ASUS Rampage IV Extreme Review

ccokeman - 2011-08-10 19:05:09 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: March 5, 2012
Price: $449

Introduction:

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.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

The ASUS ROG Rampage IV Extreme is an Extended ATX form factor board measuring 12 inch x 10.7 inch, which visually represents the brand with the black and red theme used on the board. Looking at the PCB, it's evident that ASUS packed an expansive feature set onto the available real estate, from the large actively cooled chipset heat sink to the eight DIMM slots, onboard power and reset buttons, X-Socket, Sub Zero Sense measuring points, Bluetooth connectivity, voltage check points, and five 16x PCIe slots that support quad SLI/CrossFireX. The back side of the PCB has the large mounting bracket used to support the CPU retention mechanism. This bracket can be removed and replaced with the ASUS X-Socket backing plate that allows the end user to use a socket 1366 compatible heat sink. Both Socket 2011 and 1366 have the same 130W TDP, making this a quick fix for heat sink of LN 2 pot mounting. Each of the heat sinks in the heat pipe-based motherboard cooling solution is retained with screws instead of push pins, with an additional heat sink under the VRM behind the I/O panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I/O connectivity on the R4E includes, from left to right, a legacy P/S 2 port for use with either a keyboard or mouse, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, CMOS clear and ROG connect buttons, four more USB 2.0 ports including one that is used for ROG Connect, a Bluetooth module, two more USB 2.0 ports, one of the two 6Gbps eSATA ports, a single Intel GB LAN port, four ASMedia-controlled SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, the second 6Gbps eSATA port, and finally the optical SPDIf output and Realtek ALC898 HD analog sound ports. Pretty much the full load of options for the extreme user. There are a total of five 16x PCIe 3.0 ready slots that can support up to four video cards in a quad SLI/CrossFireX configuration with the slots running at 16x8x8x8. Two cards will run at 16x/16x. Between the bottom two 16x slots is a single 1x PCIe slot. Above the top 16x PCIe slot is a 6-pin auxiliary power connection to supply power to the PCIe slots when needed. Behind it is the connection point for the OC Key.

 

 

Along the bottom of the R4E is where you will find, from left to right, the digital and analog front panel audio headers, two of the eight PWM fan headers, one of the three temperature sensor plugs, the dual BIOS chips, another PWM fan header, the two USB 2.0 headers, one of the two USB 3.0 headers that supports connection speeds up to 4.8Gbps, the front panel connections, and the dual BIOS switch that allows the end user to choose between two different BIOS. This can essentially provide up to 16 different OC profiles.

 

 

Up the right hand side of the PCB, starting at the bottom, are the SATA connections. The red connections are the 6Gbps connections with the left pair being controlled by an ASmedia controller and the right pair being controlled by the Intel X79 chipset. The black SATA ports are the 3Gbps ports and support RAID 0/1/5/10. To make sure you get 6Gbps, it is recommended that the end user use the included SATA 6Gbps data cables. Next to the SATA ports is the Sub Zero Sense connection point. Here you can use a K-type probe to read the temperatures without having to purchase a multimeter. Above that we get into a lot of the bells and whistles on this board, but before we get there, you'll find the second 20-pin USB 3.0 header and the 24-pin ATX power connection. The top right hand side of the PCB, or the "OC Zone", is fully loaded with the Extreme user feature set. The most obvious parts are the power and reset switches and the diagnostic LED that is used to troubleshoot boot problems. There are also the ProbeIt voltage measuring points in the form of soldered pads on the PCB. ASUS does include a way to hook up a multimeter for long term measurements with wire pigtails that can be plugged into the sockets behind the measuring points. The PCIe 16x switch is used to electrically disconnect a video card in one of the four red 16x slots for diagnostic purposes. Why is this important? With the time and trouble it takes to set up and insulate a video card for LN2 benching, it is much easier to turn off the slot than to remove the video card entirely. Underneath the PCIe 16x switch is the Go button, which is used to enable the Mem OK diagnostic tool for memory trouble shooting or when pressed quickly it will enable the Go Button profile saved in the uEFI BIOS. Beside each of the voltage check points are the Voltminder LEDs. These give a visual representation of what voltage is causing a failed boot, making it easier to troubleshoot without pulling out the meter. Just below the debug LED are the Slow Mode switch and LN2 mode jumper. The LN2 jumper is useful for working past a "Cold Boot Bug". The Slow Mode switch is used during LN2 benching to slow down temperature transition that could result in a crash during high to low CPU load changes, for example at the end of a benchmark run. The VGA Hotwire headers are used to allow the motherboard to adjust the voltage on a volt modded GPU without using trim pots. Hook the wiring to the VGA Hotwire header and adjust via the OC Key OSD. Simple and effective.

 

 

Across the top side of the PCB are more of the black metallic capacitors, the 8-pin EATX Auxiliary power connection for the CPU, and an added 4-pin EATX for even more supply to the CPU. To the right of the board, behind the ROG Connect button, is the Q-Rest button used to cut power to the CPU to allow a recovery from a CPU locked state when running extreme overclocking benches. The 2-pin header directly behind the Q-Reset button is used to connect a small switch to remotely operate the ROG Connect switch. A PWM-controlled fan header rounds out the connectivity on the top of the R4E.

 

 

The CPU socket on the Rampage IV Extreme is for Intel's Sandy Bridge Extreme series socket 2011 processors, ranging from the recently released Core i7 3820 to the king of the hill 3960X. The socket retention mechanism is done in black chrome and is by LOTES. Quad-channel memory is supported at speeds of up to 2400MHz OC. The R4E has eight DIMM slots that allow a total of 64GB of DDR3 memory via eight 8GB modules. More commonly used will be 2 or 4GB modules until the 6GB+ modules come down in price. ASUS continues the use of its Q-DIMM memory sockets that feature a locking clip on only one side of the socket to provide more room for large video cards and placement of the 16x PCIe slots. Around the CPU socket is the 8+3+2+2 Digi+ II power circuit used to intelligently manage the power load to the CPU and DRAM — 8 phases to the CPU, 3 Phases for the Integrated Memory controller, and 2+2 for the DRAM.

 

 

As a ROG motherboard, the R4E is going to be well equipped with a good-sized cooling solution. It does in fact have just this with a large actively cooled heat sink over the X79 chipset, with a heat pipe running up through three more heat sinks covering the VRM components around the CPU socket. This solution still leaves adequate room to install large air cooled cooling solutions, such as the Noctua NH-D14 or Phanteks PH-TC14PE.

 

 

 

ASUS thought of just about everything with this motherboard. ASUS' X-Socket is included and is a way to keep the end user that is upgrading from an X58 platform from purchasing a new cooling solution. The reasoning is sound, with the TDP being the same 130W on both socket 1366 and 2011 processors. The fly in the ointment comes from the Intel-specified backplate that uses the same spacing that was used on the X58 platform. The backplate fills the holes through the PCB with a way to mount something new, but not take care of an older mount that goes through the board. The X-Socket replaces the back plate with a smaller plate that offers ample stiffness to the socket area while opening up the heat sink mounting holes so the older solutions can be used. Pretty smart move if you ask me. This also means if you are a sub zero bencher, you will not have to purchase new mounting hardware for your LN2 pots. All that is required is to remove the backplate with the supplied tool and replace it with the X-Socket bracket, mount the cooling solution, and start benching.

 

 

As one would expect with the $449 price tag, the R4E is feature deep and is definitely targeted to a select audience that can enjoy and employ the features.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

ASUS is using a UEFI BIOS implementation with the same user interface seen on the P67 and Z68 socket 1155 Sandy Bridge offerings. While the interface hasn't changed, what's under the skin is an upgrade to what ASUS has given the end user in the past. For instance, there is a "shorcut" menu to quickly access commonly used functions or areas without having to search the BIOS for them. There is an EZ Mode and an Advanced Mode to accommodate any and all users from the, dare I say it, noob to the extreme overclocker looking for that last MHz. There are a pair of 64MB Flash ROMs on board in case a BIOS flash goes bad or you just want to switch between BIOS if the eight programmable file presets are not enough. ASUS offers BIOS Flash protection via its Crash Free BIOS 3, USB BIOS Flashback so that the BIOS can be flashed without a CPU or DRAM being installed in the system, 2.2TB+ HDD support, and GPT Boot. Overclocking recovery via CPR (CPU Parameter Recall) makes a failed boot a one-time occurrence. The BIOS on the ROG series boards from ASUS are usually chock full of settings that most users will never use, as the auto settings will get most people to the promised land. It used to take a camera and some time transferring images over to the computer to share settings for either diagnostics or just to share an ovcerclock. Now ASUS has a screenshot feature called ROG BIOS Print to allow screenshots of the BIOS to be saved to a flash drive. Add in so many other features and you can understand why this board is for the extreme or power user. Let's take a tour through this implementation of ASUS' ROG-themed UEFI BIOS. It is by far the most complex I have been through in some time.

 

EZ and Advanced Mode:

The EZ Mode allows the user to make a limited amount of changes and is more to show what the time, date, and what the installed devices are. Advanced Mode gives the user the entire shooting match with access to every setting and feature allowed in the BIOS. Advanced Mode consists of six sub-menus to take advantage of the installed hardware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Mode: Extreme Tweaker:

This section is fairly expansive and is where ASUS spends the time to make sure that if you want to look for it and use it, there is a setting for just about every parameter on each device installed in the system. Starting off, there are four predefined overclocking profiles that can be set in addition to any XMP profiles, CPU Level Up or AI Overclock tuner settings. EPU power saving presets, voltages, DRAM timings and "Tweaker" functionality for the CPU, Memory, PCH, and VGA can be found in this one tab in the BIOS. You can literally spend days in this section to understand what each setting does. We will dig a little deeper on the next page.

 

 

Main:

This section is sparse by comparison to the Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS. In this section, you'll be able to access the time, date, BIOS revision, iROG revision, CPU information, amount of installed memory, system language and security features, such as admin passwords.

 

 

Advanced:

Under this tab, one can set the CPU configuration parameters, such as the bclock multiplier, enable Turbo Boost and Intel Speed step, C-states , SATA, USB, and have the ability to enable or disable the onboard device functionality. Under the SATA configuration, you can set the connection type for disk drives to AHCI, RAID or IDE and turn on or off the hot swap feature. Under the USB sub-menu is the ability to configure how the USB interface is managed. Last but not least, is the onboard device configuration that allows the user to enable or disable the sound, Bluetooth, USB 3.0, LAN, and Boot Rom, as well as the USB 3.0 controller.

 

 

 

Monitor:

Under this tab is the monitoring functionality for the board. Here the voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures can be checked. The first sub-menu below Anti Surge support is the voltage monitor. This tab is to check the voltages delivered to all the key components of the system. You can verify the voltages displayed against what is actually delivered by measuring the voltage check points on the Rampage IV Extreme. Temperature Monitor lets the end user monitor temperatures on the board and installed components, as well as several optional sensors. Warning temperatures can be set to alert the user when a specific component's temperature exceeds the set warning level. It's a tool that does work, as the warning levels are displayed through the AI Suite. Fan speed monitor does just what the name implies and displays the speed of up to nine fans. The last tab is fan control, where you can enable ASUS Q-Fan controls and set fan speeds individually to meet the end user's needs.

 

 

 

 

Boot:

The Boot menu is where to set the sequence that the drives are polled for bootable media. The primary drive can be identified when more than one is installed. The full screen ROG logo can be enabled or disabled at POST, Wait for F1 if Errors can be enabled or disabled, the length of time the POST report shows can be altered, and the setup mode that the BIOS will open into can be set to EZ or Advanced.

 

Tool:

This section comes in real handy. ASUS' EZ Flash 2 utility is hands down one of the easiest ways to flash a BIOS. It has been imitated, but not duplicated. Search for the BIOS file on any installed media, choose the BIOS file, choose to flash the BIOS, and the process is automated from that point on. SPD Information shows the SPD profile on the memory DIMMs. Under ASUS OC Profile, the end user can save up to eight distinct profiles. BIOS Flashback is used to force the system to boot from either of the BIOS chips or copy the data from one to the other. The Go Button File is the group of settings used when the Go Button is pushed on the R4E.

 

 

 

 

Exit:

The Exit tab at the top right allows you to load optimized or safe default settings, save or discard changes made to the BIOS settings, launch the BIOS in EZ or Advanced mode, or launch the EFI shell.

Closer Look:

The Extreme Tweaker section of the UEFI BIOS is where the overclocking magic happens. ASUS gives the end user the tools to get the most from their hardware. To start there are four different overclocking presets that are where the user can choose to use and not move any further into the BIOS. Then there is the rest of the world that will look to adjust the parameters in the BIOS to varying degrees. After the presets are the start of the adjustments with the AI Overclock tuner, bclock and bclock strap adjustments, and clockgen reset feature to keep from shutting down completely after a bclock adjustment. Turbo Ratio is to set the bclock multiplier from this menu. EPU or the Energy processor function can be shut down, and then there are several drop-down menus for the DRAM Timing control, Digi+ Power control, CPU Performance settings, and the GPU DIMM Post indicator that can be used to show whether or not the installed hardware is detected and functioning. Further down this first part of the Extreme Tweaker section are the voltage tuning options. Several can be set manually or set by adding an offset to the base voltage. At the bottom of the page are the Tweaker menus that have options for the extreme or enthusiast user. The CPU, GPU, Memory, and PCH are options here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the DRAM timing control sub-menu you can, as one would suspect, set the primary and secondary timings for the installed DRAM. To start, much like the main tab, there are a series of presets that can be used based on popular performance memory modules. Shown here is just the top of this tab, as it gets deep into the sub-timings. Elpida and PSC profiles are available with a loose set of settings to push for the highest memory MHz. The Digi+ Power Control section is where the user can configure the load line calibration, the VRM switching frequency, current capacity, and overheat protection for the VRM circuits. The CPU Performance setting is where the bclock multiplier is set, as well as where Intel Speedstep and Turbo mode can be enabled or disabled. The wattage used by the cores before they throttle down can be adjusted in this section.

 

 

 

GPU/DIMM Post is a functional area that allows the user to see if the memory modules are fully engaged and in operation. The slot assignment and speed are shown on the BIOS screen. The same is done with the GPU. The manufacturer and the slot in use are shown, as well as the PCIe lanes being used — in this example, 16.

 

 

The Tweakers' Paradise menus on the bottom of the Extreme Tweaker section are for those looking for that last MHz and one tweak that can make the performance difference needed. For the CPU, there are CPU I/O Skew and I/O Drive Strength, and PCIE CLK Skew settings to increase overclocking margins. The memory settings include drive strength and reference voltage settings not addressed in the DRAM timing section. The PCH section adds clock skew control again, all in the name of higher overclocking margins. The VGA tweaking section contains the controls for adjusting the voltage for the installed GPU's core memory and PLL when using the VGA Hotwire feature of the Rampage IV Extreme.

 

 

 

The BIOS on the Rampage IV Extreme is easy to navigate through and contains all the tools needed to meet your overclocking goals. The UEFI interface is much more enjoyable to work through than the old school BIOS of the past. The key now is to see just how this motherboard compares to some of its peers.

Specifications:

CPU
Intel® Socket 2011 for 2nd Generation Core™ i7 Processors
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2
* Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
Chipset
Intel® X79
Memory
8 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR3 2400(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Quad Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
* Refer to www.asus.com or user manual for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
Multi-GPU Support
Supports NVIDIA® 4-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
Expansion Slots 4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 *1
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x8 mode, gray) *1
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Storage
Intel® X79 chipset :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
4 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), black
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
ASMedia® PCIe SATA controller :
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
LAN
Intel®, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Bluetooth
Bluetooth V2.1+EDR
Audio
Realtek® ALC898 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
 
USB Ports
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
8 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
Intel® X79 chipset :
12 x USB 2.0 port(s) (8 at back panel, black+red, 4 at mid-board)
Overclocking Features
               
ROG OC Key
- OSD TweakIt
- OSD Monitor
ROG Connect :
- RC Diagram
- RC Remote
- RC Poster
- GPU TweakIt
ROG iDirect
Extreme Engine Digi+ II :
- 8 -phase CPU power design
- 3 -phase VCCSA power design
- 2 + 2 phase DRAM power design
ROG Extreme OC kit :
- Subzero Sense
- VGA Hotwire
- Slow Mode
- LN2 Mode
- PCIe x16 Lane Switch
- Q Reset
- EZ Plug
ProbeIt
UEFI BIOS features :
- ROG BIOS Wallpaper
- GPU.DIMM Post
iROG
Extreme Tweaker
Loadline Calibration
BIOS Flashback
USB BIOS Flashback
Overclocking Protection :
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED II
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special Features
ASUS EPU :
- EPU
CPU Level Up
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- MemOK!
- Onboard Button : Power/Reset/Clr CMOS (at back IO)
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- ASUS Q-Fan Plus
- ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS EZ DIY :
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS MyLogo 2
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
Back I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x Bluetooth module(s)
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0
8 x USB 2.0 (one port can be switched to ROG Connect)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x ROG Connect On/ Off switch(es)
1 x RC Bluetooth switch(es)
Internal I/O Ports
2 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 3.0 port(s)
2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
2 x CPU Fan connector(s)
3 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
3 x Optional Fan connector(s)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
1 x OC Key header(s)
1 x OT header(s)
2 x Subzero Sense connector(s)
1 x Slow Mode switch(es)
7 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
3 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x LN2 Mode header(s)
1 x Q Reset switch(es)
2 x EZ Plug connector(s) (4-pin in white for memory DIMMs; 6-pin in black for PCIe slots)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x Go Button(s)
1 x BIOS Switch button(s)
Accessories
I/O Shield
4 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x 3-Way SLI bridge(s)
1 x 4-Way SLI bridge(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x CrossFire cable(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
1 x ROG Connect cable(s)
1 x ProbeIt cable set(s)
1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
1 x OC Key(s)
1 x OC Key cable(s)
1 x X-Socket pad(s)
BIOS
2 x 64Mb Flash ROMs, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS
Manageability   WfM2.0, DMI2.0, WOL by PME, WOR by PME, PXE
Support Disc
Support DVD:
- Drivers and Applications
Kaspersky Anti-Virus
ASUS TurboV EVO Utility
ASUS PC Probe II
ASUS Update
ASUS AI Suite II
ASUS AI Charger+
Daemon Tool Pro Standard
ASUS WebStorage
Form Factor
Extended ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 10.7 inch ( 30.5 cm x 27.2 cm )
Note     
This motherboard is ready to support PCIe 3.0 SPEC. Functions will be available when using PCIe 3.0-compliant devices. Please refer to www.asus.com for updated detai

 

Features:


 

All information courtesy of ASUSTEK @ http://usa.asus.com/Motherboards/Intel_Socket_2011/Rampage_IV_Extreme/#specifications

Testing:

Testing the ASUS Rampage IV Entreme will involve running it and its comparison products through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which include both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications, to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play, in which we can see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 6970. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages and latencies – unless otherwise stated. Turbo Boost is disabled on all processors to make a fair comparison without skewing the results.

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 2011

 

Comparison Boards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking the Intel Core I7 3960X on the Rampage IV Extreme can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. Using ASUS' own TurboV Evo software and the CPU Level Up feature allows the less tech savvy end user the ability to get a decent clock speed from their CPU and memory by allowing ASUS' built-in overclocking algorithms to do the work. Hit the correct buttons to start the process and before you know it there is a good stable 4.25 GHz overclock reached by setting a bclock of 125 x 34. It's a conservative clock speed like I encountered when I looked at it on MSI's X79A GD65 8D. The reason for a more conservative approach is so that the end user's processor is not put in a position that will allow it to fail. The conservative clock speed and voltage increases are indeed Prime 95 stable and can be had for less than five minutes of "work". If you want more than the 4.25GHz that ASUS allows with TurboV Evo and are up to manually tweaking the system, ASUS has the hardware and software to accommodate that request. The options in the BIOS allow for a very robust overclocking experience. There are enough options in the BIOS to make a real tweaker break down and cry for help. To get the very highest stable clocks, you will have to spend the time to familiarize yourself with all the features. Even so, you can get quite a bit more than ASUS' tools by using the same processes used on the socket 1155 board from ASUS. Tweaking the bclock, multiplier, vcore, vccsa and vdimm voltages can get you a good way to the promised land. If you have a low bclock chip, you can still try the gear multiplier feature of the socket 2011 Sandy Bridge Extreme processor family to get a bit more clock speed. Inside the memory timings page there are preset profiles that are tailored for specific memory ICs, such as Elpida and PSC. Just about anything you want to adjust can be found. To reach the maximum clock speed on my particular CPU, I used a multiplier of 47 and a bclock of 101.5, using 1.47v set in the BIOS with LLC set to high. With high voltages, the load on the power circuit is tremendous. In order to keep the chip stable and the power circuits from failing, a fan should be used over the VRM heat sinks. All told, the Rampage IV Extreme lives up to the its namesake and delivers overclocking for the novice all the way up to the extreme enthusiast.

 

 

 

Maximum Clock Speed:

Each CPU and motherboard has been tested for stability at the clock speeds listed when in an overclocked state. These clock speeds will be used to run the test suite and will provide the performance difference increase over the stock settings in the overclocked scoring.

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Geekbench 2.1
  4. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  5. POV-Ray 3.7
  6. Bibble 5
  7. Sandra 2011
  8. AIDA64 1.85
  9. HandBrake .9.5
  10. ScienceMark 2.02
  11. Cinebench 10 & 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Civilization V
  3. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  4. 3DMark 11

Testing:

The first part of our testing will involve system-specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. Here, we will test the time needed to compress files of 100MB and 500MB. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

Geekbench:

Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy-to-use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.

  

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting 100 8.2MP RAW images to jpeg format. The file size is 837MB. The measure used for comparison is time needed to convert the file in seconds.

  

Lower is Better

 

Starting with the Apopyhysis testing, it is clear that the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme delivers performance that compares well with the MSI and Intel comparison boards. That alone is indicative of the level of performance that can be had by using the same components in each of the boards.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is the amount of time it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower Is Better

 

POV-Ray 3.7: This program features a built-in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing), enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.

  

Higher Is Better

 

 

HandBrake .9.5: is an open source application used to transcode multiple video formats to an h.264 output format. The test file size is 128MB in size and 43 seconds in length.

  

Lower Is Better

 

Through the MS Office, POV-Ray, and Handbrake testing, the performance margins are small enough that there would be no actual difference in the feel of how the system performs as it is configured for the testing.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

  

  

Multi-Core Efficiency

  

  

 

Memory Bandwidth

  

  

 

Memory Latency

  

 

Cache and Memory

  

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

  

 

AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the CPU Queen test that looks for the solution for the "Queens" problem on a 10x10 chessboard. This tests the branch-prediction capabilities of the processor. The FPU Mandel test measures double precision floating point performance through computation of several frames of the "Mandelbrot" fractal.

  

  

Higher is Better

In 16 out of 22 tests run in the Sandra and AIDA testing, the R4E was the highest performing board. Again, the performance deltas are small enough in most of the testing to only be noticeable in benchmarks.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real-world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we run the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

Higher is Better!

 

 

 

Cinebench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program, CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

  

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

 

  

 

  

Lower is Better

 

PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This latest version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs from laptops to desktops.

  

  

Higher is Better

 

At stock speeds, the R4E is the higher performing board in Sciencemark and Cinebench 10 and 11.5. The drive testing results show that when attached to the Intel chipset, the drives perform almost identically.

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based on the two popular sci-fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species: the Alien, the Predator, or the Human Colonial Marine. The game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine, which supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. For testing, I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

It seems that ASUS has a little something special for gamers with this ROG offering as we start the game testing. In each test, the Rampage IV Extreme delivered the highest average FPS in Aliens vs. Predator.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead it from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and brings massive changes to the AI behaviour in the game. Released for Windows in September of 2010, Civilization V was developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K games. Testing will be done using actual gameplay, with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 199-205 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

At both 1680x1050 and 1920x1080 stock and overclocked, the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme delivers the highest average FPS in Civilization V.

Testing:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, allowing for destructible environments. You can play the single-player campaign or multiplayer, with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has sold in excess of six million copies so far.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In BF:BC2, I was expecting a slightly more robust FPS average, but the R4E only delivered higher FPS than the competition when overclocked at 1680x1050. That being said, the FPS delivered only varied by a max of 2 FPS across the 1920x1080 testing and 5 FPS in the 1680x1050 testing, making the difference noticeable only in a structured test.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies the benchmark's focus on Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence matches the current year in number (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 was designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required alongside a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition gives unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage only allows for a single test run. The Advanced Edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all features of the benchmark, while the Professional Edition runs for $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing – one that tests physics handling and one that combines graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics Library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still remains a popular choice.

The new benchmark comes with two new demos that can be watched; both of which are based on the tests, but unlike the tests, contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a number of vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and displays a location similar to South American tribal ruins, with statues and the occasional vehicle. The demos are simple in that they have no story, but really demonstrate testing conditions. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors, MSI and Antec, on the sides, helping to make the Basic Edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to find the performance of each card. The presets are used because they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the tests in 3DMark11, the Rampage IV Extreme delivered the highest average scores.

Conclusion:

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.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: