When you come up with an extreme, enthusiast-class platform like Intel's nouveau Sandy Bridge E, you want the motherboard boys to come in and sort you out with a blazing mobo to showcase its full potential.
Generally you can count on Asus, and generally it's the Republic of Gamers range that delivers. The Rampage IV Formula is the first of the Republic of Gamers boards we've seen tailored to Intel's X79 specs and we were hoping for something a little more impressive. Especially given that £300+ price tag.
The gamers' boards are now the Sabertooth series, offering a decent balance of price, features and casual overclocking capabilities. The RoG boards are creating an even smaller niche, catering only to the very obsessive hardcore clockers. These guys aren't gamers – they're after numbers, looking to get the fastest silicon going simply for the sake of it.
The RoG Rampage IV Formula fits this category perfectly. The BIOS itself feels familiar enough at first, then you start to notice there seem to be many more settings than you might have expected, with names the casual user probably won't recognise.
There's little of the hand-holding you get from the auto-overclocking options of the Pro or the Sabertooth X79. Instead, you just get an option to start at 4.2GHz, almost like the board is looking down its nose at you for wanting it to do the hard work for you.
If you know what you're doing at the extreme end of the overclocking spectrum then I have little doubt you're going to be able to squeeze an awful lot out of the Sandy Bridge E chips you choose to blow up. If you're more of a casual clocker, like this here reviewer, then you might well be disappointed.
Speeds are impressive out of the box though, with the board consistently delivering the top Turbo score of our Core i7 3960X at 3.9GHz across the benchmarks.
Multi-threaded CPU performance
Cinebench 11.5: Index: Higher is better
Asus RoG Rampage IV Formula: 11.33
Asus Sabertooth X79: 10.54
CPU encoding performance
X264 v4.0: Frames Per Second: Higher is better
Asus RoG Rampage IV Formula: 59
Asus Sabertooth X79: 49
Max OC: Gigahertz: Higher is better
Asus RoG Rampage IV Formula: 4.66
Asus Sabertooth X79: 4.8
But it's not about out-of-the-box speeds. We want to push the poor silicon to its very limits, but for some reason we can't. With the Sabertooth X79 and the P9X79 Pro we were hitting around 4.8GHz with the same chip. In this Rampage IV Formula we're unable to get far north of 4.6GHz.
To make matters worse, the Intel board we were sent with the chip will happily auto-overclock up to 4.625GHz with a simple twitch of a BIOS setting. There were none of the BCLK Strap/multiplier/ voltage tweaking shenanigans I had to pull to get the RoG anywhere near that speed. That's hugely disappointing given the price, as well as its stance as the overclocker's board of choice.
If you're handy with the LN2 then I'm sure you've got a better chance with this built-to-task board than any other. But no amount of pretty underslung LED lighting can disguise the fact that both the Sabertooth X79 and the fantastic P9X79 Pro boards are much better suited to anyone who doesn't have a tank of liquid nitrogen steaming away in the corner of their garage.
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