for Lucid to update its drivers to support new graphics cards, drivers and games. It's a bit of a messy scenario and it's already caused us a number of headaches.
We saw next to no performance increase when mixing AMD and Nvidia graphics cards, and HydraLogix was considerably slower than CrossFire when using two Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards. Furthermore, we weren't able to use any Radeon HD 6800 series graphics cards. Unfortunately, we didn't experience the Extreme's "SLI-like" performance either, as we found no performance gains when adding a second GeForce GTX 480 graphics card, even though the HydraLogix control panel appeared to be working.
We ultimately showed you very little testing with the HydraLogix engine as it was a bust. While some games such as Crysis showed small gains, most did not. Therefore, we did not want to paint the wrong picture by only showing the games that we could get to work, if only to a certain degree. The bottom line is, in its current state, no gamer is going to want to use the HydraLogix engine. Period.
We see very little sense in purchasing the Crosshair IV Extreme. At $300 the Asus Crosshair IV Extreme is more expensive than most Intel X58 motherboards, and for around $80 less the Formula would save you money that is better spent on a more powerful graphics card. Alternatively, the Asus P6TD Deluxe supports both CrossFire and SLI natively without sacrificing any scaling performance and costs only $230, leaving headroom for a more expensive Core i7 processor.
Besides the HydraLogix engine's disappointing performance, we really liked the Asus Crosshair IV Extreme. In addition to including every single possible feature a motherboard could support, its overclocking ability is second to none. But as pointed out before, if you are seeking for the most extreme AM3 motherboard possible, the Asus Crosshair IV Extreme undoubtedly fits the bill, but the Crosshair IV Formula is essentially the same with a far more sensible price tag.
Features & Specifications
Board Design & Layout
BIOS & Overclocking
Test System Specs
CrossfireX vs. Hydra
Republished with permission from TechSpot.com.
Steven Walton is the chief hardware editor at TechSpot; he also runs his own review site Legion Hardware.
TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.