ASUS Maximus III Formula
With the release of Intel's mainstream processors imminent it is about time we started to see some socket 1156 motherboards. Based on the new P55 chipset, the ASUS Maximus III Formula is designed to support the upcoming Lynnfield processors, or Core i5 to the public. As suggested by the socket name, these new motherboards will not support current i7 processors, although they do promise very similar performance for a fraction of the cost. Core i5 is now scheduled for release in September 2009, after many delays, but thankfully today we have details of ASUS' new Republic of Gamers motherboard - the Maximus III Formula.
Before we go and take a proper in depth look at the board, lets just have a look at the specifications.
|Maximus III Formula|
|CPU||Supports the Intel® Processors in the LGA1156 Package|
4 x DIMM, Dual Channel, up to 16GB
DDR3 2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1800(O.C)/1600/1333/1066 MHz
- 3 x PCIe x16 slot, (2*2.0 support single at x16 or dual at x8; 1*1.0 at x4)
- 2 x PCIe x1
|Multi-GPU||NVIDIA® SLI™ / ATI® CrossFireX™ ready|
- 10 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (2 x Speeding HDD SATA / 2 x SATA_ODD / 6 x Standard SATA)
- 1 x eSATA 3.0 Gb/s
Realtek® RTL8110SC Gigabit LAN controller
- SupremeFX X-Fi 8-Ch. discrete audio card with EAX4.0 support
- Blu-ray support
|IEEE 1394a||2 x 1394a ports (1 port at rear; 1 port onboard)|
|Other I/O ports||1*PS/2, 1*eSATA, 1*IEEE1394a, 1*Clr CMOS, 1* ROG Connect Switch|
|USB||14 x USB2.0 (9 at rear, 5 on board)|
|Fan connector||8 x Fan connectors (1 x CPU / 1 x PWR / 3 x Chassis / 3 x Optional)|
|Software||Kaspersky anti-virus (1-year full edition)|
|Features||ROG Connect, GameFirst, MemPerfect, MemOK!, CPU Level Up, Extreme Tweaker, iROG, ASUS Q-LED, Loadline Calibration, EPU, Q-Fan plus, Voltiminder LED|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor, 12”x 9.6” (30.5cm x 24.4cm)|
ASUS have managed to cram in alot of features. One thing that does raise questions is the exact performance impact of the loss of the QPI system and triple channel memory support, in favour of the DMI system and dual channel memory support.
As we can see, it retains most of the features that are seen on most recent ROG boards, such as ProbeIt (for hardware voltage measuring), the on board power and reset buttons, ASUS Q-Led (for easier trouble shooting) and the typical Supreme FX sound as well as the normal fantastic looks of the board. It differs in many ways to it's bigger X58 brothers though, only Dual channel DDR3, Dual graphics cards force to run at 8x speed rather than the full 16x, much like it's P45 predecessor. This shouldn't really matter to most users, as the slot can still provide enough bandwidth for all single GPU cards, it's when you start using dual GPU card such as the GTX295 or 4870x2 that you will run into problems, but then again, the people that do that are not the target market of this platform. It does bring alot of new features to the table though, and I mean alot!
Upon first looks this board is simply fantastic. A very clean layout on the whole and an amazing colour scheme carried throughout. A full black PCB that is set off with the red ports and heatsinks, It has to be one of the best looking boards on the market. One thing I am confused about though is, ASUS previous P55 board we looked at here
, had power sockets that matched the colour scheme of the rest of the board, this board doesn't, maybe as it's a pre production model, maybe it was overlooked and ruined the perfect colour scheme?
ASUS have tried to maximise compatibility by making the area around the CPU socket as low profile as possible to ensure all coolers fit, they have also introduced some really clever memory features, called Mem OK and MemPerfect. MemOK allows users to press a button and boot with memory that may not be fully supported or stable, allowing basic functionality. MemPerfect allows the user to tweak the memory to the desired speeds with the press of one button, and it's fully stable too thanks to a built in stress test.
The automatic overclocking features don't stop there though, oh no, they've added even more, allowing just about anybody to overclock their system easily. The Go Button allows users to quickly load a profile to overclock their CPU, whilst in Windows, for temporary speed boosts.
In a move to introduce more of it's users to overclocking, ASUS really are simplifying things. They have added yet another new feature, called ROG Connect. Basically, this allows you to collect your PC to your laptop and then overclock it whilst the PC still focuses on it's task (A benchmark for example). On the subject of performance, there is also the new GameFirst technology which prioritises the packets to lower your ping in games and still allows you to download files in the background.
Although they claim to have maximised compatibility, they have removed alot of the legacy support, there are no serial or parallel ports, only one PS2 port and the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed the lack of IDE or floppy slots. Finally a move in the right direction in my opinion, but some won't be pleased that they can not use their older drives any more.
Here we can see the rear IO panel, featuring 9 USB ports, a PS2 port, an eSATA port, a Firewire port, an ethernet port and the usual external clear CMOS button that is found on ROG boards.
Speaking of connectivity, there are 10 SATA ports, 5 USB ports, a Firewire port, 3 PCI express x16 slots, 2 PCI express x1 slots, 2 standard PCI slots and a whopping 8 fan connections. To just expand on the SATA ports one moment, the specifications mention that there are 2 Speeding HDD ports, 2 ODD ports and 6 standard ports. I find this quite strange, as I've never seen any ports specifically designed for optical drives.
You may be wondering what the two "Speeding HDD" ports are, they almost double the performance of the hard disk by quickly building a RAID array in either the BIOS or Windows itself. It is an easy method of setting up a RAID array is it gives you two options - Fast (RAID 0) or Secure (RAID 1). It's an interesting feature, will be useful to many, unlike the not so good basic RAID functions on older motherboards.
This is without a doubt one of the most feature packed motherboard and there is no doubt that this is aimed at the gamer or enthusiast, but some of the features ASUS have implemented are no doubt making it easier for everybody to get into overclocking and get the best performance from their hardware. Is this just a new design or is it a step into the next generation of computing?