Provided by: ASUS
No compensation was received for review of this product.
Price: $149.99 (Amazon.com)
At a price point of $149.99, the ASUS M5A99FX PRO is in the mainstream category of 990FX motherboards.
Benchmarks – There are some interesting benchmark results from the data gathered here, such as the PCMark7 score, which looks very different and unexpected. For the most part however, the ASUS M5A99FX R2.0 performed as expected, and was easily pushed to a stable 5GHz for even better performance.
Board Layout – The M5A99FX PRO R2.0 has a standard ATX form factor at 12-inch by 9.6-inches but it has plenty of extra onboard features compared to typical mainstream mainboards. The layout is well thought out and there are no obstructions on the onboard buttons or the SATA ports even when the PCI-E x16 slots are populated with dual SLI or CrossFireX video cards. Minor clearance issues are only present when populating the lower black PCI-E 4x slot as the lower onboard headers could be blocked.
UEFI BIOS – ASUS’ UEFI has been very solid ever since it was first introduced and remains very user friendly and easy to navigate. The M5A99FX Pro R2.0 motherboard also utilizes the new CAP format BIOS which improves POST and boot up time, not just in Windows 8 but in Windows 7, as well. There is also an enhanced level of security and stability with the CAP format compared to the old ROM format BIOS.
Pre-bundled Accessories – The ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0 is a mainstream motherboard and as such does not have any extra accessories aside from the essentials: Four SATA cables, a dual SLI bridge, a Q-connector pack, the I/O shield, documentation and software disc.
Pre-bundled Software – ASUS’s driver CD also comes with the AI Suite II software package that can be extremely useful to most users and comprised of such programs as: TurboV EVO, Probe II, EPU, Fan Xpert, Probe II, Sensor Recorder and more. These are all modular and optional so users can install them only when needed or wanted. These programs are also very tightly integrated with the motherboard’s functions and can solely monitor or overclock the CPU just as well as through the UEFI.
Wireless – The M5A99FX PRO does not have onboard wireless connectivity features.
LAN – ASUS utilizes Realtek 8111F Gigabit LAN which provides decent transfer rate performance.
USB 3.0 – Since there is no native USB 3.0 functionality built-in to AMD’s chipset, ASUS utilizes a pair of ASMedia 1042 chips providing four USB 3.0 ports (two via header and two in the rear I/O) with very good read/write performance, especially with UASP support.
SATA 6G – AMD’s SB950 chipset supports up to six SATA3 6G ports natively but ASUS adds two more SATA3 6G ports onboard via ASMedia 1061. CrystalDisk Mark performance is slightly lower in Windows 8 compared to Windows 7 but this can be attributed to the AMD drivers.
Peripherals – Aside from USB 3.0 ports, ASUS also provides eSATA 6G connectivity through the SB950 in the rear I/O. There are also two PS/2 connectors for legacy keyboard and mouse users instead of a combination.
Performance Tuning – The ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0 handled a 5GHz overclock with ease after just simply adjusting the CPU ratio and setting the Vcore to 1.5V. There are multiple levels of LLC despite being just a mainstream board and was rock solid. What was surprising was how easy and convenient it was to make the same overclocking adjustments through the AI Suite II software as it was in the UEFI. It was even a lot better than the Overdrive software provided by AMD in terms of stability and responsiveness.
Currently available for $149 at Amazon.com, the ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0 makes a very compelling argument for those looking to move on to AMD’s 990FX platform, especially for those looking to run a dual SLI or CrossFireX setup. Despite not being PCI-E 3.0 capable, AMD’s 990FX has full 16x/16x PCI-E 2.0 speeds when in dual SLI/CrossfireX, which should be more than equal to the 8x/8x speeds of the Intel’s Z77 platform. Also, there are more lanes available for extra peripherals using a PCI-E slot and no bottlenecks arise. While there is no native USB 3.0 support provided by the AMD chipset, ASUS utilizes an ASMedia 1042 chip to provide USB 3.0 ports in the rear and on an onboard header. These USB 3.0 ports support UASP and also provide extra charging capabilities through ASUS’s AiCharger+, cutting down on device recharging time. In terms of drive connectivity, five of the onboard SATA 6G ports from the AMD SB950 are accessible onboard while the sixth is used as an eSATA 6G port in the rear. ASUS also adds two more SATA 6G ports from an ASMedia 1061 chip so users have plenty of room for hard drives or solid-state drives.
There are no other fancy extras such as Bluetooth, WiFi, Firewire or a Thunderbolt port (although there is a TB header onboard for a possible future Thunderbolt expansion hardware add-on) on the M5A99FX Pro R2.0, but it does have a few unique extra features that improve on its capabilities and provide convenient functionality. This is the first time I have seen a direct access button for the BIOS, for example, and I‘m surprised nobody has thought of this simple, yet effective feature before. There is no BIOS toggle feature but ASUS’ CPU Parameter Recall feature easily and safely recovers from any setting flubs you might have committed while in the UEFI.
Overclocking on the ASUS DIGI+ VRM is extremely effective and much more reliable compared to other VRM implementations. The voltages were stable and there were five levels of load-line calibration available, not just through the UEFI but through the TurboV EVO utility in AI Suite as well. I was also surprised how effective the AI Suite II software was on Windows 8. Overclocking on the AI Suite II software was also a lot more effective compared to using even AMD’s own Overdrive software (which was misreporting the CPU voltages and overvolting my RAM). From within AI Suite II, users have access to the voltages, fan speeds, and advanced CPU/RAM overclocking options instantly and it is also modular so users can choose to install only the software component they intend to use.
From the AI Suite, users also have access to the ASUS Remote GO! Feature which essentially turns your M5A99FX Pro R2.0 based system into a home entertainment server, able to stream wirelessly to mobile devices as long as the mainboard is connected to a Wireless network. Users also are given additional controls for managing the network traffic on their M5A99FX Pro R2.0 motherboard through the Network iControl feature. Users can not only monitor online network, they can also prioritize tasks, schedule bandwidth priorities and limit bandwidth, when necessary. Free software has come a long way and the ones provided with the AI Suite II software are far from worthless, in fact, they add considerable value on top of the hardware-based features. Overall, the ASUS M5A99FX Pro R2.0 sets the standard for just how capable a mainstream priced motherboard should be and how the included software can be tightly integrated with the motherboard functionality.