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Computers & Networks

x99 HPC unboxing 02: ASUS Rampage V Extreme

System Administrator Saturday 13 of June, 2015
I’m trapped in the future. It’s my fault for reading technology roadmaps, process technology roadmaps, and product previews. Everything in the future has better performance than what I can buy today. Finally, there are motherboards and a chipset are actually available that provides PCIe 3.0, USB 3.0, DDR4 memory, and supports processors with more than four cores. The future might be here now at least for the moment.

Motherboards are a work of art. It’s impressive how they connect everything together and transport data at high speed between various resources connected to them. There is a rich ecosystem of boards and components that is challenging but also fun to select between all the different available options. To get a CPU with more than four cores, I went for the Intel X99 chipset. Figure 1 shows a block diagram of the system architecture of a core i7 processor with the X99 chipset.

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Figure 1 Intel High End Desktop Platform x99 Chipset

The X99 chip provides:
  • 6 USB 3.0 ports
  • 8 USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 Gigabit Ethernet LAN port
  • 1 HD Audio
  • 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes
  • 10 SATA 3.0 ports
  • 8 DDR4 memory slots
  • 28 or 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes depending on the processor
I looked at many motherboards and selected the ASUS Rampage V Extreme (RVE) due to overwhelming number of great reviews and past experience with ASUS motherboards. In the past, ASUS has supported their motherboards with BIOS updates for quite of long time. It won out for flexibility and performance, and got many favorable user comments. ASUS enhances the X99 chipset by adding:
  • 10 USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
  • 2 USB 2.0 internal
  • 1 enhanced surge protection for the Ethernet port
  • 8 channel audio with S/PDIF output port
  • DDR4 memory overclocking and Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) support.
  • PCIe configurations support 4-way, 3-way, and 2-way SLI graphic card configurations, and M.2 SSD option that shares PCIe lanes.
  • 1 Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v4.0 radios.
My list just highlights some of the enhancements on this feature rich E-ATX motherboard. Figure 2 show the front of the box.
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Figure 2 Box Front

Figure 3 shows the back of the box listing key features of the board.
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Figure 3 Box Back

Figure 4 shows the inside front cover showing even more features.
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Figure 4 Box Inside Front Cover

Figure 5 shows all the SATA cables, SLI cable, CrossFireX cable, IO panel, user guide, and other accessories that came with the motherboard.
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Figure 5 Box Contents

Figure 6 shows the motherboard in the inner box along with the OC panel. The board fits tightly in the box and had to be carefully removed. The OC Panel is easily removed.
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Figure 6 Box Motherboard with OC Panel

Figure 7 shows the RVE motherboard and OC panel after it was remove from the box. It’s amazing, and much heavier than I expected.
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Figure 7 ASUS ROG RVE Motherboard and OC Panel

Figure 8 shows a close up of the top of the RVE motherboard.
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Figure 8 ASUS ROG RVE Motherboard Top

Figure 9 gives a view of the RVE IO panel.
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Figure 9 ASUS ROG RVE Motherboard IO Panel

Figure 10 shows the back or bottom side of the mother board.
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Figure 10 ASUS ROG RVE Motherboard Bottom

The RVE unboxing video is shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11 Case Unboxing Video

The RVE is really good. The BIOS is easy to use and makes overclocking very easy. The RVE as good as it is, overlaps a lot of hardware features so that only one device can be used at a time or that bandwidth must be shared between two devices. The M.2x4 SSD card slot shares bandwidth with the PCIE_X8_4 slot and this slot may only operate in x4 mode when the M.2 SSD card is being used, for example. This also means that if you use a M.2x4 SSD card, the only two or three graphics cards can be used (3-way SLI).

The OC panel is really useful for monitoring and controlling the motherboard. I installed in the top 5.25 bay and use it to monitor CPU temperature, CPU fan speed, and overclocking rate all the time now. When it is in the bay, however, you lose access to buttons that are not available on the front so you can’t see all available monitoring points or control all the settings. It would be useful if there were a few extra buttons so that you monitor and control everything when installed in the case any time.

The RVE motherboard has a test port for measuring voltages on the board called the probelt. The pads are small and once the board in case it’s hard to get to them. There is a real concern about shorting out the probe points with the probes of a multimeter especially in the case. It would be better if the test points were socketed and ASUS provided a test cable that easily accommodated multimeter probes. My meter does logging so I could look at the long stability or look for surges on the 5 and 12 V supplies over hours to days. This would be a more useful implementation of the probelt.

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