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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  • takumsawsherman - Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - link

    This is not really true, as Firewire800 has been out for some time, and eSATA is still not widely available. As for the comment above yours, Firewire800 is used in many media applications, and won't likely be eliminated soon (digital camera backs come to mind). And this doesn't answer my proposition that for $350, Firewire800 rather than Firewire400 should have been included. Why bother with the slower interface when you are paying for a "premium" product?

    I am sure that some manufacturers will be happy to see Firewire800 die. Heck, I'm sure they'd be happy if there was never a Firewire400, and we all used USB 1.1. After all, it's cheaper by 2 or 3 bucks, and that's what matters to them. Meanwhile, despite claims of durability, eSATA is still a weak connector, which is why you will still see photographers taking shots tethered to a Firewire800 bus when they're on location for years to come, rather than a eSATA connection.

    For $350, they can add Firewire800. Heck, the price is just shy of 1/3 of a fully assembled iMac that includes Firewire800. Just for the motherboard.
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - link

    "Firewire800 has been out for some time, and eSATA is still not widely available"

    Yes it is widely available. It has been on nearly every high end and many mid range motherboards for over a year. Also, every major external drive maker has eSATA models... Not many fw800 at all.

    I am not trying to flame you or anything, but firewire 800 isnt going to happen, not like fw400 did. At the time fw400 was the best interface. Now we have eSATA for hard drives and USB 3.0 coming in a year or two. FW800 is dead Jim.... its dead.
  • takumsawsherman - Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - link

    I still don't see any media-based hardware that has eSATA. Much more firewire on that front. In fact, besides Hard Drive enclosures, I have not seen anything at all with eSATA.

    And again, if it is dead, why bother putting FW400 in? I mean, might as well save the user $5 from their $350 and eliminate it. Or, give them FW800 like you should have.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - link

    I'd imagine it's there just so they can have a checkmark next to "Firewire" in the comparison sheets. The only Firewire device I have ever used is our microscope camera, which I believe was designed prior to USB 2.0.

    I wouldn't say the eSata connector is weak, but the lack of flexibility in the cables is an annoyance.
  • takumsawsherman - Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - link

    Ok, well I still haven't used a eSATA device. I have used an external SATA enclosure, as MOBO makers decided to start out with external SATA connectors and I've used a FW800 device that also has an eSATA port (Newer Technology ministack v3), but of course, the Mac it is attached to does not have eSATA. I'm happy they included it, though.

    The point still remains that at $350 they give you the old generation firewire instead of the new.
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - link

    Are there any motherboards with fw800 built in (other than maybe MAC)? just curious.
  • takumsawsherman - Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - link

    OK, my post ended up as a reply to the wrong post. Sorry.
  • retrospooty - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    Yes, USB kb/mice work in dos mode via a bios setting. just enable it.
  • Etern205 - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    I'm taking about wireless. Are you talking about wireless or wired?
    If it's wired then yes you'll have enable usb support for DOS if you want to use it.

  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - link

    My Bluetooth keyboard works now, however when I first installed Ubuntu I had the BIOS setting disabled, and the keyboard never worked in GRUB thereafter. Was not until I reinstalled with the BIOS setting enabled that I got the keyboard working in GRUB.

    Works in the BIOS regardless of the setting.

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