ASUS Rampage III Formula Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: December 23, 2010
One of the premier overclocking motherboards to be released in the past year was the Rampage III Extreme. This board built a performance reputation in the enthusiast community with its overclocking abilities but did not make any friends when it came to pricing. It seemingly did everything well. Excellent CPU overclocks, excellent memory compatibility and overclocking abilities from the start. Not to mention the BIOS updates that built upon those abilities as time has gone by. When you have such a board, your market is the extreme overclocker which in all honesty is still a pretty small percentage of the potential buyers. That's where the Rampage III Formula comes in. The Rampage III Formula is a full featured motherboard with all of the looks and most of the features of its higher priced cousin. In addition to all of the ROG specific features such as ROG Connect, Probelt and Dual BIOS chips, you get USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s connectivity. You get all of this including the appealing black and red themed board for a more palatable price point. This board is targeted for the hardcore gamer and overclocker and if looks alone were the selling point, ASUS would have a winner. But unfortunately looks are only part of the equation. The other and most important part is the level of performance and how well and easily it responds to a little massaging of the clock speeds. Let's see how it compares to several other boards in its class.
As part of the Republic of Gamers (ROG) series of products from ASUS, the Rampage III Formula is kept in a package befitting its stature. The packaging is blood red with a graphic that could be representative of the debris path from a bullet impact radiating from the bottom right corner. Kind of fitting since this motherboard is targeted at the gamer. The ROG logo is at the top left corner with a listing of some of the supported hardware and technologies along the bottom edge. These include both SLI and CrossfireX multi-GPU strategies, support for the latest six core Intel processors in both the Core and Extreme lineups. The rear panel list additional support as well as illustrating (through photos) ROG Connect, the use of an Intel network solution, Supreme FX X-Fi 2 and the graphics solutions the ROG Rampage III Formula is capable of using. The front and rear panels are not the only areas to garner information if you are looking at this board in a brick and mortar store. The front panel lifts up to give you a look at the red and black featured motherboard as well as describing more of the features of this motherboard including the Extreme Engine Digi+ power circuit, the bundled software along with the BIOS Flashback and ROG Connect. Underneath, you have a list of the overclocking attributes of this board as well as some of the tools ASUS has included to allow this motherboard to excel in the overclocking arena.
Inside the outer shell, the motherboard and bundled accessories are kept in a pair of black boxes. The RIII Formula is in one and the accessories are in the other. The box with the accessories flips open like you are opening the doors to a castle with both flaps swinging wide open to show off the more than ample contents of the box. Looking at the size of the bundle you know that this board is far from the bottom end of the spectrum as it's very evident that ASUS has provided a substantial bundle.
The large bundle is just the start of the ROG experience. So, let's look at exactly what is included for your hard earned cash.
As you might have imagined, ASUS has filled the box containing the accessory bundle chock full of the standard as well as unique parts that set the ROG bundle apart from more mundane offerings. Laid out on a table, the bundle is even more impressive. To start with you get the documentation and driver disk that contains all of the software needed for installation of this motherboard into the chassis. Alongside that you have a sheet of decals that let you label your SATA cables so there is no confusion as to which cable goes to which SATA header on the board along with much more.
ASUS brings a bunch of unique features and accessories to the table when you step into the world of ASUS ownership. They have taken some of the more mundane parts and made them better. One great example would be the Q-Shield or more commonly known as the I/O shield. In the past (and currently from pretty much most other motherboard manufacturers) you get a thin metal I/O shield that usually is ill fitting and has plenty of sharp edges where the tabs are left in place that you either have to break or bend to fit the motherboard into place. These thin shields can result in some serious cuts or shorted components if you are not careful during the installation process (i.e, it those types of shields can easily slice into a cable). The Q-shield addresses these deficiencies as well as creating a way to limit electromagnetic interference to the connections made on the I/O panel. Holes for the motherboard are pre-punched and there are no tabs to bend out of the way. Not to mention that the shield just looks good and is fully labeled.
The Q connectors are just one of those parts that you wish you had on every motherboard. Now, whenever I work on a motherboard without a feature like this I keep wondering why this was not thought of before. ASUS has included these handy little connectors in their bundles for the past several years and they make connecting the front panel wiring a breeze since you no longer need to reach into the chassis and try and fit those single pins onto the motherboard pinouts. You just have to mount the wiring to the connector then push the connector onto the header and you are done. The ROG connect cable is used when you choose to use the ROG Connect feature of the ROG series. What this does is allow you to use a second computer, most likely a notebook or netbook to do some performance tuning to the motherboard without leaving the gaming environment (editor's note: this is also supported on some smartphones including the iPhone).
Since this board supports multi-GPU strategies from both AMD and NVIDIA, ASUS has included the bridge connections needed to run CrossfireX and SLI configurations up to Tri-SLI with three supported NVIDIA cards. The Tri-SLI bridge connector is specific to the motherboard and its spacing. A blower fan is included for use on the power circuit heat sink surrounding the CPU socket. Wondering in what application this would be relevant with the large heatsinks used today to cool down the Intel Core i7 processor? It's used when you are running a cooling setup where there is little airflow over the heat sinks such as when using a liquid cooling setup.
An I/O bracket is included to allow you to expand the amount of USB and eSATA connections available for use on the back of the chassis. Six SATA cables are included with the RIII Formula. You get both SATA 3.0 Gb/s and SATA 6 Gb/s cables with the latter having white boots on the ends to signify the difference between the two cable types. Each of the cable types have locking tabs and a 90 degree head for tight installations.
If you are not impressed with the size and scope of the bundle, then it's time to get a look at the Rampage III Formula and see what ASUS brings to the table with this offering.
There is no doubt that the Rampage III Formula is anything other than a Republic of Gamers series motherboard. From the full tilt graphics and red and black color scheme that has been so popular on this line it can't be mistaken for anything but an ROG offering. The RIII Formula is based off of the Intel X58 chipset and is for use with socket 1366 Intel processors. This board contains many features that are unique to the ROG series from ASUS. You have ASUS's BIOS Flashback, GameFirst network traffic routing and Extreme Engine Digi+ hybrid digital/analog power circuitry, ROG Connect and more. From the front view, the red accents on the three 16x PCIe and memory slots stand out against the black PCB. The cooling solution for this motherboard is an interconnected array of heat sinks that use a large heat pipe to transfer the thermal load to a point where it can be dissipated. The back side of the motherboard is barren with the exception of the screws holding the main cooling solution onto the board. This solution is much better than a set of spring loaded push pins meaning, no more rolling the heat sink over the mosfets.
Starting at the I/O panel, the ROG Rampage III Formula has a fully packed load of connectivity options. There is the PS/2 keyboard port, seven USB 2.0 ports (one of which is used for the ROG Connect Feature), CMOS clear switch, one optical S/PDIF out port, one IEEE 1394a port, a pair of JMicron controlled eSATA ports, a single RJ 45 Intel Gigabit LAN port, the ROG Connect On/Off switch, two NEC controlled USB 3.0/2.0 ports (Blue) and the Supreme FX X-Fi 2 eight channel sound out connections. Moving down to the expansion ports, you have a total of three 16x PCIe 2.0 slots, a single PCI 2.2 slot and a pair of PCIe 1x slots. The three PCIe 16x slots support dual card CrossfireX and three card SLI multi-GPU setups. When run in a two card configuration, the slots run electrically at 16x by 16x. When running Tri-SLI, you get the second and third slots dropping to 8x each for a 16x by 8x by 8x configuration. If you look at the 16x slots, this design is called Q-Slot and uses a larger retention clip allowing you to still remove the card when you have multiple cards installed. You can use anything you can fit between the cards to depress this clip to release the video card saving time and a little bit of frustration.
Along the bottom of the PCB you have the majority of the internal I/O connection points. Just to the left and above the PCI slot is the Supreme FX sound chip covered with an aluminum identification tag. Starting the connectivity headers off from left to right, you have the S/PDIF digital audio out connection, IEEE 1394a firewire connection for a total of two available, a thermal sensor header, two chassis fan headers, OC Station Connector, three USB 2.0 headers to give you a total of 12 USB 2.0 ports, a pair of BIOS chips, another fan header, the removable DUAL BIOS chips, the front panel connections and the BIOS switch for choosing the BIOS chip you want to boot from. These BIOS chips can be loaded with two different BIOS configurations for testing or recovery from a catastrophic failure due to aggressive overclocking. So far, every point of space has been occupied with added functionality. Just above the front panel header and partially obscured by the heatsink are the two IROG chips used to add the overclocking functionality through software tweaking.
Swinging around the PCB you come to the eight SATA ports. The six SATA 3.0 Gb/s gray ports are controlled via the Intel ICH10R southbridge and support RAID 0,1,5 & 10. The two red Marvell 9128 controlled SATA 6 Gb/s ports support RAID 0 & 1. Further up the right side are the six DIMM sockets. The Rampage III Formula supports up to 24GB of DDR3 non-ECC, un-buffered memory modules at speeds up to 2200MHz (OC). Intel's XMP standards are supported. When you look at the DIMM sockets you will notice that the clips that hold the modules in place are missing from the left side (the end closest to the first PCIe slot). Since today's graphics cards usually reach the end of the PCB and beyond, you can sometimes run into interference issues so ASUS fixed this by using this retention mechanism. In the past I have found the modules to stay securely in place with this design called Q-DIMM.
Between the SATA ports and the DIMM sockets are some pretty interesting features used on this ROG board from ASUS. There is the GO button that when pressed allows the Mem OK feature to be enabled to allow a successful post after it runs through a series of diagnostics that adjust timings and voltages to give the installed modules the best chance for a successful post. Next to this are the four chokes that are part of the two phase power circuit for the memory and the two phase circuit for the X58 chipset. Along the edge by the DIMM slots you have a bunch of added functionality for the overclocker and enthusiast. The jumper between the two capacitors is the QPI_LL that keeps the QPI voltage from drooping under load (much like Load Line calibration for the CPU). You have the on-board start and reset buttons for use if you are using this board on a tech bench or just sitting on a box during an LN2 session. To the far right you can see part of the LN2 jumper that helps the board boot and eliminate cold boot issues when using extreme cooling such as liquid nitrogen. The Q reset button is again used in extreme cooling environments where the CPU is stuck and will not post. This button kills power temporarily to the CPU so it can recover and post. The last thing in this packed area is a feature called Probelt. There are a series of connection points that allow you to check voltages against what was set in the BIOS so adjustments can be made to cover real vs applied voltage. This is a great feature but is still not the "hands free" connection I have seen on a competing product and is a point of difference as this method means you cannot use multiple probes at the same time and continue working and viewing voltages during a benchmark run while heavily overclocked.
Across the top of the board you have some additional connectivity with fan headers and connection points for the optional temperature sensors. By the top of the DIMM slot closest to the CPU socket is the CHil voltage regulator chip that can control up to an eight phase digital power circuit and the VRM test point. Further to the right are additional fan headers, temp sensor points and the eight pin auxiliary power connection. If you move down behind the I/O connectivity you can see one of the features that ASUS uses to mitigate any ESD damage from plug-in components due to a static discharge. ASUS uses a series of diodes that check that static discharge and prevent damage to the board and its components. They use this feature at all connection points on the board where connections can be made outside the chassis such as the front panel USB and sound connection points as well as the rear I/O.
Power is supplied to the Rampage III Formula through three points. There is the 24 pin ATX power connection that supplies most of the power to the board, you have the eight pin auxiliary power connection for additional power to the CPU and a four pin molex EZ power connection right above the top 1x PCIe slot to add additional power for the use of multiple high-end graphics cards. This can add stability to the power rails feeding these cards under load. In front of the 24 pin connection are some of the Q_LEDs that indicate power and operating states of the board and installed components.
The Rampage III Formula is designed to use an Intel Core i7 socket 1366 processor. The socket area is surrounded by the components of the eight phase hybrid digital/analog Extreme Engine Digi+ power circuit. What this gives you are components that are matched electrically, thermally and materially. This design evenly loads the individual phases to keep one or more from overheating. The chokes are designed to run more efficiently and handle up to 40 amps of current. While the socket area looks congested, the heatsinks surrounding the area are low enough to not create any interference with high-end air cooling solutions. The Noctua NH-U12P used on the testbed had no clearance issues at all.
ASUS has installed a cooling solution that is interconnected from the southbridge up to the VRM heat sinks around the CPU socket with a large heat pipe. The southbridge heat sink is large and flat and lays low enough to not interfere with large video cards. The heat sink over the X58 chipset is large enough to handle the load but additional airflow over it always helps when pushing the limits. The remaining heat sinks are a pair of smaller heat sinks around the CPU socket that help keep the metal FETs cool. The entire solution is held in place with screws - not the usual series of plastic push pins that work well for the boards for the masses but not for the ROG series target market.
As you can see, the Rampage III Formula is provisioned well for a high performance motherboard and incorporates up-to-the-minute technology with the inclusion of USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s capabilities. Not to mention the fact that it stays true to its ROG series roots in the looks department.
ASUS always includes a comprehensive set of utilities with the products they send out into the market to allow the user to enable additional functionality. The utilities are all up under the AI Suite II banner on this ROG Series Rampage III Formula. AI Suite has been where all of the ASUS utilities have been and it now gets an upgraded GUI to really fit in with the ROG series motherboards. All of the tools are accessible through the toolbar. There are a total of five tabs to work through: Tool; Monitor; Update; System Information and Settings. Under each tab is a submenu that allows you access to the programs under the tab. For instance, the first tab gives you access to TurboV, Fan Expert, Probe II, Sensor recorder and AI Direct Link.
Let's start under the Tool tab with AI Direct Link. This is a utility that allows you to set up a directly connected network for fast file transfers.
Sensor Recorder is just what the name implies. This utility records the vital statistics of your system to provide you with a real time look at how the temperatures, voltages and fan speeds have been reacting to the loads placed on the system. For voltage monitoring you get the CPU, PLL, IOH, IOH PCIe, ICH and QPI/DRAM. For temperatures, you get (of course) the CPU followed up by sensors on the motherboard, ICH, IOH and a pair of optional sensors should you purchase these for use in your system. Each of the fan headers on the PCB is monitored from the CPU fan to the Optional fan. Lastly, you can record the data for up to 24 hours in intervals as low as every five seconds.
Probe II is an update to the ASUS Probe app that is incorporated into this GUI and allows you to view the current statistics with the sensor monitor to the right side of the window while having the ability to setup alert thresholds for each parameter. You can do this for the voltages, temperatures and fan speeds. Under the preference tab you can set the unit of measure for the temperatures between Celsius and Fahrenheit and how often a popup window will appear when an error or anomaly is detected. Finally, there is an alert log to tell you the time and date and what the error was.
Fan Expert allows you to tailor the cooling performance and noise generated by the fans installed in your system and attached to the Rampage III Formula. You can setup a specific fan profile or choose from the available presets.
TurboV Evo is the section where most people will spend time with this utility. You can use this section of the AI Suite to perform all of your overclocking instead of moving out to the BIOS. The settings made are in fact set in the BIOS so you can test and tune through this utility to see what works and what doesn't. There are two sections that can be used, TurboV and CPU Level Up. TurboV allows the manipulation of some of the most used voltages that are available in the expansive Extreme Tweaker section of the Rampage III Formula's BIOS. You can adjust the bclock, CPU voltage, QPI voltage, DRAM voltage, PCIe frequency and more. CPU Level Up gives you some preset performance levels based on the increased clock speeds of higher rated processors such as the Core i7 950.
ASUS Update is used to update the BIOS in several different ways. You can download the file from the ASUS FTP site, load from a file, save a file or download from the internet. Updating the BIOS via this method would have been unheard of a few years back but after using this method to update the BIOS, it went off without a hitch. If it goes bad, you do have the BIOS Backup feature. System Information allows you to look at information much the same way you would with CPUz. There is the motherboard section, CPU section and the SPD tab that provides the memory information stored on the SPD chip of the installed memory DIMMs.
In the 'Settings' tab you can configure the AI Suite GUI so that you can change the view, add or subtract components and even change the color. All in all, this application looks better and seems to bring added functionality to the table.
As part of the ROG series, the Rampage III Formula is equipped with ASUS's own ROG Connect feature that lets you use another computer to not only monitor the vital statistics of your ROG baby but to overclock it remotely using the RC Tweakit software installed on a netbook, notebook or smartphone. You can increase the bclock and PCIe clock speeds for added performance and to make sure the changes are stable, you can modify voltages much like in the aforementioned TurboV Evo section of the AI Suite software. There is a post code monitor to tell you where you are in the post process to help with diagnostics of a failed boot process. In this way, you can find out if the settings you applied will do the trick for that next level of performance.
The last application I will look at is ROG GameFirst. This little utility can be configured to give your game data priority over other applications that interact with the internet. With this application, you can decide what data has the highest priority to maximize your gaming experience.
Now that we have seen the board and the supplied applications that make the ROG series what they are, it's time to see what ASUS has done for us in the BIOS.
With Intel's Sandy Bridge coming up right around the corner, the rumored switch to UEFI BIOS is quickly approaching. But at this time, the ROG Rampage III Formula is still equipped with a legacy American Megatrends BIOS. The version this board was equipped with was earlier than what is available on ASUS's website so an upgrade to the 0505 BIOS was in order. Of course, the update went quite smoothly using the 'Update from File' method in the AI Suite software. Let's take a stroll through this BIOS to see how well equipped it is for enabling exceptional overclocks.
The first section of the BIOS on this board is the Extreme Tweaker section. In this massive section you can pretty much adjust your way to a series of pretty incredible overclocks. You can adjust the voltages for the CPU, memory, QPI bus and so much more. You have options for over-voltage controls, skew levels, DRAM timings, the CPU Level Up feature plus much more. This section will see more than just a cursory look on the next page.
The Main Section of the BIOS shows the system time and date with separate tabs for the System Information and Storage Configuration functions. Under the Storage Configuration tab you can setup some basic parameters about the disks installed in the system. System Information gives you some top level information about the Rampage III Formula such as the BIOS revision and the installed processor.
Under this tab you have quite a bit of functionality. You can setup the energy saving tools for your Intel processor such as C1E and EIST. Chipset configuration and USB configuration will mostly be left at the defaults along with the LED control. The Onboard Device configuration allows for enabling and/or disabling SATA 6 Gb/s support, USB 3.0 support and how the High Definition Audio stream will be output. Toward the bottom of this tab you have the ROG specific features that let you enable or disable ROG Connect feature and how it interfaces with the RC Tweakit software.
In this section you are able to set suspend mode, ACPI and APM settings as well as monitor the temperatures, voltages and fan speeds. The final item in the Hardware Monitor tab is the Fan control tab so you can enable or disable the fan controls and set the fan profiles for the fans attached to the motherboard's fan headers.
As you might imagine, this section deals with setting the boot parameters on the motherboard. The first option is setting the boot device priority of the drives attached to the motherboard. The second option lets you choose which hard drive will be displayed in the boot device menu. Boot Settings configuration allows you to enable features such as Num Lock on start, setting quick boot, showing the full screen display and error codes and how they are handled. The last option is Security. This option lets you set supervisor level passwords to get in and modify the BIOS.
In this section you have options that are functional and have value if you know how they are to be used. ASUS EZ Flash is used to update the BIOS from an easy to use GUI. The OC Profile option lets you save up to eight separate BIOS profiles. This is useful when you are testing out new settings and want to keep a BIOS profile that works as your "go-to" and can restore baseline settings. If you do lose your way in this maze, it's a quick return to normalcy by applying the correct profile. The GO button allows you to setup a profile that is used when you need to recover from a failed overclock with no post under Extreme overclocking situations such as a cold boot under LN2 cooling. The BIOS Flashback functionality is accessed from this section and allows you to save multiple BIOS profiles that can be switched with the push of a button. Drive Expert allows you to setup a RAID set using the on-board hardware.
Last but not least, you have the EXIT function that allows you to exit the BIOS in several ways by either saving the BIOS and restarting or declining to save the BIOS changes made. Additionally, you have the ability to reset the BIOS to the factory defaults in case you really hose something up or you feel you need to start from scratch.
This gives you an idea of what's in store for you in the BIOS on the Rampage III Formula. More detail on the Extreme Tweaker section is next.
The BIOS can make or break a good mechanically sound motherboard. Having the ability to tweak many parameters can be a double-edged sword though if you have the tools but do not understand how to use them. Finding that balance is the key for 98% of the people using high-end motherboards. The ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) Rampage III Formula is a high-end motherboard and is a small step down from the Rampage III Extreme but, when you look at the BIOS you would not think that it is in any way a lower rated board. The Extreme Tweaker section contains a wealth of tools for use in setting up a good stable overclock. Let's take a look at this section and see what makes the ROG Rampage III Formula a contender.
First up you have the CPU Level Up and Sync Functions. CPU Level Up lets you choose the performance level of your CPU (in this case the i7 920) and automatically adjusts the parameters in the BIOS to get this overclock. Sync mode lets you enable or disable syncing the settings with TurboV Evo or RC Tweakit after a reboot. AI Overclock Tuner lets you optimize the parameters based on the option you choose.
CPU Ratio lets you increase or decrease the bclock multiplier to set the clock speed of your socket 1366 processor. A 200 bclock with a 21 multiplier gives you a nice 4.2Ghz clock speed. The Turbo Power limit can be enabled or disabled but if disabled you are directed to also turn off several other CPU power saving features. CPU configuration allows processor specific technologies to be enabled or disabled including EIST, C1E, virtualization, hyperthreading and C states.
Next up you have the DRAM multiplier, Uncore clock speed and QPI Link Data rate. The Uncore clock can be managed and is usually left set to double the memory clock speed. You can set it higher but that will require higher voltage to the QPI bus. The memory configuration detect option allows or disables the ability to manage the memory sub timings.
The DRAM Timing control section lets you manipulate the memory sub timings to either gain stability or tighten up the timings for increased performance per clock. This section is split into three different areas.
Differential Amplitude is used to possibly increase the stability of your overclock. By adjusting the CPU and IOH clock skew settings you can increase the bclock overclocking ability of your system when adjusted together. For the Differential Amplitude you have increases from 700 to 1000mv and with the skew settings you have Auto, Normal and the Delay offset. Trial and error are your best friends here.
Next up you have the Extreme Engine Digi+ section of the BIOS. Here is where you can start to optimize the BIOS for your needs. However, if it looks a little intimidating, the auto settings result in nice overclocks with little work needed. Digi+Power mode has two options. One for a balanced approach and one for the balls-out no holds barred approach. Load Line Calibration uses a bit more granular approach with Auto, 0%,50% and Full Calibration. CPU Voltage OCP (Over Current Protection) is either on or off. Digital PWM frequency can be adjusted as a means to try and stabilize your overclock.
Extreme OV allows the use of increased voltage options for the CPU to be used under extreme cooling conditions. Extreme OC offers two modes to try and increase the stability of your overclock. Seems to be a common theme here.
Next up are the voltage options which are pretty standard on a motherboard of this caliber. You get adjustment capabilities for the CPU, CPU PLL, QPI/DRAM core voltage, DRAM bus voltage, DRAM Reference voltage, IOH voltage, IOH PCIe voltage, ICH voltage and ICH PCIe Voltage. The adjustments are fairly granular so you can get the voltage you need without going too far overboard. The voltage limits are fairly high due to the market this board is targeted at with a 2.3v maximum for the CPU voltage.
The OC Profile section is available under the Tools section of the BIOS and is integrated into the Extreme Tweaker section as another way of keeping all of the tools you need to work the clock speeds in one section. The final options are the CPU and PCIe Spread Spectrum settings that are usually left off when overclocking.
ASUS has definitely given the enthusiast the tools to get the highest possible overclocks with the Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS.
Intel® Socket 1366 Core™ i7 Processor Extreme Edition/Core™ i7 Processor
Support Intel® Turbo Boost Technology
* Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
Intel® X58 /ICH10R
Up to 6400 MT/s with QuickPath Interconnection
6 x DIMM, Max. 24 GB, DDR3 2133(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600(O.C.)/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Triple channel memory architecture
Please refer to www.asus.com or user manual for Memory QVL.
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
*Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 , support x16; x16/x16; x16/x8/x8 configurations
2 x PCIe x16
1 x PCI 2.2
Multi-GPU Support Support NVIDIA 3-Way SLI™ / ATI CrossFireX™ Technology
Intel ICH10R controller
6 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10
JMicron® JMB363 PATA and SATA controller
2 xExternal SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go)
Marvell® 9128 PCIe SATA 6Gb/s controller
2 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
Intel® Ethernet 82567V Gigabit LAN
SupremeFX X-Fi 2 Built-in 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- EAX® Advanced™ HD 5.0
- THX® TrueStudio PRO™
- X-Fi® Xtreme Fidelity™
- Creative ALchemy
- Supports Blu-ray audio layer content protection
- Supports Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- Supports Optical S/PDIF out ports on rear
2 x 1394a ports (1 port at back I/O, 1 port onboard)
NEC® USB 3.0 controller
- x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (at back panel)
2 Intel® ICH10R Southbridge
- x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (5 ports at midboard; 6 ports at back panel, 1 reserved for ROG Connect) 12
ROG Extreme Engine Digi+
- 8-phase CPU power
- 3-phase QPI/DRAM power
- 2-phase NB power
- 2-phase Memory power
BIOS Flashback with onboard BIOS switch button
ROG Extreme OC kit
- LN2 Mode
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Intelligent overclocking tools
- ASUS AI Booster Utility
- ASUS O.C. Profile: overclocking configuration-sharing tool
ASUS MyLogo 3
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
Onboard Switches: Power / Reset / Cls CMOS (at rear)
CPU Level Up
ASUS Fan Xpert
ROG BIOS Wallpaper
ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
Back Panel I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
8 -Channel Audio I/O
1 x Clr CMOS switch
2 x External SATA port (1 is Power eSATA port)
1 x ROG Connect On/Off switch
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (Blue)
7 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (1 port also for ROG Connect)
Internal I/O Connectors 2 x USB connectors supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS connector
Front panel audio connector
8 x SATA connectors: 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s connectors (Red); 6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s connectors (Grey)
8 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
3 x Thermal sensor connectors
1 x QPI Loadline calibration switch jumper (QPI_LL_SW)
1 x 24-pin ATX Power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connectors
1 x LN2 Mode Header
1 x START (Power On) button
1 x RESET button
1 x EZ Plug connectors (4-pin Molex Power connector)
1 x OC Station header (including 1 USB port)
1 x Go Button
1 x BIOS Switch button
16 Mb Flash ROM AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS
WOL by PME,WOR by PME,PXE
1 x I/O Shield
1 x 2-in-1 Q connector Kit
1 x Optional Fan
1 x ROG Connect cable
1 x 3-Way SLI Bridge
1 x SLI Cable
3 x 2-in-1 SATA SATA 3.0 Gb/s cables
1 x 2-in-1 SATA 6.0 Gb/s cables
1 x 2-port USB2.0 + eSATA module
1 x Cable Ties Pack
1 x 12-in-1 ROG SATA Cable Label
1 x CrossFire cable
Support Disc ASUS PC Probe II
- Drivers and Applications
Sound Blaster X-Fi MB2 Utility
ROG GameFirst Utility
ASUS TurboV EVO Utility
ASUS AI Suite II
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
- LGA1366 Intel® Core™ i7 Ready: [Intel Core i7] [Intel Core i7 Extreme] [Intel 6-Cores Ready] This motherboard supports the latest Intel® Core™ i7 processors in LGA1366 package with integrated memory controller to support 3-channel (6 DIMMs) DDR3 memory. Supports Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) with a system bus of up to 6.4 GT/s and a max bandwidth of up to 25.6 GB/s. Intel® Core™ i7 processor is one of the most powerful and energy efficient CPUs in the world.
- Intel® X58 Chipset: [Intel X58] The Intel® X58 Express Chipset is one of the most powerful chipset designed to support the Intel® Core™ i7 Processors with LGA1366 package and Intel® next generation system interconnect interface, Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (QPI), providing improved performance by utilizing serial point-to-point links, allowing increased bandwidth and stability. It also supports up to 36 PCI Express 2.0 lanes providing better graphics performance.
- SLI/CrossFireX On-Demand: [AMD Cross Fire X] [NVIDIA SLI Ready] Why choose when you can have both? SLI or CrossFireX? Fret no longer because with the ROG Rampage III Extreme, you’ll be able to run both multi-GPU setups. The board features SLI/CrossFire on Demand technology, supporting up to four graphics cards in a 3-Way SLI or CrossFireX configuration. Whichever path you take, you can be assured of jaw-dropping graphics at a level previously unseen.
- Tri-Channel, DDR3 2200(O.C.) MHz [ddr3 2200(o.c.)] The motherboard supports DDR3 memory that features data transfer rates of 2200(O.C.) / 2133(O.C.) / 2000(O.C.) / 1800(O.C.) / 1600(O.C.) / 1333 / 1066 MHz to meet the higher bandwidth requirements of the latest operation system, 3D graphics, multimedia, and Internet applications. The Triple-channel DDR3 architecture double the bandwidth of your system memory to boost system performance.
Future Transfer Technology
- True USB 3.0 Support : [True USB 3.0] 10X faster data rates! Experience ultra-fast data transfers at 4.8Gbps with USB 3.0—the latest connectivity standard. Built to connect easily with next generation components and peripherals, USB 3.0 transfers data 10X faster and is also backward compatible with USB 2.0 components.
True SATA 6Gb/s Support
- [True SATA 6Gb/s] Experience the future of storage! Supporting next-generation Serial ATA (SATA) storage interface, this motherboard delivers up to 6.0Gb/s data transfer rates. Additionally, get enhanced scalability, faster data retrieval, double the bandwidth of current bus systems.
ROG Exclusive Features
- Extreme Engine Digi+[Extreme Engine Digi+] Powerful combination of analog and digital design elements Extreme Engine Digi+ equipped with high performance digital VRM design can easily achieve the ultimate performance with adjustable CPU PWM frequency. It expedites heat dissipation and achieves better electric conduction keeping critical components reliable. Now you'll be able to push your spanking new Intel CPU to the limit, hitting benchmark scores that others only dream of. Extreme Engine Digi+ balances the need for voltage and the desire for rock solid performance to bring the ultimate user experience.
- [ROG Connect] Plug and Overclock - Tweak it the hardcore way! Monitor the status of your desktop PC and tweak its parameters in real-time via a notebook—just like a race car engineer—with ROG Connect. ROG Connect links your main system to a notebook through a USB cable, allowing you to view real-time POST code and hardware status readouts on your notebook, as well as make on-the-fly parameter adjustments at a purely hardware level.
- [GameFirst] The speed you need to pwn Low Internet latency allows you to frag more, and get fragged less. That's why ROG has introduced GameFirst, a feature that manages the flow of traffic according to your needs so that you can still listen to online music, download and upload files, and engage in Internet chats without sacrificing the low ping times you need to pwn your opponents.
- [ProbeIt] Get all hands-on with hardware-based overclocking ProbeIt takes the guesswork out of locating the motherboard´s measurement points, identifying them clearly in the form of 8 sets of detection points so you´ll know exactly where to get quick yet accurate readings using a multitester.
- [BIOS FlashBack] Two BIOS ROM. Two BIOS settings. Twice the overclocking flexibility. Overclocker's prayer to have BIOS flexibility is answered! With the new BIOS Flashback, PC enthusiasts can overclock with even more confidence. BIOS Flashback gives overclockers the ability to save two versions of the BIOS simultaneously. Very much like the "SaveGame" function, one BIOS can be used for the overclocking adventure, while the other BIOS is to be stored with any previous version. BIOS Flashback brings the ultimate convenience to overclockers!
CPU Level Up
- [CPU Level Up] A Simple click for instant upgrade Ever wish that you could have a more expansive CPU? Upgrade your CPU at no additional cost with ROG's CPU Level Up! Simply pick the processor you wanted to OC to, and the motherboard will do the rest! See the new CPU speed and enjoy that performance instantly. Overclocking is never as easy as this.
Sound with Clarity
- SupremeFX X-Fi 2 Built-in [SupremeFX X-Fi 2 Built-in] Play with ultra-real cinematic in-game surround sound! SupremeFX X-Fi 2 delivers incredible gaming audio experiences to ROG die hards. It features hardware-accelerated EAX 5.0 and OpenAL for ultra-real cinematic in-game audio. It even comes with THX branding, which makes games, music and movies sound way better! SupremeFX X-Fi 2 also implements gold-plated jacks and high quality capacitors to ensure high definition adventures in audio.
- Kaspersky® Anti-Virus [Kaspersky® Anti-Virus] The best protection from viruses and spyware Kaspersky® Anti-Virus Personal offers premium antivirus protection for individual users and home offices. It is based on advanced antivirus technologies. The product incorporates the Kaspersky® Anti-Virus engine, which is renowned for malicious program detection rates that are among the industry´s highest.
All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://usa.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=tdsVoxzsToHRsCro&templete=2
Testing the ASUS Rampage III Formula motherboard will consist of running it at the baseline clock speeds to get an idea how it performs in stock trim and then it will be overclocked to see if putting the screws to my well worn DO stepping 920 will result in a higher clock speed than some of its contemporaries. To keep the results consistent and have a measure of repeatability, Intel's power savings and performance enhancing technologies will be disabled in the BIOS. The video card control panel settings will be left at the factory default settings with the exception of disabling PhysX for the 3DMark Vantage testing. Will the RIII Formula deliver a Big Bang or will it fizzle out and drop like a dud? There's only one way to find out!
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 200x18 3.6GHz
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366
- Motherboard: ASUS Rampage III Formula
- Memory: Mushkin 996805 Redline PC312800 6-8-6-24 1600MHz
- Video Card: Sapphire HD 5870
- Power Supply: Mushkin 1000 watt Joule Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: LG DVD-RW
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Case: Cooler Master HAF 932
- CPU Overclock: 203 x 21 = 4269Mhz
As an ROG series board the expectation is that this motherboard is going to deliver great overclocking results. In this case, the motherboard did meet and exceed that expectation with an overclock of 4269MHz. To reach this overclock, the base clock was bumped up to 203MHz and the multiplier to 21. This was a little easier on the voltages needed than running at 215MHz x 20. While the CPU I have is a decent clocking DO stepping, it does need some voltage to get above 4.2GHz. Something the Rampage III Formula is only too happy to apply. Overclocking through the BIOS is one thing and has its place but with so many people jumping into the overclocking universe, the ability to overclock in the Windows environment is becoming more common. To accommodate this crowd, ASUS does include their TurboV software so you can overclock through the Windows environment as well as through an external connection to a netbook using the ROG Connect feature and RC Tweakit software. The end result is a 1.6GHz overclock of the processor with memory speeds that compare well to other boards I have tested (using the Mushkin Redline modules used in the test configuration). With more than one way to overclock, the Rampage III Formula will give you all you can handle in terms of tools and capability.
Maximum Clock Speeds:
Each CPU has been tested for its maximum stable clock speeds using Prime95. To gauge the maximum stability level, each processor had to be able to perform at least a one hour torture test without any errors.
- Scientific & Data:
- Office 2007
- POV Ray 3.7
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- Cinebench 11.5
- HD Tune 3.50
- Far Cry 2
- Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
- Batman Arkham Asylum
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
The first part of our testing will be the 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:
- Resolution: 2750 x 2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
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. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds. Additionally, I will use the built-in benchmark as a comparison.
Lower is Better
Lower is Better
The Apophysis and WinRar numbers are pretty even across the board showing that similar component selection delivers similar results. In GeekBench, the ASUS Rampage III Formula performs slightly better than the Xpower. GeekBench is speed dependent as are most benchmarks and delivers a slightly higher score when overclocked.
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 how long 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 a quicker completion.
Higher Is Better
PCMark Vantage x64 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.
In the Big Number Crunch test, all of the boards deliver times consistent with the performance expected at the 3.0GHz test speed and when overclocked to 4.3+ GHz. The RIII Formula delivers the highest performance in POV Ray Tracing while in the 3DMark Vantage testing, the MSI boards perform a bit better.
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.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The results at baseline clock speeds are similar across the comparison set and fall within a very narrow envelope. When overclocked, the same consistency in the results is evident.
ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.
Higher is Better!
CineBench 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
Higher is Better
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
By using identical hardware with each board, the results usually fall within a narrow envelope and are fairly consistent from board to board. Where you start to see differences are when you start overclocking the motherboards and ultimately find the limits of the motherboard components. This is painfully evident when you compare the clock speeds attainable with the high-end aftermarket boards to the Intel DX58SO. That does not make it a bad board, it's just not as capable an overclocker as the rest of the test suite.
Far Cry 2:
Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km squared of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.
- DirectX 10
- Game settings to high
- Vsync Off
When it comes to the gaming tests, the video card is going to be the limiting factor when run with the settings typically used in normal game play. The maximum differential in all the Far Cry 2 tests is two FPS from top to bottom.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first-person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking.
- 4x AA
- 4x AF
As seen in Far Cry 2, the COD MW2 testing shows the frames delivered to be very similar and again fall into a two FPS window. Scoring does scale with an overclock but the performance window is still the same.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to ply your trade.
- Global settings to High
- V-Sync: Off
The increase in processor speed does not seem to significantly impact the results in Batman Arkham Asylum.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: CPU1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
What is surprising is that the DX58SO delivers the highest scoring at the baseline clock speeds while scoring is mixed between the RIII Formula and MSI Xpower boards when overclocked.
Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry 1024 x 768
- Performance 1280 x 1024
- High 1680 x 1050
- Extreme 1920 x 1200
In 3DMark Vantage, the scoring again is incredibly close with the margin between the boards so slim at the baseline clock speeds it's really a tossup as to which is the more capable board.
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