Every once in awhile, something comes along that is simply brilliant in its simplicity. For ASUS, that time could be now. ASUS plans to continue in their tradition of early adoption of new chipsets with a mid-February release of their upcoming Rampage Formula motherboard, a board that will make use of Intel's recently announced X48 Express chipset and DDR2 memory. Although DDR3 has been available for purchase for many months now, exceedingly low DDR2 prices have made purchasing 4GB or even 8GB of memory quite affordable - the latter still costing less than 2GB of good DDR3 memory. Coupled with the fact that the Rampage Formula provides a relatively easy upgrade path for current DDR2 owners, we can see why this board will be an attractive choice for anyone looking to build their next high-performance gaming system.

Like other recent offerings from ASUS, the Rampage Formula is part of the Republic of Gamers (ROG) line of motherboards, aimed squarely at the enthusiast looking to tune all levels of system control in order to extract every ounce of possible performance. We were a little surprised to see that ASUS seems to have needed very little engineering work in order to make use of Intel's higher-binned X48 chipset - the Rampage Formula and the currently available Maximus Formula (which uses the X38) share almost everything in common with the exception of the Northbridge. On one hand this makes sense, as the X48 is little more than an X38 binned for ultimate performance; on the other hand we would have liked to see a few additional improvements in component choices and layout.

Because of this, those that already own an X38 ASUS motherboard may find no compelling reason to upgrade. However, gamers ready for a complete system overhaul looking to build with the absolute best quality board should strongly consider the Rampage Formula. Compatibility was excellent with no real gripes to speak of - the board flawlessly made use of every CPU and memory kit we installed for testing. Coupled with one of Intel's new 45nm quad-core or dual-core CPUs and a pair of ATI 3000-series Radeon cards in CrossFire, this board provides a solid centerpiece for a formidable gaming rig.



We would be delinquent in not noting the impending release of the Rampage Formula's DDR3-based companion, the Rampage Extreme. We anxiously await our chance to bring you an early first-look at what it has to offer. We fully expect that it will best even the most refined X48/DDR2 board. Our experience has always been that the X38/X48 chipsets simply work better when teamed with DDR3 memory. For whatever reason, we find that for absolute ease of overclock and rock-solid stability nothing beats an X38/X48 DDR3 board. Unfortunately, DDR3 prices can be a rather large obstacle for some, especially when dealing with the higher speed bins.

For now, we are happy to report that our early dealings with the ASUS Rampage Formula have been extremely satisfying, especially considering the relatively short amount of time given to BIOS maturity. In fact, we feel there are no significant obstacles impeding the release of this board. Additionally, we must applaud ASUS for the industry-leading effort they have put forth in incorporating a few new settings into the BIOS that give the user the ability to easily unlock otherwise hidden memory performance with just a quick finger twitch.

What are these settings you ask? Simply put, the ability to select a MCH Read Delay (tRD) from within the BIOS, as well as a means for adjusting the timing of each individual memory phase associated with the selected memory divider. You may know this setting by its more common name, often referred to as "Performance Level". While some motherboard makers have been making use of these settings for quite some time, never before has it been as de-obfuscated as it is today.

Hopefully we can finally say goodbye to the frustration of blindly adjusting these settings with the hopes of achieving the desired end goal - an accomplishment we can all appreciate. Our hopes are that other vendors follow suit and work quickly to update their offerings to provide this level of control in a similar manner. For those that are interested, we will touch on the performance improvements that can be seen as well as the other implications involved with making use of these settings a little later on.

With X48, the tier one giants - ASUS included - are gearing up for another round of lightning-fast motherboard releases. It appears as though they are now simply waiting on the green flag from Intel before they release these boards to the world. The fickle-free operation and high probability of success when overclocking that comes with teaming an Intel processor with an Intel chipset makes picking up an ASUS Rampage Formula an easy choice. One thing's for sure, ASUS is on a roll, and they don't appear to be slowing down for anyone.

Board Layout, Features and Specifications
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  • dallas - Monday, March 24, 2008 - link

    I was wondering how this chipset and Windows Vista 64-bit handles IRQ ? I have a Creative X-fi and it has had a lot of problems with PCI-latency and shared IRQ. According to the manual PCI slot 2 is the only one of the two that does not share IRQ with the graphic cards. Do you guys have any experience of this ?

    Second question is related also to IRQ. I have a Razer Deathadder mouse which I use at 1000Hz polling rate and it seems to cause quite a bit CPU-usage (average of 10% with AMD64 3500+ when moving mouse at desktop without overlapping anything). I guess it would be ideal to connect it to a USB-port not sharing any IRQ. Rampage Formula has 12 USB-ports total, but reading the manual it says there is USB controllers 1 to 6 and USB 2.0 controllers 1 and 2. How do I relate these figures to the actual layout of the board ? USB controllers 2 and 5 are the only ones not sharing IRQ.

    http://dlsvr01.asus.com/pub/ASUS/mb/socket775/Ramp...">http://dlsvr01.asus.com/pub/ASUS/mb/soc...rmula/Ra...

    Thanks
    Reply
  • nitemareglitch - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    My older DFI nForce 4 board had fully adjustable tRd among other things. Asus taking a play from their book? Reply
  • rge - Monday, February 18, 2008 - link

    Granted I am using gigabyte p35 dq6 board, but I thought loadline simply was a sensor adjustment? Anyone know what is meant by induced power instabilities? measured by?

    I thought (and may well be wrong) that with loadline disabled, if I choose 1.25v bios as vcore, idle would be 1.23 volts (Voffset), load (dual core) would be 1.22v (Vdroop), when load stops, overshoot to 1.25v before decreasing back to 1.23 idle. Thus when you are choosing 1.25 volts in bios, you are choosing max volts ie, overshoot max, and not idle volts.

    I thought loadline was simply a ~.02v sensor calibration, so when enabled, and you choose 1.25 volts in bios, you are then choosing the idle volts (instead of overshoot max) and thus it idles at 1.25V. During load you still see vdroop to 1.24v, and overshoots to 1.27v.

    In other words no difference between loadline enabled 1.23v and loadline disabled 1.25v, just personal preference of making bios vcore set idle volts or max overshoot volts.

    If I am wrong can someone please inform me what loadline is, and what is meant by power instabilities...mean ?greater fluctuations in volts or what?
    Reply
  • Nickel020 - Saturday, February 16, 2008 - link

    Firstly, great article! Got me a long way in increasing my memory speed and understanding the underlying factors.

    What I don't understand though is why the X48 is better than the X38. I already have the option to change tRD on my Gigabyte P35 DQ6, and I'm getting much better memory perfromance after manually setting it to 6.
    As I see it, the option to adjust tRD is only a BIOS issue and it can be done on P35 and X38, so how does this make the X48 a better chipset?
    Reply
  • kjboughton - Sunday, February 17, 2008 - link

    The difference comes in the voltages required to run equivalent speeds/tRD settings. In fact, the X48 board are capable of running stable at much higher speeds, using tigher MCH Read Delay (tRD) values at lower voltages. More to come soon... Reply
  • Holmer - Monday, February 18, 2008 - link

    Thanks for an excellent article.
    I would just love to know how well the Rampage formula handles overclocking with 4x1 GB RAM? How large is the performance hit as compared to 2x2 GB and can it handle 1200 MHz (with two 2x1 GB kits rated at this speed).
    Roughly when can we expect the loon awaited X48 roundup?
    Thanks a lot on beforehand.
    Reply
  • Holmer - Friday, February 22, 2008 - link

    Another question: Is is possible to manually set tRFC > 42 in BIOS? If yes what is the maximun value of tRFC?
    I would be very grateful for an answer.
    Reply
  • The Ghost - Saturday, February 02, 2008 - link

    With 400Mhz, tRD of 4, CL of 4 and 3:2 ratio I get this:
    1,334 > 1,333

    Is that enough to post or is 0,001 to little to "allowed" ?
    Reply
  • Vikendios - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - link

    It's all very fine, but as long as ATI/AMD GPU's are outclassed by Nvidia's, the gamer scene which drives the $300+ motherboard business has little interest in non-Nvidia-SLI solutions. It's bizarre that Intel focuses on chipsets that can apparently only handle well (correct me if I'm wrong) their arch-competitors AMD's GPU's in (Crossfire) arrays.

    Intel should hurry to develop competitors to 790i that are really neutral as to which twinned or tripled video cards are used.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - link

    The last time I tested it, X38 ran SLI faster than 680i. The problem is not the chipset, it is simply a decision by NVIDIA (and/or Intel) not to "officially" license SLI on the Intel chipset platforms, except for the upcoming Skulltrail board.

    This whole SLI/Crossfire debate has gone on long enough, the technologies accomplish the same purpose (are practically identical from a technological viewpoint) and setting up a board/BIOS to run either is actually very easy. CF runs just fine on the NV680i/780i and SLI runs just fine on the 975X/X38/X48 if driver support is present and the proper switches are enabled in the BIOS. Personally, I would like to have the ability to run (unhindered) AMD or NVIDIA GPUs in multi-GPU configurations on either chipset platform. I just wish they would let the market determine the best multi-GPU solution, but that is pie in the sky thinking. ;)
    Reply

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