ASUS Rampage IV Extreme Reviewccokeman - March 5, 2012
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ROG. When you see those three letters, most people who are even somewhat versed in computer hardware will instantly recognize them to signify that the product they are attached to belongs to ASUS' Republic of Gamers product line. Over the years, ASUS has built up and cultured the ROG brand as the one to have for the high end user and extreme overclocker. The outstanding tools and features that the brand brings to the table puts the brand well into the upper reaches of many people's wishlists. After having looked at the Maximus IV Extreme, Rampage III Formula, and Crosshair V, its easy to see why the Republic of Gamers brand is coveted by the extreme user. This time around, ASUS has launched the Rampage IV Extreme as its flagship motherboard for the Intel X79 chipset and socket 2011 Sandy Bridge Extreme processors, including the Intel Core i7 3960X. With the Rampage IV Extreme, you get all the X79/Socket 2011 features, such as quad-channel memory, SATA 6Gbp/s, and SLI and CrossFire support. These features are not the extent of the selling points here, as you can get all these features with any motherboard. ASUS gives the extreme user things like VGA Hotwire, GPU/DIMM POST, thermal sensors, LN2 mode, Mem TweakIt, Sub Zero Sense, OC Key, OSD TweakIt, 4-Way SLI/CrossFireX support, X-socket, ROG Connect, ROG iDirect, and the company's Extreme Engine Digi+ II 8+3+2+2 phase power design using 10K black metallic caps. This feature set does come with a steep price of $449. Clearly, the board isn't aimed at the general user. Expectations are set high for this ROG offering from ASUS. Will it deliver? Each of the past ROG offerings have, so I expect the ROG Rampage IV Extreme to be no different.
The packaging for the Rampage IV Extreme is differentiated from the rest of the non ROG line-up by the bold graphics and bright red coloration of the box. The front of the box is standard for the ROG brand with the name of the motherboard and the supported technologies, which include support for Intel socket 2011, NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX support, and Intel X79 chipset support. The front of the box swings open for a full view of the ASUS ROG Rampage IV Extreme on one side and pertinent information on the added features of the board, including the OC Key, Sub Zero Sense, X Socket, VGA Hotwire, and the Digi+II digital power design. The back panel of the box shows the OC Key, a silhouette of the I/O panel, and the same four features identified on the front flip panel. The ROG graphics stand out from the crowd, especially in a brick and mortar store.
Inside the bright red exterior shell are a pair of boxes that contain the accessory bundle and the ASUS ROG Ramapge IV Extreme. The motherboard sits in the box, secured firmly in place. The accessory bundle is packed well in the second box with each part in one of four corners.
The accessory bundle that is shipped with the ASUS ROG Rampage IV Extreme is one of the largest I have seen for a motherboard. Included in the bundle are the standard parts like the manual, driver disk, SATA cables, SLI bridge cable, and the Q-connections. What's not on the standard list are the ROG Connect cable, Q-Shield, the OC Key, tri and quad SLI bridge connections, ROG Probeit dongles, and the X-socket CPU retention adapter to allow use of previous generation heat sinks.
The OC Key is a new tool that is used in between the DVI output of the installed discrete graphics card and the monitor to output an on-screen display much like a HUD (Heads Up Display). This low or no overhead tool is a great addition to the ROG toolbox. With quad and tri SLI supported, ASUS has included ROG and ASUS labeled SLI bridge connections, specifically set up for the Rampage IV Extreme. ASUS' Probe II dongles are handy for measuring the voltages from the onboard headers. The Q-Shield has been a mainstay of ASUS boards for a few years now and is a much better looking alternative to the plain stamped offerings seen on most boards. Where it really shows a difference is in the back side of the shield. There is additional EMI protection over a foam core and the outer face is well illustrated. ASUS' X-Socket retention bracket replacement backplate is used to allow socket 1366 compatible heat sinks to be used with this socket 2011 motherboard by opening up the mounting holes in the board.
ASUS has all the toys for the ROG series and puts together a pretty stout package. Let's dig a bit further into the package with a look at the Rampage IV Extreme and see what separates it from the crowded X79 market.