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X58 Motherboard Roundup July 2010

X58 Motherboard Roundup July 2010

X58 Roundup Featuring ASRock, ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI

ASUS Rampage 3 Extreme

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The Rampage 3 Extreme arrives in a large box with a familiar Republic of Gamers design. Inside there are two smaller boxes, the first contains the motherboard and the second has the bundled components… of which there are many. The more important items include a 3-Way SLI Bridge, Bluetooth module and cables to allow CrossFireX operation. Asus also bundle a set of stickers to label cables and an active cooler which can be installed on the large, passive heatsink for lower temperatures.

ASUS add value to their bundle by adding a full copy of 3DMark Vantage to the software disc.

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The Rampage 3 Extreme is a large ATX board, measuring 30.5×26.9cm and it uses the X58 Northbridge and ICH10R Southbridge. As expected all Core i7, Socket 1366 CPUs are supported including the six core 980X and alongside the CPU location are six, triple channel enabled memory slots. These support 24GB of DDR3 and ASUS state that 2200MHz modules are supported as is X.M.P. Also in this area of the board are three buttons. The first two are reasonably normal, the power and reset however the third adds some useful functionality. The Go button works with the ASUS bundled software and BIOS to apply an overclocking profile on the fly.

Also located in this area of the board are a selection of circuits which allow us to check various different aspects of the board using a multimeter, including CPU voltage.

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As always the add-in card slots are located at the bottom left of the PCB and the use of black and red looks particularly good. The slots run in the following order. PCIe 16x, PCIe 16x, PCIe 4x, PCIe 8x, PCI, PCIe 8x. Also worth noting is that the board features two Molex connectors, one at each end of the PCIe stack, these provide additional power and stability to this area of the board when multiple high specification cards are installed.

At the bottom left of the board are the SATA ports. This board has seven SATA 2 ports, six use the ICH10R Southbridge and allow RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 with two SATA 3 ports alongside running of the Marvell 9128 chipset.

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ASUS offer a good level of connectivity on the back panel in addition to two buttons. The first button allows us to clear the BIOS and the second is the ROG Connect on/off switch. One of its most useful features is that, while in standby, if we install a USB drive in the ROG USB connector and press the button for two seconds, any BIOS on the stick will be flashed to the board without any user interaction. This allows for easy recovery from crashes.

In terms of connectivity we have PS/2, 7x USB 2.0, 1x eSATA, Firewire, Optical out, Intel GB LAN, 2x NEC USB 3.0 and the connectors for our on-board Realtek 7.1 audio.

It is also possible to see in the above image that the Rampage 3 Extreme has two 8pin connectors at the top of the board, one more than most high performance boards. This adds further power for higher stability when using high performance components and overclocking.

Extreme BIOS, Software and Extra Features

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ASUS use a great BIOS update tool on their boards, EZ Flash 2 is the most user friendly utility we have used for this process and as well as being easy to use it gives us plenty of information on the flash procedure. For the main BIOS ASUS use American Megatrends and the main configuration options can be found in the Extreme Tweaker screen. In here we can choose from a selection of pre-defined overclocking options and manually adjust the settings if feeling a little more adventurous. There is a huge scope available on each option, including the ability to apply 2.3v to the CPU.

For their software the main tool that users will access with the Rampage 3 Extreme is ROG Connect, a utility which is able to run on a 2nd system such as a laptop and allows the user to monitor and control the BIOS settings from a Windows based user interface. We simply connect the bundled USB cable to the ROG connector on the Rampage and plug the other end into our 2nd system to gain access.

We have covered a lot of the main features of the board above but this product is completely packed with functionality so here are a few of the more useful technologys which ASUS provide:

BIOS Flashback- 2 BIOS Chips for added piece of mind when overclocking.

Voltmeter LED – A selection of LEDs on the motherboard which shows the status of aspects such as CPU and memory voltage.

Q-Connector – A bundled block which makes case wiring easier.

LN2 Mode – Features designed to assist with LN2 overclocking, such as the Q Reset button which cuts power to the CPU, assisting in recovery from a frozen processor.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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