ASUS Rampage III Formula Reviewccokeman - December 23, 2010
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The ASUS Rampage III Formula does the ROG series proud as a competent performer across the entire test spectrum. At stock speeds there really is not a lot to distinguish one X58 based motherboard's performance from the next because in reality, they are all going to perform in a specific envelope when all of the user-installed components are the same. Small differences based on memory sub timings can be seen in synthetic benchmarks but nothing you can really feel. If you choose to run at stock speeds you are down to feature set and price as the points of difference for comparison. To that extent, the Rampage III Formula is packed with unique features that make its purchase one you can be proud of. For features that are the point of difference, you have the Extreme Engine Digi+ Digital VRM with an adjustable PWM frequency. You have Dual BIOS chips with BIOS Flashback so you never have to worry about a corrupted BIOS. You get the Mem Ok feature that does everything to get the memory to boot from changing timings to increasing voltages to find a winning scenario for a successful boot. Then you have little things such as the ESD protection built into the board at all of the external connection points, EMI shielding with the Q-Shield and the ROG specific feature such as ROG Connect, Q Button, Probelt so you can read the voltages applied and ASUS GameFirst to optimize your LAN performance through packet management and scheduling, are features unique to this ASUS lineup. Add in USB 3.0 connectivity and SATA 6 Gb/s for increased hard drive performance with SATA 6 Gb/s drives and you have yet another point of difference.
When it came to overclocking the Rampage III Formula, I have to say it really was easy to overclock well above 4.0GHz. You can do this multiple ways. You have traditional BIOS overclocking that may be a bit of a daunting task if this is your first board of this caliber (due to the amount of options that can be tweaked). Even so, it's possible to get a great overclock with mostly auto settings if you choose that route. You can use the TurboV software to overclock from within the Windows environment and lastly, you can use the ROG connect feature to overclock your PC through a connection from that PC to another (such as a netbook) and the RC Tweakit software. This really is a cool tool and is useful if you choose to use it as intended. One thing that has been a standout feature on ASUS boards dating back the past few years has really been the overclocking recovery built into the board. I have yet to have an overclock that could not be recovered by powering off the PC and restarting the Rampage III Formula. Now, am I playing with a cascade, dry ice or LN2? Nope, but for the air cooled benching, the recovery has been awesome. The only problem encountered while testing the board was with the release BIOS. I had an issue running a 12GB (3 x 4 GB) set of memory even at its rated speed, timings and voltage.
The latest BIOS release (0505) solved that issue and let the memory clock right on up to 2000MHz. The Rampage III Formula is a motherboard aimed at the hardcore gamer. That's evident by the amount of, and spacing of, the three 16x PCIe slots. You can run up to a three card multi-GPU CrossfireX or SLI configuration as long as you have cards that support up to a three card configuration. If you choose to run this kind of graphics setup or are currently running one, you know that pulling a single card for diagnostics is a royal pain because of the release mechanisms used on most boards. ASUS has this figured out and has leveraged its Q Slot design so you can hit the release mechanism and push down to release the card.
If the Rampage III Extreme is a little too rich for your blood then the Formula is going to be just about right. But, even at $299 it is still at the upper end of the performance motherboard pricing ladder. To justify this price you have to take the board for a spin and understand that you are getting a Ferrari for Corvette pricing with all the bells and whistles thrown in. In the Rampage III Formula, you have a board that looks and performs well with terrific upsides when you do decide to start overclocking - if you have not already.
- Bundled accessory pack
- Multi-GPU support
- Digi+ Power circuit
- OC Recovery
- USB 3.0 & SATA 6Gb/s