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Asus Maximus II Formula

11-Way P45 Motherboard Shootout
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The latest in Asus’ Republic of Gamer series, the Maximus II Formula, certainly looks powerful with oversized ’sinks covering mysterious components. Many great things can be found beneath those heatsinks, but not as many as some observers had hoped. Let’s dig a little deeper.

The Maximus II Formula is not only Asus’ flagship P45 product, it’s also a showboat unto itself. Enormous ’sinks will certainly do an excellent job of cooling, and these have been designed with a removable portion that Asus may someday replace with a water cooling block (such as formerly found on the limited-edition version Maximus Formula). Sticking with the showboat theme, the ’sink’s Republic Of Gamers logo lights up, along with internal power and reset buttons. A scattering of LED’s which indicate various system problems (cards not plugged in all the way, for example) finish the theme.

But if you’re going to show off, you’d better be good, and the Maximus II Formula is packed with features such as two PCI Express x16 slots that auto-switch between one by x16 and two by x8 modes, dual Gigabit networking, 16-phase CPU power regulation, and dual BIOS.

Starting at around $260 Web price, Asus didn’t need to make any compromises whatsoever in the design of the Maximus II Formula, and instead optimized its layout for high-speed stability and clean cable management.

The high-speed stability optimization starts with DIMM slots that have been moved significantly “southward” to better orient them around the P45 Express northbridge. Other features have been designed around this starting point, with the top PCI Express graphics card slot in the third position.

Now, before we begin piling compliments on the Striker II Formula’s good connector layout, we thought we should address one common misconception concerning the width of the southbridge ’sink. No, it isn’t covering a PCI Express hub, especially not the rumored nForce 200. In fact, it isn’t covering anything that needs a ’sink at all. The only components that reside beside the ICH10R southbridge are the third-party ATA controller, a few electronic switches for controlling PCI Express lane width (one can already be seen next to the ’sink), a few resistors, and transistors. The huge ’sink is in fact a fake-out, made to make the Maximus II Formula fit in with several other ROG motherboards such as the Striker II Formula, Maximus Extreme, and Blitz Formula, all of which had required a PCI Express Hub to enable additional graphics card slots.

The Maximus II Formula could be viewed as a replacement for the aging Blitz Formula, a motherboard that used its PCI Express hub to split its chipset’s sixteen graphics lanes across two slots in x8 mode. The P45 Express doesn’t require additional components to do this however, as it natively supports dual graphics cards. Additional southbridge cooling could provide an excuse for this oversized part, but we know in truth it’s just for looks.

The Maximus II Formula puts its 8-pin and 24-pin power connectors along the top and front edges, which make for easy cable routing to a top-mounted power supply. Builders stuck with a bottom-mounted power supply will appreciate that the 8-pin connector is close enough to the top edge to pull a cable up from behind the motherboard tray, but any cable folded over the top would cover the latch.

Asus knows that many gamers prefer Windows XP, and puts its floppy header near the top to ease cable routing in typical tower designs. The floppy is still needed by most people for adding AHCI or RAID drivers during Windows installation.

Located on the front edge, just below the motherboard’s center line, the Ultra ATA connector is probably close enough to the top bays of most mid-tower cases to run a cable to the top external bay. Users of true full towers might be a little aggravated, though oversized mid-tower users shouldn’t have a problem.

Serial ATA ports are a different matter. Designed to provide the best clearance for long graphics cards, the six forward facing ports make installation into many chassis nearly impossible, since traditional designs have a hard drive cage in close proximity to the motherboard’s front edge. Also a concern is the internal IEEE-1394 connector, with a bottom rear corner placement that often isn’t reachable by the cables of front-panel connectors.

Internal power and reset buttons are also in what appear to be an inconvenient location, but appearances are deceiving, since such buttons are only really useful for bench testing. The location of these buttons is quite handy for that intended purpose.

Summary
  1. Introduction
  2. ASRock P45R2000-WiFi
  3. P45R2000-WiFi Onboard Devices
  4. P45R2000-WiFi BIOS And Overclocking
  5. P45R2000-WiFi Software And Accessories
  6. ASRock P45TS-R
  7. P45TS-R Onboard Devices
  8. P45TS-R BIOS And Overclocking
  9. P45TS-R Software And Accessories
  10. Asus Maximus II Formula
  11. Maximus II Formula Onboard Devices
  12. Maximus II Formula BIOS And Overclocking
  13. Maximus II Formula Software And Accessories
  14. Asus P5Q Deluxe
  15. P5Q Deluxe Onboard Devices
  16. P5Q Deluxe BIOS And Overclocking
  17. P5Q Deluxe Software And Accessories
  18. Biostar TSeries TP45 HP
  19. TP45 HP Onboard Devices
  20. TP45 HP BIOS And Overclocking
  21. TP45 HP Software And Accessories
  22. Biostar TPower i45
  23. TPower i45 Onboard Devices
  24. TPower i45 BIOS And Overclocking
  25. TPower i45 Software And Accessories
  26. ECS Black Series P45T-A
  27. P45T-A Onboard Devices
  28. P45T-A BIOS And Overclocking
  29. P45T-A Software And Accessories
  30. Gigabyte GA-EP45-DQ6
  31. EP45-DQ6 Onboard Devices
  32. EP45-DQ6 BIOS And Overclocking
  33. EP45-DQ6 Software And Accessories
  34. Jetway HI04
  35. HI04 Onboard Devices
  36. HI04 BIOS And Overclocking
  37. HI04 Software And Accessories
  38. MSI P45 Platinum
  39. P45 Platinum Onboard Devices
  40. P45 Platinum BIOS And Overclocking
  41. P45 Platinum Software And Accessories
  42. MSI P45D3 Platinum
  43. P45 D3 Platinum BIOS And Overclocking
  44. P45D3 Platinum Software And Accessories
  45. Test Hardware
  46. Benchmark Configuration
  47. Benchmark Results: 3D Games
  48. Benchmark Results: Applications
  49. Benchmark Results: Video Encoding And Synthetics
  50. Performance Analysis
  51. Onboard Audio Quality
  52. Power Consumption And Temperature
  53. Overclocking
  54. Conclusion
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  • 0 Hide
    alex_oneill2006 , 25 August 2008 19:23
    Wait, i think i missed the conclusion... what was the conclusion.....or am i just silly !?

    Great review any who, i have been waiting for one of these. I would say go for the P5Q Deluxe!!!!!!!!11
  • 0 Hide
    iluvgillgill , 25 August 2008 20:30
    the old E6xx CPU is not good enough to explore the FSB of the new P45 chipset. i seen better review then this in term of hardware. there should be at least a dual core 45nm processor and a 45nm quad processor.

    sigh....tom's been lazy with hardware update!
  • 0 Hide
    spuddyt , 25 August 2008 23:40
    I assume it is a mistake that says the P45 platinum from MSI has an X48 chipset?
  • 0 Hide
    DangerousD , 31 August 2008 03:59
    so waht about a decent conclusion something like, are these boarfds worth the extra cash over a P35 chipset variant, everything tells me they offer little incentive over the P35, thoughts anyone?
  • 0 Hide
    Henrlk , 7 September 2008 07:44
    Hello?
    Uhm .. 45nm!?

    I agree, test with a better (new) CPU(s) 45nm Dual/Quad.
    That would be really interesting. This probably means alot to someone that owns the E6xx series CPU which i doubt someone buy if they buy a P45 board.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 3 January 2009 06:47
    Methinks Tom has a bit of biassed attitude favouring Asus tbh