Almost perfection: ASUS Rampage IV Extreme review

Initially designed as gaming motherboards the epic Republic of Gamers board series soon developed into full-blown enthusiast boards sporting some of the most innovative features available. The latest entry is the Rampage IV Extreme and it has the potential to be the best yet.

There is no debating that the red and black colour scheme used by ASUS is sexy finished with four modest-sized heatsinks one with a small fan built in. This fan is potentially the one and only design flaw of the R4E with a strong possibility that over time it will become dusty and loud.

ASUS has followed the trend of dropping legacy PCI slots and provided a single 1x PCI-E and five full-sized PCI-E slots with adequate spacing to run four-way CrossFire or SLI configurations. As far as storage is concerned there’s capacity for four SATA 2 drives and a further four SATA 6Gb/s drives.

Memory enthusiasts are not forgotten either with eight memory slots on board more than enough to power your home virtualisation cloud. The IO shield is jam-packed with eight USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 ports a single Gigabit Ethernet port a CMOS clear button and the standard audio connectors.

Where things get interesting is with the additional features included on this motherboard thanks to overclocking legend Shamino who recently began working at ASUS. The OC Key adapter sits between the graphics card and the monitor’s DVI connector and when enabled it displays an overlay of the current voltages and frequencies directly onto the monitor. OC Key doesn’t stop there allowing you to connect a second keyboard to control voltages and frequencies directly; it’s like having access to your BIOS at all times. On a more extreme note there are two Subzero Sense ports on board that when paired with standard temperature probes are able to report temperatures of key components directly to the OC Key heads-up display.

ASUS is always at the front of the pack when it comes to 2D performance and the R4E doesn’t disappoint tying with the GIGABYTE X79-UD7 for first position. Unusually the R4E doesn’t take out first place during the memory bandwidth benchmarks but only falls behind by a small margin. Throughout our 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11 testing the M4E and UD7 see-saw back and forth for position and finish on equal points. In a very fitting final result the two big shots ASUS and GIGABYTE almost tie for first place in the Crysis average frames per second benchmark with the R4E coming out on top.

The features are remarkable the BIOS has more options than you could ever need the build quality is superb and it benchmarks in equal first position. There is a problem though – the price. You could purchase two lower end X79 boards for the price of the R4E but quality doesn’t come cheap and this board exudes quality.

Available from ASUS retailing for $699.
APC rating: 9/10 (Editor’s Choice)