Let me digress.
The importance of genetics upon all of our lives cannot possibly be overstated. It's the reason that we look how we do, have the colour eyes we do, roughly our body shape and type, even our likelihood of early baldness.
In the animal kingdom it plays an large role with the survival of entire species thanks to their genetics and the evolutionary process.
This evolutionary process is evident in PC hardware too. From the humble glide-based Voodoo and Rendition cards we now see the latest mighty Direct 3D graphics systems. Of course almost nothing can trace its lineage quite as far as the x86 processors.
So being able to "trace your roots" is vital whether it's your family tree and knowing why Uncle George has got big ears, or being able to look at your hardware and see the evolution from a previous product you know and love.
We're very fond of the Rampage III Extreme here at OC3D and consider it one of the premium motherboards on the planet. So much so we keep badgering Asus to give us enough so the whole team can have one. Of course with any premium product it has a price tag to match and so isn't for everyone. If you, like us, lust after owning one then what you need is something that has the genetics of the Rampage III Extreme, without the price-tag.
Enter the Rampage III Gene. Genetically linked to the Rampage III Extreme, but in a compact form.
See, I was going somewhere with that genetics waffle after all.
|Chipset||Intel X58 with ICH10R|
|System Bus||6.4GT/s with QPI|
6xDIMM, max 24GB
Supports 2200, 2133, 2000, 1800, 1600, 1333, 1066
|Expansion Slots||2x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16 and x16)|
1x PCIe x4
1x PCI 2.2
|Multi-GPU Support||NVIDIA SLI and ATI CrossFireX|
|Storage||6xSATA 3.0 (grey)|
Intel Matrix Storage Technology supports RAID 0,1,5 and 10
2x Marvell PCIe 9128 SATA 6Gb/s (red)
|LAN||Gigabit Intel LAN|
|Audio||SupremeFX X-Fi 2 Built-in|
|IEEE 1394a||2 ports. 1 rear, 1 internal|
|USB||2x USB 3.0 (NEC Controller)|
11x USB 2.0 (4 internal, 6 rear, 1 for ROG Connect)
Let's get a good look at the board then.
The packaging follows the usual ROG style, being red and silver with a very bold logo in teh boards centre and the ROG splash on the bottom right. The rear panel has the usual Asus clear layout showing the main features and specifications.
Opening her up we have the clear top we've recently seen on the Rampage III Extreme and Maximum III Extreme. Lifting that out for a moment we find the many inclusions that you always get with a ROG motherboard.
As well as the things we're all used to seeing, (SATA cables, IO shield, ROG Connect cable etc), we also see a big ROG sticker. Should you wish to adorn the side of your case with something slightly less discrete than the standard case badge.
Getting our first look we can see that it follows the Rampage IIIs unique heatsink design for the southbridge and chipset coolers, but as we'll see below the power-phase cooling certainly doesn't.
Flipping the coolers off we reveal the chipset in all it's glory. We'll get a closer look at them later on.
Understandably with this being a compressed mATX board the CPU socket is busy to say the least. The fin style cooler is almost designed to take the skin off your knuckles when installing a large cooler and it's curious to see this fairly old-school sink used on such a modern board.
The DIMM slots have the excellent single tab design we saw previously on ROG labelled boards. The top right of the board has the vertical battery we've seen on other high-end mATXs, so careful with that axe Eugene.
Below the good-looking chipset heatsink we have the PCIe slots and various headers. Although the PCIe release lever is a vast improvement upon most solutions, it still doesn't really allow you to easily take a full-cover card out. Anyone who's tried to remove a modern reference heatsink card without removing their skin/RAM/motherboard will know what I mean.
On the bottom right we have the normal front-panel headers, SATA ports etc. We also find the "GO" button which allows you to load a specific set of BIOS settings with just the push of a button. Vital for when you are overclocking.
The I/O panel has everything you'd expect to find. The main extras are the ROG Connect, and the CMOS reset on the rear. Always a handy feature.
Under The Hood
The rear of the box lauds loudly the "SupremeFX X-Fi 2" onboard sound. In an act akin to Toto in the Wizard of Oz, once you pull back the wizards curtain you find it's a plain old VIA VT2020.
The rear of the motherboard also has some power circuitry and a small heatspreader. Quite surprising considering how warm the old Rampage 2 Gene got, we hope this isn't a portent of things to come.
And here we have a nice couple of close-ups. On the left the X58, and on the right the ICH10R southbridge.
Enough contemplating our navel, let's fire her up.
The Rampage III Gene BIOS is the same brilliant AMI BIOS we've seen on previous boards. The combination of American Megatrends Inc and Asus always give us BIOS capable of tweaking everything we could hope to adjust, and in a very solid and stable manner.
Certainly voltage limits wont ever be hit. You might hit the ceiling if you put 2.5v through the QPI though.
The Extreme Tweaker naturally comes with plenty of sub-menus to enable you to gain control over everything to eke that last MHz out.
On the left we have the settings for the Go button. Anyone who's ever overclocked their PC and lost stability, usually right before they needed it for a VOIP or some work, will know how much of a life-saver it can be to have some working settings available at the press of a button.
On the right is one of the many ways you can choose to overclock your system, from a simple "turn my 920 into a 950" to "give me maximum memory speeds".
Curious that the BIOS is updated to the 950 but not the 975.
One of the many great features is how clearly the settings of the BIOS are explained in the panel on the right. The level of explanation is almost directly in proportion to the usefulness of the feature and the need for the "average" user to be tweaking it. So BCLK gets a good explanation, clock skew less so.
Finally some of the levels available in the DRAM and Uncore menus. So if you've got a set of DDR3 3600 kicking around, you can give it the beans here. Just as soon as we've sent it back to you.
Corsair Dominator GT @ 1600MHz
ASUS Rampage 3 Gene
Intel i7 930
Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
Noctua NH-D14 with Arctic MX-3
Naturally with so many overclocking options available to us, getting the most out of our i7-930 was a breeze.
Despite being very much a mATX board we still managed to coax 207MHz out the BCLK. With a little voltage tweaking this meant we got our i7-930 stable at a magnificent 4.2 GHz, 21x200.
I know that's a lot shorter than a lot of our overclocking explanations, but such is the ease of which the Rampage III Gene allows you to overclock. Naturally we're assisted by having swathes of experience with this particular chips capabilities, but even a neophyte will be able to get the most out of their system.
Starting with the excellent Sandra from SiSoftware, we can see that in our Arithmetic test the Gene easily keeps up with its big brother. In overclock mode the Gene really rocks, as of course we'd expect.
The Extreme just edges out the Gene in the Multimedia test. Although there isn't much between them to be honest. Naturally the overclock dominates the graphs.
Everest Ultimate Edition
Everest from Lavalys gives a larger lead to the Rampage III Extreme than we saw in the Sandra testing, as befits the price difference between the Gene and the Extreme. The overclock increase remains consistent across the board.
wPrime is far more reliant upon memory speeds and the CPU speed than the motherboard, and we can see that demonstrated in our results. The difference between the big and little Rampage IIIs is negligible.
PC Mark Vantage
Futuremarks PC Mark Vantage is a much more system-wide series of tests and we can clearly see the Extreme III justifying its price-tag over the Gene. That isn't to say that the Gene is in any way disgraced. Given its price-tag and naturally cut-down specifications it actually handles the PC Mark test with aplomb.
3D Mark Vantage
Vantage responds well to our processor overclock, as we'd expect it to, but this shows that the Gene has the go as well as the show. Even at stock it keeps pace with its big brother.
We are huge fans of Dirt 2 here at OC3D, and why wouldn't we be when it gives great results no matter what we test it on. It's the same here with the Gene as we find the results replicate those we've seen up to now.
Good old Crysis Warhead. If there is one thing it can be guaranteed to do it's provide us with lots of head-scratching. No idea what was going on with our overclock results here, so we'll treat it as the aberration it is and move on to our final couple of tests.
POV-Ray and CineBench R11.5
Both POV-Ray and CineBench are 3D rendering engines, but they go about image creation in very different methods. The robustness of the Gene shines through here as nothing stresses your CPU and subsystem in quite the same way as rendering. Yet the Gene just keeps on chomping numbers.
So to continue the theme from our introduction, does the Rampage III Gene still have the same genetics as the Rampage III Extreme that won our hearts, or is it more of a red-headed stepchild?
Clearly, as our results indicate, it most certainly deserves the Republic of Gamers branding and Rampage III nomenclature.
To go back to the Rampage III Extreme for a moment, it's a thing of beauty. A wonder. Something we aspire to. We all, and those of us here at OC3D are no different, like to look at a manufacturers premium product, sigh a little with desire, and then look down the list for the more affordable alternative that doesn't leave us eating beans on toast for a month. Or, more importantly, sleeping in the shed whilst our better-halves ring their mothers and complain.
The Rampage III Gene is exactly that more affordable alternative.
The results in our tests were within a gnats chuff of indentical between the Gene and the Extreme. So in day-to-day use for 95% of us, it will do everything you could want it to do. The likelyhood of anyone who would have the money to be buying this motherboard also wanting to run QuadFire is pretty slim. For most of us on a single or twin card graphics, and who don't run their system at insane overclocks, then the Rampage III Gene is all you could ask for.
That isn't to say it's perfect. There are a few small niggles. Mostly these centre around the MOSFET area with a very agricultural heat-pipe and fin arrangement that really doesn't fit either the rest of the boards design and, perhaps even worse, the Republic of Gamers branding. Even anodised black it would be an improvement, albeit microscopically less-efficient. This is also an area in which ventilation can be a bit of an issue. Both sides of the board are replete with power-circuitry, the graphics card divides the board into two thermal zones, and so if you are looking to either get the most out of your overclocking capabilities, or to run a decent sized overclock 24/7, it's absolutely vital that you make sure your case has lots of ventilation. It's slightly disappointing also to see only a couple of USB 3.0 ports, and a couple of SATA 6Gbps ones.
Other than those small things this really is the motherboard that gives you the quality you expect from anything RoG branded, and yet at a price we all can consider. It overclocks easily, it's as quick as its bigger brother and looks great.
That's something we can all agree is just the ticket. Even our other halves. And it's why it wins our OC3D Recommended award.
Thanks to ASUS for providing the Gene for todays review. Discuss in our forums.