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Pros: + an excellent value, especially if you can catch it on sale and with a promo code as I did.
+ Wonderful UEFI navigation, the best in the business by my estimation
+ Excellent AISuite II utility suite, again the best in the business
+ very mature and stable chipset in the 970 + SB950. It's not flashy but will use all current and past AM2/3 series CPUs including the newest FX line of processors. Wonderful way to step up an old AMD based system without breaking the bank or replacing all your components.
Cons: - This board is narrower than a "standard" dimension ATX motherboard. Look closely. There are only 2 columns of mounting holes rather than 3 as the ATX specification supports. From the ATX spec: A full size ATX board is 12" wide by 9.6" deep. This board is 12" X 9". That missing .6" may not sound like much but it results in a fair amount of motherboard real estate cantilevering out over what should be the middle column of support stand-offs. You will need to be extra careful when installing RAM and especially when plugging in the 24-pin ATX main power connection. Less so with any of the SATA connections since they don't require nearly as much pressure in order to seat securely. I *strongly* suggest placing your fingertips under the board for added support when making these connections. Otherwise you risk over-flexing the board which may crack it. This could be the root of the problem with many of the people who have reported DOA or faulty boards in these reviews. A cracked motherboard is nearly impossible to detect and can result in all sorts of odd and seemingly unrelatable problems.
- As has been previously mentioned by other reviewers, this board lacks the 20-pin USB 3.0 header or heat sinks on the VRMs. No eggs deducted for this as these are known limitations of this board which are clearly marked. Know what you are buying and make no assumptions.
Other Thoughts: My wife is a 5th grade teacher. This M5A97 LE was used to repair her teachers computer in her classroom. The original ASRock 880G based mATX motherboard suddenly died after 33 months of service. A 12 month ASRock warranty necessitated the replacement.
The Phenom II X3 720 and 4GB dual-channel kit of Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1600 worked flawlessly.
To set your RAM speed correctly: enter Advanced Mode in UEFI. Click on the Ai Tweaker tab.
Change Ai Overclock Tuner from Auto to D.O.C.P. This should set your RAM speed and timings correctly.
I also took this opportunity to upgrade the 320GB WD Caviar Blue HDD to a 256GB Samsung 840 Pro. The system scores very well on Crystal Disk Mark, nearly saturating the SATA 3 buss. CPU fan control is excellent with AMD Cool n Quite enabled and the AISuite II fan control set to Silent.
I'm happy with the purchase given it's purpose as a daily workhorse, strictly sticking with stock clock speeds. However, if you desire a little more from your motherboard and have approximately $5-$10 more to spend I suggest you take a close look at the GIGABYTE GA-970A-UD3P Item#: N82E16813128651. IMHO the Gigabyte is a superior board which addresses all the Cons I detailed above. It has the same expansion slot layout as the M5A97 LE with superior I/O ports, heat sinks on the VRMs, and a USB 3.0 header.
Pros: + Lifetime warranty
+ Best cost to performance ratio currently available in the Radeon lineup
+ 6-pin auxiliary power connection plugs in parallel with the PCB rather than perpendicular like most cards. This is SUCH a better design that all GPUs should orient their power connections this way.
+ Black PCB works with most every color scheme. Thank you XFX for ditching the green PCB
+ Dual fan design keeps this card very quiet, even under load
Cons: - Fan shroud is now made of plastic vs. their older design which was aluminum. No eggs deduced since every other graphics car manufacturer is also using plastic.
- Next to no external exhausting of heated air! If you look at the expansion slot bracket you'll notice that there is precious little venting, only 8 small slots. What you can't immediately tell from the images is that 90% of that tiny venting is actually blocked by a black something-or-other. I suppose it's part of the shroud. This means that pretty much all the heat generated by this card is trapped in the case.
- The RED DVI connection only supports a digital output. DVI-VGA adapters are *not* supported on this port!
Other Thoughts: I installed this card into my sons computer which is built in a Zalman Z9 mid-tower case. The case is equipped with 120mm front intake and rear exhaust fans. It also has copious amounts of venting on both the side panel and top panel of the case. This card idles at about 35 C and when under load will hover around 50 C.
This card replaced an aging EVGA GTS 8800 512MB. This system uses a Gigabyte 78LMT-S2P motherboard. The CPU is an Athlon II X3 450 3.2GHz (stock heatsink). It has 4GB of Crucial Tracer Ballitix DDR 3 1600 RAM. The 320GB Samsung HDD has a SanDisk ReadyCache SSD for caching acceleration.
Unigene Heaven 4.0 benchmark settings:
Resolution of 1920X1080 4xAA full screen
8800 GTS DX9 score 280 / FPS 11.1
R9 270 DX11 score 1068 / FPS 42.4
The benchmark was choppy and paused frequently with the 8800 GTS but with the R9 270 it ran as smooth as butter. Only 2 stutters for the entire benchmark, which were during the torch lit hallway section.
I also ran the 3D Mark Firestrike 1.1 benchmark on this system but only with the R9 270.
Graphics score 5506
Physics score 3395
Combined score 2043
All-in-all I think if you are looking for a solid gamer card for a 1080p, single monitor setup and you want a Radeon card you'd be hard pressed to find a better built, or stronger value than this card. You will have to spend considerably more to get higher perceptible performance.
This review is from: GIGABYTE GA-970A-UD3P AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard
Pros: + Good build quality, PCB is thick and solid
+ Adheres to strict ATX spec so the right side of the motherboard is well supported by screws unlike other boards I've seen and used
+ Has plenty of room around the CPU socket for aftermarket heatsink/fans or tall RAM
+ USB 3 header is well placed so the cable doesn't interfere with other cables or components. (Are you paying attention to this Asus?)
+ The USB 3.0 cable locks when connected. It LOCKS! Why has no one else implemented this?
+ Expansion slot configuration optimized for dual GPU installation without blocking access to other slots of any type.
+ VRMs (between CPU socket and I/O blocks) have a heatsink!
+ VIA HDdeck is nice
+ EUFI is improved over older versions and is better than MSI
Cons: - Front panel header block has a spot for a 2-pin and a 3-pin power LED connection. Likely this is to increase compatibility with a wider array of cases. Use one or the other, not both. Could be very confusing for new builders.
- EZtune 6 is only Meh.
- Rear I/O shield is pretty flimsy and silver. When will these commonly come black to match most cases?
- EUFI could still be improved on. It isn't as good as ASUS
- Too much "junk" included in the Xpress Install option on the CD. Google and Norton are heavy in this load. Install drivers via manual selection to avoid the detritus.
Other Thoughts: The AMD 970 chipset is pretty "mature". The board ships with BIOS version F1 which is not just the most recent available, but it's the ONLY one available. All of the drivers and applications on the CD matched the newest versions available on the website.
I'd encourage you to get the latest AMD Catalyst drivers from AMD if you want something newer than Jan 2014.