Today I will be looking at the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 utilising AMD’s 990FX/SB950 chipset, supporting AMD AM3+ FX™/Phenom™ II/Athlon™ II/Sempron™ 100 Series Processors. The ATX Form-Factor M5A99FX PRO R2.0 sports Asus’s new Dual Intelligent Processors 3 with New DIGI+ Power Control; ‘allowing ultra-precise DRAM tuning in addition to ultra-precise CPU voltage control – a first on the AMD platform’. Other notable features of the motherboard are Remote GO! – ‘One-stop PC Remote Control and Home Entertainment’, Direct Key – allows access to the BIOS at a hardware level (no more spamming the DEL key!), USB BIOS Flashback – allowing BIOS updates to be performed directly to the board via USB (it even works without key components such as the CPU and memory installed!) and finally the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 also has full support for Windows 8.
The front of the box promotes the use of Asus’s new Dual Intelligent Processors 3 and show cases support for Nvidia’s SLI and AMD CrossFireX technologies. In addition to the Windows 8 support the front of the box highlights a few of the special features of the M5A99FX PRO R2.0 including; Precise Power Control, One-Stop Entertainment, True UASP Support, Easy BIOS flashback and Direct BIOS Access.
The back of the box features a layout of the motherboard highlighting certain features, there is also a technical specifications section giving a condensed list of the board’s specifications and features. In addition to this the back of the box focuses on the following : Dual Intelligent Processors 3 with New Digi+ Power Control, Remote GO!, USB 3.0 Boost and Network iControl.
The M5A99FX PRO R2.0 came relatively well packed with the motherboard in an anti-static bag and held in its box by way of a cardboard tray. Below the tray was the bundled items and these are listed below:
SLI bridge connector
SATA Mode Notice (good to see as AHCI is necessary for maximum performance!)
Quick Start Guide (Non English)
x4 SATA 6.0GB/s cables (with 90 degree connector at one end)
User Guide (ALL English 100+ pages always good to see)
Q-Connectors (these things are really useful as they provide a single plug for all of the front connectors etc)
At the time of writing the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 is retailing for approximately £110 and comes with a 3 year warranty.
First Impressions of the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 was, well my words were actually ‘that looks nice’ closely followed by ‘the motherboard looks amazing’, I guess I must like blue! But in all honesty the board does look good with its blue heat-sinks and matching blue DIMM sockets and PCIE sockets, with the Dual Intelligent Processors III heat-sink stealing the show.
Let’s take a quick tour of the board corner by corner.
The top left quadrant of the board is obviously where you will find the PCIE slots etc. From top to bottom (see image above left) you have a PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (blue), PCIe 2.0 x1 slot (blue), PCIe 2.0 x4 slot (black), PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (blue), PCI slot (light blue) and finally a PCIe 2.0 x4 slot (black). As you can see from these specifications the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 supports both Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFireX. Working anticlockwise around the edge of this quadrant from top-left we find two of the three available chassis fan headers and then at the bottom we see the digital audio connector, front panel audio connector and then the BIOS Flashback button, after this you have the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header followed by the board’s three USB 2.0 headers.
Moving on across to the top right quadrant of the board the Dual Intelligent Processors III heat-sink and the AM3+/AM3 socket take pride of place. The I/O takes up most of the top section of the board, this will be described in detail later. To the right of the CPU socket you can see the ATX 8-pin 12V power connector and the dual CPU fan headers.
The bottom left quadrant of the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 features the South Bridge heat-sink in the centre. Looking around the outside of this quadrant we see a Serial Port connector (white) and the Direct Key button for instant BIOS access. Continuing in an anti-clockwise direction we find the front panel connector in the corner and the Direct Key header just to the right of it (this provides support for an additional button to operate the Direct Key functionality). Continuing we find the Standby Power LED then the four AMD Serial ATA 6.0GB/s connectors (grey) followed by two ASMedia Serial ATA 6.0GB/s connectors (blue). Finally we have the third Chassis fan header and another single AMD Serial ATA 6.0GB/s connector (grey).
In the bottom right quadrant we find the four DDR3 DIMM slots and around the edge we have a single USB 3.0 header, the main ATX 24-pin 12V power connector, the DRAM LED indicator and Mem OK button.
The Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 I/O Panel comes with various inputs and outputs including (from left to right/top to bottom):
PS/2 mouse port
PS/2 keyboard port
Optical S/PDIF Out port
USB 3.0 ports 1 AND 2
USB 2.0 ports 1 AND 2
USB 2.0 ports 3 and 4
External SATA port
USB 2.0 ports 5 and 6
LAN (RJ-45) port
USB 2.0 ports 7 and 8
Audio I/O ports
For this review I replaced my existing Intel setup (ASRock Z77 Pro4-M and Intel Core i5-2500K) for the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 and a AMD Bulldozer FX-6 Six Core 6200 CPU, it’s sure to be interesting to see how the two setups compare when in comes to Gaming.
Installation was a simple affair, as one would expect really with the layout of the board being pretty standard, which is always nice to see. Fitting my Corsair H60 to the AM3+ socket was also easy, even easier than the Intel setup! Of course those handy Q-Connectors that Asus supplied with the M5A99FX PRO R2.0 ensured that the fiddly job of wiring up the front panel cables was made far easier (is it only Asus that use these, have they got some kind of patent!?).
Knowing that David had run into some issues with his Asus M5A97 PRO and his AMD FX-4100 where the BIOS didn’t recognise his CPU, I was a little concerned when first booting the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0. Although I didn’t need to be as the board booted up first time…
As I was swapping both motherboard and CPU I installed a fresh copy of Windows 7 Home Premium (service pack 1) as well as all other necessary Drivers. The Asus MB Drivers installed can be seen below, the latest versions were obtained from the Asus website, here.
The Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 we received was equipped with version 0707 BIOS, this was upgraded to 0803 (this is the only release after 0707) to ensure maximum compatibility and stability. This was done via the Asus EZ Flash 2 utility found within the Tools section of the UEFI. The process was found to be very simple and easy.
AMD Chipset Driver V3.0.825.0 for Windows 64bit XP & 64bit Vista & 64bit 7.(WHQL)
Realtek Audio Driver V126.96.36.19970 for Windows 7 32bit & 64bit.(WHQL)
Realtek LAN Driver V188.8.131.522 for Windows Win7 32bit & Win7 64bit.(WHQL)
Asmedia USB 3.0 Driver V184.108.40.206 for Windows XP 32bit & XP 64bit & Win7 32bit & Win7 64bit.(WHQL)
After the machine was booted it was straight into the UEFI/BIOS, the Asus UEFI is a slick affair and was very easy to navigate, with some of the more complex features of the motherboard hidden within the Advanced Mode (F7).
After proving that the machine was stable at the default settings of 3.8GHz with a a Base Clock of 100 it was time to see if I could push the AMD Bulldozer FX-6 Six Core 6200 Black Edition a little further.
After a fair amount of messing within the UEFI (Multipliers/Base Clocks/Voltages) etc, I was surprised (and in someway pleased) to find that the best overclock that I could get that was fully stable was via the Asus Optimal Setting in the UEFI!
The Asus Optimal setting set the CPU Boost speed to 4.177MHz via a Base Clock of 116MHz. As the memory was set to 1600MHz this resulted in a memory speed of 1728 with timings of 8-8-8-24.
Benchmark Results (with VTX3D AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB)
Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 @ 4.177GHz (Asus Optimal Setting 216MHz BClk)
As you can see the benchmark figures for the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 show some pretty good results, with the Asus Optimal Mode providing even more bang for your buck. This particular mode at approx 4.2GHz was super stable throughout testing and provided a one touch option for a decent 10% overclock, very useful if you’re new to overclocking (especially on AMD) as it prevents you having to get into Multipliers/Base Clocks and Voltages etc.
Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 @ 4.177GHz (Asus Optimal Setting 216MHz BClk)
Intel 2500K setup @ 4.4GHz (my default rig)
Of course this setup can’t compete with the default Intel setup that I normally run (2500K @4.4GHz), but then don’t forget that your talking about just over £200 for the motherboard and the CPU as opposed to around £275 for the Intel setup! As you can see from the more Gaming orientated benchmarks (Unigine & Metro 2033) the the figures are not that different either…
The Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 came well packaged and with a good bundle including that really useful Q-Connector. The board looks great and the layout is also well thought out, just what you would expect from Asus.
The M5A99FX PRO R2.0 also has a good deal of useful features including the ability to support both SLI and CrossFireX and the board is also Windows 8 ready. The extra BIOS features, Direct Key and Flashback buttons are also a welcome sight and not something I have seen before. They could prove most useful especially if the board get’s it knickers in a twist during a risky overclock. Although I have to say that the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0 never put a foot wrong during my time with the board! Add to this support for USB 3.0 and x7 (x5 via the AMD Chipset) internal SATA 6GB/s ports and Asus’s Dual Intelligent Processors 3 technology and you have a damn fine AMD (Socket AM3+) motherboard.
Overclocking via the the UEFI was a simple affair if you just wanted to use the Asus optimal Mode, using this mode I was able to push our (somewhat reluctant) AMD FX 6200 up to 4.2GHz from its default 3.8GHz. Manual overclocking, although simple within the UEFI netted me no better results that the Asus Optimal Mode, which was a shame, but is more likely down to the CPU than the board I feel.
Overall I have enjoyed my time with the Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0, if you’re looking to save some money over an Intel setup then this board from Asus is well worth a look.