ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction
 
 My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
 
He doesn't sound too happy, does he? This is in stark contrast to me, who was awoken from my slumber by the postman holding a large package from Asus. I already knew what it was; I'd been hassling the editor for weeks upon first hearing news of a new P45 Republic Of Gamers Board from Asus.

The new chipset from Intel has been around for a few weeks now and we covered the early editions of P45 in a previous review of the Asus P5Q Deluxe & MSI P45 Diamond, so I won't be going into great detail regarding the new features P45 has to offer. Rather, I will be concentrating on the Maximus II itself. I will, however, be making a lot of comparisons with the former motherboards as both, especially the P5Q Deluxe, were excellent performers and set a very high benchmark for future releases to match.
 
The original Asus Maximus was based on the Intel X38 chipset and came in two flavours, the Formula (DDR2) and Extreme (DDR3) editions, and rapidly became the choice platforms for anyone wishing to utilise multi-GPU (Crossfire) configurations. These motherboards were then superseded with the X48-based Asus Rampage Formula (DDR2), which officially supported higher frequencies than its X38 sibling while also supporting dual PCIe 2.0 16x slots. So where does that leave the Maximus II? Well, as mentioned previously, the Maximus II is a P45-based motherboard, but confusingly the P45 does not support dual x16 PCIe 2.0 slots when used in Crossfire mode, which the original Maximus did.

So a step back then? Well, yes and no. Firstly, the P45 chipset supports a single x16 PCIe 2.0 or dual x8 PCIe 2.0 lanes in Crossfire mode and, while it appears that 8 less lanes per channel is detrimental to performance, actual figures between x16+x16 and x8+x8 are very similar and certainly not as restrictive as one might think. Add to the fact that next gen PCIe 2.0 offers twice the bandwidth of PCIe 1.1 and it becomes apparent that x8 PCIe 2.0 is no slouch. This, however, was with testing 3870x2 in Crossfire mode which, due to the onboard bridging chip used in 3870x2's, limits the card to PCIe 1.1. So how this will translate to PCIe 2.0 cards used in Crossfire is debatable and something we will strive to investigate in future reviews. Secondly, the P45 chipset appears to be a better overclocking platform than its X38/X48 stablemate, with improved power delivery and an increase in attainable FSB.

So which chipset should you go for? I really don't think there is a definitive answer to that as, like most things hardware related, it depends on your specific requirements but before making any decision, take the time to read on and see what the current pinnacle of P45 has to offer in the guise of the Maximus II.
 
 
Specification
 
CPU 
LGA775 socket for Intel® Core™2 Extreme / Core™2 Quad / Core™2 Duo / Pentium® dual-core/Celeron® dual-core /Celeron® Processors
Chipset 
Intel® P45/ICH10R with Intel® Fast Memory Access Technology System Bus 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz
Memory 
Dual-channel memory architecture max.16GB, DDR2-1200/1066/800/667 MHz, non-ECC and un-buffered memory
Expansion Slots  
- 2 x PCIe2.0 x16 slots 
- 3 x PCIe x1 slots (the PCIEx1_1 (black) is compatible with audio slot)
- 2 x PCI 2.2 slots
Storage
ICH10R Southbridge: 
- 6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Marvell® 88SE6121 controller:
- 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
- 1 x External SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go) 
Silicon Image Sil5723:
- 2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
LAN
-
Dual Gigabit LAN controllers, both featuring AI NET2
High Definition Audio
SupremeFX X-Fi Audio Card:
- ADI® AD2000B 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Creative X-Fi capability
- X-Fi interface
- Coaxial/Optical S/PDIF out ports
USB
max.12 USB 2.0 ports(6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at back panel)
 
There are two aspects of the specification that stand out other than the usual plethora we have come to expect from a ROG board, and they are the memory support and an X-FI based sound card. It is now commonplace to find modern motherboards supporting 'up to' 8GB of memory. However, with the Maximus, it is now theoretically possible to install a massive 16GB of DDR2 RAM and not only that but officially supporting up to 1200Mhz modules!

That, however, is not what raised my eyebrows the most. Asus gaining a license to utilize X-FI? In past ROG boards, Asus have based their sound solution around Realtek and, while the Realtek chipset is 'adequate', it isn't on a par with a dedicated solution, so I was surprised to learn that Asus are using X-FI in preference to their very own Xonar card. An interesting move indeed!


ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard Page: 2
Packaging & Contents
 
The exterior of the box is typical of past Republic Of Gamers boards, being matte-grey in appearance with an embossed Maximus II emblazoned in chrome effect across the middle. With a convenient carry handle and stiff cardboard surround, the box itself is a very sturdy piece and should protect the contents well. The rear of the box gives a brief run-down of the features on this motherboard, with performance and overclocking uppermost in the advertising echelon.
 
ASUS Maximus II Box Front  ASUS Maximus II Box Back
 
Opening the lid, which is fastened via a Velcro strip, we see a more in depth run-down of the Maximus' more prominent features, once more with performance and reliability featuring high on the list. The bottom section of the inner box features a cut-out section allowing you to see the 'revolutionary' pin-fin heat sink as well as showing off the included X-FI SupremeFX sound card. 
 
 ASUS Maximus II Box inside top ASUS Maximus II  Inside main
 
Inside the outer box we find yet another box and the motherboard itself. The motherboard is encapsulated inside a plastic casing which serves to protect the board from both physical damage and static charge. The additional box is where we will find the motherboard accessories, and once again the box is adequate enough to prevent any accidental damage to the gadgetry held inside.
 
ASUS Maximus II Packaging ASUS Maximus II Accessories
 
The contents themselves are now commonplace among the ROG series of boards, with the usual SATA and IDE/Floppy ribbon cables. Personally, I would like to see rounded cables now rather than the dated ribbon type, but as the IDE interface is slowly being fazed out it is not so much of an issue. An optional fan is included for those who wish to watercool and a spare USB bracket is also included just in case the onboard 8 are not enough! We also find that Asus has included a Q-Shield, which is not your average I/O backplate. The Q-shield has a padded feel to it with no sharp edges and well labeled port slots. With the very thorough and well featured motherboard manual in plain English (not 'Chinglish') and motherboard DVD featuring both drivers and all the utilities you could want, this completes a well packed accessory box providing everything you need to get you started. 
 
ASUS Maximus II Contents
 
Although seen previously on ROG board, the Maximus Formula has the luxury of a new version of the LCD poster, which can cycle through key voltages and temperatures during a Windows session rather than just a clock (which is still an option if you so wish). This is very useful for monitoring true voltages, or at least what the motherboard interprets as true rather than making use of software-based monitoring applications. 
 
  ASUS Maximus II LCD Poster 1 ASUS Maximus II  LCD Poster 2
 
The jewel in the Maximus' crown, however, is the inclusion of the new SupremeFX X-FI riser card. As the name suggests, this soundcard is based around Creative's X-FI chipset, which is a strange move by Asus considering that they have their very own chipset now and one would have thought this would have been preferred to the 'Creative' alternative - maybe Asus see the X-FI as a budget chipset compared to their own Xonar? Either way, it is a welcome addition and should provide some serious sounds - much more so than the usual drivel spouted from onboard audio of past.
 
Interestingly, the card is not a full blown X-FI card as it is based on Creative's new SoundBlaster X-Fi MB technology, which utilises Analog Devices' AD2000B Codec. The actual effects are largely software-based, emulating the majority of a dedicated X-FI card's functionality. The card itself has CMSS, X-FI Crystalizer and support for up to EAX 4.0 - note no inclusion of EAX 5.0 support. For that you will have to purchase a dedicated X-FI or Xonar card!
 
 ASUS Maximus II Supreme FX XFI  ASUS Maximus II Supreme FX XFI
 
 
Motherboard Layout
 
The motherboard itself could easily find itself presented in a display cabinet. Looking more like a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica than a Roman Gladiator, the dominating feature is the heatsink assembly. Connecting all the major heat sources via copper heat pipe, the heat sink assembly certainly looks the part with aluminum 'pin-fin' sinks coloured gunmetal grey and a little ROG emblem lighting up once powered.
 
At the rear of the board, we see that the heat sinks are attached this time with spring loaded screws rather than the usual plastic push pins. This is an excellent move by Asus, as it should create much better mounts of the sinks in general with adequate pressure applied and of course allowing user to attach water block with relative ease should they wish. Of notable absence are backplates to the mosfet and chipset sinks as seen in the P5Q Deluxe board, which is a shame not to have this feature on the more expensive Maximus II. With that said, there didn't appear to be any excessive warping of the board.
 
 ASUS Maximus II Front ASUS Maximus II Back
 
The board is typical of ROG boards of late and follows the ROG theme of previous motherboards with blue and white RAM and PCI/PCIe slots based on a black PCB. All of the connectivity is positioned around the perimeter of the board, which makes for a very tidy setup for those who like a clutter free cabling operation. 24/8 pin PSU's are now standard among high end Asus boards, so don't expect to be using 300w generic PSU's with this board.
 
The I/O backplate area is fully featured with 6 USB 2.0 ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, E-SATA and Firewire. Notable by its absence is a PS/2 mouse port, with just a keyboard port being provided. There is also a CMOS reset button, should you ever need to reset the BIOS (which is unlikely given the onboard features).
 
ASUS Maximus II ASUS Maximus II Backplate 
 
The CPU/Mosfet area, despite being cowled in heat sinks, is surprisingly spacious and we had no trouble fitting a Thermalright Ultra Extreme to the board. We see here that the Maximus, like its little brother the P5Q Deluxe, has a 16 phase power design which bodes well as the P5Q was a very high performer in recent tests - 16-Phase PWM for the CPU, 3-Phase for the Northbridge and 2-Phase for the DDR2 slots complete the power delivery for the Maximus II Formula.
 
I am not usually a fan of heat sinks having labels and flashy designs on them; after all, they are there to cool and sticking things on them is only going to hinder the cooling performance. However, with the Maximus II I must say the red shielding, while preventing grazed knuckles, looks rather good and matches the board's looks perfectly.
 
 ASUS Maximus II CPU Overview ASUS Maximus II Mosfet cooling
 
Asus have recently introduced a new heat sink design called 'pin-fin', which features slightly curved pins on the heat sinks that Asus claim is more efficient at dissipating heat than perpendicular designs. As well as the 'pin-fin' design, Asus have added the obligatory ROG emblem that lights up when the board is powered on. The Northbridge heatsink has a removeable section which can be removed to add your own cooling solution. The actual usefullness of this depends on your point of view but I would recommend removing the whole heatsink assembly as just removing the top of the heatsink would have very little effect due to a copper 'sandwich' being created with 2 lots of TIM.
 
ASUS Maximus II Pin-Fin ASUS Maximus II ROG Emblem
 
To the right of the CPU area and covering the southbridge we see a different heat sink that is more akin to a ribbed plate style than the usual fin variety. When I first caught sight of this board back, I suspected that the southbridge heat sink was extended to cover a Crosslinx chip as used in the Blitz series of boards, but this is not the case.
 
The whole heat sink assembly is connected via a full copper heat pipe, providing optimum cooling to all the areas concerned. Below right we see the onboard switches getting a revamp, which suit the board quite well.
 
ASUS Maximus II Southbridge ASUS Maximus II On board switches
 
Dual BIOS chips are not something new, but recently motherboard manufacturers have omitted one of the chips in favour of software-based backups. Asus appear to have seen the error of their ways (anybody who has used Windows to flash an Asus board will tell tales of woe on that subject!). They have now included 2 BIOS chips on the board, and not only that but they have also opted not to permanently solder them to the board, making BIOS flashing a lot more hassle-free should the BIOS flash go wrong.
 
ASUS Maximus II iROG & Bios ASUS Maximus II Removeable BIOS ROMs
 
Removing the heat sink assembly was a very simple affair once all the screws were removed; it almost just fell off into my hands - testament to Asus listening to feedback regarding the 'cement' they have used previously to affix the cooling components. The TIM is very similar in appearance to the very common Arctic Silver 5 and is not thick at all. In fact, I could say that it is actually applied in an adequate amount and not the usual dollop found under most motherboards heat sinks.
 
ASUS Maximus II Naked board ASUS Maximus II Heatsink assembly
 
Here are the P45 Northbridge and ICH10R chips naked. I would have preffered to have seen the P45 chip covered with a protective IHS as with x38/x48 rather than be totally bare as this would save a lot of heartache to those who have 'nibbled the northbridge' when affixing water blocks. Down south we see the ICH10R chip, which IS a lot better protected. Note that the ICH10R chip has 'SECRET' written on it. I could tell you why that is but then it wouldn't be a secret, would it!
 
ASUS Maximus II Northbridge It's a SECRET southbridge!
 
The Mosfets are not attached to the heat sink via TIM but rather thermal tape, which has shown in the past not to be the best of materials used. It does, however, ensure that all the Mosfets receive some form of contact to the heat sink so the cooling properties are adequate but not the best. Lower right we ask what is under that huge heat sink covering the southbridge. This had me puzzled too as I thought it might be some form of the Crosslinx chip used in the Blitz series, but it appears it is nothing more than voltage regulating chips.
 
 ASUS Maximus II Mosfets...and lot's of 'em ASUS Maximus II Under the sink
 
 While I dress the board once more in its armoured heat sinks, let's take a closer look at the advertised features...


ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard Page: 3
Features
 
Other than the usual features found on the current crop of motherboards around today, the Maximus II Formula has a few extra little features that are examined below.
 
ATI
ATI's CrossfireX is supported through 2x 8 PCIe lanes on the Maximus II Formula. While not having as many PCIe lanes as it's X48 brethren current GPU's do not seem to take full advantage of 16 lanes and so there is little performance drop in using 8 lanes but a massive leap over previous P35 CrossfireX configurations.
BIOS
The Flashback BIOS function allows the user to instantaneously go back to a previous BIOS version acting very much like a 'Save Game' function. Two BIOS ROM files can be stored on the motherboard allowing the user to recover a failed BIOS flash (thereby flashing the corrupt ROM with a working version) or it can be used to ave a whole BIOS setup rather than just the overclocked settings.
Reset
Instead of purchasing the most expensive CPU around you can simply buy a cheaper version and make use of the CPU Level Up feature which will overclock your current CPU to a performance level of a more expensive CPU. This is an excellent feature for those not accustomed with BIOS overclocking.
EPUThe latest power saving feature installed on the Maximus II is the EPU-6 Engine. This feature detects current PC loadings and adjusts the power requirements accordingly. CPU, VGA, Memory, Chipset, Drives and system fans can all be automatically adjusted (if supported) to save power and therefore money! Another handy feature is you can tell in real time how much power your CPU is using - see below:
 
 
Speeding HDD
Speeding HDD allows the end user to setup Raid configurations (0, 1) without the need for drivers or complicated BIOS setups. The graphical user interface is very easy to use and can be used to either setup a quick RAID array once in windows or be used to back up one drive to another. The whole process of setting the drives up is very simple, just plug the drives in, boot up and use the on screen instructions to set the drives to whatever configuration you like.
 
 
The SupremeFX riser card supplied with the Maximus II features an XFI based chipset allowing the use of almost all of Creatives XFI trickery including XFI Crystallizer, CMSS3D and EAX 4.0 which accurately provides a virtual 3D surround sound and enhancement experience in both games and movies. It is a strange move for Asus considering that Asus now have their own sound solution in the Xonar series but it is a welcome one nonetheless as the XFI card is much better than previous versions of the SupremeFX cards offering greater features and functionality.
 
  
 
So now you have seen what the Maximus II has to offer in terms of features, let's see if the ROG BIOS can match this impressive list of software extras...


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BIOS Options
 
The Republic Of Gamers boards, being directed at the high-end enthusiast market, require the very best structured BIOS to enable the end user to get the absolute maximum performance from their hardware. It therefore comes as no surprise that ASUS have once again pulled out all the stops to develop yet another BIOS filled to the brim with an amazing array of options that will enhance overclocking functionality.
 
Upon initial boot, we are greeted with the new ROG emblem and the usual DEL gains entry into the BIOS itself.
 
Initial 
 
The very first page is where all the action is at and the one that most overclockers will be using, saving time from flicking through the various pages to get to the overclocking section, which in the Maximus' case is the 'Extreme Tweaker' area of the BIOS. This first page is actually more like three pages, as that's how far the options scroll down!
 
First Page 1 
 
The first option in the BIOS will allow the user to set the CPU to 'level up' to another speed such as a Q6700 or QX6850, a quick and easy way to gain some extra performance out of your chip without spending the extra cash on one! Most thoroughbred clockers, though, will no doubt wish to fine tune the performance of their CPU by entering the values manually and with the amount of options available to tweak, I'm certain no one will be disappointed with this BIOS, regardless of knowledge and expertise. Below are just a few of the main voltage tweaks available:
 
Vcore PLL
 
VTT Vdimm
 
NorthBridge bottom of Page 1
 
As you can see, very small increments can be used to raise the voltages to sizzling levels that only the users of extreme cooling should venture. These voltages are also 'coloured' blue/yellow/red depending on the safety of the value you set, which is a useful addition to guide/warn those who are unfamiliar with voltages of current CPU's and motherboard chipsets. These voltages can be either input manually (where they will be rounded down to the nearest figure available) or by the use of +/- to scroll up or down as required.
 
Above right we see the final section of the Extreme Tweaker page where GTL voltages can be fine tuned to extract the maximum possible performance out of the CPU/Memory. The very bottom of the page features Load Line Calibration, which can be used to prevent Vdroop when the CPU is put under load. This is a feature most overclockers now rely heavily on.
 
Swiftly moving on past the usual peripheral settings found in most BIOS's, I was pleased to see Asus have also taken the time to include a well presented power/monitor section where one can view the major components' voltage and temperature readouts. While this section is not exactly rare among motherboards, the plethora of readouts are most welcome and much better than the limited monitors usually found in competitors' boards.
 
Voltage monitor Temp monitor
 
With that amount of settings, it would surely be a shame if you were to lose all those finely tuned tweaks to a bad overclock. Asus have thought about this and have provided an overclock profile utility that will store two of your most favoured settings that can quickly restore your previously saved settings with just one quick load out.
 
If on the other hand you should find yourself getting carried away with your BIOS tweaking and have become a little too ambitious, then fear not. The Asus Maximus features not one, but two BIOS chips, allowing the motherboard to self restore to a bootable state if one BIOS becomes corrupt either by a bad flash or overzealous overclocking. 
 
OC Profile Flashback
 
Below left is the section where you can configure what the LCD Poster displays, which is a new addition not seen before. Last of all, we come to the EZ Flash utility. This is now a making a regular appearance among ASUS boards thanks no doubt to to its ease of use. Floppy, USB and CD/DVD can be used as media with which to flash the BIOS. The need for a bootable floppy is gone; just stick the BIOS ROM file on your preferred media and EZ Flash will do the rest for you, with only the requirement being to follow on screen prompts as needed.
 
LCD Poster EZ Flash
 
One of the many aspects I liked about this BIOS is the little descriptions in the side panel describing briefly what the setting actually does, which helps ease the pain of trawling through the manual. With so many options in the BIOS, I was eager to see how well it actually overclocks. So without further delay, let's see how the overclocking went...


ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard Page: 5
Test Setup
 
Matching our previous reviews of P45 based motherboards, we used the same setup to guarantee a fair review.
 
 
During the testing of the setup above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. 

For the 3DMark and gaming tests, both single card and CrossfireX configurations were used for the purposes of testing the scaling of the P45's 8x8 configuration.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
Synthetic CPU & Memory Subsystem
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• Lavalys Everest 4.0

File Compression & Encoding
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark

Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 3.0.4.0
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06

3D Games
• Oblivion
• F.E.A.R
• Call of Duty 4
 
 
Overclocking
 
Much like the MSI Diamond that we reviewed previously, the wealth of options in the BIOS need to be tweaked to get the very best out of this motherboard. While moderate overclocks were easily gained through the AUTO options and Level up configurations, better overclocks were accomplished tweaking the Vcore/NB/VTT voltages. Time constraints prevented me from delving any further into the GTL settings in attempts to eek a little more out of the board unfortunately.
 
Max Overclock (Air Cooling) Max FSB (Air cooling)
 
While not the best results we have had out of a P45 Board, an FSB of 500mhz and overall overclock in excess of 3.9ghz is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Given more time, 4ghz should have been attainable without too much difficulty. I am in no doubt that the overclock could be pushed even with a little more voltage and various tweaks the board has to offer, but with the high ambient summer temps now in full force, we were limited in our air cooling performance and as such I had to hold back a little. That said, the Maximus II Formula certainly proved to be a worthy overclocker's board and can most definitely push the envelope with regards to getting the most out of a CPU.


ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard Page: 6
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on software and hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining 3.
 
 
 
 
 
Results Observations
 
As all the motherboards on test are based around the P45 chipset, it comes as no surprise that all of the scores are very similar. However, it is noticeable that the Maximus II falls behind in the majority of the tests, albeit by a very small margin. Consideration also has to be given to the MSI board, which utilises DDR3 as opposed to the two Asus boards, which use DDR2.


ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard Page: 7
 
ViMark is the latest addition to the OC3D motherboard testing process and a relatively new benchmarking application in general. Designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files, ViMark produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding raw video into Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif formats. As always, a total of 5 benchmark runs were performed with the highest and lowest scores removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 scores.
 
 
 
 
 
 
7-Zip is an open source Winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including its own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.
 
 
 
 
Result Observations
 
Yet again the results are very closely matched, but in contrast to the previous results we see the Maximus II making some head way over the P5Q Deluxe and it even gives the MSI a run for its money despite the lower memory bandwidth available.


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HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access. The "Long bench" was run a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
Results Observations
As you can see, the results are pretty even across the board, which you would expect as all boards make use of Intel' ICH10R Southbridge. The Maximus II does, however, appear to have a slight edge, being half a second quicker on the random access test and also having a higher burst and read speed.
 
Please note that Asus 'Speeding' Utility was not used throughout this testing period in the interests of equality.


ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard Page: 9
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results. Also included are the CrossfireX results to give an indication of how 8x PCIe lanes perform.
 
 
 
 
Result Observations
 
Once more we see that there is very little to differentiate the three boards with the synthetic 3D benchmarks. The P5Q Deluxe seemed to take the advantage with the Cinebench runs but the Maximus II had the upper hand in the Futuremark applications, with both Asus boards consistently outperforming the MSI.


ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard Page: 10
 
The 'must have' online multiplayer FPS of 2007/8. This is the fourth incarnation of Infinity Wards best-selling series and is set to become a stalwart of the FPS genre. The training sequence was run 5 times with the fps being recorded via Fraps and the average fps then deduced. All settings were set to the maximum possible for this test and were then run again with CrossfireX enabled (below).
 
 
 
Crossfire X enabled
 
 
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being excluded and an average being calculated on the remaining 3 results. All settiings were set to the maximum possible for this test and were then run again with CrossfireX enabled (below).
 
 
 
CrossfireX Enabled 
 
 
 
Oblivion from Bethseda is now an 'old' game by today's standards, but is still one of the most visually taxing games out there. The benchmark was run in the wilderness with all settings set to the maximum possible. Bloom was used in preference to HDR. The test was run five times with the average FPS then being deduced.
 
 
 
CrossfireX Enabled
 
 
Result Observations
 
Real world gaming is where the Maximus II begins to show its true colours, beating the competition in both single and multiple GPU configurations by unremarkable, yet clear margins. So despite early setbacks in our CPU benchmarking, the Maximus has found its feet here and it has become quite clear that as a gaming platform based on the P45 chipset, the Maximus II appears to be the best choice.


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Conclusion
 
I found it very hard not to adore this motherboard to be quite honest. Visually, the board is stunning with new look gun metal grey heat sinks splashed with blood red 'shields', which is a much more appealing sight than copper coloured aluminium heat sinks of old. The Maximus' layout is nigh on perfect, with all the connections in the right places making for clutter free cabling. The now standard on board power and reset switches are, as always, a godsend for anyone building a rig outside of a case for benchmarking and testing. Perhaps my only gripe with the aesthetics of the board is that the two perpendicular SATA slots are not very secure because the SATA cables don't 'latch' into the slots. Hence, confidence of a good fit is lost, but that is a minor blemish on what is possibly the best designed motherboard to come out of the Asus arena to date.
 
The performance of the board is, as expected, on par with other P45 motherboards we have tested, if perhaps a little higher performing in the 3D gaming area. There is a wealth of overclocking options in the BIOS that will satisfy even the most ardent of enthusiasts and with handy little explanations of what most of the options do, novice clockers shouldn't find it to difficult to experiment. As there are also dual BIOS chips, any overzealous clocking shouldn't result in a non-bootable scenario and I can testify that I didn't once have to reset the BIOS, with the board auto recovering from my many over ambitious overclocking attempts.
 
There are, however, a few areas in which the Maximus II may not be the best idea. Firstly, the price. Weighing in at around £180, this is a very expensive motherboard for what is touted as a mid-range chipset. At a similar price point, an X48 based motherboard could be had, which may hurt sales of the Maximus II. While I haven't noticed any noticeable slowdown between the P45 and X48, if you intend on going multi-GPU at the same price point, it makes sense to go for a board with the higher numbers, in this case, double the amount of PCIe lanes. It may not effect the current crop of graphics cards, but in the future it might, although to what extent no one can tell. There is also the P5Q range of motherboards to contend with, also from Asus which, with regard to the P5Q Deluxe, perform at least on a par with the Maximus II, leaving you to pay an extra £60 for the luxuries the Maximus II has to offer and luxuries it most certainly has - but £60 worth?
 
Secondly, with Nehelem on the horizon forcing a new chipset, DDR3 and new CPU socket, plumping for a high-end LGA775 based motherboard this late in the game may seem a little brash if you intend to take advantage of Intel's next generation of CPU's. This, of course, is not a fault of the Maximus II. Rather, it is a case of it being a victim of evolution, but it is something I'm sure is on the mind of most potential buyers at the moment. Playing the waiting game in the hardware market has always been tricky due to the rapid advances in technology, and as such many people buy 'for the now' and if that is indeed your stance and you are looking for a new motherboard, then I can find no reason, other than the above, not to buy a Maximus II Formula, which I would happily recommend as 'King of P45'.
 
 
The Good
- Multitude of BIOS options
- Excellent BIOS recovery
- Visually stunning
- X-FI riser card
- 16 phase power design
- Screw down heatsinks
- Energy saving
- LCD Poster options
- Support for 16GB of DDR2
 
The Mediocre
- The Q-plate. I would like to have seen an EL version at this price point.
- Budget SATA cables
- Ribbon cables. Rounded cables should be statutory by now.
- SATA port - no locking mechanism
- X-FI instead of Xonar
 
The Poor
- The price. It will be hard to justify £180 for this instead of an X48 variant.
 
 
Overclock3D Best In Class Award
 
 
Many thanks to ASUS for providing us with the Maximus II Formula for this review.
 
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