Rampage III Formula overview guide
This thread is an extensive overview for you to get a better understanding on the technology behind the Rampage III Formula. I have written this so that upcoming ROG enthusiasts and even the Pros can find some useful information.
I have marked off all the key talking points of the board with numbers as a key to the details below in hopes to give you a better understanding of what makes this board so badass.
1. The Rampage III Formula supports the latest Intel® Core™ i7 processors in LGA1366 package with integrated memory controller to support 3-channel (6 DIMMs) DDR3 memory. Supports Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) with a system bus of up to 6.4 GT/s and a max bandwidth of up to 25.6 GB/s. The VRM has been designed to maximize performance for gulftown 980x but also provide high driving strength for the 920, 930, 940, 950, any of the current 1366 socket processors. We also support unofficial microcode support for xeon based CPU. Some may ask why you would want to do that? Well there are some CPU that have different value oriented Xeons such as the e5620 which as more cache than normal mainstream series but also the same clock frequency at a lower cost. If you were to overclock it, you not only get the increase in frequency but you get more cache than normally offered. This motherboard supports the latest Intel® Core™ i7 processors in LGA1366 package with integrated memory controller to support 3-channel (6 DIMMs) DDR3 memory. Supports Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) with a system bus of up to 6.4 GT/s and a max bandwidth of up to 25.6 GB/s. Intel® Core™ i7 processor is one of the most powerful and energy efficient CPUs in the world.
2. The Intel® X58 Express Chipset is one of the most powerful chipset designed to support the Intel® Core™ i7 Processors with LGA1366 package and Intel® next generation system interconnect interface, Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (QPI), providing improved performance by utilizing serial point-to-point links, allowing increased bandwidth and stability. It also supports up to 36 PCI Express 2.0 lanes providing better graphics performance.
3. The Rampage III Formula has a VRM design of 8 phases to the CPU power, 3 Phases to the QPI/Dram power, 2 Phases for the northbridge power, and 2 phases for the memory power. The VRM on the board uses higher grade capacitors which each of them are rated at 40 amps which allow us to run more amperage and power delivery to the CPU under extreme condition. Whether that’s under high overclocks under water, dice, ln2, the VRM is designed to allow high level of power to the CPU socket.
4. Extreme engine digi +-
It is the incorporation of a digital PWM over an analog PWM. The main reason why we decided to implement a digital PWM is because the feedback that we had from the enthusiast community was that they wanted to have the best performance at driving the highest level of current, amperage, and overall high quality, clean efficient power so we decided to go with Chil. Now when most people think of Digital PWM, they think of Volterra which was used on the Classified. There were some specific reasons why we did not use the Volterra implementation. 1, the Volterra doesn’t have the flexibility that the Chil controller has in offering different switching frequencies. There was also a large heat concern. The Volterra has considerably high heat which required a very advanced heatsink assembly and as you overclock it, it only gets hotter. So we went with a much cooler solution and allowing us to have a full digital controller and provide us with high driving strengths. We are using a hybrid VRM design. The Chil chip is what makes the VRM digital but there are still other components that are using analog technologies and the reason ASUS implemented this hybrid system is because there are other benefits that we can provide. For example, there are some high end audio manufactures that still use a digital DAC but they are using a tube to amplify the sound, so they kind of have a hybrid system which serves the best of both worlds. The big benefit we had with our previous analog design is that we had an extremely high level of efficiency, ranging from 90-95% efficiency. So ASUS took a lot of that power and pushing it to the edge, so we don’t want to lose that benefit. With the Volterra, because of the high heat and it doesn’t have multiple switching frequencies, that only work well at higher load, you lose a lot of efficiency and it goes down quite a bit. The easiest way to understand it is Volterra and the Classified was designed to be a benching board. The focus on ROG has always been to make a premiere product that fits multiple segments, whether someone wants to have the best of the best running at stock, whether it’s an avid gamer that wants to get a little better than stock performance, whether it’s a power users, or an enthusiast that wants to push it and overclock, we wanted to give the user high efficiency at all those levels. It does take longer to find all of the right hardware to mix and match and get the best performance, but that’s where our focus is rather than working on a board that specifically serves one segment, one category. One important factor to take into consideration is that most 3rd party applications cannot correctly detect the VCore readings that is on an extreme engine digi powered motherboard. This includes Rampage III Formula, and Rampage III Extreme or any board that features the Chil controller. Due to its specialized designed and its so new and it utilizes a hybrid phase array that also has analog parts, it makes it more difficult for the application to try and read it. So if you want to try and get the most accurate measurement, you will want to us probe it.
So going back to talking about the VRM Design and its efficiency, we have what is called a switching frequency. With the Volterra design, you generally have frequency switches at 800hz. It works very well at high driving strengths and high frequencies like 5, 5.5, 6GHZ+, will provide better power and strength to maintain those frequencies at load in your benchmark run or whatever it might be. The problem is in most situations you’re not running your system at 5.5-6GHZ. You’re going to be running it at idle, stock, moderate overclocked and different levels. With ASUS’s design, we have the ability to switch down as little as 250hz and all the way up to 1KHz. So we have multiple staging that we can switch to give you the best driving performance. Now as part of the bios 2, we enabled the user to be able to select those. The board will automatically assign the value it will expect so in most situations the user doesn’t need to mess around with this, but because it’s a performance oriented board, ASUS gives you the ability to manually define it. You do want to keep in mind that the harder you drive it, the more heat that will be produced on the board. In the development of extreme engine digi+, we actually tested the extreme engine digi+ in many different configurations to see what performed the best. ASUS had one configuration with the Rampage II Extreme and the Extreme engine Digi+. Another Rampage II Extreme with xtreme phase, which is the normal ASUS setup, we also had another Rampage II Extreme with Volterra. So we actually did do the homework in picking the best solution for the Rampage III Motherboards and not arbitrarily picked the Chil controller. ASUS did full research to ensure that what we put on the board would be the absolute best.
Another big difference is the choke. We significantly upgraded these from the previous design. These are rated at 40amps so that allows us to drive a huge amount of current on the board. And that main reason why is when you’re reaching those high overclockers, you’re going to be pulling so much amperage, we need to make sure that the power distribution will be able to handle the high clock speed. The bios has also be heavily optimized to allow users to get the most precise and granular voltage control when scaling of any motherboard vendor. For example you’re trying to scale from 1.2 to 1.3 volts, you’ll have the most options available so you can do 1.21, 1.22, 1.23, 1.24 volts allowing for high precision. We call this feature the Precision OV (over voltage). This would be in relation to all the voltages in relation to your overclocking. Whether it’s you CPU, DRAM, PCI-e, IOH, QPI, etc…
5. Extreme OC Zone (for some odd reason its called "Easy DIY" on this model)has the typical start and reset buttons but also has Q reset, LN2 mode, and probe it, qpi load line calibration jumper and ln2 mode jumper.
ProbeIT allows you to use a digital multi-meter at the hardware level to accurately measure the voltages on the board in real time. Under varying types of load or extreme conditions, the voltage can skew so it’s good to monitor that. You to use the direct contact points to measure voltages, the Rampage III Formula does not provide the belt connections that come in our extreme models. Probe IT will be the most accurate way to measure and monitor your voltages.
QPI load line jumper when turned on allows load line calibration to the board when its under a higher level of stress, generally when you are providing high level of BCLK overclocks, typically 210 BCLK and above overclockers. Especially when you are driving a harder QPI and multi GPU, you may need to increase the voltage on the board. To maintain the voltage under load, you may need to enable the QPI load line calibration jumper. This would compensate the Vdroop (drop in voltage when under load). So for example, if we set 1.5volts and its drooping down to 1.35 under load, load line calibration will help get the voltage as close as possible to 1.5 volts. The QPI load line calibration is different than the load line calibration in the BIOS. The load line in the BIOS is for the CPU, but not for the QPI. Generally you don’t want to put excess voltage to the QPI as it is very sensitive to the northbridge and you run a higher risk of damaging your CPU or your motherboard.
Qreset is focused for extreme overclocking situations where the system might have a hard crash/lock, or inconsistencies, the Q reset will clear all the electrical paths of the board without physically turning the board off. So it will clear its state, and then allow you to clear your CMOS, re-power the board and get back on. There are some situations when after a hard crash the only option is to physically shut down the board, unplug the power, let it clear out and plug it back in, but the disadvantage of that is you can eat your LN2, you might have to recycle back up, have to deal with the cold boot bug, and a lot of different variables. This should minimize the potential variables you have to stress over. This is not for air or water users as we already have a crashfree bios implemented in, this is when you are under extreme conditions like phase, dice, ln2, etc.
LN2 mode is a special jumper that allows superior performance when trying to eliminate the cold boot bug. Initially it provides a more relaxed self timing on the board to allow it to initialize at lower levels. Now this does not eliminate the cold boot bug entirely. It will always depend on your CPU, but it will help get you a lower than your normal cold boot bug state. There is a lN2 mode in the BIOS is similar in providing a relaxed state for the board, but the jumper is on the hardware level that would override the setting in the BIOS.
6. Memory is pretty straight forward, it’s a triple channel memory kit for up to 24gb memory support. We do rate the board’s memory speed up to 2200mhz but that does not mean it maximum achievable speed, we can easily overclock it to go past that. Whether it’s 2400, 2600, 2800 or potentially 3GHZ. Which is really dependent on your IMC (integrated memory control) The better your IMC is, the better your clocks.
7. We have 8 SATA controllers, 6 of which are supported by the native ICH10 controller from intel which is able to support raid 0, 1, 5, and 10 which offers extremely high quality performance. We also have 2 Marvel Sata 6 controllers that has a 500MB interconnect PCI-E connection which has more than enough bandwidth to run any Sata 6 ready SINGLE SSD. If you are running multiple high speed SSD in a raid configuration it is preferred you do it on the intel controller, not on the marvel controller as you may be limited on your bandwidth of over 500MB.
8. BIOS Switch has the ability to physically switch between the dual bios chips. This board does not support ROG Connect or usb bios flashback.
9. We have also setup the board to support full three way SLI or crossfire without the cards overhanging the motherbaord. You are also able to fully utilize the x1 slot as it will not overlap the PCI-E x16 lane. When in dual SLI mode, the Rampage III Formula is designed for dual slot spacing for more airflow(slot 1 and 3). It does not have a nf200 chip so by default it would be running x16, x8, x8 (slot 1, 2, 3)or x16, x16 (slot 1 and 3) or x16, x8(slot 1 and 2). We have also included an additional molex power connector to drive more power to the PCI-E lanes if additional power is necessary under extreme conditions. In normal air scenarios, this is not needed.
10. We also have a PCI slot for some overclockers to run an old PCI VGA card, enough to display video and put as little load on the PCI-E lanes which they tend to overclock PCI-E bus which can potentially cause instability. It can also be used for PCI post diagnostic cards and older generation high end audio cards.
11. Intel Ethernet Lan was implemented based on the research and demand from the gaming community as the best supported and best performing network controller. Intel Ethernet is providing the best performance with the least CPU overhead giving you the best gaming performance and compatibility.
12. ROG Connect, is a software application that allows users to tweak various bios features through a notebook. You can adjust various frequencies, voltages, monitor temperatures, voltages, and remotely turn on and off your system and much more. To initialize ROG connect, you must press the ROG connect button.
13. We are using a Realtek 889 codec but we have also worked with creative to license their Supreme X-FI 2 suite package. This is a more advanced package and there are a few things the qualify this as Supreme X-Fi 2 package. The back IO ports for the 3.5mm audio jacks are gold plated for better contact, no oxidation or corrosion for better connection and clarity. It has also been upgraded through the alchemy software and software package the works in combination with the driver and codec on the board to support hardware acceleration of EAX5.0 and OpenAL which are advanced sound formats supported in different game titles. The software package and the codec has also been THX certified to ensure the higher level of audio performance, clarity, quality, and minimal distortion. This is especially dedicated to the high performance gamers. The X-FI package has a serial number embedded in the BIOS and motherboard to enable the package with the codec. Although some boards may have the same codec, the board may not support the X-FI package. Once you have installed all drivers, there is a creative icon for you to take the next steps to download the creative package to further enhance your audio experience.
14. Go button/MEM OK serves 2 functions depending on the power state. If you press the go button while in windows, the board reboot and load a preset overclocked profile that the user defined in the bios, then the system will restart. You may find this useful in situations where your system locks and you want to bring your system back to a known profile that is able to boot. You will not need to re-input your bios settings from scratch.
15. The heatsink design on the Rampage III Formula was designed a bit differently. It was designed to provide high performance into the mosfet utilizing a dual heatpipe that runs from the top of the VRM entirely through the northbridge and southbridge. Which is a singular heatpipe which is called a centered designed which means on the inside of the heatpipe, its flanged to expand out and give more surface area for the water to bead through for cooler temperature. The pipes were also placed lower to the board to maintain better contact for better thermal performance. There is also an additional fan that you can attach to the VRM but generally not needed.
16. Q-Dimm – Designed for our Dram slots where only one side of the memory is notched and the other has a retention clip allowing for easier installation and removal. Typically a double sided retention clip can be obstructed by the GPU possibly forcing you to tension your graphics card or having to remove it. With Q-Dimm, you just need to push down on one clip to remove the memory.
17. Q-Slot - has a wider switch, which allows easier access when removing graphics cards. The Depression clip is actually wider than the Graphics card so that you can use a probe or pencil to push the clip down and easily remove the card. This Is especially useful when running multi GPU setups. In competitor boards, you would typically have to taking out the first 3 cards in order to remove the 4th card due to the inferior switch design.
1 PS2 port; (can use keyboard or mouse)
2 USB 2.0 ports
Clear CMOS; (press it until it turns green)
TOSS link out/optical
2 USB 2.0 port, 1 Firewire, Powered ESATA; (important note; for the 2 ESATA, we are not using a combination port. Some competitors may advertise 8 USB ports, along with 2 ESATA (same as ASUS), but you may not always be able to use the USB and ESATA at the same time. Often Competitors share the bandwidth to use USB OR ESATA, so you are limited to one port or the other. ASUS has dedicated ports allowing you to fully use each and every port that’s advertised.
2 USB2.0 ports, ESATA
ROG Connect Button
ROG Connect USB port; (also used as a normal usb)
Intel Gigabit LAN and 2 USB 3.0 ports
8 channel audio using the Realtek 889 chip.