Considering that Intel’s P45 Express chipset just launched a few weeks ago, the fact that we’re seeing this level of quality so early on in the game is certainly encouraging. Asus has wasted no time in getting a souped up, enthusiast-class board out for a public eager and willing to gobble it up. From what we’ve seen in forum threads thus far, most early adopters who have gone with this platform have been very pleased with the overall product, as are we. The Maximus II Formula is a top notch board, and we’re left with a very positive impression overall by it.
On the plus side, we love Asus’s refined, simple, but effective cooling system that they’ve employed with the Maximus II Formula. It’s clean and it works great without getting in the way. We also like Asus’s custom extras on this board, such as driver-less RAID support, dedicated power/reset/clear CMOS buttons, and optional snap-on cooling fans. The board has just about every feature we would want in a P45 platform at this time, and yet, it still doesn’t feel busy or hurried together. Asus could have stuffed extra features like Firewire 800 or WiFi support onboard, but these typically don’t appeal to the average enthusiast/overclocker, and would have increased the price of this board even further.
On the down side, this is an expensive platform, with a $299 MSRP (street price is about $250). Considering most P35 platforms are available for about $100-$150, you’re looking at a significant price increase in going to a board of this caliber with the new P45 chipset. What you’re getting for that extra money is a very nice cooling system, a BIOS that is tweaked for the enthusiast/overclocker mind-set, support for up to 16 GB of DDR2 and speeds up to 1200 MHz (and beyond), and a very clean, refined board design as a whole. The board isn’t perfect, and we still feel that it could use a few more BIOS revisions in order to be truly rock solid (we had some issues it not resuming operation after going into sleep mode, and a few random crashes when doing serious overclocking – nothing serious), but as a whole, it’s still a better platform than most P35 based motherboards we’ve seen to date.
While we thought we would be excited about the Creative X-Fi support, we were a bit let down when we found that the board does not actually include an X-Fi processor from Creative. Using a third party CODEC and overlaying the X-Fi software on top of it is not the same thing, and even though it’s an improvement over most onboard audio software. It still feels like a let-down as we were expecting a full hardware APU onboard. Perhaps Asus can move their Xonar chips onboard for future motherboards, which we would be just as happy with compared to a true X-Fi audio card. While we appreciate Asus trying to improve their onboard audio quality, we feel that SupremeFX w/ X-Fi kind of misses the mark as to what gamers and enthusiasts actually wand and is even slightly misleading.
We’re nit-picking though. As a whole, the Maximus II Formula delivers what we were expecting in a $300 Intel P45 platform; refinement, superb cooling, solid performance, and top notch overclockability. Paired together with a quad-core CPU, 4 GB of DDR2-1200 memory, and a pair of Radeon 4870 cards in Crossfire, this board could make for an absolutely top notch gaming platform for a reasonable investment. While it’s not without its quirks, as a whole, we’re extremely impressed with the Maximus II Formula and would definitely recommend it.