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Asus Maximus II Gene
There's simply no way that we can get into this week's review of the Asus Maximus II Gene without making reference to the Asus Rampage II Gene and the Maximus II Formula.
In essence Asus has taken the full-sized Maximus II Formula, eyed up the Micro-ATX Rampage II Gene and blended the two together to come up with the Maximus II Gene. Both Gene motherboards are members of the Republic of Gamers range of high end Asus hardware and both are Micro-ATX boards that measure 244mm x 244mm. Furthermore these two Gene models look incredibly similar starting with the dark brown PCB, moving on to the black and red colour scheme and going right down to the layout of most of the components.
The major difference between the two models is that Rampage II Gene supports Core i7 while Maximus II Gene is a Core 2 motherboard. Following on from that the Rampage II Gene has six DDR3 memory slots that support triple channel memory. Maximus II Gene has the usual four memory slots as Core 2 operates with dual channel memory.
Asus has carried over support for DDR2 from the original Maximus II Formula which looks a bit oldy worldy in 2009 and we suspect that if Asus had started from a clean sheet of paper it would have opted for DDR3. You have to think that it was a safer bet to use DDR2 as it meant that BIOS modifications were kept to a minimum.
When Asus cut the Core i7 Rampage II down to size with the Gene it also cleaved the price which dropped from £250 for the Rampage II Extreme to £175 for the Rampage II Gene. By contrast the full sized Maximus II Formula currently costs £142 while the Micro-ATX Maximus II Gene is only slightly cheaper at £124.
The reason for this apparent disparity is that the ATX Rampage II is an Extreme model that comes with extras such as an X-Fi riser card that you don't get with the Rampage II Gene. The Maximus II started life as a Formula model which meant there was very little that Asus could cut from the specification without damaging the integrity of the Republic of Gamers brand.
Probably the most exotic feature of the Maximus II Gene is the external LCD Poster that we have seen on a number of Asus motherboards. It's a good gadget but it is relatively tame compared to the Extreme hardware.
The question of pricing is central to the business of building a new Intel PC. If you want maximum performance you select a Core i7 motherboard for £150-£250, plug in a £200 Core i7 920 and £100 of DDR3 memory and you're done. Things get more complicated with Core 2 as a Quad Q9650 costs a hefty £240 so you'd be better off with a Core i7. On the other hand a Core 2 Duo E8500 is relatively cheap at £140 but of course it is a dual core rather than a quad core.
AMD fan boys have every right to bounce up and down at this point extolling the virtues of Phenom II as an X3 Tri-core processor can be yours for £100.