ASUS Rampage Formula Review
Reviewed by: Makaveli
Reviewed on: June 9, 2008
Price: $299.99 USD
Whenever a new motherboard arrives on the market, the first thing I always look for is if it's made for my style - my style is extreme overclocking, and I live off of it. I always ensure that every component I own is pushed to its limit. The motherboard plays a huge role in overclocking, because it can prevent you from getting the maximum overclock of your processor, memory, and video card, and unfortunately, the number of motherboards that have prevented me from reaching my overclocking goals is quite high. Naturally, I'm always looking for that perfect board.
Today we're going to have a look at the new ASUS Rampage Formula. This motherboard features the all new Intel X48 chipset, and claims to be easy to overclock. I've always been impressed with the ASUS motherboards that I have owned, because they all came with a plethora of accessories, as well as an abundance of extremely useful features. Will this board live up to my high expectations? Can it be the best motherboard for overclocking that I've tested thus far? Let's dig in and answer all of these questions, among many others!
The ASUS Rampage Formula comes in a dark box that informs the consumer that this motherboard is part of the Republic of Gamers series of motherboards from ASUS, which is focused solely on gamers and enthusiasts. Also, you'll notice that the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is included. On the back of the box, you'll find the specifications of the motherboard along with some key features. On the side of the packaging, you'll see a cut out with the rear I/O panel visible.
Did we miss something? Yes we did. The front of the box flips up to display more features of the motherboard. On the bottom portion, you'll see the SupremeFX II HD PCI-E x1 sound card, as well as the Northbridge heatsink. On the top of the flap, you'll find the overclocking features of the ASUS Rampage Formula, and some other unique attributes as well.
The ASUS Rampage Formula is securely held in place by a plastic shell. Below the plastic shell, you'll find an accessory box. The SupremeFX II HD sound card is taped in place on the top of the shell. I definitely like the plastic shell, because it showcases and protects the ASUS Rampage Formula.
Now, let's take a closer look at the bundled accessories included with the ASUS Rampage Formula X48 motherboard.
When I opened the accessory box that came with the ASUS Rampage Formula, I was blown away! Yet again, ASUS impressed me by sending a plethora of accessories along with the motherboard. It looks like there are many performance-based accessories, as well as the basic extras that are included with every motherboard.
The Rampage Formula includes a manual, a driver CD, the full S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, six SATA cables, a 4-pin Molex to SATA power cable converter, IDE and floppy cables, and a FireWire and USB expansion slot.
ASUS has eliminated the front panel connection hassle by including the new "Q" connection system, which allows the user to plug their cables into a single block that then slips over the pins on the motherboard. Thank you ASUS, for making my life so much easier! Another cool accessory that ASUS included is the LCD poster - this little unit plugs into the motherboard and gives you readouts in English, instead of codes, for motherboard troubleshooting.
The rear I/O shield is fairly standard, but it is painted gun-metal, and features the "Republic of Gamers" logo on it. ASUS also included a fan to hook up to your heatsinks to increase the airflow. If you have a large heatsink, this fan may not fit.
The Supreme FX II HD sound card is another freebie included with this motherboard. This PCI-E x1 sound card features all of the normal jacks for your speakers, headphones, and headsets. The Supreme FX logo lights up from a blue LED behind it when it's powered on.
Let's get a closer look at the motherboard itself.
The ASUS Rampage Formula is an ATX form factor motherboard that features Intel's X48 chipset. This motherboard uses Pin-Fin technology on the heatsinks to help dissipate heat efficiently. Notice how there is a heatsink on the back of the motherboard - right under the Northbridge - to help cool the X48 chipset even better. The ASUS Rampage Formula also features the "Stack Cool 2" fanless cooling feature, which is a plus. There's nothing more annoying than fans on a motherboard whirring loudly.
The rear I/O panel seems a little bit slim compared to some of the motherboards that I've recently seen, but there's definitely enough to hold me over. On the I/O panel, you'll find two RJ-45 Gigabit LAN ports, six USB 2.0 connectors, a PS/2 keyboard port, optical and coaxial digital S/PDIF connectors, an IEEE 1394 FireWire port, and a clear CMOS button. The clear CMOS button is a life saver, because now you just push the button if you have a bad overclock, instead of having to take out the battery and let it sit for 10 minutes. Directly adjacent to the PS/2 port, you'll find the port for the LCD poster unit.
This motherboard features two PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots, and two PCI expansion slots. The top-most PCI-E x1 slot is dedicated to the included Supreme FX II HD audio card. The space between the two PCI-E slots seems to be convenient for multiple video cards with large heatsinks.
On the bottom of the motherboard, you'll find an IEEE 1394a connector, Power and Reset buttons, two USB ports, and the pins for the case connectors. I was very impressed to see the onboard Power and Reset buttons. I've never seen them on any of my motherboards, but it's an awesome idea because sometimes you need to set your computer up on a test bench. When you're on a test bench, you don't have a case for the components so this makes it easy to turn on, turn off, or reset the motherboard. Also, here's a closer look at the Intel ICH9R Southbridge heatsink with the "Republic of Gamers" logo on it.
On the right-hand side of the motherboard, you'll find six SATA ports, an IDE port, a floppy connector, and a 24-pin power plug. Behind the floppy connector and 24-pin power plug, you'll find the four DIMM slots. This motherboard supports up to 8GB of DDR2 1200(OC)/1066/800MHz RAM.
The heatsinks on this motherboard are all connected, and they all feature Pin-Fin technology, allowing them to cool more efficiently than stacked fins. The Intel X48 chipset is covered by the largest heatsink, which almost looks like waves in the ocean dipping down and going back up. The PWM has a heatsink on it that is smaller than the Northbridge heatsink, but it does have the ASUS logo on it. The area around the CPU does look a little bit crowded, but I had no clearance issues when I installed my Thermaltake V1 CPU cooler.
Now, let's move on and take a closer look at the BIOS!
To ensure that everything gets installed correctly, you'll want to insert the driver disc that came with the motherboard. On this disc, you'll find many programs, manuals, and options. You can either pick and choose which drivers to install, or you can install them all. I chose to install them all, since I just installed a fresh copy of Windows Vista.
The ASUS Rampage comes with an abundance of utilities and programs, including "AI Suite", which is a great monitoring program that allows you to overclock from your desktop. Of course, you'll have to restart your computer before the changes occur, but it's still a nice program to have. ASUS also included a full copy of 3DMark06, and Ulead PhotoImpact 12 SE, among other useful utilities.
Let's take a closer look at the BIOS, now that we have seen the included software and drivers.
Using the most up-to-date BIOS is recommended, because you may have a compatibility problem with one of your hardware components and the BIOS. When newer revisions of the BIOS come out, a lot of issues get solved. Before you go much further, check ASUS' website to make sure you have the latest version.
The first tab is "Main" and this is where you'll be shown the time and basic information about your system. You'll also be able to see what drives are connected and being detected by the motherboard.
Advanced and Power:
Under the "Advanced" tab, you'll be able to monitor and control your fan speeds, on-board peripherals, USB options, and set your CPU options, like disabling C1E, etc. In the "Power" tab, you'll be able to select your Suspend mode options and monitor your hardware with ease.
The "Boot" tab is where you can set the basic boot configuration and security options for booting, such as setting a password before the OS loads.
In this tab, you'll be able to save your overclocking profiles, and use the ASUS EZ Flash 2, which an easy way to flash your BIOS.
This is the overclocking section of the BIOS. ASUS has included almost every option you could want for overclocking, and more! At first, everything is set to "Auto", but we're going to change that. The CPU Level Up option allows you to set the CPU to the QX6700, QX6800, QX6850, or "Crazy" mode.
If you set the AI Overclock Tuner to "Manual", you'll be able to change the FSB, voltages, and more. My RAM loves to be run at 5-5-5-18 when I overclock, but you can change it to anything you want. The RAM speeds can be changed, but for my set, I know that they can run at DDR2 1000 with 5-5-5-18 timings that I already set. The FSB is changeable from 200 to 800MHz. You have to manually type in the FSB, and then press Enter to get it set.
You can set the CPU voltage anywhere from 1.1v to 2.4v, and the stepping is quite good, in my opinion. The Northbridge voltage can go up to 1.85v, 3.4v on the memory, 3.0v for CPU PLL, and 2.46v on the CPU VTT. Quite good numbers if you ask me! After you're done with your settings, be sure you save them so that you don't have to go back in and re-enter everything.
Now, let's take a look at the specifications and features before we test this motherboard!
Intel Socket 775 Core™2 Quad/Core™2 Extreme/Core™2 Duo/Pentium® Extreme/Pentium® D/Pentium® 4 Processors
Compatible with Intel® 05B/05A/06 processors
Support Intel® next generation 45nm CPU
* Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
Front Side Bus
4 x DIMM, Max. 8 GB, DDR2 1200(OC)/1066/800/667
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16
2 x PCIe x1
2 x PCI Slots
1 x ATA100 2 Dev. Max
6 x SATA 3 Gb/s ports
Dual Gigabit LAN
SupremeFX II Audio Card
ADI 1988B 8 -Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Coaxial / Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
2 x 1394a ports (1 port at back I/O, 1 port onboard)
6 USB 2.0 ports
2-Phase DDR 2
Intelligent overclocking tools
- CPU Level Up
- AI Gear 3
- AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
- ASUS AI Booster Utility
- ASUS O.C. Profile: overclocking configuration-sharing tool
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x IEEE 1394a
2 x LAN(RJ45) port
6 x USB 2.0/1.1
1 x Clr CMOS switch
1 x Optical + 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB connectors support additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
6 x SATA connectors
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x CPU Fan connector
3 x Chassis Fan connector
1 x Power Fan connector
3 x Optional Fan connector
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
1 x8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS connector
3 x thermal sensor connectors
Chassis Intrusion connector
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.5 cm )
- Intel® Quad-core CPU Ready
- Supports Intel® next generation 45nm Multi-core CPU
- Intel® Core™2 Extreme / Core™2 Duo Ready
- Intel® X48/ICH9R
- Dual-channel DDR2 1200*/1066 MHz Support
- Pin-Fin Thermal Module Design
- CPU Level Up
- SupremeFX II 8-CH Audio
- 2-Phase DDR2
- LCD Poster
- ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit)
- Voltiminder LED
- COP EX
-Information sourced from ASUS's website: http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=11&l3=640&l4=0&model=2070&modelmenu=1
To test the ASUS Rampage Formula X48 motherboard, I'll be comparing it to some of the hottest motherboards available right now. This list includes the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 (Intel X48 chipset), ASUS Striker II Formula (Nvidia 780i chipset), and the Gigabyte EX38-DS4 (Intel X38 chipset). Each motherboard was tested with the same equipment at stock settings, to ensure no advantages for any of the boards. I can already tell that this is going to be a bloodbath, because each of the competing motherboards are really outstanding. May the best motherboard win!
- Processor: Intel Q6600 Core 2 Quad 266x9
- Motherboard: ASUS Rampage Formula
- Memory: Mushkin XP2 8000 Redline 2x2GB 5-5-5-15
- Video Card: Gigabyte 8800GT Turbo Force Edition
- Power Supply: Ultra X3 800watt power supply
- Hard Drive: Seagate 1000GB SATA
- Optical Drive: Sony Dual Layer Burner
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Comparison Motherboard 1: Gigabyte X48-DQ6
- Comparison Motherboard 2: ASUS Striker II Formula
- Comparison Motherboard 3: Gigabyte EX38-DS4
- Processor: Intel Q6600 470 x 7
- System Memory: Mushkin XP2 8000 Redline 5-5-5-15
This motherboard was a breeze to overclock. To OC this board, I attempted to get the highest Front Side Bus that I could. After many different settings, the highest I could get stable was 470x7. This motherboard booted up at 500x7 easily, but Windows didn't like that overclock. I could get into Vista with 485x7, but it wasn't stable enough to run benchmarks. 470x7 is not a bad overclock at all in my book, but I was thoroughly surprised that this motherboard had no issues booting up with the FSB set at 500. The BIOS' "Extreme Tweaker" made it extremely easy to overclock the ASUS Rampage Formula, because all the options that I needed, and many more, were all conveniently located on the same tab.
- Scientific & Data:
- SPECviewperf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02 Final
- CineBench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Juarez
- Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
- 3DMark06 Professional
To kick off the testing, we're going to start with system benchmarks.
Apophysis is the first test that I'll be running. I'm going to use this program to generate and render our custom fractal flame image. Below you can find the settings that I used:
- Resolution: 2750 x 2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
I recorded the time, in minutes, that it took to render the image.
Lower is Better
WinRAR is up next. I will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and recording the time it takes to collapse them into more manageable sizes. The results are in seconds, so lower is better.
Looks like we're going to have ourselves a close match!
SPECviewperf 10 is the next benchmark in line. This program mainly tests the OpenGL performance of your system. Higher is better in all of these tests.
PCMark Vantage is the newest release of the PCMark series. This installment is only for Windows Vista. I ran the system suite in this program and higher is better.
The ASUS Rampage definitely surprised me in the SPECview tests, because it did really well in most of them, and the Rampage dominated the PCMark Vantage benchmark.
SiSoft Sandra is a great synthetic benchmarking program that also features a diagnostic tool. I'll be running a majority of the tests to really get a good all-around look at this motherboard's performance.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The Rampage does not fare quite as well in the Sandra testing!
ScienceMark tests real world performance of your system. I'll be running all the tests and recording the overall score.
Higher is Better
CineBench uses the software program "Cinema 4D" to test your system, CPU, and OpenGL performance.
Higher is Better
HD Tune is a simple program that can tell you everything about your hard drives.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
The Rampage did really well in the HDTune tests, and held its own in CineBench and ScienceMark.
Crysis is a new DirectX 10 title that has everyone talking. This game features some of the most intense graphics, and can really punish a system.
- Anti-Aliasing: x2
- Advanced settings to Medium
The ASUS Striker II Formula did the best in every resolution, but all of the other motherboards were neck and neck.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new game that features its own graphics engine. This war-at-sea game is hard to pull away from!
The settings we will use are below:
- AA: x0
- Image Quality: High
- Direct X Version: 10
- All resolutions: 60Hz
The ASUS Rampage Formula's performance was almost exactly the same as that of the ASUS Striker II Formula, but did better than the X38 board.
BioShock is a recent Sci-Fi game that can take a toll on most systems if they aren't well equipped.
- All settings to Maximum
- V-Sync Off
The Rampage came close to getting a victory, but fell a few frames per second short to a competitor in each resolution.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the newest chapter in the Call of Duty series. This game takes place in modern times, and is by far one of my favorite games.
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-Aliasing: x4
- Anisotropic Filtering : Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings: Max
The X38 motherboard won in most of the resolutions here, but the ASUS Rampage wasn't far behind.
World in Conflict is a DirectX 10 title that allows the user to play in a World War III type setting.
The settings we will use are listed below:
- AA: x0
- AF: x16
- Graphic Detail: Very High
The Rampage took second place in every resolution, losing out to the Gigabyte X48-DQ6.
Call of Juarez is a new Wild Wild West-style First Person Shooter that features DirectX 10. This game is system intensive, due to its realistic graphics.
The settings we will use are listed below.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap size 2048 x 2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti Aliasing: MSAA x4
Wow, the X38 motherboard did the best in all of the resolutions.
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the newest installment in the Company of Heroes series. You're given the choice to either play as the British or the Germans in this World War II game.
- AA: x8
- All other settings to Maximum
Finally, victory for the Rampage came in the middle two resolutions.
3DMark06 is the best way for enthusiasts to brag about their systems because everyone uses this benchmark.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
The ASUS Rampage Formula was almost tied with the Gigabyte EX38-DS4, scoring only 20 points higher in the first resolution.
Performing better than all of the comparison boards in 10 out of 67 benchmarks does not tell the whole story of the Rampage's performance. In many of those that it lost, it was a strong second behind another X48-based motherboard. Putting that into perspective means that the Rampage did indeed perform well in the testing, just not as well as the other X48-based board. The overclocking options and ability of this motherboard were excellent. I was able to boot up with the FSB at 500MHz! However, it wasn't able to get into Windows Vista with that setting. I could boot and get into Windows Vista with an FSB of 485MHz, but it wasn't very stable. After lowering it until it was stable enough to run benchmarks, I was at an FSB of 470MHz. Still, 470MHz is not bad at all, but with a different chip, you could possibly get into Windows with an FSB over 500MHz. Another plus for this motherboard was the plethora of accessories that were included. ASUS never fails to impress me when it comes to the accessories they include. One of the accessories was the Supreme FX II HD sound card that is made for a PCI-E x1 slot, and I've got to tell you that it sounds amazing! I watched "Scarface", and I was thrown into the movie with this sound card and was impressed by that. I honestly felt like Tony Montana was yelling at me the whole movie, with lines such as "You wanna play rough? Okay, let's play rough!", and it made the movie experience so much more exciting. Overall, the stock performance of this motherboard isn't anything special, but the overclocking headroom, options, and included accessories make this Intel X48 motherboard one to look into if you're an enthusiast or avid overclocker.
- Supreme FX II HD sound card
- BIOS options
- LCD poster
- Motherboard cooling
- Lower scores than expected