Intel X48 Motherboard Round-up: ASUS, ECS, & Intel

Asus BIOS & Overclocking Options


The BIOS used for ASUS' Republic of Gamers series of motherboards is different from most of what's out there.  Based on a variant of American Megatrends, Inc. BIOS (AMIBIOS), the BIOS for the Rampage Formula uses tabs at the top that range from the standard Main and Advanced settings to Extreme Tweaker, where most of the options for overclocking the board lie in wait. 


The Main page allows the user to set the system date and time, language, and provides a quick readout on the drives that are installed.  Drilling down further into SATA configuration provides options for enabling RAID, System Information will give you just that: CPU type and speed and the amount of RAM currently installed.  Advanced covers a number of topics, from CPU Configuration to Chipset, Onboard Devices, and USB and PCIPnP configurations.

Under CPU Configuration, we saw a more detailed layout of the CPU information as well as options to change the CPU Ratio, and enable things such as Vanderpool (a virtualization technology), Intel Speedstep and support for C1E, Max CPUID Value limits, and Execute Disable Bit.  Chipset, on the other hand, has more to do with the configuration of the Northbridge, with choices for the ordering of graphics card slots and PEG Port Control.  Finally, Onboard Devices has, of course, all of the toggles for enabling or disabling onboard components, including the LCD Poster's backlight settings.  Sadly, gone is the option for customized messages.

Overclocking the ASUS Rampage Formula 
As smooth as silk


Extreme Tweaker is where it all happens, and the list of options is staggering.  One can settle for using the Ai Overclock Tuner which can load an optimal settings for the system, or by choosing CPU Level Up you can select a CPU Level which will automatically adjust all parameters such as FSB and DRAM frequencies to the expected levels.  It's a great way to see if your CPU is capable of performing like a more powerful one, but without spending the extra cash.  But, selecting a manual overclock is what we're here for, so we set the overclock tuner to "manual", thereby activating all of the options below.

Dialing in the FSB Frequency is where to start, and the BIOS will allow you to enter a speed all the way up to 800 MHz, which is a bit hopeful.  PCI-Express and DRAM Frequency are also set here as well, with the memory using a series of dividers which determine the memory speed based on the CPU's bus speed.  We found that our OCZ sticks that were rated for 1066MHz operation wouldn't work well with the DDR2-1066 divider, and found ourselves having to shoot for DDR2-1002 instead.  Following from there, the memory timings and command rate are located directly below the frequency, with the longest list we've ever laid eyes upon, although not all are configurable.  Of course, no ASUS board would be complete without voltage overrides, and the Rampage Formula is no slouch in this department. Boosting the voltage for each component uses a color-code for the relative safety of the desired upon voltage level, both in the BIOS and on the board itself using LEDs.

                                                          Here are some of the ranges:

CPU Voltage:
CPU PLL Voltage:
North Bridge Voltage:
DRAM Voltage:
FSB Termination Voltage:
South Bridge Voltage:
SB 1.5V Voltage:
1.10V-2.40V (0.0125V steps)
1.50V-3.00V (0.02V steps)
1.25V-2.05V (0.02V steps)
1.80V-3.40V (0.02V steps)
1.20V-2.00V (0.02V steps)
1.05V-1.225V (0.05V steps)
1.50V-2.05V (0.05V steps)

Overclocking the ASUS Rampage Formula was a relative breeze compared to our other boards.  We started raising the FSB in 5MHz bumps, lowering the Memory ratio to keep those speeds at or around 1000MHz.  At 375MHz, we raised the CPU voltage slightly to 1.4V, but we found that from 375MHz to 425MHz, we kept having to give a little more to the system to keep it purring so that by the time we reached 425MHz we were running with 1.45V allocated to the CPU. After we reached this stage, we kept moving higher and higher right up over 500MHz.  Here, we added another .05V which allowed us to gain another 20MHz and then hit a wall.  At this point, even the lowest memory divider still forced speeds over and above what our memory could handle.  Thus, we believe we couldn't get any higher, not due to the CPU or board, but due to our RAM.
When an overclocking attempt failed, one reset of the system was usually enough to get us back into the BIOS to correct the issue.  Throughout our testing, we only had to bump the CPU voltage and memory voltage to achieve the gains listed above, and hardly touched the finer settings made available to us.  Stability was never an issue, whether we were at normal or higher speeds - a true testament to ASUS' engineers.

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