X38 Comparison Part 1: DDR2 Motherboards

Asus Maximus Formula (Special Edition): Overachiever

Underneath its limited-production chipset water cooling block, the "Special Edition" Maximus Formula uses the same components as the "normal" Maximus Formula. This will be important when supplies for the enhanced version run out, since both boards are otherwise identical.

Asus continues its recent move towards practical designs in oversized chipset coolers, as the Maximus Formula improves on former versions by keeping a low profile while opening up the corners a little to allow easier access to CPU cooler attachment hardware. Our special edition version also includes a water block, while the standard version has another finned sink in its place.

Like most X38 Express chipset motherboards, the Maximum Formula follows Intel's suggested dual PCI-Express x16 slot design, using the left-over PCI-Express pathways for both onboard devices and expansion slots. The Maximus Formula supports expansion cards in all seven slot positions; its top (black) audio riser card slot also supports PCI-Express x1 cards if buyers want to replace the included audio solution.

The uppermost PCI-Express x16 slot is located unusually low on the Maximus Formula in the third slot position, but this allowed Asus to move the DIMM slots downward for shorter circuit pathways. Notice that the heatpipe hugs the board tightly so that relatively long expansion cards can be used in the slots above it, with 6.75" of clearance from the rear edge to the first DIMM slot.

Praiseworthy design often favors traditional component placement, such as the 8-pin/4-pin EPS12V/ATX12V and 24-pin/20-pin EPS/ATX main power connectors located in the upper rear and upper front corners, for easy cable routing to the power supplies of traditional cases. Also, praiseworthily traditional is the floppy connector at the motherboard's front edge, which is directly behind the external 3.5" bay of most cases. Though floppy technology was outdated by the end of the previous millennia, Windows XP users might still need one to load RAID or AHCI drivers at the OS installation's F6 prompt.

Like many of Asus' previous high-end boards, power and reset buttons at the bottom edge allow the Maximus Formula to be easily tested outside a case. For most users this is nothing more than a gimmick, but it's a great way to win over a few reviewers. More important for complete systems are the eight speed-controlled fan headers Asus has placed at various positions.

A small plug above the keyboard connector allows installation of an external POST display panel, which describes system status in English rather than numeric code. This "External LCD Poster" is included in the support component kit.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • firesteel
    What happened to this motherboard? I don't see it for sale at places like tigerdirect. Newegg say it's discontinued. Has it been replaced by a newer model or something?