X58 Showdown: ASUS Rampage II vs. MSI Eclipse

ASUS Rampage II Extreme - Layout and Features

 ASUS Rampage II Extreme Layout and Features
 Just sign and drive

Along with the package, the layout of the Rampage gets a complete facelift.  The cooling system is more and more designed as part of the overall look and feel of the board rather than an afterthought to getting the job done.  Probably as a result of trying to fit everything in, the Rampage II Extreme is an inch larger than the standard ATX form factor.  That extra inch could cause an issue with some cases, and in fact made our installation into an Antec Nine Hundred a little bit of a challenge.

ASUS Rampage II Extreme Top Shot
ASUS Rampage II Extreme 

Black and red heatsinks sit directly over the Southbridge with an oversized footprint, yet it purposely was designed as low profile as can possibly be leaving ample clearance for the graphics cards that will pass over them.  Cooling for the Northbridge is found directly adjacent to this and has a passive gunmetal-colored heatsink placed on top with a lit-up RoG logo on it.  A single heatpipe leads away from here to two sets of heatsinks placed on top of the MOSFETs around the CPU socket area.  As these heatsinks overhang the shielded chokes, they also pull a little heat away from them as well.  Overall, the board has a really classy look that even provides a signature area so you can put your name down for bragging rights.

South Bridge heatsink   North Bridge heatsink   Additional heatsinks
Socket LGA1366   VRM Cooling   CPU Socket Area

Although red and black seems to be the dominant color scheme of the Rampage II Extreme, a few components get treated in blue, including two of the PCI-E X16 slots and one set of DIMM channels (the other channel is colored in boring beige).  IDE and SATA ports get pushed down into one corner with both sets of ports angled forward, again to prevent connected cables from obstructing longer video cards.  In theory, it's a great idea, but in practice getting cables installed after the motherboard has been set, especially in tight quarters inside of the chassis, can be a bit of a pain.

Triple channel DDR3   Expansion slots   Front-angled drive connectors

TweakIt and ProbeIt create a whole new level of interaction with the motherboard.  Start and reset buttons are larger than on past models, and are easier to locate with three new buttons making an appearance for the first time.  These buttons have a great tactile feel to them, letting you know when you've pressed something.  The new buttons are the 'toggle', which lets you cycle through system options, 'confirm', used to enter an option or to confirm your choice, and 'select' - a mini joystick used to decrease or increase values.  Used in conjunction with the LCD Poster, a builder can view voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds or change said voltages and CPU frequencies all without entering the BIOS.  ProbeIt consists of a series on contact points that can be connected to a multitester to get more accurate voltage measurements, especially helpful while overclocking.

TweakIt   24-pin ATX power   Voltage LEDs

LEDs are placed around the board to give another voltage readout based in normal, high, or crazy ranges (as set in the BIOS).  CPU is up high, nearest to the 8-pin power connector, with North Bridge, South Bridge, and memory LEDs all nearest their associated component.  Hard Drive and power LEDs also keep the user informed as to their current state of activity, but are mostly helpful only when the chassis does not offer them.  Seven 3-pin fan headers combined with three temperature readout connectors really allow the user to monitor temps and attach fans, or increase their output, as necessary.

Dual BIOS on board   Rampage II Extreme Rear   Backplate lit-up

A floppy port is placed far down the board, near the expansion slots while the TweakIt/ProbeIt controls are nearest the drive cages.  This switch-up is not as favorable in our eyes, as the area around the drives is typically cluttered with various cables while the floppy drive cable will have to stretch the length of the board--if it's used at all that is. A single SATA port for external SATA HD is placed in the corner of the board, controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip.  Three USB headers provide for an additional six USB ports, bringing the total number of USB devices natively supported to 12. Rear I/O consists of a PS/2 port for a keyboard, six USB 2.0 ports, 2 RJ-45 LAN jacks, IEEE-1394a, eSATA, and a Clear CMOS button, which can be disabled using jumpers to prevent accidental usage, but got a thorough workout in our testing.  The SupremeFX X-Fi riser card consists of six audio jacks, as well as coaxial and optical S/PDIF audio out.  Although a bit hard to make out in the last photo, the backplate lights up make things easier to see at night, although it's not so bright as to make it obtrusive.

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