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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  • poohbear - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    one thing i liked about some of the recent high end mobo releases was the inclusion of an onboard wi-fi chip on a desktop mobo, but this mobo seems to be lacking that. i mean, they threw in everything but the kitchen sink, why not include wi-fi?:( Reply
  • TheDoc9 - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    One of the best I've read here, definitely one of the best on over clocking I've ever read. It takes it to the next level, reminded me of how a body builder friend of mine schedules and calculates his workouts, calories, and entire life to be the best he can be. Hope to see more like this one in the future. Reply
  • jimru22 - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    The article references the use of an Intel Extreme processor with adjustable multiplier. I'm planning on building a system hopefully anchored by the Asus Rampage Formula and a Intel Q9450 with locked 8X multiplier. Based in the charts, it seems to me that in order to run the Q9450 (333 MHZ) at 3.6 MHZ a 450 MHZ FSB is required. Therefore in this case, a tRD of 6 / Trd 13.3ns is the optimum value. Is this correct? Reply
  • kjboughton - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    You would be correct. Processors with lower maximum multipliers present somewhat of a challenge when selecting the best memory configuration. In this case the 8x multiplier forces a higher than normally desired FSB, which is one of the many benefits of owning an Extreme processor (no such limitation). As such, the next best option, and the first choice for you, would be to go to 450MHz FSB and set a tRD of 6. Although this might not be completely ideal (we like to stick with 400MHz) your results will without a doubt be within a few percent of real-world performance at 400MHz FSB and a tRD of 5. Yet another reason why the Extreme line of processors are worth their price. Reply
  • Odeen - Saturday, January 26, 2008 - link

    I'd like to differ on that.. As someone who first discovered overclocking during the Celeron 300A days, where a budget chip could run at 50-60% faster than its stock speed, and deliver higher performance than a $400 (at release time) Pentium III 450MHz, all without overstressing the rest of the platform (i.e. with bog-standard FSB and memory speed) I view overclocking as two ratios:
    Maximum attainable clock speed / original clock speed. 3:2 is the minimum ratio that isn't depressing to see booting up.
    Cost of equivalent performance from a processor w/o overclocking / cost of actual processor. In the case the ratio was 4:1. Some of the best-case scenarios (like the very last 300A's being 100% overclockable to 600mhz), the ratio can be 6-7:1.

    The Black Edition CPU's fail both value tests tests, because they are typically ONLY available at the fastest speed grades. Therefore, they are unlikely to reach a 30% overlock, never mind the requisite 50. And, being the most expensive SKU in the class combined with the lackluster overclock potential means that they are unlikely to outperform a processor that costs 4x as much (even an imaginary SKU that fits on the price-performance regression line of the class).

    That said, if the Wolfdale E8190 is $130 and Intel somehow offers an "enthusiast edition" of it for $180 (that is, an edition for true enthusiasts, who want to extract the maximum bang for their buck), I would get one - the unlocked multiplier would make overclocking less of a "platform" issue (i.e. "how fast will the chip go until my motherboard peters out") and more of "how fast will this particular chip go period". I can definitely get behind that.
  • jimru22 - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    Thank you Kris for the outstanding article as well as your response.

    Kind regards,
  • Orthogonal - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    What are the chances someone could whip up an Excel Macro to incorporate all these inputs, equations and graphs for easy computation of optimal settings for a given CPU and Memory configuration. Reply
  • kjboughton - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    Already exists, although you'll have to sweet-talk me into releasing the file. Seriously though, the Excel spreadsheet makes choosing the right settings downright simple. Reply
  • Orthogonal - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    Fair enough, pretty please!

    Well maybe there could atleast be a web applet on the site or something of the sort. That would be killer.
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, January 25, 2008 - link

    Just one thought...IMO, no "Board Layout" portion of a review is complete without a picture of the port cluster on the back of the board. Reply

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