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ASUS Rampage Extreme X48 Motherboard Review

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3oh6

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<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/asus_logo-1.png" alt="ASUS Logo">


<b>ASUS Rampage Extreme X48 Motherboard Review</b></center>



<b>Price:</b> $433+ CND <a href="http://hardwarecanucks.pricecanada.com/detail.php?product_id=576005&sku=RAMPAGEEXTREME">Price Comparison</a>
<b>Manufacturer Product Page:</b> <a href="http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=11&l3=640&l4=0&model=2367&modelmenu=1">ASUSTeK Computer Inc.</a>
<b>Manufacturer's Part Number:</b> RAMPAGEEXTREME
<b>Warranty:</b> 3 year limited warranty



<p style="text-align: justify;">It was like Darth Vader entering the room. An orchestra played a theater filling-anthem that drove home the bass like a Zeppelin concert, the whole world seemed to cease rotating and stare in awe of its presence. The skies opened up in a crack of thunder and a torrential downpour ensued, then...the FedEx guy said "Snap out of it, can you sign please, I am getting soaked out here!". The moment had arrived, the much anticipated and revered star of the summer silly season, the last great hope before Nehalem was here. Not since the DFI Ultra-D has a motherboard been so sought after by overclockers and enthusiasts alike.

The frenzied forum discussions, results threads, and outright hooliganism this motherboard has already achieved has not been seen in a long time. ASUS has not only designed a top drawer competitor in the ultra high-end segment of the mainboard market, they have also done a fantastic job creating excitement around this product. Putting this motherboard in the capable hands of some of the best overclockers in the world before release has created a legend before it was ever born. We are of course talking about the ASUS Rampage Extreme.

Just mentioning the name in a forum creates a buzz and from what we have seen so far, we understand why. Of course, hype isn't what we are about here at Hardware Canucks. We are enthusiasts and overclockers, but we are also everyday computer users willing to put our pre-conceptions aside and like Dragnet's Joe Friday are only interested in one thing, "Just the facts, Mam, just the facts.". Carbon dating myself aside, we are only interested in the reality that is the ASUS Rampage Extreme, not the myth.

ASUS has a long history of capable mid-range and entry level boards right up to top of the line "super boards" as we have dubbed them. The R.O.G. series of motherboards has made an appearance here before in the form of the <a href="http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/7054-asus-rampage-formula-x48-motherboard-review.html" alt="Check out our ASUS Rampage Formula review for DDR2 R.O.G. action!" title="Check out our ASUS Rampage Formula review for DDR2 R.O.G. action!" target="_blank">Rampage Formula</a> and you can consider the Rampage Extreme the bigger, meaner, and more robust older brother to the aforementioned DDR2 flagship. We were impressed with the Rampage Formula but wanted the same performance from the Intel X48 chipset with a DDR3 flavor, and, we got it.</p><center>
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3oh6

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Specifications

Specifications


<p style="text-align: justify;">We have seen the specifications of the X48 chipset a couple times here at Hardware Canucks so we won't bother re-hashing an older chipset. Instead we will simply present the ASUS Rampage Extreme specifications sheet. Keep in mind, the single biggest advantage to the X48 chipset over the P35/P4 chipset is the availability of dual 16X PCI-E 2.0 slots. This provides the ultimate in GPU throughput to the system. Arguments about whether dual 8X PCI-E 2.0 can cause a bottleneck aside, dual 16X PCI-E lanes is a guarantee for maximum potential.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/specs-1.png" alt="ASUS Rampage Extreme Specifications"></center>
 

3oh6

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Features

Features


<p style="text-align: justify;">With a lofty $400+ price tag, the ASUS Rampage Extreme comes off as an elitist built for those with more money than brains. The reality is that the Rampage Extreme really does offer many things that no one else on the market does. Does this justify the price? Let's have a look at some of those features and begin drawing the answer to that question.</p><table align="center" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="90%"><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>At the Top of Game Board</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-1.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />This isn't the first Republic Of Gamers motherboard from ASUS that we have looked at here at Hardware Canucks and if this one is anything like the last, we are certain to be impressed. The ROG logo symbolizes the best that ASUS has to offer for a specific chipset, the Rampage Extreme may just be the best ASUS has to offer...period.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>PCI-E 2.0 Graphic Interface</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-2.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Forget about all the recent chatter regarding P45s 8X/8X CrossFire performance, with the Rampage Extreme and it's Intel X48 chipset, we get dual 16X/16X PCI-E 2.0 performance for un-restricted CrossFire performance. This will be put to the test when we take our test bed HD4850s and hunt for HWBot.org gold medals later on in the review.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Fusion Block System</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-3.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />ASUS has gone over the top with their Fusion Block System on this motherboard providing enough options to satisfy everyone's needs, whether you water or air cool. Additional heat sinks for the PWM, and NB area provide unparallel cooling flexibility. The Fusion water block provides superior cooling potential for extreme overclocking.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>iROG</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-4.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />In an un-heard of step, ASUS has single handedly provided us with the most advanced hardware based motherboard control we have seen on the market. With the iROG chips, ASUS has basically provided hardware based control of voltages, overclocking, and hardware monitoring...right on the board. Voltage modifications need not apply as this board has them practically built in.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>BIOS FlashBack</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-5.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />What is better than a self recoverable BIOS setup...well naturally, two independent BIOSs. ASUS has again opened the door for possibilities unseen before on a consumer motherboard. With two physical BIOS chips on the board, users can boot to either one or restore one from the other. As we found out in our Extreme Overclocking section, this came in un-believably handy.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>ASUS O.C. Profile</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-6.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />In addition to two physical BIOS chips on the Rampage Extreme, as always, ASUS has provided us with the ability to not only save BIOS settings within the BIOS but also provided the ability to backup BIOS settings to thumb drives to be shared. This can also come in very handy for troubleshooting and opens the door for other hardware manufacturers to potentially provide complete BIOS settings to an end user, without typing out a single setting.</td></tr></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>External LCD Poster</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-7.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />The LCD Poster makes another appearance here at Hardware Canucks but this time, it does more than just show POST codes. The LCD Poster is an integral part of what the TweakIt feature accomplishes that we just discussed. The LCD Poster acts as a small screen for our voltage and FSB adjustments as well as for cycling through the various readouts. The TweakIt section is not something you will want to miss.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Connect in the dark!</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-8.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Being a bit of a novelty feature when compared to the other outstanding options this board offers, the illuminated rear I/O panel is actually quite useful. Personally, my main workstation is in the dark at the rear I/O panel and this type of setup would be ideal. We suspect many users will find this feature extremely helpful in the most frustrating of times.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Extreme Engine</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-9.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />So we have a superior BIOS setup, superior cooling, and un-matched overclocking control, but do we have a motherboard that can really push the limits of overclocking? ASUS seems to think they have the answer for that question and many more with their ultra high-end components allowing for superior voltage stabilization when most needed as well as the ability to select extremely high voltages directly from the BIOS. Again, volt mods need not apply to this motherboard, even for the most extreme cooling conditions.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Speeding HDD</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/features-10.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The last item on the menu of features for the Rampage Extreme is this nice little feature that essentially takes the guess work out of running a RAID array. Simply plug two hard drives into the speeding ports and choose whether you want speed, or super speed and the software does the rest.</td></tr></table><p style="text-align: justify;">As we mentioned, coming into this review we knew this motherboard was the class of the field offering more unique features than we have ever seen. ASUS has really done everything they can to ensure that the Rampage Extreme does not get knocked off the throne it has easily captured. The question still stands though, do these impressive features on paper live up to their hype? We will definitely be finding that out today, first, let's see some of the features we just talked about in the Package & Accessories section.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories


<p style="text-align: justify;">The Rampage Extreme is the top flight offering out of the ASUS hanger of models. There are other ROG boards but the X48 chipset is considered the best of the Intel chipsets and tends to be regarded as best chipset on the market right now by many. We already know that the Rampage Extreme offers a wealth of features, let's now find out what kind of accessory package we receive with it.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">We start off with the package and if you have seen an ROG board before, you have basically seen this package before. This is also the second package in a row here at Hardware Canucks that sports a bullet hole theme. Sidetracking to a little social commentary, what kind of society do we perpetuate when computer hardware boxes are designed with bullet holes in them? Is it just a byproduct of all the shooting games, or more of a reflection on the state of the world? That sort of discussion doesn't really belong here so let's move on. The rear of the package is a plain jane list of specifications that we just looked at a couple pages ago. There are also a couple photos of some of the features ASUS chooses to highlight.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Under the top flap is where ASUS has chosen to plaster all of the logos outlining the features of the Rampage Extreme. We only show a single panel here but ASUS uses up both and rightfully so as this board is chalk full of goodies, accessories, and things to brag about. Inside of our package we have two pieces, the motherboard itself wrapped in a plastic clam shell and the box of accessories. Our plastic clam shell showed up in perfect shape and provides an excellent home for the motherboard. We are really liking the security that the plastic clam shell offers and hope this is one trend that filters down to lower end boards.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Inside the accessory box of the Rampage Extreme we find a compartmentalized plethora of items. Everything is securely in place and the two additional boxes in the top left provide additional protection for the heat sink attachments they house. Here is a complete list of the accessory package:
  • 1 x Floppy Cable
  • 1 x IDE Cable
  • 4 x SATA Cables (2 x 90 degree / 2 x standard)
  • 1 x 4-Pin Molex Connector > Dual 5-Pin SATA Connector
  • Dual USB 2.0 & Single 6-Pin Firewire PCI Expansion Bracket
  • 1 x Additional PWM Heat Sink Cooling Fan
  • 3 x Optional Thermal Sensors
  • Rubber Feet Standoffs
  • Q-Connectors
  • 7 x Small cable ties
  • 2 x 1" 3/8" Tube / 2 x 1/4" > 3/8" Adapters / 2 x 1/4" > 1/2" Adapters & Appropriate Worm Drive Clamps
  • LCD Poster
  • 1 x Optional PWM Heat Pipe Heatsink Attachment
  • 1 x Optional MCH Heat Pipe Heatsink Attachment
  • Manual & Software CD + Installation Guide
  • Illuminated Rear I/O Panel
There really is no shortage of goodies here and some of them are 100% unique to the ROG lineup and the Rampage Extreme. Let's take a closer look at the more interesting ones.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The optional PWM and MCH heat sinks are just that. They are optional heat sinks that can be mounted in place of the standard 'low-profile' PWM heat sink and the Fusion water block on the MCH. If you don't need the clearance for a CPU cooler, you can mount the PWM heat pipe and if you are not going to be using the waterblock, you can swap in the heat pipe setup. Providing this type of flexibility in the box is not only rather smart, but also a nice touch. Both heat sinks are just aluminum with what appears to be a copper heat pipe and aren't going to make significant changes but will help a small bit...and if you have the space, why not? Another unique accessory is the rear I/O panel. We can clearly see the wire coming out of the top of the panel that looks oddly out of place. This is for providing power to the panel as it plugs into the motherboard and lights up. Not only is it a little extra flash for the setup, but serves a purpose for those with their cases back end in a dark spot.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last of our two photos have nothing in common but show that ASUS has every angle for every user of this motherboard covered. The rubber feet are included so those of us who run our benching rigs open air, don't even have to set the motherboard on the box it came in. The rubber feet simply stick to the underside of the motherboard with pre-applied two sided tape and there are enough supplied to support the motherboard in the same spots standoffs would be when mounting in a case. The tubing adapters are also provided in a range of sizes to make sure most existing loops can plug right in to the Fusion water block. The Fusion block comes with 1/4" (10mm) barbs we imagine as there are 1/4" )1-mm) to 3/8" and 1/2" adapters along with the appropriate worm drive clamps. Again, ASUS has thought of everything to really make this a complete package no matter what your setup is like.</p>
 

3oh6

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A Closer Look at the ASUS Rampage Extreme

A Closer Look at the ASUS Rampage Extreme


<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/layout-1.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The first thing that comes to mind when looking down on this board is wow, that is a lot of "stuff", for lack of a better word. The heat sink/heat pipe theme park and all of its subsidiary covers take up the majority of the landscape. There is also an additional heat sink on the vDIMM PWM circuit that matches the rest of the heat sink theme. The slot placement and spacing look good as does the hard drive ports but again we see a pair standing straight up which we don't like to see anymore, go 90 degree, or go home. The PCI-E 16X spacing is absolutely perfect for dual slot coolers or big chunks of copper. Let's start the fly by at heat sink central, the CPU socket.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Now despite how cramped and overwhelmed that poor little CPU socket looks, the heat sinks really aren't that intrusive. The height is good and should clear most large wing span heat sinks and they are far enough away that they should allow the lower level heatsinks plenty of room to breathe. We will see more about installation issues shortly in the install section, if there are any. Other than that, the new 16 phase PWM layout is very tidy and more than adequately cooled with the heat sinks provided. The 8-PIN CPU connection is tucked up there parallel to the top edge of the board. Like every other PWM zone on the Rampage Extreme, the vDIMM circuit get's its own heat sink along with a high capacity Fujitsu 3V-1000uF capacitor. This is just one of three on the board, all of which we will see in this section.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The ideal layout continues here beside the memory slots which are so far away from the CPU socket that they really are an afterthought. The floppy, IDE, and 24-pin ATX power connectors are all parallel with the motherboard edge and will make cable management a breeze. The IDE connector even goes as far as providing a 90 degree angle mount. The same on the floppy connector would be nice to see as well. Speaking of 90 degree connectors, 6 of the 8 total SATA II connectors are at a 90 degree angle, but a pair from the ICH9R south bridge are not. Perhaps there just wasn't room but at least they don't appear to interfere with either of the PCI-E 16X lanes.

The rest of this bottom corner is the central hub, host of the soutbridge, USB headers, front panel connectors, a fan header, both BIOS chips, and both iROG chips as well as the Silicon Image SIL5723 controller IC for the Speeding hard drives. There is also a switch to enable or disable the CMOS clear function of the button on the rear I/O panel.

The last item of interest tucked into the left corner of this image is the BIOS Flashback jumpers. Here we can set the jumper to either boot from BIOS 1, BIOS 2, or from the choice that is currently selected in the BIOS menu. Having two BIOSs is one thing, a jumper to decide which to boot to is a whole different ball park that no one else has entered but ASUS.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Right beside the BIOS Flashback jumpers are the Power, Reset, Select, Confirm, and Toggle buttons. The latter three are used for the TweakIt function that will have its own section a little later on. ASUS drops another first in the industry offering manual hardware controllable voltage and FSB selection. This feature is probably the biggest crowd pleaser and in reality, is a very nice feature when benching. Accurate temperature and voltage readings without the use of software for all major components...yes please.

In front of the PCI expansion slots we have the Winbond W83667HG-A multi I/O controller, VIA VT6308P firewire controller, and dual Marvell 88E8056 gigabit ethernet controllers. All of the listed component specification sheets should easily be found through some quick Google searches. Another pair of fan headers reside up here just below the rear I/O panel.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As we mentioned, the PCI-E 16X slot placement is about as slick as it gets in our opinion. Dual slot coolers should fit with plenty of room to breathe and a PCI slot at the very top will always allow for a PCI sound card to be used regardless of your GPU setup. The pair of PCI-E 1X slots in the middle should even be useable, well the bottom one at least, regardless of GPU cooler that is hanging off the card in the top 16X slot.

The large low profile heat sink sneaking into the photo is the start of the heat pipe assembly and does not interfere at all with expansion cards, but does cover a lot of surface area. This large surface area adds to the cooling ability without standing more than a centimeter above the boards surface. The heat sink also acts as a visual aid covering the heat pipe going up to the north bridge and providing room for more logos for ASUS to brand this board. The branding has indeed worked well because once you see this black aluminum mass on the board, you know you are looking at a Rampage Extreme.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Moving up the heat pipe highway, the northbridge is met with a very hefty heat sink combination that includes the Fusion water block sitting directly on top of the X48 chipset as well as a large pin fin heat sink borrowed from the Rampage Formulas playbook. This large secondary heat sink helps cool the entire heat pipe assembly but also provides ample cooling for the NB voltage regulation circuit including another one of the larger capacity Fujitsu capacitors we are about to see. Heat pipes then come out of this conglomeration of aluminum and copper and branch out to the heat sinks mounted on the top and bottom PWM banks for the CPU, each covering 8 phases of the MOSFETs. Overall, this setup is very beefy looking and appears to be quite capable of cooling this chipset but only testing of that will tell which happens a little later on.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Like we just said, the second of the large Fujitsu capacitors is found here underneath the heat sink assembly we just looked at. Removing the heat sink also reveals the three phase PWM circuit for the north bridge, and the thermal interface material that came from the factory on the north bridge. ASUS appears to have moved away from the thick grey thermal material that hardens to a rock like state with this board and uses just the blue thermal material we sometimes find in between the hard grey stuff and the heat sink on other ASUS boards. In the thermal testing of this setup, we actually replace this thermal material and do a slight modification to the entire assembly which provides some interesting insight into this setup.

The second photo above shows off the rather minimalistic rear I/O panel which includes 6 USB 2.0 ports, dual gigabit RJ-45 connectors, a 6-pin firewire connector, an e-SATA connector, and the CMOS reset button. Just to the left of the panel is the LCD Poster connection and yet another fan header.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last of our photos is of the Rampage Extremes back side...don't worry, it is G rated. The last of the Fujitsu capacitors can be found directly behind the CPU socket which will force some installation issues that we will discuss in the next section. The rest of the back side is pretty standard but there is one thing to note, not a single pushpin is used in securing the heat sinks to the motherboard. This is what we have been waiting to see for so long here at Hardware Canucks, a motherboard heat sink assembly that is actually secured to the motherboard. Naturally we have found a fault in the design and if you look closely at the mounting screws you can see the slight modification we have made. Again, we will go over this with greater depth in the thermal testing section. Let's now get some hardware installed in this bad boy...or at least try anyway.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


<p style="text-align: justify;">Now in its proper place in the review, the installation section is basically concerned about one thing...problems. These will be those things we wanted to test during the fly over that caught our eye or things that we encountered over the course of the review. As always, we start with the question, does the Thermalright Ultra-120 fit? If so, in which orientation?</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Going from top to bottom or bottom to top, the Ultra-120 has no problems with the heat sinks around the socket area. Memory isn't even a concern as we expected, and aside from a slight rub on the fan from the heat sink cover, the Ultra-120 fits perfectly in this orientation with plenty of room on the back side for a second fan. We have installed the optional heat pipe attachment onto the north bridge heat sink for this testing.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Turning the heat sink 90 degrees, we can see that again, aside from some very slight rubbing of the fan on the heat sink, the Ultra-120 sits nicely on the CPU. The right side does interfere with the fan mounting clip and we had to bend a couple fins on the north bridge heat sink, but nothing we would consider an issue. Getting the water cooling installed in this orientation might be a bit interesting due to all the worm clamps used as we will see in our Extreme Overclocking section.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Moving our attention to the video card installation side of things, we can clearly see that HD4850 owners have all the room in the world between slots. There is actually enough room for the top card to get fresh air to the intake. The memory clips do come close to the GPU back side in the top slot but nothing that would require removal of the GPU before being able to remove or install memory. From the front side, we can see that the top PCI slot would be available even with the Supreme FX sound card installed although we don't think anyone would be using the PCI slots for anything but a sound card of their own. We can also see the top PCI-E 1X slot appears to actually be useable as well with a single slot cooler.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Moving to a dual slot card, the HD3870X2, we can see that things get a little bit tighter but are still more than do-able. We know a lot of fortunate souls that are running a pair of HD4870X2s in this board with excellent results. The second photo confirms that even when ASUS makes a 'mistake', it doesn't cause any harm. Earlier we complained about two of the SATA II connectors not being at a 90 degree angle to the board but look at that, with a dual slot card up top and another card below, both connectors are easily accessible. We apologize and take our comment back, 90 degree connectors aren't always required, but still preffered.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Not everything is perfect in the land of the Rampage Extreme installation though. On the left is a back plate that comes with the Rosewill RCX-Z775 CPU cooler and on the right the one that comes with the Thermalright Ultra-120 and numerous other heat sinks/water blocks. Note the difference and what that large Fujitsu capacitor does for this situation. Basically, anything with a closed in back plate is going to be putting pressure on that capacitor as it sits dead center on the back plate. The Rosewill back plate works perfectly because it is cut out, like a couple other coolers that the forums have produced including none other than the ASUS V-60 heat sink's back plate. Perhaps this is something ASUS simply overlooked as their heat sink back plates may all be cut out in the middle. Either way, a solution is only a tin snip or dremel job away. Many have cut out the center portion of the Ultra-120 back plate and continued on with their installation without any issues. For a board of this price, however, we would love to see an ASUS supplied back plate with standard threads included in the package to all but completely remove this issue.

That is about all we came up with during installation of items and as we said, memory never plays a role with the CPU heat sinks so no worries there. Overall, the board is extremely well laid out and even when something isn't ideal, ASUS has made sure not to make it useless.</p>
 
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3oh6

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


<center>
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<p style="text-align: justify;">This BIOS is not as well laid out as the recently reviewed Gigabyte EP45T-Extreme so there are going to be a lot more screenshots required. With that said, the Rampage Extreme BIOS leaves nothing to chance and covers almost everything any user could ask for.</p><center>
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Click on image to enlarge</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Well, here it is, a single screen that sums up this BIOS perfectly...complete. ASUS ROG motherboards have always had a great BIOS but the Rampage Extreme takes it to a whole new level. First and foremost, the very first screen you come to when entering the BIOS is the Extreme Tweaker section, which is an absolute delight for someone doing a lot of overclocking. We have highlighted a couple menus that are available including the straps, and memory ratios. When Strap selection is set to Auto, the full slew of memory options become available and the strap is then appropriately chosen. The full plethora of memory timings seen in this screenshot that are grayed out are available for manipulation when set to manual providing all the memory tweaking options most anyone could ask for, drive strengths aside. The second and third screenshots provide some insight into the DRAM Skew options as well as the manual tRD selection AKA Performance Level. The Pull-In options for tRD are also available that we found in the Rampage Formula BIOS and allow for fine control of tRD. In fact, the Rampage Extreme BIOS will be very familiar to Rampage Formula owners or users of pretty much any other ASUS motherboard. Next up on the large list of Extreme Tweaker options are the voltages.</p><center>
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Click on image to enlarge</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Above are just a couple of menu options for voltages showing the GTL and vREF adjustments available to us. The voltage options on this board are un-heard of, and an absolute joy to work with. Aside from being able to simply type in the voltage you want, the voltage increments are as small as we have ever seen on a motherboard. For a complete list of voltage ranges, see the chart below:</p><center><table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="735px"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"> </td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Minimum</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Maximum</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Increment</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="335"><b>Notes</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">vCORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.85000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.50000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.00625v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Nice and small increments throughout the range</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">CPU PLL</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.51106v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">3.00831v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.01325v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.51106v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">FSB Term</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.20620v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.00120vv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.01325v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.20620v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">vNB</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.25922v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.21322v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.01325v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.25922v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">vDIMM</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.51106v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.80956v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.01325v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.55082v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">NB DDR Vref</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">-157.5mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+200.0mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">12.5mv / 2.5mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Positive voltages increment at 12.5mv and negative at 2.5mv</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">DDR Vref A</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">-157.5mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">+200.0mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">12.5mv / 2.5mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">Positive voltages increment at 12.5mv and negative at 2.5mv</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">DDR Vref B</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">-157.5mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">+200.0mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">12.5mv / 2.5mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">Positive voltages increment at 12.5mv and negative at 2.5mv</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">SB 1.5v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.51106v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.05431v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.01325v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.51106v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">SB 1.05v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.06037v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.96137v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.01325v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.06037v</td></tr></table></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We weren't kidding when we said these voltage adjustments were complete, and just look at those maximums. Again, ASUS left everything on the field and has made this motherboard the ideal option for extreme overclockers and benchmarkers.
</p><center>
bios-7.jpg
bios-8.jpg

Click on image to enlarge</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Main menu selection comes next with our standard options including the handy System Information section which provides us with some basic information about the system, including which BIOS we are on and the method in which we are booting to that BIOS. Some motherboards don't have an information page with the BIOS revision and processor information but ASUS always does and we appreciate it.</p><center>
bios-9.jpg
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Click on image to enlarge</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The advanced section is home to some of the more standard areas including CPU configuration of features, onboard devices, and USB configuration which are all pretty self explanatory. There are also a couple ROG specific sections like the LCD Poster and Other Configuration sections which provide us with control over some of the LCD Poster functions as well as the rules about the iROG BIOS crashes. Again, our dual BIOS to the rescue allowing us to automatically copy one BIOS to the other if the one we are using crashes, or to simply switch to the second BIOS. Full control over this second BIOS is something I will continue to talk about as it is such a great option to have a fully controllable second BIOS onboard.</p><center>
bios-14.jpg
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Click on image to enlarge</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Power section of a BIOS is normally quite useless to show with screenshots but when you have hardware monitoring like this, it is an absolute must. Like everything else in this BIOS and ROG boards in the past, the Voltage and Temperature Monitoring sections are absolutely complete. There is no guesswork, there is no assuming, and everything is there in plain sight. This is all part of the premium ROG package. My only wish is that the hardware monitoring sections of the ROG boards were available on other high-end boards from ASUS but in the end, this is one of the items that distinguishes ROG boards from the rest.</p><center>
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Click on image to enlarge</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Boot section has one notable area, the BIOS Boot Priority page. Obviously this is where we can select which BIOS the board boots to in here when the onboard jumper is set to menu select. You won't find this section on any other motherboard currently available at this time because no other motherboard at this time has two completely independent BIOS chips that users have full access to.</p><center>
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Click on image to enlarge</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last section in this lengthy BIOS look is the Tools section. Here ASUS has included their intelligently simple ASUS EZ Flash 2 which allows the quickest of BIOS updates, and also the ASUS O.C. Profile area. The profile saving area gets a bit of a revamp from ASUS boards of past giving us the ability to name the two profiles we can save. This is a nice step forward but more profiles would also be a nice addition to this feature from ASUS. One catch though, we couldn't rename profiles with numbers, only letters. DFI still wins this battle with the CMOS Reloaded feature but ASUS is showing signs of working to match that.

That finally wraps up the BIOS section and overall, we couldn't have expected much more from ASUS on the Rampage Extreme BIOS. All the standard ASUS features are there, a couple new ones thrown in, and the monitoring section is 100% complete. If you are at all familiar with ASUS BIOSs on their other motherboards, this one will make you feel right at home, we sure did.</p>
 
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3oh6

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 18, 2007
Messages
1,049
Location
Edmonton, AB
Included Software

Included Software


<p style="text-align: justify;">The software section isn't going to be too in-depth because there is just too much else to cover with this motherboard. The software package appears to be the standard ASUS group of programs with nothing really new or exciting to get a lot of air time. ASUS has included a copy of 3DMark 06 as well as Kaspersky Anti-Virus which are nice touches but a copy of 3DMark Vantage would likely be more appreciated by users. We start off with a quick look at the installation CD included with the Rampage Extreme.


Driver Installation
</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">First off, as soon as the CD auto runs, the dialogue stating to not use AI Suite/EPU Six Engine/PC Probe II in conjunction with TweakIt pops up. Obviously there are issues with using hardware and software that do the same thing at the same time but if there is a potential to actually damaging the motherboard by using two at the same time, ASUS really needs to do more to prevent that than a small dialogue box during installation. Aside from that, the software interface is the same as any other ASUS motherboard for the last while and we think the images speak for themselves as to what it offers. Driver installation is simple, program installation is just as easy, and the tabbed interface is easy to navigate. ASUS must feel that if it isn't broken, don't fix it. We couldn't agree more because we have never had a single issue with the installation interface from ASUS. Tucked into the utilities section are a couple programs we will now take a closer look at.


Kaspersky Anti-Virus
</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Admittedly, I personally am not an anti-virus user. It has just never been necessary for my systems and I really am stupid when it comes to the whole anti-virus scene. So we figured, why not have a virtual rookie see what the included Kaspersky Anti-Virus is all about? As it turns out, the software is quite user friendly and very simple to get up, running, and configured. An update is done first and foremost after an install as it should be and the user interface doesn't overwhelm us. The settings menu is well laid out with easy enough to understand options and the levels of protection that Kaspersky offers is very complete. Again, this is coming from an anti-virus illiterate user and we see the inclusion of a one year Kaspersky prescription a good thing for a premium motherboard like the Rampage Extreme.


PC Probe II
</p><center>
software-9.png
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">No ASUS software section is complete without a quick look at PC Probe II and if you are new to PC Probe II, you might be surprised at just how nice a monitoring software it is. It doesn't compete with Everest as far as system integration and the ability to integrate the data to a desktop for instance, but it is still a nice piece of software as far as manufacturer supplied software goes. Plus, it makes adding information like voltages to screenshots a whole lot easier being small and compact. PC Probe II still gets the two thumbs up from this reviewer but a little progression wouldn't hurt into desktop integration or a Vista side bar option.


EPU 6 Engine
</p><center>
software-11.png
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">It really is inevitable, at some point we are going to complain about the software supplied by a manufacturer and that point in this review is right now. This whole energy saving kick motherboard manufacturers are on is just silly in our opinion. We figured we would install the EPU-6 Engine just for kicks, to humor us really after the DES software from Gigabyte seemed to be almost decent. "Perhaps we would be surprised" is what we were saying...that didn't happen. As per usual, half of the software didn't work for us with very few options being available. In the second screenshot above you can see a grayed out screen, this is what we looked at for the better part of 5 minutes after clicking on the calibrate button. That is until we realized that there actually was a prompt there waiting for a response. In the third screenshot you can see that prompt, but it is only visible when dragging another window over the interface, we happened to be moving a CPU-Z window over and magically the prompt appeared. In the end, the software was disappointing as we expected it to be, none of the features worked from what we could see, and the whole point of this software really is a marketing gimmick in our minds. If you want to save energy with your computer, turn it off.</p>
 
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3oh6

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 18, 2007
Messages
1,049
Location
Edmonton, AB
Test Setup & Methodologies

Test Setup & Methodologies


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/setup-1.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 5px 20px" alt=""><b>Test Platform:</b>
  • <b>Motherboard:</b> ASUS Rampage Extreme (obviously)
  • <b>Processor:</b> Intel C2D E8600 ES
  • <b>Processor Cooling:</b> Thermalright Ultra-120
  • <b>North Bridge Cooling:</b> Fusion Waterblock / Thermochill PA 120.2 / DD5
  • <b>Memory:</b> Crucial Ballistix 2x1GB PC3-16000
    Corsair Dominator 2x1GB PC3-14400
    G.Skill PI 2x2GB PC3-12800
  • <b>Power Supply:</b> Silverstone ST56ZF
  • <b>Video Card:</b> 2 x ATI HD4850 512MB DDR3
  • <b>Additional Fans:</b> 120mm AD1212MS-A73GL 2050RPM/80.5CFM
  • <b>Hard Drives:</b> Seagate 7200.9 80GB SATAII 8MB cache
  • <b>OS:</b> Windows Vista SP1 (with all updates) for benchmarks / Windows XP Pro SP3 for overclocking
<p style="text-align: justify;">The memory line of our test setup is getting a little clogged but that is because of the multiple kits of memory that we tested on this motherboard. Our overclocking section has turned into somewhat of a stability testing of memory section and the list of memory above reflects that. The rest of the setup remained the same throughout testing except for the Extreme Overclocking section. That setup is just slightly different and will be outlined then. The listed setup above reflects the setup that was used for the Stability Overclocking and standard benchmarks that we are about to look at.

The other item to note is that in some of the screenshots and benchmarks, the heat pipe attachment for the north bridge was used in place of the Fusion water block. Initially we ran with the heat pipe setup but after doing the north bridge testing we stuck with the Fusion block as it worked rather well. Obviously the cooling changes don't affect performance so no problems there. In a slight deviation from our previous layouts, we will now take a look at the Stability Overclocking Methodology.</p>

Stability Overclocking Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">Now that it is lumped in with some other information, we'll keep this short and simple. Our Stability Overclocking is not to show how high we can clock the motherboard for a CPU-Z screenshot, nor is it to show a single aspect of the overclocking of a motherboard. Our Stability Overclocking is to show what we could do with the motherboard in a 24/7 overclocking setting. The fun overclocking will come later on in this review.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/setup-2.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">To test for a high level of stability we use various programs each known for finding specific issues in an un-stable overclock. This should provide us with as close to a 24/7 overclock as you will find anywhere. The following is the run-down of the stability testing that we do for all of the overclocks listed in the Stability Overclocking section:</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Again, this recipe of stability testing is designed to find a solid 24/7 overclock so we get a good idea of what our sample is actually capable of for end users, not the street racing benchmarker...like myself. Next up is a quick look at our benchmark methodology that we will be using for the Memory, System, and 3D/Gaming benchmarks.</p>

Benchmark Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">We again wanted to change things up a little bit for today's benchmarks. Instead of a complete stock setup where we simply plug the hardware in, clear the CMOS, and go with whatever the system puts up for settings; we manipulated the memory and system timings a slight bit.<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/method-1.png" alt="Just a sample graph outlining where the results will be coming from in the up-coming benchmarks" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 4px 7px"> We figured that we would take the approach of how quick we could get the system without changing the FSB and thus maintaining a completely stock CPU frequency of 3.33GHz for the E8600. The memory timings however were optimized along with tRD (Performance Level) to provide the best performance we could from our 'stock' settings. This is the type of thing that any user could do themselves with a little bit of trial and error.

The results with from the <b>blue</b> bars in the graphs will depict the performance of the tightened up stock settings we used and outlined in the example graph above. The <b>red</b> bars in the graph will represent our Overall Overclock from the Stability Overclocking section. These results are pretty much the fastest we could get this set of components to run under normal 24/7 conditions through our full stability testing.

The following will outline the rest of the testing methodology regarding OS setup and program/driver installation:
  1. Windows is installed using a full format.
  2. Intel Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a defragment and a reboot.
  3. At time of benchmarks the latest drivers were downloaded from their official web sites as the latest drivers, most notable, Intel Chipset 9.0.0.1008 and ATI Catalyst 8.8.
  4. Programs and games are then installed followed by another defragment.
  5. Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates followed by a defragment.
  6. Benchmarks are each ran three times after a clean reboot for every iteration of the benchmark unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged.
</p>
 

3oh6

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 18, 2007
Messages
1,049
Location
Edmonton, AB
Stability & Overclocking

Stability & Overclocking


<p style="text-align: justify;">It is finally time to get down to business and see what this motherboard can make this hardware do. We will not just focus on stable FSB overclocks but also on memory stability in testing. The XMP profiles of a couple kits will be tested for full stability. We will actually start there so let's see if our 2x1GB XMP Corsair Dominator kit has any issues at its XMP defaults of DDR3-1900 7-7-7 1T.</p>

2x1GB XMP Memory Stability Testing

Click for full size...
<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/ocing-1.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/small/ocing-1.png" alt="2x1GB DDR3-1800 7-7-7 Stability Testing" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">So far so good with the first kit of memory. There wasn't so much as a hiccup from first boot with this kit. They went straight into their XMP settings and ran right through the stability testing from first boot. Next up is our G.Skill PI 2x2GB PC3-16000 kit.</p>

2x2GB XMP Memory Stability Testing

Click for full size...
<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/ocing-2.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/small/ocing-2.png" alt="2x2GB DDR3-1600 7-7-6 Stability Testing" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We had to go into Vista x64 for this testing and once again, not so much as a groan of discomfort from the system. It handled the G.Skill PIs XMP profile like a champ and churned through stability testing. vDIMM was set bang on to what the kit calls for and the kit ran like they should. Unfortunately, this is where the memory clocking went from perfect to a bit of a battle, more on that after the next screenshot.</p>

Maximum Memory Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/ocing-3.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/small/ocing-3.png" alt="Maximum FSB Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Things got difficult when we tried clocking our 2x1GB of G.Skill gem PC3-12800s that have previously run dual 32M SPi at 1100MHz 8-7-6 on the 790i platform. Our board absolutely hated that memory and it was a fight to get even 1000MHz reasonably stable at 8-8-8. No problem we figured, it happens, let's move on to the Ballistix which are based on similar but slightly different ICs. Again, we found a limit of around 1015MHz for full stability at any CL8 timing set. Again, this is a kit of memory that clocked to 1060MHz completely stable on the 790i. For us on the Rampage Extreme, we couldn't get over 1030MHz even dual 32M stable regardless of voltage, and at 1030MHz we were only at 1.95v. Needless to say, some searching in forums has found a large amount of memory incompatibilities with this motherboard when it comes to high end overclocking and some even at stock frequencies.

In the end, we decided to see how low we could take the volts and still get 1000MHz stable with the Ballistix kit at 8-7-6. As we can see above, vDIMM dropped through the floor and vMCH was at a relatively low 1.51v. The most impressive factor out of all of this is the NB temperature which was at 60C for most of the stability testing. The A/C in the room accidentally got turned off and when we saw the temps climb. we decided to see how long it would go. Much to our surprise, it handled this solid memory overclock at a very high NB temperature which is very impressive.</p>

FSB Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/ocing-4.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/small/ocing-4.png" alt="Maximum FSB Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">This is when things get out of hand, and by out of hand, we mean downright crazy. This screenshot was literally started within 15 minutes of firing the motherboard up for the very first time. It climbed to 600FSB so quickly and did it with tight timings for this FSB without so much as an effort on our part. Straight out of the box, stock cooling, and standard ambient cooling on the CPU was easily 600FSB 24/7 stable on this board and a monkey could have pretty much pulled it off. We didn't even bother trying for higher for full stability because what was the point. No one really needs to be running 600FSB, especially for full stability, so we ended it there. In the Extreme Overclocking section coming up, the 600FSB+ was quite handy having on tap though.</p>

Overall Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/ocing-5.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/re/small/ocing-5.png" alt="Maximum Overall Stability Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">What else can we say, this board is simply unbelievable. Rocking 4.3GHz with a good E8600 for 24/7 isn't the impressive thing, 477FSB is nothing really exciting, DDR3-1908 7-6-5 is nice but nothing crazy. There is, however, one thing in that screenshot that is absolutely impressive. Performance Level 6 (tRD) at 477FSB with only 1.46v being 24/7 stable is just jaw dropping and for those that have been clocking X38/X48 boards for the better part of the last year, it is just un-heard of. This board is absolutely legendary in our opinions because it has the ability for an all out benching monster, and can do the little things that make this motherboard extremely fast for a 24/7 system. We have just seen that the 24/7 clocks are nice, later we will see if we can validate that "all out benching monster" claim.</p>
 
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