Getting even more Extreme
The iROG chip makes an appearance again - this controls the on-board LEDs that show off voltage levels in several places around the board; temperature protection so nothing blows its top, a time keeper function (yes essentially a stop watch), the inevitably acute voltage adjustments and BIOS Flashback feature.
SLI and CrossFireX are both supported on this board - but the selection from the three PCI-Express 2.0 lanes is either x16-x16 or x16-x8-x8. There's no full fat 3-way SLI here, although, proportionally very few people use it compared to just a pair of slots so we'll let Asus off for that one. There are only the six slots instead of seven on the Maximus II Formula though, but the top black PCI-Express x1 slot doubles as the HD Audio slot for the SupremeFX X-Fi daughterboard.
With the same ADI SoundMAX 2000a chipset and Creative X-Fi software features, this provides some access to "EAX gaming" sound if you've blown your entire budget on the board, CPU and several GB of tri-channel memory. However, should you want to drop in a Xonar DX/D2X here you'd be out of luck by the looks of its since the northbridge heatsink gets in the way of any reasonably sized card - oh dear.
Rounding up on the PCB feature front, there is dual Gigabit Ethernet from Marvell 88E8056-NNC1 PCI-Express ICs that provide a teaming function too, and twelve USB 2.0 - six on the rear I/O and six on-board.
Click to enlarge
Off board, the LCD Poster is still present and will continue to show POST information, then either Voltage, temperature or fan speeds, but without a nose around the BIOS we're not sure of the exact extent yet. We're also yet to confirm whether the OC Palm hardware will make an appearance too - this is not to be confused with the "OC Palm" you give yourself after breaking a world-record.
The former will actually make use of the SideShow device originally conceived for the "Vista Edition" products launched early last year. Having used one originally (and found it entirely useless) and then using one now, it's finally got the massive positive potential Asus should have given it in the first place.
The OC Palm feature is a combination of the TweakIT and LCD Poster hardware, except with its own full colour 320x240 pixel LCD screen so it's easy to read and easy to use, although at the time of writing needs a little work to optimise the software. For example, you can keep an eye on your voltages, fan speeds and temperatures, and when you need that bit extra performance just use it to OC on the fly. That's all without even opening your case, rebooting or leaving the OS.
Frankly, this seems like a bit of an Evolution rather than Revolution that the Maximus II and original Rampage were - that's not a bad thing though since those were great boards and Asus has simply, yet again tweaked the hardware and thrown more bits into the package. But with all the word of £300+ Core i7 X58 motherboards these days - how many will Asus sell and how exactly will it balance the books? That said, there are enough of us that shell out £300+ on one or more graphics cards so is it any different?
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