Asus Striker II Extreme Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: June 8, 2008
Performance chipsets have been flying out fast and furious in the first half of 2008 - Intel's X48 and Nvidia's 780i, 790i SLI and 790i Ultra SLI motherboards have arrived already. So what does this mean to the average person? Not a whole lot! But, to enthusiasts and gamers, the 790i Ultra SLI chipset offers the promise of incredible overclocking capabilities, built-in support for DDR3 2000MHz memory, Tri-SLI or Quad SLI with qualifying video cards, an all new chipset, full support for 45nm Penryn and Wolfdale processors, and more. After somewhat disappointing results from the 780i chipset (which was just a 680i chipset with PCI-E 2.0 added on for good measure), expectations are that the 790i Ultra chipset will actually perform better than its earlier sibling. Since the 790i chipset uses only DDR3 memory, running 4GB of high performance memory does require a substantial financial commitment to the new memory standard, as 4GB of performance DDR3 will claim $350+ from the budget.
As part of the Republic of Gamers lineup, the Asus Striker II Extreme comes to the table with all the tools necessary to generate excellent performance numbers, as well as incredible gaming performance. Let's see if it can challenge the performance of the latest chipset from Intel, the X48.
As part of Asus' Republic of Gamers (ROG) lineup, the Striker II Extreme sports the familiar charcoal and grey themed packaging. Barbed wire and bullet holes say "FPS" all the way. The box's front panel highlights the inclusion of the full version of Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts, and the Fusion Block cooling system and 790i chipset are mentioned. The back panel lists the motherboard's specifications, and mentions some of the prominent features of the board - the Easy DIY Voltminder LEDs, the Supreme FX II sound card, and overclocking capabilities that are enhanced by the Fusion Block cooling system. One side panel has an access hole in it to show off the I/O panel. Image is everything!
Continuing the see-through theme, the front panel lifts up to display in greater detail some of the features that enhance the overclocking capabilities of the Striker II Extreme. Some of these features are the Extreme Tweaker BIOS, 2-phase DDR3 power supply, Loadline Calibration, the external POST display, and the Asus Energy Processing Unit (EPU). Displayed through the window are the Fusion Block System and the Supreme FX II HD sound card, which has some gaming-specific qualities.
Once you pull the board from the enclosure, you are left with the Striker II Extreme, as well as the box that houses the bundled accessories. If history is any indication, the bundle should be expansive. The artwork on the accessory box mirrors that of the exterior package.
Let's see what comes with the Striker II Extreme, to see if the bundle measures up.
Usually, the Asus ROG series' bundle of accessories contains everything you need to get the Striker II Extreme into the action, and this board is no exception. From the amount of SATA cables all the way down to the liquid cooling connections, it's all there. Throw in one of the latest DX 10 releases in Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts and this is one decent bundle. The documentation included with the 790i-based Striker II Extreme includes the manual and driver disk. The driver disk also contains additional manuals that can be viewed electronically or printed out.
Temperature probes are included so you can monitor three additional temperatures via Asus Probe; these are great for pulling in additional data on what areas need cooling when in operation. The probes aren't very long, but the mounting points are spread across the board to get a fair shot at monitoring just about any temperature.
For those of you that prefer to use an Nvidia-based multi GPU graphics solution, the bridge connections are included for both SLI and Tri-SLI. The Tri-SLI Bridge is for use only with video cards that support Tri-SLI, namely the 8800 GTX, 8800 Ultra, and 9800 GTX.
One nice thing about the I/O shield is the fact that scripting on the shield lights up when the attached cable is plugged into a receptacle on the board. This makes plugging in the peripherals an easier task in the dark or at a LAN party. Another thing you will notice is that there are no little tabs to break off or get hung on a port during installation - not to mention the nasty cuts they can provide! The inclusion of a liquid cooled chipset solution is a step forward; integrating the block into an existing liquid loop or building one from scratch requires the use of an adapter if one is using 1/2" inside diameter tubing. Adapters are provided to drop down from 1/2" to 3/8"; screw clamps and some short lengths of 3/8" ID tubing are also part of the package.
Asus has included two blower fans that mount over the power management circuits to keep them cool when you're using a passive cooling solution. Air cooling the CPU will make the use of these fans unnecessary - or impossible - depending on the style of heatsink you choose. The enthusiast crowd has a tendency to go with large HSF's, but the blowers are still usable with the stock Intel solution. The "Q" connectors make life much easier when installing the motherboard into the chassis. Connect the front panel wiring to the "Q" connectors then insert the whole assembly onto the motherboard header, and Shazam! - it's done! (I know, you have to be older to get it).
The onboard sound is an 8-channel, high definition design delivered by the Supreme FX II PCI-E sound card. This device fits into a dedicated slot on the Striker II Extreme, and provides enhancements for gamers, as well as a tool specifically designed to enhance dialogue in games. Instead of a diagnostic debug LED on the motherboard, Asus has included the LCD Poster. This gives the user the actual problem code instead of a series of letters or numbers, making diagnostics easier for all users.
The items included in the bundle provide everything you will need to get started. Now, let's take a more in-depth look at the motherboard!
The Striker II Extreme is an ATX form factor motherboard that's based on the Nvidia 790i Ultra SLI Northbridge and the 570 SLI Southbridge chipsets, and is designed for use with Intel's Quad Core 1333/1600 MHz FSB Socket 775 processors. DDR3 system memory - up to 2000MHz - is supported on this board, and considering 2000MHz modules are now shipping, it's nice to see support from the motherboard side as well. Covering a vast portion of the Striker II Extreme is the Fusion Block cooling system; this system is made liquid cooling capable by integrating the water block on the Northbridge into your liquid loop. The Stack Cool system is used to help reduce component temperatures by spreading the heat load across the specially designed Stack Cool 2 motherboard PCB. The heatsinks across the rear face of the Striker II are screwed into place rather than using spring loaded push pins. Why is this significant, you ask? It maintains better contact with the PWM circuits by reducing board flex across the area. This helps reduce the operating temperatures and may help increase the overclocking capabilities of the board.
The I/O panel looks a little sparse when compared to some of the non-gaming desktop boards in use today; the Asus P5E3 and Gigabyte X48-DQ6 come to mind. Everything you need is there though - six USB 2.0 ports, two Gigabit LAN jacks, two e-SATA ports , one 1394 FireWire jack, coaxial and optical digital S/PDIF out ports, and one lone P/S2 port to plug in a keyboard. The heatsink over the PWM circuits butts right up to the I/O panel to help exhaust the heat generated by the PWM out of the rear of the case. The external clear CMOS button is always a welcome sight when it comes time to push the limits of the installed hardware.
Expansion needs are met by the use of three PCI-E x16 slots, two PCI slots and two PCI-E x1 slots - one black, and one white. The black slot is reserved for the Supreme FX II HD sound card. The two blue PCI-E x16 slots are PCI-E 2.0 compliant, and offer more bandwidth for increased performance; they each run at true x16 speeds. The other x16 slot runs at x16 as well, making the availability and performance of Tri-SLI a reality.
Across the bottom and up the right side is where we'll find the majority of the connectivity for the Striker II Extreme. The bottom of the board from left to right has a red FireWire header, a fan and thermal sensor plug, two additional USB 2.0 headers in blue, ADH connection, built-in Start and Reset buttons, another chassis fan and the front panel connections. Just above the chassis fan header, you will see a small sliding switch, which is used in lieu of the clear CMOS jumper that's usually present - this option is easier to use.
The drive connectivity is all on the right edge of the Striker's PCB, with the exception of the eSATA jacks on the I/O panel. The six SATA ports are controlled by the Nvidia chipset, and are rotated over so that the ports aren't blocked when a large - think 3870X2 or 9800GX2 - video card is used. The IDE port is farther up the side, and is close to the drives in most cases. The floppy drive connection is still in place for those still using this option. Right next to that is the ATX 24-pin power plug.
Power is supplied to the Striker II Extreme through just two connections - the 24-pin ATX connection, and the 8-pin EATX power connection located above the CPU socket. In the top corner of the board are a few unique connections, where the wires for the I/O panel lights and the LCD poster wiring are connected.
The Striker II Extreme features four DIMM slots capable of supporting up to 8GB of DDR3 2000(OC),1800 (OC) 1600(OC),1066, and 800MHz memory. The CPU socket area is pretty crowded, but liquid cooling blocks and large air cooled heatsinks should fit without issue.
The Fusion Block System is a hybrid cooling system, using heatsinks, heatpipes and a D-Tek Fusion water block on the Northbridge heatsink/pipe assembly. Using this hybrid system with the liquid cooling option is said to offer cooling performance increases of 50%. This seems pretty stout, but considering the heat generated by Nvidia chipsets, this might be a worthwhile time investment. The assembly starts at the 570 SLI Southbridge and works its way up to the Northbridge, and then on to the PWM heatsinks. The D-Tek block uses 3/8" barbed fittings to connect to the liquid cooling system, and an adapter/clamp kit is supplied with the board to allow for both 3/8" and 1/2" setups.
The PWM heatsinks are screwed down instead of being secured by spring loaded push-pins. This helps keep the heatsink in place and in contact with all of the MOSFETs on the PWM circuit, increasing overclocking stability and component lifespan.
Let's take a look through the Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS to see what it has to offer.
The BIOS is where the basic functions of the motherboard are controlled. Using the most current BIOS can help alleviate large and small problems that can pop up during testing. On the Striker II Extreme, I used several different BIOS' to try and gain additional stability or overclocking ability while testing; I finally settled on the 0603 BIOS to complete the testing. The flavor of the week is not always the best BIOS for the application or combination of parts that are installed. There are several different sections in the BIOS with specific items that can be changed to enhance the performance, stability, and usability of the board. I will take a quick peek at each section and concentrate mainly on the Extreme Tweaker section, since this is where the performance tuning is done.
This section is where all of the CPU, memory, and hardware-based settings are chosen. This section will be discussed in greater detail further along in the review.
The main section allows the system time to be adjusted, and shows some basic system information. The installed drives - optical, hard, and floppy - can be accessed and checked here also. System information can be seen be under this tab in the BIOS, and in the case of this particular BIOS, there wasn't much to be gained from viewing this section.
This section allows the user to configure the on-board devices such as the sound, FireWire, LAN and the serial port. AI NET allows checking the LAN cable status during the POST sequence. Configuring the USB functionality is done under the USB menu. Hard drive configuration happens under the IDE and SATA menus, and the functions of the LCD Poster and Voltminder LEDs can be setup or disabled in the LCD Poster menu.
Under this tab, Suspend mode can be set up. The monitored functions include the voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. In the voltage monitoring menu all of the common items are measured. The Temperature field displays the measurements of three main system components, as well as allowing for three optional measurements by installing one of the three temperature probes onto a device to measure the temperature. The Fan Control section allows the user to set up fan profiles to manage the temperature and airflow through the chassis.
Several things can be accomplished in this menu - boot priority of all system disks is chosen, security settings are configured, and whether or not to display the ROG logo on the boot screen is determined.
This last section contains the OC Profile menu that allows you to save that special overclock profile, so you do not forget the settings that made it "work". Rather than pulling out the floppy drive and hooking it up to flash the BIOS, Asus has made it so that flashing the BIOS is as simple as point and click. You can pull the BIOS from whatever drive you have saved BIOS file on - just choose the drive, and the program runs itself and reboots the computer to finish the job.
Now let's look at the Extreme Tweaker section and see just what the Striker II Extreme has to offer.
The Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS is front and center, eliminating any need to scroll through a bunch of menus just to get to the one that houses the options that dictate the performance of the system. The list of items in this section can easily make your head swim, if you let it. Without further ado, let's see what it can do for us.
CPU Level Up and Memory Level Up both lead to settings that will automatically try and set the Striker II for the best possible performance. Options on CPU Level Up include Crazy and Auto, while the Memory Level Up chooses specific memory speeds.
AI Overclock Tuner is another part of the automatic overclocking features. Manual, Auto, Standard, AI Overclock and CPU Level Up are the given options to increase performance. When choosing from these options, the motherboard manages the other board settings to allow operation in the CPU Level Up and Auto modes. When set to Manual mode, the CPU multiplier can be adjusted within the ratios your CPU allows. The Intel Q9450 used in this review, for instance, has a maximum multiplier of x8, and can be adjusted as low as x6.
FSB Memory Clock mode can be set to Auto, Linked and Unlinked. Auto, of course, automatically chooses what is most likely to work with the parameters already set. Linked syncs the memory FSB to the CPU clock speed. Unlinked allows the memory clocks to be set independently of the CPU clock speeds. FSB Memory ratio can be set to Auto, 5:4, 3:2, or Sync Mode. Linked and Synced is supposed to offer the best performance when using Nvidia chipset-based motherboards. Running Unlinked, there will be a performance penalty that may be tough to overcome.
CPU FSB can be adjusted from 100 MHz (400) to 750 MHz (3000), and with some hardcore enthusiasts hitting 600MHz FSBs, the limits are being pushed. The memory FSB falls into the same range, allowing for Linked or Unlinked operation.
The LDT Frequency Multiplier is adjustable from x1 to x5. The PCI-E clock for slots one and two can be adjusted independently of slot three; the range is 100 to 200 MHz. Most will not push the boundaries of this adjustment.
The SPP<->MCP Reference Clock can be adjusted from 200 to 500 MHz, or to Auto so the board can make the decision for you. SLI Ready memory gives the user an easy way to overclock the RAM with a preset batch of settings.
Under the main menu there are several other menus - Memory Timings, Overvoltage, CPU Configuration, and Spread Spectrum Control. Let's look at each one in turn to find out where the performance can be tweaked.
The voltage options available on the Striker II Extreme are advanced enough that if the Moon is your goal, voltage will not be factor holding you back. The voltages rise in smaller increments at the lower end of the scale, but as the voltages increase, the spread between voltage points increases as well. The CPU voltage can be increased to 2.40 volts, and the memory to 3.10 volts! Both extremes offer certain death, but if the hardware needs more juice, it's there. The PLL volts, VTT voltage, NB, and SB volts are all on the extreme side of the fence when they are maxed out. The good thing is that you should not need that kind of voltage, but it's nice to have the ability to use it.
The GTL Reference and DDR3 voltages are for the experienced tweaker who understands the reasons for their use. For most people, Auto should be enough to get you to the performance "Promised Land".
Once all that shiny new hardware is in the chassis, the wiring has been hidden and everything is just right, it's time to power up that new rig and install the OS. That alone does not a blazing fast rig make - there are the drivers that must be installed to make that new hardware work as intended. Let's get those drivers going!
Once the driver disk starts to run, the installation GUI will pop up, and has several tabs to choose from. The Driver tab is used to install all of the drivers for the Striker II Extreme. The Install All feature is a tool to install the drivers with one click of the mouse. The Utilities tab contains some proprietary monitoring tools and utilities, as well as several applications - Photo Editing by Ulead, WinDvd, 3DMark06 for benchmarking, and a backup utility from CyberLink.
The Make Disk tab is where you can put together a driver disk for loading the drivers during the OS installation. The Manual tab contains additional user manuals that may be of interest, including RAID and network setup guides.
The Video tab lists an Extreme Overclocking clip, which was something I had seen on the Foxconn Mars driver disk. I was looking for an example of an overclocking guru putting the screws to an Asus board, but just got some music and still frame images. The Contact tab gives contact info for Asus across the globe.
Several proprietary utilities are included with the Striker II Extreme. AI Suite is a group of utilities accessed from one main interface; functions include AI Nap, CPU Level Up to overclock the CPU, QFan control to set the fan speeds and duty cycles, and AI Booster is another overclocking utility. Last, but not least, is AI Gear 3 - this utility allows configuration of the power saving abilities of the Striker II. Unfortunately, using this tool in anything other than the "Mid" tab caused instant lockups and required a reboot.
Asus Probe is purely a monitoring and information program that alerts the user to potential voltage, temperature, or fan issues. SoundMax Black Hawk is the sound configuration utility for the Supreme FX II HD audio card; it features several options to get the best sound out of your system.
Intel Socket 775 Core™2 Extreme/Core™2 Duo/Pentium® Extreme/Pentium® D/Pentium® 4/Celeron Processors
NVIDIA nForce 790i Ultra SLI
Front Side Bus
4 x DIMM, Max. 8 GB, DDR3 2000*/1800*/1600*/1333/800 Non-ECC, Unbuffered Memory
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 ,support NVIDIA® SLI™ technology, at full x16, x16 speed (blue)
Scalable Link Interface (SLI™)
Support NVIDIA 3-way SLI graphics cards (triple at x16 mode)
Dual Gigabit LAN, both featuring AI NET2
SupremeFX II Audio Card
2 x 1394a ports (1 port at back I/O, 1 port onboard)
10 USB 2.0 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 4 ports at back panel)
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
Internal I/O Connectors
2 x USB connectors supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
8 Mb Flash ROM
WOL by PME,WOR by PME,Chasis Intrusion,PXE
The hottest DX10 Game: Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
ATX Form Factor
- LGA775 Intel® Quad-core Processor Ready: This motherboard supports the latest Intel® Quad-core processors in LGA775 package. It´s excellent for multi-tasking, multi-media and enthusiastic gamers with 1600/1333 MHz FSB. Intel® Quad-core is one of the most powerful CPU in the world
- LGA775 Intel® Core™2 Processor Ready: This motherboard supports the latest Intel® Core™2 processors in LGA775 package. With new Intel® Core™ microarchitecture technology and 1333 / 1066 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 perform
- Dual-Channel DDR3 1333: To attain top performance, ASUS engineers have successfully unleashed the true potential of DDR3 memory. While in DDR3 1333 mode, ASUS´s exclusive technology offers a choice of FSB 1333 - providing great performance for 3D graphics and other memory demanding applications.
Performance and Reliability:
- Fusion Block System: H2O ready: The next step in thermal solution. The Fusion Block System is a more efficient thermal solution compared to competing followers with complicated looks. It is a hybrid thermal design that combines the ROG´s renowned heatpipe design with the additional ability to connect to a water cooling system. By taking the entire integrated solution into design considerations, the user can enjoy exceptional thermal improvement to Northbridge, Southbridge, Crosslinx, and even VRM with a single connection. The Fusion Block System is the most versatile, efficient, and the most advanced thermal system there is on a motherboard.
- 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.
- 2-Phase DDR3: Special Memory power to release memory power! With the embedded 2-phase DDR3, 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.
- ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit): The ASUS EPU utilizes digitally monitor and tunes the CPU power supply with improved VR responses in heavy or light loadings.
- 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.
- EL I/O: Connect in the dark Today´s users demand more than good performance-they demand more heart touching services like user-friendly features. The motherboard comes with the EL I/O, an impressive design that increases convenience in connecting devices on the back I/O. The cool EL lights up your I/O panel under your desk, in the dark, or in a LAN Party. No more jamming devices into the wrong connectors when you´re in the dark!
- Q-Fan Plus: Optimized quietness and cooling for more devices The Q-Fan function automatically detects temperature and adjusts fan speed accordingly to achieve quiet and efficient cooling. With Q-Fan Plus, special temperature sensor cable is provided to detect temperature on any device. When used with a optional fans, you may activate Q-Fan function on up to 3 additional devices of your choice!
- Loadline Calibration: 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.
Sound with Clarity:
- 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 enemies 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.
- LCD Poster: Debug with Translation 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: 3DMark is the most popular and authoritative 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.
Asus Unique Features:
- 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: Professional grade OC instantly Overclock immediately with OC profile presets. Much more than simple frequency settings, this profile gives gamers comprehensive and detail tuning to frequency, voltages, and even timings to give you a real professional level of overclocking configuration!
- 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.
- Noise Filter: Eliminate background noise while recording. This feature detects repetitive and stationary noises like computer fans, air conditioners, and other background noises then eliminates it in the incoming audio stream while recording.
- 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.
- 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.
- SATA on the Go: This motherboard supports the next-generation hard drives based on the Serial ATA (SATA) 3Gb/s storage specification, delivering enhanced scalability and doubling the bus bandwidth for high-speed data retrieval and saves. The external SATA port located at the back I/O provides smart setup and hot-plug functions. Easily backup photos, videos and other entertainment contents on external 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.
Quality and 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.
Ther information shown here is sourced directly from Asus product pages @ http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?modelmenu=1&model=2114&l1=3&l2=11&l3=653&l4=0
The Asus Striker II Extreme 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 II Extreme against the X48T-DQ6. The tests will compare performance against the two to see whether or not the performance of the Nvidia Chipset can eclipse that of the Intel X48 board. 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 Q9450 Core 2 Quad 333x8
- Motherboard: Asus Striker II Extreme
- Memory: Mushkin Ascent XP3 16000 2x1GB (1333MHz 6-6-6-15)
- Video Card(s): Asus EN8800GT TOP 600/900
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800watt modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB 7200.11 SATA
- Optical Drive: NEC DV5700
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Comparison Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X48T-DQ6
- Processor: Intel Q9450 450 x 8
- Sytem Memory: Mushkin Ascent XP3 16000 at 200MHz Unlinked (1800 Linked and Synced 8-7-6-20)
The Striker II Extreme can overclock, but unfortunately, not quite to the level I have achieved on several other boards with this processor. Given the dearth of settings in the BIOS, it does take time to find a nice stable overclock. Pretty much every voltage and many of the memory sub-timings needed to be tweaked for maximum performance. My CPU is capable of 470MHz FSB, but due to the way the dividers are managed, I was only able to get stable at 450 MHz (1800MHz); the memory, on the other hand, was good up to 1000MHz (2000MHz). These speeds did not require massive voltages to get the job done. In fact the memory only needed 1.86 volts to hit that number. While 450 and 1000MHz are nice, the performance hit from running the memory unlinked is noticeable on this Nvidia board. With that in mind, I went to the well again and set the memory to Linked and Synced, which matches the memory and CPU FSB and essentially gives a 1:2 CPU to RAM ratio. By doing this, the performance increases dramatically, and this is how I ran the overclocked benchmarks. In fact, at this level of performance, it's stable enough to crunch out work units for our Folding @ Home team. The overclocking recovery tool is similar to that on many of the Asus boards I have used recently. Turn the computer off and restart, and the last good settings are loaded so that the board boots right up. If the overclocked settings were far enough off the mark that even the reboot does not fix the issue, then you can always power down completely and the board resets to BIOS defaults to get you rolling. The one issue I had came while changing the memory in an effort to push the speed envelope - I was hung on the CPU INIT screen on the LCD poster. After leaving the board powered down after several unsuccessful tries to coax it back to life, it finally rejoined the land of the living, and that issue hasn't ever come up again. Overclocks just under 1GHz and memory performance at 1000MHz are examples of the capabilities of the Striker II Extreme.
- Scientific & Data:
- SpecviewPerf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02 Final
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Juarez
- Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
- 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: 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 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files on the best quality setting. Al three files will be compressed into both Zip and RAR files, Time will be measured in seconds. Less time to complete the compression is better.
The results of the WinRAR testing show that performance is split between the 790i based Striker II Extreme and the X48 Based X48T-DQ6. The Gigabyte excelled in the Zip compression testing, while the Asus performed better in the RAR compression. The Striker II was slightly faster at rendering the fractal flame image in Apophysis.
SPECviewperf 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.
In the SPECviewperf testing, in four out of six measures, the Striker II Extreme was outperformed. In PCMark Vantage, the margin between the X48 offering and the 790i offering is quite substantial, skewing unfavorably toward the 790i Striker II Extreme.
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 areas of the motherboards.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
In two tests, the Striker loses - but the margin of loss is fairly small. The drive testing should be similar, because the same drive is used for the testing.
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 Striker is outperformed in the CineBench testing. The drive tests are fairly similar, and there is not enough difference in performance to declare one board the victor. With the system based benchmarks, the Striker II Extreme delivered equal or better performance vs. the X48-DQ6 in 24 out of the 35 tests that were run. The Striker lost exactly the amount of tests it won, 11. All things considered, I expected a worse showing.
Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the gaming community. The Crysis single player demo includes both a CPU and GPU benchmark to test the performance of the processor and video card installed in the system.
- Anti-Aliasing x2
- Advanced settings to Medium
In the two lowest resolutions, the Striker II was outperformed by the Gigabyte X48-DQ6, while in the two highest resolutions, the Striker II Extreme topped the Gigabyte offering by one or two frames per second. Not huge margins, but in this game every frame counts.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine that's 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
- DirectX Version: 10
- All resolutions 60Hz
The Striker II Extreme finished ahead of the X48 based board in all four benchmarks.
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
All four resolutions again fall in favor of the Striker in this benchmark.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the latest successor in the Call of Duty series. 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 U.S. Marine or British S.A.S. trooper.
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-Aliasing: x4
- Anisotropic Filtering : Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings: Max
The Striker has its hind parts handed to it in Call of Duty 4 at the three lower resolutions. It does shine in the 1920x1200 test, though.
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:
- AA: x0
- AF: x16
- Graphics Detail: Very High
In three out of four benchmarks, the Gigabyte outperformed the Striker. Again though, the Asus pulls through in the 1920 x 1200 resolution.
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 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: 2048 x 2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti-Aliasing: MSAA x4
At the lowest two resolutions, the scores are identical between the two boards. At 1680 x 1050 the Striker is three FPS better, but falls by one FPS at the maximum resolution tested.
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.
- AA x8
- All other settings to Maximum
In Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts, the performance of the Striker is better than or equal to the X48 board in three out of four resolutions. At 1920 x 1200 the Striker is only two frames per second slower.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest breaks out. 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
As the resolution increases, the Striker performs better than the X48 board. In 20 out of 32 gaming benchmarks, the Striker II Extreme was tied with or better than the X48 offering, actually taking 17 of 32 outright for a winning percentage over 50%.
The Striker II Extreme has the capabilities to allow the enthusiast to push the limits of his hardware. Data corruption issues have been one of the biggest sticking points from the enthusiast community in regards to the 790i and 790i Ultra chipset motherboards, and while this gremlin did not show its ugly face in the testing, the grumblings of the masses were loud enough for the manufacturers to hear. Along that vein, Asus released a new BIOS that addresses this issue specifically on 5/29/08. The only real issue I encountered was with the earlier shipping BIOS - after swapping the memory for a lower rated set to test compatibility, the board gave me a CPU INIT error on the LCD Poster. After going back and forth with the board for a few hours and finally getting a POST, I updated the BIOS to the 0603 beta, and from that point on the Striker II Extreme has been golden. If you lean too hard on it, the recovery from a failed overclock is just a matter of a powering down and up, and you are right back in action. Nvidia chipsets are notoriously hot, and can produce some hurdles detrimental to getting the most from the board. To combat this, the heatsink assembly on the board has an integrated water block to help with the heat removal, and it really works! Not once was the heatsink assembly over the Northbridge warm to the touch, something I have grown accustomed to having to manage in a variety of ways. One other gripe that has to be mentioned is price -at $469, the Striker II Extreme carries a hefty premium over many other boards on the market. Performance does come at a price - but that price, it seems, is a bit steep for a motherboard. Not only is the DDR3 a pricey item, the board is too - now more than ever. The age-old question in auto racing is "How fast you wanna go?" Answer - "How much money you got?" I guess that applies to this round of chipsets as well.
Overclocking the Striker II Extreme can be accomplished in several ways. Auto settings will only take you so far in your quest for speed - to get the most from this, board, expect to spend some time tweaking to maximize the performance of your combination of parts. If the memory modules and CPU are capable, 2000MHz is easy enough to accomplish. One thing that has carried over from the 680i chipset boards to today is the ability to run the memory unlinked from the CPU. The ability comes at a price, however - running unlinked results in a performance loss compared to running the memory linked and synced (essentially a 1:1 ratio). During testing, the performance scores were lower when the CPU and memory were unlinked. It's a hit, but every positive has a negative, and you just have to manage the trade-off. The BIOS has plenty of adjustments to allow the performance to be tweaked. More tweak time would result in even better numbers that those delivered in the testing. The Auto settings do give a decent level of performance, but as with everything the more time you spend tweaking, the more benefits you will see in the performance of the board. Performance-wise, the Striker II Extreme either tied or won 44 out of 67 benchmark tests. It outright topped the X48 chipset based board in 28 of 67 benchmarks, with the balance showing the same performance. With tweaking, I see the performance of the Striker II getting better and better. The 790i Ultra SLI chipset's capabilities outshine the 780i's, so moving to the newer boards is the way to go if SLI or Tri-SLI/Quad SLI is in your future. If you need an Nvidia chipset based board for your multi GPU gaming solution, the Asus Striker II Extreme should be in your shopping cart.
Stay Tuned for our SLI and Tri SLI roundup coming soon.
- Tri-SLI capable
- Liquid cooled Northbridge
- Linked and Synced performance.
- Memory overclocking
- Unlinked memory
- BIOS options
- Early BIOS