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Asus 970 Pro Gaming Aura - an overview and review

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hi guys,

as I've mentioned in the Sabertooth club, after it died, I was in need of a new board, and kept using my old DS3P until few of you mentioned the Aura. Sabertooth R3.0 also arrived at that time, a few months after Aura, so there was a choice to go with the 110EUR Aura or the 220EUR Sabertooth R3.0. I will try to describe some of the differences between the 3 boards I have used. Please note I used a Sabertooth R2.0.



Here's the boards layout. I won't get into specific stuff you can read on Asus' website, I will try to point out the experience with it and how it performs in the system.

This is overclock.net, so we do overclocking, especially us with FX8320s and stuff. One thing that bothers a 8core FX user is the VRM config of the motherboard. At first glance, it doesn't look that big. I tried it with a mild overclock of 4.5GHz with 1.45V, high LLC which got my volts to 1.488 while under load - maybe a bit high, but my chip didn't perform any better on the Sabertooth R2 - it's just the way it is. I was using BurnInTest for stress testing and I must say the VRM heatsink doesn't get much hot. My IR thermometer is borrowed currently so tomorrow I'll give you more specific details about temperatures. For 24/7 @ 4.5GHz, you won't need a fan, trust me. A fine 120mm exhaust fan at the back of the case is just enough. The heatsink performs as well as the one on Sabertooth R2.0. Now, compared to the DS3P I have (I'm using it for comparison also since we have a low budget board, a high end 970 board, and a high end 990fx board), to get 4.5GHz stable on it I needed to use 1.56V and the VRM heatsink needed at least one 40mm fan which couldn't cool it down enough. And 4.5GHz was the max I could get out of it with my chip.

VRM

Now, this is something I've noticed before I bought the board and it's pretty interesting. 990FX boards have a bunch of USB connections etc, on the IO shield, but this board has only pairs of USB2.0 and a pair of USB3.0 ports. Seems cheap? Think again. There is about 2CM clearance between the USB ports on the PCB and the VRM heatsink, and you can mount 2 40mm fans as an intake or exhaust instead of using the IO shield. And they do an excellent job in keeping temperatures down! If you do it nicely, it won't look "ghetto", it will look awesome and the fans won't even be noticable. That's something that none of the boards so far could do and requires just a little imagination.

Now, speaking of VRM, let's say something about the BIOS. You have a bunch of options out there to controll the power delivery to the CPU. Increments are 0.005V for setting up voltages, you have LLC which has 5 modes, you have the option to choose how much current you want to allow your VRM phases to let pass (100%-140%), and an option to use offset voltage.

Highest LLC option uses insane increments, so if you set your voltage manually to 1.45V, try a stress test, it can pull you up to 1.6 volts, so watch out for that and don't use it. It's really unnecessary and will do more damage than good. As a result of testings I've performed, the middle option for LLC works best. It will pull you up from, lets say. 1.45V to 1.48V or 1.5V at max.

Another thing that really, really makes a difference and is probably underrated is the VRM current capability. Set it to 140% and you will see how your chip can get as much amps as it needs. This is one of the major things to consider while overcocking. It makes everything much more stable and there's a huge difference between 130% and 140%.

One thing to be aware, heat = volts * amps. So even if you keep your volts down, you're still going to be dealing with a bunch of current that will produce heat.

I was able to get 4.65GHz stable pretty easily, with a socket temperature of 62C and core temperatures of ~55C during stress testing. I was using Cooler Master Nepton 240M as a CPU cooler, so expect something like that with other AIO 240mm models. I haven't used additional CPU socket cooling, only one fan on the VRM heatsink that kept it warm to touch, not even a bit hot.

And yeah, last but not least, it has a 7+1 phase model, vs the Sabertooths 8+2, though from what I've found out, it uses a newer version of MOSFETs than R2 so they should perform a bit better and cooler.

UEFI/BIOS

First thing. Mine got shipped with bios 0501, while the newest one was 0801. BIOS' come out pretty regularily, like after 2~3 months, and notes say they increase stability. So I went ahead and flashed the 0801 at start.

Looking at the BIOS, you will see a mix of ROG and Sabertooth ones. It has all the options of the Sabertooth and CHVZ. So I won't get much into that, you can change basicly everything. from frequencies of VRM phases to all kinds of voltages.

One thing I'm dissapointed about is that you can't run your chassis fans under 60% if you want to set their speed via BIOS. That is the minimum and they use the CPU temperature as a sensor, not the mobo temperature. Another thing, I plugged my CM Nepton's pump to the "water pump" header which uses PWM, but I couldn't controll it's speed. Not sure if it's the mobo's fault or the Nepton's pump doesn't allow it to run under that while controlled via PWM. You have 2 CPU fan headers, no option to make them run different speeds, they are tied to each other.

And the thing that dissapointed me most. Even though it has 3 additional chassis fan headers, no, they are not independant either. From BIOS you can controll only CHA_FAN1 but it will also make 2 and 3 run that speed. Only thing the 4pin connections for the fans do is monitor speeds. Really sucks since I wanted at least 2 chassis fans controlled independently.

Apart from that, nothing stands out in the BIOS. It's a high end AMD BIOS that you see on all top boards so yeah, you can tweak anything you like.

Mounted in the case

It's in the name - Aura. Your SB heatsink emmits RGB light you can controll via software on either BIOS or Windows. A huge problem is that it's going to get covered by your GPU since the 2nd PCIE slot from above (first one is the small one) is the only x16 one, the lowest one is x8 and is used for SLI/CF, that this motherboard supports. Haven't tried SLI on it, I've got only one GTX970, but let's forget about that, since you probably won't be using a 110EUR 970 board for some high-end 4k gaming or so. Another dissapointment was that the SB heatsink that really glows nicely is completely covered. It lights up the surroundings also, everything under the GPU. I know it's not a big deal, but hey, why not put RGB lighting somewhere else? It's a gaming board that supports SLI ffs, we won't see any RGB there.

Also. the audio is shielded from other componends and uses it's own section on the PCB with the SupremeFX chip. It sounds really amazing, I don't have high end speakers but my 5.1 system sounds a lot better than on the DS3P. Reason why I'm mentioning this is because the line that separates the audio section of the board also glows red. There are red LEDs on the back of the motherboard, so it creates a really nice looking effect.

As stated, you can easily mount your VRM fans with zipties or rubber bands and they won't be noticable, but that comes with the cost of not mounting the IO shield, which shouldn't be a problem for most people. Most 40mm are also pretty silent, even at 4k RPM or more.

There's little clearance between the 4+4pin CPU power connector and the AIO, so note that it might cause some trouble.

Board is nicely built, feels good in hands too, it's not as heavy as the Sabertooth, but neither is it light.

Bundled software

Here's where I got another dissapointment. I was in a big need from the use of my DS3P to get one software that will controll and monitor everything - in this case, it was supposed to be AI Suite 3. Sure, it's fancy looking and stuff, but it's a bit slow, buggy and not as functional as I expected. It will only detect one chassis fan that you can control, even if you had 3. But on the bottom you will see the RPMs of all three. I got really pissed there like I mentioned. Also, you have 2 temperature sensors, the motherboard and the CPU. You can't tie the CHA fan to your motherboard temperature. Only the CPU, by default. Sucks again since my main intake (120mm JetFlo that pushes 95CFM) is pointing to my GPU and the NB and further to the VRM heatsink. So you can't even mix it with the GPU temperature, even though you can see it in the AI Suite and when I need more cold air to the GPU I can't provide it. So if you want to control your fans, use SpeedFan or something, forget AI Suite 3, it's not any better than old ones.

You get some nice overclocking software too, but I only overclock via BIOS so I haven't messed around with it, and in other reviews found on the internet there is information about it.

Anyway, nothing special to see here.

Overclocking

The fun part. Trial and error. I will compare it to the Sabertooth R2 I owned and the DS3P.

DS3P's maximtum was 4.5GHz with a bunch of volts and it was semi-stable, sometimes after an hour or so, GTAV would crash for some reason. That wasn't happening on the Sabertooth so I must say it's the DS3P's fault.

Let's talk about the DS3P for a bit. It's a low end board, costing around 70 euros, 40 less than the Aura. It has 4 power phases and you don't want it for overclocking, but if that's what you've got left just like I did, you work with what you have. It gave a pleasant compromise between temperature and volts since it couldn't push many amps to the CPU, so that's where it maxed out. I wasn't happy with it being at 1.56V so I didn't continue further. It had no LLC/Current optimization, just pure voltage setting and thats it. Another thing to mention, while using same clocks on both boards, the synthetic benchmarks showed the same results, so no difference there.

Sabertooth had almost the same number of options like the Aura, though they put more things to tweak and I think it can push somewhere around as much amps as the Sabertooth R2 can, even though it has 1 less power phase.

To get 4.7GHz stable on Sabertooth, I needed about 0.03V less than the Aura needs. I must say I had problems with overclocking FSB to squeeze a bit more out of Sabertooth so I just left it at 200. Aura has no problems with that, and while using the same chip, the Sabertooth had the best power vs heat ratio at 4.7GHz, Aura has it at 4.65V, though it still needs more testing and I will talk more about it as time goes on as I want to keep it for some time.

Aura really shines when it comes to overclocking and that's a funny thing, because this is a board that's made to look fancy and promote SLI/CF on the 970 chipset. And it does a really good job at overclocking, currently I'm sitting at 4.65GHz stable and will do more tweaking since this board can do a lot more, and I hope I will inform you about that in this thread. It has all the options the overclockers board needs - great BIOS settings, excellent VRM heatsink with a trick to mount the fans, good power delivery.

Seems like Asus wanted to make a shiny board for regular users and made somethng totally different.

So far's conclusion

I've only been testing it for a couple of busy days and haven't got much time to play with it - personal reasons, but soon I'll probably have more time and maybe even match the Sabertooth R2 OC performance. I could get R2 to 5GHz but it was not stress test stable and it was a heating machine.

So, should you buy this board? Depends.

If you wish to keep the FX CPU for at least a year, and have the money, feel free to go for the Sabertooth. But, for half the money, you'll get the Aura which probably won't perform much worse than the Sabertooth - speaking of overclocking, you might see a 100MHz difference. And trust me, even if you OC that 100MHz more, it won't be worth the heat you'll get - unless you're watercooling everything, but then, you won't be looking at the 970 series board.

A lot of you guys have UD3P and similar boards, thinking whether you should get a better board. If you already own a decent 970 board, there won't be a reason to go Aura, unless you wanna use PCIE SSD's and stuff. It won't get you a much bigger OC if you already have a decent one - 4.6GHz+.

If you don't own a board currently, hell yeah, buy the Aura, you won't regret it. It has all the options top 990FX boards have.

But, if you want multiple chassis fan controls, more onboard temp sensors, more USB ports, (better SLI/CF?!?! - can't answer this), a more "premium looking board", easy 40mm fan installation, one more VRM phase, and you think it's worth 100EUR+ more, get the Sabertooth.

For most people, if you really don't have the money/don't want to spend it, just get the Aura. It has it's benefits, it has it's flaws, but overall, I'd give it a 9/10 since most stuff that I'm dissapointed about aren't crucial.

Sorry for the incomplete review and lack of images, I made a promise I'd tell my opinion of the board when I get it and I know a lot of you guys need answers about the board, I'll be happy to answer them and help you if I can.

I will do more testing on it, like the clocks I can get, temperature differences with and without VRM fans and other stuff, post some images when time lets me.

Thanks for reading.
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post #2 of 21
Well, on my FX 8300, the best I can get is 4.5GHz with any sort of stability. I can clock higher than that but, it is not stable no matter the voltage or even trying the 140% LLC.
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post #3 of 21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ManofGod1000 View Post

Well, on my FX 8300, the best I can get is 4.5GHz with any sort of stability. I can clock higher than that but, it is not stable no matter the voltage or even trying the 140% LLC.

That's weird, it should be able to put enough current and voltage to the chip.

140% is probably the "current" allowed to go through VRM's, not LLC. What LLC have you used, since they're called "high, ultra high, extreme" etc? Have you updated your BIOS? What stress testing software have you used? And what voltages do you set and see in Windows under load and while idleing?

I've found a problem with LLC and it's that it keeps my PC stable but while idle it crashed a couple of times, so I had to fix those values. It'd be pretty odd if the max you get is 4.5GHz, my pretty bad chip gets 4.7GHz, though it's 1.56V under full load and 1.52V while idle.
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post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by tashcz View Post

That's weird, it should be able to put enough current and voltage to the chip.

140% is probably the "current" allowed to go through VRM's, not LLC. What LLC have you used, since they're called "high, ultra high, extreme" etc? Have you updated your BIOS? What stress testing software have you used? And what voltages do you set and see in Windows under load and while idleing?

I've found a problem with LLC and it's that it keeps my PC stable but while idle it crashed a couple of times, so I had to fix those values. It'd be pretty odd if the max you get is 4.5GHz, my pretty bad chip gets 4.7GHz, though it's 1.56V under full load and 1.52V while idle.

My CPU LLC is set to Ultra High and I use a voltage of 1.425v for the 4.5 Ghz clock speed. No matter what I do beyond that, my cpu will not be stable with IBT AVX, unfortunately. The VCore runs at 1.440 at full load and I just need to be content with it. Besides, a 1.2 Ghz Overclock is nothing to sneeze about. smile.gif
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post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ManofGod1000 View Post

My CPU LLC is set to Ultra High and I use a voltage of 1.425v for the 4.5 Ghz clock speed. No matter what I do beyond that, my cpu will not be stable with IBT AVX, unfortunately. The VCore runs at 1.440 at full load and I just need to be content with it. Besides, a 1.2 Ghz Overclock is nothing to sneeze about. smile.gif

Well that voltage for 4.5GHz is excellent. Usually it takes a bigger bump to get to 4.6 or more, so you'd need like 1.47-1.48V at least to get it. If you wanna try it you can, if you can cool it. From the voltage side, you got plenty headroom.
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post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by tashcz View Post

I tried it with a mild overclock of 4.5GHz with 1.45V, high LLC which got my volts to 1.488 while under load - maybe a bit high, but my chip didn't perform any better on the Sabertooth R2 - it's just the way it is.
I doubt that. Something is wrong for you to need that much voltage.

I lapped my 8320E and 8370E. Both were quite concave. Perhaps that's part of your issue. I've also found that, at least with the UD3P, the LLC level has a really big effect on what voltage is required for stability. Anything besides medium is bad news on that board. I found minimal difference between the 8320E and 8370E in terms of how much voltage they need at a specific speed. 1.45 sounds like more than an outlier unless your cooling is bad, your LLC is way off, or something.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tashcz View Post

A lot of you guys have UD3P and similar boards, thinking whether you should get a better board. If you already own a decent 970 board, there won't be a reason to go Aura, unless you wanna use PCIE SSD's and stuff. It won't get you a much bigger OC if you already have a decent one - 4.6GHz+.
The UD3P 2.0 will overclock an E chip at quite a bit less voltage than that but its VRM cooling is poor. Even at 1.385 with medium LLC the VRM temps are 80C with the most optimal air cooling I was able to give it (a 140mm fan mounted just so). Plus, the UD3P has a bios boot bug that prevents it from using a multiplier higher than 22, forcing one to raise BCLK which is not optimal for stability. At super-low ambient (55F and in a room next to an AC vent pushing out cold air) I was able to get Prime to do in-place FFTs at 4.7 on the UD3P under water but the VRM, with the fan, still kept rising above 90C when I would do the 85% RAM testing. This is with a lapped 8370E and the same voltage you were using to get to 4.5.

Bottom line... The UD3P 2.0 is a fine board if you plan to go no higher than 4.4 and carefully place strong airflow on the VRM, at an angle partially outward and partially down. The VRM sink airflow level isn't as critical when you're not running Prime. I was stable on air at 4.4. My 8320E needed 1.36 for 4.4 as I recall, although that was with a lapped CPU and liquid pro TIM. I don't recommend liquid pro because it bonds to copper, requiring lapping every single time you need to disassemble your system for cleaning. It might remain liquid with a nickle spreader and nickle sink mount but I don't know.
Edited by superstition222 - 10/9/16 at 8:45pm
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Quote:
Originally Posted by superstition222 View Post

I doubt that. Something is wrong for you to need that much voltage.

I lapped my 8320E and 8370E. Both were quite concave. Perhaps that's part of your issue. I've also found that, at least with the UD3P, the LLC level has a really big effect on what voltage is required for stability. Anything besides medium is bad news on that board. I found minimal difference between the 8320E and 8370E in terms of how much voltage they need at a specific speed. 1.45 sounds like more than an outlier unless your cooling is bad, your LLC is way off, or something.
The UD3P 2.0 will overclock an E chip at quite a bit less voltage than that but its VRM cooling is poor. Even at 1.385 with medium LLC the VRM temps are 80C with the most optimal air cooling I was able to give it (a 140mm fan mounted just so). Plus, the UD3P has a bios boot bug that prevents it from using a multiplier higher than 22, forcing one to raise BCLK which is not optimal for stability. At super-low ambient (55F and in a room next to an AC vent pushing out cold air) I was able to get Prime to do in-place FFTs at 4.7 on the UD3P under water but the VRM, with the fan, still kept rising above 90C when I would do the 85% RAM testing. This is with a lapped 8370E and the same voltage you were using to get to 4.5.

Bottom line... The UD3P 2.0 is a fine board if you plan to go no higher than 4.4 and carefully place strong airflow on the VRM, at an angle partially outward and partially down. The VRM sink airflow level isn't as critical when you're not running Prime. I was stable on air at 4.4. My 8320E needed 1.36 for 4.4 as I recall, although that was with a lapped CPU and liquid pro TIM. I don't recommend liquid pro because it bonds to copper, requiring lapping every single time you need to disassemble your system for cleaning. It might remain liquid with a nickle spreader and nickle sink mount but I don't know.

Yeah, something's wrong with the chip. But that's the way things are and if it lives for the next couple of months giving me 4.7GHz I'll be happy. Anything above that would probably produce a bunch more heat that CM Nepton 240M wouldn't keep up with for longer periods of time, and I haven't modded the case to get a fan on the back of the socket which would also be an issue for 4.7+.

Measured with an IR thermomether, the VRM heatsink on the Aura at 100% load stress testing is around 44C, with a 40mm Noctua blowing hot air away from it to the USB ports as I described. Though the temps I measure under the heatsink are around 55C.

My point when I stated "if you got a decent board that got you a fair overclock, you don't need this one" is that you're going to pay 100EUR for something that will get you 5% more performance (maybe) and it's a dead end. No more upgrades. It's better to invest that money in a new socket, wether going Intel or Zen. Be happy for the next few months or a year or so, but when time comes to upgrade, don't just change the motherboard to get a higher OC, it will be much wiser to spend it on a new system. I got my board since I was left with a DS3P which is a 4 phase board.
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post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by tashcz View Post

Well that voltage for 4.5GHz is excellent. Usually it takes a bigger bump to get to 4.6 or more, so you'd need like 1.47-1.48V at least to get it. If you wanna try it you can, if you can cool it. From the voltage side, you got plenty headroom.

Well, I am pretty sure I tried this before but, this time it worked: 1.475 VCore, 4.7 Ghz Overclock speed and 10 x High in IBT AVX and no crashing. The socket temp got up to 70C Max and about 54.4C for the core temp. (Noctua NH-D15.) I am going to try a Very high run of 10 to 20 times and if it passes, that is good enough for me. I just do not care about running a stability test for 24 hrs and I do not max out my cpu with anything else except maybe Crysis 3at 4k. (I watched the Wattage usage and it increased by over 100 Watts overall in my system compared to everything I was doing.)

Edit: The actually cpu VCore would end up with a Max of 1.524v according to HwInfo64 with LLC at Ultra High.
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post #9 of 21
Welp, 4.7 Ghz with a IBT AVX Very High run through did not make it. (Probably would need a fan on the back of the socket to accomplish that.) However, 4.6 Ghz at 1.45V with a max of 1.5v and steady voltage of 1.488v gets me socket temps of 69C and core temps of almost 50C. Without that back socket fan, anything more will just not happen.
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post #10 of 21
Are you sure it's the socket causing the problem? I fixate on the VRMs. redface.gif Do you know that the fans on the D15 are adjustable for height off of the motherboard? Try setting the center fan as close to the motherboard as possible and then remove the I/O panel to get some more air flow and see what happens.
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