BIOS Screenshots and Interesting Settings



ASUS boards are known for their high level of customization and the Rampage Formula is no exception. The main menu that provides a majority of the options normally associated with overclocking is renamed "Extreme Tweaker", which we feel is entirely appropriate. Users can adjust everything from here, from bus speeds to voltages and memory timings to MCH parameters. Although a few options with indeterminate purposes still exist (for example, "Ai Clock Twister"), for the most part ASUS has done an excellent job in clearly labeling what each setting does.



The ASUS Rampage Formula comes with official FSB1600 support, a feature attached to the use of the upcoming X48 chipset release. Those that want to use the next Intel Core 2 Extreme, the QX9770, will need to buy a board built around X48 if they want a platform validated for 400MHz FSB operation. We found the Rampage required no additional MCH voltage when running at this FSB setting.



The standard compliment of DDR2 dividers is included in the Rampage Formula's BIOS. We will go into more detail about these later in the review. In any case, even with the fastest DDR2 available, we are not left wanting when it comes to options for pushing our memory.



The BIOS includes adjustment options for all primary memory timings - 20 in all. Most of the time a majority of these can be set to "Auto" - ASUS' tuning is already quite good. However, experienced users and memory experts alike will enjoy the expansive level of control allowed.



Here we can get a good look at what we consider the most significant change to the standard ASUS BIOS offering in years. "Common Performance Level", more correctly known as MCH Read Delay (tRD), allows the user to specifically establish a desired value, something that was not entirely possible in the past. Earlier versions of "Ai Transaction Booster" only allowed the user to apply an offset, which made controlling tRD difficult when the base value was unknown.

Additionally, each FSB bus cycle "phase" for each channel can be further manipulated. "CHA" and "CHB" refer to the two independent memory channels in a dual-channel memory configuration. Installing only one memory DIMM, or certain combinations of mismatched memory module pairings across all four expansion slots, results in the motherboard defaulting to single-channel operation; otherwise there are two memory channels in operation, which enhances overall system performance. The number of phases per channel depends on the memory divider in use (each channel will always have the same number of channels though) - a 3:2 memory divider has two phases, 4:3 has three, and 8:5 has five, for example. We will explore the theory behind this truth shortly.

Setting a single channel/phase "Pull-In" to enabled has the effect of lowering that particular phase's associated tRD value to one below the Common Performance Level (the "base" tRD). Leaving the setting disabled leaves the phase unadjusted, in which case it is the same as the base tRD. Much like memory timings, lower tRD values bring greater performance. As we will see, these settings primarily allow users to squeeze out any unclaimed performance benefit possible with the current tRD when the next "lower" Common Performance Level is unachievable. Do not feel as though you need to understand what all of this means right now, as we will cover all of this and much more in excruciating detail soon enough.



With no less than seven onboard voltage adjustments, the Rampage Formula is a tweaker's dream come true. Because ASUS motherboards do make a habit of "adjusting" some of these values automatically at times, we recommend you manually set all voltages to the bottom of their ranges unless otherwise required. This best practice just makes good sense and ensures nothing receives more voltage than intended by the user. Again, we must also strongly caution against the use of "Loadline Calibration." We recommend you leave this option disabled, especially when installing a 45nm CPU.





ASUS' implementation of their in-BIOS hardware monitor is extremely informative. You can simultaneously check temperatures for the CPU, motherboard (PWM), Northbridge (NB), and Southbridge (SB) as well as quickly review the effect that prior voltage adjustments had on actual voltage levels. Although we found most reported voltages were fairly accurate, obtaining the most precise readings possible still requires the use of a digital multimeter (DMM).

Regarding voltages, we found two concerns worth mentioning. Firstly, the reported CPU PLL voltage appears to be non-functional as it always reads the same, regardless of setting. Second, like many other ASUS offerings the motherboard consistently overvolts the memory by 0.08 ~ 0.10V. We do not see any real problem with this, as long as the user is aware it's happening.

Board Layout, Features and Specifications The Basics of Strap Selections, Dividers and Derived Memory Speeds
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  • Vikendios - Thursday, January 31, 2008 - link

    Very Interesting. But I believe that AT is also guilty of perpetuating the chipset/multiple GPU incompatibility (or non-optimization) myths, by not giving us systematic reviews of X38/48 and 680/790i using both ATI and Nvidia twinned cards.

    And if some BIOS adjustments or driver updates are becessary to twin Nvidia cards under Intel chipsets, or ATI/AMD cards under Nvidia's, kindly tell and guide us.

    I'm not a conspiration theorist, but I think there is more than meets the eye in the present situation.

    The apparent paradox of Intel (chipsets) pushing AMD (Crossfire) solutions is just marketing cycle hysteresis from the days when ATI was still an independent canadian company.

    But both Intel and AMD resent video card chip manufacturers forcing their way into hard-wired motherboard real estate thru the multiple GPU concept, with attendant slot and chipset modifications. With the demise of Via, Intel and AMD believe they can own the chipsets, as long as the motherboard manufacturers are only assemblers.

    For Nvidia, multiple GPU is an easy way to extend the life of a good graphic chip until the next generation comes up, but mostly it provides for a temporary proprietary claim on the motherboard design. 3dfx first tried that years ago in Voodoo days and it worked. It worked again when ATI couldn't follow up fast enough on SLI and had to fall in AMD's arms.

    Nvidia gambled that SLI would allow it to impose its own chipset business, either by technical or marketing (SLI endorsment) means. What next ? Special gaming CPU's ? That's a dangerous taunt, although Intel doesn't yet dare buy them, or compete directly with them with their own GPU's, out of anti-trust concerns in Brussels.



    Reply
  • Holly - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - link

    Excelent description of memory timing magic. Thumbs up :-) Reply
  • FSBastrd - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    I may have come off a little brash with my first comment. The article is pretty sweet, and I was able to read through it without the pictures, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to view them. It's not just this article either. Pictures pretty much never load on this website for me. Reply
  • kjboughton - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - link

    Do you run some type of ad blocker? It may be causing problems by incorrectly blocking images from our servers... Reply
  • FSBastrd - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - link

    I'm basically running a stock version of Firefox, so no. Ironically, the ads are just about the only pictures that do load for me. Also, all of the picture for the AnandTech homepage load for me, it's just the pics in the articles This is the only website that really gives me problems. One last thing, some (rare) pictures do load for me from the articles. All in all, it's quite strange, and I can't figure it out. Reply
  • FSBastrd - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    Am I the only one who can't get pictures to load from this site. It would sure make this article a whole lot easier to follow along. Reply
  • sje123 - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    Excellent review as ever!

    Quick question with regard to Watercooling blocks for this board. It looks more or less identical to the X38 apart from the different chip in the NB, therefore I'm wondering if you could tell me whether or not you think an ASUS X38 NB block would also fit the ASUS X48 Rampage?

    is the NB under the cooler the same size etc and are the mouting screws in the same position as the X38 eg the Maximus?

    THe SB and the mofset coolers will be the same as the Maximus.
    Reply
  • snarfbot - Sunday, January 27, 2008 - link

    alright, pretty exciting results here.

    at trd of 8 (default) at 400mhz 1:1 cas 4, i got 7687mb/s read, and 64ns latency in everest.

    at trd of 6 at the same speed, divider and cas setting i got 8089mb/s read, and 59.8ns latency.

    then just for fun i bumped the speed upto 500 and loosened the timings to cas 5, at 5:4, i left the trd at 6. at these settings i got 8640mb/s read, and 57.5 latency.

    the latency suprised me, as the trd remained the same, and i actually loosened the cas latency.

    anyways pretty good results.

    processor is a e2140@3200mhz.
    Reply
  • snarfbot - Sunday, January 27, 2008 - link

    alright, i have a ga-p35-ds3l. im running the fsb at 400, memory at 1:1 cas 4.

    i set trd to 6 in the bios. based on the formula, it shouldnt even post.

    trd(6) - tcl(4)/n(1) =fsb400(2)/1
    2=2

    im gonna run through sandra and see what the difference is, if there is any, or perhaps this setting doesnt work correctly on this board.
    Reply
  • Fyl - Sunday, January 27, 2008 - link

    not to lower the merits of this great article but since I've read it I've been experimenting on my machine different settings and for some of them your formula doesn't seem to stand; here's an example of a stable configuration, no overvoltage to anything:

    E8500@3.6 (400MHzx9)
    P35-DS4 (tRD 7)
    2x2G DDR2 800 (400MHz, 5-5-5-12)

    based on your formula N = 400:400 = 1 and x = 2
    therefore 7-(5/1) > 2/1 => 2 > 2 => false but actually working

    am I missing anything?
    Reply

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