|Name||Motherboard: Asus Rampage III Extreme Black Edition|
|At a glance:||Intel X58 / LGA1366 Platform,Four PCI-E 2.0 slots with full x16/x16 CrossfireX and SLI support,USB 3.0, SATA 6Gbps, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity,Thunderbolt Audio/Network processing card|
|Summary:||An envy-inducing, wallet-busting motherboard with every feature you could possibly need.|
If there is one product that has given me component-envy this year, it’s the Rampage III Extreme Black Edition motherboard from Asus – and motherboards are hard to get excited about at the best of times.
Reading the specs, I can only assume that an Asus executive woke up one day and decided that the company needed to release the best motherboard money can buy. Every aspect of this ATX board designed for the Intel X58 platform is just flat-out awesome.
Firstly, it has no less than four x16 PCI-E slots which are spaced wide enough to fit four full two-slot wide video cards, and has enough bandwidth to run them all at x8 speed. Who runs this many graphics cards at once? Crazy people, that’s who. For the sane ones you can also just run the first two slots at full x16 speed with either CrossfireX or SLI cards.
The next cool feature is the Republic of Gamers (ROG) ThunderBolt add-on card. This card serves two purposes: it’s both a Network Processing Unit and a high-end sound card. The NPU is the same as the BigFoot “Killer” network card and offloads network processing from the CPU. This is supposed to improve online gaming but in reality I have found the difference negligible, especially when using a powerful multicore processor.
The sound capabilities were co-designed with Xonar who along with Asus make some of the most popular high-end sound cards on the market. Although it only supports 2-channel audio (making it suitable for headphones or 2.1 speaker systems) it provides awesome quality. My Sennheiser PC163 cans have never sounded so good, for gaming or music.
If surround sound is a must for you, then you can revert to the onboard Realtek audio processor which supports High Definition audio up to 7.1 channels along with EAX 5.0 and OpenAL optimisations.
As a tweaker, my interest was piqued by the ROG Connect and iDirect features which allow you to monitor and adjust your overclocked settings via a USB-connected notebook or a Bluetooth-connected iPhone or iPad. The board also has temperature sensors and voltage measurement points which are very convenient – hardcore overclockers no longer have to worry about relying on possibly inaccurate software readouts of component voltages and temperatures.
Along with Bluetooth v3.0 you also have 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity with two external antennas, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Being a high-end modern motherboard you also get the latest USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps ports with the option to set up a RAID array.
For the power purist you get 8-phase CPU power and 3 phases each for the QPI/DRAM, NB, and memory subsystems. There are also two 8-pin CPU power sockets to deliver the maximum amount of juice to your processor and allow a nice stable overclock. I don’t think my Core i7 920 has ever been treated this nicely in its whole life.
Quite simply, the Rampage III Extreme Black Edition put the rest of my system to shame. If you want the best of the best, this is it.