ASUS Rampage IV Extreme Reviewccokeman -
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Each time I look at a ROG offering from ASUS, there are features that just set the bar that one step higher for the high end user and even sometimes head and shoulders above the crowd. With this iteration, built for Intel's latest SB-e socket 2011 processors and X79 chipset, the bar is raised several notches. At stock speeds and similar overclocks, it is going to give you the same performance you will see with boards offering less richly appointed feature sets, with all things being equal. But that's where the similarities end. Even though my 3960X is limited to just short of 4.8GHz (yeah, I know, it's lame), it was a very easy road to get to the end of the rainbow, even though I did not get the pot o' gold I was hoping for. What I mean is, that even with this beautiful and fully capable piece of hardware, I still could not coax more than a few more MHz from my CPU. That does not mean I did not try! The CPU was the limiting factor here. When it came to memory overclocking, the Rampage IV Extreme is equipped to get the most that your CPU has to offer, with speeds in excess of 2400MHz. Just over 2400MHz is the limit for the test chip. Is the board capable? Yes it is, but that has to be tempered by the luck of the draw on the CPU. Manual overclocking was easily reminiscent of the socket 1155 motherboards — set the clock and multiplier, up the voltage, test, wash, rinse, and repeat. Even using the CPU Level Up tool in the AI Suite II utility proved fruitful with a bump up to 4.25GHz that was fully stable.
So what gives the board its capability to attract a rabid user base? Reputation? Yes! Looks? Hell yeah! Performance? Of course! The one thing that really sets it apart is the unique feature set that is designed for the gamer and extreme user. For the gamer, there are the four PCIe 3.0 ready 16x slots that support both NVIDIA's Quad SLI along with AMD's Quad CrossFireX configurations at 16x/8x/8x/8x, to get the most out of the available graphics horsepower that can potentially be installed. Adding a fourth card limits availability of the connectivity at the bottom of the PCB, but there are sacrifices to be made for four video cards. ROG Connect and ROG iDirect are tools that allow the gamer to have a connected device, be it a small laptop or even an iPhone/iPad, connected via Bluetooth to make changes to clock speeds and voltages. They are both tools I have played with that really are easy to use and functional. Not much is cooler than walking into the house and turning on your machine with your smart phone. The only downside is that an Android-specific update for a tool was not included, although RC Bluetooth is an option. Adding USB 3.0 for faster data transfers leaves more time for gaming.
When it comes to the extreme/hardcore benchmarking user, ASUS has thrown in everything, including the kitchen sink. You get its Digi+ II fully digital power delivery system with a 8+3+2+2 phase design, enhanced motherboard cooling, Voltminder LEDs, and ProbeIt voltage check points. But wait, there's more — VGA Hotwire to adjust voltages on volt modded video cards, PCIe 16x switches to isolate installed video cards, LN2 mode jumper and Slow mode switches, Go Button and Q-Reset for helping along an on-the-edge clock speed, quad-channel memory with preset memory profiles in the UEFI BIOS for both Elpida and PSC modules, and onboard power and reset switches for use when the board is out of a chassis, as is the case (pardon the pun) when extreme overclocking. The OC Key is one of the most functional tools included with the Rampage IV Extreme — the tool has no overhead and allows the user to see many of the options available in the BIOS in an on screen display. This allows the user to tweak and apply changes while running benchmarks to hopefully deliver higher scores by tweaking the settings for each part of the benchmark. The BIOS includes Tweakers' Paradise sections to get that last tweak needed for benchmark overclock stability. For the rest of the user base who has to have a "Halo" board, the features and performance are there with plenty of USB 3.0 connectivity, Intel LAN, 7.1 HD sound, and the UEFI BIOS that offers 2.2+TB support and stunning good looks, in addition to the hefty feature set listed above.
Now to get all this goodness, it will cost you a few pennies. The Rampage IV Extreme is going to set you back just about $450, easily putting it at the top of the cost food chain, slightly ahead of EVGA's Classified, which is less feature rich. Besides the price drawback, there is not one reason to not look at this motherboard for your build. It has got all the things needed to make it a must have board, from its good looks that go so well with the black cases out on the market, to the excellent BIOS that just works and features excellent failed OC recovery, to the full suite of overclocking tools and utilities. It really does have it all.
- Rich feature set
- Overclocking tools