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Overclocking: Asus Rampage IV Extreme Versus EVGA X79 FTW

Asus Versus EVGA: Who Wins?

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”.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.