Asus Rampage II Extreme Review

Geekspeak411 - 2009-05-22 06:37:55 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: Geekspeak411   
Reviewed on: January 26, 2010
Price: $370

Introduction:

With the X58 chipset well established as the new standard in enthusiast systems, vendors are trying to push the market to more mainstream audiences by doing whatever it takes to lower prices. Luckily for us, there are vendors out there that remember their roots and refuse to lower the quality of their products; vendors like Asus! With the Rampage II Extreme, Asus makes a bold move to make a board with specs that geeks can cuddle up to at night.

The Asus P6T got great results, especially in the overclocking regimen, so I have very high hopes and expectations for this board with the upgrade to 16 phase circuitry, among many other things. Without further ado, the Rampage II Extreme!

 

Closer Look:

The Rampage II Extreme comes in the same red flame motif style that its little brother, the Rampage II GENE, comes in. It holds its style well, while proclaiming its leetness simply through the powerful logos plastered on the box; the most prominent of which is the Republic of Gamers logo in the top left corner. Along the bottom, Asus has put the Core i7 logos, the X58 Chipset logo, the Crossfire X logo, and the SLI logo. With that combination of certifications, you know this puppy packs a punch. Of course, you cant miss Asus's own "Rock Solid, Heart Touching" logo in the bottom right. Opening the flap on the front of the box gives you a full frontal of this beast. The top section touts a ton of the exclusive features included on this board, as well as squeezing in some more logos and pictures. When you flip the box over, you are greeted by five captions in many different languages, as well as four pictures showing the "TweakIt" & "ProbeIt" area, the "Extreme Engine" sans heatspreader/ROG LED, a screen shot of the bundled 3DMark Vantage Advanced Edition, and a picture of the SupremeFX X-Fi audio card included with the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening up the box brings you to another stage of Asus's welcomed class. There are two black boxes within, one that contains the accessories, and one that contains the motherboard protected by a thick clear plastic mold used for the window. The accessories box opens through a unique fold out design that is a welcome relief from the usual brown cardboard frame. In the RIIE's accessory box, you see four partitions chock full of goodies to get you well on your way within the Republic of Gamers.

 

 

Some notable items include a very thick and informative Users Guide, a Driver Disc, an Asus Q-Fan with instructions for the ones among us who couldn't handle installing a fan, an LCD Poster, the SupremeFX X-Fi audio card, and the very cool, over the top illuminated back panel.

 

 

I can't wait to delve into the guts of this baby!

Closer Look:

With all the LGA1366 CPUs locked in to the X58 Chipset, it is pretty difficult for a manufacturer to differentiate its product from the next one, short of additional power phases and the like. Eventually we reach a point where the board's capabilities surpass the CPU's capabilities and any additional features would be added in vain. Asus went beyond the call of duty in providing the highest available features and then went one step further by adding a world-class ROG accessory bundle on top.

Starting with the big boys, we have the first leap away from other boards in that the RIIE comes with its own SupremeFX X-Fi enabled sound card, allowing you to turn on all the goodies without buying an additional board. This is definitely a huge step up from integrated audio. Next is the ROG LCD Poster, which allows you to see all the different temperatures and voltages going through the system at any time, but on top of that, the most useful purpose in my opinion is the live boot progress streaming, allowing you to monitor exactly where the system is hanging during boot IN PLAIN ENGLISH! This is a huge help when overclocking, allowing you to see what component is complaining. Finally we get to the illuminated back plate for the RIIE, which plugs into the motherboard directly and stays illuminated the entire time the power supply is plugged into the wall; pretty helpful for setting up in low light situations like LAN parties and is just all together pretty cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, we have a standard grade expansion port USB 2.0/Firewire expander panel. The cords are thoughtfully wrapped for us. The RIIE comes with six SATA cables, three with standard heads and three with 90 degree heads, which make it a lot easier to install your hard drive in some situations. Asus seems to be thinking ahead of the competition, or behind rather, with the inclusion of a three-head IDE/PATA cable. Asus knows that people like ccokeman and I still love their IDE-based optical drives and other various peripherals!

 

 

Of course, what would a ROG board be without dual-card and tri-card SLI adapters?

 

Wrapping up this all-inclusive accessory bundle, we have some things that are unique to Asus. First we have the Q-connectors that are becoming increasingly common nowadays. Q-connectors let you plug the front panel headers onto the device outside of the case then allowing you to install all the headers on the motherboard at once. Also seen here are the three temperature probes that plug into the motherboard directly and allow you to monitor the temperatures of anything in the case and display it on the LCD Poster seen above. Finally, we have yet another tribute to the deep enthusiast roots of this board with the inclusion of ProbeIt. These two cable sets let you plug into the motherboard directly and monitor voltages going to all the main components with a multimeter. No more searching the motherboard for the proper solder points, no more shorting; just plug in the connector cable and insert the multimeter handles. If you want to skip the cords, Asus has placed easy solder points right next to the connector headers for the same purpose.

 

 

 

Ok, let's take a look at the RIIE in the flesh!

Closer Look:

Taking the Rampage II Extreme out of the motherboard tray left me in awe at the size of this beast. It should be noted that the RIIE is 1" wider than the ATX standard calls for, so you will need to check your case if you plan on installing this in a mid-tower. It barely fits in the Antec Sonata Elite. Barely. Practically 0.0" inches left over. Asus needs the room however because there is still no space left over after all the additional iROG features are accounted for! Without further ado, I give you the RIIE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First and foremost, I would like to point out the cooling system used on the RIIE because when it boils down to getting the most performance out of your system, chips can only be pushed so far before heat becomes the dangerously limiting factor. Every single heatsink on the RIIE is serviced by a common heatpipe stretching all the way from the voltage regulators to the IOH, allowing idle heatsinks to assist their overloaded counterparts. The cooler on the X58 chip is attached via Asus' fuzion standard, meaning you can easily swap the air cooler out for a compatible water block with just two screws. There is good quality thermal grease used on every contact, which is a very welcome change from some of the nightmarish compounds seen on other boards in the past.

 

 

On the RIIE, you will find all the toppings, including three PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots (in a x16, x16, x8 configuration), two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, and a PCI slot for any legacy equipment you can't live without. There is a floppy header for those of us that still use floppies to create our RAID volumes. Two BIOS chips allowing for two completely separate saves and settings ensuring 100% up-ish time. Lastly, there are seven 3.0Gbps SATA 2.0 ports and one PATA port for the many of us out there still holding onto our trusty IDE optical drives.

 

 

 

The IO panel is fully stocked with six USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 port, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, a Firewire 800 port, an E-SATA port, and a CMOS reset butten to top it all off!

 

 

Being a ROG board, the Rampage II Extreme has some features that are quite unique. First off, you have the TweakIt area of the board that not only has the power and reset buttons, but also live tweaking controls, allowing you to fine tune your overclocks from within Windows! Also, underneath the LED ROG plate, there is a dedicated Power Card that ensures reliability under all circumstances.

 

 

 

Wow, the RIIE's hardware isn't kidding around. Let's see if the software bundle keeps the trend going.

Closer Look:

The RIIE comes with one disc that holds everything required to get started and then some. From simple drivers and updates to fully fledged software bundles to get you burning disks, editing audio and everything else.

Putting in the disc brings up an autorun dialog, and selecting to execute brings up an Asus Rampage II Extreme motherboard support window automatically selected by operating system. There are six different tabs to choose from; Drivers, Utilities, Make Disk, Manual, Video, and Contact. There are also four blue buttons in the top right of each tab allowing you see additional information, as well as allowing you to explore the disk manually. With this disk, we can create RAID disks as well as reference a digital manual if we lose the print edition, watch some entertaining videos of some overclocking sessions, or view contact info if you should ever find yourself with some questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Drivers tab has two options; Asus InstAll, and Asus TweakIt. The first option is a simple program that intelligently installs the software that you don't currently have, which makes installation a lot easier. When clicked, a window pops up displaying all the possible software to install, as well as the version on your computer, along with check boxes to select which ones to install. It even calculates how many restarts will be required. Otherwise you can install stuff one by one by clicking the links below. TweakIt enables live BIOS tweaking on a PS/2 keyboard.

 

The Utilities tab has a ton of different programs that Asus has decided to include. Asus Update is pretty self-explanatory in that it keeps all your Asus stuff up to date with the support website. PC Probe II is a mildly useful and very unwieldy program that displays the readout of just about every sensor on the board. Viewing is the limit though; you can't change any settings from here. AI Suite is simply a utility used to keep track of all the other utilities. AI Direct Link is a program designed to expedite inter-network file transfers; it is pretty plain and streamlined. Adobe Reader 8 is included, which ensures you can open all the support files without having to have an active internet connection. The 'Anti-Virus Utility' is actually quite a nice surprise. Asus bundled a full version of Kaspersky's Anti-Virus, which is very effective and is known for its speed; a good choice for an enthusiast board. 3DMark Vantage is the one program that always comes up in a performance battle. Retailing for $20, the inclusion is amiably noted. Another heavy-hitter inclusion is that of Corel's MediaOne Starter. This bundle is very useful and useable. While it is no Adobe suite, it is an excellent alternative for the casual user. Next on the list is TurboV. This application is Asus' version of within-Windows overclocking. Personally, I don’t use these apps for fear of going too far and destroying my Windows files in the process. For the casual user wanting to get used to low to mid overclocking though, this is an excellent way to start; very simple and straight-forward. Lastly is WinZip. Almost everyone has used WinZip, but Windows now has a satisfactory zipper built in, so this is pretty extraneous, especially since it’s a trial. Come on Asus, you're above that.

 

 

 

 

 

Possibly the centerpiece of the whole bundle is the X-Fi Console from Creative. Gamers will know X-Fi from its awesome EAX experience. Audiophiles will know X-Fi for its excellent audio quality and manipulation. Most of the features can be found in programs like Windows Media Player, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but you have to hear the performance to really understand what the hype is all about.

 

 

 

 

 

As if all the other goodies aren't enough, you finally have the karaoke app, which effectively removes the lead voice from just about any track you put through it. The program will allow you to set up a playlist and adjust microphone volume directly. This program would be an excellent addition to a HTPC hooked up to a nice stereo system and TV. The uATX form-factor is perfect for such a position as well! We can burn to discs as well in almost any format with the included burner.

 

 

Way to go Asus! Only one or two iffy inclusions makes for an awesome software bundle! On to the BIOS.

Closer Look:

The BIOS is the heart of any enthusiast motherboard. It is the hub of every nitty-gritty detail of your system. The BIOS decides how you overclock, how you configure hard drives, what kind of profiles you can load, how fast your system boots, how stable your system is, and so on. In a top of the line motherboard such as the Rampage II Extreme, the quality of the BIOS is of utmost importance. As always, navigation is done through the arrow keys and enter/escape. For this review, we used the latest American Megatrends available from Asus, version 1504. One thing to note about the RIIE is its implementation of not one, but two BIOS chips. This way, if you have a failed overclock on one chip, all you have to do is switch to the other and back up a step. This also allows you to store two completely different configurations for stock and OC settings above the OC profiles also offered here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme Tweaker After entering the boot screen by pressing delete at startup, you are brought immediately to the 'Extreme Tweaker' tab; a welcome tribute to its roots. This tab, however, deserves an in depth look and will therefore be scrutinized further on the next page.

 

Main This tab contains all your general features, such as the time and date. You also configure your data drives from this screen. Features included on this board include SMART technology, RAID, and SATA 2.0. At the bottom of the screen, there is a link to a general overview of the current system status, including which BIOS you are currently booted into.

 

 

 

Advanced The advanced tab gives you a list of all kinds of different information about the configuration settings from CPU and Chipset configurations, to the iROG features like the LCD Poster. You have the Chipset Configuration submenu, which defines the North Bridge and VT-d settings; the Onboard Devices Configuration submenu that has all your I/O settings; your USB Config submenu, which is pretty self explanatory; the Advanced PCI/PnP settings, which allow you to define whether your OS is Plug and Play compatible or not; the LCD Poster and LED Control submenu allows you to define what is displayed on all the ROG displays within the system; and finally the iROG Configuration submenu allows you to configure the BIOS boot settings.

 

 

 

 

Power Pretty self explanatory, the power tab allows monitoring and customization of all things power.

 

 

 

 

Boot The boot tab allows you to set default boot settings, choose which BIOS chip to boot from, and allows you to set a password.

 

 

 

Tools Possibly the most useful section of the BIOS, the tools tab gives you access to Asus's EZ-Flash utility, letting you flash the BIOS from anything like a hard drive or a flash drive. This is also where you set the OC profile settings, flash one BIOS chip to the other, and control TweakIt batch files.

 

 

 

 

Exit Finally you sum up your experience with the exit tab. Nothing to see here so let's move on to the fun stuff.

Closer Look:

The Extreme Tweaker tab of the BIOS is the very first page that you see when you enter the BIOS and rightfully so. With the RIIE's deep Republic of Gamers heritage, it comes as no surprise that the tweaking section of the BIOS is extraordinary. With OCC's enthusiast roots, we have dedicated an entire page to delving into the guts of what matters most to tweakers in choosing a motherboard. Sit back and enjoy.

The RIIE's BIOS is by far the best BIOS I have ever used because it is extremely well thought out and has a very Apple-esque manner about it, in that what it does it does exceptionally well. There was obviously a lot of time spent in brainstorming and planning how to make the most effective BIOS possible for its flagship model. Scrolling down the tab, it takes three screens to successfully capture everything here; from clock speeds to voltages to timings, it is all here. One feature that stands out to me is how Asus displays all the live settings in yellow above where you can make tweaks, which are displayed in blue. This is especially helpful when you are experimenting with different voltages and decide to make some more drastic changes; you can always stand back for a second and see exactly what you had before and double check that all your settings are proportionally altered before even leaving the BIOS. I also like this feature because, even when the board is set to automatically alter voltages and speeds, you can see just where it is putting things. Up top you can go through the different overclocking options, such as CPU Level Up, which lets you "upgrade" your chip to the next-in-line speedwise, such as taking a i7-920 and using Level Up to have the board automatically overclock it to i7-950 or i7-975 clock speeds. You can use a similar approach to your RAM as well. You can edit the CPU Ratio, DRAM Frequency, UNCORE frequency, and the QPI link rate. The DRAM timings section will be covered below. Moving on you have the power phase settings, load line calibration settings, and options for differential amplitude, which it awesome for extreme overclockers. The voltage section is very in depth and allows you to not only see the current voltages, but also lets you key in your own voltages; restricted to menus, no longer! Every voltage on the board is visible and available. Finally, at the bottom, you have the spread spectrum settings and clock skew settings; another boon to extreme overclockers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The CPU subsection is accessible from two different tabs, but I feel it is more suited to the tweaking page. Here you can define all the settings on your CPU's features. Very helpful and intuitive.

 

 

 

The RAM timing section is completely over the top! I think I did a triple-take there. I don't think there is a single timing hidden away here; I will let the pictures tell the tale.

 

 

The BIOS is simply incredible. On to the specs!

Specifications:

CPU Intel® Socket 1366 Core™ i7 Processor Extreme Edition/Core™ i7 Processor Processors Supports Intel® Dynamic Speed Technology * Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
Chipset Intel® X58 /ICH10R
System Bus Up to 6400 MT/s with QuickPath Interconnection
Memory 6 x DIMM, Max. 24 GB, DDR3 2000(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600(O.C.)/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory Triple channel memory architecture * Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) **Due to Intel spec definition, DIMMs of DDR3-1333 or above are out of spec. Please refer to www.asus.com or user manual for the Memory QVL(Qualified Vendors List).
Expansion Slots 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 support at x16, x8, x8, or dual x16 speed 2 x PCIe 2.0 x 1 ( the PCIEx1_1 (black) is compatible with audio slot) 1 x PCI 2.2
Multi-GPU Support Support NVIDIA 3-Way SLI™ / ATI CrossFireX™ Technology * We recommend that you use full tower chassis for building a 3-Way SLI system.
Storage Intel ICH10R controller 6 xSATA 3 Gb/s ports Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10 JMicron® JMB363 PATA and SATA controller 1 xUltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices 1 xExternal SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go) 1 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s port
LAN Dual Gigabit LAN controllers, both featuring AI NET2 Support Teaming Technology
Audio SupremeFX X-Fi Audio Card - ADI® AD2000B 8 -Channel High Definition Audio CODEC - EAX® Advanced™ HD 4.0 - X-Fi CMSS®-3D - X-Fi Crystalizer™ - Creative ALchemy - Supports 1 x S/PDIF out header - Supports Coaxial/Optical S/PDIF out ports on rear
IEEE 1394 2 x 1394a ports (1 port at back I/O, 1 port onboard)
USB 12 USB 2.0 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at back panel)
Overclocking Features TweakIt ProbeIt Extreme Engine with ML Cap - 16-phase CPU power - 3-phase QPI/DRAM power - 3-phase NB power - 3-phase Memory power - ML Caps on CPU, memory and NB respectively CPU Level Up iROG Extreme Tweaker BIOS Flashback Loadline Calibration Intelligent overclocking tools: - AI Gear 4™ - ASUS AI Booster Utility - O.C Profile Overclocking Protection: - COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX) - Voltiminder LED - ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special Features External LCD Poster Onboard Switches: Power / Reset / Clr CMOS (at rear) EL I/O Q-Fan Plus ROG BIOS Wallpaper ASUS EPU-6 Engine ASUS Q-Connector ASUS Fan Xpert ASUS EZ Flash 2 ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3 ASUS MyLogo3
Back Panel I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 Keyboard port(purple) 1 x External SATA port 2 x LAN (RJ45) port 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports 1 x IEEE1394a port 1 x Clr CMOS switch
Internal I/O Connectors 3 x USB connectors supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports 1 x Floppy disk drive connector 1 x IDE connector 7 x SATA connectors 1 x IEEE 1394a connector 1 x Chassis Fan connector x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector 24-pin ATX Power connector 1 x EL I/O Shield Connector 3 x thermal sensor connector 1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS connector System Panel 8 x Fan connectors: 1 x CPU / 1 x PWR / 3 x Chassis / 3 x Optional 8 x ProbeIt connectors 1 x LCD Poster connector 1 x BIOS FlashBack boot up selection header 1 x ROG light connector
BIOS 16 Mb Flash ROM AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS
Manageability WOL by PME,WOR by PME,Chasis Intrusion,PXE
Accessories ProbeIt Cable 3-Way SLI Cable SLI Cable ASUS Optional Fan SupremeFX X-Fi Audio Card External LCD Poster 3 in 1 ASUS Q-Connector Kit UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable SATA cables SATA power cables 2-port USB2.0 + IEEE 1394a module EL I/O Shield Thermal sensor cables Cable Ties User's manual
Support Disc Support DVD: - Drivers and applications Sound Blaster X-Fi Utility Futuremark® 3DMark® Vantage Advanced Edition Kaspersky® Anti-Virus ASUS TurboV utility ASUS PC Probe II ASUS Update ASUS AI Suite
Form Factor ATX Form Factor 12 inch x 10.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 26.9 cm ) * One inch greater than standard ATX form factor

 

Features:

CPU & Chipset Features

ROG Exclusive Features

Sound with Clarity

 

 

All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=W7i5W4Pw4fH22Mih&templete=2

Testing:

Testing is where a product has the chance to really show its spunk. Here at OCC, we pass every product we review through a rigorous testing regiment to see just how far it can go. With the Rampage II Extreme, this will include overclocking, stress testing, and flat out performance numbers. Anything can look good on paper; it is what the benches show that counts. I will see just how well the spectacular BIOS performs, and by using the OCC Benchmarking Suite, I will show you just how much it matters.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Already knowing that I am limited by the stepping of my processor in its inability to hit 4GHz 24hr stable, I decided instead to opt for as quick and simple of an overclock as possible. I throttled the base clock to 180 and set the multiplier to 21 and left everything else on auto. The RIIE performed like a champ and set proper voltages throughout! That is completely amazing for someone looking to get into overclocking, since, as I showed before, you can just go in to the BIOS and see what settings the board is using to be stable and go on tweaking from there; what a great way for people to learn. I have included a shot of the system running Prime95 with CPU-Z running.

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. PCMark Vantage Professional
  4. Sandra XII
  5. ScienceMark 2.02
  6. Cinebench 10
  7. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty: World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

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:

 

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. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

 

 

RAR:

 

 

Performance in Apophysis was identical across the board, while the Rampage II Extreme performed right up with the competition in the compression tests.

Testing:

 

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 RIIE, like its little brother, pops out of the bag with the PCMark suite, garnering the highest score bar none!

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 key areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

Following its earlier performances, the Rampage II Extreme continues to edge in at the top of the pack for most of the benchmarks.

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 Rampage II Extreme meets or beats the competition in all the tests here.

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially 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 Far Cry 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 50km2 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.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rampage II Extreme performs very similarly to its smaller brother throughout and beats the crowd at 1680x1050.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance across all the boards is very similar.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddys". 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. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again we have very little deviation from the mean.

Testing:

Activision's Call of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The deadlock continues with the Rampage II Extreme near the top of the pack.

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing of the seemingly silent and "dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional, over-the-shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the Rampage keeps rolling along! (For those familiar with the cadence)

Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling in right behind its smaller brother, the two Republic of Gamers boards lead the pack.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!

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Hmm, not too much to see here.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King of the hill? Why yes, I believe it is!

Testing:

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.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excluding one abnormality, the Rampage II Extreme reigns supreme.

Conclusion:

Well, one thing is for sure, there is a new big player in town. The Rampage II Extreme boasts king of the hill benchmark performance that is necessary to compete with the big boys in 3DMark competitions. The package comes at a premium of course, but you've got to pay to play, and this board definitely delivers! The BIOS is incredible, answering my prayers! I love the LCD panel during boot because I can see exactly where the system is hanging after an unstable overclock, allowing me to cut the guess work to almost none! The Illuminated I/O panel is awesome for those of us who like to attend LAN parties, or are working in low light situations. That's awesome because there are a ton of ports to choose from; it's easy to miss a port without the light.

Staying true to its Republic of Gamers branding, the Rampage II Extreme takes care of its own by including X-Fi audio, SLI and Crossfire support, plenty of fan headers, three thermal probes, and even comes stock with a water cooling-ready design over the chipset! The only drawback to having so many features is the size; the RIIE is one inch wider than standard ATX boards. It is a very tight squeeze. Also, I would have liked to see a detachable design for the Extreme OC controls, but those are miniscule quarrels to have with a board that is quite possibly the fastest, most fully fitted board on the market. If you are looking for the very best all around performance for your Socket 1366 system, look no further than the Rampage II Extreme!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: