Asus Striker II Formula Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: March 4, 2008
Everyone remembers the introduction of the 680i chipset based motherboards about this time last year. There were boards from many different manufacturers. Some met with success, others did not fare as well. There were many small issues that needed to be worked around, such as memory holes where a board was unstable at certain speeds, but above and below that speed were just fine. Managing chipset heat was another small chore. The stock solutions were creative and were barely sufficient at stock speeds to manage the heat load. Usually this meant after market cooling was required or, at a minimum, a fan put over the area to help the heatsink cool down, as well as keeping an eye on the northbridge core voltages. The up side to the obvious deficiencies was the ability to run the memory unlinked from the CPU frontside bus speed. This meant eliminating some of the compromises that had to be made with an Intel chipset solution. Increased memory performance was the direct result of this ability. Now with the new 45nm processors out in the wild the 680i boards have become a bit long in the tooth. High frontside bus quad-core overclocking was never the strong suit of the 680i series. Will the release of the 780i chipset offer better quad-core overclocking, or will it fall in line behind the 680i chipset it replaces? The potential is there, it's just a matter of the potential being realized.
The Asus Striker II Formula is equipped with the Nvidia 780i SLI northbridge chipset, NF 570SLI and the NF200 chipsets. Support for the latest 45nm processors, up to eight gigabytes of DDR2 1066/800/667 system memory, as well as three way SLI with the appropriate video cards. Cooling the board is Asus's fanless cooling solution labeled "Stack Cool 2" that features a pin fin nortbridge heatsink. With features such as these, the Striker II should be ready for a prime-time gaming experience. Is it?
The Asus Striker II Formula is part of the Republic of Gamers series of motherboards from Asus. This lineup consists of products designed with the gamer in mind. The packaging is dark and features a single bullet hole graphic on the front to illustrate the "take no prisoners" nature of the series. The front panel highlights the fact that the board bundle includes the full version of Company of Heroes Opposing Fronts, labeling it as "The Hottest DX10 game". The rear panel illustrates features including the HD audio, voltminder LEDs and the overclockability of the Striker II. The complete list of specifications is included on the rear as well. The I/O panel can be seen through a window on the side giving the end user a glimpse of the connectivity of the Striker II.
The packaging features a flip up cover to give a more thorough description of some of the features on the Striker II. The "Pin Fin Thermal Module" for the chipset cooling and the Sound FX audio module take center stage on the lower panel, while the DIY and Overclocking attributes take up the upper panel.
The Striker II is housed in a plastic clamshell that is all the rage in motherboard packaging and marketing these days. It does make the showing of the features through a window in the product package easier than the standby static resistant bag. The bundled accessories are housed in a thin box under the motherboard. The graphic on the box mirrors the outer packaging to tie the whole package together.
The accessory pack that ships with the Striker II is pretty substantial. The included items allow the user to use all of the connectivity options available without having to purchase additional cables. This bundle includes convenience as well as performance based accessories.
The documentation set with the Striker II includes a users manual, a quick start guide specific to the Striker II, a driver and utility disk, and a full version of Company of Heroes Opposing Fronts. You can see how well the Stiker II performs in this game later on in the testing phase of this review. Drive connectivity includes six SATA cables, one floppy drive cable, one IDE cable, and an expansion slot bracket that provides an additional two USB 2.0 and one 1394 Firewire external connections.
For convenience items Asus has included the Q connection system to make hooking those pesky front panel connections up to the motherboard a much easier process. Simply place all of the connections where you can see them and plug in the Q connector to the appropriate connection on the board as a whole assembly. The LCD poster is an external display that follows the post process to help make diagnosing a boot problem easier than making an educated guess. Another feature of the LCD poster is that it can be used to display the current time, as well as a user defined message, when the board has finished the post process.
The I/O shield is standard fare, for the most part. The shield is identified with the ROG logo and has a foam backing that is covered in what appears to be a heat reflective covering.
Cooling the heatsinks around the CPU socket can be accomplished by using the supplied blower style fans. These fans come in handy with either stock air or water cooling. If you decide to use a large air cooling solution they do not fit. The fans slip right onto the heatsinks and use a three-pin power connector to connect directly to the motherboard. Each fan comes with a short instruction manual that shows the proper installation to the heatsink.
The Supreme FX II sound card is included, and provides true HD 8 channel sound. This card goes into a dedicated PCI-e 1x slot just above the top PCI-e 16x slot on the Striker II. The Supreme FX II logo lights up when the system powers on, for that additional bling when it is visible through the case window.
Since the Striker II features an Nvidia 780i SLI chipset running dual or more GPU's is an option. With three PCI-e 16x slots for video cards, Tri SLI has become a reality. Asus has included a Tri SLI bridge, as well as the standard SLI bridge, to interconnect the video cards whatever the situation. At this time, though, Tri SLI is limited to the 8800GTX and Ultra video cards.
Now that we know what comes with the Striker II Formula, it's time to take a look at the motherboard.
The Striker II Formula is an ATX form factor motherboard that uses the Nvidia 780i SLI northbridge, NF570SLI and NF 200 chipsets. This motherboard is part of the Republic of Gamers series of motherboards built with higher quality components to offer a more reliable platform for the extreme gamer. The Striker II uses a Pin Fin heatsink design to manage the dissipation of heat from the 780i SLI chipset, as well as being a part of the "Stack Cool 2" fanless cooling solution. The black PCB is specially designed to help manage the heat generated by critical components of the motherboard. Part of the cooling solution is the heatsink on the back side of the 780i chipset.
The I/O panel connectivity is less than many of the Intel based solutions I have seen lately, but includes the items necessary to get connected. The lone PS/2 connection is for the keyboard. Included are six USB 2.0 ports and two RJ-45 Gigabit LAN connections that support teaming to increase throughput. Sound connections include both optical and coaxial digital S/PDIf connections. One IEEE 1394 Firewire port, and a handy, clear CMOS button is included. Just above the I/O ports is a small plug that is used for the LCD poster assembly. It plugs into this port to power the display, as well as transfer the post code information to the display.
The expansion capabilities of the Striker II Formula include two PCI-e slots (one dedicated to the Supreme FX II audio solution identified by the color change), two PCI slots and, of course, the whole reason for going to an Nvidia platform, the three 16x PCI-e slots to allow for triple SLI if your system has the correct video cards (8800GTX and Ultra only). The bottom and right side of the PCB contain the balance of the connection options.
Starting from the left hand side of the PCB there is the IEEE 1394 Firewire and two of the onboard thermal sensor connections. Moving further right are the additional two USB 2.0 ports to bring the onboard total to ten. Built-in power and reset buttons are a nice things to have when you use the Striker II on a tech bench, or just need the flexibility of getting to the buttons when hooked up out side the case. Just to the right of the switchs is a fan connector and the onboard HDD LED. The front-panel connections are a snap to use with the included Q connectors.
On the righthand side is where all the drive connections are. Six SATA ports and the lone IDE connection. Moving further up are the floppy drive connection, as well as the ATX 24-pin main power supply connection. Behind these connections are the four DIMM slots that can hold up to eight gigabytes of system memory at DDR2 1066/800 speeds. Asus uses a two phase power design to give the memory modules the power needed to perform.
Cooling the components on the Striker II Formula is a large heatpipe and sink assembly that starts at the southbridge chipsets, and works it's way across the 780i SLI chipset, and around the heat generating power regulation circuits. The northbridge chipset is covered with Pin Fin technology heatsink. The performance is stated to be better than a stacked fin design.The box with the ROG logo lights up when the option is enabled in the BIOS.
If the real estate around the socket looks crowded, then your eyes do not deceive you. The heatsinks, capacitors and chokes make for a crowded house. Even this crowded I was able to install a Tuniq Tower heatsink without any clearance issues. Your mileage may vary depending on the heatsink or waterblock you choose for your cooling solution.
Configuring the system involves both hardware and software solutions. Without the software, the hardware is pretty useless, and vice versa. Since the hardware is now in the chassis, it's time to look at the drivers and programs that come with the Srtiker II Formula. Start off by inserting the driver disk that comes with the motherboard into the optical drive on your computer. Let the autorun feature take over to bring up the installation GUI.
Once the GUI is open there are several tabs from which to choose from. On a new install the Drivers and Utilities tabs will be where you'll concentrate your efforts. Under the Drivers tab there are three options. The Install All utility will install the Nvidia chipset driver, as well as the EPU driver and AI Gear utility. They both can be installed seperately if one chooses to do so.
Under the Utilities tab there is a wealth of software options that can be installed. This menu also has an auto install option; just click one button to have the whole suite installed. Highlights of this bundle include 3DMark06, Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Ulead Photo Impact.
There are several proprietary software applications supplied with this board. Included are Asus Update, a BIOS updating utility, Asus PC Probe, A fully customizable utility for monitoring voltage, temperatures and fan speeds. Lastly, the AI Suite software.
The AI Suite software is designed to do many things - fan control, overclocking, voltage monitoring, hibernation via the AI Nap feature, and the AI GEAR 3 section. This allows the user to turn on the power saving features and let the EPU processor do its job. When the max power saving mode was enabled, I saw power savings of as little as ten watts at idle, and as much as 65 watts while under load. A pretty substantial savings.
The last few tabs include the RAID software and drivers, the soft copy of the manual and the contact page.
Last but not least is a video clip of one of the worlds best overclcokers, Shamino, working the board with liquid niotrogen!
Having a stable, mature BIOS can make an apparently temperamental board a dream to work with. The latest BIOS is not always the best, but it usually takes care of known issues, and may inadvertently fix other problems as well. Creating new problems can sometime be a side effect, but you don't know until you try it. I flashed the BIOS to the 0902 as well as the 1001 beta, and found the 0902 a better fit for this combination of parts. The BIOS has several sections that each provide adjustment for a defined set of features. I will look at each section to illustrate the contents of the BIOS. The Extreme Tweaker section will be covered in detail on another page due to the wealth of information.
The main section gives the time and some basic system information. The installed drives, optical, hard and floppy, can be accessed and checked in this section.
The Advanced section allows the user to check the status of the LAN connection, control fan speeds, set up P'N'P and USB devices, as well as connections. The onboard peripherals are set up in this menu as well.
The Power Section contains the suspend mode selection, as well as the hardware monitoring section. In the Hardware monitoring section there are several sub menus to take advantage of the built-in temperature safety settings, as well as the fan speed control settings.
The Boot section contains the adjustments relevant to the boot sequence. Device boot order, hard drive boot order and the basic boot configuration are here.
This section seems to be tailored for the enthusiast. Under the Asus OC Profile you can save overclocked profiles. Asus EZ Flash 2 makes flashing the BIOS a simple process.
The Extreme Tweaker Section of the Striker II Formula's BIOS is where all of the adjustments can be made to increase the performance of the hardware installed on the motherboard. Clock speeds memory speeds, voltages, memory timings, and CPU/Memory clock ratios are all in this section.
The first option is CPU level up. This gives you options for changing all of the settings required to enhance the performance of the installed CPU to match that of a higher performance chip. In this example I had the option of changing the performance of that of a Q6700, Q6800 or Q6850. To manually change settings this option should be set to auto. AI Overclock Tuner should be set to manual for manual adjustment of the settings. The other options allow for dead stock settings or to overclock via the AI Gear utility.
System Clocks allows the PCI-e bus speed to be increased for better graphics performance. The CPU Level Up option is again present in this section. The CPU/Memory ratio can be set to auto and linked, where the CPU frontside bus and memory clock speed are identical or in a 1:1 ratio, or unlinked, where the memory speed can be adjusted independently from the CPU core clock speed. The CPU clock speed is adjustable to 800 MHz, while the memory can be adjusted to 1300MHz. Both of these numbers are unachievable, but this just means the only limits are the installed system memory and CPU.
The overclocking tab contains the memory timing adjustments, as well as the CPU clock multiplier, HT multiplier, and the the energy saving adjustments. This is the first board I have seen that allows the user to disable up to three cores of a Quad core CPU.
The voltage options on this board are just incredible. If voltage is what you want or need, the Striker II Formula has it covered. The voltage adjustments range from mild to insane. There is enough voltage supplied in each of the settings to help your hardware perform, or to die trying. Options include2.4 volts for the CPU, 3.0v for the CPU PLL, 2.46 on the CPU VTT, 3.4 volts on the memory, 3.0 for the northbridge, and the list goes on. The possibilities are almost endless.
Like I said earlier, the path to performance is there. Asus has given us the tools to make the most from the hardware installed in each system.
Intel Socket 775 Core™2 Quad/Core™2 Extreme/Core™2 Duo/Pentium® Extreme/Pentium® D/Pentium® 4 Processors
Compatible with Intel® 05B/05A/06 processors
Support Intel® next generation 45nm CPU
* Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI
Front Side Bus
4 x DIMM, Max. 8 GB, DDR2 1066/800/667 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
*Refer to www.asus.com or this user manual for the Memory QVL(Qualified Vendors Lists).
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 , support NVIDIA® SLI™ technology, at full x16, x16 speed(blue)
1 x PCIe x16 , at x16 speed(middle)
2 x PCIe x1 ( the PCIEx1_1 (black) is compatible with audio slot)
2 x PCI 2.2
Scalable Link Interface (SLI™)
Support three identical NVIDIA SLI-Ready graphics cards (triple at x16 mode)
1 xUltraDMA 133/100/66/33
6 xSATA 3 Gb/s ports
NVIDIA MediaShield™ RAID Support RAID 0,1,0+1,5,JBOD span cross Serial ATA drives
Dual Gigabit LAN, both featuring AI NET2
Support Teaming Technology
SupremeFX II Audio Card
ADI 1988B 8 -Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Coaxial / Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
ASUS Noise Filter
2 x 1394a ports (1 port at back I/O, 1 port onboard)
10 USB 2.0 ports (4 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at back panel)
2-Phase DDR 2
Intelligent overclocking tools
- CPU Level Up
- AI Gear 3
- AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
- ASUS AI Booster Utility
- ASUS O.C. Profile: overclocking configuration-sharing tool
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
ASUS MyLogo 3
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2
ASUS Q-Fan 2
Onboard Switches: Power / Reset / Cls CMOS (at rear)
ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit)
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x IEEE 1394a
2 x LAN(RJ45) port
6 x USB 2.0/1.1
1 x Clr CMOS switch
1 x Optical + 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB connectors support additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
6 x SATA connectors
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x CPU Fan connector
3 x Chassis Fan connector
1 x Power Fan connector
3 x Optional Fan connector
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
1 x8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS connector
3 x thermal sensor connectors
Chassis Intrusion connector
8 Mb Flash ROM
SM BIOS 2.4
WOL by PME,WOR by PME,Chasis Intrusion, PXE
ASUS Optional Fan
ASUS Optional Fan
SupremeFX II Audio Card
3 in 1 ASUS Q-Connector Kit
UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
Floppy disk drive cable
3-way SLI bridge
ASUS SLI bridge
SATA power cables
2-port USB2.0 + IEEE 1394a module
The hottest 3D Game: Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
- Drivers and applications
ASUS PC Probe II
ASUS AI Suite
Futuremark ® 3DMark® 06 Advanced Edition
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.5 cm )
- LGA775 Intel® Core™2 Processor Ready: This motherboard supports the latest Intel® Core™2 processors in LGA775 package. It also can support Intel® next generation 45nm Multi-Core CPU. With new Intel® Core™ microarchitecture technology and 1333 / 1066 / 800 MHz FSB, Intel® Core™2 processor is one of the most powerful and energy efficient CPU in the world.
- PCIe 2.0: Double Speed; Double Bandwidth This motherboard supports the latest PCIe 2.0 devices for double speed and bandwidth which enhances system performance.
- Dual-Channel DDR2 1066: To attain top performance, ASUS engineers have successfully unleashed the true potential of DDR2 memory. While in DDR2 1066 mode, ASUS´s exclusive technology offers a choice of FSB 1333 - providing great performance for 3D graphics and other memory demanding applications.
- 2-Phase DDR2:Special Memory power to release the true power of memory!: With the embedded 2-Phase DDR2, this motherboard allows users to reach higher memory frequencies and enjoy better performance. Compared with only one phase solutions, this motherboard ensures longer power component lifespans and higher overclockability due to cooler temperatures and better efficiency.
- 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.
- ASUS EPU Enables the Most Energy Efficient Motherboard in the World: The ASUS EPU utilizes innovative technology to digitally monitor and finetune the CPU power supply with improved VR responses in heavy or light loadings. Working together with AI Gear 3, it automatically provides power for higher performance or improves efficiency by 50% when the PC is running low intensity applications - helping you attain the best possible power efficiency and energy savings of up to 80.23% to help save the environment.
- Extreme Tweaker One stop performance tuning shop: Extreme Tweakers is the one stop shop to fine-tune your system to optimal performance. No matter if you´re looking for frequency adjustment, over-voltage options, or memory timing settings, they´re all here!
- Voltiminder LED Friendly reminder on the intentional madness: In the pursuit of extreme performance, overvoltage adjustment is critical but risky. Acting as the "red zone" of a tachometer, the Voltiminder LED displays the voltage status for CPU, NB, SB, and Memory in a intuitive color-coded fashion. The voltiminder LED allows quick voltage monitoring for overclockers.
- COP EX OC in confidence: The COP EX allows overclockers to increase chipset voltages without the worries of overheating. It can also be used to monitor and save an overheating GPU. The COP EX allows more freedom and less constraint for maximum performance achievement.
- Loadline Calibration Stable and optimal power for sustainable CPU overclock: Maintaining ample voltage support for the CPU is critical during overclocking. The Loadline Calibration ensures stable and optimal CPU voltage under heavy loading. It helps overclockers enjoy the motherboard´s ultimate OC capabilities and benchmark scores.
- SupremeFX II Listen with Absolute HD: SupremeFX II delivers an excellent high definition audio experience to the gamers of ROG. The SupremeFX II features unique audio innovations for gamers to spot enemes in 3D environment during game play. SupremeFX II also provides gamers a special tool to emphasize human voices in games to help make dialogues clearer and more audible.
- External LCD Poster Debug and read system problems with an new external look!: The new LCD Poster now posts critical POST information in an ever friendly and flexible external display. When system malfunction occurs, the LCD Poster automatically detects device failure and translates the errors on the LCD during POST. Unlike other competing 2 digit displays, users won´t need to read "gibberish" to find out what´s wrong.
- Onboard Switch No more shorting pins or moving jumpers: With an easy press during overclock, this exclusive onboard switch allows gamer to effortlessly fine-tune the performance without having to short the pins or moving jumpers!
- ASUS Q-Connector Make connections quick and accurate: The Q-Connector allows you to connect or disconnect chassis front panel cables in one easy step with one complete module. This unique adapter eliminates the trouble of plugging in one cable at a time, making connection quick and accurate.
- 3D Game: Company of Heroes - Opposing Fronts: Company of Heroes - Opposing Fronts is the next chapter in the groundbreaking real-time strategy franchise and with DirectX®10 support.This stand-alone game features two unique armies with full length campaigns. Players will experience fast-paced dynamic tactics like never before, in two of the most brutal World War II campaigns ever fought.
- 3DMark® 06 Advanced Edition The Gamers´ Benchmark: 3D benchmark application used by professionals around the world. The 3DMark06 is the latest version in the popular 3DMark series, including advanced SM2.0 and HDR/SM3.0 Shader graphics tests and now including single, multiple core and multiple processor CPU tests as part of the 3DMark score! The accurate performance and image quality diagnostic tool, designed for DirectX®9.0c, provides you with all the information you need to make all other competitors look bad.
- 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.
- AI NOS™Boost performance when you need it the most!: Applications such as 3D games and video editing demand a huge chunk of system resource. Inject "nitrous oxide" into your CPU! The patented AI NOS™ (Non-delay Overclocking System) technology intelligently detects system load and automatically boosts performance for the most demanding tasks. Unlike other dynamic overclocking techniques, AI NOS™ reacts much faster to satisfy your unending need for speeds .
- ASUS O.C. Profile Conveniently store or load multiple BIOS Settings: The motherboard features the ASUS O.C. Profile that allows users to conveniently store or load multiple BIOS settings. The BIOS settings can be stored in the CMOS or a separate file, giving users freedom to share and distribute their favorite overclocking settings
- EZ Flash 2 Simply update BIOS from a USB flash disk before entering the OS: EZ Flash 2 is a user-friendly BIOS update utility. Simply launch this tool and update BIOS from a USB flash disk before entering the OS. You can update your BIOS only in a few clicks without preparing an additional floppy diskette or using an OS-based flash utility.
- C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall): When the system hangs due to overclocking failure, there is no need to open the case to clear CMOS data. Just simply restart the system, the BIOS would show the previous setting and then users can amend the CPU setting again.
- MyLogo3 Personalize your system with customizable boot logo: The ASUS MyLogo 3 is the new feature present in the motherboard that allows you to personalize and add style to your system with customizable and animated boot logos.
- Stack Cool 2 Effective and zero-noise heat dissipation: Stack Cool 2 is a fan-less and zero-noise cooling solution offered exclusively by ASUS. It effectively transfers heat generated by the critical components to the other side of the specially designed PCB (printed circuit board) for effective heat dissipation.
- Dual Gigabit LAN: The integrated dual Gigabit LAN design allows a PC to serve as a network gateway for managing traffic between two separate networks. This capability ensures rapid transfer of data from WAN to LAN without any added arbitration or latency.
- IEEE 1394a interface: IEEE 1394a interface provides high speed digital interface for audio/video appliances such as digital television, digital video camcorders, storage peripherals & other PC portable devices.
- High Definition Audio : Enjoy high-end sound system on your PC! The onboard 8-channel HD audio (High Definition Audio, previously codenamed Azalia) CODEC enables high-quality 192KHz/24-bit audio output, jack-sensing feature, retasking functions and multi-streaming technology that simultaneously sends different audio streams to different destinations. You can now talk to your partners on the headphone while playing a multi-channel network games. All of these are done on one computer.
- High-Quality Capacitors & RoHS: Uses 100% All High-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors This motherboard uses all high-quality conductive polymer capacitors onboard for durability, improved lifespan, and enhanced thermal capacity.
- GreenASUS: The motherboard and its packaging comply with the European Union´s Restriction on the use of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). This is in line with the ASUS vision of creating environment-friendly and recyclable products and packaging to safeguard consumers´ health while minimizing the impact on the environment.
All information on this page gatered from the manufacturers website at http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=11&l3=610&l4=0&model=2016&modelmenu=1
The Asus Striker II Formula will be put through our benchmarking suite to see what kind of performance the motherboard delivers. The OverclockersClub series of benchmarks include both system tests and gaming benchmarks to verify the performance of this product. I will be comparing the performance of the Striker against the Abit IX38 Quad GT, the Asus Maximus Formula and the Foxconn MARS. The tests will compare performance against one P35 and two X38 chipsets, to see if the 780i SLI chipset can outperform the Intel built solutions. Testing will be a direct comparison of our stock speed benchmarking; all clock speeds and memory timings will be as close as possible to offer a fair comparison on each of the boards. All motherboard and video card settings were left at setup defaults, again to eliminate any variables.
- Processor: Intel Q6600 Core 2 Quad 266x9
- Motherboard: Asus Striker II Formula
- Memory: Mushkin HP2 6400 2x2GB 5-4-4-12
- Video Card(s): Asus EN8800 GT TOP
- Power Supply: Mushkin 650watt Modular Power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 320GB SATA
- Opticals: NEC DV5700
- O/S: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Comparison Motherboard 1: Asus Maximus Formula
- Comparison Motherboard 2: Abit IX38 Quad GT
- Comparison Motherboard 2: Foxconn MARS
- Processor: Intel Q6600
- Sytem Memory: Mushkin HP2 6400 5-5-4-12
Overclocking the Asus Striker II Formula was a bit more challenging than many of the boards I have worked with lately. At first anything over 370FSB was a no go at any multiplier. After working through all of the options I was terribly stuck. Not good for a chipset that holds so much promise. After a couple nights of testing, reboots, and BSODs, I had to conclude that four gigabytes of system memory and a quad-core CPU was just to much for the northbridge. The heat generated by the northbridge was pretty substantial, so cooling it was no longer an option, but mandatory. So in comes the 110CFM fan to take care of the heat. Still this did not allow me to break the 370FSB wall that I had encountered. Time to go back to square one. I threw out everything I thought I knew, started fresh, and finally hit upon a combination that allowed me to push righ on past 370FSB and settle on 450 x 8 as my final overclock. I was able to push the memory up to 1000Mhz and was stable at that speed with the default timings. I ended up running the memory unlinked at a speed of 450Mhz to match the CPU core clock speeds to make things a little easier on the hardware. Quad-core, four gigabytes of memory and a final clock speed of 3.6 Ghz. This is the clock speed where I will run the overclocked benchmarks for this review. Your mileage may vary, and results are what I was able to achieve with this combination of parts.
- Scientific & Data:
- SpecviewPerf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02 Final
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.54
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Jaurez
- 3DMark 06 Professional
The first part of our testing regimen 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: 2750x2048
- 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 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB files, as well as test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.
In WinRar the overclocked speeds on the Striker II were similar to the stock speeds on the Intel chipset solutions. Apophysis performance was similar to the Intel based boards.
Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.
Higher is Better
Higher is Better
Higher is Better
PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.
The Striker II Formula falls short in four out of the six benchmarks in Specview. It did perform above the field in the PCMark Vantage testing.
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 the key areas of the motherboards.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The results from the Sandra testing are surprising. In five of the indicators the Striker just flat underperformed. Perfomance across the rest of the Sandra testing was a mixed bag of goods. The Striker II's best performance was in the memory bandwidth and storage testing, where it easily eclipsed the performance of the Intel based solutions.
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
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
The performance of the Striker II was dismal in some of the scientific benchmarks but managed to excel in nine out of 27 benchmarks. In some of the benchmarks, the performance was even across the series of motherboards. in these tests there was neither a winner or loser. In the WinRar testing the performance, even when overclocked, had a hard time competeing with the Intel chipset solutions.
Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite use at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the market right now. The Crysis single player demo includes a GPU benchmark to test the performance of the video card installed in the system.
- 2x Anti-Aliasing
- Advanced settings to medium
The Striker II performs well in the Crysis benchmarking. Easily beating the other boards by a wide margin.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features it's own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew, or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.
The settings we will use are below:
- AA: x0
- Image Quality: High
- Direct X Version: 10
- All resolutions 60HZ
The Striker falls short by a few frames per second at the lower resolutions. As the pixel count rises, it takes the lead.
BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played.
- All settings to Maximum
- V-Sync off
The Striker finished the Bioshock testing number one in all four resolutions tested.
Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. SInce this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Anistropic Filtering : Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings Max
In Call Of Duty 4, the Striker just fell flat on it's face with discrepencies of 20 FPS or more, depending on the resolution..
World In Conflict is a newly released DX10, real-time strategy game that simulated the all out war that the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical generate wealth and build type of game. You advance by conquering your foe.
The settings we will use are listed below:
- 0 X AA
- 16X AF
- Graphic Detail :Very High
At the lower resolutions, where system efficiency plays a large role in benchmark performance, the 780i SLI chipset falls short.
Call of Juarez is a DirectX10 First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800s. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.
The settings we will use are listed below.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap size 2048x2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti Aliasing: MSAA 4X
The Striker II takes the lower resolutions and comes up short when the resolution increases. The overclocked scores at the highest resolutions were barely competitive with the stock speed Intel solutions.
Benchmark: Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts)
Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts) is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This real time strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.
- 8x AA
- All other settings to maximum
As evidenced by the measured frames per second, this iteration of the game is more graphically demanding than its predecessor. The FPS difference on any resolution was a maximum of three frames per second, that occured at 1920x1200.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 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
The Striker II came out on top in all four resolutions. It never fell below the 10,000 point mark even at 1920x1200. In the gaming benchmarks, the Striker II Formula finished number one in 18 out of 32 gaming benchmarks, a win percentage of almost 60%.
Well, after playing with the Striker II Formula, it turns out that the 780i SLI chipset has its own issues, albeit very similar to the 680i SLI chipset it replaces. The 780i chipset is hot, not as in hot chick hot, but in thermal characteristics. Implementing a non passive solution would be the top item to look at if using the Striker II. Even a fan is a large help in keeping this chipset cool. By actively cooling the heatsink, temperatures on the chipset did not reach the shutdown temperature of 90 Celcius. High frontside bus overclocking with a quad-core processor seems to be much more difficult than with the Intel chipset solutions. Add in four or eight gigabytes of RAM and the difficulty meter starts bouncing on the top of the scale. With that being said, once the correct combination of settings is reached the board comes around and starts playing nice. Performance in our benchmarking and testing suite was up and down. Memory bandwidth in the Sandra testing was higher than any of the other boards tested. Yet the WinRar testing showed the Striker II with sub par performance. In almost 60% of the game behnchmarks the Striker was the top performer. In 3DMark06 the performance of the Striker II was well above the comparison boards and never fell below 10,000 3DMarks. Running the memory unlinked from the CPU clock can open up new options for getting more performance from your memory, and not have you constrained by a specific divider. Even unlinked there are many dividers, ultimately providing for a better "fit" based on the maximum speed of the consumers memory. 1000MHz was achievable and stable with four gigabytes of memory. I chose to run at 900MHz, as at this speed the trade-off between speed and latency was better in this application.
The big selling point for switching to an Nvidia chipset has been, and probably will be for a while, the ability to run two or more Nvidia GPU's in an SLI (Scalable Link Interface) configuration. Something that can't be done with the Average Joe Intel chipset solutions....yet! Speaking of SLI, we will be using the Striker II Formula to test the SLI performance of several video cards in upcoming reviews. Stay tuned!
Two, much less three GPUs don't figure into the energy saving plan, but the Striker II uses a small energy management processor that works in conjunction with the included AI Gear software to manage the energy consumption of the package. Unfortunately, to use it you must be at stock settings and voltages, and have C1E and EIST enabled. This is not all bad for the person looking for the best of both worlds, a high end gaming solution that can help on the energy bills. For the enthusiast that overclocks their hardware, this feature is sadly a no go. If you need a replacement for the aging 680i motherboard so you can step up to some of the high clocking 45nm Wolfdale and Yorkfield processors, the Striker II Formula is not a bad choice. As a full-featured board, the Striker II Formula is capable of fulfilling performance, as well as "Green" goals.
- Ability to run memory unlinked
- Overcloking capabilities
- SLI capable
- Tri SLI capable (8800GTX and Ultra only)
- HD 8 Channel sound
- EPU processor for energy savings
- Accessory bundle
- Northbridge heat