Asus Rampage III Extreme reviewed

If you are looking to build a kick-ass gaming system, or want to wring the most out of a CPU or even put together a powerful desktop/workstation you need a well-featured stable motherboard at its centre, and they certainly don’t come any more well featured than Asus’s flagship Intel based ROG (Republic Of Gamers) board, the Rampage III Extreme.

But as with any high-end board it does have an equally impressive price tag - £329 to be exact.

It comes in a pretty big box, so crammed with extra’s it’s a marvel Asus could get it to shut. While the board itself is so feature packed, there isn’t any PCB real estate left to add thing else, and in any case its pretty hard to think of anything that’s missing; Intel X58/ICH10 chipset, four - yes four - PCI-E graphics slots (supporting CrossFireX and SLI technologies), six memory slots supporting up 24GB of DDR3 memory, SATA 3GB/s, SATA 6.0GB/s, USB 2.0 and 3.0, a highly-detailed and adjustable BIOS via a switchable dual BIOS chip design and, oh yes, a Bluetooth module.

The new board is the successor to the very popular Rampage II Extreme and is finished in the standard ROG black and red which certainly catches the eye as does the design of the heatsinks which look like miniature works of modern art.

The build quality of the board is superb and despite the feature-rich design, the layout works well. A neat touch is the use of single-sided DIMM slots (only one end has a locking latch) which means the slots can be placed closer to the PCI-E graphics card slots than normal, while there is enough space around the Socket 1366 to allow some serious third-party coolers to be used. Interestingly, the board has been drilled for both 1366 and Socket 775 coolers.

As this is a board aimed at the serious overclocker, Asus has paid close attention to the power requirements of the board, so high-quality components, including solid capacitors and all-ferrite core chokes, are used throughout the power circuits.

Just to one side of the very large start and reset buttons on the board is a small red button, which, when pressed, allows the board to boot up even if there are some compatibility probems with the board and the memory. There’s even a line of plugs and pins that allow you to use a voltage meter to get an accurate reading of power usage throughout the board.

Fancy overclocking your PC from the sofa? Well by using ROG Connect you can. By using either an USB cable (supplied) or the Bluetooth module you can control the board settings (all apart from the CPU multiplier) dynamically from another PC, laptop or even a PDA.

As mentioned above, the hardware extras in the box are pretty impressive, deep breath, here we go: one ROG Connect cable, one ProbeIt cable set (for voltage monitoring), single CrossFire bridge, single and three-way SLI bridges, and ASUS Q-Connector Kit (helps to connect the case front panel connectors with ease), six SATA 3GB/s and two SATA 6GB/s data cables, one back plate with two USB 2.0 and single e-SATA ports, thermal sensor cable pack, Bluetooth module and a heatsink and 40mm fan for additional cooling for the Northbridge, which thankfully are designed to match the board.

Verdict
At the end of the day, this board - as with all very-high-end motherboards - is aimed at the small number of people who want extreme performance no matter what the cost.

And to this end Asus has really delivered with the Rampage III Extreme. From the superb build quality and use of high-end components throughout, from the power supply design through to the tweak-ability of the dual-chip BIOS, this is one of the best boards we have seen.

Add to that a feature list that will future proof any system for quite some time and the price tag begins to look less daunting.

Specifications
Form Factor: ATX (30.5 cm x 26.9 cm) Socket: Intel Socket 1366 Chipset: Intel X58 / ICH10R Memory: Six DIMM slots, up to 24GB DDR3 RAM Graphic card slots: 4 x PCI-E x16 2.0 Expansion slots: 1 x PCI, 1 x PCI-E x4 Storage: 6 x SATA 3GB/s, 2 x SATA 6GB/s LAN: Integrated Gigabit Audio: Integrated 7.1 HD USB: up to 9 USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0