We've seen plenty of Republic of Gamer motherboards in the last three years, and with each new board there are yet more unique features or hardware, not to mention an overall design that becomes ever more refined.
Essentially it's a heavily updated Maximus III Formula, a board we felt was good looking but that missed the point in places. From the outside though, things look much the same in the red and black many found so favourable in the first place.
Aesthetically it's cleaner than its Formula forbear, mostly thanks to its very vectorised look - the perpendicular memory and PCI-Express slots fit neatly between the heatsinks, and even the capacitors are neatly grouped. It's certainly subtle, but we think this regularity will be appealing to others as well.
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Hardware-wise it still uses a P55 PCH with an LGA1156 socket for Core i5 and i7 CPUs, or, even i3/Pentium G6950 if you really want. It gets the obligatory pair of USB 3.0 and two SATA 6Gbps ports, which is both good in and of itself, and also means it gets away from the craptacular JMicron storage controller we found on the original Formula. The JMicron 363 does creep in with one port, and one eSATA, but there's no space wasted on IDE and floppy ports. Some extreme overclockers who still use IDE ports for its resilience over SATA will be disappointed, however we suspect the more vocal enthusiast community (where Asus actually makes money) will be glad.
Asus increases the limited PCI-Express lanes available by dropping in an NF200 chip between CPU and five PCI-E x16 slots. These can be set to 2 x 16, 2 x 16 +1 x 8, 4 x 8 or even 5 x 8! Not only that, but it also includes the same PLX chip that we've seen previously on other P55/H57 products. This converts the P55 PCI-E v1.1 lanes at 250MB/s into v2.0 500MB/s, providing more bandwidth for the increased demands of SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0.
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Thankfully Asus hasn't gone crazy with the CPU power hardware - there are not a million power phases; however there's now specifically a higher spec'd 1 milli-Farad capacitor buried between them, to help prevent vdroop on very high voltage overclocks. We're talking about cooling requirements way below zero: something like liquid nitrogen level cooling here, so 99 per cent of us need not care. Asus claims it still makes bit of difference for the rest of us, which we're dubious about, however it's cool nonetheless.