ASUS recently held a private seminar for select partners, lifting the wraps on some of their latest and greatest high end hardware . We at OC3D are lucky enough to be able to bring you the inside story of this spectacular event, where ASUS showed a lot of the hardware they will be exhibiting at Computex in June.
Because of the sheer volume of information ASUS provided us with, this will not be a typical news post. Instead this is full blown article with a seperate page for each product. The usual routine goes out of the window when there’s this much ground to cover.
The pages are as follows:
2 The Crosshair IV Extreme, introducing Lucid SLI and Turbo Unlocker.
3 The Rampage III Extreme, obscene overclocking and a new solution for 4-way SLI
4 TPU - Turbo Processing Unit
5 RC Bluetooth, ROG Connect, USB BIOS Flashback
6 Ares - The fastest desktop graphics card ever.
Lets head over to the CHE and take a look at its Lucid Chip!
The Crosshair IV Extreme
ASUS’ beastly new AMD motherboard, the Crosshair IV Extreme is almost worthy of a 5 page news article on its own. It’s a good job we’ll be reviewing one in the near future, as ASUS seem to have crammed every extreme overclocking feature imaginable onto the board to cater to the hardest of the hardcore overclockers and there is far too much to squeeze into one page. But I’ll try anyway.
The Extreme is loosely based on the Crosshair IV Formula, ASUS’ current top of the line 890FX board, aimed at the high end gaming segment. The Formula is a great board in itself, but the ‘Extreme’ moniker promises more, and it delivers the goods.
nVidia do not support SLI on AMD’s chipsets at all, and that just won’t do on ASUS’ flagship ‘Extreme’ board. ASUS have used Lucid’s Hydra to enable up to 3 way SLI or 4 way CrossFireX configurations, with the PCI Express slots spaced to allow up to 4 dual-slot cards to fit just fine.
Turbo Unlocker is ASUS’ improvement upon AMD’s Turbo Core technology. Unlike AMD's solution, which is only available on their 6-core CPUs, Turbo Unlocker also supports the Phenom II black edition (2/3/4 cores).
Turbo Unlocker dynamically overclocks the CPU cores in relation to the work load, for example boosting one core by 500MHz for a single threaded application which can only utilize one core. The ASUS solution also provides a boost for multi-threaded (using 2 or more cores) and highly threaded applications (all cores active).
The Crosshair IV Extreme also features ASUS' TPU (Turbo Processing unit) which is worthy of its own page later in the article.
Rampage III Extreme
ASUS’ top of the line board, the Rampage III Extreme has been out for a little while now. The board was designed extreme performance in mind, using the best components and technologies available. One thing the board lacks however, is support for 4-way SLI, which requires 2 nVidia NF200 chips.
Why no NF200’s on the R3E?
ASUS decided to build the Rampage III Extreme without using NF200 chips because such a small percentage of users will run a 4-way SLI set-up. Also the NF200 decreases performance in 3-way SLI setups, being another component in between the chipset and PCI-Express subsystem.
Building the board with NF200’s onboard would also add more heat and power consumption for such a niche feature, not to mention increasing the cost and complexity of what is already a very high end motherboard.
But what if I want to run 4-way SLI?
To cater to the hardest of the hardcore, the extreme overclockers attempting to beat world record benchmark scores with 4-card setups, ASUS have developed the ROG Xpander.
The ROG Xpander is an add-in board containing the 2 NF200 chips required for 4-way SLI. It plugs into the motherboards existing PCI-E slots, providing 4 well-spaced PCI-Express slots to allow for insane GTX480 quad-SLI setups.
The ROG Xpander will be sold separately from the Rampage III Extreme, allowing you to choose if you want NF200 or not. The raised height of the PCI-Express slots will no doubt cause problems installing the board in a case, however for the target market of extreme overclockers, this will not be an issue.
TPU - Turbo Processing Unit
TPU stands for Turbo Processing Unit, and is responsible the amalgamation of user-friendly overclocking and unlocking features present on ASUS’ recent ROG series motherboards.
Auto Tuning is an intelligent tool that automates overclocking to achieve a total system level up. This tool also provides stability testing. Even beginners can achieve an extreme yet stable overclock.
GPU Boost overclocks the integrated GPU in real time for the best graphics performance. A user-friendly interface offers flexible frequency and voltage adjustments. Its ability to deliver multiple overclocking profiles also provides rapid and stable system-level upgrades.
Turbo Key II
Turbo Key II allows you to overclock your processor to an extreme yet stable state at the flick of a switch, literally. There is a dedicated switch on the motherboard to activate the feature.
ASUS Core Unlocker simplifies AMD CPU core unlocking on capable CPU’s by having a dedicated onboard switch, just like Turbo Key II. Enjoy an instant performance boost by simply unlocking the extra cores, without even entering the BIOS.
CPU Level UP
CPU Level UP! is basically a free processor upgrade for systems running at stock speeds. Simply pick the processor you want to OC to, for example overclocking an i7 920 to i7 940 speeds, and the motherboard will do the rest, applying the settings instantly.
This is already explained on page 2, but as part of the TPU it’s worthy of a mention here too.
Turbo unlocker has to be one of the most interesting aspects controlled by the TPU. All it takes is one click in the TurboV EVO interface and Turbo Unlocker automatically and dynamically adjusts each core frequency to speed up performance based on actual system load.
Turbo Unlocker gives you more performance exactly when you need it, adaptively overclocking the individual cores to boost performance in single threaded, multi threaded (2 or more threads) and highly threaded (using all available cores) applications.
Asus unveiled a lot of awesome things at the seminar, and if we gave each of them their own page people would never read the entire article. The following features are definitely worth mentioning though.
RC Bluetooth is certainly one of the more unique new features ASUS have to offer on the ROG Extreme motherboards. After installing the application on a supported smartphone (currently a selection of Windows Mobile, Symbian and Android phones are supported) and pairing the motherboard with the phone, RC Bluetooth allows the user to change BIOS settings from their phone, monitor voltages and temperatures and even power the system on or off.
ROG Connect is similar to RC Bluetooth in some ways, but a lot more in-depth. By connecting another computer to the motherboard via USB, ASUS give you full monitoring and control of pretty much every setting available, adjustable on-the fly. This feature could no doubt prove itself incredibly useful to the target market of hardcore overclockers, allowing for precise tweaking and monitoring with no CPU overheads which could hinder a system pushed to the very limits.
USB BIOS Flashback
This is a feature that quite frankly any motherboard with overclocking options should have. When finding the overclocking limits of a computer, you’ll eventually go past them and sometimes going too far can lead to a corrupted BIOS. ASUS have made recovering from a failed BIOS or even just updating incredibly easy. As long as the board has 24 pin power connected, just insert a USB drive containing the BIOS file and press the button, an LED by the BIOS will flash and when it stops, the process is complete. It couldn’t get any simpler!
Ares. The fastest desktop graphics card ever
This has been a monster write-up so far, but we’ve been saving the best till last. It’s time for ARES! This is probably the single most anticipated graphics card since ASUS brought out the MARS last year.
Let’s start by getting down and dirty with the bit most of you have been waiting for.
The ARES is based on a pair of ATI’s Radeon HD 5870 GPU’s clocked at 850Mhz with 3200 stream processors. The card features a whopping 4096MB of GDDR5 running at 4.8GHz.
The Radeon HD 5870 by itself isn’t exactly the coolest running GPU, it’s no GTX480 but still kicks out a lot of heat. ASUS were going to have to do something pretty special to keep 2 of them cool on a single PCB. They looked back to their first dual GPU card, the EN7800GT Dual/2DHTV/512M for inspiration.
They took the design of having a central fan blowing air across the 2 heatsinks and improved upon it, making the heatsinks from solid copper, adding heatpipes and using a fan they claim puts out nearly 120CFM at 37dB, compared to only 18CFM at 44.5dB from ATI’s reference HD 5970 design.
Just like the MARS that preceded it, the ARES will be a limited edition card, and for the time being probably the fastest card money can buy.
To wrap up this massive article, here's a benchmark of the ARES and a few other tasty slides from ASUS' seminar.
You can discuss all these lovely new toys in our forums.