Early this year we reviewed the Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe, a high-end Phenom supporting motherboard that featured the AMD 790FX chipset. But while gamers wanting to use Crossfire technology will no doubt be quite happy with that product, those wanting to use multiple Nvidia-based graphics cards are going to have to look elsewhere.
Unfortunately SLI support does come at a price and choice premium for AMD users. The Asus Crosshair II Formula that we will be testing today features the Nvidia nForce 780a SLI chipset, which is currently the most advanced SLI capable chipset available to AMD users. This new Asus motherboard is a member of the elite Republic of Gamers series, meaning that it is geared towards gaming.
Given the continued pressure from Intel in terms of price and overall value, AMD has been put in a less than comfortable situation. Back in January when we reviewed the M3A32-MVP Deluxe, the Phenom pricing strategy was already on aggressive mode, but now AMD has been forced to accommodate further. Today you can get a quad-core 2.5GHz flagship model, namely the Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition processor, for just $235. It is now also possible to pick up a triple-core Phenom for just under $150, making these new AMD processors an attractive option for bargain hunters.
There is already a huge range of AM2+ motherboards to choose from, many of which cost less than $100. However, for those looking for something a little more equipped than your typical sub-$100 motherboard, the Asus Crosshair II Formula is meant to be suited for those needs - or, of course, the M3A32-MVP Deluxe using the 790FX chipset, which currently retails for roughly $220.
In the past, motherboards using the Intel variation of the Nvidia nForce 780 SLI chipset have not exactly impressed us, as they tend to consume considerably more power while providing users with no additional performance. Therefore it shall be interesting to see how the nForce 780a SLI stacks up against the 790FX in terms of performance and power consumption.
There is one feature on the Crosshair II Formula that is quite unusual, a GeForce 8 on-board GPU. This is the first enthusiast platform to feature Nvidias HybridPower technology, featuring 3-way SLI for maximum graphics performance and HybridPower for low-power quiet operation. Because not all users are going to be interested in this feature, it is important that the Crosshair II Formula still performs well using a single graphics card. But before we delve deep into the performance figures, lets take a more in-depth look at the board itself.