The BIOS, Overclocking and Power Consumption
The Asus Maximus II Formula is powered through an AMI BIOS which has been highly customized for the release of this board. Nearly all of the settings which enthusiasts and overclockers care about are listed in one menu, dubbed “Extreme Tweaker”. All of your clock speed, voltage, and timing options are available here for your choosing. Asus also is introducing a new CPU Step-Up feature, which detects which model CPU is currently installed in the motherboard, and will provide you overclocking settings for the clock speeds of the next higher-up models. For example : If you had a Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor, you would have Q6700 and Q6800 listed in your CPU Step-Up menu. Selecting one of these options would allow the motherboard to configure itself to run at these higher clock speeds, and will handle all of the necessary timing and voltage alterations needed. An interesting feature, but considering this is an enthusiast class motherboard, we’re guessing most overclockers will set their timings manually.
Maximus II Formula BIOS 0701 - Timings
Maximus II Formula BIOS 0701 - Voltages
We found the overclocking options to be more than suffice for our needs, as we were not limited in any fashion in regards to timings or voltage levels. Of course, we should mention that the P45 chipset is still linked between the front side bus and memory bus. This means that if you start pushing the front side bus speeds up by sizeable amounts, you will have to use fairly high-speed DDR2 memory in order to keep up. As noted by our screenshot, even though this board only “officially” supports DDR2-1200 speeds, you basically have a limitless range here in terms of memory speeds, as long as the modules themselves can keep up.
Maximus II Formula BIOS 0701 - Thermal Readings
Maximus II Formula BIOS 0701 - Memory Clocks
With a slick cooling setup, a brand new chipset, and a BIOS tuned towards enthusiasts, we were expecting this board to overclock quite a bit. Previous generation Intel P35 motherboards were excellent overclockers in their own right, and the die-shrunk P45 looks to expand on that. With our overclocker-friendly Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 “Wolfdale” chip in tow and a huge dual 120-mm cooled, six-heatpipe based cooler, we went to town.
Hitting 500 MHz FSB (2,000 MHz quad-pumped) is a piece of this cake on this motherboard, and assuming your CPU is capable, the board can easily handle these levels of front side bus speeds. Beyond 500 MHz FSB is a bit trickier. Through some voltage tweaks, we were able to get our board with an air-cooled CPU up to 520 MHz FSB (2080 MHz quad-pumped). Once we maxed out the FSB, we cranked up the CPU ratio for a maximum overclock of 4.16 GHz from our 3.16 GHz chip. Not bad at all, we say.
Overclocked at 500 MHz FSB
Maxing Out at 520 MHz FSB
Asus has a few tools on the hardware side for this board that overclockers may appreciate. First is the LCD poster unit, which connects through the I/O shield directly to the motherboard. This is a simple, small little LCD panel which relays BIOS POST information to you in a visible area. This can be useful for quick diagnostics if your chassis is closed, but once your system is up and running, it’s not that useful in the long-run (you can have it show the time, however, for an impromptu desk clock – or basic hardware stats). It’s nice, however, not anything to get too excited about.
Bundled LCD Poster
Manual Start/Reset Buttons
Much more useful for testers and overclockers are these big, beautiful buttons at the bottom of the board. These are hardware power-on and reset switches, which allow you to control these very basic aspects of your board without having to short jumpers. Not only do they look (and feel) nice, but when you’re in a dark room, you can see that Asus equipped these buttons with backlight LED’s, so you can locate them without a flashlight. Don’t you want to press that big, red button? Yeah, you do.
When the lights go down, backit LED's light up the board's start and reset buttons.
Shrinking the die manufacturing process when producing a chipset in general tends to yield a product that consumes less power. We wanted to test this theory with the new P45 by running power consumption numbers between it and competing chipsets. Our power consumption numbers are for the entire system (not just the motherboard) as recorded by a hardware AC wattage monitor. Idle mode is testing while sitting at the desktop with basic CPU power saving modes enabled. Full load mode is testing with all four CPU cores maxed out with Orthos Prime and maxing out the GPU with our realtime DX9 shader test.
Honestly, we were a bit surprised, as our P45 board consumes significantly more power than our previous generation P35 based platform at both idle and full load modes. The P45 still consumes significantly less than Nvidia 680/780-series products at idle, and just a bit less under full load. The P45 is definitely not a power hog of a chipset, but from these first numbers, it’s not as efficient in terms of power consumption as we would have expected. We should note however that motherboard configurations and on-board peripherals can have an a significant effect on system power consumption readings.
Another point also is that the Maximus II Formula supports the Asus “EPU” (Energy Processing Unit), which can work in conjunction with software for decreased energy usage levels. Of course, in order to save significant amounts of power, you will be looking at decreased computing power, but in this day and age of high energy prices and ridiculously powerful home systems, giving a bit of control over to the motherboard to bring power levels down might not be such a terrible thing.