ASUS ROG Maximus III Formula Review

ccokeman - 2009-08-22 23:27:13 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: September 17, 2009
Price: $249.99

Introduction:

A motherboard is a motherboard. Right or wrong? What sets one apart from the other? Feature set, potential, reputation, build quality? All of these things play a part in helping us determine which motherboard we use on our high performance systems. ASUS' Republic of Gamers series motherboards have been the pinnacle of each series and offered that extra something that was not found with regularity on the non ROG models. The knock on X58 based systems was the cost of entry into the club of ownership. Intel has realized it left a significant portion of the public to its competitor so the company has now rectified this mistake with the introduction of the P55 Express chipset and socket 1156 i5 and i7 processors to bring the cost of an Intel high performance system down to a comfortable purchase point. Along with this introduction ASUS has released a large number of P55 based motherboards to fit every price point from mild to extreme. The Maximus III Formula is ASUS' latest ROG motherboard that is built upon the P55 chipset. The Maximus III Formula is built using the latest design philosophy from ASUS called Extreme design. This concept is meant to provide all the benefits that you may or may not see such as diodes used to prevent static discharges when plugging in an external device from killing your hardware. Solid capacitors for long life, Stack Cool 3+ technology to reduce the operating temperature of critical components, dual 2oz copper layers to help with efficiency and board cooling. All things that fall within the three design goals of Safety, Reliability and Performance. As if that's enough, ASUS has included a large suite of software tools that bring added functionality. Let's see if the Maximus III Formula is worthy of earning its ROG status.

Closer Look:

The packaging of the Maximus III Formula is quite different from the last ROG series motherboard I looked at. The color scheme has moved from an industrial gray and black to an eye catching red. The ROG logo is featured on the top left corner and the Windows 7 ready logo is right under the motherboard's name. Along the bottom of this panel socket 1156 Core i5 and Core i7 compatibility is noted as well as the fact that the Maximus III Formula supports both ATI and nVidia multi GPU technologies. The rear panel lists some of the Republic of Gamers (ROG) specific features including ROG Connect, the Go button, Speeding HDD that uses double the bandwidth for faster HDD performance and the Supreme FX X-Fi discrete audio card. Next to the ROG specific features are the specifications. The box has a flip up panel that contains much more information on the technologies and feature set while giving the first glimpse of the Maximus III.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Maximus III and accessory bundle are in separate boxes and slide out the top of the outer enclosure. The box that contains the bundle looks pretty well jam packed full of parts to get you started. Much more than just the manual and driver disc. You can get a glimpse of the Supreme FX X-Fi audio card and ROG Connect cable.

 

 

Just the packaging alone does not make a successful implementation of all the technologies and features. Let's see if the good looking packaging is all hype or if there is some substance behind all of the features listed.

Closer Look:

ASUS has always been one of the companies that put together a substantial bundle to let the end user take advantage of all the features and technologies on its motherboards. For instance, on the last ROG motherboard I looked at the Striker II Extreme ASUS included the adapters to connect the Fusion Block cooling system to an existing water cooling loop. The bundle included with the Maximus III Formula is no less substantial. It includes everything you will need to get started and then some. You get everything from the manual and driver disc to the Q Connectors as well as an ROG decal for the side of your chassis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Included is a sheet of labels so you can mark each of the SATA cables running through your case so that you know which cables go to which controller and you can differentiate between both the HDD and ODD. To add additional USB and eSATA connectivity you get this expansion bracket that connects to internal headers. It seems that you never have enough USB ports with mice, keyboards, game pads, headsets, joysticks, foot pedals and external hard drives.

 

 

The I/O panel is a spot where you can really do some damage when you connect external devices to the computer. How many of you have seen that spark when connecting a set of headphones up to the front panel connections or plugging in a new USB device to the rear panel? ASUS has the Q Shield to help prevent ESD from damaging you hardware while controlling the EMI into and out of the panel. The other neat feature of the Q Shield is the fact that it does not have the the little metal tabs that you have to fight with when installing the motherboard. I know I have forgotten to bend one or more of these tabs out of the way more than once and had a few choice words when I realized I had to do one of two things, bend it out of the way or remove the motherboard and bend them out of the way.

 

 

The Q Connectors are in my opinion one of the best accessories you can get with an ASUS motherboard. The inclusion of these connectors eliminates trying to fit Sasquatch sized hands into a case to hook up the front panel connections. Using the Q Connectors, all of the connections are made to the connector and then just one connection is made to the motherboard. No more squinting or hoping you got the polarity correct on the HDD and power LEDs. The Maximus III Formula supports both SLI and CrossFire multi GPU technologies but the bridge connections seem to be included with only ATI video cards with the SLI bridge connection supplied by the motherboard manufacturer. ASUS has included the SLI bridge connection. The white cable included looks like a USB cable but wait, the ends are the same! This is so you can connect to both the ROG Connect port as well as a USB port on your notebook or netbook. The SATA cables included feature a 90 degree end with both ends having locking clips to prevent the cable from pulling out.

 

 

 

The Supreme FX X-Fi discrete audio card is an eight channel HD audio solution that supports EAX 4.0 and is used in a x1 PCI-E expansion slot. You have both a coaxial and S/PDIF out puts on the bracket. The S/PDIF input is on the back side of the card. The top of the card has the Supreme FX X-Fi logo that lights up blue when the system is powered up.

 

 

 

All in all, a superior bundle to go with a motherboard of this lineage. Let's dive into the motherboard and see if it lives up to the ROG moniker!

 

Closer Look:

The ASUS ROG Maximus III is the ROG (Republic of Gamers) rendition of the P55 based motherboards from ASUS. This series is built with the gamer in mind and includes features that set it apart from the P7P55D series. First, the color scheme used is black and red. This is a proven color scheme that just screams performance. When you look at high performance cars that people drive, what two colors say "yes, it is fast?" Black and red! The Maximus III board includes features you won't find on even the top of the non ROG line, P7P55D Deluxe, such as ROG Connect, Game First and the Go button. Stack Cool construction is used on the Maximus using a 2oz copper layer for better electrical conductivity and heat distribution. On the back side of the board you can see the 1156 socket backplate as well as the fact that the heatsinks are bolted on and not attached with push pins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

The I/O panel has some unique features. Sure, you have the standard stuff like the PS/2 connection, but most gamers have gone to USB based mice and keyboards. In this respect the Maximus does not disappoint with a total of nine USB 2.0 ports. One of these is used exclusively for the ROG Connect feature that allows you to monitor and tweak the BIOS via software installed on your notebook or netbook. Additionally, there is only one LAN port, a clear CMOS button for when you get a little aggressive on the overclock settings, a single eSATA port and a single IEEE 1394 port to round out the I/O connectivity. When you move down the board you get to the expansion slots. There a total of three x16 PCI-E slots on the Maximus III Formula. Electrically, the top slot runs at x16 in single card mode then goes to an x8 x x8 configuration with multiple cards. Crossfire and SLI are supported. The third slot is an x1 electrically. There are two more PCI-E x1 slots and two PCI slots for use on this board. The uppermost x1 slot will be used by the included SupremeFX X-Fi audio card.

 

 

Along the bottom of the Maximus III Formula you have the rest of the USB and Firewire connectivity along with onboard start and reset buttons. These are clearly marked and make starting up your system much easier if you are using a tech bench or just aren't inclined to hook up the front panel connections for your chassis. Although I don't see why not with the ease of use of the Q-connectors that ASUS has been shipping with just about all of its boards that I have looked at in the past couple of years. In between the 1394 header and the fan header you have the thermal sensor probe header. On the right side you have two more USB 2.0 ports to bring total USB connectivity to thirteen ports. The red SATA ports next to the front panel header are the Speed HDD ports that run in a dual channel design to increase the throughput. These are controlled via a JMicron controller. Finally, along the bottom you have the front panel header.

 

 

Spinning around to the right side you have six more SATA 3.0Gb/s ports. Things get really interesting as you move up this side of the board. Once you reach the 24-pin ATX power supply connection you will notice some small LEDs and voltage checkpoints to allow you to find out exactly where the voltages are running. The LEDs are part of the Q LED system that can help with diagnostics. Voltage measurement points are available in an easy to use location and include checkpoints for the CPU pll volts, PCH volts, the CPU Vcore, Dram and the IMC volts. Just before you get to the 24-pin connector is the Mem OK button. This little button allows you to make sure the memory will not hold up a POST by running a series of tests, first reducing the latencies of the memory then adjusting the voltage in an attempt to get the memory stable enough to boot the system. A pretty cool tool that I can't wait to try out.

 

 

 

There are a total of four memory slots so that the memory can be run in a dual channel configuration, a departure from what was done on the X58 chipset with its Tri Channel memory solution. If you look closely, the memory retention method is a bit different from what has been used in the past. On one end the locking mechanism pushes straight down rather than rotating into place. By using this mechanism you don't run into space issues when using some of the massive video cards on the market.

 

By the time you get around to the top section of the board, there is not that much left to look at. Along this edge you have a few fan headers and the EATX 12v power connection. The heatsink along the top is for part of the power supply circuit for the CPU. Behind the I/O connections there is a chip that is of interest; if you are not really a hardcore clocker but want this board for all of the performance enhancements and the stunning looks then the EPU6 processor can help you with your energy concerns when you are not busy fragging folks.

 

 

Moving inboard, the 1156 pin socket is right in the midst of a huge amount of hardware. Around the socket is the 16+3 phase power circuit with a mass of solid caps polished to a chrome like finish for the extra bling factor. The heatsinks on the chipset and the MOSFETs are all interconnected via a single heatpipe arrangement. The 1156 pin socket is a bit different from previous generations and uses a three point lockdown system.

 

 

The heasink over the PCH is massive and dominates the real estate on the bottom side of the ROG Maximus III Formula. The VRM heatsinks look small by comparison to what is used on some of the current X58 and older hardware. This may well be ASUS' Extreme Design concept in action. More equal loading of the power phases reduces hot spots by spreading the load so that a smaller heatsink may well do the job. The heatsink in the middle lights up when the board is powered up. Of course, this feature can be turned off if the lights end up being a distraction for the end user but most of us like a little bling.

 

 

In the past, the ROG series of motherboards have been top performers offering great performance and the build quality to run stellar overclocks. Let's see if the Maximus III Formula stays true to its heritage.

 

Closer Look:

Once you have the hardware installed and the case buttoned up you need to install the operating system and drivers so that all of the hardware works as it is intended to. ASUS includes a driver and utility disc that includes all of the drivers as well as a slew of utilities that you can use to make the experience more satisfying. No need to go anywhere else as there are utilities for monitoring the hardware (Probeit), managing the energy footprint (EPU 6), overclocking and tweaking (Turbo V) as well as a few others. But to get them installed you need to start by inserting the driver disc and letting the install GUI open up.

Once the GUI is open there are a total of six tabs that can be viewed each with a purpose. The first being the drivers tab that contains all of the drivers you need for the Maximus III. The second is the Utilities tab that contains all of the ROG applications as well as the monitoring and overclocking utilities. The third tab is the Make Disk tab so you can make the driver disc if you need to run the HDDs in RAID followed up by the Manual tab in case the paper one is not enough. I'll skip the Video tab but show some more from it later, with the last tab being the contact information for ASUS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Video section of the driver disc contains a couple of videos entitled "Battle" and "Extreme OC Clip." In the Battle video we have two Gamers going head to head with one looking quite happy and the other... well should I say less than pleasant. The point being that the Gamer with the ROG hardware has the better gaming experience. The comparison of their hardware was enough to give me a chuckle! The Extreme OC clip shows off one of the world renown overclocker's Extreme setups.

 

 

 

ASUS has put together a ton of software utilities that can be used to get the most out of the installed hardware. The first I will show you is the CPU Up utility. This little program allows you to bump up the clock speed of your processor with just the click of a button. You can go from the original clock speed up to 3.52GHz just by making the selection.

 

 

 

EPU-6 is a program that manages the energy efficiency of the system. It has several preset levels that you can further tailor your needs. As seen in previous reviews, the technology works quite well and offers significant energy saving if you choose to use it. One word of caution though, if you will be running a big overclock then either turn off or uninstall the software to allow you to reach for the stars. As you can see through the progression of the images, the CO2 saving continue to mount when using the EPU-6 technology with the max energy saving giving the most benefit of the four selections. The amount of energy saved is wholly dependent on the profile selected.

 

 

 

ROG Game First is a utility that allows you to configure your network traffic to choose what programs have network priority. This ought to help you manage all of your downloads and chat programs to keep your ping times low. You have four different boxes you can add or remove programs from to gain the most benefit.

 

 

 

Turbo V Evo is the heart of the overclocking features of the Maximus III. You have three modes as well as the Turbo Key function that allows you to load a preset overclocked profile at the touch of a button much the way that the CPU Up function does. Whereas that feature does all the work for you, the Turbo V software is a bit more hands on. The Manual mode is where you can play with the bclock and voltages for the CPU, IMC and DRAM. The Easy Mode only allows the bclock to be adjusted, meaning you will only go so far without tweaking the voltages.

 

 

The Auto Tune section of Turbo V will run and adjust parameters such as the voltages and memory timings to reach a good, safe, and stable overclock. When you start the software it warns that there will be several reboots throughout the auto tuning process, so if you see that BSOD then you know the overclock being tested was not stable. What I did while the auto tuning process was running was just walk away and come back in about 30 minutes to see what the results were and found an overclock of just over 3.7GHz. Not too shabby as some folks get lost and have a hard time reaching even this overclock. At 3.7GHz the overclock achieved was over 700MHz with the touch of a button. Now this overclock can be saved as a profile and set to load with the Turbo Key for performance when you need it!

 

 

ROG Connect is a utility that you load into your netbook or notebook so that you can monitor and change the clock speed and voltages from outside the computer. By connecting to the host computer with the supplied cable you can change the performance real time. To test this out I installed the software, connected the supplied cable and pushed the ROG Connect button on the I/O panel. At this point I started the software on the laptop and started making changes. To my surprise, it actually worked. Of course, you won't want to get too aggressive with the limited settings but the software does its job and makes the changes in the BIOS so that those changes are as you set them on the next reboot. Pretty cool! As a reference, the laptop screen is the left picture with the desktop being the right. As you can see, the changes made in the laptop are implemented on the desktop.

 

 

ASUS Update is a program that can be used to auto update drivers and the utilities on your system. BIOS updates can be downloaded and flashed in Windows. While flashing a BIOS in Windows can be done using the EX Flash utility, the AMI BIOS is a much better option. PC Probe is a tool that you can use to monitor voltages and temperatures that is easily configured for your tastes. The only downside is that there are three optional sensor headers that can be used on the board but there were no sensors to attach them to in the bundle whereas in the past the sensors were included. My Logo is a program you can use to customize your own boot screen. AI Suite is still included but much of the functionality is linked to other programs but forms the basis for them it seems.

 

 

 

ASUS has done well with the suite of utilities included on the ROG Maximus III Formula. For the hardcore enthusiast they may seem a little weak but for the masses they offer functionality without having to know anything about overclocking other than rumors and speculation.

Closer Look:

The BIOS on the ASUS Maximus III Formula is by American Megatrends and is contained on a 16MB flash ROM. ASUS has been firing out BIOS updates fast and furious for the Maximus III. ASUS has continued to support the board with an update when an issue is presented, the latest offering a fix for S3 state functionality. There are seven sections that can be looked at and I will go through each section of the BIOS to show what can be found and then dedicate a section to the Extreme Tweaker section as this is where all the dirty work gets done.

Extreme Tweaker:

This section is where all of the performance enhancements can be found and is the first item you touch when going into the BIOS. There are options that will allow the novice as well as the hardcore enthusiast a way to bump the clock speeds up to gain additional performance from the installed hardware. Under the CPU configuration section you have the ability to enable and disable the energy saving options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main

The Main section show the time, date, installed drives by channel as well as two tabs that give the top level system info as well as allowing you to manually configure the hard drives. One thing I have not seen before was the ability to change the language used in the BIOS.

 

 

Advanced

This section is where the functionality of the onboard devices are configured. Under CPU configuration is the Uncore configuration. Under LED configuration you can choose the LED lighting scheme to use. Some may like the LEDs to be seen through the side panel while others find it distracting.

 

 

 

Power

Under this section you can set up the Advanced Power Management features. Under the hardware monitor section you have the ability to view the temperatures reported from the installed hardware as well as set up the shutdown temperatures for the PCH as well as the three optional monitoring points. Unfortunately, the sensors are not part of the bundle so no joy on this point. The fan speeds can be monitored and controlled with fan profiles to allow you to control any fans attached to an onboard fan header.

 

 

 

Boot

Here is where you can choose the boot order, whether or not to enable the full screen display as well as choosing whether you want to have an error stop the boot sequence. Under the security section you can choose to set paswords and access levels.

 

 

Tools

The Tools section has some interesting functionality. You can save a specific BIOS profile. This can help when you are pushing the limits so that you have a safe or even an everyday profile to fall back on without having to remember each and every tweaked setting. There are a total of eight profiles that can be saved. The EZ Flash Utility makes flashing the BIOS a no hassle affair. Just enter in and find the now BIOS file to flash and hit flash. The GO button file is configurable so you can load this file at the touch of a button for an instant performance boost.

 

 

 

 

 

The last section is the Exit menu which really is self explanatory and does not need discussion. After looking through this BIOS, it contains plenty of functionality to work with the ROG features found on the Maximus III Formula. Let's move on and look at the Extreme Tweaker section to see how to overclock this board and CPU combination.

 

Closer Look:

The Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS is where you make the performance magic happen if the included software utilities give you the level of performance you demand or if you have graduated to the ranks of the enthusiasts. In this section you can adjust a myriad of options that will help you reach that performance plateau.

There are plenty of options to choose from at the start. The AI Overclock Tuner lets you choose how you want to overclock. XMP, CPU Level Up Manual and Memory are your options. I left this setting at manual to tweak the performance level myself. By choosing CPU Level Up you have a level of performance to choose from based on processor frequencies as well as the "Crazy" level. The Memory option lets you set preset levels for the memory. By doing so the rest of the parameters will be automatically adjusted to try and reach this level. The CPU Ratio setting is limited by the processor used. Under the CPU configuration tab you have the ability to adjust the CPU multiplier, set up the energy saving technologies and decide whether or not to enable all of the cores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intel's Speedstep technology can be enabled or disabled. The bclock frequency can be adjusted up to a lofty 500MHz, although over 220MHz seems to be difficult for the masses. PCI-E frequency can be adjusted from 100MHz to 200MHz with a bump up to 105 seems beneficial for increasing the bclock frequency. The available Dram frequencies are limited by the processor installed. In this picture an i5 750 is installed. The QPI frequency can be set to one of two multipliers.

 

 

 

In the DRAM timing control section you can set the memory timings and a myriad of subtimings to pull the most performance and stability from your modules. Next you have the voltage amplitude and skew settings for the processor and PCH. These can again help gain stability when pushing the ragged edge and you are looking for that last little tweak to get stable.

 

 

 

Next up we get to the voltage options. In this area the Maximus does not lack for tweakability. The first option is the OV, or Over Voltage control. This lets you choose to allow voltage settings far above what ASUS and Intel would recommend. This however means that this is where the hardcore bencher is gonna play. Load Line Calibration is used to minimize the voltage droop that Intel has designed into the Core series processors. There are three levels to choose from based on how you would like the voltage applied. Full Phase control is either on Auto or Full phase CPU Voltage can be set to Vid or offset allowing the voltage to be applied differently.. The voltage available to the CPU maxes at 2.2 under Vid and 1.9 when offset mode is used.

 

 

 

The rest of the voltages and limits can be viewed below and represent what can and cannot be used to pick up the low lying fruit while overclocking. Looking at how high the memory voltage goes I think you will run out of memory before you run out of nerve to use the maximum voltage with a 2.5 volts maximum.

 

 

 

The last thing I want to show in the Extreme Tweaker section is the OC profile configuration. Here you can set and manage any overclocking profiles so that you can have profiles for when you are pushing the limits. This way there is no need to memorize the everyday settings you use. You can just put them as a profile.

 

Specifications:

CPU      
Intel® Socket 1156 Core™ i7 Processor/Core™ i5 Processor/
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology
* Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
Chipset
Intel® P55 Express Chipset
Memory             

4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3 2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory

Dual Channel memory architecture

* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.

* Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)

* Please refer to www.asus.com or user manual for the Memory QVL(Qualified Vendors List).

Expansion Slots
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (red) support single at x16 or dual at x8 mode
1 x PCIe x16 (white) supports at x4 mode
2 x PCIe x1
2 x PCI 2.2
Multi-GPU Support
Supports NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology / ATI® CrossFireX™ Technology
Storage               
Intel® P55 Express Chipset built-in
6 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10
JMicron® 322 controller and 2 x JMicron® 363 controllers:

- 2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (Red) supporting Hardware RAID 0 and 1 (SPD_HDD1 + SPD_HDD2)

- 1 x External SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go)
- 2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (White) - SATA_ODD1 + SATA_ODD2
LAN       
Realtek® RTL8110SC Gigabit LAN controller
GameFirst
Audio   
SupremeFX X-Fi discrete Audio Card
8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
EAX® Advanced™ HD 4.0
X-Fi CMSS®-3D
X-Fi Crystalizer™
Creative ALchemy
Supports 1 x S/PDIF out header
Supports Coaxial/Optical S/PDIF out ports on rear
Blu-ray support
IEEE 1394
2 x 1394a ports (1 port at back I/O, 1 port onboard)
USB
14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (5 ports at mid-board, 9 ports at back panel)             
Overclocking Features 
Extreme Engine Power Design
- 16-phase CPU power
- 3-phase VTT power
- 3-phase Memory power
ROG Connect
CPU Level Up
Memory Level Up
Speeding HDD
iROG
Extreme Tweaker
Loadline Calibration
Intelligent overclocking tools:
- ASUS AI Booster Utility
- O.C. Profile
Overclocking Protection:
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special Features
MemOK!
MemPerfect
ProbeIt
Onboard Switches: Power / Reset / Clr CMOS (at rear)
Q-Fan Plus
ASUS EPU
ASUS MyLogo3
ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
ASUS Q-Connector
ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
ASUS Q-Slot
ASUS Q-DIMM 
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x External SATA
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
1 x Clr CMOS switch
1 x ROG Connect On/Off switch
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port (purple)
9 x USB 2.0/1.1 (1 port for ROG Connect)
Internal I/O Connectors               

3 x USB connectors support additional 5 USB 2.0 ports (1 port reserved for ROG Connect @ rear)

1 x IEEE 1394a connector

10 x SATA connectors: 2 x Speeding HDD SATA connectors (Red) / 2 x SATA_ODD (White) / 6 x standard SATA connectors (Gray)

8 x Fan connectors: 1 x CPU / 1 x PWR / 3 x Chassis / 3 x Optional
3 x thermal sensor connectors
1 x 24-pin ATX Power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS header
5 x ProbeIt measurement points
1 x ROG light connector
1 x Go Button
System panel connector
BIOS     

16 Mb Flash ROM , AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS

Manageability
WOL by PME,WOR by PME,PXE 
Accessories
User's manual
1 x I/O Shield
1 x ROG Connect Cable
1 x SLI Cable
1 x SupremeFX X-Fi Audio Card
1 x 2-in-1 ASUS Q-Connector Kit
3 x 2-in-1 SATA signal cables
1 x 2-port USB2.0 + ESATA module
1 x Cable Ties
1 x ROG theme label
1 x 12-in-1 ROG Cable Label
Support Disc
ASUS PC Probe II
ASUS AI Suite
ASUS Update
Kaspersky® Anti-Virus
Support DVD:
- Drivers and applications
Sound Blaster X-Fi Utility
ASUS TurboV EVO utility
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

 

Features:


CPU Features

Chipset Features

Multi-GPU Technology

Memory Feature

 
ROG Exclusive Features

 Sound with Clarity

 ROG EZ DIY Features

Rich Software Bundled

 

 

All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=0ODEkxv4cmlXkqmr&templete=2

 

 

Testing:

Testing is the only way to prove whether or not one motherboard is better than the others when it comes down to performance. Some groups like all the whiz-bang features while the hardcore enthusiasts just want good solid reliable performance. To find out which one gives that last little bit of clock speed or has the right options in the BIOS means you have to test the motherboards out one at a time. Quite an arduous task when you get down to it, but it's the only way. To test out the Maximus III Formula from ASUS I will be running it through the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks to see if it distinguishes itself from the comparison board(s). The only deviations from the default BIOS settings will be that the energy saving features as well as Turbo technology are disabled so that the motherboard can be tested with a measure of repeatability. The video card control panel settings are left at factory defaults except where noted. As part of the ROG line up I expect the Maximus II Formula to deliver some strong results.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking the Maximus II Formula was pretty straightforward without any major hurdles. To generate the overclocked results I was able to push the bclock up to a maximum of 218MHz using an i5 750 and 215Mhz with the i7 870. The Maximus gave up a bit more clock speed than the DP55KG did but only by about 95MHz. The voltage to do this was slightly less than what was required on the Intel board so more clock speed with less voltage are always good things as the i7 8 series seems to suffer the same thermal fate as the 9 series when the voltage is pushed. Meaning in a few words "hot damn hot." A good air cooler is required to reach for the stars. The CPU not only did better on the Maximus but the memory was able to hit 1090MHz with a touch over 1.65 volts. Hitting 1090MHz on the memory was accomplished by increasing the bclock frequency with the memory divider set to 10 (1333MHz). I kept increasing the bclock until it hit the limits with Cas 8 at just over 1000MHz. I then had to change the Cas and TRCD to 9 to go any further. Finally reaching 218MHz on the bclock, the modules would go no further than the Cas 9 limit I placed on the testing. The CPU and memory results were not too shabby. Manually overclocking the board is something that not everyone has the capabilities to do for one reason or another (fear of killing the hardware is a big incentive to not do so).

 

 

ASUS has this point covered and you can overclock your system without fear of killing your hardware. By using the TurboV utility and the Auto Tuning feature included you can reach a good strong stable overclock by just pushing a button and letting the system do the work. By manually configuring the system I was able to pull 4.3GHz from the system. A pretty decent overclock. Now with the Auto Tuning process you go through a series of screens and reboots while your hardware is being tested. I walked away for about thirty minutes and came back to a 3.7GHz stable overclock. That is a good almost 800MHz over the as delivered clock speed on the i7 870. All at the touch of a button. It looks as though overclocking has taken one more step into the mainstream.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. PCMark Vantage Professional
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10
  9. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War II
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB , 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

 

Lower is Better

 

RAR:

 

Lower is Better

 

The results in Apophysis are dead even, as expected. In the WinRAR testing the Maximus was slightly better in the RAR compression testing. A second at a time adds up to real time but at the 100MB file size the difference really won't be noticed while the three second difference will be as long as you are paying attention. When overclocked, the Maximuss III shows huge performance improvements.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel speadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower Is Better

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.

Higher Is Better

 

PCMark Vantage x64 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.

 

In the Excel Big Number Crunch testing the Maximus III performed identically to the Intel Kingsberg board but in the POV Ray and PCMark Vantage testing the Maximus delivered better results. When overclocked, the Maximus outperformed the Kingsberg board.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

In the Sandra benchmarks there really is not a lot of separation in the benchmarks at stock speeds. The scores when the Maximus III was overclocked again show large improvements.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

Higher is Better!

 

CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Again, the results are too close to really say one board is head and shoulders above the other. The most significant difference is in the HDTune testing. The burst speed of the hard drive is significantly faster on the Maimus II than the Intel Kingsberg board. Now that I have finished the scientific benchs let's see if the Republic of Gamers board can set itself above the DP55KG from Intel.

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km squared of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

In the first two resolutions the Maximus offers a slight performance bonus but the scores equalize at 1920x1200.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way ,there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results in Crysis Warhead are less than stellar and show that when the eye candy is enabled the video card is your primary limitation.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

The results are much the same throughout all of the resolutions. Overclocking the processor opens up gains in three out of the four resolutions but really is not enough to be felt in game.

Testing:

Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

The Maximus II Formula finally shows a tangible benefit until the GTX2 260 runs out of steam.

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion, you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the lower resolutions the Maximus III is two to four FPS faster but the Kingsberg delivers a higher FPS at 1920x1200 with an even showing at the top end.

Testing:

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is a Real Time Strategy game that is significantly different than its predecessor, with improved AI and an improved physics engine. You can play either as a single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher Scores = Better Performance

 

The ROG Maximus III shows a huge improvement at the 1280x1024 mark over the DP55KG but the results get much closer as the resolutions increase to the point of showing no difference at the big end where the GTX 260 struggles.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters, and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Maximus from ASUS is good for an additional FPS at 1280x1024 and 1680x1050.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In three out of four tests the Maximus beats the Kingsberg board from Intel. The Kingsberg comes up big at the 2560x1600 mark.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1280x1024 the Maximus III is the better performer as the system weighs heavily in the "entry" test. Once the GPU is the item tested more heavily the test results reach the point of showing no difference.

Conclusion:

When motherboards are built similarly the results for the most part are within a certain margin. Add in the same processor and memory to test the system with and the results end up in a relatively small bucket. So what separates the good from from the mediocre and the really bad motherboards? Using quality components is a start. While the DP55KG is no slouch, the feature set and construction are not what is available on the ASUS Maximus III Formula. The Maximus III Formula is built using the same Extreme Design concepts used on the non ROG P755D models with Solid Capacitors, Stack Cool 3+ technology, dual 2oz copper layers, anti EMI and ESD features, Extreme Phase and more of the key marketing buzzwords. What all of it means is that you have a board that is well built and functional. The black and red theme used on this board just oozes performance much the same way a black or red Ferrari ENZO does. The layout was easy to work with where the only issue of note being the fact that the first DIMM slot is not going to be usable with a large heatsink and tall heatspreaders like those offered by Patriot, Kingston and Corsair. The easy solution is to go with water cooling for the CPU or take the easier route and get some modules with low profile heatspreaders!

Overclocking was straightforward and predictable based on the capabilities of the CPU and memory. Extreme screenshots are nice for bragging rights but for most of us the computer has to be used day in and day out reliably. Along that vein, the Maximus delivered a slightly higher overclock with less voltage than was needed on the same processor on the Intel Kingsberg board. The Turbo V Evo software auto tuning feature worked well enough but it took a while to test and tune to get the same overclock that I can manually set and boot in thirty seconds. What this tool is designed for is to be used by the novice who wants a bump in performance without any risk. By setting up a profile you can change from stock settings to the overclocked settings with the touch of a button, all on the fly. One thing I have to give ASUS a hand on is the overclocking recovery functionality. All it takes to get back to where you left off is to shut down and press the power button. I don't think I have had to use the CMOS clear button on an ASUS board in quite some time, and not for lack of trying! The voltage measurement points offer the hardcore user the ability to verify the voltages set in the BIOS and to find out just what kind of deflection from the set point there is under load.

The sound solution offered by ASUS is X-Fi sound that I must say is a bit better than the Realtek sound used for most onboard solutions. I found that the discrete card did not have any clearance issues with the three video cards I have used thus far in the Maximus III Formula. Priced at the higher end of the P55 chipset based board spectrum, it is still a good $150 less expensive than its X58 based brother, the Rampage II Extreme. What you get with the Maximus III Formula is a board that lives up to its ROG heritage, both in performance and overclocking.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: