ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Motherboard Review
As you will see today, the old axiom that you can't improve upon perfection is just not true anymore...at least when you give ASUS two years to work on it. Although the Rampage IV Extreme was by no means starting to show its age, you had to expect that ASUS would react to the launch of Intel's flagship Ivy Bridge-E LGA2011 processors with an optimized new flagship motherboard of their own. The result is the Rampage IV Black Edition. This is only the second such Black Edition model to appear from the Taiwanese manufacturer, the previous being the Rampage III Black Edition, and it is clearly positioned as the undisputed champ of all LGA2011 motherboards on the market today.
Starting from the basics, the Rampage IV Black Edition, also referred to as the RIVBE, is based on the X79 chipset and takes full advantage of its capabilities. This model features a full complement of eight DDR3 memory slots, which allows for up to 64GB of RAM and overclocked memory speeds up to DDR3-2800. It has four mechanical PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for both 4-way SLI and 4-way CrossFireX. On the storage front, there are six SATA 6Gb/s ports, four SATA 3Gb/s ports, two eSATA 6Gb/s, six USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, as well as a number of USB headers allowing for further expansion. Rounding out the connectivity is the onboard dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi/Bluetooth 4.0 with an external antenna.
Now while these are all fairly standard specifications, this being a Republic of Gamers (ROG) series model - a class of products that are really designed to cater to gaming and benchmarking fanatics - it comes packed with quite a few notable extras. The onboard SupremeFX Black audio solution is particularly noteworthy. Whereas the onboard audio subsystem is largely an afterthought on most motherboards, ASUS have outfitted this model with a high-quality DAC, op-amps, and proper audio capacitors. As you will see, the components they selected are some of the same parts that DIY audiophiles rave about on Hi-Fi forums.
One of the other unique aspects of the RIVBE is the included OC Panel, an external monitoring and tweaking peripheral which by itself retails for about $100. Now although this accessory has a 'Normal Mode" whereby it can be installed in a case and used as a means of displaying real-time info like CPU temperature, basic system clocks, and fan speeds. It also allows for some basic auto overclocking and CPU fan speed adjustments. More interesting however is the "Extreme Mode", which reveals the OC Panel as an external overclocking console that houses a ton of overclocker-friendly functionality. We will highlight these features a little later, but suffice it to say that with this accessory on your desk, you will have fewer reasons to interact with the physical motherboard itself or even enter the UEFI BIOS.
All of this goodness obviously doesn't come cheap, and with a $500 to $530 retail price the Rampage IV Black Edition is definitely in the top one percent of the most expensive motherboards on the market right now. However, it's not an outrageous price tag for a enthusiast motherboard, especially when you consider that there's a number of $450 Z87-based motherboards for the 'mainstream' LGA1150 platform. Is it worth the money? That is what we are here to find out, so carry on and keep reading.
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