USB 3.0; SLI as well as CrossFire; UEFI
PCIe slots limited to x8 speed when running dual videocards.
To be honest, between Z68 this and Sandy Bridge that, we haven’t had much time to check out AMD's latest motherboard offerings.
It’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that the fire is burning on the other side of the fence these days. That’s not to say that the 990X chipset in Asus’s midrange M5A99X Evo is a slouch. As a real AM3+ board, it’s guaranteed to work with the upcoming Bulldozer line of CPUs from AMD. On the other hand, plenty of older 890FX boards will also work fine with Bulldozer, so is it even worth your time to check out a 990-series board? In a word: yes.
For one thing, these days most 890FX board designs are pretty dated. For example, not all feature USB 3.0 headers. The most exciting change with the 990 series, though, is SLI support. It’s not that we necessarily want to run two Nvidia cards in an AMD board, it’s that we want the freedom to pick our poison. A word to multicard users: The 990X chipset in the M5A99X doesn’t have the PCIe lanes of its performance-oriented 990FX kin. The dual x16 slots run at x8 speeds when running multi-GPUs while 990FX boards let you run two x16 slots at x16 speeds. It’s truly not a deal-breaker for most folks, as the difference in performance is negligible.
Despite its midrange price of around $150, the M5A99X Evo has plenty of features that make it better than older 890FX boards, such as a USB 3.0 header as well as newer and faster USB 3.0 chips. Performance, however, is virtually identical, as we discovered when we tested the M5A99X Evo against MSI’s 890FXA-GD70 board. Oddly, one area where the 990X spanked the MSI board was in SATA 6Gb/s. We're still investigating why, but the Asus is the clear winner.
We also saw a difference in USB 3.0 performance. Like many older boards, the MSI uses the NEC/Renasys USB 3.0 controller. The Asus uses the ASMedia controller, which is a tad bit faster in both reads and writes. We also tested the board with all DIMM slots loaded with DDR3/1333, as well as its performance booting an OS to an OCZ RevoDrive X2—no problems on either count. Our final test was installing a second GeForce GTX 580 card to see if SLI indeed worked. It did.
If there’s anything the Asus board is guilty of, it’s being boring. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Sometimes you don’t want a board that’s loaded down with garish extras. The M5A99X Evo is pretty much a good midrange board that crosses all the t’s and dots all the i’s. With its ultra-modern UEFI, SLI, and front-panel USB 3.0, it’s a board that today may be pedestrian—but is nonetheless satisfying.
|PCIE ||3 PCIe x16 (x16/x8/x4), 2 PCIe x1|
|USB Controller||ASMedia ASM 1042|
|USB 2.0 Ports/Headers||8 / 3|
|USB 3.0 Ports/Headers ||2 / 1|
|Other I/O ||FireWire, eSATA|
|Video Ports ||N/A|
|SATA 3Gb/s Ports||2|
|SATA 6Gb/s Ports||6|
|Asus M5A99X-Evo||MSI 890FXA-GD70|
|PCMark7 Storage ||1,847||1,851*|
|3DMark 2011 P5760 ||P5760||P5630|
|Valve Particle (fps) ||114||116*|
|AIDA64 Read (Mb/s) ||8,569*||8,344|
|AIDA64 Write (Mb/s) ||7.047*||6.992|
|AIDA64 Copy (Mb/s)||10,493*||10,481|
|AIDA Latency (NS)||52.4||52.6|
|SiSoftware Sandra (Gb/s) ||12.86*||12.77|
|SATA6 Seq. Read (MB/s) ||484.4*||372.2|
|SATA6 Seq. Write (MB/s)||299.6*||288.6|
|USB 3.0 Seq. Read (MB/s)||191.4*||178.5|
|USB 3.0 Seq. Write (MB/s)||178.8*||164.8|
|16GB RAM Compliance||Pass||Pass|
|Boot to PCIe Drive||Pass||Pass|
Best scores are marked with an asterisk (*). All tests were conducted with a 3.3GHz AMD Phenom II 1100T, 4GB of Patriot DDR3/1333 RAM, a GeForce GTX 580, a WD VelociRaptor, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional. The SATA6 results were obtained using CrystalDiskMark 3 run on an OWC Mercury Pro 6G. The USB 3.0 results were obtained using CrystalDiskMark 3 run on an OCZ Enyo USB 3.0 drive. The boot-to-PCIe compliance was obtained with an OCZ Revo X2 drive.