High End X58 Motherboard Roundup: Asus, Gigabyte and MSI Compared, Overclocked and Dissected

Motherboards/Intel S1366 by leeghoofd @ 2010-11-10

In this roundup of second generation X58 motherboards we put the best products from Asus, Gigabyte and MSI through the OC grinder, to find out which one can help you push your hardware to the limit. Some in-depth overclocking analysis lies ahead.
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Asus Rampage III Extreme: Up Close

Asus ROG lineups has been quite popular amongst gamers and overclockers. Especially the first Rampage Extreme was a FSB monster. The fastest board for your favourite 3DMark01 ever. Asus was spot on and hit a big weak spot with the enthusiast crowd. The X58 Rampage Extreme II was sort of a hit and miss. Some liked it for its abundance of features, this compared to competitors DFI, Gigabyte and MSI. All the fanciness aside though and looking back at Massmans X58 roundup, most boards had the same potential. This ranging from the entry to high priced specimens. As said in the introduction, the arrival of the X58 eVGA board created a serious shockwave. Requiring immediate action to grab back the performance crown.

Asus did a complete overhaul of the REX II and tried to create an ideal benchers board. Though keeping in mind that their product would still remain at the same or undercut the price level of the Classified board.

Let's see what the Asus engineers came up with :

The Asus lineup of 2010 is following the Crystal colour scheme. Some have already mentioned Asus created a look alike of the eVGA colour scheme, but personally I find this design more refined. But that's all a matter of personal taste.



Even though I like the style of the heatsinks, the IOH heatsink still looks a bit under dimensioned. Asus however includes a bulkier heatsink with fan combo in the box. Just unscrew the 2 screws and position the bigger fan equipped heatsink, screw it all back into position, hook up the fan and you are good to go. Small setback however, once it is installed it is pretty hard to reach the PCI-Express clip. The latter which release the graphics card. What the added heatsink combo does for cooling performance is for later in the article.




The socket area is kept quite free of any mosfets and co, pretty ideal setup for a good and easy insulation. Note the foreseen S775 and 1366 mounting holes for extra compatibility with older CPU coolers.

Like most 2nd generation boards Asus prepared 2 x 8 pin plugs for extra mobo power, this being handy when pushing a Gulftown CPU to the edge. Two additonal 4 pin Molex connectors are ready to feed your favoured SLI/Crossfire setup with the required juice. One molex above the the top PCI-E and a 90° angled one at the bottom of the PCB.




4 dip switches can enable/disable the PCI-E slots, this to enhance debugging when using multiple card setups. Easy to reach read out points, for the die hard benchers, awaiting your favourite Digital MultiMeter to monitor. Asus patented Go Button, allowing quick and easy boot up ( from a GO profile you created in the bios) is again present.

Asus Q LED poster is the same type as with the Crosshair Formula IV. Debugging a non boot is facilitated, but some prefer still the old fashioned LED readout as it's more accurate on what exactly failed.



The power and reset button also find their place in this getting rather cramped area. Just right of the Start button, is a LN2 jumper. Enabling it, should enhance booting under extreme cold.

One undocumented jumper is next to the 24 pin Power Connector. The QPI Voltage Load Line Calibration jumper minimizes droop/drop for maximising stability.



Moving further downwards we see the 90° angled S-ATA ports. The black ones being controlled by the Intel ICH 10R controller. The Red ones are S-ATA 3.0 and are being steered by the onboard Marvell controller. Another controller is the JMicron JMB363 to which the standalone S-ATA port is hooked to. More than enough ways to create RAID arrays and/or hook up a multitude of storage devices.



Next to the System Panel connector we locate a bios switch. Which, yes you guessed it, allows you to switch between the 2 removable biosses. Like on all the latest additions to the ROG family the iROG chip is present, to enhance easier overclocking. To clear one of the CMOS chips you can either choose between the classic jumper or a push button on the backpanel.



The rear panel connectors from left to right : 2 USB 2.0 and a purple PS2 keyboard connector. The Clear CMOS and Optical S/PDIF OUt port. Two USB 2.0, a Firewire and one External S-ATA port. Next up two more USB 2.0 and the LAN RJ45 port. The renowned ROG connect button and ROG Connection port for overclocking via a laptop or another PC. The Blue S-ATA 3.0, powered by the NEC chip are just left of the audio ports. The Audio can be max configured as a 8 channel setup.



The RC Bluetooth card has to be plugged into the above spot. This allows you to even OC the setup from a mobile phone or sort-likes. Check their website for the compatibility and needed software.

The NEC chip responsible for the two USB 3.0 ports squeezed in between the EZ PLUG Molex and the Audio I/O connections. The picture on the right showing the connection for the optional OC station.



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