ASUS Rampage IV Extreme Reviewccokeman -
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ASUS usually pulls together a pretty comprehensive suite of tools for use with its motherboards. Starting with the Intel Sandy Bridge socket 1155 launch, the interface of its popular AI Suite has seen significant improvements in form, as well as function.To start, this implementation has four functional areas, as well as the CPU Level Up function as a primary area. Under the tool section are the majority of the functionality. Included here are TurboV EVO, Digi+Power Control, EPU, Fan Xpert, Probe II, Sensor Recorder, and AI Charger. Each of these specific tools are designed together with the rest of the suite. The CPU Level Up function is part of the TurboV Evo Tool and is ASUS' one-stop-shop overclocking utility — set the level of performance you want and agree to the changes and the system does a quick test on the hardware and restarts the computer to set and run some stability tests on the overclock. The manual settings in TurboV Evo mimic much of what is found in the BIOS, from the core and memory voltages to the bclock adjustments. Digi+ Power Control has options to improve the overclocking margins by fine tuning the load line calibration, the CPU and DRAM voltage switching frequency, the CPU and DRAM current capability, and power phase control.
ASUS EPU system delivers measurable energy savings when used to its maximum capabilities. There are three different presets to choose from with each offering a more aggressive approach to energy management. Auto, High Performance, and Max Power saving modes each work around five different aspects of power management to deliver power savings on this board that is built for users who do not worry about power consumption, but rather raw MHz and high end gaming. CO2 emissions reduced through the use of the profiles is shown on the right hand side of the application.
Fan Xpert allows the end user to build and use a specific fan profile for each of the fans attached to the system. It is a small part of the AI Suite, but is flexible in how it manages the thermal load of the chassis or CPU by the profiles assigned. Higher fan speeds would equate to improved CPU overclocking by way of lower temperatures. With a total of eight 4-pin PWM fan headers, this tool is especially useful.
The Probe II section of AI Suite is full of monitoring tools that provide the end user the ability to monitor the system from within the Windows environment with five different tools: Alert, Temperature, Fan, Preferences, and Alert Log. The first tab, Alert, allows the user to set alert levels for system voltages. The Temperature tab is where the alert levels for system temperatures is set. Under the Fan tab you have the same functionality, but with fan speed. The Preferences tab sets up how the alerts are displayed. The Alert Log shows when the alerts happened over a period of time in graph form.
Sensor Recorder is used to display the voltage and fan speeds over a period of time. This is in addition to the alert tracking. AI Charger+ is an application that allows the user to charge USB BC 1.1 compatible portable devices up to three times faster than through a standard USB port.
Under the Update radio button, you can update the BIOS and change the boot logo that is currently displayed by the BIOS or in another saved BIOS. The Settings tab allows the end user to pick what items are shown on the AI Suite tool bar under "Application", while the actual configuration of the tool bar is managed under the "Bar" tab.
For the ROG user, ASUS builds in a few other useful utilities. They have a special ROG version of CPU-Z and a tool called Mem TweakIt. Everyone knows what CPU-Z is and its uses. Mem TweakIt is a tool to adjust the DRAM timing from within the Windows environment as a way to test and tune what combination of settings perform better before changing the settings in the BIOS.
ASUS WebStorage is a "cloud" storage tool that allows the end user to back up and retrieve and sync data from many different types of devices. 2GB of cloud storage is included for free with this service. In this increasingly mobile world, having access to your files from anywhere with a keyword means that showing off a treasured picture or listening to your music is just a connection away.
All the tools ASUS offers are functional and offer value to the end user. ROG Connect is a way to manage system specific settings from an external computer via a specific cable interface. In the past, I have looked at this feature and found it to be just plain cool, as you did not need to reboot the system and change settings, but rather you could change them on the fly from a laptop or netbook computer. Even more fun was using this software through an Apple or Android OS based mobile phone with Bluetooth connectivity. ASUS seems to have paired down the options to include only Apple products in this ability with the new ROG iDirect overclocking utility. RC Bluetooth and BT Turbo are still available for the Android crowd though. Those programs are great and I was surprised how well they worked when connected. But for the hardcore enthusiast, ASUS has included the OC Key as a way to adjust and monitor in real time many of the same settings in the BIOS with a device that has virtually no overhead — a boon to the enthusiast looking for a new world record. There are three separate tabs that can be accessed once you enable the on screen display by pushing and hold the ROG Connect button on the I/O panel of the board for three seconds. To allow a keyboard to be used for changing the settings, the ROG Connect button has to be pushed a second time for full functionality. The "OSD" as it is known features an "On Screen Display" that includes separate areas for tweaking and monitoring the system. The real time changes allow the end user to run different CPU parameters during different tests for maximum benchmark scoring.
Any which way you cut it, the value proposition is there for the package of software that ASUS brings to the table. The utilities are well thought out and they just work — more so now than in the past, as the combination of utilities are integrated into one suite for a truly fun user experience.