Uncharacteristically late for ASUS, the P55 based Maximus III Extreme was rolled out to retail a couple of weeks ago.

ASUS’s “M3E” follows in the footsteps of boards from EVGA and MSI, by teaming up nVidia’s NF200 chipset to multiplex sixteen native PCIe lanes out to provide additional front-end bandwidth for multiple graphics cards and other devices. Overall, it’s not a solution that ends up high on most enthusiast shortlists because Intel’s X58 seems to be the logical choice and offers superlative performance in almost every way over the “lesser” P55.


The truth is, we’re waiting on vendors to send us their second-gen X58 motherboards so that we can provide you with a round-up of which makes the best buy. As we’ve probably got a few weeks before things will be ready, a review of the M3E is the first of our time fillers, to be followed by a test of the mini-ITX ECS H55H-I next week. On top of that, Richard will be taking a look at Gigabyte's P55A-UD7 shortly, and we've also got AMD 890FX boards to squeeze in somewhere. Put simply, lots to do but so little time.

Back to what's going down today, given the limited demand for $349 P55 boards, we’ll spare you any further drivel and get down to the facts...


Our retail sample arrived pre-flashed to the public release 0606 BIOS. For the most part, overall compatibility is good barring an alarming tendency to set high DIMM voltage on Corsair Dominator GT modules if VDIMM is left on AUTO in BIOS. As part of our stock benchmark compares we use 4GB of Corsair memory at 1333MHz just as a starting point to see how boards measure up to one another. Setting primary memory timings, and the correct memory multiplier ratio and proceeding to reboot, we found the ASUS BIOS had seen fit to jam 1.82V into our favorite Corsair 2200 Dominator GT kit – eek! We’re told this has been fixed in the latest release BIOS, so just a heads-up not to leave things in the hands of AUTO settings on the shipping BIOS.

Other than that glitch, things are fairly rosy on the functionality front. Overclocking recovery is workable; at worst, we had to switch off at the PSU and reboot to encourage the board to POST in safe-mode so that we could enter BIOS and adjust settings. Peripheral compatibility is good, overclocking & stability are excellent and on-par with the very best P55 boards. S3 suspend/sleep resume works over 200 BCLK if need be, and you also get very comprehensive fan control spanning no fewer than eight headers. Bottom line is that the M3E is a well executed product, marred only by price of entry...

Performance Summary and Overclocking


View All Comments

  • gasgas - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    Outstanding review anand, some very nice features on the ASUS board, one has to ask though, if P55 is costing this much is it really worth the effort, why not just get a budget X58 and have more on tap. Reply
  • Makaveli - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    Why are the screenshots so big?

    I felt I should have been wearing glasses or something... and I don't wear glasses!
  • classy - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    $350 is too much for P55. You can get a serious X58 board for that kind of money Reply
  • loghead - Monday, April 26, 2010 - link

    good luck to everyone Reply
  • dingetje - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    wouldn't pay more than 100 bucks for it though :) Reply
  • v12v12 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    I dunno maybe it's me, but we're talking near $400 for a system board? Three-hundred and fifty dollars (& ~$26 tax), that's just lunacy to even bother with. Has anyone ever done some basic, logical mathematics on cost/performance? These so-called "performance/'OC'er" mobos offer barely any noticeable advantages over a solid mid-level board vs the exuberant price people will rationalize. Paying nearly 100% more for hardly 15% performance advantage? For the same money you could buy enhanced cooling equipment for your mid-level board and soar past that waste of a PCB, dollar for dollar.

    The fanaticism over these "top-end," yet financially inefficient mobos, is just laughable; even the suggestion of purchasing one is also. People are rationalizing spending MORE, for lesser performance per dollar; THIS is ILLOGICAL, and stupid? I say Anand spend more time on solid mid to lower-upper builds vs playing fantasy article on a "gold-sample" OC'er board that offers little in reality for; I dunno maybe ~90% of the readership, whom will not be purchasing boards anywhere near that price range? Articles like these waste the writers' time and the readers'. Also it's money down the drain from a budget, which could be spent on better informing majority of the readers on systems they can actually afford or save for. $349, come on lol. That's a very nice trip somewhere on a plane, buddy... Vs an "OC'ers system-board." These prices are ridiculous and you all keep feeding the (advertising) market for them.
    __Yep it's ALL marketing folks... they (Manu's/tech sites etc.) know most of you will never get one of these boards, it's just a dream; they are loss-leaders. They know it's great advertising for the manufacturer, who doesn't expect to make a profit from said board. It's to demonstrate to the "market" (their competitors) their current/alleged technological capabilities. All the while we're getting articles, which use up resources from more in depth guides, builds, discussions about what most people have, can afford, or will save for... Fantasy-land articles are great for the uber enthusiast, but it's boring knowing I'm never going to waste anywhere near that much for this stuff... I'll just see it a couple gens later; wow I feel like a psychic, I just knew exactly what board I'll get when the price is right... Bunk.

    More meat, less fat please... Thx staff.
  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link


    This is the first $200+ motherboard review we've posted in 2010. The last 13 boards reviewed were sub $200 (a lot under $150). So I don't think its a case of us getting carried away and not providing any "meat" for the readership.

    There will be some high-end boards reviewed over the coming months, but also a number of budget priced ones as time progresses.

  • Nickel020 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    The gaming performance differences between the M3E and the Trinergy are way larger than I've come to expect of same chipset boards: Sometimes the M3E is ~10% faster than the Trinergy, sometimes it's the other way around. If I didn't know that you know what you're doing I'd think this was sloppy benchmarking... How do you explain the large differences? At second glance it looks like the Trinergy does better in multi-GPU setups, while the M3E leads in single GPU setups.

    Also, I did not expect such a large difference between the 920 @4GHz and the P55 boards with the CPU @4GHz when using triple SLI, is this to be attributed to the NF200, to the on-die PCI-E controller (not enough lanes?) or even the lack of a third memory channel? Is the difference also this big on dual SLI between X58 and P55+NF200 boards? And how do non-NF200 boards fare?
  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link


    The disparity you see in the M3E and Trinergy multi-card results is not down to 'sloppy benchmarking'. We saw this back when we reviewed the Trinergy board too against the P55 Classified 200. My personal take on the difference is that it’s possibly down to how the NF200 is strung onto the primary PEG lanes.

    MSI supplies all 16 lanes direct to the NF200 - this gives them slightly worse single card performance. However, as nVidia have a couple of front end features within the NF200 that can be utilized for SLI, when more than one card is plugged in boards like the M3E and Classified 200 which keep eight of the primary PEG lanes native to the CPU incur a performance hit, possibly due to an additional command hop front to back on the NF200. That's about the only thing I can think that causes this. ASUS have actually added a lot of lane switches to the M3E to provide 4 card support, those little lane switches and trace routing all add extra latency too.

    We don't go to press with figures that are out of whack, anything we find with a disparity is double and triple checked before we post it up.

  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Forgot to add, for additional results showing other P55 boards with the trinergy - check some of the results here:


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