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Asus Versus EVGA: Who Wins?

Overclocking: Asus Rampage IV Extreme Versus EVGA X79 FTW
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Today’s comparison leaves little doubt that Asus provides the most comprehensive set of out-of-the-box overclocking features. Its Rampage IV Extreme also has the most complicated firmware. And yet, users who don’t want to change a hundred settings can still achieve a very respectable overclock. Although the easiest overclocking method (using built-in-profiles) didn’t appear optimized for our specific CPU, manually configuring the system to XMP-2133, a 48x CPU multiplier, and a 1.45 V core setting was simple.

EVGA has the greenest default power settings, so we're using them as today's performance and power baseline. The true goal of today’s test was to seek overclocked performance, where low-power settings aren’t used

Asus’ baseline performance lead comes at a huge cost in power consumption, while its overclocked performance lead is relatively small compared to EVGA. For the best balance of performance and power savings at standard settings, EVGA has the upper hand.

But most overclockers disable power-saving settings anyway in order to achieve the highest stable performance. Once you do that, EVGA’s power consumption increases up to Asus levels. The result is an extremely small efficiency loss, due to its slightly-inferior overclock at similar voltage settings.

Asus might have won this round, but its Rampage IV Extreme costs around $50 more than its similarly-capable and more productivity-oriented four-way SLI motherboard, the P9X79 WS. While we’re hesitant to pay the extra money for this platform's exact feature set, we know many users who would. And so, we give the Rampage IV Extreme our entry-level recommendation, the Tom's Hardware Approved award, for its ability to service overclocking exhibitionists.

A Case of Mistaken Identity?

Our examination of the X79 FTW’s DDR3 configuration issue, originally brought to our attention by a reader, demonstrates that this is primarily a timing issue. We were able to use our RAM at DDR3-1866 by simply changing its primary timings manually. And while we never were able to use its 21.33x multiplier to reach DDR3-2133 at stock base clock, we were able to hit our target data rate by combining the board's 16x memory multiplier with a 133.3 MHz base clock and manual secondary timings. We further relied on our screenshots from the firmware of EVGA’s competitor to provide those secondary timings.

An extensive web search indicated that the same configuration problem equally affects both the X79 FTW and X79 Classified. Sharing of certain firmware modules is the most likely explanation, and we could confirm that if we had both boards. On the other hand, firmware issues are something we would not expect at this price point on a product so specifically aimed at overclocking enthusiasts. We expect the issue to be resolved in future products, but must rely on our community to track changes in the firmware of current products as we again try to move on to the “next big thing”.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    halcyon , April 17, 2012 11:13 AM
    I wish I hadn't seen this. I really do. I have no excuse to get an X79 based system. I don't. I..do...not. I want. ...but I can't. Food. Food is important.
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    EzioAs , April 17, 2012 5:20 AM
    Nice article.

    Where is the MSI Big Bang Xpower II? That's known to be a great board for overclocking as well.
  • 4 Hide
    schn1tt3r , April 17, 2012 5:39 AM
    I'd love to see a comparison like this between the Rampage IV Extreme and the Rampage IV Formula. The price difference is over $100 and I don't see WHY. 8 RAM slots is something I would never fill up so the Formula and its 4 slots seems perfect to me.
  • 3 Hide
    hellfire24 , April 17, 2012 6:14 AM
    i would take rampage iv formula.it's cheaper and provides similar features.who needs 4-way sli?
  • 1 Hide
    WR2 , April 17, 2012 7:04 AM
    Kind of a lukewarm recommendation. Just 'Tom's Hardware Approved award'
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , April 17, 2012 7:47 AM
    WR2Kind of a lukewarm recommendation. Just 'Tom's Hardware Approved award'
    Only because there aren't many readers who can get $50 of value out of its specific feature set, compared to the WS.
  • 1 Hide
    niknovacain , April 17, 2012 10:09 AM
    Red and black looks sick.
  • 14 Hide
    halcyon , April 17, 2012 11:13 AM
    I wish I hadn't seen this. I really do. I have no excuse to get an X79 based system. I don't. I..do...not. I want. ...but I can't. Food. Food is important.
  • 0 Hide
    master9716 , April 17, 2012 1:40 PM
    You guys really need to start Testing @ 5760x1080 !!! , Monitors go for really cheap on craiglist now from wholesellers , you can buy 3 24" leds for like 300 bucks so a lot of people that I know have been runing 3 monitor setups for a while.
  • 1 Hide
    jaquith , April 17, 2012 1:41 PM
    Thanks Thomas for another enlightening Article! :) 

    Just knowing the ASUS and EVGA from past history (LGA 1366) which may or may not play any role here, ASUS tends to (lets call it adjust) the CPU vCore and VTT/VCCSA higher than advertised vs EVGA which probably explains* the problems with both the high frequency RAM and CPU OC's.

    The disturbing thing to 'me' was the regulator voltages. I know the EVGA uses 12+2 vs ASUS's 8+3+(2+2) PWM and it's all digital controlled on ASUS, (*)but IDK if the EVGA is digitally controlled which might explain the inefficiency and OC.

    The EVGA has always been a very 'manual' MOBO, so in that regard I'm not surprised you had to dive into the BIOS. I have no doubts if you raised the EVGA's voltages vs a cloned ASUS optimized OC set that you'd have no problems obtaining the SAME 4.8GHz OC. Both boards offer voltage check points and I'd be very interesting how they compared.

    Just the other day I updated my ASUS BIOS and right-off I noticed an increased vCore increase by +0.01v~+0.015v and as part of the documented (improvements) was 'Improved Stability' ; yeah sure if you raise the vCore or VTT/VCCSA, phase, etc profiles... Now I have to redo my validations.

    The most important testing here, to me, is the Baseline Comparison which tells me EVGA has some work to do ASAP, and hopefully a BIOS update can close the gaps. Further, personally I won't buy or recommend any X79 MOBO unless it offers an 8xDIMM option. In the forum it's been very clear which X79's I recommend since day one, and the ASUS R4E has always been on top on my list if you can afford it! ;) 
  • 1 Hide
    spookyman , April 17, 2012 2:37 PM
    Considering Ivy Bridge is around the corner. Would it be beneficial in buying a Sandy Bridge-E board?
  • 0 Hide
    Yuka , April 17, 2012 3:20 PM
    Uhm... How is the USB3 count works? I'm kind of confused.

    Thanks for the Article! Nice couple of boards indeed.

    Cheers!
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 17, 2012 4:03 PM
    Of course Asus wins. Asus is the boss hogg.
  • 1 Hide
    CaedenV , April 17, 2012 4:21 PM
    Great review!

    If I was into extreme system building I would not hesitate for a moment for a $50 price difference between a board that works as advertised vs a board you have to coax into working properly. In the grand scheme of things $50 is not that much money, especially considering the platform cost of the rest of the system. It's not like you build these rigs for OC'd gaming with less than $1000 in GPU horsepower alone, not to mention nice big SSDs and RAID arrays, $100 coolers, oversized cases etc. $50 just disappears at that point.

    The ironic thing to me however is that this proves more than anything that OCing a system has little to no effect on gaming (at least with a single GPU), and yet gamers are the ones more likely to OC as most productivity people are artists or cube dwellers by nature and not hardware junkies who would OC their system to the moon. Yet there is a near 1/3rd of untapped performance potential in their computers that will never be touched.

    Another thing of interest to me is that on the 1155 platform it is possible to get a higher efficiency by doing an OC (because you can get to 4.4GHz on some before changing any voltages which only gives a minor wattage increase). I wonder of the 2011 platform gets a little more efficient with a minor OC compared to these higher OCs.

    Last thought: It is odd to me how OCing works. Something like 90% hit 4.2GHz with no problem, only some 50% of the CPUs can hit 4.5GHz, and then only ~5% can hit anything above 4.8GHz. On my own rig I can hit 4.2GHz with no problems at all, and that is a 2600 non-K (turbo OC as I am locked out of the base clock, but according to CPUz it hits a consistent 4.2GHz when under load, which is the only time I need anything above stock anyways). Back when I use to OC a lot (way back in the P3/P4 days) you would be lucky to hit a 500MHz boost before having heat problems (much less stability issues). It just amazes me that you can easily hit a near 1GHz OC these days without any voltage changes, but then going much higher than that it requires exponential amounts of power. And now the thing holding OCers back is more timing stability and power regulation instead of heat.
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , April 17, 2012 4:26 PM
    Anyone remember this?: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/5-ghz-project,731.html

    Perhaps Tom's could do a modern 'extreme OC' and see how far you can get. 6GHz maybe?
  • -1 Hide
    Marcus52 , April 17, 2012 6:00 PM
    I really would like to see more CPU intensive games used when the article is comparing CPU performance. Battlefield 3 and, even better, World of Warcraft come to mind.

    ;) 
  • -1 Hide
    Marcus52 , April 17, 2012 6:03 PM
    EzioAsNice article.Where is the MSI Big Bang Xpower II? That's known to be a great board for overclocking as well.


    Why you asking? Did you send one in to be included in the test?
  • 1 Hide
    EzioAs , April 17, 2012 6:23 PM
    Quote:
    Why you asking? Did you send one in to be included in the test?


    Because in the article they wrote "We contacted that manufacturer (along with one of its closest competitors) to see how two of today’s top-rated enthusiast-oriented boards would compare to each other in terms of overclocking ease, stability, and features.", meaning they never contacted MSI(I'm assuming). I'm pretty sure MSI would be eager to put their flagship board to the test as well.

    Hope I clarify something here and I never meant to be rude in the first comment. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Hellbound , April 17, 2012 6:49 PM
    This article helped me make a decision.. I ordered a rampage IV today.
  • 1 Hide
    halcyon , April 17, 2012 7:05 PM
    HellboundThis article helped me make a decision.. I ordered a rampage IV today.

    I'm jealous. I don't need a Rampage IV. I don't. What I have is fine. Yeahp. You know, A Rampage IV and a 3820 wouldn't be that expensive. I could sell my Asrock Z68 Pro and 2500K... I don't need a Rampage IV...won't make a difference. Its just for light gaming. I have another machine for serious stuff. I...I....
  • 1 Hide
    billj214 , April 17, 2012 9:04 PM
    Any board from the cheapest to the most expensive is just as fast as the other with a few MHZ clock change.

    Buy your board based on:
    1. Reputation
    2. Reviews
    3. Warranty
    4. Price
    5. Options

    I also opt to use integrated chips for NIC and Audio made from anyone other than Realtek! :) 
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