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Asus 970 Pro Gaming/Aura Motherboard Review

Asus' 970 Pro Gaming/Aura board includes the SB950 south bridge in the 970 chipset, offering budget-minded builders more value. Let's see how this platform stacks up against the competition.

How We Test

I decided to ditch the DDR3-1600 modules from Mushkin due to the requests by the commenters on my previous articles, and searched the labs for an appropriate alternative. Fortunately, Thomas had finished looking at a 2800MHz kit from Klevv in his DDR3 vs. DDR4 article, and he had access to the 2666MHz variant. Two 8GB kits now fully populate my test system.

The main downside to this addition is that these kits also emit an aura of their own. In order to implement the diodes, they have a taller heat spreader than standard DIMMs, and those force me to reverse the orientation of my CPU cooler. This isn't too big of a deal, but it did prove to be an airflow challenge when overclocking this specimen.  

To keep these Vishera cores cool, a Sunbeamtech cooler is utilized to provide maximum air-cooling capacity across all of my AMD test platforms. Zalman's ZM-STG1 paste is used as the thermal compound for this test platform. 

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It might not be the latest generation, but the Radeon HD 7970 has enough performance to play the latest games at decent settings. It's heavy and it draws a lot of power, which makes it a good candidate for testing the power subsystem of my test samples.

Even with these power-hungry components, this 500W, 80 Plus Gold-certified power supply has no problem keeping the system going with constant power while running the standard test suite and individual stress tests.  However, these components will draw a little more than 500W of power when running both Prime95 and FurMark.  Note to self: When conducting a 100 percent stress test, get more power!

The Mushkin Chronos SSD is still running strong in this AMD test system, so I will continue to use that disc. We are still finalizing our Windows 10 test image across our reviewing teams, so I am still using my same hard disk image from my previous review. However, I did implement two game benchmarks to please the crowd and provide some reference points to compare against previous writers' suites.

Test System Configuration

Test System Configuration
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
Software
GraphicsAMD
ChipsetAMD 970 & SB950

Benchmark Settings

Synthetic Benchmarks And Settings
PCMark 8Version: 1.0 Work, Home, and Creative Benchmarks
SiSoftware SandraVersion 2014.02.20.10 CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Cryptography File System Bandwidth Memory Bandwidth
3D Tests And Settings
3DMark 11Basic Edition, Version 1.0.5.0, Default Preset
3DMark 13Version 1.1 Test Set 1: Firestrike, 1920x1080, Default Preset Test Set 2: Firestrike Extreme, 2560x1440 Default Preset
Application Tests And Settings
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677 MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.9.9 Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3 Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
Adobe After EffectsVersion 12.0.0.404 Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14.0 Test 1: CPU, Test 2: OpenCL Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premiere CS6Version 6.0.0.0 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
ABBYY FineReader 10Version 10.0.102.95 Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XIVersion 11.0.0 Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
BlenderVersion 2.68a Helicopter 2.6.1 Scene Render DirectX 11, Low Detail, 1920x1080, No AA, No Tesselation
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 5.0.39.0 Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
7-ZipVersion 9.30THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
WinRARVersion 5.00THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
WinZIPVersion 18.0 Test 1: OpenCL, Test 2: CPU THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
Game Tests And Settings
Fallout 4v 1.4.132.0.0 Ultra Preset
Battlefield 4Latest Update as of 4/1/2016 Ultra Preset

One final note about my configuration: I ran all of these benchmarks in DDR3-2133MHz mode. I did this intentionally, to show how much of a performance increase we will see in the synthetics, while demonstrating that this doesn't play out as well in the applications.

Comparison Motherboards

  • amclaren4
    It is nice to see something almost new. This looks good for the money. It would be nice to see how the M.2 preformed, as this is a new addition.
    Reply
  • Onus
    I'd like to know more about the M.2 slot also. Is it SATA, PCIe, or both? Are any other ports disabled when it is used?
    Otherwise, this board appears to be quite robust in the range of ports and slots it provides. PCIe 2.0 vs. 3.0 is not yet an issue, and may not be for some time. You said it supports SLI? That's rare for the 970, so could be a big deal for some.
    Reply
  • Lutfij
    I think Asus have employed their T-Topology understanding from Intel to help get those ram slots closer to the socket space to help with the board produce better overclocking results.

    Remember, Asus themselves had stated that these technology advancements see a tricking down over generations and revisions in their product lines.
    Reply
  • This is a motherboard review, where is the DPC latency?

    I got my sabertooth 990fx in 2011. It's almost off it's 5 year warranty. Time machine is right, this board makes absolutely no sense.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    There's two questions I have:

    1. Is that an ultra M2 slot on that motherboard? I didn't know 970 and 990FX supported ultra M2.

    2. Is it really worth it to buy 970 / 990FX at this point when AMD is very close to releasing a new line of CPUs that will use a new socket?
    Reply
  • theterk
    I'd like to know more about the M.2 slot also. Is it SATA, PCIe, or both? Are any other ports disabled when it is used?
    Otherwise, this board appears to be quite robust in the range of ports and slots it provides. PCIe 2.0 vs. 3.0 is not yet an issue, and may not be for some time. You said it supports SLI? That's rare for the 970, so could be a big deal for some.
    I'm definitely interested in testing some M.2 if it's not already covered by the storage reviewers. this board looks like it's using PCIe 2.0 x4. SLI confirmed on ASUS website.
    Reply
  • svan71
    only 2 years late...
    Reply
  • Quixit
    only 2 years late...

    More like 5 years.
    Reply
  • Nintendork
    AMD should've launched at least Excavator based FX's.
    Reply
  • buzznut47
    I own the Asrock 990FX Killer board, The selling point there is that it uses a Killer NIC for high speed internet gaming. And of course the Fatality moniker, although I'm not sure dude even plays video games anymore.

    I thought it would be worth mentioning, That particular board has a notorious overheating problem with the Northbridge. As such I eventually had to buy an active cooler which added close to $20 extra.
    It is operating at a very nice temp now, so I'm not sure what's wrong with the chipset heatsink. Its not cheap aluminum, it has a bit of heft to it; almost feels like Acetal. Temp issues were resolved immediately after replacing with an Evercool chipset cooler with a 60 mm fan.

    Regardless, if you read up reviews on the Killer board you will certainly find the many complaints about the overheating Northbridge. Mine got hot enough to boil water @ 100C. So for the value portion, I think you could add the additional cost of a decent Northbrige cooler.

    Had the ASUS board been available when I purchased the 990FX board, I likely would have gone with that. I may pick one up anyway, I like it.
    Reply