The Asus 'Republic of Gamers' series of motherboards is a new range of enthusiast/gaming orientated motherboards. It's fair to say that a lot of computer hardware component manufacturers are trying to jump on the "gaming" bandwagon in order to try and differentiate their products from the wealth of motherboards that are designed for enthusiasts.
The Crosshair is Asus' first realisation of the Republic of Gamers concept; it's based on the nForce 590 SLI chipset for socket AM2 Athlon 64 processors and amalgamates some interesting features. These include a rear LCD display as well as discrete on-board LEDs and heatpipe cooled chipsets, but does it strike the right chord, as a gaming/enthusiast motherboard or does the scope fill with condensation and cause the Crosshair to misfire? We find out.
Asus Crosshair Overview:
Support for all Socket AM2 AMD Athlon 64/FX/X2 and Sempron processors with Cool 'n' Quiet technology;
Four DDR2 memory slots supporting up to 8GB of DDR2-800 memory;
NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI MCP;
Northbridge: NVIDIA C51XE;
Southbridge NVIDIA MCP55PXE;
Silicon Image Sil3132 providing two eSATA ports;
Integrated dual PHY Gigabit MAC: two Marvell 88E111E;
Two PCI-Express x16 slots with SLI support (both slots run with a full x16 lanes), one PCI-Express x4 slot and three PCI expansion slots;
7.1 channel ADI SoundMAX High-Definition audio with jack sensing and digital optical S/PDIF in and out, six 3.5mm jacks and Dolby Digital options;
Six native SATA 3Gbps ports, supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD;
Support for ten USB 2.0 ports (four on back I/O panel and six via on-board pins/expansion brackets);
Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A providing two IEEE1394a Firewire ports with both from internal headers;
One ATA133 connector;
One floppy connector.
Six red SATA cables;
One black IDE cable;
One black floppy cable;
One PCI backplate containing one 6-pin Firewire ports;
One PCI backplate containing two USB 2.0 ports;
Metal IO Shield with rear illumination;
Republic of Gamers key ring!
Three temperature probes;
Additional axial fan for heatpipe cooling;
"Three molex to six SATA" power cables;
SoundMAX array mic;
Manuals and driver CD;
Asus provides quite a killer package, with a distinct attention to detail - there's even a Republic of Gamers keyring. Obviously, you can look at that cynically and argue that it just increases the price on the product but at the end of the day people like "free" stuff.
The PCI expansion brackets for USB and Firewire could easily be combined into one so as not to waste a PCI slot space. Not every USB port is provided for either, two pin outs are left for you to install your own devices and another pair at the very top of the motherboard are designated for use with a Wi-Fi module (that's not included), as seen on the Asus P5B Deluxe Wi-Fi AP. Should you acquire one, you can easily plug and and screw it in through the supplied holes though.
Also included is the additional axial fan to to make sure the convection current for the heat-piped heatsinks in the CPU area works effectively should you cool your CPU with water or passively. In addition, Asus has provided temperature probes and zip ties for them, which we will explain in full on the next page, and also a metal rear I/O panel that's illuminated! Not that any self respecting enthusiast can't already tell (by merely touching) what plug goes where, but it's a unique inclusion.
Overall, it's almost all there but there are some very nice additions that make up for the omissions.