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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 is an entry-level motherboard for AMD socket AM3+ processors. It uses the AMD 970 chipset, which is a simpler version of the AMD 990FX. Let’s take a look at it!

The main difference between the AMD 970 chipset and the high-end AMD 990FX is the multi-graphics support. While the 990FX supports two x16 slots (or four x8 slots) and SLI/CrossFireX arrays, the AMD 970 supports only one PCI Express x16 slot (plus one x4 slot) only in CrossFireX configuration.

So far, ASUS has launched three different motherboard models based on the AMD 970 chipset; we list the differences between them in the table below. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.

Specification

M5A97 LE R2.0

M5A97 R2.0

M5A97 EVO

Form Factor

ATX

ATX

ATX

Memory Sockets

4

4

4

PCI Express x16 2.0

2 (x16/x4)

2 (x16/x4)

2 (x16/x4)

PCI Express x1 2.0

2

2

2

Standard PCI

2

2

2

CrossFireX

Yes

Yes

Yes

SLI

No

No

No

SATA-300

0

0

0

SATA-600

8

6

6

eSATA-300

0

0

2

eSATA-600

0

0

0

USB 2.0

12

12

14

USB 3.0

2

4

4

FireWire

0

0

0

Gigabit Ethernet

1

1

1

Audio

ALC887

ALC887

ALC892

Voltage Regulator

4+2

4+2

6+2

Price

USD 90

USD 100

NA

You can see the ASUS M5A97 R2.0 motherboard in Figure 1.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 1: ASUS M5A97 R2.0 motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 comes with two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two PCI slots.

The first PCI Express x16 slot always work at x16 speed, and the second one always work at x4. This means that, if you install only one video card, you must install it in the first slot (PCIEX16_1) for best performance.

The portrayed motherboard supports CrossFireX technology with up to four GPUs. Of course, you can only reach this if you install two video cards with two GPUs each.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 2: Slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

The integrated memory controller from socket AM3+ processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASUS, the M5A97 R2.0 supports memories up to 2,133 MHz.

The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 has four memory sockets. According to ASUS, this motherboard supports up to 32 GiB if you use four 8 GiB modules.

In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASUS M5A97 R2.0, there are two black and two blue memory sockets. When installing two memory modules, you must install the modules in sockets with the same color.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]

The AMD 970 chipset is a two-chip solution, and it is combined with the SB950 south bridge chip. The SB950 chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 brings only those six ports.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 4: The six SATA-600 ports

The AMD 970 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports. The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 offers 12 ports, six located on the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. It also offers four USB 3.0 ports, two on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header on the motherboard. The USB 3.0 ports are controlled by two ASMedia ASM1042 chips.

The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 does not offer a FireWire port.

This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format using a Realtek ALC887 codec. This codec has the same specifications as the Realtek ALC892, except that the ALC892 has two extra channels for audio streaming. The main specifications of this codec include 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specs are good for the mainstream user, but if you are looking into working professionally with audio editing, you should look for a motherboard that provides an SNR of at least 97 dB for the analog inputs.

The analog outputs are independent, meaning that you don’t need to share any of them when using a 7.1 analog speaker set. The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output.

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek 8111F chip.

In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse, two USB 3.0 ports, an optical SPDIF output, six USB 2.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio jacks.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel

 

[nextpage title=”Other Features”]

The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 has a button named “BIOS Flashback,” which allows you to update the BIOS just by plugging a USB drive with the new BIOS file, and pressing it.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 6: BIOS Flashback button

There is also a “MemOK!” button, which allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 7: MemOK! button

A third button is called “DirectKey” and it forces the system to enter the motherboard setup.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 8: DirectKey button

The portrayed motherboard has a legacy serial port, which is available through a header labeled “COM1.” You will need to buy an adapter if you want to use this port.

In Figure 9, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASUS M5A97 R2.0.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 9: Accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS M5A97 R2.0 has four phases for the CPU main voltage (VDD a.k.a. Vcore) and two for the CPU VDDNB (integrated memory controller, HyperTransport interface controller, and L3 memory cache) voltage. Therefore, it uses a “4+2” configuration.

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 10: Voltage regulator circuit

The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 uses solid electrolytic capacitors. All coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency.

If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject

[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]

The portrayed motherboard has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1208 BIOS):

  • Base clock: From 100 MHz to 600 MHz in 1 MHz increments
  • PCI Express clock: From 100 MHz to 150 MHz in 1 MHz increments
  • CPU core voltage: Offset from -0.3000 V to +0.5000 V in 0.00625 V increments
  • CPU NB (memory controller) voltage: Offset from -0.3000 V to +0.5000 V in 0.00625 V increments
  • Memory voltage: From 1.200 V to 2.200 V in 0.00625 V increments
  • North bridge voltage: From 1.100 V to 1.250 V in 0.00625 V increments
  • HyperTransport voltage: From 1.200 V to 1.400 V in 0.00625 V increments
  • CPU VDDA voltage: From 2.200 V to 2.800 V in 0.00625 V increments
  • Southbridge voltage: From 1.100 V to 1.800 V in 0.005 V increments

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 11: Overclocking options

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 12: Voltage options

ASUS M5A97 R2.0Figure 13: Memory timings

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the ASUS M5A97 R2.0 include:

  • Socket: AM3+
  • Chipset: AMD 970 + SB950 
  • Super I/O: ITE IT8721F
  • Parallel ATA: None
  • Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
  • External SATA: None
  • USB 2.0: 12 USB 2.0 ports, six on the rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: Four USB 3.0 ports, two on the rear panel and two available through one header; controlled by two ASMedia ASM1042 chips
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
  • On-board video: No
  • On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC887 codec (7.1 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 97 dB SNR for the outputs, and 90 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF connector
  • On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek 8111F chip
  • Buzzer: No
  • Infrared interface: No
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: Two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x4), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two PCI slots
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2133, 32 GiB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, and three four-pin connectors for an auxiliary fan
  • Extra features: MemOK! button, DirectKey button, BIOS Flashback button, and legacy serial port
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
  • Programs included: Motherboard utilities
  • More Information: https://www.asus.com
  • Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 100.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The ASUS M5A97 R2.0 is a good entry-level motherboard for socket AM3+ processors. With six SATA-600 and four USB 3.0 ports, it will fit the needs of most budget-conscious users who are building a computer based on the AMD FX CPU and don’t need fancy features.

Actually, the main difference between this motherboard and a high-end one is that it lacks extra PCI Express x16 slots. There is only one slot that works at x16 speed; the second PCI Express x16 slot works at x4 speed. But let’s face it: only a few people actually use SLI or CrossFireX configurations, and those users aren’t looking for value motherboards.

If you are looking for a motherboard to build a PC based on an AMD FX processor, but prefer to save on the motherboard in order to invest in a better video card, the ASUS M5A97 R2.0 is an excellent choice.