Asus Maximus Formula Special Edition X38 S775 Motherboard
Published: 6th November 2007 | Source: Asus | Price: £170 - £180 |
Just over two months ago Asus gave us the opportunity to sample the latest board in their "Republic of Gamers" linup. Based on the P35 chipset and named the "Blitz", the board literally blew our pants off with its wealth of features, extreme looks and outstanding performance. So it's no wonder why when Asus asked us to take a look at yet another "Republic of Gamers" board, but this time based on the X38 chipset, we literally bit their hands off.
Many of us already know what Intel's latest chipset; the X38 has to offer, but before we get down and dirty let's recap over some of the changes and extra features we can expect to receive from this virgin chipset...
First off the bat is PCI-Express 2.0. Effectively doubling the signaling rate from 2.5Gbps up to 5Gbps, this allows plenty of headroom for future bandwidth-hungry graphics cards. Of course until these graphics cards see the light of day, you're unlikely to see any performance gains. But it's good to "future-proof" yourself never less.
Going hand-in-hand with PCIe 2.0 on the X38 are two x16 (electrical) PCIe slots. This is certainly no surprise as the X38 is the successor to Intel's vastly popular 975x chipset, which also featured the same PCIe configuration for optimal performance when using dual graphics cards in Crossfire mode.
Finally, Intel claim that the X38 chipset was designed with overclocking in mind. Both the front-side bus and latency timings have been tweaked for increased performance and several improvements have been made to the X38's memory controller to allow for more stable overclocking of high-frequency memory modules.
With everything considered, the X38 doesn't really have many new features that would encourage enthusiasts to upgrade from their existing P35/975x chipsets. However, the success of many previous chipsets has been largely down to the creative genius of motherboard manufacturers who add many of their own features and further tweak the chipsets in order to make their latest motherboards a worthwhile upgrade over their previous products. With this in mind, lets take a look at what Asus have to say about their latest motherboard:
The Maximus motherboard provides awesome Overclocking speeds and challenges performance limitations. Equipped with the Fusion Block System - an effective 0dB fanless design cooling system with a chipset waterblock that adds onto a power user´s existing watercooling circuit to help keep operations cool. Additionally, SupremeFX II not only increases the sound quality, it also enhances aesthetic value. The Maximus also adopts the Intel X38/ICH9R chipset and supports DDR2 dual channel memory and CrossFire Technology - making it the Overclocker and Gamer´s first and best choice.
The Republic of Gamers consists only the best of the best. We offer the best hardware engineering, the fastest performance, the most innovating ideas, and we welcome the best gamers to join in. In the Republic of Gamers, mercy rules are only for the weak, and bragging rights means everything. We believe in making statements and we excel in competitions. If your character matches our trait, then join the elite club, make your presence felt, in the Republic of Gamers.
- Intel® Quad-core CPU Ready
- Supports Intel® next generation 45nm Multi-core CPU
- Intel® Core™2 Extreme / Core™2 Duo Ready
- Intel® X38/ICH9R
- Dual-channel DDR2 1200*/1066 MHz Support
- Fusion Block System
- Extreme Tweaker
- SupremeFX II 8-CH Audio
- CPU Level Up
- Voltiminder LED
- LCD Poster
- ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit) - 2-Phase DDR2 - COP EX
As with the previously reviewed Blitz Extreme motherboard, the Maximus Fusion comes with Asus' trademark Fusion Block System that consists of a copper Northbridge block linked to the Southbridge and Mosfets via heatpipes. Obviously we'll re-visit this later on in the review, but judging by some of our initial glimpses of the board, it's certainly fair to say that Asus have made some significant tweaks to its design.
A brand new feature to appear on some of Asus' very latest motherboards is Energy Processing Unit (or EPU for short). The EPU is an onboard, hardware-based power saving IC controller that digitally monitors and fine tunes your CPU's power supply in real-time, providing improved VRM efficiency under light and heavy loads. This allows the EPU to provide up to 58.6% CPU power savings when running low-intensity applications.
More information on the various features of the Maximus board can be found on Asus's website, but for the moment all we're interested in are the raw specs:
LGA775 socket for Intel® Core™2 Extreme / Core™2 Quad / Core™2 Duo / Pentium® Extreme / Pentium® D / Pentium® 4 Processors
Support Intel® next generation 45nm Multi-Core CPU
Compatible with Intel® 06/05B/05A processors
* Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
Intel® X38/ICH9R with Intel® Fast Memory Access Technology
Front Side Bus
1600 / 1333 / 1066 / 800 MHz
Dual channel memory architecture
4 x DIMM, support max. 8GB, DDR2-1200*/1066/800/667 MHz, ECC, non-ECC and un-buffered memory
*DDR2 1200 is O.C. speeds.
*Refer to www.asus.com or this user manual for the Memory QVL(Qualified Vendors Lidts).
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot, support at full x16, x16 speed
3 x PCIe x1 ( the PCIEx1_1 (black) is compatible with audio slot)
2 x PCI 2.2
Support ATI CrossFire™ graphics cards
- 6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
- Intel Matrix Storage Technology supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10
JMicron® JMB368 PATA controller:
- 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
Dual Gigabit LAN controllers, both featuring AI NET2
Support Teaming Technology
SupremeFX II Audio Card:
- ADI 1988B 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Noise Filter
Coaxial, Optical S/PDIF out at back I/O
2 x 1394a ports(1 port at back I/O, 1 port onboard)
Max. 12 USB 2.0 ports(6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at back panel)
Fusion Block System
Intelligent overclocking tools:
- CPU Level Up
- ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit)
- AI Gear 3™
- AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
- ASUS AI Booster Utility
- O.C Profile
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Onboard Switches: Power / Reset / Cls CMOS (at rear)
ASUS Q-Fan 2
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port(purple)
1 x Optical 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
2 x LAN (RJ45) port
6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x IEEE1394a port
1 x Clr CMOS switch
Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB 2.0 connectors supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector for two devices
6 x SATA connectors
8 x Fan connectors: 1 x CPU / 1 x PWR / 3 x Chassis / 3 x Optional
3 x thermal sensor connectors
1 x IEEE1394a connector
1 x S/PDIF output connector
1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS
System panel connector
16Mb AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS
WOL by PME, WOR by PME, Chasis Intrusion, PXE
Fusion Block System Accessory
ASUS Optional Fan
SupremeFX II Audio Card
3 in 1 ASUS Q-Connector Kit
UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
Floppy disk drive cable
SATA power cables
2-port USB2.0 IEEE 1394a module
The hottest 3D Game: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
- Drivers and applications
ASUS PC Probe II
ASUS AI Suite
Futuremark ® 3DMark® 06 Advanced Edition
ATX Form Factor, 12"x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)
I've always been impressed with the features included on Asus' "Republic of Gamers" motherboards and the Maximus Fusion is certainly no exception. Complete with features such as OC Profile (for saving settings), Voltminder LED (for displaying voltage status) and Asus C.P.R (for recovering after bad overclock) all integrated into the board and BIOS, the Maximus should certainly appeal to Overclockers. Asus haven't skimped on I/O ports either with a total of 12 USB ports, 2 NIC's, 6x SATA ports and a SupremeFX II High Definition add-in sound card. The only thing thats really missing is eSATA ports, but the reasoning behind cutting these out will become clear over the next few pages.