Asus And DFI: Core i7 Micro-ATX Motherboards Compared

Asus Rampage II Gene

Features and Layout

Smaller, yet slightly updated compared to the Rampage II Extreme, the Micro-ATX Rampage II Gene lacks only a few slots, a few redundant circuits, and a secondary Gigabit network controller compared to its larger sibling.

Customers still get two full-bandwidth PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, plus full support for overclocking all available Core i7 processors. Anyone choosing additional displays rather than SLI/CrossFire modes will be pleased to see that the PCIe 2.0 x4 slot is open-ended to allow a third x16 graphics card to be installed.

Moving the top x16 slot upward two positions compared to the full-ATX version required everything else to be placed slightly “northward.” Asus removed the lower DIMM latches to avoid interference with the closely-placed graphics card, but we didn’t have any issue with module retention. The CPU socket is likewise shifted toward the Rampage II Gene’s top edge, leaving no room for the additional voltage regulator components found on the top edges of its full-ATX predecessor.

Our overclocking test will determine the stability of the resulting eight-phase design.

The Rampage II Gene follows the Asus P6T and Foxconn BloodRage by providing mounting holes for both LGA-1366 and LGA-775 CPU coolers. This could be especially handy when choosing an air-cooling sink to fit a particular case, or when carrying forward a previous-generation liquid-cooling water block.

Asus finally gets rid of the floppy drive connector that nobody really wants, yet some Windows XP installations require (we get around this in the lab by keeping a USB disk drive handy). Conversely, an Ultra ATA header that even fewer users require has been added by way of JMicron’s JMB363 combination controller, a part that’s also responsible for a seventh internal and a single external SATA port.

Putting the front-panel connectors along the motherboards bottom edge hasn’t traditionally been challenging with Micro-ATX cases, but this is an SLI/CrossFire board. Stuffing cables under a card can be difficult, especially when round cables such as those used with most front-panel audio connectors must be smashed flat at the connector.

Power and reset buttons along the center of the Rampage II Gene’s bottom edge allow testing and configuration outside of any case. A third button labeled “MemOK” forces the motherboard to loosen memory timings significantly, to ease booting with problematic modules.

BIOS

A comparison of voltage and frequency settings can be found in the overclocking portion of this review.

The Asus Extreme Tweaker menu is detailed enough to require three pages of scrolling, yet it begins with a focus on Asus’ automatic overclocking techniques. Mixed in with those automatic overclocking controls, the Rampage II Gene properly detected the X.M.P. values for our memory at both 2,000 and 1,866 MHz.

DRAM timings are spread across nearly two pages, but Asus simplifies configuration by allowing some to be set manually and others automatically.

Asus O.C. Profile allows saving up to eight custom BIOS configurations, while the TweakIT Batch File provides simpler overclocking configuration and similar saving function to two files.

Accessories

New to the Rampage II Gene is an oversized case sticker. The LCD Poster provides useful information concerning system status, but connecting it to the board through a hole in the I/O plate leaves it dangling whenever the system is moved.

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  • snow cakes
    DFI tends to screw me over the past two times my Lanparty motherboards kept locking up at random times during computer ussage. If I had to buy a new motherboard I would look at the Asus over the DFI.
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