Overclocking: Asus Rampage IV Extreme Versus EVGA X79 FTW

X79's Last Hurrah Before Ivy Bridge

The editors of Tom's Hardware do our best to cover the broadest selection of hardware that finds its way into your PC, but some components fall through the cracks whenever the steady march of technology pushes us to move on to the next new thing. Such was the case for a few X79 Express-based motherboards priced over $380.

Reader John Case wrote in a few weeks after our premium X79 motherboard comparison to tell us that one of the products we missed wouldn't support any of his high-end memory at its rated frequency, no matter how much time he spent trying to optimize timings and voltage levels. After several successful RMAs, he was ready to ship us his board for testing. That’s when the manufacturer stepped in to provide a full refund.

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.

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X79 Motherboard Features
Row 0 - Cell 0 Asus Rampage IV ExtremeEVGA X79 FTW 151-SE-E777-KR
PCB Revision1.021.0
ChipsetIntel X79 ExpressIntel X79 Express
Voltage RegulatorEleven Phases14 Phases
BIOS1202 (03/22/2012)035 (03/08/2012)
100.0 MHz BCLK100.1 MHz (+0.10%)100.0 MHz (+0.00%)
Internal Interfaces
PCIe 3.0 x164 (x16/x8/16/x0 or x16/x8/x8x8)5 (x16/x0/x4/x16/x0 or x8/x8/x4/x8/x8)
PCIe 2.0 x16NoneNone
PCIe x1/x411/0
Legacy PCINoneNone
USB 2.02 (4 ports)3 (6 ports)
USB 3.02 (4 ports)1 (2 ports)
IEEE-1394None1x Firewire 800
Serial PortNone1
Parallel PortNoneNone
SATA 6.0 Gb/s42
SATA 3.0 Gb/s44
4-Pin Fan77
3-Pin FanNoneNone
S/PDIF I/OOutput OnlyBoth
Power ButtonYesYes
Reset ButtonYesYes
CLR_CMOS ButtonYesYes
Diagnostics PanelNumericNumeric
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 211
USB 3.048
USB 2.082
eSATA2 (1 Powered)2
CLR_CMOS ButtonYesYes
Digital Audio OutOpticalOptical
Digital Audio InNoneNone
Analog Audio55
Other DevicesBluetooth Transceiver, ROG ConnectBluetooth Transceiver, EVBot Header
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 10
Add-In SATA2 x ASM1061 PCIe2 x SATA 6Gb/s2 x eSATA 6Gb/s88SE6121 PCIe2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
USB 3.03 x ASM1042 PCIe2 x ASM1042 PCIe 2 x VL810 Hub
IEEE-1394NoneXIO2213B PCIe1 x FireWire 800
Gigabit Ethernet
Primary LANWG82579V PHY88E8059 PCIe
Secondary LANNone88E8059 PCIe
HD Audio CodecALC898ALC898
DDL/DTS ConnectNot SpecifiedNot Specified

Asus and EVGA committed to this article with their Rampage IV Extreme and X79 Classified. We were a little surprised when EVGA instead sent its X79 FTW, but noted that this still fell within the $380+ ultra-premium market that was so scantly covered by only one board in our previous round-up.

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

    Where is the MSI Big Bang Xpower II? That's known to be a great board for overclocking as well.
  • schn1tt3r
    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.
  • hellfire24
    i would take rampage iv formula.it's cheaper and provides similar features.who needs 4-way sli?
  • WR2
    Kind of a lukewarm recommendation. Just 'Tom's Hardware Approved award'
  • Crashman
    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.
  • niknovacain
    Red and black looks sick.
  • halcyon
    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.
  • master9716
    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.
  • jaquith
    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! ;)
  • spookyman
    Considering Ivy Bridge is around the corner. Would it be beneficial in buying a Sandy Bridge-E board?