ASUS Rampage IV Gene Looking Good
Last month, ASUS went all guns blazing with its socket LGA2011 "Sandy Bridge-E" motherboard lineup, with all three of its major brands: ROG Rampage, TUF Sabertooth, and its mainline P9X79 series. The ROG Rampage series included just one model, the top-end Rampage IV Extreme, with Rampage IV Formula and a then 'possible' Rampage IV Gene slated for later. We now know the Gene is not just possible, but a reality. It was detailed in a channel partner presentation by ASUS.
The Rampage IV Gene is a micro-ATX form-factor motherboard based on the Intel X79 chipset, supporting Core i7 processors in the LGA2011 package. It aims to give you everything the X79 platform can, 3-way SLI and CrossfireX included. The top half of the board is laid out like any other X79 motherboard. The LGA2011 socket sits in between two sets of DDR3 DIMM slots with two slots each, supporting quad-channel DDR3 memory, with speeds of up to DDR3-2400 MHz by overclocking.
Despite severe space constrains of the micro-ATX form-factor, ASUS did not compromise on the power delivery one bit. The CPU is powered by an 8-phase Extreme Engine Digi+ II VRM with at least 8 phases, and 4-phase memory VRM, cooled by a robust heatsink set that makes use of a heat pipe to spread the heat around. To the right side of the socket is the OC Zone, which gives you consolidated voltage measurement points, onboard OC control buttons; phase LEDs, and POST code readout.
The expansion slot area completely does away with ye olde PCI slots, it consists of three PCI-Express Gen 3.0 x16 slots, and an open-ended PCI-Express 2.0 x4 slot wired to the X79 PCH. Among the long slots, the top two are x16 capable, while the bottommost one runs at x8 speed at all times. In terms of SATA connectivity, the Rampage IV Gene gives you a total of 7 internal ports and one eSATA. Among these six internal ports (red) are SATA 6 Gb/s, two from the X79 PCH and two from an ASMedia-made SATA 6G controller; three internal ports (black) are SATA 3 Gb/s wired to the PCH. The eSATA port is wired to the PCH, and runs at 3 Gb/s speed.
ASUS implemented its SupremeFX III audio solution, which can also be found on the Rampage IV Formula. It uses a high-SNR HD audio CODEC (probably ALC898 for all we know), sitting on a tiny PCB that's laid on top of the board's main PCB. This isolates the CODEC from the ground layer of the main PCB. In conjunction with a 1500 uF capacitor, this design eliminates background electrical noises typically associated with onboard audio solutions. To top it all off, the 8+2 channel CODEC is backed by Creative X-Fi MB software that provides EAX 5.0 HD, X-Fi Crystalizer, CMSS-3D, and THX TruStudio Pro.
Other connectivity features include an Intel-made GbE connection, four USB 3.0 ports (two on the rear-panel, two via standard USB 3.0 header), a number of USB 2.0 ports, and a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port. PS/2 is still indispensable, as PS/2 keyboards are free from ghosting and rollback flaws associated with USB keyboards. This board includes several ROG exclusive features such as ROG Connect, ROG GameFirst, USB BIOS Flashback, etc. The board is driven by ASUS UEFI BIOS firmware. Unfortunately, we don't have a specific release date.