Besides the LEDs and MemOK! feature, there are quite a few additional features that set the Crosshair III Formula apart from ASUSí other AM3-based 790FX motherboard, the M4A79T Deluxe. For starters thereís the boardís audio solution, SupremeFX X-Fi.
Whereas the M4A79T Deluxe uses an audio CODEC from Realtek, the Crosshair III Formula uses a chip from Analog Devices. The ADI CODEC supports Creative Labs EAX 4.0 suite, which includes support for features found on Creative X-Fi audio cards like their CMSS-3D positional audio technology that is designed to turn your stereo music and games into full 3D audio. The X-Fi Crystalizer can be used to convert your MP3 files into near DVD-audio quality.
The SupremeFX audio module also contains a bevy of audio outputs. Youíve got optical and SPDIF outputs, as well as line-in and microphone inputs, and all the outputs youíll need to drive a 7.1 speaker system.
Diagnosing problems at bootup can be difficult if you arenít an experienced system builder. As we just mentioned, memory errors can be hard to diagnose, or perhaps you simply didnít install a component correctly.
To help solve this problem, motherboard manufacturers have been integrating diagnostic LED displays on their high-end motherboards for years, but these displays require you to lookup two-digit hex codes in the back of your motherboard manual: they donít literally tell you the various stages during POST.
ASUSí LCD Poster goes one step beyond the traditional diagnostic LED display. Itís an external LCD screen that ships with the motherboard and reports the exact stages during POST -- memory initialization, CPU detection, VGA initialization, etc, so you instantly know what the motherboard was doing before it locked up. As a result, you generally know what caused the error during POST.
The LCD Poster can also be used to monitor CPU voltages and other hardware monitoring functionality. ASUS includes a generous amount of cable, so you can hook the module up to your motherboard, and then run the cable to your desk for easy monitoring.
Another key difference between the M4A79T Deluxe and the Crosshair III Formula is the formerís support for 4-Way CrossFire. With just two PCI Express graphics slots, the Crosshair III Formula is limited to 2-Way CrossFire support. ASUS also pairs the board with one fewer PCI slot, but in exchange you get an x1 PCIe slot; the M4A79T Deluxe doesnít feature any x1 PCIe slots. The Crosshair III Formula on the other hand has two (the uppermost slot is reserved for the SupremeFX audio).
Crosshair III Formula on left, M4A79T Deluxe right
Losing the two PCI Express graphics slots may sound like a big deal at first, but honestly it isnít. When you think about it, all of ATIís best graphics cards now rely on dual-slot cooling, and even most of the Radeon 4850 cards on the market today have phased out the single-slot reference design in favor of dual-slot coolers. The only Radeon GPU that ships in large quantities with single-slot cooling is really the Radeon 4670, and even there youíll find an increasing number of cards shipping with dual-slot coolers.
There are other subtle changes between the M4A79T Deluxe and the Crosshair III Formula Ė the M4A79T Deluxe for instance supports ASUS Express Gate and the Crosshair III Formula doesnít, but keep in mind that the M4A79Tís Express Gate implementation isnít hardware-based; instead of embedding the OS on a memory chip integrated on the board youíll need to install it on your system hard drive. ASUSí hardware-based Express Gate implementation boost significantly faster than this scheme. The Deluxe board also ships with a floppy connector, while the Crosshair III Formula doesnít. The SATA ports are also laid out differently and the boards of course have different cooling.
The general design of both boards is quite similar though, itís quite clear that ASUS didnít start with a blank canvas for the Crosshair III Formula Ė many components are placed in the same location on both boards. They both feature 8+2 phase power solutions too.