Asus Blitz Formula
The Blitz Extreme is the DDR3 motherboard - but for our tests, we selected the Blitz Formula , which is the DDR2 version. The DDR2 motherboard offers equal performance, while the price you pay for memory modules is a lot lower. You will recognize this board by its fusion water block on the Northbridge. A long copper heat pipe connects the Northbridge, the Southbridge and Asus' Crosshair controller, which automatically assigns the 16 PCI Express lanes into one or two x16 slots for AMD/ATI dual graphics. The heat pipe ends at the backpanel, where it also cools four of the eight phases of the voltage regulator and offers a heat sink, which is designed to be ventilated through the processor cooler. If you deploy a water cooling solution you can use two radial fans, which Asus includes.
We found the design to be clean and straightforward. You can always use at least one of the two 32 bit PCI slots and at least one of two x1 PCI Express slots - even if you install two dual-slot graphics cards. The six SATA/300 connectors are bent 90° sideways, which allows you to plug in cables without interfering with long expansion cards. Asus also added a small controller to provide a single UltraATA/133 channel for legacy devices.
The HD audio solution is placed on a x1 PCI Express expansion card for the sake of decoupling it from the motherboard. While this card, called Supreme FX2, carries all analog (electrical) audio jacks, the optical and coaxial digital audio outputs can be found in the backpanel, right next to an uncommon CMOS reset switch. Be careful when you plug in a Firewire or an optical audio cable, because you could accidentally hit the reset button and kill your settings. Apart from that, the ideal of routing the CMOS reset to the exterior was a good idea. There are also physical power and reset switches on the lower end of the motherboard. The Flash ROM for the BIOS software is 16 Mb, which means that a BIOS update doesn't fit on a 3.5" floppy. However, the motherboard supports BIOS updates via USB 2.0 storage devices.
The Blitz Formula comes with a Marvell PHY to support the on-board Gigabit Ethernet port, and it has a secondary Gigabit Ethernet port, powered by another Marvell controller. The Firewire ports are run by a VIA controller and we found as many as six fan headers. We only found solid capacitors on this motherboard, which is a good basis for long durability.
We liked Asus' "CPU Level Up" feature, which switches from the classic clock speed setting to a processor-dependant setting. We used a Core 2 Duo E6400 and switched to the Level Up list, where we found Core 2 Extreme X6800 and Core 2 Duo E6850 settings. The Blitz Formula tries to switch to the appropriate clock speeds to match these models, hence it "levels" the clock speed up by automatically increasing the FSB speed and the voltage it may require to do that. A 3 GHz FSB375 speed was easy to reach with the Blitz Formula. Asus supports all current socket 775 processors and says that 45-nm Penryn processors will also be supported, which we are sure is the case. We were able to overclock this motherboard to slightly above 500 MHz FSB speed, which is an excellent result.
Asus includes a number of software titles: Stalker, the Asus AI Suite, Asus PC Probe II, Asus Update, 3DMark06, InterVideo MediaOne Gallery, Ulead PhotoImpact 12 SE, CyberLink PowerBackup and Corel Snapfire Plus SE.