|ASUS Rampage IV Formula X79 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Hank Tolman|
|Thursday, 15 March 2012|
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Closer Look: ASUS Rampage IV Formula Motherboard
The ASUS Rampage IV Formula Battlefield 3 Edition motherboard comes packaged in a box that is decked out in Battlefield 3 images and logos. The box also sports the requisite Intel logos and an SLI logo. All in all, it looks pretty cool.
Opening the flap on the front of the box reveals a windowed view of the motherboard. On the backside of the flap is a description of some of the more prominent features that the ASUS Rampage IV Formula comes with. You can read a short description of the SupremeFX III audio codec, the Extreme Engine Digi+ II, and the bundled software. It also mentions the inclusion of the X-Socket, which is a nice feature that allows you to hang onto your old Sandy Bridge CPU cooler instead of buying a new one.
The ASUS Rampage IV Formula comes with a pretty standard set of accessories. You get four SATA 6Gb/s cables, four SATA 3Gb/s cables, an SLI bridge, a 3-Way SLI bridge, and a ROG Connect USB table. There is also a ROG connect booklet, the I/O cover, some ROG cable labels, and your standard motherboard book and driver/utility disc.
In addition to those relatively normal accessories, the ASUS Rampage IV Formula Battlefield 3 Edition comes with some BF3 and ROG gear. As the front of the box says, the card at the top has a download code for the full version of Battlefield 3 from Origin. The motherboard also comes with a Republic of Gamers door-handle do not disturb sign, a ROG Sticker, and a BF3 Lanyard.
The ASUS Rampage IV Formula motherboard is a full ATX motherboard that sports a lot of the features you are used to seeing in other X79 motherboards. In true Republic of Gamers fashion, the Rampage IV Formula motherboard has a red and black theme. One of the first things I noticed was the conservative style of the heatsinks when compared to some of the ASUS motherboards of the past. The style of heatsinks and piping on the Rampage IV Formula looks very rugged and robust, ready to meet the demands of gamers everywhere.
The Rampage IV Formula has a lot to offer on the I/O end. You get a single legacy PS/2 port, 6 USB 2.0 ports, 4 USB 3.0 ports, 2 eSATA ports, a Gigabit LAN port, 8-Channel Audio ports with an optical S/PDIF out port, a clear CMOS button, and the ROG Connect On/Off switch. Comparatively, I'd have to say that the Rampage IV Formula falls somewhere in the middle. You get 4 USB 3.0 ports, which require the addition of an ASMedia controller since Intel doesn't include any on the chipset. That's two more than the Intel X79 motherboard, but two less than the P9X79 Deluxe. Two powered eSATA ports, also provided by an ASMedia controller, are more than the Sabertooth X79 (which has one powered and one not) and definitely more than the Intel motherboard. The Gigabit Ethernet is provided by the Intel 82579V chip, which has recently been proven superior to other provider's alternatives in a gaming environment. So the I/O sits somewhere in the middle.
One of things that disappoints me on the Rampage IV Formula is the memory capacity. The less expensive Sabertooth X79 and Intel DX79SI both hold eight memory modules, as does the very similarly priced P9X79 Deluxe and the more expensive Rampage IV Extreme. The Rampage IV Formula does support quad-channel memory, with each DIMM slot representing a different channel; A1 is closest to the rear I/O panel and D1 is closest to the 24-Pin power connector. This still allows for up to 32GB of RAM and the speeds supported are the same as the other ASUS X79 motherboards at up to 2400MHz overclocked. The recommended configuration is for a single DIMM in D1, two DIMMs in D1 and B1, three in D1, C1, and B1, and the A1 slot only being used with all four DIMMs in place.
The Rampage IV Formula makes up for a lot, however, when it comes to the PCIe ports. One of the major selling points of the X79 chipset is that it has enough PCIe lanes to support four GPUs in a CrossFire or SLI configuration. Even so, the DX79SI and Sabertooth X79 only have room for three. The P9X79 Deluxe has four slots, but they are so close together that you can really only use three at a time. The Rampage IV Formula has PCIe GPU slots and they are spread out so you can use them all. Of course, if you are going to use them all, you'll have to buy the bridge separately. The configurations look like this:
Let's talk about those PCIe lanes for a minute. The lanes here are PCIe 3.0 lanes. While the technology for PCIe 3.0 lanes has been available for over a year, it hasn't been used until now. The main reason for this is that even PCIe 2.0 bandwidth, at 5GT/s is underutilized by current GPUs. PCIe 3.0 takes that bandwidth up to 8GT/s, but really adds much more because it uses a new technique that does away with the traditional 8b/10b encoding. That 8b/10b encoding can cost up to 20% in bandwidth, meaning the PCIe 2.0 lanes really give about 4GT/s. The new technique, called scrambling, only loses about 1 to 1.5% in bandwidth, so PCIe 3.0 very nearly doubles the previous standard. With that in mind, even running at x8, the bandwidth could, hypothetically, allow the GPU to run at the same bandwidth as traditional x16 slots. This hasn't panned out in testing, but it might prove useful when more GPUs start taking advantage of the higher capabilities.
To finish off our closer look at the ASUS Rampage IV Formula motherboard, we have the SATA ports. There are eight on Rampage IV Formula, besides the two powered eSATA ports on the rear I/O. As you are likely aware, the X79 chipset, like the other Sandy Bridge chipsets, only supports 2 SATA 6 Gb/s ports natively. Here there are four, two powered by an ASMedia controller. The red ports are SATA 6 Gb/s and the black are SATA 3GB/s ports.