ASUS Maximus III Extreme 1156 Motherboard
Published: 19th February 2010 | Source: ASUS | Price: around £250 |
A Good Look at the Maximus III Extreme
Freeing the board from its cardboard confines we can see that the theme from the packaging nicely matches the layout of the board. Everything is very clear and exudes a quality you'd expect from such a high-end product. Black and red definitely seems to be the colour-scheme of choice for premium hardware lately which isn't a bad thing as it always looks purposeful. The second thing that is instantly noticeable is that there isn't a spare space anywhere to be found. The whole board is awash with chips, headers, switches etc.
Flipping the board upside down shows quite how much space has been used, with almost more solder visible than board. The bottom left especially is like looking up into the stars. Hopefully the performance is similarly galactic.
Starting at the bottom left with the expansion slots, we can see a grand total 5 PCIe x16 slots and one PCI 2.2 slot. The five PCIe slots support four graphics cards and, thanks to the NF200 chip, support two cards at x16, three at x16, x16 and x8 and if you fancy using all four or five of the PCIe slots you have x8 on them all. One of the problems we're all aware of is the locking mechanism that keeps the rear of your card in place. Often this is a simple clip or plastic retainer that is exceptionally tough to get at once a double-wide card is in place, but the Maximus III Extreme has a brilliantly simple latch that holds the card securely and is very simple to get at even with a card in place. We've left the top one open for our shot to show how little they open and what a excellent solution this is.
Below the expansion slots are the usual array of headers for front-panel audio, CD in, USB headers and the like. Demonstrating the commitment to the overclocking community we have on board power and reset switches too. Just to the right of those is a place to plug in the ASUS OC Station, so that you can migrate it to your new board if you purchased one before.
Everywhere you look on this board there is a new thing to discover and a great little touch. To the right we have the RAM slots, which normally are only here for colour reasons and completeness, but once again there is so much to mention. Firstly the retaining mechanism for the RAM slots is, like the expansion slots, also different to what most of us will be used to. Instead of having two big clips than need securing, ASUS have only got one that needs opening and the other is static. The improvement is fantastic not only in speeding up installation and removal of the RAM sticks themselves, but because the lower retainer is permanent it acts as a easy guide to lining them up correctly. Anyone who's changed their RAM on a motherboard that's already built in a case will know how difficult it is to line them up every time, and whilst that isn't a recommended practise it certainly wont occur with this cool solution.
Below the DIMM sockets as you look at it are two more little tricks the Maximus III Extreme has up its sleeve. On the left is the dual-function GO button. A quick press of this before POST enables the MemOK feature which diagnoses memory issues and patches them to greatly increase the chances of a successful boot. Very useful indeed especially if you've been a little over-confident with your settings. Holding it for a longer period before POST will load a specific set of BIOS settings that you've previously assigned to the GO button. We'll look at assigning that when we come to the BIOS, but naturally the possibilities are tremendous.
As the Maximus III Extreme comes with two BIOS' that you can manually switch between, the GO button gives you effectively three different profiles to choose from before booting. It can be as easily set to a low-power setting for basic browsing, as it could be to a extreme overclock that only works under LN2. Enabling you to use the board both as a main rig, and a world-record setter. Just above the go button is an LN2 jumper to help the CPU recover from a frozen state.
Next to the GO button are the ProbeIt measurement points for quick and easy multimeter voltage measuring. Curiously this is Probelt in the manual and the ASUS website and clearly ProbeIt on the motherboard. Given its use I think ProbeIt is probably accurate.
The LGA1156 socket is by far the best CPU retention method around, ensuring good pressure and also with the guide slots it's impossible to mis-align the CPU. The Maximus III Extreme has a very busy CPU area in keeping with the rest of the board, but all the heatsinks and things are very low profile, as is the Republic of Gamers branded heatsink below, ensuring even the beefiest of CPU Coolers can be fitted without issue. As is becoming quite a theme throughout this close look there are a few other things to note.
To the bottom left is one of the EZ Plugs that help provide more power for those of you running tri or quad graphics cards. Above that is the RC Bluetooth header. This is for the installation of the RC Bluetooth adaptor (seen later) and it enables you to control the motherboard using a bluetooth smartphone. If you have a smartphone with either Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional or later, Symbian S60 3rd FP1 or later, or Android 2.0 or later you can pair it up with the motherboard and tweak voltages and clock speeds on the fly using your phone. An exceptionally cool feature indeed. Sadly my mobile phone is still steam powered and so I couldn't test it out, but it's yet another connectivity option on this staggeringly impressive motherboard.
The closeup show below right shows the RC Bluetooth connector and also one of my favourite parts of the whole package. If anyone doubts the intentions of the ROG Maximus III Extreme, the LED for CPU Normal, CPU High and CPU Crazy leaves no room for doubt. CPU Crazy could almost be the subtitle for many of us and is only a t-shirt away from being a phenomenon.
At the very bottom right of this picture is one of the three headers for the thermal probes that are included in the accessories box.
Finally we see the 9 SATA ports that come equipped on the motherboard. From left to right we have the vertical JMicron controlled SATA 3 Gb/s port that also supports E-SATA. Next along are the six 3 Gb/s SATA ports controlled by the P55 chipset itself. These support RAID 0,1,5 and 10. Finally on the right we have the latest addition to the storage technology world, the Marvel SATA 6 Gb/s ports, handily highlighted in red. As is to be expected these all support the locking style of connector that quickly usurped the less stable SATA 1 style.
The right hand picture is a front view of the second EZ plug for extra power in tri and quad graphics systems, that was viewable from above in the expansion slot photograph.
Oh yes there is more. Read on.