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Wednesday, 03 October 2007 11:17

ASUS Blitz Extreme Dissected - 4 Layout, overview

Written by Eliot Kucharik

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Review:
Extreme at its best


Today we have the chance to show you the ASUS Blitz Extreme motherboard and we have tested this board for you. This is what we found out.

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Features:
Intel P35/iCH9R
8-phase VRM
VIA VT6308P
Analog Devices ADI 1988B on SupremeFX audio card
Marvell 88E8056 PCIe network MAC
Marvell 88E8001 PCI network MAC
JMicro JMB363 SATA II RAID 0, 1/IDE controller
Winbond W83627DHG-A Super I/O controller
IDT 89HAO324PSYDBXG PCIe switch
passive cooling of chipsets/VRM
16Mb BIOS, version 0804
Mainboard Revision: 1.00G

Slots:
1x PCIe 1.1 x16, 1x PCIe x16 @ x0 or 1x PCIe 1.1 x8, 1x PCIe 1.0a x8
2x PCIe x1
2x PCI

Memory:
2x Dual-Channel DDR3-slots for PC2-8500U memory up to 8GB

Storage:
6-Port SATA II featuring RAID 0, 1, 5, 0+1, JBOD
1-Port IDE
2-Port eSATA II

Backpanel ports:
1x PS/2 keyboard
2x eSATA II
2x Gb LAN
1x Firewire
6x USB 2.0
1x LCD-Display connector
1x SP/DIF digital out
1x SP/DIF coaxial out

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Accessories:
1x 2-port USB + 1-port Firewire bracket
1x 2-port USB bracket
4x SATA cable (2 angeled 90°)
2x HDD-power to 2x SATA power cable
1x Floppy cable
1x IDE cable
1x ASUS Q-Connetor Pack
2x additional fan for watercooled systems
2x thermal sensor connectors
4x retension parts for watercooling
1x I/O shield with LCD-Display


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BIOS features:
Bus Speeds: Auto, 200MHz to 800MHz in 1MHz increments
Memory Ratios: Auto, fixed ratios: 1:1, 1:1.2, 1:1.25, 1:1.5, 1:1.6, 1:1.66, 1:2 depending on FSB
DRAM command rate: Auto, 1T, 2T
DRAM timing control: Auto, manual
PCIe Frequency: Auto, 100 to 150 MHz in 1MHz increments
Transaction Booster: Auto, disable (relax 0, 1) , enable (boost 0, 1, 2, 3)
CPU Clock Multiplier: Auto, manual
Core 2 Duo: 6x-11x in 1X increments - Core 2 Duo, downwards unlocked
Core 2 Extreme: 6x-16X, downwards unlocked
CPU Voltage: auto, 1.1000V to 1.9000V in 0.0125V increments
CPU Voltage Reference: Auto, 0.531x, 0.541x, 0.561x, 0.761x, 0.581x, 0.597x, 0.618x, 0.635x
Loadline calibration: Auto, disable, enable
CPU PLL Voltage: Auto, 1.50V to 2.00V in 0.02V increments
DRAM Voltage: Auto, 1.50V to 3.04V in 0.02V increments
DRAM Channel A voltage reference: -0.3V to +0.3V in 0.1V increments
DRAM Channel B voltage reference: -0.3V to +0.3V in 0.1V increments
DRAM Controller reference voltage: -0.3V to +0.3V in 0.1V increments
FSB Termination Voltage: Auto, 1.20V to 1.80V in 0.02V increments
North Bridge Voltage: Auto, 1.25V to 2.30V in 0.02V increments
North Bridge Voltage Reference: Auto, 0.67x, 0.61x
South Bridge Voltage: Auto, 1.050V to 1.225V in 0.025V increments





Layout:
ASUS did a marvelous job with the layout, it is nearly perfect. The only complaint is the location of the CPU-power-connector, which is too close to the socket and thus will create problems installing huge CPU-coolers. ASUS also removed the heatpipe alongside the memory banks, which will help make replacing the CPU-cooler easier. The significant difference compared to the Deluxe series are the two connectors on the Northbridge-cooler for watercooling-systems.

The heatpipe keeps the temperatures at bay; at least in normal conditions you won't have troubles keeping the board stable.

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The VRM is an analog 8-phase design, compared to the Deluxe series ASUS enhanced the design, which yields lower power-consumption.

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The memory slots are placed in such way you can replace memory, even with large PCIe graphic-cards installed; a good change compared to the Deluxe series.

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Between the PCIe x16 slots you see the IDT PCIe switch chip. This neat chip splits one PCIe x16 port to two PCIe x8 ports. The downside is the slavery slot is only PCIe 1.0a compliant, so if you plan to buy PCIe 2.0 graphic cards, you are out of luck: they will not be detected, or even worse they may be fried when you insert such a card.
A welcomed addition are the power-on switch and cmos-clear switch below the bottom PCI slot. The cmos-clear switch isn't needed, because the BIOS can re-boot after failed overclocked attempts.




Network connectivity is provided by two Marvell chips, but why the second is only a PCI chip is beyond our imagination, as it will ruin the perfomance if you use gigabit. A VIA VT6308P provides two ports of FireWire 400. This board contains no onboard audio, because ASUS decided to add an external audio card called "Supreme FX II," which should increase sound quality over onboard solution. As usual, an Analog Devices AD1988B is used.

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Another plus are the angled SATA and PATA connectors.

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BIOS:
ASUS stuck with the AMI BIOS, this time with the 2MB version, which gives additional languages besides English. A nice gimmick, but we would rather see extended help information in the BIOS first before adding any languages with misleading translations.

The most annoying feature of the ASUS BIOS is that while overclocked the CPU will not receive idle-voltages. The CPU multiplicator is reduced but the VCore remains.

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We have to state that we always recalculate the bench results to nominal frequencies. Most vendors do an overclock to their products, maybe to get more bench-points, but we nullify such attempts. The Blitz is overclocked with 2666.6666MHz, 3333.3333MHz, underclocked with 366MHz FSB or overclocked with 367MHz FSB:


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Overclock:
There are no differences in the OC capabilities compared to the Deluxe version, FSB reaches 485MHz. We think our E6700 is stuck at this FSB frequency. In a few days we will test the E6750, then we will see more valid results.

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Testbed:

Motherboard:
ASUS Blitz Exterme (provided by ASUS)
Intel P35/iCH9R

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (provided by Intel)

CPU-Cooler:
Scythe Andy Samurai Master (provided by Scythe-Europe)

Memory:
Kingston 2GB kit PC3-11000U Kit KHX11000D2K2/2G (provided by Kingston)
CL7-7-7-20-CR2T at 1.70V
Patriot 2GB Kit PC3-10666U PDC32G1333LLK (provided by Patriot)
CL7-7-7-20-CR2T at 1.70V

Graphics Card:
AMD ATI Radeon X1950XTX (provided by AMD)

Power supply:
Silverstone Element SF50EF-Plus (provided by Silverstone)

Hard disk:
Western Digital WD4000KD (provided by Ditech)

Case fans:
SilenX iXtrema Pro 14dB(A) (provided by PC-Cooling.at)
Scythe DFS122512LS





Benchmarks:

Please note that different bios revisions may give different results, all benches are done with AUTO settings without altering any BIOS option besides CPU VCore, NB VCore and FSB Termination Voltage.

Gordian Knot/XVID 1.1.3:
For our Gordian Knot testing we took a PAL episode from "Babylon 5" with a length of 41 minutes, 57 seconds and 8 frames.

We tried to "emulate" the most common usage of Gordian Knot:
1st: We have a perfect master, so we only de-interlace the content and resize it without any other manipulations; we marked this as "fast."
2nd: You get bad mastering on many DVDs, especially "old" stuff or when the studios are in a hurry for the release. In this case you want to improve the picture quality, which is done by filtering the content. You can choose from lots of filters for any purposes you can think of, but we only used the most common "undot," "FluxSmooth" and "MSharpen." Of course, we also de-interlaced, filters were done before any resizing took place (which is slower). We marked this as "slow."

If you need more information about filters, we recommend reading the doom9.org forum.


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LameMT:
The same episode we encoded, we used for our MP3-testing. We don't recommend using MP3 for encoding, because AC3 can do the job better, but nearly 42 minutes gives us approximately the length of any given album.
A measurement in seconds, as many sites do, is useless, because the differences are too small. So we used the built-in play/CPU ratio; this means the CPU is encoding x-times faster then the track-length. Fast memory does not play an important role here. For your convenience we also show you the single-threaded benches. They will be produced with any other L.A.M.E. version, because only LameMT can do more than one thread and take advantage of a second dice.
We used this setting: lamemt --vbr-new -q 2 -V 2 -m j --strictly-enforce-ISO --resample 48

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Power-Consumption:
As mentioned in the BIOS section the board suffers from not being able to reduce CPU VCore in idle-mode when the CPU is overclocked, but the VRM is improved compared to the Deluxe series. When only slightly overclocked it is close to the MSI P35 Platinum. Only when extreme overclocking is applied it seems the VRM is not very efficient, but this is still a huge step forward for ASUS.

We did run our tests with 2nd LAN and JMB363 disabled and without the LCD-Display.



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Conclusion:
ASUS has made a huge step forward compared to the Deluxe series. The VRM is improved, the layout is far better and we encountered no problems running any memory modules. The drawback is the BIOS overrides your EIST settings when you overclock, almost any other board can reduce the VCore, anyway, and a reduction of 0.2V will always help to to reduce your power bill.

The PCIe switch chip is a nice add-on, but fails to be future-proof due its lack of PCIe 1.1 compatiblity for the second PCIe x16 slot.

We can abstain from the LCD display, watercooling-option and thermal sensors to lower the price tag. Right now, this board is available for about €240,- which is far too expensive. We wish any Deluxe version came as an "R.O.G." board with superior design and without all the fancy stuff, since WiFi is not needed for real gamers. The competition is significantly lower priced for a similar value.

This is indeed a fine board, but due the high price tag it fails to receive our recommandation. Due to the high prices of DDR3 memory we would also suggest to stay with DDR2 boards. ASUS offers the Blitz Formula, the twin brother of the Blitz Extreme, but at about €30,- less.


(Page 4 of 11)
Last modified on Monday, 22 October 2007 20:23
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