ASUS Rampage II Gene Review
So you’ve decided to build a high-end home theater PC (HTPC), or perhaps you want to build a nice portable gaming rig but don’t want to compromise on performance? If so, you'll probably want to go with a micro-ATX motherboard, as its smaller size will make it easier to house inside that HTPC or mini-tower chassis you’ve been eyeing. There’s one big problem though – the overwhelming majority of micro-ATX motherboards on the market are really under spec’ed in comparison to their full-sized ATX counterparts: many of the voltage, clock speed, and other settings enthusiasts take for granted inside BIOS on a nice ATX motherboard aren’t found on micro-ATX boards. Not to mention that the hardware components themselves tend to be focused first and foremost on minimizing cost; you’re typically going to find no heatpipe cooling, outdated integrated audio CODECs, and a pretty barebones feature set.
But thanks to ASUS, the days of enthusiasts settling on a compromised micro-ATX motherboard are now over for those of you interested in the Core i7 platform. Their Rampage II Gene micro-ATX motherboard boasts features not found on many full-sized ATX X58 motherboards.
Not only does the motherboard sport six DIMMs, SupremeFX X-Fi audio, SLI and CrossFire support, and all the BIOS settings for tweaking you could possibly imagine, it does so while running cool and a price that’s a little easier to stomach than ASUS’ other high-end Republic of Gamers X58 motherboards like the Rampage II Extreme. Priced at $250, the Rampage II Gene is actually ASUS’ least expensive ROG motherboard! Let’s go over the board’s key features shall we?
Republic of Gamers
As anyone’s who’s followed ASUS’ motherboard line can tell you, the ASUS Republic of Gamers family of motherboards are considered to be the best of the best. These boards are loaded to the gills with features, many of which can’t be found on any other motherboard in the world, and boast extremely high build quality with exquisite attention to detail. As soon as you pull a Republic of Gamers motherboard outside its box, you know that you’ve just purchased a high-end product. Think of them as the Ferrari of motherboards.
ASUS outfits all of their Republic of Gamers boards with many custom features. For instance, the Rampage II Gene is equipped with an array of LEDs. Each LED is used to indicate various aspects of the motherboard. There’s your typical power LED, which is used to indicate when the motherboard receives power, but ASUS also goes one step beyond that, including LEDs for system voltages. ASUS provides individual LEDs for voltages for the CPU, memory, north bridge, and south bridge. If the LED is green, the user knows his voltage for that particular component is in the normal range, but if the LED is yellow it’s in the high range. Finally, a red LED indicates a “crazy” voltage setting.
These voltage ranges vary depending on the component, so what may be a safe voltage setting for the memory may be unsafe for the north bridge or south bridge, so you’ll have to watch each LED closely and look up the voltage ranges for safe, high, and crazy in the motherboard manual.
As any enthusiast can tell you, memory compatibility can be a minefield at times. What’s really annoying is that these issues can be very hard to diagnose, as you usually won’t get a video signal. This leads many users to prematurely return their graphics card or motherboard, even though that isn’t the culprit.
To help resolve this issue, ASUS has come up with MemOK! ASUS refers to MemOK! as a “memory rescue tool”. Simply push the MemOK! button on the motherboard and the technology automatically determines the failsafe memory settings needed to boot the motherboard.