We're coming back to P45 with the offspring of the Maximus II - its micro-ATX Gene. Small form factor PCs have seen a renaissance of late, with the original Shuttle XPC and EPIA systems popular several years ago, but most were ultimately noisy or underpowered. Virtually everyone I know who has owned an XPC or EPIA has come back to full ATX, but with micro-ATX boards mirroring their ATX brethren in features and performance - even allowing multi-GPU to squeeze in - there has been a rediscovered middle ground.
With the P45 chipset on its last legs, it may seem strange to keep reviewing boards using it, but there are plenty of LGA775 CPUs still out there that will get successively cheaper once LGA1156 arrives, and for a second mini system - maybe some gaming on your 1080p TV? Another box to take to LANs when the current setup is retired? Or simply because you don't have the space - it's certainly still an attractive and powerful proposition.
The Gene comes with most of the bits the Maximus II Formula has, and we loved the Formula when we reviewed it this time last year - it's one of the few boards we've awarded with Excellence. In that respect we think the Gene should at least stand up to the performance of other full ATX boards, and go a long way to matching the Maximus II Formula.
Asus Maximus II Gene Features:
Support for socket 775 Intel Core 2 Extreme, Quad, Duo and Pentium processors with 1,600, 1,333, 1,066 or 800MHz FSB
Intel P45 north bridge
Intel ICH10R south bridge
Four DDR2 DIMM slots supporting up to 16GB of memory
VIA audio codec supporting 7.1 channel High-Definition surround sound including X-Fi SupremeFX audio, including EAX 4.0, CMSS-3D, Crystaliser and Creative Alchemy
One Realtek RTL8111D PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet connector
Two PCI-Express x16 2.0 slots (x16/x1 or x8/x8 electrical)
One PCI-Express x1 slot
One PCI slots
Six SATA 3Gbps ports including support for RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5
One SATA and eSATA 3Gbps port from JMicron ... chipset
One IDE port
Two IEEE1394a Firewire ports: one on the rear I/O and another via pin-out
Twelve USB 2.0 ports (six on rear I/O and six via pin-outs)
Asus CPU Level UP, Turbo V, OC Profile, External LCD Poster, EPU-6 engine, EZ Flash 2, CrashFree BIOS 3
Click to enlarge
Four SATA cables, two with 90 degree connectors)
Desktop poster LCD display
Asus RoG case sticker
Manual and driver DVD
The mini box comes packed with kit, although not a complete complement: there are only four SATA cables for the seven SATA ports for example, and there are no extra PCI brackets for the pin-outs - you'll have to buy a mATX case with four front USB 2.0 and Firewire instead. For media and LAN PCs though, that's probably the angle taken just for ease of use.
The manual is informative as usual and the auto-driver installation on the disc works well and is always very welcome. The only downside is that if you've set the board to boot from disk it tries to automatically load an unwanted DOS prompt from the disk instead of the OS. Despite the fact we're not so into tarting up our chassis with stickers, the case sticker that comes with it is actually quite nicely done, and having seen it on an Silverstone Sugo SG05, I liked the effect; however it wasn't a uniform opinion shared among the editorial team.