ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Reviewccokeman -
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ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Closer Look:
The software package can help make or break the implementation of a gaming specific motherboard. In the past the ROG hardware has always been top notch, but the software has been one of the added value components of the package that sometimes goes unnoticed. With the Rampage IV Black Edition, ASUS has delivered a robust software package including AI Suite III, Kaspersky Antivirus, Daemon Tools, Game First II, RAMDisk, Secure Erase, and so much more.
AI Suite III: Let's start off with AI Suite III, the latest version of ASUS' popular software package that aggregates almost all of the software package into one simple to use tool. If you are familiar with AI Suite you no doubt have gotten used to the application and how to navigate through it. With this revision we get an all-new look that takes a few minutes to learn the layout and then it's right back to the familiar tools. The main screen contains a lot of information about each of the four key features in the 4-Way optimization tool: TPU, EPU, Digi+ Power Control, and Fan Xpert2. The secondary menu is reached by clicking on the arrow at the top right of the window. This menu contains the rest of the functionality of the AI Suite III tool set. The 4-Way optimization is just that and allows the system to be tuned for the best performance, cooling, and noise levels, and is accomplished by clicking on the radio button in the left window. Using this feature we get a nice conservative yet realistic overclock based on the variability of the samples ASUS has tested with.
The 4-Way Optimization tool worked flawlessly to deliver a nice overall tune, but we can always do better, or so we think by manually tuning the system. Under the TPU section of the main window we can adjust the CPU ratio, CPU Strap settings, voltages by manual or adaptive modes, save and load profiles, as well as get into the warning setting mode by clicking the arrow in the bottom left CPU speed window. Here you can set the warning thresholds for voltages, temperatures, fan speeds, and set the desired temperature display by unit type, Fahrenheit or Celsius.
The EPU tab is all about managing the power profiles and rules for the system. There are four preset profiles under EPU: Auto, High Performance where power consumption is not a large concern, Max Power Saving, and Away modes that are designed to minimize the power profile by adjusting sleep timers, fan speeds, and the wattage level to run the processor at, Be aware that setting the wattage level will reduce the overall CPU speed and system performance as you might expect.
Digi+ Power Control allows the user to set Load Line Calibration levels, CPU Current controls, Active Frequency switching, and CPU Phase control for the CPU with Current controls, Voltage phase, and frequency controls for the ultimate in manual tuning. If manually tuning the system is not your bag then the 4-Way optimization tool takes care of it for you. ASUS' auto rules are setup to deliver the best possible performance without any user interaction.
Fan Xpert 2 is a utility that manages the fan speeds dynamically to provide the best possible noise/cooling ratio based on thermal need. Connecting your fans to the five onboard 4-pin fan headers allows the utility to tune the fan speeds by finding the minimum and maximum values for the installed fans. This way Fan Xpert 2 can slow down the fans' speeds to reduce the overall noise signature when max cooling is not required, as well as increasing the speeds when max cooling is needed. It is an interesting tool to watch as it goes through the tuning algorithms but the end result is as you would expect. If the self tuning feature is not to your liking you also have the option of using four preset profiles.
Once you get past the performance tuning DIP4 section you have a wealth of other feature to use. AI Charger+ is a USB 3.0 fast charging tool that supports BC 1.1 compatible devices including iOS devices. Enabling this option will allow a 3x speedup as long as you are connecting a supported device. I found my Google Nexus charged fully in less than an hour when connected to the high current USB 3.0 port. EZ Update is used to check ASUS' servers for the latest CrashFree BIOS 3 BIOS and motherboard hardware drivers.
System information gives you basic information about the installed hardware including the CPU, Motherboard, and memory SPD settings. USB BIOS flashback is a tool introduced on the last generation boards that proves its worth. You can use this functionality without the DRAM or CPU being in their sockets to update the system BIOS. As long as power is applied to the board, the flash drive is installed in the ROG Connect port, and the USB BIOS flashback button is pushed, the BIOS will flash the CrashFree BIOS. As a tool it can come in handy if you manage to corrupt the BIOS from some spirited overclocking. USB 3.0 Boost is a truly unique tool that uses optimizations to the BOT protocols and UASP support to drive improved USB 3.0 performance.
AI Suite III is an excellent and fully functional tool in its own right, as we have seen on previous ROG boards. I can't imagine it not functioning on the RIVBE.