|ASUS Rampage IV Formula Gene Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Hank Tolman|
|Monday, 26 March 2012|
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Closer Look: ASUS Rampage IV Gene Motherboard
Nearly all ASUS Republic of Gamers motherboard boxes look the same. The only exception is specially bundled motherboards like the Battlefield 3 Edition boards in the Rampage IV series. For the most part, though, the boxes are plain red with the Republic of Gamers logo at top and the flames/splash at the bottom. It's not flashy, but it's branded. If you're a ROG fan, you know what to look for.
The ASUS Rampave IV Gene comes with almost the same accessories as the Formula. It has only 2 SATA 3Gb/s cables instead of 4, but it still has 4 SATA 6Gb/s cables. There is an SLI bridge, but no 3-Way bridge and no CrossFire cable. The Q-Connectors are present, as well as the ROG Connect cable and the ROG cable labels. Also absent is the X-Socket pad that allows you to use your old X58 cooler. The driver CD, ROG Connect manual, and the motherboard manual are there as well.
Since the Rampage IV Gene doesn't come with a Battlefield 3 Edition motherboard, so the extras we saw bundled with the Rampage IV Formula BF3 Edition are missing here. There are a couple of extras, however. The Republic of Gamers flame splash sticker and the "I'm Gaming, Do Not Disturb" door hanger come with the Rampage IV Gene motherboard.
The ASUS Rampage IV Gene motherboard is a micro-ATX motherboard. That makes it quite a bit smaller than the full ATX X79 offerings like it's big brother, the Rampage IV Formula. What that also means is that it is missing some of the features the bigger boards can offer. The Rampage IV Gene looks very similar to the other ROG motherboards. It sports the red and black theme and the heatsinks are stylized to match the professional look of the ROG series. The MOSFETS and the rest of the VRM are all covered by heatsinks to help deal with the extra stress the Rampage IV Gene is likely to experience as you boost up the voltage levels for an extreme overclock.
The Rampage IV Gene is a little skimpy on the I/O end, in my opinion. It has all of the necessary items, but none of the extras. There is a legacy PS/2 port for your mechanical keyboard. I usually don't like this, but it makes some sense on a gaming motherboard. PS/2 keyboards can log an unlimited number of simultaneous key presses, where even the best USB keyboards can only keep track of up to 6. This doesn't matter for most people, but some extreme gamers may find themselves in a situation where they want to mash a lot of buttons at once.
The reason I call it skimpy is because it fully loads 8 USB 2.0 ports and only 2 USB 3.0 ports where the Rampage IV Formula has four. It has only one eSATA port rather than two and it's not powered. The reason I find this disappointing is that the Rampage IV Gene has the exact same ASMedia controllers as the Rampage IV Formula. There isn't an issue of space. There could have been two more USB 3.0 ports replacing two USB 2.0 ports on the I/O and there could have been two powered eSATA ports. There just isn't.
Finishing off the I/O panel we have the Gigabit Ethernet port powered by the Intel 82579V chip, providing the best Ethernet connectivity available. Also, you have a clear CMOS button, which comes in extremely handy during overclocking. Besides the 6 standard HD Audio ports, you have an S/PDIF Optical 8-Channel output. The final button is the ROG Connect switch. Turn it on and that bottom USB port turns into a ROG Connect port. Alternatively, that port, when activated, becomes the BIOS flashback port. You can flash the BIOS with the motherboard only connected to a power supply. You don't need to have a CPU, RAM or any other components present. That's a pretty handy feature.
The Rampage IV Gene supports 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 lack of more DIMM slots disappointed me on the Rampage IV Formula, and it disappoints me again on the Rampage IV Gene.
While the Rampage IV Formula makes up for some of its deficiencies with its four fully functional PCIe x16 ports, the Gene can't keep up with that. The micro-ATX form factor won't fit four PCIe x16 ports. As it is, the Rampage IV Gene has three PCIe x16 ports. Two of those ports run at x16 and the third runs at x8. You'd be hard-pressed to use all three, however, since the last two ports are right next to each other. You'll need cards that only take up a single slot to use all three.
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 Gene motherboard, we have the SATA ports. There are seven on Rampage IV Gene, besides the eSATA port 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. With the tighter space requirements of the Rampage IV Gene, there isn't room for the extra two SATA 3GB/s ports you find on the Formula motherboard. The seventh and final SATA port is actually located under the Chipset on the bottom of the board.