Board Design and Layout
If one word can be used to describe the Asus Maximus II Formula, that word would be “refined”. Yes, it seems irrational to think of a brand new motherboard with a brand new chipset to be considered refined, but from a hardware point of view, Asus has done a tremendous job of smoothing out the edges and making the Maximus II Formula seemingly bulletproof from day one. The board’s sleek PCB and elegant heatpipe/heatsink based cooling system appear to be extremely well manufactured, and from a visual perspective, this board should appeal to both the high-end enthusiast and the workstation-class professional type as well.
The Maximus II Formula is based on a standard ATX form factor design, and has a huge amount of features for a board of its size. These include Crossfire support with dual PCI Express x16 (sized) slots, six SATA-II/300 RAID ports, support for up to 16 GB of DDR2 memory over four slots, support for the latest generation of quad-core CPU’s from Intel with 16-phase power, eSATA connectivity, dual Firewire ports, 12 x USB 2.0 ports, Creative X-Fi audio, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, along with support for legacy devices like 32-bit PCI, Ultra ATA, PS/2, and floppy drives.
Maximus II Formula - Top Angle
Maximus II Formula - Bottom Angle
The most eye-catching aspect about this board, however, is its cooling system. Asus utilizes a custom cooling system design that combines multiple heatpipes connecting the Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets together with a series of very well manufactured aluminum alloy heatsink fins, which wrap around the CPU socket. The cooling system is completely passive in nature, and requires no active cooling in order to stay at nominal temperatures. Asus does, however, include an optional fan that you can attach to either of the red brackets on the cooling system for additional airflow.
The beauty of this system is that it’s very effective, but it also stays out of your way. The heatpipe and heatsink system near the south end of the motherboard is short enough so that PCI Express cards installed nearby will not be interefered with. In addition, Asus leaves enough leeway around the CPU socket for large CPU coolers to be installed without issue. For those who are curious about the Southbridge heatsink system, while it may appear to extend into the center of the motherboard to cover another chip, this is not the case. The only chip that the heatsink is touching on the south end of the motherboard is the ICH10R Southbridge chip, which in itself produces very little heat.
CPU Socket and Thermal System
The two blue expansion slots are PCI Express 2.0 x16 sized slots, which can support a Crossfire multi-GPU configuration. As mentioned before, when you plug in two cards, your PCI Express bandwidth will drop to an 8x8 configuration, but this is still plenty of bandwidth for high-end ATI cards. We would not hesitate to throw in a pair of Radeon 4850 / 4870 cards into this board for high-end Crossfire setup. Considering you can now pair up a few Radeon 4850 cards at $199 a pop to rival the performance of a $600 GeForce GTX 280 card, the Maximus II Formula quickly becomes a very viable option for high-end gamers looking to save a little cash. We think that ATI’s new lineup of low-power graphics cards along with the low-power P45 chipset with Crossfire support will make for an excellent configuration for gamers who keep a keen eye on power consumption