Introduction

Irrespective of cost versus performance ratios, even the smallest gains are more than enough to convince the enthusiastic front line benchmarkers and PC enthusiasts that DDR3 based motherboards are a justified purchase. However, finding the right motherboard to fill the role of extreme benchmarking can be a challenge to say the least. Out of the box, nearly all motherboards that fall into the mid/low-end of the market are unsuitable for extreme benchmarking - unless the user applies voltage modifications to them. Let's not forget the risks of voltage modifications; often users push the components used on the budget-oriented offerings far past their specifications, which seriously reduces component life spans. In addition to this, most moderately priced motherboards lack or do not provide full control over some of the chipset registers that are needed to fine tune system stability/performance at break-neck Front Side Bus (FSB) and CPU speeds.

Using sub-zero cooling methods can enable most Intel 65nm processors to scale well past 4GHz (chilled water/phase cooling), and even 5GHz using liquid Nitrogen. Even though processor cooling does make up a large part of the overclocking equation, there's more than just low operating temperature and high voltage requirements to guarantee success. The board must have stable and clean voltage delivery circuits for the CPU, Northbridge, and memory. The motherboard PCB should be at least a six layer design (with excellent trace routing) to minimize signal inductance and crosstalk. Selection of high quality transistors, resistors, and capacitors can also be critical; low tolerance, low drift, and low noise components are required to ensure accurate and stable power delivery under heavy load conditions.

Lastly, optimized board layouts and onboard device cooling options are needed, to satisfy both extreme benchmarkers and gaming enthusiasts simultaneously (this is another challenge). Manufacturers cannot afford to base a motherboard around extreme users alone. Yes, this segment is a growing industry, but the number of sales generated by this niche group will never cover the invested time/R&D for manufacturing the product. Whichever way we look at the options, there has to be component and board layout compromises to meet several different market opportunities.

ASUS caters to this upper-end niche market with its ROG (Republic Of Gamers) product line. As the ROG motherboard line has evolved, ASUS has tried to satisfy the extreme users and gaming enthusiasts alike with excellent board layouts, stable operation across a wide variety of conditions, and unlocking additional BIOS tweaking functions not found on their other motherboards. The ROG boards that bear the 'Extreme' suffix after their name are generally the ones that ASUS provides with the best components and widest range of voltage and BIOS options. The Maximus Extreme we are reviewing today shares many of the engineering principles employed on the Maximus Formula that we tested last month. The most obvious difference between the two boards is that the Extreme version features DDR3 support, as opposed to DDR2 on the Maximus Formula. We expect that overall FSB limits on both boards will be similar due to the same overall circuit topologies employed in most key areas of the board.

With that said, DDR3 support opens up the possibility of increased benchmarking scores. As such, we expect users who buy this product will want to push the board hard, so not only will we provide a subset of the standard AnandTech benchmark suite, but also some extreme cooling results to see where this board fits in to ASUS' diverse product line. Now, let's move on to the fun….

ASUS Maximus Extreme Board Layout and Features
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  • markglh - Sunday, January 13, 2008 - link

    Does the Thermalright Ultra-120 Extremem fit ok on this motherboard in a position so that it blows air out of the case? I was worried that the fusion waterblock and the heatsink at the top of the board might be too tall.

    thanks.
    Reply
  • astronaute - Wednesday, December 26, 2007 - link

    Can someone explain please why in BIOS screenshots we can see FSB 400 and QX6600 FSB is more then 1000 ?

    Sorry if my question is stupid :)
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Sunday, December 30, 2007 - link

    The BIOS screenshots shown are provided only to illustrate which BIOS functions are available for the user. They have no direct correlation whatsoever with a Q6600 or it's FSB.


    regards
    Raja

    Reply
  • qquizz - Thursday, December 13, 2007 - link

    With a name like Maximus Extreme the board better be one bad mofo, err... i mean mobo. Reply
  • Zak - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    Something's not right, C2D Extreme and 8800Ultra??? I get over 12000 in 3D Mark 2006 with a $99 Gigabyte mobo, 3GHz C2D @3.8Ghz with Tuniq Tower, 800MHz DDR2 and 8800GTX slightly overclocked.

    Z.
    Reply
  • Azured - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    No that seems allright. The test is run with a Q6600 (actually a QX6850 with a lower multiplier to simulate the Q6600) at stock 2.4GHz. considerably slower than your C2D at 3.8GHz. Reply
  • Zak - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    Oh, I must have misread something then, thanks:)

    Z.
    Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    Now this blows me away. $350 and still no Firewire800! How much money should you have to pay before you get a feature that was commercially introduced 4 years ago. Instead, you get the slower variant that first saw real action 8 years ago. What's next, USB 1.1?

    Maybe I didn't read the Newegg price tag correctly, but if I did, this is a travesty. And of course, no room for a PS/2 mouse port. I mean, a single PS/2 port, in a non-standard position. At first, it may seem to be no big deal, but why make it different that almost every other config? So when muscle-memory leads you blindy around the back of the case when you install a keyboard, you have to hunt around more. Not to mention that most PS/2 devices are pretty static in that people aren't switching them all the time. USB, on the other hand, is more frequently connected and disconnected. Having the PS/2 keyboard plugged in gives you limited room to change USB stuff, especially if you have another USB device plugged in. If the PS/2 port was on the bottom, you can stack a USB connector on top and still have finger room to add or remove another, without risking disconnection of another cable (PS/2 for example).

    A ridiculous board, at a ridiculous price.
    Reply
  • retrospooty - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    not to burst your bubble but, Firewire 800 is never going to take off. Before it got started it was surpassed and totally obsoleted by eSATA. You wont ever see it as a standard feature on even high end motherboards. If you have use for it, you need to by an adaptor card for it. Reply
  • Etern205 - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    Yes, eSATA is faster than Firewire 800 which is why eSATA is gaining popularity than Fire800. As for only 1 PS/2 port, if those articles or rumors are correct, then by the time ICH10 comes out we'll not see anymore PS/2 ports or PCI slots.

    In a question unrelated to this article, for those of you that have a usb wireless mouse or keyboard are you able to switch between the OSes if you guy have a dual or mult-boot system?

    Thanks!
    Reply

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