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ASUS ROG Rampage III Extreme (X58 Express) Motherboard - The Motherboard

ASUS drops another top-end Republic of Gamers board on us. This time it's the X58 Rampage III Extreme, ready and waiting for our Core i7-980X to make the most of it.

| Socket LGA 1366 in Motherboards | Posted: Jun 25, 2010 9:14 am
TweakTown Rating: 92%      Manufacturer: ASUS

The Board

 

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The RIIIE is a pretty big board. It follows the classical ATX layout and has many of the same short falls of this design. However, ASUS has done a fairly good job of making sure they worked within the limitations of the ATX design to give you a clean layout.

 

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As you can see in the shot below, ASUS has added in some extra surface area to the board level cooling. While this is great, there is one small side effect, the primary PCIe x16 slot's release lever becomes very difficult to reach. This is even more so true when you use a cooler as large as the one we typically test with (the Cooler Master Hyper 212 with an extra fan). We had to use a pen to release that lever once everything was installed as it was impossible to reach it with a finger.

 

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Taking a closer look at the upper right hand corner, we find the usual six RAM slots for an X58 board as well as the now typical overvolting switches, at least that is what you might think they are at first glance. These four switches actually allow you to turn the PCIe slots on or off. What is a little different is the row of voltage read points. ASUS has added in quite a few more than the usual four to five; here we have a bank of eight. You can read these directly from a small pad on the board, or for continuous readings you can attach the handy little adapter that is included. ASUS also moved the Power and Reset switches up to this area. This makes it a little easier to use the board on the typical test bench.

 

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In the close up above you can also see the Go Button and the LN2 jumper. We will cover the Go Button under our BIOS section.

 

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Looking at the CPU socket, you can see some of the Extreme Engine Digi+ features that ASUS has included. There is the hefty FPCAP clearly visible while items like the closer spacing of the frequency interval, the better heat dissipation and conductivity are just a part of the overall design. ASUS has also stated that the coils can take up to 40 Amps. This is very nice as there is going to be less chance of losing power through these while there should also be less heat generated.

 

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ASUS also threw another FPCAP over by the RAM slots for good measure.

 

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With any motherboard these days you are going to need to provide some extra power to keep things stable. If you are looking at a top of the line overclocking motherboard you are going to need something more. Here ASUS has you covered, you get two 8-pin Aux as well as two 4-pin Molex connectors. That is quite a bit of extra power to keep your board humming along. You can also just see one of the thermistor headers in this image right next to the four-pin fan header.

 

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Let's take a minute to look at the X58 Northbridge on the RIIIE. Here we get a nice shot of it. The large round Republic of Gamers logo visible in the picture lights up red when the board it powered on, but that is not what we are looking at here. We are looking at the clearance between the top PCIe slot and the "red" part of the heat sink; there is not much there as you can see, but you will also notice that this piece is removable. You can pull this off and drop on that large fan that we showed you before.

 

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With the fan in place you are limited on the size of the cooler you can use on the CPU. Our Hyper 212 would not fit at all, making this of little use to someone using a large air cooler. It feels like it is more for the water cooling crowd which is a shame as it would certainly benefit people using only air.

 

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The lower half of the board has four well-spaced PCIe x16 slots on it. These are not all x16 electrical, though. If you are looking for dual x16 usage you are going to need slots 1 and 3. If you are using more than two you are going to begin to split things out. For Tri SLI you are going to end up with slots 1, 3, and 4. At that point slot one is x16 while slots 3 and 4 are x8. Quad Crossfire will get you four x8 slots for your troubles.

 

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Looking at the other half of the board, we find the usual suspects, from the Intel ICH10R to the scattered iROG chips. We also find the now stock six SATA II ports and two SATA 3.0 (for Intel) ports. You can see the BIOS switch in this view; it allows you to switch between the dual BIOS chips that are on the board, which is a great feature to have if you want to bounce back and forth between BIOS versions that may allow better performance for specific benchmarks.

 

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The I/O ports on the RIIIE are very similar to what we saw on the Maximus III Extreme. You can see the ROG Connect button, the Bluetooth Connect button, the dual USB 3.0 ports and the rest of the gang. One thing I want to point out here, the LAN port is powered by a Gigabit Intel PHY Ethernet chip. This is out of the normal Marvell or Realtek chips we are used to seeing on even top of the line products. Also visible is the Q reset button. This is used to quickly reset the system when using LN2 for sub-zero overclocking.

 

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Overall I have to say that I like the layout and the look of the RIIIE with a few exceptions. The NB heatsink is way too close to the primary PCIe x16 slot; on a board meant for overclocking and benchmarking I feel this is could be a problem. The optional NB fan is also a waste for anyone using air cooling, well, for anyone using an oversized air cooler. There were also a few items we did not cover directly in the images above like the multiple thermistor headers on the board (two for CPU and one optional), the many LEDs around the board to indicate the power status of different components and much more. Still, overall I think ASUS has done a good job stuffing a lot into the relatively small ATX package.

 

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