ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard
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'.
- 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 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 price. It will be hard to justify £180 for this instead of an X48 variant.
Many thanks to ASUS for providing us with the Maximus II Formula for this review.
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