So last week I took a look at Asus’s AM3+ board, today I have the chance to take a look at a more recent AMD based ROG board called the Crossblade Ranger. Asus launched the Crossblade Ranger not to long ago and as you can tell from the lack of any numbers in the name this is their first Republic of Gamers FM2+ board. Why did they take so long to bring one out? Frankly the FM2+ platform was always designed to be more of a mainstream platform but that didn’t stop some people from using them for gaming. Asus noticed there was interest in a gaming focused board and here we are. Today I’m going to dive into the Crossblade Ranger and see what kind of features Asus packed in then after that I will get it on the testbench and make sure it performs like it should as well.

Product Name: Asus Crossblade Ranger

Review Sample Provided by: Asus

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Specifications

CPU

AMD Socket FM2+ Athlon™/A- Series Processors

Supports CPU up to 4 cores

Supports AMD® Turbo Core 3.0 Technology

Chipset

AMD A88X (Bolton D4)

Memory

4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR3 2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2250(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/2133/1866*/1600/1333 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory *

Dual Channel Memory Architecture

Support AMD Memory Profile (AMP) memory

Graphic

Integrated AMD Radeon™ R/HD8000/HD7000 Series Graphics in the A-Series  APU

Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI-D/RGB ports

- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz*1

- Supports DVI-D with max. resolution 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz

- Supports RGB with max. resolution 1920 x 1600 @ 60 Hz

Maximum shared memory of 2048 MB

AMD® Dual Graphics technology support

Multi-GPU Support

Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology

Expansion Slots

2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (Single at x16, dual at x8/x8, red) *2

1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (max at x4 mode, black)

2 x PCIe 2.0 x1

2 x PCI

Storage

AMD A88X FCH(Bolton D4) chipset :

8 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), ,

Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD

LAN

Intel® I211-AT, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)

Audio

ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC

- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking

- SupremeFX Shielding Technology

- ELNA® premium audio capacitors

Audio Feature :

- DTS Connect

- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel

- Sonic SoundStage

- Sonic SenseAmp

- Sonic Studio

- Sonic Radar II

USB Ports

ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :

2 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue)

AMD A88X FCH(Bolton D4) chipset :

4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)

AMD A88X FCH(Bolton D4) chipset :

8 x USB 2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, , 6 at mid-board)

ROG Exclusive Features

Extreme Engine Digi+ III :

- Full Digital CPU/DRAM Power

- NexFET™ Power Block MOSFET

- New Alloy Chokes

- 10K Black Metallic Capacitors

ROG Extreme OC kit :

- Slow Mode

- LN2 Mode

ProbeIt

KeyBot

- CPU Level Up

- XMP

- Direct Key

UEFI BIOS features :

- GPU.DIMM Post

- Tweakers' Paradise

- ROG SSD Secure Erase

- Graphic Card Information Preview

ROG RAMDisk

GameFirst III

Extreme Tweaker

USB BIOS Flashback

Special Features

ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors 5 :

- The tuning key perfectly consolidates ASUS-exclusive DIGI+ Power Control, TPU, EPU, and Fan Xpert 3 optimize the digital power setting, system performance, power saving and whole system cooling configuration

ASUS Exclusive Features :

- MemOK!

- AI Suite 3

- Ai Charger+

- USB Charger+

- USB 3.0 Boost

- Disk Unlocker

Interactive HomeCloud

- Media Streamer

ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :

- Stylish Fanless Design Heat-sink solution & MOS Heatsink

- ASUS Fan Xpert 3

ASUS EZ DIY :

- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3

- ASUS EZ Flash 2

- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode

- Push Notice

ASUS Q-Design :

- ASUS Q-Shield

- ASUS Q-Code

- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)

- ASUS Q-Slot

- ASUS Q-DIMM

- ASUS Q-Connector

Operating System Support

Windows® 8.1 86x64

Windows® 8 86x64

Windows® 7 86x64

Back I/O Ports

1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)

1 x DVI-D

1 x D-Sub

1 x HDMI

1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)

4 x USB 3.0 (blue)

2 x USB 2.0

1 x Optical S/PDIF out

6 x Audio jack(s)

1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)

Internal I/O Ports

1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s)

3 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 6 USB 2.0 port(s)

1 x TPM header

8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)

1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)

1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)

3 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (3 x 4 -pin)

1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)

1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)

1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)

1 x System panel(s)

1 x DRCT header(s)

1 x MemOK! button(s)

1 x Slow Mode switch(es)

7 x ProbeIt Measurement Points

1 x Power-on button(s)

1 x Reset button(s)

1 x Clear CMOS button(s)

1 x LN2 Mode jumper(s)

1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header(s)

1 x KeyBot Button

1 x Sonic SoundStage Button

Accessories

User's manual

I/O Shield

4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)

1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)

1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)

1 x ROG Door Hanger(s)

1 x ROG Mouse Mat

BIOS

64Mb UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.7, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI5.0a, Multi-Language BIOS

Manageability

WfM 2.0, DMI 2.7, WOL by PME, PXE

Support Disc

Drivers

ROG GameFirst III

ROG RAMDisk

ROG CPU-Z

Kaspersky® Anti-Virus

DAEMON Tools Pro Standard

ASUS WebStorage

HomeCloud

ASUS Utilities

Operating System

Windows® 8.1 32/64-bit

Windows® 8 32/64-bit

Windows® 7 32/64-bit

Form Factor

ATX Form Factor

12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

Management Solution

WfM 2.0, DMI 2.7, WOL by PME, PXE

 

 


Packaging and Accessories

While this may be the first FM2+ ROG motherboard, but Asus did stick with tradition on the packaging. The box has the standard red and black ROG them on it with Crossblade Ranger in big letters across the front. The front flips up to show a large window that gives us full view of the board, all around the edge are small notes highlighting specific features. The back of the flap that flips up has information on the Crossblade Rangers audio, networking, and even a section highlighting all the different ways the board protects you, from over current protection, the use of stainless steel on the rear I/O, even a note showing that the rear I/O panel doesn’t have the small springs that can cut up your hands. The back of the box has a few more photos but it is mostly covered in the full specification listing. Asus also included a line drawing of the rear I/O to show all of the connections you get with the Crossblade Ranger.

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When we get into the box, the motherboard sits in a cardboard tray and under it are all of the accessories and documentation. For documentation, you get a full user guide to help you get your PC built and to help with any questions or for diagnosis down the road. You also get an ROG door hanger and SATA cable labels. Then of course there is the driver/software disc as well.

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For accessories, the Crossblade Ranger gets a few things but nothing compared to Asus’s high end ROG boards. You get four black SATA cables, two of the four cables have a right angle connection. They include a Q Connector to make hooking up your front panel connections simple. Then for the rear I/O panel you get a chromed panel with foam on the backside rather that those pesky metal springs that tend to get caught on your I/O panel when installing. I love that they also slip in a ROG mousepad as well!

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Board Layout and Pictures

With the Crossblade Ranger only recently being introduced, it has a much more modern ROG design. We still get the black and red theme like all Republic of Gamers boards but the heatsink design is cleaner and more angular than the AM3+ board I took a look at last week. Around the CPU socket is suspiciously clean though, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a board with that big of an open space, it should leave a lot of room for your heatsink though.

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I mentioned that the Crossblade Ranger has a much more modern design on the cooling than the AM3+ board from last week. The design reminds me a lot of the old stealth fighters with its angles and matt black finish. Around the CPU to help keep the boards NexFET Power Block MOSFETs a d alloy chokes cool we have two heatsinks. The larger of the two is on the left side and goes all the way over to the back of the rear I/O panel, the other is smaller and up top. Both look extremely simple until you see them from a side profile, this way they still have a clean look while having more than enough surface area to keep things cool. Speaking of cool, I really like the red trim slipped into the larger heatsink with the Ranger logo on it. The chipset heatsink is much shorter to make sure there is clearance for your video cards. It is also anodized black and then Asus added on a dual layer plate made of black and red to add in a little ROG branding on the board.

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Starting up in the top left corner we don’t really have to much going on. Like I mentioned before the CPU socket area and largely lacking of anything to talk about and the heatsinks both take up a lot of room as well. That means there isn’t anything going on behind the rear I/O panel but down at the bottom tip of the heatsink we do have our first four pin PWM fan header. Up above the left heatsink is the eight pin CPU power connection as well.

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On the top right side we have a lot more going on though. First we have four DDR3 DIMM slots in black and red to match the board. Up above them we have two four pin PWM fan headers for the CPU cooler putting us up to three so far. Next to them is an LED diagnostic readout to help track down issues. Next is a large red power button and then a small reset button as well. After that you have seven small solder points where we can test all of the voltages on the Crossblade Ranger when overclocking. To go with that below it we have a jumper for LN2 more and a switch to turn slow mode on and off to help when overclocking and you can’t get past the boot. Next is a small red button for the MemOK test, pressing this will automatically drop your memory clock speeds down until the PC will boot to help when your memory defaults too high. After that is the 24-pin motherboard power connection. Lastly Asus slipped in a red USB 3.0 header for your front panel USB 3.0 connections.

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Moving on down the right side we have another four pin PWM fan header and then the eight SATA 3 ports, all at a right angle. The front panel connections are down in the bottom right corner for the easiest possible access and then next to it is another small button, this time the keybot button. I saw this same button on the Impact motherboard, keybot is Asus’s new feature that can automatically give your keyboard macro keys and other functions including overclocking your motherboard, all without having to have a gaming specific keyboard. Next we have two USB 2.0 headers and then a small red clear CMOS button. Next is our last four pin PWM fan header giving the Crossblade Ranger a total of five.

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Continuing right to left along the bottom, next we have the ROG Extention header, you can use this plug to plug in Asus’s OC Panel. Next is the TPM plug, the Trusted Platform Module header can be used with many devices including Asus’s bitlocker. Next is the Sound Stage button that lets you flip through different amp sound stage options. Beside that we have the front panel audio header. From the front panel audio head and on over we have the SupremeFX audio card. Asus was careful to give the on board audio its own PCB, you can see the split/gap that is filled with transparent resin from the header all the way around the audio PCB.

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For PCI connections the Crossblade Ranger gets a mix of old and new. We have two PCIe x1 slots and also two legacy PCI slots. I haven’t seen to many of those recently! For PCIe x16 slots you get three but the bottom slot (in black) only runs at x4 all of the time. The other two will run at x16 if you are only using one slot and x8 on both if you go with an SLI or Crossfire solution.

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Unlike our last AMD ROG board the Crossblade Ranger being an FM2+ board does have to include a few video connections. So for that Asus included an HDMI, DVI, and even a VGA connection. For audio things are standard with a six port audio panel as well as the S/PDIF connection just above the HDMI port. For USB you get four USB 3.0 ports as well as two USB 2.0 ports. The two USB 2.0 ports are also paired with a legacy PS/2 connection to get your mouse and keyboard hooked up without any problems pre-OS. For network the Crossblade Ranger has an Intel I211-AT Gigabit NIC, it’s nice to see Asus sticking with the Intel NICs, even on an AMD board. Last but not least, next to the USB 3.0 ports they also slipped in a small Clear CMOS button should you need to do that without having to dig into your PC.

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Around on the back of the Crossblade Ranger we can see the flat black PCB. Addiitonally we can also see that the two heatsinks around the CPU socket require backplates to keep them secure along with the CPU backplate as well.

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UEFI and Software

When it comes to software Asus has always delivered so there weren’t any surprises when testing the Crossblade ranger. It comes with the same AI Suite 3 that all of their modern boards have. Let’s take a quick look.

When getting started, loading up the included disc will bring up the Asus InstaAll option that will quickly install all of your needed drivers. The other option is to go through and install what you need one at a time.

software 1

With everything installed the first thing I took a look at was KeyBot, a fairly new program from Asus. Here you can program your normal keyboard to run macros and have other hotkeys. As someone who prefers a clean keyboard without all of the extra macro keys, it is nice to still have the option should I need it.

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software 3

software 4

software 5

When you open up AI Suite 3 you land on a general home page. What I like about this home page though is that they still let you see a lot of what is going on in every section. From here we can click on any of the sections. Down at the bottom on every page is a quick look at the CPU speed, voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds.

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In AI Suite you can tweak voltages and clock speeds just like in the bios, only this is easier to work with and you don’t have to reboot. The other option is to let Asus do it for you. They make it as easy as one click, but in the second picture below you can also see that they let you dig in and adjust how you would like the testing in between overclocks to run to make sure it fits how you plan on using the PC.

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I like that you can quickly flip between different fan speed modes if you would like or you can also select a specific fan and set the fan profile yourself.

software 9

We get full access to the DIGI+II power as well.

software 10

The turbo app page lets you select specific programs to get priority when it comes to both network traffic and also CPU performance.

software 11

You can set up optional power saving settings that will lower your voltages and fan profiles when your PC isn’t in use.

software 12

Up in the top right corner there is a small button. That button opens up a whole page of other options. The most notable is the USB 3.0 boost page where you can turn the speed up on some USB 3.0 devices and also the AI Charger+ page that lets you charge your iPhone faster.

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When not open AI Suite can also run a small menu down in the bottom right corner of your screen that gives you quick access to AI Suite options.

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Asus also includes their Sonic Radar II program. Here you can use a little cheat that will actually show an indicator on the screen in any game you select that will show the direction the sound is coming from. They let you select the sound ranges that you want it to put on the radar, they even break it down by bomb ticking sounds, gunshots, and even footsteps.

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The BIOS for the Crossblade Ranger is UEFI and fully supports both keyboard and/or mouse use. That means you can navigate using your mouse or go old school by just using your keyboard. Being an ROG board, when you boot things up you go right to the extreme tweaker page were we can get right into overclocking. Other Asus boards will normally boot into the EZ-Mode, ROG boards have the same mode but the expectation is that if you are getting an ROG board you know a little more about your PC. Over on the right side of this and all pages we have a listing of current CPU and ram settings, temperatures, and voltages. When you mouse over any of the settings throughout the BIOS this area will also show a short explanation of the setting you are about to change.

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The Advanced tab has all of your normal BIOS options relating to USB, SATA, onboard devices, and the CPU. It also has an option that is less seen called ROG Effects. Here you can turn the lighting off on the SupremeFX audio card and the other onboard LEDs.

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bios 3

The monitor tab is broken down by a few sections. Here you can monitor motherboard voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds.

bios 4

The boot tab has all of your boot options from turning the boot logo on or off to USB, network, and SATA support.

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The took page is kind of a catch all for everything else. Here we can flash to the latest BIOS, secure erase your drives, look at your GPU information and also save or load overclocking profiles. You can save up to 8 profiles. This is good if you overclock using multiple cooling options or if you want to save a verified overclock while you work on an unstable one.

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Up top along the top on every page are two important options. The first is the EZ Tuning Wizard that overclocks a step at a time while testing your PC just like the windows based AI Suite 3 does. The second is the Qfan Control page where you can set each hooked up fans ramp up profile.

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Last we can still get into the EZ-Mode by clicking down in the bottom right corner. Here we have a more general look at your settings with quick drag boot settings as well.

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Test Rig and Procedures

AMD FM2+ Test System

CPU

AMD A10-7850K Kaveri

Live Pricing

Cooling

Noctua NH-U14S for cooling

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste

Live Pricing

Live Pricing

Memory

Kingston HyperX 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM

Live Pricing

Storage

Kingston HyperX 128GB SSD

N/A

Video Card

Nvidia GTX 780

Live Pricing

Power Supply

Cooler Master V1000 Power Supply

Live Pricing

Case

Microcool Banchetto 101 Test bench

N/A

OS

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit

Live Pricing

Motherboard Testing

Passmark Performance Test 8.0

Overall PCMark score

PCMark 8

We use the Home Accelerated benchmark and track the overall score

3DMark

We run the 2013 Fire Strike test on the performance setting

In Game Tests

Bioshock Infinite

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool, we run Bioshock Infinite on the “Xtreme” quality setting.

Tomb Raider

 Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool, we run Tomb Raider on the “Xtreme” quality setting.

Hitman: Absolution

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool, we run Hitman: Absolution on the “Xtreme” quality setting.

Sleeping Dogs

 Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool, we run Sleeping Dogs on the “Xtreme” quality setting.

Subsystem Testing

Passmark

Passmark Advanced network test

 

 


Performance

When it came time for performance testing, I ran the Crossblade Ranger through our standard benchmark suite using the A10-7850K Kaveri APU. For comparison, I also did the same testing using our other A88 board, the Asus A88-Pro. In the end both had extremely similar numbers in all of the test. With both being from the same manufacture and running the same video card and APU this wasn’t a shock at all. The improvements in the Crossblade Ranger are focused on giving a better gaming experience with improved audio performance and better overclocking potential. Speaking of audio performance, when testing I was extremely impressed with the soundcard on the Crossblade Ranger. It’s rare that any onboard audio card is anything more than mediocre, but Asus has made it a habit of making their ROG boards stand out with good audio. They have done this so much that a lot of the other manufactures have been putting out similar designs to keep up.

3DMark

Motherboard

Overall Score

Graphics Score

Physics Score

Asus A88-Pro

5888

9343

3653

Asus Crossblade Ranger

5886

9338

3653

PCMark 8 Home Accelerated Score

Asus A88-Pro

3489

Asus Crossblade Ranger

3515

Passmark Overall Score

Asus A88-Pro

2959.2

Asus Crossblade Ranger

2960.6

Bioshock Infinite Average FPS

Asus A88-Pro

83.11

Asus Crossblade Ranger

83.17

Tomb Raider Average FPS

Asus A88-Pro

57.2

Asus Crossblade Ranger

57.7

Hitman: Absolution Average FPS

Asus A88-Pro

38.4

Asus Crossblade Ranger

38.5

Sleeping Dogs Average FPS

Asus A88-Pro

59.7

Asus Crossblade Ranger

59.7

         

 

 


Network

When doing network testing I was very happy with the Intel I211-AT NIC in the Crossblade Ranger. I’m glad they went with a high quality network card, this is another area where the Ranger stands out next to the Asus A88-Pro and nearly all of the other A88 boards. Most go with a cheaper Realtek NIC. While Realtek NICs have worked fine at home, we have had troubles with them under the heavy loads at our LAN events.

Motherboard

Average Network Speed

Asus A88-Pro

838.2

Asus Crossblade Ranger

909.1

 

 


Overall and Final Verdict

So now that I have taken a closer look at the Crossblade Ranger, its performance, and its software lets recap. First this is a good looking board, not that this is a big shocker, adding a little ROG styling never seems to go wrong. The red and black theme seems to be timeless and the new angular heatsinks look great as well. Asus really took a risk with this board, the FM2+ platform isn’t exactly a big enthusiast pleaser but in the end they put together a great package, great on board audio, a high quality NIC, and a whole list of other features that you just aren’t going to find on other FM2+ boards. There were no surprises with the software when it came to the UEFI and AI Suite 3. Where I did have fun was the new additions to the Asus software suite (well they aren’t completely new I did see them with the Impact) Keybot and SonicRadar. I have a feeling hat if Sonic Rader becomes popular there are going to be a lot of people upset that it is basically a cheat for FPS games. That said its still great to see that Asus aren’t sitting on their hands.

So what are the downsides to the board? Well with so many features, they pushed the pricepoint well above with the other FM2+ boards are selling for. Without question this is the most expensive board available for that socket, ironically it is cheaper than most of the X99 boards though lol. You can’t say you aren’t getting what you pay for though, this is a great board. To add even more into the mix, currently you can even get a copy of Sniper Elite III with it when you get it from some retailers. So is this a board I would recommend? Well if you are dead set on going FM2+ yes, this is without a doubt the best option out there. I would however make sure that FM2+ is the best option in your budget, especially when spending money on a premium motherboard.

fv4recommended

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld replied the topic: #36031 26 Dec 2014 18:25
I hope everyone had a great holiday. Before we get to the weekend check out our review of the Asus Crossblade Ranger, Asus's first ROG FM2+ board.

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