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Asus Rampage Extreme mainboard

First INQpressions Part I: The pinnacle of Penryn platforms
Mon Jul 21 2008, 19:05

THE ASUS REPUBLIC OF GAMERS or ROG seems to have held off well the Quantum Force assault by the local arch-competitor Foxconn. Both brands focus on the best super duper mobos aimed at enthusiasts, overclockers, uber gamers and any other top-end PC users willing to shell out a disproportionate amount of cash for the ultimate mainboard in each generation.

Here, just in, is the last major high-end entry before Bloomfield Nehalems enter the fray a quarter from now: the X48-based Rampage Extreme mainboard. Yes, this is the best you'll get till Intel's new generation CPU and mobos surface.


The board is a major improvement over its direct predecessor, the X38-based Maximus Extreme. First, the chipset and VRM cooling was not only improved, but also modular, with a variety of options coming right out of the box - including taller heat sink modules for those who have more casing space.

For instance, the Fusion water block for the North Bridge can be unscrewed and replaced by a provided heat sink replacement, if you don't use the water cooling. In the first quick round of tests, I just left things as they are.

Then, the Crosslinx PCI-E bridge providing the 1x16 to 2x8 options for one of the PCIe v2 paths is gone now: those who want more than two GPUs will simply opt for dual 4870X2 cards, each in its own x16 v2 slot. This is a noteworthy power, heat and mobo real estate saving.

As with all recent ROG mobos, there is no built-in sound to waste the board space: instead, a PCI-E Creative X-Fi basic HD audio card is in there. If you want something more, like say X-Fi Fatality Titanium in that same PCI-E slot, you an easily replace the old one - no wastage on the board.

16-phase power, dual switchable BIOS with cute on-board buttons round up the new features here.

The first quick run was with Intel's QX9650 CPU and Zalman 9500CMS fan: with multiplier 9x, I had air-cooled 4.05 GHz at FSB1800 at 1.3875 volts for the CPU and all other settings default - it took a whole of one restart and three minutes of get this done. The happy memories consisted of four of Kingston's brand new 2 GB DDR3-1600 CL9 DIMMs, which happily worked at DDR3-1800 at the same settings. It's not bad to have 8 GB total of memory at this kind of speed, mind you.

Tomorrow's instalment has some benchmarks, as well as the dual-core Penryn attempt: can it break the FSB2000 barrier without watercooling the CPU? And in quad core operation, how far will it go above its X38 predecessor? Watch this space... µ


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