ASUS Rampage IV Extreme Cometh

Here is ASUS' top of the line LGA2011 motherboard targeting the gamer-overclocker market, the Republic of Gamers (ROG) Rampage IV Extreme. This board offers all the expansion room and connectivity you'll ever need, plus a wealth of nifty features that help overclockers and ease incremental upgrades. To begin with, the Rampage IV Extreme employs a strong digital PWM circuitry that supports heavy voltage-assisted overclocking with Vdroop control.

The LGA2011 socket is wired to eight DDR3 DIMM slots (two per channel). CPU and memory VRM areas are located along three sides of the socket, all cooled by heatsinks that are connected by heat pipes. These VRM heatsinks share heat with the one over the X79 PCH, which is actively cooled by a fan.

Expansion slots include four PCI-Express 3.0 x16 (red), of which two are x16-capable, and all are x8 capable, one PCI-Express 2.0 x4 (black, wired to the PCH), and an x1 slot. Storage connectivity includes four each of SATA 6 Gb/s (red) and SATA 3 Gb/s (black), and one eSATA, and a power-eSATA (unknown datarate). There are eight USB 3.0 ports (four each on the rear panel and front-panel headers). Surprisingly, there's only one gigabit Ethernet connection, the other connectivity option is Bluetooth, which plays a key role in some of the ROG-exclusive features such as ROG Connect. For once, ASUS did away with the Creative X-Fi soft-layer for its audio and the solution is pure Realtek ALC898 8+2 channel HDA codec (with Realtek driver).

Where do I even start with the toys overclockers get with this board? OK, first, the LGA2011 socket is designed in such a way that its Intel-spec retention bracket can be replaced by a custom ASUS-designed one, that modifies the cooler mount holes to make the socket compatible with LGA1366-ready coolers, so you can carry on with your expensive LGA1366-ready water-block. Second, there is a strong VRM that's backed by diagnostic phase and temperature LEDs, voltage direct-measurement points, and a EPU chip that marshals the power phases. There is redundant BIOS (in separate socketed serial EEPROM chips), with ASUS ROG-exclusive UEFI firmware. Thirdly, power is drawn, apart from the 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS, by a 4-pin ATX (CPU power) and a 6-pin PCIe, so electrical stability is maintained. The ROG connect feature lets you monitor and overclock your board from Bluetooth-enabled smartphones (hence the Bluetooth controller).

To top it off, every Rampage IV Extreme packs a free copy of Battlefield 3 Special Edition (bundles Physical Warfare and/or Return to Karkhand DLC(s)).

ASUS TUF Sabertooth X79

ASUS' top-tier LGA2011 lineup is completed by the TUF Sabertooth X79. This board, along with the ROG Rampage IV Extreme and P9X79 Deluxe makes up for it. There will be many more affordable LGA2011 boards by ASUS, one such model we're hearing about is the P9X79 Pro. The TUF Sabertooth family is based on the idea of rock-solid stability and component durability, these motherboards are built to last, if not score accolades with overclocking like the ROG boards are designed for.

The Sabertooth X79 uses an ASUS-designed Digi+ VRM to power the CPU, which is spread across two sides of the socket (north and west). The heatsink cooling the VRM components to the west is actively cooled by a 40 mm fan, the one over the X79 PCH is cooled by a similarly sized lateral blower, too. Like with the other two top-tier boards from ASUS' stable, this one provides eight DDR3 DIMM slots supporting quad-channel memory.

Expansion slots include two PCI-Express 3.0 x16 wired to the processor, one PCI-Express 2.0 x16 (electrical x8), and two PCI-Express 2.0 x1, wired to the PCH. There are eight internal SATA ports, including two SATA 6 Gb/s (brown) from the PCH, four SATA 3 Gb/s (black) also from the PCH, and two SATA 6 Gb/s (white) from a third-party controller. There are two eSATA ports on the rear-panel, one of which is power-eSATA.

Other connectivity includes 8+2 channel HD audio, one gigabit Ethernet connection, four USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel, two USB 3.0 ports by internal header, USB 2.0, and Firewire.

MSI Announces Z68MA-G43 (G3) PCI-Express Gen. 3 Ready mATX Motherboard

Leading global graphics card and motherboard brand and manufacturer MSI officially announced the Z68MA-G43 (G3) motherboard today. The new motherboard will be the first in the industry to adopt the next-generation PCI Express Gen 3 high-speed data transfer standard to deliver unprecedented levels of performance with a staggering 32GB/s of bandwidth. The motherboard will also feature MSI's proprietary ClickBIOS II that will allow enthusiasts to use the mouse or even touch control panel to adjust the system and overclocking settings through UEFI BIOS or Windows applications.

In addition, OC Genie II is included and can be used to optimize the CPU, memory, integrated graphics card, and storage devices for maximum stability and performance in just one second. When combined with Intel Smart Response Technology the performance of conventional HDDs can be increased by as much as 457%. With support for all solid capacitors, USB 3.0, SATA 6G, HDMI / DVI / D-Sub video-out, and multiple CrossFireX graphics cards, the new motherboard meets enthusiasts' demands for system stability, expandability, and extreme game graphics.

First in the Industry to Introduce the New PCI Express Gen 3 Standard
In June, 2011, MSI put the Z68A-GD80 (G3) on display at ComputeX. The new motherboard was the first in the world to feature PCI Express Gen 3 technology and its industry-leading specifications delivered a staggering 32GB/s of bandwidth; double that of the current standard at the time. MSI first brought the next-generation high-speed data transfer standard to the general public at ComputeX, and now, to satisfy DIY enthusiasts’ demands, MSI has introduced the new PCI Express Gen 3 standard on all motherboards from the entry-level Z68MA-G43 (G3) to the high-end Z68A-GD80 (G3).

Proprietary Dual Interface Integrated UEFI BIOS System Utility – ClickBIOS II
ClickBIOS II is the first system utility in the world to integrate UEFI BIOS and Windows applications. System settings can now be adjusted using the mouse or even touch control panel in different environments; MSI’s competitors' products only support UEFI BIOS or Windows applications. ClickBIOS II offers a more user-friendly interface that combines convenience with sophisticated technology.

Unleash System Performance in One Second – OC Genie II
MSI's exclusive OC Genie II can provide amazing performance boosts quickly by optimizing the performance of the CPU, memory, integrated graphics card, and even storage devices, all at once. Enthusiasts can now achieve maximum performance and stability without having to spend time tweaking system settings. Actual results from industry-standard benchmarking software 3DMark Vantage and PCMark Vantage indicated that MSI’s OC Genie II boosted 3D gaming performance by 145%, and when combined with Intel Smart Response technology, HDD access performance increased by up to 457%.

Intel Sandy Bridge-E Can Reach Close to 5 GHz on Air-Cooling

As Intel Core i7 "Sandy Bridge-E" processors in the LGA2011 package inch closer to their mid-November launch, there is already hectic activity among manufacturers of related components such as motherboards, memory, and coolers. By now, a large section of the industry has engineering samples to help design and test their components. OCWorkbench was witness to one such pre-release setup on which a Core i7 "Sandy Bridge-E" (unknown model, could even be quad-core for all we know), overclocked to 4.92 GHz with a "regular" air-cooler. The chip was idling at 45°C.

Sandy Bridge-E, as we know, can be effectively overclocked by increasing its base clock (BClk). On this particular setup, the BClk was set at 120 MHz, with a multiplier value of 41X, and core voltage of 1.51V. The memory used was DDR3-2400 MHz with CAS latency of 10T. This is particularly encouraging, not just to enthusiasts on a tight budget, but also the cooling products industry in general. Core i7 "Sandy Bridge-E" retail boxes don't contain a cooling solution, and Intel has been showing off its branded closed-loop water-cooling solution (to be purchased separately) as something that's "recommended" for Core i7 "Sandy Bridge-E". This gave many an impression that you need at least closed-loop water coolers for any hope of achieving decent overclocked speeds with these chips, and that perhaps these chips are bad overclockers in general. The likes of Xigmatek, Thermalright, Noctua, and Scythe can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

ASUS P9X79 Deluxe

Here are the first pictures of ASUS P9X79 Deluxe, the company's premium segment LGA2011 motherboard based on the X79 chipset. This features in ASUS' main motherboard lineup, and not sub-lineups such as Republic of Gamers (ROG) or The Ultimate Force (TUF). The P9X79 Deluxe is loaded with features and connectivity options. To begin with, the LGA2011 socket is powered by a next-generation Digi+ VRM design by ASUS, driven by Dual Intelligent Processors III (next-generation Energy Processing Unit (EPU) chip and TurboV Processing Unit (TPU)). Like with the ROG Rampage IV Extreme, VRM is spread across three sides of the socket, and each cluster of MOSFETs is cooled by heatsinks. The socket is wired to eight DDR3 DIMM slots in two sets of four slots, supporting quad-channel DDR3. The memory VRM uses a Digi+ design, too.

Among the six expansion slots, there are four PCI-Express x16 slots, and two PCIe x1. The PCH gives out six SATA ports, two 6 Gb/s (white), four 3 Gb/s (blue), the two additional 6 Gb/s ports come from a third-party controller. There are two power-eSATA ports on the rear panel. The eight USB 3.0 ports on this board are spread across as six ports on the rear-panel, and two via standard header. Other connectivity includes 8+2 channel HD audio, two gigabit Ethernet connections, USB 2.0, and Bluetooth.

This board features USB 3.0 Boost (works to improve throughput), ASUS' proprietary SSD caching technology that's similar to Intel Smart Response, BT GO! 3.0 (lets you monitor and tune the clock speeds, voltages, and fan speeds using a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone), and a new version ASUS UEFI setup program.

ASUS will use the same exact PCB on a slightly lower-priced model called the P9X79 Pro, which will lack some of the features and connectivity found on this board (such as one of the two GbE connections, a set of USB 3.0 ports, perhaps even BT GO!, etc.)