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Overclocking: Asus Rampage IV Extreme Versus EVGA X79 FTW

Asus Rampage IV Extreme

Asus’ Republic of Gamers motherboards add exclusive overclocking technologies to all other features expected from high-end enthusiast products. One of the Rampage IV Extreme’s USB ports can, for example, be repurposed at the push of an I/O panel button to control clock speed via the company's now-famous ROG Connect technology.

Reeling in the gamer crowd is the Rampage IV Extreme’s PCIe x16 slot layout, which Asus highlights with red connectors, even though there’s a fifth (grey) slot in the middle. The layout actually devotes sixteen lanes exclusively to the top slot, sends eight lanes to the second slot, and allots the fourth slot its full sixteen. The fifth x16 slot takes eight lanes from the fourth whenever it’s populated (using automatic configuration). The initial result is two-way graphics at x16-x16 transfers with quadruple slot spacing, three-way graphics at x16-x8-x16 transfers with double slot spacing, or four-way graphics at x16-x8-x8-x8 transfers with double slot spacing.

The grey slot adds the option of three-way graphics with triple slot spacing by stealing all eight lanes from the second slot. The resulting lane configuration is x16-x8-x8 using the top, middle (grey) and bottom connectors.

Some of the Rampage IV Extreme’s more extreme overclocking features can be seen in the above full-view shot, such as the pair of Subzero Sense temperature interfaces next to SATA that are used with separately-purchased K-type thermocouples.

An internal CLR_CMOS button is placed in the top-rear corner, while a BIOS IC selector switch is found at the bottom front.

The top-front edge looks far more interesting, with its selection of status LEDs, line voltage detection points, and PCIe slot disabling switches. The Go button jumps from current settings to a preset overclock, while Slow Mode allows the system to be momentarily dropped from a super-high overclock in order to prevent cold-crashes at light load when using liquid nitrogen.

Two sets of jumpers perform the amazing trick of monitoring and setting GPU voltage from the motherboard, but require leads to be soldered to each card. Making this technology even more useful is that the settings can be changed in firmware, software (Asus TurboV Evo), or remotely (Asus OC Key)

The enthusiast-expected additions like on-board Start/Reset buttons and a Port 80 display are also found.

Asus OC Key adds video overlay of key firmware features (monitoring and O/C controls) to Asus' ROG Connect technology. This allows a user to do his “remote” tuning from a separate keyboard, locally. The benefits of being outside the influence of an operating system remain.

The Rampage IV Extreme is packed with cables, connectors, and PCIe bridges, even including an X-Socket adapter that allows users to remove Intel’s integrated cooler support frame for increased compatibility with LGA 1366 coolers. The only missing piece is a three-way SLI bridge for triple-slot card spacing, enabled by the grey slot that Asus barely mentions. Bridges for double-slot spacing are available in both three-way and four-way SLI, along with flexible dual-card bridges that span the four slots between full x16-length connectors.

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