ASUS Maximus III Extreme LGA1156 Motherboard Review

by MAC     |     April 11, 2010

A Closer Look at the Maximus III Extreme

Without further ado, here is the Maximus III Extreme in all its glory:

For this motherboard, ASUS have wisely chosen to emulate many of the layout elements from the Maximus III Formula. They have kept a standard ATX layout, so you won't worry about this motherboard fitting in your case. The 8-pin CPU power connector, 24-pin ATX power connector, and all the other connectors and headers are ideally located right on the edge of the motherboard. As always, we're a fan of the red & black Republic of Gamers theme, but we do wish that the large rather bland southbridge heatsink had been revamped a little.

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As you can see, the general CPU socket area is free from obstructions and the motherboard's heatsinks are all low profile, so users shouldn't have any issues installing even the largest CPU cooler. Those utilizing more extreme sub-zero forms of cooling won't find insulating this motherboard particularly difficult, especially if they remove the CPU latching mechanism.

To the left of the CPU socket, surrounded by traditional solid capacitors, you may spot a shiny rectangular component. This is a high quality and high capacity Fujitsu 3V-1000uF SuperML capacitor, which ASUS only installs on their flagship products. One advantage of a SuperML capacitor is that it can store a much greater electrical charge, which helps ensure stability even when there is a sudden increase in the load current.

For this particular motherboard, ASUS have unveiled their sophisticated new power management system called Extreme Engine Digi+, which combines the best features from digital and analog VRM designs thanks to a newer type of MOSFET. The more efficient, cooler-running chokes used in this design are also able to sustain 25% more current than traditional designs, and are capable of delivering up to 40A. Overall, Extreme Engine Digi+ requires less phases than traditional VRM designs, but is significantly more robust. The Maximus III Extreme's design has 8 phases for the CPU and 3 phases for the VTT/Uncore, whereas the Maximus III Formula's older design required 16 phases for the CPU and 3 phases for the VTT/Uncore.

By the way, for those of you who care, this motherboard does have both a LOTES latching mechanism and socket.

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Upon removing the cooling system, we can see the new multi-phase MOSFETs. If you are unfamiliar with how traditional motherboard MOSFETs look like, you will instantly notice a significant difference. These new MOSFETs are encased in a metal packaging, and thanks to the FET+ in construction, ASUS claims that they offer 30% faster heat dissipation as well as 40%+ better conductivity.

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The DDR3 memory slots feature a 3-phase power design, and support overclocked memory frequencies up to DDR3-2200. The Q-DIMM memory slot design, which is clip-less on one end, has wisely been implemented on this model. The reason for this innovative design is to prevent the clips from coming into contact with the back of the graphics card, which would be an issue on this motherboard.

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Those of you familiar with ASUS motherboards might mistake the little red knob as the MemOk! button, but it is in fact the new Go Button which serves two functions. When you press the button before posting it will enable the MemOk! feature, but if you press it while in Windows, it will overclock the system based on a preset profile that can be set in the BIOS.

Above the red Go Button, you can see the LN2 Mode jumper, which is a feature unique to this model. The function of this jumper is to circumvent processor's internal temperature diode and reduce coldbug issues when using sub-zero cooling methods. The OPT_TEMP1 header is one of 3 thermal sensor headers, which can be used with the included thermal sensor cables to monitor temperatures wherever you place the thermal probe.

ProbeIt is a series of 5 voltage read points on the motherboard, which is obviously a must-have feature on a enthusiast-oriented model. To be honest though, while read points are nice, we would have liked to see a different design whereby voltmeter leads could be attached directly to the motherboard via cables, like on the Rampage II Extreme or even the MSI P55-GD80.

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Here we have the huge, rather boring looking southbridge cooler. Frankly, it's overkill for the tiny and cool-running P55 PCH. The MIIIE features six right-angle SATA 3Gb/s ports, which are supplied by the P55 chipset and support RAID 0/1/5/10. The two red SATA 6GB/s ports are courtesy of a Marvell 9123 controller and support RAID 0/1. The JMicron JMB363 controller supplies the lone upright SATA port to the left of the others, as well as the eSATA port on the I/O panel.

As on all their USB 3.0 + SATA 6Gb/s supporting motherboards, the Maximus III Extreme features a PLX bridge chip. This chip takes 4 PCI-E 1.1 lanes from the P55 PCH turns them into PCI-E 2.0 lanes, which are then used for the USB3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s controllers.

This design ensures that both USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s can be used at the same time, at full speed, without having to divert some of the PCI-E lanes from the CPU, thereby crippling multi-GPU performance.

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In the lower right corner, we see that ASUS have finally adopted a dual socketed BIOS approach. With this in mind, ASUS have installed a BIOS Button, which allows you to switch between the two BIOSes. The nearby BIOS leds tell you which BIOS is currently being used.

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