The phrase “top of the line” can often be a loosely used term when describing a product. In the case of the Rampage IV Black Edition motherboard, ASUS makes no bones about it being just that. There have been several improvements made to enhance this X79 based board since the the Rampage IV Extreme was released a little over a year ago. Most importantly perhaps is the optimized design to fully support the new Ivy Bridge-E socket 2011 processors. As is the case with anything ASUS slaps the ROG name on, you can expect an enormous amount of features and great aesthetics to top it off. Initial impressions tell a story of much more than a simple X79 refresh going on here, so let’s check it out!
Specifications and Features
The specifications below were plucked from the ASUS press deck we were provided. The entire list of specifications are quite long, so I provided a high level list below. Follow the link provided for the complete list of specifications.
As far as features go, let’s begin with a list of what exactly has been improved upon over the Rampage IV Extreme. Of note here is the addition of SupremeFX audio and wireless capabilities. We also have more SATA 6 GB/s ports and an increase in USB 3.0 ports. Support for faster memory and the included OC Panel highlight the remaining differences.
|Feature||Rampage IV Black Edition||Rampage IV Extreme|
|Power Optimization||Extreme DIGI+ III||Extreme DIGI+ II|
|LAN Controller||Intel® 82579V with GameFirst II||Intel® 82579V|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth V4.0||Bluetooth v2.1+EDR|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac||N/A|
|BIOS Theme||Exclusive Black Edition Theme||N/A|
|Power Solution/Inductor||60A Chokes||Black Metallic Chokes|
|Additional VGA Power||4-Pin Molex||6-Pin Header|
|Power Saving||4 Way Optimization (EPU)||ASUS EPU Engine|
|Fan Control||Fan Xpert 2||Fan Xpert+|
|Audio Codec||ROG SupremeFX Black 8-Channel
High Definition Audio CODEC
|DAC||Cirrus Logic CS4398 120dB SNR,
|Headphone Amp||Texas Instruments TPA6120A2
600ohm HP AMP
|EMI/Noise Free Protection||SupremeFX Shielding Technology||N/A|
|Anti-Noise Solution||High-fidelity Audio Operational
|Software||AI Suite III
Game First II
|AI Suite II
|SATA 6 GB/s Ports||6 ( 2 Native + 4 via Asmedia
|4 (2 Native + 2 via Asmedia
|SSD Performance Recover||ROG SSD Secure Erase||N/A|
|USB 3.0||8 (2 front, 6 rear) 4 rear port via
Super Speed Hub ASMedia 1074;
2 front and 2 rear via x ASMedia
1042 USB 3.0 controller
|6 (2 front, 4 rear) via 3x ASMedia
1042 USB 3.0 controller
|USB 2.0||10 (6 front; 4 rear; 1 rear port
shared with ROG Connect; 2 front
port shared with ROG EXT)
|12 (4 front; 8 rear; 1 white port
shared with ROG Connect)
|Remote OC/Monitor/Control||OC Panel||OC Key|
|OC Panel||Subzero Sense
4 Full Speed Fan Headers
|Debug DRAM||MemOK!||GO! Button|
We’ll look deeper into the features of the RIVBE when we dive into our closer look section, but here is a short list of high-level features provided by ASUS. We also have a slide from the press deck showing the board’s layout and feature overview.
- Intel® Core™ i7 Processors for LGA 2011 socket
- Intel® X79 Express Chipset
- OC Panel – Overclocking Command Center
- Extreme Engine Digi+ III – Hardcore power delivery with premium components
- SupremeFX Black – Amazing 120dB signal-to-noise ratio with integrated 600ohm-headphone amplifier
- Subzero Sense – Find out how cold your board is
- VGA Hotwire – Hotwire your system
- GameFirst II + Intel LAN – Put Your Frags First
- Sonic Radar – Scan and detect to dominate
- RAMDisk – Double up on speed with RAM
- 4-Way NIVDIA® SLI™ / AMD CrossFireX™ Support
- Wi-Fi 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.0
Pretty impressive stuff going on there… let’s get the box on the table and have a look around for ourselves!
Packaging and First Look
In a break from the typical red ROG theme we see, the Black Edition packaging carries its name right on over to the box. This time we get a predominantly black box with silver highlights. ASUS did a good job of providing pertinent information on the back of the box, and under the box top flap is another detailed feature list. Under the flap, a large window covers the motherboard, which provides a good look at the board itself and the included ROG OC Panel. All four box sides are reserved for additional product branding and a multilingual blurb of high-level features.
Inside the outer carton are two more boxes; one of which houses the motherboard, and the other contains all the accessories.
To say the RIVBE comes well appointed with accessories would be an understatement. Included in the kit is everything you could possibly need to get the most from the motherboard. While the highlight is the inclusion of the ROG OC Panel, there are many more useful items. The standard items like you would expect to be included are present and accounted for, such as the I/O shield, SATA cables, SLI/Crossfire bridges, user manual, and driver/utilities disc. Unique items, like the X-Socket pad, Q-connectors, ROG Connect cable, and a ROG magnetic emblem are also included. The X-Socket pad deserves special mention as it allows you to use a socket 1366 cooling solution. All you have to do is remove the stock back plate and install the X-Socket pad in its place. You also get a wireless antenna to compliment the onboard Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac capabilities. Specially marked boxes will also include a product code for a free copy of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
Included accessories List
The ROG OC Panel is definitely the highlight of the accessory stack. My fellow editor hokiealumnus gave us a good write-up on the ROG OC Panel in his review of the Maximus VI Extreme. I’ll touch on a few of the highlights here and refer you to his review for a more detailed look.
The ROG OC Panel can be used in either normal or extreme mode. Normal mode simply means you have chosen to use the included drive bay adapter to install it in an available 5.25″ drive bay. By doing so, you make many of the available functions inaccessible, but you can load saved overclocking profiles by using the bottom left button located next to the display screen. Normal mode also allows you to control fan speeds and obtain critical system monitoring information.
In extreme mode, the ROG OC Panel becomes a handheld device that can perform a host of additional operations on the fly. Several important voltages can be adjusted including Vcore and VDIMM, and you can also adjust the BCLK and CPU multiplier. Below are a few pictures in its handheld, extreme mode configuration.
On the left side of the unit, you’ll find connection points for thermal probes. No need to purchase an expensive thermometer for those LN2 sessions, just purchase some inexpensive K-type thermal probes, and you’re ready to go.
Removing the plastic cover reveals several more features the ROG OC Panel offers. The device has the ability to control four fans if you plug a SATA power connector to it (located at the bottom). So, in a sense, you have no need for a fan controller if you plug your fans in here. If you happen to own an ASUS graphics card that supports VGA Hotwire, you can plug those wires directly into the ROG OC Panel and have full voltage control from the OC Panel, in OS, or within the UEFI BIOS. If the above isn’t enough, ASUS also provides six different voltage read points, so you can monitor voltages in real time.
The four slides below will give you additional information on the ROG OC Panel and how it operates.
Before we zero in for an up-close look at the RIVBE, here are some images of the board from different angles. The RIVBE is darn near completely black, except for a spot of red here and there. There is a silver stripe on the chipset heatsink, and four of the DIMM slots are also silver. The silver coloring is pretty dark in itself and accents the black theme of the board nicely. The board is also an E-ATX form factor, which is something to keep in mind when selecting a case to install it in.
The ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Up Close
Let’s work our way around the RIVBE’s outer extremities to start off our up-close look. Along the bottom of the RIVBE, we have the front panel audio connection and the SPDIF 4-pin header at the far left. Next to that is the 4-pin Molex connector for added power to the PCI-E lanes. The TPM header and two USB 2.0 headers round out the bottom-left area. Sliding over to the bottom-right, we find two 4-pin fan headers followed by the DirectKey and BIOS switch buttons. By pressing the DirectKey button, you can start/restart the system, and it will boot directly into the UEFI BIOS. The RIVBE has a dual BIOS feature, and you can switch between them by pressing the red BIOS Switch button. Two LEDs located close by indicate which BIOS you are currently using. Next in line is the ROG OC Panel header, which also uses the USB 2.0 header just next to it. If you do not hook up the OC Panel, then you’ll have an additional USB 2.0 header at your disposal. The far right edge is where the case wiring headers are located.
Along the right side, we first come to the dual BIOS chips (Winbond W25Q64FVAIQ) followed by the 10 SATA ports. The four lower silver SATA 6.0 GB/s ports are provided by the onboard ASMedia ASM1061 controllers. The two silver ports in the center are also SATA 6.0 GB/s and are native to the Intel X79 chipset. The top four SATA ports are also native to the chipset and are SATA 3.0 GB/s capable. Moving up the right side, we come to the front panel USB 3.0 header (ASMedia ASM1042), the 24-pin ATX power connector, and three more 4-pin fan headers. There are several other enthusiast level features located here as well. We have the onboard start and reset buttons, MemOK! button, LN2 Mode jumper, Slow Mode switch, and the PCI-E lane DIP switches. Additionally, you’ll also find the Q-LED and Pro Belt voltage points located here. ASUS added LEDs next to each Pro Belt voltage measuring point that will stay illuminated if that particular voltage is causing a failed overclock. The Q-LED feature works along the same lines, but is more related to an individual component causing a failed boot attempt.
Just for a little clarity on what the enthusiast features in this area do, I’ll provide a brief explanation. The MemOK! button can be helpful if you notice the system isn’t booting and the DRAM Q-LED light stays illuminated. By pressing the MemOK! button, the system will begin a memory tuning process until it finds a compatible fail safe setting that works. If the first test fails, the system reboots and tries again… rinse and repeat. When activated, the LN2 Mode jumper can help alleviate the cold boot bug when using sub-zero cooling. Because some CPUs have a small temperature window at which they will obtain their highest clock speed, it’s handy to have the slow mode switch to reduce the CPU frequency on the fly. Once you have determined what that temperature and speed are, a slight temperature fluctuation in either direction can cause the system to crash. You can use the slow mode switch to reduce the CPU frequency on the fly, which will allow you time to get the temperatures more inline and hopefully prevent the system from crashing. The PCI-E DIP switches allow the user do disable any of the PCI-E x16 slots. If you’re running multiple GPUs and you think one of them might be causing you grief, you can use these switches to isolate the problem child. This will save you the hassle of removing GPUs in order to problem solve.
As we make our way to the top of the RIVBE, we find the Q-Code LED display and two more fan headers dedicated to the CPU cooler. There are two CPU AUX +12V power connectors at the top of the board, one being 8-pin and the other 4-pin. From this vantage point, you can also see the heatpipe that joins the two MOSFET heatsinks.
The left side of the motherboard is home to the rear I/O panel and everything SupremeFX related. The MOSFET heatsink is formed in such a manner that it creates a shroud over the I/O area, which really improves the look of the board once installed in a case. It also doubles as an avenue for heat to escape from the MOSFET heatsink. The last two images below will give you the port assignments and layout of the I/O panel. Keep in mind, the X79 chipset does not offer native USB 3.0 support, so all the USB 3.0 connectors here are provided by ASMedia.
Further down the left side of the board, we come to perhaps the biggest change from the RIVE… the SupremeFX 8-channel HD audio. ASUS has done a great job in its effort to bring discrete-like audio performance to an onboard solution. The RIVBE uses both the CS4398 analogue converter and the TPA6120A2 headphone amplifier to bring what ASUS says is the equivalent of a discrete Phoebus sound card. Sound quality is enhanced by using high quality OP AMP and WIMA film cap components and then using EMI shielding and red line board separation to reduce interference from other nearby components.
Moving more towards the center of the board, we first land at the PCI-E expansion slots. There are four PCI-E x16 slots and two PCI-E x1 slots available here. The RIVBE supports 4-way Crossfire/SLI, and all the PCI-E x16 slots are capable of running Gen 3. You can run a two card Crossfire/SLI setup and have both cards run at x16 speed. Three card setups can run at x16/x8/x16, and four card setups will drop to x16/x8/x8/x8. The spacing between the slots is generous and should allow for adequate air flow to all cards in a multi-GPU setup.
There is a lot of room around the CPU socket area to accommodate even the largest of CPU coolers. As always, keep an eye on memory height to ensure cooler compatibility. There are eight DIMM slots found on the RIVBE that support up to 64 GB of total system memory. Memory speed up to DDR3 2800 (OC) is supported, which is an improvement from the RIVE’s DDR3 2400 (OC) support.
The look and functionality of the MOSFET heatsinks have been redesigned to include integration with the I/O area. The intent here is to have some of the heat escape through the I/O area instead of relying completely on the rear exhaust fan. The top-side heatsink covers both the MOSFETs and the VRM area. The heatsink on the left side is connected with a heatpipe, but doesn’t actually cool anything on the motherboard. It’s there to provide heat an escape route through the I/O area. The chipset heatsink is rather large and is decked out with an ASUS logo. At mid-board, there is another heatsink looking block that features an illuminated ROG logo, but it too doesn’t actually cool anything and is more for aesthetic value.
Under the Hood
With the heatsinks removed from the RIVBE, we can see the typical pink substance ASUS uses as TIM applied to the chipset heatsink. The MOSFET heatsink uses strips of thermal pads to get the job done. I went ahead and removed the ROG illuminated block so you could see under it; but as stated above, it doesn’t actually cool anything.
The robust power delivery section consists of 11 phases dedicated to the CPU. Eight of the phases power the CPU core, while the remaining three are dedicated to the CPU’s integrated memory controller. For the memory, there is an additional 2+2 phase design. There are four DIGI+VRMs found on the board to provide the needed voltage regulation for all the different power phases. All of the chokes are 60A gold treated affairs, which is an enormous amount of power for obtaining high overclocks and better overall system stability. The chokes are also said to run at a much lower temperature when compared to standard chokes found on many motherboards.
Other than what I mentioned above, the new Extreme Engine DIGI+ III brings 100% 10K black metallic capacitors and NexFET power block MOSFETs. The 10K capacitors are said to deliver a 25% higher rated current when compared to standard capacitors. The NexFET MOSFETs are designed to bring 2X the current capability and greater than 90% efficiency at 15A, all while being half the size of standard MOSFETs.
Taking a quick look at some of the ICs the board uses for onboard functions, we find the Intel 82579V chip for LAN capabilities and the nuvoTon NCT6971D handling the super I/O functions.
ASMedia is called upon for many of the onboard features. For USB 3.0 connectivity, ASM1042, ASM1074, and ASM 1051 are all used to provide various functions. PCI-E switching capabilities are handled via the ASM1480 chips, while SATA 6.0 GB/s connectivity is handled by the ASM1061 controllers. The last picture below is an up-close look at the X79 PCH.
Now that we’ve had our up-close look at the Rampage IV Black Edition, it’s time to fire it up and have a look at the UEFI BIOS.
The ASUS UEFI BIOS
In typical ASUS fashion, the RIVBE UEFI BIOS is simply jam packed with features and enthusiast options. ASUS recently added the My Favorites tab to most of their enthusiast level motherboard UEFI BIOS. You can populate this page with a shortcut to any setting found elsewhere in the UEFI BIOS. I use this feature extensively and rarely go anywhere else to get to the settings I need. Think of it as a customized home page for your trips inside the UEFI BIOS. On the right side of the page, you’ll notice a Quick Note and Last Modified button. These two options will follow you as you meander through all the different UEFI BIOS screens. Quick Note is just as the name implies and allows you to take notes for easy reference at a later time. By clicking Last Modified, a screen will pop up listing every setting you have changed during your current session.
Under the Extreme Tweaker tab is everything overclocking, memory, and power delivery related. This area is where ASUS separates themselves from the “also-rans” of the world. In addition to having preset overclocking options, you can take total control of all overclocking functions yourself. There are a multitude of voltage options, an insane amount of memory tweaking opportunities, and of course, the DIGI+ power control lets you define power delivery. There are even three “Tweakers Paradise” sub menus that allow for even greater control over the CPU, memory, and PCH chipset. Another great feature, Memory Presets, can be found inside the DRAM Timing Control sub menu. There are 13 options here that will automatically set timings, speed, and voltages for many of today’s popular memory ICs.
Peruse the below images for a look at all the available options found in the Extreme Tweaker section, I’m sure you’ll come away impressed.
Moving over to the Main tab, we have some basic hardware and firmware information. You can also set the date and time here, as well as set security passwords.
There are nine sub menus inside the Advanced tab, most of which deal with system configuration. The CPU configuration, SATA Configuration, and Onboard Devices Configuration are likely to be the areas you’ll want to visit most often here.
Under the Monitor tab, we have exactly what the name implies. From here, you can get real time voltage, temperature, and fan speed readings. Also located here is the option to control fan speed for any fan connected to one of the motherboard’s fan headers. There are also preset profiles you can choose to use, if desired.
The Boot tab has all the boot and BBS drive priority settings and several other boot behavior options.
The Tool tab has some great utilities at your disposal. The EZ Flash utility is a great way to update the UEFI BIOS firmware and is the method I recommend using. SSD Secure erase allows you to secure erase your SSD right from within the UEFI BIOS. No more booting from a CD or using some obscure program to perform this function. It’s doable right here with a few clicks of the mouse. You can also check the SPD information of your memory, save up to eight profiles, set your ROG OC Panel hot key profiles, and copy firmware files between the dual BIOS chips here.
The Exit tab is pretty standard stuff, but you do have the option to enter EZ Mode from here. EZ Mode has a few high level settings you can adjust and a fair amount of system monitoring too.
When you load the included support DVD, there is a host of software available to install. The two images below show you all the available software on the DVD.
As you can see, that’s quite list of available software. There are a few utilities that ASUS is making a big deal about with the RIVBE – ROG RAMDisk, ROG Game First II, and Sonic Radar. You don’t see Sonic Radar in the software list because it’s installed automatically when you load the SupremeFX audio drivers. Sonic Radar is an in-game overlay that can help you determine what direction a particular game sound is coming from. There are three game presets based on popular game titles and one generic one. Keeping with the gaming theme, ROG Game First II is another cFosSpeed based internet bandwidth prioritization utility. This utility can be used to choose what programs or activities get bandwidth priority over others. If you click on the settings icon, there are a plethora of options at your disposal for customizing the utility to fit your needs. Moving over to the ROG RAMDisk utility, this allows you to use a portion of your system memory to create a virtual ram disk. You can use up to 80% of system memory that is not reserved for the OS.
AISuite III is the most detailed and full featured motherboard software suite out there… bar none. We’ve gone over this suite several times in the past, so I’ll just hit on a few of the highlights here. From the main screen, you can choose any of the eight different areas to explore. The big hitter here is the Dual Intelligent Processors 4 area. Inside DIP4, you’ll find automatic system overclocking/optimization via 4-Way optimization or manual overclocking by entering the TPU area. If low power consumption is your game, the EPU tab is where you want to go. You will have several options related to downgrading the CPU voltage and setting the monitor and sleep timers. Under the DIGI+ Power Control area is everything related to CPU and memory power delivery. Although not quite as detailed as what you find in the UEFI BIOS, the most used and most important options are here. Fan Xpert 2 is perhaps the best fan control software that can be had. It has the ability to control both 3-pin and 4-pin fans, and you can assign each fan to its actual location inside your case. Fan Xpert 2 can also customize the available settings for each fan in your system once you go through the fan tuning process.
There are several other useful tool included in AISuite III, which are pretty self explanatory as you look through the pictures below. However, special mention is in order for the Wi-Fi Go! utility. Wi-Fi Go! can be used for internet sharing, multi-media management, data sharing, and remote control functions. Wi-Fi GO! incorporates several different utilities; here is a list of them with a brief description of what they do.
- Cloud GO! – Sync all your cloud storage for easy access from one central location.
- Remote Desktop – Use mobile devices to control the PC, or as a separate monitor when under clone and extended display modes.
- DLNA Media Hub – Use mobile devices to control media content from one system to another within the same network.
- File Transfer – Transfer files between PC and mobile devices within the same network.
- Remote Keyboard & Mouse – Use a mobile device as a remote control for your PC.
- Capture & Send – Capture a screen shot on your PC and use the mobile device as the storage media to save the file to.
- Smart Sensor Control – Turn your mobile device into a virtual device that can be accessed from the desktop. Use the Gyroscope feature to turn the mobile device into a motion joystick under Windows 8.
Some people may prefer a more lightweight and streamlined way to overclock from the desktop, and ASUS has that covered for you too with MemTweakIt and TurboV Core. Here again, you have detailed control that rivals what you see in the EUFI BIOS. MemTweakIt has three screens full of options, and TurboV Core is broken down into voltage and CPU ratio pages.
Overclocking and Benchmarks
|Motherboard||ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition|
|CPU||Intel i7 4930K|
|Memory||G.Skill 4X4 GB DDR3-1866 MHz RipjawZ|
|SSD||OCZ Vertex 2 240 GB|
|PSU||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||ASUS MARS 760|
|Cooling||Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block – 3X120 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
Overclocking for Stability
I wanted to find an overclock level that could be safely run 24/7 and not go overboard on the CPU voltage. This ended up being 4.6 GHz, which was easily obtainable at 1.375 vCore. Because I set the CPU LLC at Extreme Mode, the vCore actually settled in right at 1.4 V. At this setting, the CPU was completely stable and flew through all the benchmarks with nary a hiccup.
I ran a slew of our favorite benchmarks at stock and overclocked, which will show you the performance gains almost anyone can reap with a little overclocking. Click on any of the images for a larger and more readable view.
AIDA64 Cache & Memory Benchmark
POV Ray 3.7
I think you’ll agree, we see some pretty darn good performance numbers above. Color me impressed with both the overclockability and performance of the RIVBE.
Pushing the Limits
I managed to get 4.8 GHz stable enough to run wPrime 32M and 1024M, which is usually an indication the system is pretty stable. I also ran a quick SuperPI 1M test that came in just a tad over 7.5 seconds. At this point, I was pushing 1.45 V to the CPU, so I thought it best to call that good enough! I can’t complain at all with a 4.8 GHz overclock when the CPU’s base clock is 3.4 GHz (3.9 GHz turbo)… impressive.
If you’re wondering how well the BCLK overclocking works, the answer is it works great. I had no problem booting to Windows with the BCLK set to 167. I set the multiplier down to 29X and ended up a shade over 4.83 GHz. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time testing this for stability, but the screenshot below shows it’s definitely doable. The good thing about manipulating BCLK is that is allows you to fine tune your overclock right down to the last MHz it’s capable of.
The Rampave IV Black Edition currently sells for $499.00 at Newegg, which puts it at the upper echelon of socket 2011 motherboards. There is no doubt that’s a hefty price to pay. However, if you look at other high-end socket 2011 motherboards, you’ll be hard pressed to find one with as many features as this one. That goes for the ones that are priced even higher than the RIVBE too. From the SupremeFX audio to the excellent overclocking potential, I really struggle to find anything I didn’t like about this board. From the moment I took the motherboard out of the box, everything just worked without issue. It also proved to be rock solid stable throughout all the testing I threw at it, even when substantially overclocked.
ASUS made several worthwhile enhancements over the Rampage IV Extreme, as outlined in the review. The extreme overclocking crowd will love the inclusion of the ROG OC Panel, which is ASUS’ best external overclocking device to date. Couple that with a plethora of UEFI BIOS overclocking options and with several other features aimed directly at sub-zero overclocking, and you have the makings of an extreme overclocker’s best friend. Even if you’re a casual overclocker, you’ll find this board to be a pleasure to work with. You can dive in and overclock yourself or use several other available options to automate the process. Either way, ASUS has given you the option to make overclocking as complex or easy as you want it to be.
If you’re on the hunt for for the best socket 2011/X79 based motherboard on the planet, it’s quite possible your search just ended… top of the line indeed.