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Wednesday, 19 December 2007 07:19

ASUS Maximus DDR3 vs. Maximus DDR2

Written by Eliot Kucharik

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ASUS Maximus Series, X38



One week ago we tested our first board with the X38 chipset here. While we were quite pleased with its performance, overclocking was not as good as we would have liked, and the price was way too high. Asus recently released the Maximus series, which is the successor of the Blitz series. We got both versions, the Extreme Edition for DDR3 and the Formula Edition for DDR2. This will give us an opportunity to compare them head on. The Maximus Formula board comes in two flavors, one for water-cooling solutions and an standard edition.

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ASUS Maximus Formula Special Edition

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ASUS Maximus Extreme





Features:
Intel X38/iCH9R
8-phase VRM
VIA VT6308P
2x Marvell 88E8056 PCIe network MAC
JMicro JMB363 SATA II RAID 0, 1/IDE controller
Winbond W83627DHG-A super I/O controller
ICS9LPRS918HKL clock generator
passive cooling of chipsets/VRM
16Mb BIOS, version 0903 Extreme
16Mb BIOS, version 0803 Beta Formula
Mainboard  Revision: 1.02G

Slots:
Formula:
2x PCIe 2.0 x16 (graphic cards only!)
2x PCIe x1
2x PCI
1x Soundslot

Extreme:
1x PCIe 2.0 x16 (graphic cards only!)
2x PCIe x16 @ x8 (via IDT switch chip)
1x PCIe x1
2x PCI
1x Soundslot

Memory:

Formula:
2x Dual-Channel DDR2-slots for PC2-6400U memory up to 8GB with ECC

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

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 SP/DIF coaxial out
1x SP/DIF optical out
1x CMOS-clear switch

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 ASUS Maximus Formula

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 ASUS Maximus Extreme


Accessories:

1x 2-port USB + 1-port Firewire bracket
6x SATA cable (3 angeled 90°)
1x HDD-power to 2x SATA power cable
1x Floppy cable
1x IDE cable
1x ASUS Q-Connetor Pack
1x additional fan
1x Supreme FX II soundcard
1x 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, 1.5, 1.66, 1:2 depending on FSB/strap
FSB Strap: Auto, 200MHz, 266MHz, 333MHz, 400MHz
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 1-8) , enable (boost 1-8)
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 0.00625V increments, 1.9500V-2.4000V in various increments
CPU GTL Reference: Auto, 0.57x, 0.59x, 0.61x, 0.63x
Loadline calibration: Auto, disable, enable
CPU PLL Voltage: Auto, 1.50V to 3.00V in 0.02V increments
DRAM Voltage: Auto, 1.50V to 3.04V in 0.02V increments
FSB Termination Voltage: Auto, 1.20V to 1.50V in 0.02V increments
North Bridge Voltage: Auto, 1.25V to 2.05V in 0.02V increments
South Bridge Voltage: Auto, 1.050V to 1.225V in 0.025V increments
additional settings for memory timings and voltage settings.






Layout:

ASUS did a nice job with the layout. Everything is easily accessible. We would also like to be able to swap the position of the connector with the CPU-fan connector, because this would prevent some of the cable mess that often occurs in small cases.

The VRM is an analog 8-phase design (dual 4-phases), it's the same design that is used on the P5E Series. The heatpipe keeps the temperatures in safe limits all times. Due the height of the Northbridge-Cooler this board has limited compatibility to some CPU-coolers. The Northbridge coolers are too high to mount our reference cooler Scythe Andy Samurai correctly.

If you install such a cooler with its heatpipes facing the RAM slots, you have massive problems with all memory modules which have bigger heatspreaders; for example, Corsair's Dominator and OCZ's Reaper, because the memory slots are very close to the CPU socket. Visit cooler manufactures' Websites to check compatibility.

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ASUS Maximus Formula

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ASUS Maximus Extreme

The memory slots are quite close to the primary PCIe x16 slot, but leave enough space when replacing them while a large graphics card is installed. As usual, the 24-pin power and floppy connectors are located beneath.

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ASUS Maximus Formula

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ASUS Maximus Extreme

The slots are much better configured when compared to the P5E series. At least you get two PCI slots for your old expansion cards. While the Formula series does feature 2x PCIe x1, the Extreme Edition has only one, but an extra PCIe x16 @ x8 speeds, which is done with an IDT switch chip. We installed an MSI X-Fi card just for fun on the third PCIe x16 slot, and it worked without problems, so it seems the PCIe x16 slots are not limited to graphics cards only.

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The SATA and PATA connectors are, as usual, on the left edge of the board. All SATA connectors are angulated, so a second large graphics card will fit above them. This board does not feature sophisticated post diagnose, but many LEDs and an externam display with some information while booting. On the Extreme the USB and Firewire connectors are located on the left edge of the board, the Formula has them on the left side. A JMB363 provides one IDE port for two devices, while it's SATA portion is used for two SATA-ports on the back-panel.

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ASUS Maximus Formula

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ASUS Maximus Extreme


Network connectivity is provided by two Marvell PCIe chips, while a VIA chip provides two firewire-ports, one on the back panel and one header on the board.  Maximus hasn't got onboard sound, but an extra card called " Supreme FX II" with an ADI1988B soundchip works, which must be used with the black special PCIe x1 slot. The ICS clock generator is located between the PCIe x16 slots and is the same as on the P5E series, so BIOS clocks are identical.

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Each board provides power and reset buttons, the Formula Series have them on the left side, while the Extreme boards have located them centered near the bottom. On each back-panel you will find a CMOS-clear button, which should only be used when swapping CPUs, because when overclocking fails the BIOS can reboot itself into safe settings.






BIOS:
ASUS stuck with an AMI BIOS 2MB version. This BIOS does show you the SPD readings of your memory and some default timing values outside the SPD shown in order of the BIOS settings, which helps while overclocking, the same as the P5E series do. The most annoying feature of the ASUS BIOS is that while overclocked the CPU will not receive idle voltages. The CPU multiplier is reduced but the VCore remains, and there is no override or setting for VCore idle. When you do high overclocks be sure to enable CPU Loadline Calibration, it will not set on "auto." Some of the settings are insanely high, we would not advise to use 3V on DDR3 memory or 2.4V on your CPU.

FSB-Overclocking:
As expected the Maximus Series did very well. They were also able to reach the 489MHz FSB our CPU could endure; well done.

ImageImage

CPU-overclocking:
The drawback came with the maximum frequency. While this board was able to boot with 3730MHz, it was not able to run in the long term, because the temperatures were too high. The Maximus Series did better then P5E Series, but did use 0.025V more VCore compared to DFI.

ImageImage


Memory-overclocking:
The Formula did well with 1200MHz, also the Extreme did well with 1800MHz.

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FSB BIOS clocking:
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 P5E3 is overclocked with 266/333MHz, underclocked with 366MHz and on target with 320/400MHz:

Image ImageImage

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Testbed:


Motherboard:
ASUS Maximus Formula SE (provided by ASUS)
Intel X38/iCH9R
ASUS Maximus Extreme (provided by ASUS)
Intel X38/iCH9R

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

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

Memory:
Kingston 2GB Kit PC2-9600U KHX1200D2K2/2G (provided by Kingston)
CL5-5-5-15 CR2T at 1.80V
Corsair 2GB Kit PC3-TWIN3X2048-1800C7DFIN (provided by Corsair)
CL7-7-7-20 CR2T at 1.50V @ 1066MHz
CL8-8-8-22 CR2T at 2.00V @ 1956MHz
Patriot 2GB Kit PC3-10666U PDC32G1333LLK (provided by Patriot)
CL7-7-7-20-CR2T at 1.50V

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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*Please note the Biostar board is running at 3600MHz.

x264:

x264 is a H.264/AVC codec which supports four threads and is available for free. We used the same "slow" settings as XviD. H.264 gives you a huge advantage in compressing size, and you need much less bitrate to achieve the same or better quality compared to XviD. While the H.264/AVC is much more advanced compared to MPEG2 encoders, now the CPU power is available to do the encoding in an acceptable time.

You can clearly see that a quad-core brings a massive advantage in encoding speed; the first pass seems to run on only two cores, but the second pass takes advantage of all four cores. With a quad-core you can nearly reach the speed of XivD, which can only use two cores for the time being.

The codec is open source, still in heavy development and you can grab it here.


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*Please note the Biostar board is running at 3600MHz.

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 any other ASUS board we tested so far. It's able to come close to DFI, but it failed when high overclocks were applied, because it needs +0.05V Vcore more than DFI to achive stable 3666MHz.

Please mention other configurations may yield other results.

Compared to DFI the latest ASUS board in our labs did exceptionally well, when not highly overclocked and comes close to the best results so far. Sadly, the VRM was not stable while overclocking to 3666MHz.

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We have compared the two boards at 3200MHz with 800/1200MHz DDR2 and 1066/1600MHz DDR3. As you can see the differences are very small. DDR3 is sometimes a litte bit ahead, but at what cost?.  Even the DDR3 overclocking modules are about 3x more expensive compared to DDR2. The charts shows DDR3 does not justify the costs, DDR2 is still a match vs DDR3, even 2000MHz DDR3 memory won't make a difference.

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Conclusion:

Its clear that the Maximus Series is based on the P5E Series, but with even better results. The power-consumption was especially surprising. While we complained of the high price on the P5E series, the Maximus Series boards do offer much better value for money. The Formula Edition is available for under €200,-. The Special Edition, which we have tested, is fitted for water-cooling and costs about €220,-. You can go for the Extreme Edition, which is only €15,- more expensive because of the expensive IDT PCIe split chip. Available for about €235,- it will cost you much more for the memory modules.

Succeeding the P5E Series this board offers much more value to it's price, we complained the P5E Series is too expensive but the Maximus Series is leveled. You get a fast board with improved VRM, stable operation, high FSB overclocks and lots of BIOS features to tweak your board, so it gets as fast as possible.

The only major complaint left is the analogue VRM, which is still the best ASUS did so far and goes quite near to DFI, but is still a bit away. Especially when you do high overclocking the VRM limits you. With the new Penryn CPUs coming up, this will be no major concern, because the new CPUs will use less energy to run at same speeds. The boards are good and we have to congratulate ASUS for their advances with the Maximus Series.

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Last modified on Friday, 21 December 2007 02:48
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