ASUS M5A97 EVO and M5A99X EVO
The ASUS M5A97 EVO and M5A99X EVO are great additions to the ASUS AMD lineup. Both boards have spacious and clean layouts, and are packed with impressive features such as SATA 6G and USB 3.0. The build quality is outstanding, as we’ve come to expect from ASUS, even on inexpensive boards such as these. The UEFI BIOS is very polished and ASUS has the best layout and functionality we have seen to date. And the addition of SLI is a very welcome sight on the M5A99X for the Nvidia faithful. as AMD enthusiasts can now have the best of both worlds with Crossfire and SLI.
Interestingly, both of these boards have much the same performance and overclocking features of 990FX motherboards. The new AI Suite II is also an excellent overall tool for both novices and hardcore enthusiasts, allowing a huge amount of customization, including robust auto features. After seeing many motherboards up close, we feel AI Suite II is the easiest and best software for the AMD platform amongst all manufacturers.
For those who like overclocking directly through the BIOS, just dial in a higher multiplier, set your RAM speed, and let the auto settings take care of the rest; you’ll be pleased with the quick results. For novices who aren’t quite as comfortable tweaking the various combinations of settings and voltages, the TPU switch is a fabulously easy way of a quick performance boost. TurboV EVO takes just a bit more time, but produces better results, still in the realm of auto overclocking though. The overclocking results are very impressive, particularly if you’re on water cooling.
Of course, the only downside of the AMD 990X chipset is that it drops one PCI-E slot and eSATA but that doesn’t really seem to be problem for consumers in this price range. If you need a dual card setup, then the M5A99X EVO is a very affordable option at $160. You don’t really sacrifice any performance in comparison to the flagship boards. If you need only one graphics card slot, then the M5A97 EVO is even more affordable at $120. We really have to question the choice of spending more since these two boards perform admirably and don’t give up much in performance, and certainly not on the overclocking front.
An interesting observation from our extensive motherboard testing is that ASUS "budget" boards overclock extremely well on the whole, not far off their expensive flagship counterparts. Of course, the inexpensive boards aren’t built to withstand the 24/7 punishment like the premium boards, and hence the difference in price. That being said, we continue to come away impressed with the performance of ASUS budget and mainstream boards. For consumers on a modest budget, the M5A970 EVO and M5A99X EVO are two of the most full-featured and well-priced boards out there.