A couple of months ago, we had a first look at Asus’ Striker Extreme motherboard and we were excited by the way that Asus has completely over-engineered everything on the board. However, at that time, the board was not shipping and we were using both pre-production hardware and a pre-production BIOS. We’re back now to see how BIOS development has been going at Asus over the last two months, given that the product is on the verge of shipping here in the UK.
The Striker Extreme carries many of the unique features found on the Asus Crosshair and also has a supremely executed layout. Asus claims that its flagship nForce 680i SLI board is the ultimate gaming motherboard, with the best hardware engineering, the highest performance and the most innovative ideas. Let’s put the company’s claims to the test and find out if it is the ultimate gamer’s motherboard, or whether it’s simply priced out of the market.
Asus Striker Extreme Overview:
Support for all Intel LGA775 processors, including Pentium 4, Pentium D, Pentium Extreme Edition, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Extreme;
NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI chipset
Northbridge: NVIDIA C55XE;
Southbridge: NVIDIA MCP55XE;
Support for up to 8GB of DDR2-533, DDR2-667 or DDR2-800MHz memory, with additional support for NVIDIA SLI-Ready Memory up to 1200MHz;
Two PCI-Express x16 slots for SLI (blue, running at x16) and one PCI-Express x16 slot (white, running at x8), one PCI-Express x1 slot and two PCI slots;
Asus SupremeFX Audio Card with 7.1 channel support via ADI1988B HD Audio codec, complete with jack sensing, multi-streaming, jack-retasking and noise filter, along with co-axial and optical S/PDIF out ports;
Dual Gigabit Ethernet PHY via a pair of PCI-Express based Marvell 88E1116-NNC1 network controllers;
Six native SATA 3Gbps ports supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD;
Two eSATA 3Gbps ports supporting SATA-on-the-Go (on rear I/O panel);
Support for ten USB 2.0 ports (four on rear I/O panel, six via on-board pins/expansion brackets);
Two IEEE1394a Firewire ports (one on rear I/O panel, one via on-board pins/expansion brackets);
One ATA133 connector and one floppy connector.
One black floppy cable;
One black IDE cable;
Six SATA cables (three with right-angle connectors on one end);
Three pairs of molex to SATA power converters;
One PCI Backplate with one 6-pin Firewire port;
One PCI Backplate with two USB 2.0 ports;
Metal IO Shield with rear illumination;
Three temperature probes;
Additional axial fan for heatpipe cooling;
SoundMAX array microphone;
SoundMAX audio riser card;
Republic of Gamers key ring;
User manual, driver/utility CD, Intervideo Media Launcher;
Full versions of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter & 3DMark06.
Not surprisingly, the bundle is very similar to the one that comes with the Asus Crosshair; that’s not a bad thing though, because the Crosshair’s bundle was a killer. There is room for improvement in a few areas, though.
It’s questionable whether the end user wants a free Republic of Gamers key ring, but we’ll forgive Asus on this one since the board is part of the company’s premium brand. As with the Crosshair, it’s a shame to see the pair of USB ports and lone Firewire port on separate PCI brackets when they could have easily fit on the one bracket to save space. It would have been nice to see some rounded IDE cables, instead of the ones that even come included with Asus’ el cheapo motherboards. Being a premium brand, we would have expected something a little better than standard ribbon cables.
Notable inclusions in the bundle are the SoundMAX array microphone, the Q-connector, the three temperature probes and the illuminated rear IO shield. The array microphone works by only picking up sounds directly in front of the pair of small microphones (that are roughly 100mm apart), thus helping to remove background noise. It’s a good idea, but it’s not a replacement for a good quality microphone.
The Q-connector is probably the most innovative inclusion because it’s so simple yet effective. We’ve seen it before in the M2N32-SLI Deluxe’s bundle – it’s a pin extension for the front panel LEDs and switches. It basically allows you to connect the front panel pin headers without needing to work a dark corner at the bottom of your case; it’s intuitive and much less hassle for someone with big fingers like mine.
There is an SLI connector included in the bundle, but unfortunately, it was left on the bench when we were photographing the board and bundle. Apologies for that.