ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: April 28, 2014
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.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Closer Look:
The ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition is an Extended ATX form factor board built around the Intel X79 chipset for use with socket 2011 processors from Intel, much like the Rampage IV Extreme, but with some updates to make it more relevant. The first thing you notice when looking at it head on is both the the black on black color scheme with very little of the signature ROG red coloring to be found on board, as well as the EATX form factor, with the board measuring 12" x 10.7". Fitting into smaller chassis may present some challenges if this form factor is not supported. The spec sheet for this board goes on for days with ROG exclusives as well as your basics. By melding in a lot of the feature set we see on the newest socket 115X boards such as the Maximus VI Extreme, you get the updates yet still retain the ability to use Intel's Extreme Edition processors. You get ROG staples such as ASUS Extreme Engine Digi+ III, OC Zone, Sub Zero Sense, and, new for this board, you get ASUS' own Supreme FX Black audio solution for a big boost in audio quality.
Looking at the back side of the PCB, there is the large CPU retention mechanism backing plate that can be configured with ASUS' X-bracket system to allow for the use of socket 1366 cooling solutions. A large metal cooling plate is used to hold the huge cooler in place on top of the X79 PCH while adding structural rigidity and additional cooling capacity. Cooling capacity overall is improved with a new VRM cooling solution around the I/O ports; more on this later. ASUS' PCB uses a proprietary fiber weave to reduce EMI and moisture resistance. Although far from being a sparsely populated PCB, ASUS has pulled off some of the ROG specific features that have been integrated into the included OC Panel.
Much like every modern ROG offering, you get a fully loaded I/O panel. For starters you get the PS/2 combo port for use with a mouse or keyboard, then a pair of the four back panel USB 2.0 ports, BIOS reset and ROG Connect buttons, and the second pair of USB 2.0 ports, with the top port used for ROG Connect functionality. Next up in blue are six of the eight onboard ASMedia-controlled USB 3.0 ports, a pair of ASMedia-controlled eSATA ports in red, and the Intel 82579V-powered wired Gigabit LAN port. Wireless connectivity is covered with ASUS' Wi-Fi GO! module that features Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v4.0/3.0+HS. At the far right, or bottom as it may be, of the I/O panel are the Optical S/PDIF out and five analog outputs for the Supreme FX Black sound solution. Sandwiched between the exclusive cooling solution and the left hand DIMM slot is one of the Fan Xpert controlled 4-pin chassis fan headers.
Surrounding the I/O ports is a Black Edition exclusive heat sink that is used to manage the thermal load of the 8+3 phase CPU power circuit. A quartet of 16x PCIe 3.0/2.0 sockets are available for both NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossfireX technologies, with up to 4-way configurations supported for both solutions. The ports run electronically at 16x by 16x with two cards and 16x by 8x by 8x by 8x when populating all four slots. Not to be left out are the pair of PCIe 2.0 1x slots for use with add-in cards. Using all four 16x slots for graphics cards will mean these are unavailable.
New for the ASUS ROG Rampage IV Black Edition is the Supreme FX Black audio solution. Designed to deliver a warm, rich sound profile on par with high end sound cards, it comes equipped with all the parts to deliver that sound profile. Components include ELNA audio capacitors, German-made WIMA film capacitors, differential circuit design using op-amps, Supreme FX shielding on the codec, TI 6120A2 high fidelity headphone amplifier, Cirrus Logic® CS4398 DAC, NEC TOKIN UC2 audio relay, and electrical isolation of the sound components using ASUS' Red Line Moat to reduce interference from the rest of the on-board components. What we get is an improvement in on-board sound design taken from the learnings and feedback on previous designs used on the main stream ROG line that are successfully integrated here on the RIVBE.
Along the bottom of the PCB are a ton of connection points that are used for added functionality on the board. From the left is the front panel audio header, 4-pin Molex power connection used to supply additional power to the PCIe slots when running multi-GPU solutions, a TPM header, a pair of USB 2.0 headers, temperature probe header, a pair of Fan Xpert controlled 4-pin fan headers, the Direct button, BIOS Switch to switch between the BIOS ROMs, chassis intrusion header, DirectKey jumper, ROG Extension connection to hook up to the OC Panel, and lastly on the far right is the front panel header.
On the right side of the board, ASUS started with the dual 64MB ICs that hold the ASUS UEFI AMI BIOS. SATA connectivity includes both 6Gbps and 3Gbps options. From the left there are six SATA 6Gbps ports, two from the X79 PCH and four by way of an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. The black ports are SATA 3Gbps and when used in tandem with the 6Gbps ports controlled by the Intel PCH, RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 is supported. Further up the board you run into the USB 3.0 header that supports an additional two ports. The main power feed into the RIVBE comes from a standard 24-pin ATX power connection. In front of this connection point are a bunch of solder points that make up ASUS Probe It feature set. This allows the user to check the more overclocking centric voltages manually using a multimeter rather than relying on a software interpretation of the applied voltage. Between the voltage read points are diagnostic LEDs that fire as system components come on line to let you know they are working.
The area just above the 24-pin power connection is called the "OC Zone" and features the tools used by the extreme overclocker. To shut down PCIe slots you have the PCIe lane switch to shut down each slot in turn for not only diagnostic reasons, but to effectively turn that card off when benchmarking. The Mem OK! button is used to run training-based algorithms to ensure the installed memory can post the system through timing and voltage adjustments. The Start and Reset buttons are self explanatory, but come in handy when overclocking on a bench. The Slow Mode switch is used to to manage frequency when transitioning between light and heavy loads while running under LN2. The LN2 jumper is used to help minimize the effects of a cold boot bug when running under extreme cooling. Last but not least in the top right corner of the board is the Q-Code LED, used to diagnose boot issues during the post sequence. This came in handy when trying out various memory settings.
Along the top of the board there is not much to talk about. At the top of the PCB are the CPU and chassis 4-pin fan header, a 4-pin and 8-pin EATX 12v power supply connector for added current to the CPU, and the heat sink in the heat pipe interconnected cooling solution for the 8+3+2+2 phase Extreme Engine Digi+ III power circuit.
The ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition is designed to use Intel Core i7 socket 2011 processors, including the Core i7 3960X and i7 4960X. Quad channel memory support is available for up to 64GB of DDR3 memory at speeds of up to DDR3 2800 (O.C.). While supported, not every processor is going to be able to run the number due to variances in the strength of the IVB-E memory controller. If your chip can handle it, then the ASUS RIVBE can support it. Delivering the power needs for the CPU is an 8+3 phase Extreme Engine Digi+ III power supply using 60A chokes, 90% efficient NexFET™ Power Block MOSFETs, and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors. A 2+2 phase power system design is incorporated to supply the quad channel DIMM slots with the power needed under load. A T-Topology is used with the DIMM slots to improve memory signalling in order to improve memory overclocking.
ASUS took a new route with the cooling solution for the Extreme Engine Digi+ III when compared to the RIVE. New for this board is a giant heat sink that physically wraps around the I/O connections, as well as being interconnected to the heat sink across the top of the PCB. It looks good and is functional when you have airflow around it to dissipate the thermals. On the X79 PCH, ASUS chose to go with a passive solution instead of the active solution used on the Rampage IV Extreme. Again a little bit of airflow goes a long way towards managing the heat load. Overall both functionally and aesthetically I like this option better than the solution used on the RIVE.
Put into perspective the ASUS ROG Rampage IV Black Edition is an upgrade over the Rampage IV Extreme as far as looks and the included sound solution are concerned. The key is how well does it perform against ASUS' previous king of the hill high end X79 board, and do the refresh items make it a viable upgrade path? Let's dig a bit deeper.
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, in this case the applied wattage is 42W or half of the 84W TDP of the installed i7 4770K. 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.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Closer Look:
While AI Suite III contains most of the software package, it does not include everything that is included with the ROG Rampage IV Black Edition. Added value software is included that bought separately would increase the end user costs. ASUS includes a full version of Kaspersky's highly rated antivirus software with a one year subscription. Daemon Tools disk virtualization software is also included to help save your game discs and make/burn disk images. The Rampage IV Black Edition also comes with one of the latest triple-A game titles, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. All add value to the package of software for no additional cost. ASUS Web Storage is a cloud based service used to store and back up files that is included with the software package. The initial storage space is included in the package, but additional space is available at an added cost.
MemTweakit is used to set the memory sub-timings from within the Windows environment. This tool features an efficiency score that will help you improve the memory performance of the modules installed. In the past this tool has been a great addition to the ROG software package and you can even join some of the fun on the ROG forums to compete for the highest efficiency scores. ASUS has its own ROG skinned CPU-Z utility that sets up a point of difference from the standard version. The Boot setting tool is used to enable FastBoot and utilize the DirectKey function from within the OS environment rather than opening the chassis up or mounting an additional switch somewhere on the chassis. You will need this tool to get into the BIOS when FastBoot is enabled, since keyboard support is disabled during the FastBoot process.
Game First II is ASUS' own traffic shaping tool to improve ping time and reduce latency by managing the traffic flow of ACK packets. You get an easy to follow EZ mode as well as a more granular look in the advanced mode. The EZ mode has presets that allow you to setup the traffic management for VOIP, File Sharing, Gaming, or Media Streaming.
RAMDisk is a new addition to the ROG package. The premise with this tool is that access to DRAM is much quicker than accessing an HDD or SSD to load files that you need either working in the OS and/or during gaming. RAMDisk is a utility that takes excess DRAM capacity and creates a virtual disk so that you can drastically improve load times of applications or maps during gaming. ASUS makes this tool simple enough for even the novice to use. Most of us are not fully utilizing the 16 or 32GB of DRAM In our systems, so why not take advantage of a way to improve the computing experience? At this point DRAM is still relatively inexpensive.
Creating an 8GB virtual drive is as simple as choosing the capacity with a slider and applying the change. After a reboot you can click on the Junction tab and add the applications or maps or games you would like to accelerate and you are done. Newer solid state drives with the latest controllers can have sequential read/write results in the 500 to 550MB/s range with that result at the high end of the spectrum. Running Crystal DiskMark on the RAMDisk virtual drive gives a graphic example of just how fast this solution can be when using 2400MHz memory. It's just brutally fast.
Sonic Radar is a new tool in the ROG arsenal as well. Some have alluded to this software being used as a cheat, but if you are using surround sound speakers or a headset with surround capabilities you are doing the same thing; using the sound system and your ears. Sonic Radar is a graphic representation of the sounds you hear. The key is the visual interface that works to point out the sounds directionally; a bonus if you are not utilizing a surround speaker system or headset. There are separate modes that can be optimized for footsteps, bombs, or gunfire. Shortcuts can be used to move the interface or change the transparency level, as well as toggle through the user modes. Overall it's a pretty cool tool for those of us that are less than good at FPS gaming. As you can see in the screen shot below there is a ton of ambient noise in this section of Metro: Last Light.
That wraps up the look at this full featured software package that is fully game centric.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Closer Look:
ASUS sets itself apart from the rest of the crowd in many ways from the software and hardware packages, but one of the best things it does over the past few generations has been the implementation of the Crash Free UEFI BIOS. Starting with the P67 chipset launch, the UEFI BIOS has been getting smoother and easier to use with new features added as each new generation is released. New for the Z87 chipset and fully integrated into the X79 platform are some really cool features, such as a more in depth EZ mode and a Last Modified tab that tracks changes as you work though the BIOS, presenting the user with a map to the options used to generate the performance settings or even just the mundane changes. You get Quick Note to leave yourself messages in the BIOS or to list specific settings so you can remember them. F4 shortcuts menus for your favorites, SATA Port renaming, and what has to be one of the top additions to the ROG lineup is the ability to Secure Erase drives from within the Crash Free BIOS 3.
Traditionally we get a nice red version of ASUS UEFI BIOS, but in this case it's all black to seamlessly integrate with the board and marketing visuals. It actually looks better in black than red.
EZ Mode is used when you really do not want or need to spend the time going through the advanced section of the BIOS. It can be daunting to the novice user, but the more adept can take advantage of the tuning abilities found in the Advanced section. All of the basics are in place to set the boot order, EPU and fan profiles, and illustrate the hardware that is installed in the Rampage IV Black Edition.
Once you move into the Advanced mode there are a total of eight tabs or sections to explore, with the first section being My Favorites. Here is where you get some of the new tweaks to the Crash Free BIOS. You can build a series of shortcuts that allow you to jump straight to certain functionality. In this case I put shortcuts in place for AI Overclock Tuner, DRAM Frequency, and the CPU Core and Ring voltages. You add shortcuts by pressing the F4 button and browsing for the items to add. Using this tool you can put all of your most used options in one place. Quick Note allows you to leave yourself notes as to what may or may not work, or just simple reminders. Last is the Last Modified tool that captures each adjustment made in the BIOS, essentially leaving you a set of bread crumbs so that you can keep track of all the work you have done in the BIOS.
The Main page option shows the system time, date, BIOS revision and build date, installed CPU and processor speed, memory capacity, system language, and security options including passwords. Not the section you will sped a lot of time in, but nevertheless provides valuable information and functionality.
The Advanced tab provides a way to manage much of the system functionality. The CPU configuration tab is used to modify the CPU operating parameters outside of the frequency and voltages. PCH Configuration is where you can enable or disable Intel's drive enhancements and PCIe assignments. Onboard device configuration is used to enable or disable onboard hardware. SATA Configuration is used to set up drive operating parameters as well as showing the port availability. ROG Effects allow you to enable or disable the ROG Pulse, Supreme FX, and onboard lighting.
The Monitor section is just what the name implies. Here Anti Surge support can be turned on or off. Under each category you can view the operating characteristics and current state of the pertinent voltages, the fan speeds, temperatures, and enable or disable the fan speed controls. As well as Fan Xpert 2 manages things, this should be left alone unless you are looking for full manual control.
Boot: Under this section Fast Boot can be turned on or off, SATA and USB ports can be enabled or disabled, and DirectKey functionality can be enabled to access the BIOS with Fast Boot enabled. Logo display at boot can be turned off so you can view the P.O.S.T. sequence. EZ or Advanced mode can be set as the first screen upon opening the BIOS. Wait for ERROR F1 messages can be turned off (I find this helpful when not running a fan off the CPU fan header), and lastly the boot sequence can be set up here.
Tool: Outside the Extreme Tweaker section this section is one of the most useful areas of ASUS' UEFI Crash Free BIOS. ASUS EZ Flash utility is a simple to use option for flashing the BIOS on ASUS motherboards that has yet to fail on me after years of use. A new feature for a new age in disk drives is the Secure Erase function that gives you the ability to secure erase your drive to improve performance. When using this feature with my Corsair Force GT Drive it showed as locked and needed a reboot to unlock the drive. After a reboot the Secure Erase finished as planned. No longer do you have to work through several means to run a secure erase. ASUS OC Profile lets you save and/or load profiles from the BIOS save files or from a USB flash drive. Coupled with the Last Modified tool you can make sure you save those important changes. ROG OC Panel H-Key adjusts a finite number of options including CPU core voltage and frequency.
The Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS is where you will spend a good majority of your time if you are used to overclocking manually. This section provides all of the CPU and DRAM specific settings to get the most from your hardware. Up front ASUS has said the auto rules for the vast majority of settings are tuned well enough that no manipulation or adjustments are needed for most of the settings. In fact I used only the CPU vcore, CPU Ring voltage, DRAM Voltage, DRAM Frequency, CPU and Cache ratio, and the basic timings to reach a 4.7GHz overclock on the CPU I have. However you have access to pretty much every option as far as voltages, Load Line Calibration, current limits, and overrides.
The top of this section shows the current state of the hardware. AI Overclock tuner can be set to Auto, Manual, or three preset speeds that mirror the vast majority of CPU capabilities on the market. DRAM Timing Control allows the end user to tune the timings of the installed modules for improved frequency margins or outright performance. GPU DIMM Post shows the installed DRAM Modules current frequency as well as the installed discrete GPU type and PCIe Lane allocation. Digi+Power control is used to set and apply a value for LLC along with the current limits, phase controls, VRM Switching frequency, and more. Again the auto rules are pretty good. Tweakers Paradise lets you get a little more granular as far as power settings go. Towards the bottom of the page we finally get to the voltages that can be tweaked.
ASUS' UEFI Crash Free BIOS are pretty much the standard by which all others are measured when it comes to usability right out of the box. I had no issues navigating through the BIOS with several different mice; the mouse clicks and selection works every time. ASUS' ongoing support is one thing many of you are aware of, but if not the long term BIOS support is there for ASUS and especially ROG-inspired motherboards like the original Rampage IV. ASUS has its own forum that encourages members to participate in the ROG Exchange process that puts tried and tested BIOS settings packages out and available to try for all users. The ability to upload a BIOS from a file is key to this ability. If by chance you corrupt the BIOS using ASUS' USB BIOS Flashback procedure the end user can recover the BIOS in about two minutes, easily squashing the fear of a permanently hosed up board due to bad BIOS flash. With this kind of usability it's hard to go wrong.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Specifications:
Intel® Core™ i7 Processors for LGA 2011 Socket
Supports Intel® 22 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
8 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR3 2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/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)
* Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
* Due to CPU behavior, DDR3 2200/2000/1800 MHz memory module will run at DDR3 2133/1866/1600 MHz frequency as default.
Supports NVIDIA® 4-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x16 or x16/x8/x16 or x16/x8/x8/x8, black) *1
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Intel® X79 chipset :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
4 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), black
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
ASMedia® ASM1061 controller : *2
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
4 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
Intel® 82579V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
ROG SupremeFX Black 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming
SupremeFX Shielding Technology
Cirrus Logic® CS4398 DAC: 120 dB SNR, -107 dB THD+N (Max. 192 kHz/ 24 -bit)
TI 6120A2 high fidelity headphone amplifier
WIMA® film capacitors
ELNA® premium audio capacitors
High-fidelity audio OP AMP(s)
Differential circuit design
NEC TOKIN UC2 audio relay
Audio Feature :
Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller : *3
8 x USB 3.0 port(s) (6 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® X79 chipset : *4
10 x USB 2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, black, 6 at mid-board)
2.6 " LCM display
EXTREME/NORMAL mode switch
EXTREME Mode for subzero OC benching:*5
- VGA Hotwire
- Subzero Sense
- Slow Mode
- Pause Switch
- VGA SMB header
- 4 x 4-pin extra fan connectors
NORMAL Mode for in-chassis usage:*6
- CPU Level Up OC button
- FanSpeed control button
- LCM backlight on/off button
- POWER?1 x SATA power connector
- ROG_EXT port?1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
ROG Exclusive Features
8 -phase CPU power design
- 3 -phase VCCSA power design
- 2 + 2 phase DRAM power design
- NexFET™ Power Block MOSFET
- 60A Chokes
- 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
ROG Extreme OC kit :
- Slow Mode
- LN2 Mode
- PCIe x16 Lane Switch
- EZ Plug
UEFI BIOS features :
- ROG BIOS Print
- GPU.DIMM Post
- Tweakers' Paradise
- ROG SSD Secure Erase
Overclocking Protection :
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED II
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way Optimization :
- The tuning key perfectly consolidates ASUS-exclusive DIGI+ Power Control, TPU, EPU, and Fan Xpert 2 optimize the digital power setting, system performance, power saving and whole system cooling configuration
CPU Level Up
ASUS Wi-Fi GO!
- Wi-Fi GO! Function: Media Streaming Hub, Smart Motion Control, Remote Desktop, Remote Keyboard & Mouse, File Transfer, Capture & Send
- Wi-Fi Engine for network sharing and connection: Client Mode, AP Mode
- Wi-Fi GO! & NFC Remote for portable Smartphone/Tablet, supporting iOS & Android systems
ROG Connect *7
- RC TweakIt
- RC Diagram
- RC Remote
- RC Poster
Extreme Engine Digi+ III :
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- TurboV EVO
- USB BIOS Flashback
- AI Suite 3
- Ai Charger+
- Onboard Button : Power/Reset/Clr CMOS (at back IO)
- Front Panel USB 3.0 Support
- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
- USB 3.0 Boost
- Disk Unlocker
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- ASUS Fan Xpert 2
ASUS EZ DIY :
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS USB BIOS Flashback
- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode
- Multi-language BIOS
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Code
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
Overclocking Protection :
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED II
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Operating System Support
Windows® 8.1 86x64
Windows® 8 86x64
Windows® 7 86x64
Back I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
6 x USB 3.0 (blue)
4 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 ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module (Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v4.0/3.0+HS)
Internal I/O Ports
1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s)
3 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 6 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x TPM header
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s)
1 x CPU OPT 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) (Q-Connector)
1 x Chassis Intrusion connector(s)
1 x DirectKey Button(s)
1 x DRCT header(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x Slow Mode switch(es)
11 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
3 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x LN2 Mode header(s)
1 x EZ Plug connector(s) (4-pin Molex power connector)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x BIOS Switch button(s)
1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x ASUS 2T2R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant)
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 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
1 x X-Socket pad(s)
1 x ROG Magnet
OC Panel Kit:
- 1 x OC Panel(s)
- 1 x OC Panel 5.25-inch bay metal case
- 1 x OC Panel Cable(s)
2 x 64Mb UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.7, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI5.0a, Multi-Language BIOS,
ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, My Favorites, Quick Note, Last Modified log, F12 PrintScreen, F3 Shortcut functions, and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information
WfM2.0, DMI2.7, WOL by PME, PXE
ROG Mem TweakIt
DAEMON Tools Pro Standard
Extended ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 10.7 inch ( 30.5 cm x 27.2 cm )
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Features:
- Intel® Core™ i7 Processors for LGA 2011 socket
- Intel® X79 Express Chipset
- OC Panel- Overclocking Command Center
- Extreme Engine Digi+ III- Hardcore power delivery with premium components
- SupremeFX Black- Amazing 120dB signal-to-noise ratio with integrated 600ohm-headphone amplifier
- Subzero Sense- Find out how cold your board is
- VGA Hotwire- Hotwire your system
- GameFirst II + Intel LAN- Put Your Frags First
- Sonic Radar- Scan and detect to dominate
- RAMDisk- Double up on speed with RAM
- 4-Way NIVDIA® SLI™ / AMD CrossFireX™ Support
- Wi-Fi 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.0
All information courtesy of ASUS @ https://www.asus.com/us/Motherboards/RAMPAGE_IV_BLACK_EDITION/overview/
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Testing:
Testing ASUS' latest Extreme series motherboard will involve running it and its comparison products through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which include both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications. 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 chipset drivers for each board and GeForce drivers for the GTX 770 . 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 will be left on so that differences in the boards boost characteristics can be observed. After stock speed testing, each board will then be overclocked to a level that the chip and memory can run while still maintaining full stability.
- Processors: Intel Core i7 4960X IVB-E
- CPU Cooling: Stock Corsair Hydro Series H100, Overclocked: Custom water
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Rampage IV Black Edition
- Memory: Corsair Dominator 2133Mhz 16GB
- Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 770
- Power Supply: Thermaltake Smart 750W
- Hard Drive: Corsair Force GT 240GB SATA 3
- Optical Drive: Lite-On Blu-Ray
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 650D
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Processor: Intel Core i7 4960X 44x101.20MHz 4448MHz
- Memory: 2426Mhz 9-12-11-31
Overclocking on an ROG board can be approached many different ways. Traditional methods to manually tune and tweak every parameter are available on the Rampage IV Black Edition in case you want to really push the limits with liquid nitrogen or dry ice or even a triple stage cascade cooler. By the same token you have a board that is flexible enough that with its auto algorithms you can reach your processors maximum clock speeds at will on air or liquid cooling. Digging through the BIOS it is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of settings available to the end user; many will make even the most jaded overclocker run the auto settings.
If tweaking every parameter for that last fraction of a second on your Super Pi time, ASUS puts together a pretty solid package that allows the end user to overclock at will with a range of preset profiles right off the bat, or digging a little deeper into the AI Overclock Tuner option in the Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS. Using the tools in the BIOS are simple and result in solid overclocks. The key here is to test stability once you engage the settings. My chip is a bit weak when it comes to overclocking at 4.45GHz. The other options are accessed from within the AI Suite III utility. By using the 4-Way optimization tool, the application runs a series of algorithms to find a stable overclock for the installed hardware including voltage, bclck, and multiplier adjustments. Once the tuning stops you have the option of keeping that finished clock speed or continuing to let the tool run until the failure point or you reach your overclocking goals.
For my purposes I chose to manually tune the clock speed on the memory and CPU. To start, since I know what my CPU can and cannot do, I set the XMP profile for the memory and then set the clock speed multiplier on the CPU to 44, adjusted the bCLK to 101.20, and the CPU voltage to 1.40v. The memory voltage was set with the XMP profile. Other than a tweak to the load line calibration to maintain the CPU voltage equal to or higher than 1.40v, the rest of the settings were left to the auto algorithms. You cannot get much simpler than that for your overclocking other than using the CPU level up function in the Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS. If you cannot overclock with this board then it's time to go back to school!
Maximum Core Clock Speed:
Each CPU has been tested for stability at the listed overclocked speeds. These clock speeds will represent the level of performance shown by the overclocked scores in the testing.
- Scientific & Data:
- PCMark 7
- SiSoft Sandra 2014
- Cinebench 11.5
- X.264 5.1
- AIDA 64 3.00
- Crystal Disk Mark
- ATTO 2.47
- Rightmark Audio Analyzer
- Metro: Last Light
- Batman: Arkham Origins
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Testing:
PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This 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.
SiSoft Sandra 2014 is a diagnostic utility and synthetic bench marking 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.
When comparing the two ROG-based boards, the real world impact between their performance is almost negligible. The Rampage IV Black Edition delivers slightly better results or is dead even performance-wise in these two benchmarks.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Testing:
Cinebench 11.5 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.
X.264 Benchmark: This benchmark is used to measure the time it takes to encode a 1080p video file into the x264 format. The default benchmark is used with an average of all four tests on each pass taken as the result.
AIDA64 Extreme Edition 3.0 is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the Cache and Memory benchmark tool to measure memory performance.
In the second set of tests you can see that performance-wise ASUS has these boards tuned pretty well to deliver almost identical performance. Outside of some variability in the memory results, the performance curves are very similar.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Testing:
Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4K blocks, 512K blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.
ATTO 2.47: will be used to measure USB 3.0 performance using an SSD attached to an external USB 3.0 drive dock.
Internal drive performance is similar between both the RIVE and RIVBE, showing great consistency from board to board. You know what to expect. ASUS USB 3.0 Boost technology is working on both boards. We see some variances that ultimately were repeatable in the testing using this tool located in ASUS own software toolkit, AI Suite III. It's one of the tools that sets ASUS' boards apart from the crowd.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Testing:
LAN performance will be tested via a utility to gauge the performance of the onboard network solutions. The motherboard being tested will be connected via a Gigabit switch to another system with an integrated Gigabit network solution on board.
iPerf is a small lightweight utility run from the command prompt and can be used to measure both TCP and UDP performance on a network. iPerf is cross platform software and open source. The test is configured to run for 20 seconds with a window size of 256 KB and four simultaneous streams that should be able to saturate the TCP link on a good NIC.
Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.25 is used to test the sound solution on board each motherboard. Nothing beats a good set of ears and headphones but this is a graphic representation of the capabilities of the installed hardware. Sampling mode is 24-bit 44kHz.
Frequency Response dB
Noise Level dBA
Dynamic Range dBA
Total Harmonic distortion %
Intermodulation distortion +noise
Intermodulation distortion + noise (Swept Freq) %
Both boards use an Intel-based NIC using ASUS GameFirst technology. Using iPerf the test results show consistency across the two boards. Using RMAA to measure sound quality, the boards deliver comparable results and both score Very Good in the test. However that's not where they end up as you really need a listen to see just how far ASUS' onboard Supreme FX solutions have come in such a relatively short time.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Testing:
3DMark: The just released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base the ability to make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and Extreme Gaming PCs.
- Default test settings
- Cloud Gate
- Fire Strike:
Batman: Arkham Origins is the third installment of the Batman: Arkham series, released in October 2013. This action-adventure game, based on the DC Comics Batman superhero, was developed by Warner Bros. Games Montréal and released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham Origins continues to use the Unreal 3 game engine.
- DirectX 11
- Global settings = Maximum
- PhysX = off
Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro: Last Light is the followup to the extremely popular game Metro 2033. Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, this game uses the 4A game engine. In this game set a year after the missile strike on the Dark Ones you continue on as Artyom as he digs deeper into the bowels of the Metro.
- DirectX 11
- Global settings = Very High
- PhysX = Off
In these gaming tests, what you see is what you get. When comparing the Black Edition against its predecessor, graphics performance is almost identical with the GTX 770.
ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Conclusion:
When it comes down to spending your hard earned coin on a motherboard, is the Rampage IV Black Edition worth your consideration for a new build? As an upgrade? For the ROG faithful that's a resounding yes on both counts. The Republic of Gamers series of motherboards from ASUS have long had a loyal following that helps drive innovation by providing feedback on what makes the best gaming centric motherboards. If you currently have the Rampage IV Extreme and are looking for that next step, the Black Edition comes with some upgrades that make it a sensible although pricey update for you. Performance wise the RIVE and RIVBE are going to deliver within a narrow envelope and similar performance alone is not a good reason for an upgrade. If the all-black color scheme, new cooling solution, and the addition of Supreme FX Black sound solution as well as the inclusion of ASUS OC Control panel interest you then by all means take the plunge. If you are on the fence with motherboard selection, the Rampage IV Black Edition is a board that you need to consider as the base for your build. Pricey as it is, it comes with everything you might ever need to get it up and running and tuned to perfection.
Usability of a board of this caliber is paramount to having that great ROG experience. If you look at the software included, ASUS gives you a tremendous upside in software alone. AI Suite III and the included programs to fully tune the board from within the OS, including RAMDisk to improve access to programs by using integrated RAMDisk software, Sonic Radar so you can get a visual on where the sound patterns are coming from in-game, Fan Xpert 2 to tune the attached fans for the best cooling and lowest noise, GameFirst 2, and USB 3.0 Boost that improves transfer speeds to supported USB 3.0 devices. But wait, there's more, as the late night sales pitch goes.
ASUS includes a software bundle that at the top of the list includes a full copy of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag to fit the image of the Black Edition board, a one year subscription to Kaspersky's Anti Virus suite, and Daemon Tools. That is easily an almost $90 value at current pricing. The software package just works well. ASUS' Crash Free 3 UEFI BIOS is the standard by which all others are measured. It is easy to navigate and has definitions for what each of the settings do to help the novice as well as experienced user. Using the preset options or manually tuning both offer benefits if you take the time to tweak the board. You really can get by with minimal tune time by using the auto presets on most settings. ASUS takes the time to tune the BIOS for the majority of processors. Updating the BIOS is a snap and could not be easier thanks to the EZ Flash 2 utility in the BIOS.
As a gaming centric motherboard in the ROG lineup, the Rampage IV is equipped to hold up to four graphics cards from either NVIDIA or AMD for a 4-way solution that should allow the end user to enjoy great gaming performance at up to 4K resolutions. If you have the cards you can run the numbers. A neat tool for the extreme overclocker is ability to turn off individual PCIe slots for diagnostic purposes; just one of the little things that ASUS includes. ASUS' sound solution on the Black Edition is a step up and above what we normally see as onboard sound solutions on X79 boards. Taking a queue from the mid-range sound solutions, ASUS' Supreme FX Black delivers excellent sound whether you are just listening to tunes, playing a game, or watching a movie or YouTube clip. The sound is clean and crisp through each of those scenarios.
As far as overclocking is concerned, the Rampage IV Black Edition is going to allow your hardware to reach its maximum capabilities from mild to wild. My specific IVB-E CPU is on the low end of the overclocking range, but I had no issues getting the maximum clock out of it. Memory overclocking was a bit of a challenge initially running the XMP settings, but was easy enough to fix with some manual adjustments allowing my modules to get up and over 2400MHz. Using the available options in the BIOS is possible and offers some interesting options, but not with my 4960X. Like I said it's a dog, but it's the luck of the draw! Using the 125MHz and 166MHz bclock straps allow the user to experiment with crushing memory speed records, should you have some modules capable of such as feat.
The software side of the board is not the only place there was a ton of emphasis, with most of it geared towards the extreme enthusiast. The RIVBE is fully equipped with ASUS' Extreme Engine Digi+ III 8+3+2+2 phase power system to ensure the installed components get the current they need. Probe It check points are on board to measure critical voltages rather than relying on software interpretations of the values. ASUS put a new cooling solution on the VRM circuit that keeps the Rampage IV Black Edition rock stable even with minimal airflow over it. The feature set seems almost endless when you get down to it. Last but not least on the feature set is the OC Panel that takes many of the onboard extreme overclocking tools and functionality and puts it on a standalone tool that can also be mounted into the chassis. You just get a ton of add ons with this board that do not come with any other board.
After spending a good deal of time with this board I got to know it pretty well. It's built for a niche customer at $499, but it offers up a feature set you cannot get anywhere else. Great sound, great build quality, great cooling, and great looks; it's got it all.
- Cooling solution
- 4-way multi GPU
- ASUS feature set
- Supreme FX Black
- UEFI BIOS
- Gaming centric software package
- Wireless connectivity
- ROG connect