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ASUS Rampage II Extreme X58 Motherboard Review

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Memory Benchmarks

Memory Benchmarks




Everest Ultimate v4.50

Everest Ultimate is the most useful tool for any and all benchmarkers or overclockers. With the ability to pick up most voltage, temperature, and fan sensors on almost every motherboard available, Everest provides the ability to customize the outputs in a number of forms on your desktop. In addition to this, the memory benchmarking utility provides a useful tool of measuring the changes to your memory sub-system.



Since we used a DDR3-1600 memory speed for both our stock and overclocked configurations it is no surprise that the results are so even. Based on these results, it is also clear that the BCLK has no discernible effect on performance, and this despite a 58% increase. Likewise the increase in CPU, Uncore, and QPI speeds have not helped improve memory performance. Nevertheless, the Core i7 platform's triple-channel interface delivers an immense amount of memory bandwidth and it absolutely destroys even the most highly-clocked Core 2 system.



Memory latency is slightly reduced on our overclocked setup, but the difference is so small that it can be attributed to a normal benchmarking variance. These latency results are still very, very impressive and you clearly see the benefits of the integrated memory controller (IMC).


ScienceMark v2.0

Although last updated almost 3 years ago, and despite its rudimentary interface, ScienceMark v2.0 remains a favorite for accurately calculating bandwidth on even the newest chipsets.



Unlike in Everest, ScienceMark reveals a respectable 7% increase in memory bandwidth going from the stock to overclocked settings. We will have to run some further tests to determine how ScienceMark's benchmarking process differs from Everest's, in hopes of determining which most accurately tests memory performance.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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1,088
Location
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System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks



SuperPi Mod v1.5

When running the SuperPI 32MB benchmark, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system.



The increased CPU, Uncore and QPI clocks really have an opportunity to shine in SuperPI, reducing the overall time by over 2 minutes. The results demonstrate a huge 23% improvement in a benchmark in which mere tenths of a second matter.


PCMark Vantage x64

The latest iteration of the popular system benchmark is PCMark Vantage from the Futuremark crew. The PCMark series has always been a great way to either test specific areas of a system or to get a general overview of how your system is performing. For our results, we simply run the basic benchmark suite which consists of a wide range of tests involving all the sub-systems of the computer.



PCMark Vantage is focused on real-world performance as it tests all critical sub-systems and seeing a 9% gain here is very respectable.


Cinebench R10

Developed by MAXON, creators of Cinema 4D, Cinebench 10 is designed using the popular Cinema software and created to compare system performance in 3D Animation and Photo applications. There are two parts to the test; the first stresses only the primary CPU or Core, the second, makes use of up to 16 CPUs/Cores. Both are done rendering a realistic photo while utilizing various CPU-intensive features such as reflection, ambient occlusion, area lights and procedural shaders.



Cinebench is an effective way of testing pure processing power, and the ~24% performance improvements demonstrate almost perfect scaling with the increase in CPU clocks (25%).


DivX Converter v6

Now that we have ran some of the more 'synthetic' benchmarks, it is time for a real-life VOB to DivX encoding task. We will take a 1.08GB VOB rip of the cult-classic movie Full Metal Jacket and convert it into DivX using the default multi-media setting of DivX converter v6. DivX fully utilizes all cores of the processor and will rely heavily on all aspects of the system for performance.



Even with the advent of multi-core processors, video conversion is still one of the most time consuming endeavour that PC users are face with. Thankfully, the Core i7's remarkable multi-threaded performance has certainly helped to accelerate this task. The overclocked configuration was able to shave over 3 minutes off a 24 minute task, a tangible improvement.


Lame Front End

Unlike the DivX conversion program we just looked at, Lame Front End is not multi-threaded and only utilizes a single processor core. This will obviously limit performance but we should still achieve significant time savings going from the stock to the overclocked settings. We will be encoding a WAV rip of Santana’s Supernatural album and converting it to MP3 using the VBR 0 quality preset.



Our overclocked Core i7 is able to rip and convert an entire CD album to high-quality MP3s in just over 2 minutes, which is almost 23% faster than the stock configuration.


Photoshop CS3

For the image editing portion of this review, we will use Photoshop CS3 in coordination with our very own HWC Speed Test, which is an excellent measure of CPU power and memory bandwidth. This is a scripted benchmark that individually applies 12 different actions and filters to a 3.72MB JPEG, and uses Photoshop’s built-in timing feature to provide a result at each test stage. Then it’s simply a matter of adding up the 12 results to reach a final figure.


A 22% - 9 second improvement between stock and overclocked configurations is definitely noteworthy, and it might motivate image-editing enthusiasts to overclock their Core i7 systems.


WinRAR 3.7.1

The last of our real-life tests will be with the highly popular & multi-threaded WinRAR 3.71 tool, in which we take a 1GB batch of assorted files and archive them, timing the task until completion.



Along with being the first application that we install on a fresh Windows installation, WinRAR is a tool that we use countless times per day, so any performance improvement can provide some welcome time savings. With the overclocked setup, the compression test completed an impressive 29% faster than at stock. Interestingly, this improvement is greater than our 25% CPU overclock, so clearly the faster Uncore or QPI speeds must be playing a slight role in this benchmark.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Gaming Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks



Futuremark 3DMark 06

The Futuremark 3DMark series has been a part of the backbone in computer and hardware reviews since its conception. The trend continues today as 3DMark06 provides consumers with a solid synthetic benchmark geared for performance and comparison in the 3D gaming realm. This remains one of the most sought after statistics, as well as an excellent tool for accurate CPU comparison. We will continue to include the venerable 3DMark 06 because it is less GPU bound than Vantage, and thus a better indicator of overall system performance.



Despite the impressive 20% increase in the CPU score, the overall score increases by only 5%, which suggests that our GeForce 9800GTX is bottlenecking the overclocked Core i7 system.


Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

You asked for it, so we have finally included 3DMark Vantage, Futuremark’s latest release in their renowned line of 3D benchmarking software. This latest DX10-only 3DMark comes with a variety of presets, but for our tests will be use the standard Performance preset which is suitable for a much greater range of system specifications than the other more demanding presets.


In 3DMark Vantage, the CPU score scales almost perfectly with the increase in CPU frequency. However, this certainly does not translate into a dramatically higher overall performance, as the full scores increases by a miniscule 1.4%. Once again our GeForce 9800GTX is revealed to be a major bottleneck in this graphics-intensive benchmark.

Let's see what we can expect in actual games.


Crysis

While Crysis is intensely GPU dependent, we added it to our gaming benchmarks to see how system changes can improve in-game performance on a Core i7 system. We utilized the Sphere level demo in 64-bit DX10 mode with a resolution of 1680x1050 and with all detail levels set to medium.


As we have come to expect from Crysis additional processing power simply does not translate into improved overall performance, it remains an intensely GPU-limited game.


Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 is the hot new new first-person shooter from Ubisoft's Montreal studio, and the first game to utilize the new visually stunning Dunia Engine, which will undoubtedly be used by numerous future games. Using the provided Benchmarking Tool, we ran the Ranch Small demo in DX10 mode at 1680x1050 with all settings set to high.


As we saw in Crysis, the increased system clocks simply do not translate into noteworthy performance improvements due to the graphics bottleneck.


Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

This test consists of actual gameplay using a single mission (Authie: Boudica's Boys from the British Campaign) since it holds a bit of everything the game has to offer: vehicle battles, artillery barrages and house-to-house fighting. We recorded framerates using FRAPS up until the 15 minute mark of the mission and excluding any in-game briefings / cutscenes. The game was run in DirectX 9 mode at 1680x1050 with all detail levels set to high.


Finally, in COH: OP the increased system clocks do provide a decent 10% performance boost over the stock configuration. This real-time strategy (RTS) game used to bring systems to their knees, but our Core i7/GeForce 9800GTX combo is more than capable of running it at a healthy pace, even with all settings maxed out.


Team Fortress 2

As our last gaming benchmark, we will use the addictive and CPU-intensive Team Fortress 2. For this test, we made an action-packed 30-minute timedemo on the “2_Fort” map with a constant 20-24 player load. This test represents a worst-case scenario because it is a small map with a high number of players on the screen at all times, placing a significant load on the CPU. The resolution was set to 1680x1050 with all settings on high.


Team Fortress 2 is well-known for having excellent CPU scalability, and because of this we were surprised to "only" see a 12% frame rate improvement. This suggests that once again our GeForce 9800GTX is proving to be a performance bottleneck.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Location
Montreal
Feature Testing: TweakIt

Feature Testing: TweakIt



A carry over from the Rampage Extreme, the TweakIt controls are arguably the greatest differentiating factor between the RIIE and every other X58 motherboard on the market. With the assistance of the LCD Poster, this innovative feature allows for total control over system frequency and voltages in order to facilitate overclocking at any time. In or out of Windows, even while gaming, you can now overclock your system as necessary. TweakIt also allows users the ability to monitor voltages, temperatures and fan speeds without the need for any special software. Lastly, it gives you control over BIOS boot selection and the BIOS backup feature.

As you can see there are five main buttons, and their functions are fairly simple:
  • Toggle: Press to go back to the previous option.
  • Confirm: Press to enter an option or confirm your settings.
  • Select: Joystick left (previous; decrease) / right (next; increase) to select an option or adjust value.
  • Reset: Reset/Reboot the system.
  • Start: Start/Shutdown system.

The interface is quite intuitive, and within a few minutes of toggling most people will have no problems navigating the available menus. On that note, here is a table of what can be controlled and monitored with this unique feature.

<center><table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" width="697"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="300px"><b>Main Section</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="80px"><b>Level 1</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="307px"><b>Level 2</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="300px"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/asus/rampageIIextreme/tweakit1.jpg" /></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="80px">1 VOLT<br />2 TEMP<br />3 FAN<br />4 FREQ</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="307px"><table border="0" bgcolor="#000000" cellpadding="4" cellspacing="0" width="307px"><tr><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec"><b>1 VOLT</b><br />0 All<br />1 CPU<br />2 QPI<br />3 CPUPLL<br />4 DRAM<br />5 IOH 1_5V<br />6 IOH<br />7 ICH 1_5<br />8 ICH</td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec"><b>2 TEMP</b><br />0 All<br />1 CPU<br />2 NB<br />3 SB<br />4 MB<br />5 OPT_1<br />6 OPT_2<br />7 OPT_3</td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec"><b>3 FAN</b><br />0 All<br />1 CPUFAN<br />2 PWRFAN<br />3 OPT_1<br />4 OPT_2<br />5 OPT_3<br />6 CHA_1<br />7 CHA_2<br />8 CHA_3</td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec"><b>4 FREQ</b><br />BLCK</td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="300px"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/asus/rampageIIextreme/tweakit2.jpg" /></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="80px">1 CPU<br />2 QPI<br />3 CPUPLL<br />4 DRAM<br />5 IOH 1_5<br />6 IOH<br />7 ICH 1_5<br />8 ICH</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="307px">Full voltage range that is available in BIOS is available for all voltage options through TweakIt</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="300px"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/asus/rampageIIextreme/tweakit3.jpg" /></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="80px"><br />1 BCLK<br />2 RATIO</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="307px">Full BCLK & ratio range that is available in BIOS is available through TweakIt</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="300px"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/asus/rampageIIextreme/tweakit4.jpg" /></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="80px">1 BOOT</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="307px">BIOS 1<br />BIOS 2</td></tr></table></center>

While the HWINFO menu is the most impressive due to the massive number of system readouts, the DYNAOV menu is what we appreciated the most. This menu allowed us to dynamically alter all essential system voltages without having to reboot the system, and without having to rely on finnicky software. As a whole, TweakIt is a joy to use and it should become a hit among avid overclockers. Even those who don't overclock will enjoy pushing the race car-like START button. Having said that, this feature is really only usable by those who run their systems on a tech station. Those who plan on installing this motherboard in a traditional case will likely find TweakIt to be a cool novelty feature, but one that is difficult to use on a frequent basis. Therefore, we really would like to see a second pair of TweakIt controls integrated into an external module with a built-in LCD display...kind of like a fancy gaming pad, but for overclocking. How about it ASUS?


Next up let's have a look at the ProbeIt feature in the Voltage Regulation section.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,088
Location
Montreal
Voltage Regulation / Temperature Testing

Voltage Regulation




Although our voltage regulation section usually consists of an array of pictures highlighting the various voltage read points on a motherboard, ASUS have made our lives so much easier with the Rampage II Extreme. Thanks to the ProbeIt feature the eight essential voltage read points are clearly marked and conveniently located in one area, yay! This is something that all hardcore overclockers will be absolutely enamored with since it greatly simplifies a previously cumbersome task. Simply attach the leads from your digital multi-meter to the provided TweakIt cable(s), and then insert the connector into whichever voltage you want to monitor. Or, if you simply want to do a quick check, you can verify the voltages directly from the provided read points under each voltage connector.

The following measurements were taken with every setting in the BIOS on auto. Just to clarify, the vCore (LLC) section is the vCore readings with Load-Line Calibration enabled. With that out of the way, let's have a look at the results.


Overall, the Rampage II Extreme has nearly flawless voltage output. There is minimal variance between what you select in the BIOS and what the board actually outputs. The CPU PLL, IOH PCIE, ICH, ICH PCIE, DRAM voltages are essentially perfect, showing no variances between idle and load states. The vCore, QPI/DRAM, and IOH have at most a 4% drop between idle and load, which is also very good. Considering the minimal line droop (vDroop) on the vCore, the Load-Line Calibration feature is almost unneeded, but it is there and it does work very well. Many individuals have claimed that the LLC is broken on the RIIE, but that is inaccurate. The LLC feature only works, and is on by default, when you set Ai Overclock Tuner to Manual. If the Ai Overclock Tuner is set to AUTO, you can still enable LLC in the BIOS, but it will not function. We would criticize this apparent flaw, but there really is no reason to have LLC enabled if you are not overclocking.

By the way, once you do start overclocking the AUTO voltage values automatically increase (often to very high levels), so always keep an eye on voltages while overclocking and try to manually insert your voltage settings whenever possible.


Since the vCore is such a crucial setting, let's take a closer look at its characteristics with a two-hour OCCT stress test. For this test, we will utilize the overclocked configuration.

<b>
OCCT vCore Chart - Loadline Calibration Disabled​
</b>

Ok, now this looks bad...However, we can say without a shadow of a doubt that OCCT is getting a false reading. When examining the digital multi-meter, the vDroop was never more than 0.3V, and we clearly trust our DMM more than any software program. Just to preempt any obvious questions, yes, we did run the test multiple times, but it always gave the same bizarre result.

<b>
OCCT vCore Chart - Loadline Calibration Enabled​
</b>

With LLC enabled, which it always should be if you're overclocking, the vCore line is straight as an arrow displaying 0% variance even during load changes. Although the displayed vCore figure may not be accurate, the characteristics of the line are exactly as we saw on our DMM, flat and steady. This is quite impressive and we are obviously very satisfied with ASUS's implementation of LLC.




Temperature Testing



Now it's time to see if the Rampage II Extreme's impressive cooling system works as well it as looks. Since this is a high-end motherboard it features an impressive array of thermal sensors and even additional probes which we used to measure the temperatures. We set the system to its overclocked configuration, and then Prime 95 was run for two hours. The temperatures were recorded at twenty minute intervals throughout the two hour test and the results averaged out. The ambient temperature was 18°C/64.4°F


Considering our hefty overclock and liberal use of voltage, we are quite satisfied with these temperature results. Remember, none of the above components benefited from any direct air cooling, so all these figures essentially represent a worst-case scenario. In a regular case with one or two 120MM fans, temperatures should be even lower. As a result, we can definitely state that the RIIE's cooling system is capable of handling all but the most ambitious overclocking efforts.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,088
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion



When the first images of the prototype Rampage II Extreme started appearing a few months ago, it was clear then that ASUS was creating an enthusiast product that would be the benchmark for all X58 motherboards. Outfitted with a laundry-list of features, an imposing cooling system, option-rich BIOS, and countless accessories, the Rampage II Extreme certainly looks good on paper…and we are happy to report that it is just as good in real life.

After reviewing this motherboard over the last few weeks, it is pretty clear that ASUS has largely managed to recreate the magic that was first seen with the original Rampage Extreme, which is widely regarded as the finest overclocking-oriented motherboard ever built. Yes, at the moment, all X58 motherboards are limited to a fairly narrow BLCK range, but once the platform starts maturing it is nearly assured that the RIIE’s inherent capabilities will lead to some even more impressive overclocking results than what we achieved. Given the intuitive BIOS and excellent Extreme Tweaker section, even educated novices should find it relatively easy to tweak all system settings and achieve some solid overclocking results of their own.

Some people will certainly take exception with the Rampage II Extreme’s price tag. However, from a historical point-of-view, all X58 motherboards are very expensive. Keep in mind, the Bloomfield/X58 combo was always meant to be a high-end platform with no budget-friendly aspirations. As the finely-tuned supercar of the current X58 crop, the RIIE’s price is actually fairly reasonable given the one-of-a-kind overclocking features and the quality of the bundle. The original Rampage Extreme found no lack of buyers, and given time, this new model will likely prove as popular.

The Rampage II Extreme is the complete package and ASUS has done an excellent job catering to the desires and needs on the enthusiast community. So if the worldwide economic meltdown has not hit you too hard, and you are in the market for a highly-capable, overclocking-friendly motherboard, you owe it to yourself to give the ASUS Rampage II extreme some serious consideration.



Pros

- Exceptional overclocking capabilities.
- CrossFireX & 3-Way SLI support.
- Great cooling system.
- Very good layout.
- Top-notch BIOS.
- Supreme temperature & voltage monitoring capabilities.
- Innovative Tweak It & ProbeIt features.
- Impressive software suite.


Cons

- More SATA & USB ports would be welcome.
- Why do we need a PCI Expansion Bracket? Those ports should be on the rear I/O panel.
- Expansion slots endangered by multi-GPU setups.
- IOH cooler lacks a little pizazz.




Our thanks to ASUS for making this review possible!​

 
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