ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
As usual, the most extreme ASUS board is the one with the Republic of Gamers stamp of approval. The new Rampage IV Extreme comes with tons of extra features for gamers and overclockers. We were under the impression that ASUS had already thought of every possible solution to help out overclockers, but they prove us wrong. The new Rampage IV Extreme has a number of unique features that we have not seen before on a motherboard.
The motherboard has eight slots for RAM, and five PCI-Express x16 slots. The lane partition is a bit confusing, however. At most you can use four slots simultaneously. What's peculiar is that slot two and three are effectively one and the same slot. One of them has access to five lanes, depending on where you place the video card. The first slot always has 16 lanes, and slot four and five switch between a 16/0 and 8/8 partition.
So what is the reasoning behind the different partitioning of slots two and three? ASUS has chosen this design to facilitate triple-SLI or triple-Crossfire configurations with video cards that are two and three slots wide. Quad-SLI and -Crossfire is also possible, but only with cards that aren't wider than two slots.
There are eight Serial ATA connections. The two extra slots come from an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. We also see 12 USB 2.0 ports, and eight of the USB 3.0 type. Eight and four of them are external, respectively. Bluetooth is present, but Firewire is not. A Realtek ALC898 is used as audio codec, and ASUS uses an Intel 82579V chip for the Gigabit network connection.
So what are the special features? Let's start with the cooling, because tt's an impressive piece of design. Four heat sinks are connected by heat pipes, in order to disperse the heat from the voltage regulators. The chipset is actively cooled by default, but ASUS says it's safe to disable the fan when not overclocking.
Our favourite special feature on the Rampage IV Extreme is what has been done with the processor socket. ASUS used a smaller version with two different backplates that you can replace yourself. The standard backplate makes it possible to attach authentic Socket 2011 CPU coolers. The second backplate allows you to fasten Socket 1366 coolers. This is a great advantage for people who already invested in special and expensive coolers. The Rampage IV Extreme is the only motherboard on which you can use coolers that have their own backplate, which effectively means that it is the only board that is suitable for dry ice or liquid nitrogen cooling.