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ASUS Maximus III Extreme LGA1156 Motherboard Review

by MAC     |     April 11, 2010

Conclusion



This conclusion should come to no surprise to anyone who is familiar with ASUS' Republic of Gamers product line, since they keep on getting better and better. The Maximus III Extreme is no exception since it is easily the most well designed motherboard to have ever come through our labs. Not only does it feature SATA 6Gb/s, USB 3.0, and Bluetooth, but it looks downright awesome. The layout is effectively perfect as well, packing 5 PCI-E x16 slots onto a regular ATX form factor without making any compromises as to the accessibility of the various ports, buttons, headers, voltage readouts, etc.

We spent quite a few weeks with the MIIIE, looking for any and all issues, and frankly it's operational record was spotless. The numerous included applications and features all functioned perfectly from day one which quite often is not the case with new boards. We weren't able to try some of the cool new functions like ROG Connect Bluetooth, which can be used to monitor and manipulate system settings and info from a smartphone, but that's because we didn't have an Android, Symbian or Windows Mobile phone on hand.

The USB BIOS Flashback feature is unprecedented though. It allows users to update the motherboard's BIOS from a USB thumb drive without even booting the system. All you have to do is plug the drive into the ROG Connect port, push the ROG Connect button for 2 seconds, and BIOS is automatically updated, without having to enter the BIOS or boot to OS. Why is this important? Well imagine if your motherboard won't boot because it doesn't recognize your CPU. Well instead of having to find a compatible CPU and then flashing the motherboard, you can now just update the BIOS right away with the push of a button.

The very attractive cooling system proved quite adept at handling the motherboard's heat output, even with the usually hot-running NVIDIA NF200 chipset onboard. We didn't give the board any active cooling whatsoever, even during our crushing overclocking tests yet it never faltered. Speaking of overclocking, this motherboard absolutely shined, despite again being 'limited' by a pre-production BIOS. We achieved 3 new best results out of our 5 overclocking categories, which is very impressive by any measure. Keep in mind that we stuck to air-cooling, so those with extreme cooling methods will see even greater gains, especially if they make use of the all new circuitry and features that have been specifically added for sub-zero overclocking. We certainly can't think of a better motherboard to accommodate the rumored multiplier-unlocked Core i5-655K and Core i7-875K processors.

Despite the fact that we were using a beta BIOS, the overall performance was very strong, generally neck-and-neck with the more mature Maximus III Formula. Surprisingly, the dual SLI performance was not quite were we with though it would be, since we would have assumed that the MIIIE's proper x16/x16 configuration would outperform the MIIIF's x8/x8, but that was not really the case. We can lay some of the blame for that on the NVIDIA NF200 chipset, which does cause a latency hit. However, we are hoping that a final retail BIOS closes the gap a little bit.

At $350, this definitely an expensive motherboard for the LGA1156 platform, but it targets a very specific enthusiast segment and it will only be available in limited quantities. If you want one, they should hit the retail channel on April 26th.


Pros

- Solid performance.
- Republic of Gamers theme looks good.
- Excellent layout.
- Nice spacing between the PCI-E slots.
- 3-Way SLI capability, 4-Way CrossFireX capability, 5-Way GPU support.
- Best overclocking P55 motherboard yet.
- Good failed OC recovery.
- Excellent voltage regulation & output.
- SATA 6GB/s, USB 3.0, Bluetooth connectivity.
- Eight 4-pin PWM fan headers.
- Three thermal sensor headers & cables.
- Superb, user-friendly BIOS.
- Comprehensive software suite.
- ROG Connect is like nothing we have seen before.
- Two socketed BIOS chips.


Cons

- Might be priced out of the range for the LGA1156 market.
- Voltage read points are too simplistic, need a way to attach voltmeter leads directly to the motherboard.
- Large CPU coolers + tall memory heatspreaders can cause installation annoyances.
- No IDE or Floppy connectors (should be a non-issue nowadays).
- No SupremeFX X-Fi audio card.





Our thanks to ASUS for making this review possible!


 
 
 

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