Asus Rampage II GENE ReviewGeekspeak411 - August 11, 2009
When you physically see the Rampage II GENE, you begin to understand what a feat it really is to cram all kinds of enthusiast offerings into such a tiny space. This board is PACKED! This is the very first board that I have ever come across that doesn't have a single speck of open space on the PCB. Of course all of this means absolutely nothing if it doesn't perform but all in good time, for now, it is time to swoon over specs and promises!
Being that this is such a small board, one wouldn't expect to have many pictures to take. Actually the opposite is true, first things first though. As you can see, the RIIG is built in a uATX form factor. Even so, the RIIG has 2 PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, a PCI-E x4 slot, and even a legacy PCI slot to ensure compatibility with anything you might throw at it. On top of that, Asus worked out a deal with Creative to integrate full X-Fi support into the motherboard itself. By doing this, Asus saves you a PCI-E port and simply integrates the plugs into the boards I/O panel, including six 3.5mm analog ports and even an optical audio port. Just like the big boys, the RIIG has a full armament of ports including 6 USB 2.0 ports, a legacy PS/2 keyboard port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an eSATA port, and even a Fire-wire port, built in!
Underneath this lies the chip making integrated X-Fi sound a reality. The RIIG comes with full X-Fi hardware and software support allowing you to play with features such as EAX 4.0 without a separate, slot hogging card.
As seen here, the RIIG hosts 7 standard SATA Ports, 6 DDR3 RAM slots capable of controlling up to 24GB of RAM, the limit for the X58 chipset. Asus has even gone so far as to mount the backup battery vertically just to save precious space! Still refusing to slouch on features despite the extreme lack of space, you find an IDE port for the thousands of IDE optical drives still being sold and operated today, myself being one of those users. The most surprising feature I found on this board has to be that every fan header is a full four pin connector. For those of you who don't know, don't freak out, four pin headers are completely backwards compatible with three pin fans, it just allows for more advanced features to be included in every fan just as CPU fans come with today. Of course, what overclocking motherboard would be complete without on-board MemOK, Power, and Reset buttons?
The Rampage II GENE is based around the X58 chipset meaning an LGA1366 socket to be filled with one of Intel's Core i7 processors. i7 processors are beastly, even the "entry level" i7 920 blows the QX9770 out of the water! There is plenty of open space above the socket to allow for pretty much every cooler on the market right now. The chipset heatsink and the voltage heatsink are linked together by a heat-pipe to maximize cooling potential even while looking good, the PWM heatsink has a RoG inspired "G" carved in the top.
A very important consideration to make when purchasing a motherboard from an enthusiast standpoint is cooling potential. When pushing hardware to it's limits, whether at stock clocks or not, your biggest enemy is heat. The lower your temperatures are, the longer your parts will last, and the higher your parts can clock. Some manufacturers will pop a cheap cooler on there and call it good, properly attached or not. It looks like Asus really spent some time on the heatsink which looks very slick in the eternal color combination of black and red. From above, the heatsink is black with a polished red stripe going down the center. From the side, the black blades turn into ripples jumping out of a red "G" obviously another symbol of the boards RoG heritage. The southbridge heatsink is independent which is unfortunate but inevitable considering the form-factor. It feels well made so hopefully it won't hinder performance. The most interesting feature of the RoG series's heat-sinks has to be the waterblock OPTION that comes built-in. Asus designs their RoG heat-sinks to a certain standard which allows the user to mount any standard chipset waterblock directly onto the heatsink mount, allowing the water to manage the heat from all of the heat-pipe connected components. The air sink is easily removed via two screws and underneath I am pleased to find zero crappy, caked, zealously applied and still useless thermal paste anywhere. Instead I find a nice moist thermal paste applied in what I would say is about the perfect amount as you can see below. Once cleaned off, the heatsink mount is perfectly flat, begging for a picture.
Just like every other ATX style board out there, the RIIG hosts a 24pin ATX port, and an 8pin CPU port.
Okay, let's see what Asus put on the disk!