ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Reviewccokeman -
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ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Introduction:
ASUS has a history of building over the top boards for its ROG segment that not only look the part, but perform up to and beyond expectations. Each subsequent revision has just that little bit more to offer the end user in terms of functionality and general usability. Take for instance the ROG Rampage IV Extreme. It was the HALO board in ASUS' X79 product stack and at the time delivered excellent CPU and memory overclocking, not to mention top shelf quad graphics cards compatibility, if you were so inclined to use that feature set.
Fast forward to 2014 and ASUS has again upped the ante with the Rampage IV Black Edition. Since the X79 platform was released back in 2011, Intel has delivered another CPU (IVB-E) for use on the platform that opens up some additional tuning opportunities. Sure, you get the standard platform basics, and you can get these on just about any board out there, but for an ROG board just any average feature set would not do. ASUS' Extreme Engine Digi+ III all-digital voltage control sees an update with Black Wing chokes, 90% efficient NextFET MOSFETs, and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors. The board, as you might have surmised by the name, now gets the black out treatment with just a little red thrown in for good measure. ASUS takes an all-new approach to the cooling system for the Extreme Engine Digi+III power components through the use of a new heat sink design that wraps around the I/O ports for a unique look to go with the added cooling functionality.
The biggest change we see from the RIVE is the sound solution that can rival the sound quality you get from several of the discrete audio cards on the market. Things like Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC, WIMA film capacitors, a stainless steel EMI protection cover, ELNA® premium audio caps, and a TPA6120A2 Hi-Fi headphone amp that all help to deliver that improved sound quality the end user is after.
At $499 the Rampage IV Black Edition is clearly designed for the end user looking for a specific feature set. The Rampage IV Black Edition delivers all the performance and overclocking features you could ever want wrapped up in a board that seems right at home in the office or in a custom water cooled, quad GPU-equipped high end gaming machine. Let's see what sets this board apart from the standard (if you could call it that) Rampage IV Extreme.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Closer Look:
Dressed up in all-black like Dale Earnhart's familiar #3 (you NASCAR geeks will get that one), you get that same intimidator vibe when you get to view the packaging for the first time in person. Free with this iteration is a full version of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag to sweeten the pot. If you don't play it you have a bargaining chip to use with someone who does. Prominently displayed in the top left corner of the front of the package is the Republic of Gamers logo with the board name proudly across the mid section of the box. Along the bottom of the front panel ASUS highlights many, but not all, of the features of the board. Highlighted items are those specific to the target market and include both CrossfireX and NVIDIA SLI multi GPU technologies, support for socket 2011 Intel processors, and that the X79 chipset is still in play here.
The back side of the box illustrates the top level features, including the inclusion of the OC Panel (an ROG exclusive), SupremeFX on-board audio, enhancements to the Extreme Engine Digi+III voltage circuits, and that you do get 4-way GPU support. The specifications table takes up the majority of the room on the back panel, but the I/O panel gets a mention as well. The front panel opens up to give an almost unobstructed view of the RIVBE. Almost, because the OC Panel is packaged right over the PCB. The inner panel takes a deeper dive into the OC Panel's functionality while also showing that ASUS' 802.11ac WiFi Go wireless connectivity option is included with this offering.
Inside the box, the board comes in an open box covered with clear plastic holding the OC Panel. The board is an interesting piece on its own, but the accessory bundle that comes with it is absolutely huge. It's amazing it all fits (minus the OC Panel) in just one box. The list is basically everything you need to use all of the functionality on the Rampage IV Black Edition. To start, of course, you have the detailed manual, driver disc, SATA cable labels, and the product key for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. The main components used with the OC Panel include the OC Panel, cable to connect it to the PCB, 5.25-inch bay mount, and the attachment screws. More to come on the OC Panel. You get a total of 10 SATA data cables(four 3Gbps and six 6Gbps), SLI bridge connections for 2-, 3-, or 4-way SLI configurations. You get the 2T2R 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant Wi-Fi Go antenna, a single Crossfire bridge connection, case badge, Q-Connectors, Q-Shield, ROG Connect cable, and lastly the X-Socket bracket that allows the user to re-purpose a socket 1366 compatible CPU heat sink.
The ASUS OC Panel or Overclocking Command center is an add-on device that was built to take some of the hardcore overclocking components off the PCB and put them in a tool that works across platforms to provide that overclocking experience and feature set without adding additional cost to the board. Connecting directly to a header on the PCB and to a SATA power header off the power supply, you get a tool that can be as mundane as a temperature and clock speed readout with some basic bclk and fan speed functionality in a 5.25-inch bay device. On the other hand, pulling the OC Panel out of the bay bracket assembly you get a tool that will allow you to get the most out of your hardware. Features include a 2.6-inch LCD display; Sub Zero sense that allows for granular temperature measurement using K-type probes; VGA hot wire support for use on supported video cards; four PWM controlled fan headers; Slow Mode switches; remote power and reset buttons; and up, down, and horizontal scrolling buttons with a center apply button. As an added accessory you don't get much better.
The package and accessories let you know you have something special with the Rampage IV Black Edition. The key is how well does it deliver against that expectation? If it's anything like the Rampage IV Extreme we should be in good hands.