Asus' motherboard did the greatest number of things well, while MSI’s accurate voltage setting allowed it to take the overclocking lead under a very narrow set of circumstances. But how did these two perform?
The big surprise from today’s performance charts is that Gigabyte wins, in spite of Asus’ 0.35% uncorrectable overclock. And we’ve yet to consider price and slot layout differences that might make different products suitable for different buyers.
During our overclock tests, we ran into problems because most boards jumped from 1.440 V to 1.456 V, violating our 1.45 V limit, since the latter setting rounds to 1.46 V. After-hours testing showed that Biostar would have won if 1.46V were the limit. The TA890FXE is also the cheapest board in today’s roundup at $140, making it the perfect choice for budget overclockers who don’t care about its lack of USB 3.0 capability.
For a few dollars more than the low-cost Biostar, ASRock’s $155 890FX Deluxe3 offers a more CrossFire-friendly slot layout and is the only board in today’s roundup to offer four USB 3.0 ports. Windows XP users who need to load AHCI drivers will also note that this is the least-expensive board to include a legacy floppy interface. ASRock’s overclocking capabilities are about average, but the “average” of today’s contenders is fairly high from a historical perspective.
Gigabyte has the highest overall performance, yet its oversized PCB requires an eight-slot case simply to accomodate the board, and using its bottom slot to hold a double-slot graphics card requires a case with nine or more slots (Thanks to Doron for pointing out the nine-slot case) . Owners of 10-slot cases will likely consider the $240 890FXA-UD7 as the best four-card solution.
Anyone who wants to fit a similar four-card CrossFireX configuration into an eight-slot case will be happy to see that MSI’s $200 890FXA-GD70 is also $40 cheaper than its Gigabyte rival. Better still, buyers who don’t need space for that fourth double-slot graphics card will find that the 890FXA-GD70 actually fits in a standard seven-slot ATX chassis. Yet, MSI buyers must forgo a few minor features to get this lower price, such as the loss of one eSATA and one SATA port. They must also be willing to believe that MSI’s lower-cost five-phase voltage regulator is still durable enough to satisfy their overclocking needs over the long term.
Hardcore overclockers might put the Crosshair IV Formula on top of their lists, even though it didn’t win our basic overclocking tests. Instead, this is a board designed to support higher CPU current at higher voltage levels typically used in liquid nitrogen overclocking competitions. One might expect that altering a few settings on-the-fly could give them a special advantage in these types of competitions, and for that, Asus adds it RoG Connect feature. Its Go Button feature can also be handy for more basic on-the-fly changes without connecting a second system. ProbeIT allows tuners to more easily monitor voltage levels from a meter, and Asus even uses 10 high-capacity phases, rather than medium-duty parts, to help keep these voltage levels more consistent. But as nice a board as the Crosshair IV Formula is, its less-flexible slot spacing and reduced connectivity could make its $230 price seem reasonable only in the minds of professional overclockers.