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Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Platforms Compared

Asus Rampage II Extreme

Features and Layout

The Rampage II Extreme carries Asus’ Republic Of Gamers brand into the Core i7 era with overclocker-friendly features that continue to set ROG products apart from the company’s other product families.

But you might have to look twice before you notice the added overclocking features, since the biggest visual difference between the ROG series and other Asus products is its use of flashy lights and shiny covers that scream “overclocker.” Such excesses include a huge southbridge sink that covers otherwise uninteresting circuitry, a Republic Of Gamers logo that lights up but actually decreases the northbridge sink area, and red covers over the voltage regulator module (VRM) sinks that impede airflow.

That second look brings most people’s eyes directly to a toggle surrounded by buttons and miniature connectors, which are controls and connectors for the Asus TweakIT and ProbeIT features. Using an included monochromatic LCD external display, users can adjust voltage and frequency settings without interrupting other programs that may be running on their desktop display. ProbeIT connectors interface several included cables to allow a third-party voltage meter to be more easily connected to the motherboard’s voltage rails.

Three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots are properly spaced for double-slot graphics cooling, but any double-slot card in the third slot will extend one-space beyond the bottom of standard seven-slot ATX cases. Thus, although the board supports up to 3-way SLI configurations, enclosures that strictly adhere to the ATX standard will often limit builders to a maximum of two cards. Asus created this problem by placing its uppermost x16 slot in the third-from-top position, covering the top position with chipset sinks and filling the second position with an audio riser interface.

Like most X58 Express-based motherboards, the second and third slots also share pathways, limiting a three-card arrangement to x16/x8/x8 mode. Electronic switches detect a third x16 card, so that when none is present the second slot gets all 16 pathways automatically.

Other expansion includes a single 32-bit PCI and two PCIe x1 slots. The black x1 slot serves dual functions, since it can also act as an audio riser for an included codec card.

Another deterrent to putting the Rampage II Extreme into semi-portable mid-sized enclosures is that it’s exactly one inch wider than the “full ATX” form factor. Builders who are uncertain of their options should make sure they have 10.5625” of clearance between drive bays and the backs of their cases. Close attention should also be paid to any hard drive cages that might interfere with the installation of Serial ATA (SATA) cables, because the six ICH10R ports face forward.

Anyone who has properly selected a case to house such a large motherboard, in addition to any large graphics cards, probably won’t care that the floppy connector is nearly unreachable at the motherboard’s bottom-rear corner, since these ancient devices are typically only required for installing RAID or AHCI drivers with outdated operating systems such as Windows XP. Similarly, the Ultra ATA connector is located too close to the bottom of the Rampage II Extreme’s front edge to allow easy cabling to top bays, but related devices are now outdated.

Asus Rampage II Extreme  (Revision 2.01G)
NorthbridgeIntel X58 Express
SouthbridgeIntel ICH10R
Voltage Regulation16 Phases
BIOS0903 (12/031/2008)
133.3 MHz Base Clock133.6 MHz (+0.20%)
Clock GeneratorICS 9LPRS918JKLF
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard3x PCIe 2.0 x16 (Two with Shared Pathways)
2x PCIe x1
1x PCI
3x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector).
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1x Floppy
1x Ultra ATA (2 drives)
7x SATA 3.0 Gb/s
1x Fan 4-pin (CPU)
7x Fan 3-pins (Chassis, Power)
1x Power Switch
1x Reset Switch
1x External LCD Poster connector
3x TweakIt overclock controls
8x ProbeIt voltage probe connectors
I/O Panel1x PS2 (keyboard)
6x USB 2.0
1x CLR_CMOS button
2x RJ45 Ethernet
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1x External SATA (eSATA) connector
Mass Storage Controllers
Intel ICH10R6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10)
JMicron JMB363 PCIe1x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)
1x SATA 3.0 Gb/s
1x eSATA 3.0 Gb/s
Network
2 x Marvell 88E8056-NNC1 PCIeDual Gigabit LAN with Teaming
Audio
SupremeFX X-Fi Riser (ADI AD2000BX HD Audio)Eight-Channel (7.1 Surround) Output EAX Advanced HD 4.0, CMSS-3D, Crystalizer

The classic JMicron JMB363 provides an additional SATA connection, an eSATA port, and the Ultra ATA interface.

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Twin Marvell 8838056 controllers use separate PCIe pathways to provide dual Gigabit Ethernet with support for Teaming, while VIA’s VT6308P two-port FireWire 400 controller requires nothing more than legacy PCI.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • arkadi
    Some times it really hard to stay objective, but you did it, grate article.
    I would consider few other aspects as well, like service and RMA statistics.
    In some countries you wont have official representation of a vendor, and in case of RMA you can end up with different MB model, usually not for the best.
    From my experience i recommend for most of you to get more common boards.
    Reply
  • wdmso
    "Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Platforms Compared " this title will lead
    some less informed readers that they can get the cpu memory and MB for 300.00.
    It should read "Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Motherboards Compared"
    the title is misleading
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    I can't afford an i7 system, but when I see beautiful motherboards like that dfi and the foxconn board, I wish I could! That foxconn board almost makes me feel like looking at a beautifully built soltek board with uniform colors and good looks. Looks ain't everything, but looks do matter. I love my gigabyte board because it works great, but I would love it even more if it came 'styled' like the dfi green or the foxconn red board ....
    Reply
  • When you review the less-expensive X58 boards, I'd appreciate it if you would evaluate them in terms of which is the likely to be the most stable, most reliable, and most problem-free non-overclocked board. Thanks.
    Reply
  • phantom93
    Lol nice article, lol i love the soldering job on the port-80 diagnostics digits for the DFI lan party board.
    Reply
  • inversed
    It seems odd to have skipped mentioning the Gigabyte EX58's driver-less RAID capability. I was able to get Windows XP to boot off of a mirrored RAID without needing the floppy and the initial setup went very quickly. One unfortunate aspect of this mobo, however is that it cannot output digital audio and analog audio at the same time. So no switching between surround sound and headphones without changing settings in the audio control software.
    Reply
  • jeffunit
    Though the core i7 is a crazy fast processor, it doesn't offer ECC support. That is why I just bought an amd phenom II 940. Perhaps 'gamers' don't care about ECC but only how many graphics cards they can stuff in the mb. On the other hand, IBM estimated 1 error per gig per week. So at 4gb, that is less than 2 days between errors. Perhaps that isn't noticeable with microsoft operation systems, but I keep my machines up for weeks or months at a time...

    My cheap asus mb not only supports ECC, but ECC scrubbing, chipkill, and more. Who cares how fast a computer is, when it crashes often?
    Reply
  • jeffunit
    Though the core i7 is a crazy fast processor, it doesn't offer ECC support. That is why I just bought an amd phenom II 940. Perhaps 'gamers' don't care about ECC but only how many graphics cards they can stuff in the mb. On the other hand, IBM estimated 1 error per gig per week. So at 4gb, that is less than 2 days between errors. Perhaps that isn't noticeable with microsoft operation systems, but I keep my machines up for weeks or months at a time...

    My cheap asus mb not only supports ECC, but ECC scrubbing, chipkill, and more. Who cares how fast a computer is, when it crashes often?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    wdmso"Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Platforms Compared " this title will lead some less informed readers that they can get the cpu memory and MB for 300.00.It should read "Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Motherboards Compared"the title is misleading
    You're right: I belive the word "Platform" was substituted by another editor to make the title shorter, so it would fit better in the headline bar. I might have chosen "Mobos" myself when encountered with such an issue, but they don't like using slang in titles.

    temporary87654When you review the less-expensive X58 boards, I'd appreciate it if you would evaluate them in terms of which is the likely to be the most stable, most reliable, and most problem-free non-overclocked board. Thanks.
    Good suggestions, but the problem is that all these boards were stable and built for reliability when overclocked. Using lower speeds increases stability and reliability, and you just cannot exceed "100% Stability". All the boards also used high-quality electrical components, which means a reliability test would require years to reveal any differences.

    inversedIt seems odd to have skipped mentioning the Gigabyte EX58's driver-less RAID capability. I was able to get Windows XP to boot off of a mirrored RAID without needing the floppy and the initial setup went very quickly. One unfortunate aspect of this mobo, however is that it cannot output digital audio and analog audio at the same time. So no switching between surround sound and headphones without changing settings in the audio control software.
    We'll have to see what we can do about getting the author some digital speakers or a digital receiver headset to test for such issues in the future. That particular issue hadn't come up prior to testing.
    Reply
  • ryanaxiom
    What about the Gigabyte UD5? I guess it doesn't fall in the 300+ category at $288 from Newegg, but stil...

    It has all the benefits of the EX-58-Extreme minus the gigantic NB cooler, but also allows use of an x8 RAID card in the open ended slot (I have one installed) and if you get straight risers/wearout protectors you can install a x1 sound card in the top slot! The best of all worlds!!!

    The only small complaint I have is that sometimes I have to try to boot twice since the AHCI bios doesn't always want to load after post.
    Reply