It's been a good few months since we reviewed the Asus Rampage Formula so it seems just about the right time for Asus to bring out a new motherboard called the Rampage II Extreme. However the similarity in model codes is rather deceptive.
The original Rampage Formula used the Intel X48 chipset to support LGA775 Core 2 processors with DDR2 memory, while the Rampage II Extreme uses Intel's brand new X58 chipset that you'll need to accompany Intel's equally brand new Core i7 processors.
As it happens, we actually missed one of the Rampage range that came inbetween the two above models, which is something of a shame as the Rampage Extreme introduced the TweakIt feature that is carried over to Rampage II. The Rampage Extreme also introduced a passive cooling system that sprawled across the power regulation hardware and both parts of the chipset. We've seen radical cooling systems from Asus in the past but each new Republic of Gamers model takes the concept to greater extremes and the Rampage II Extreme continues that trend.
At first glance it looks very similar to the original Rampage Extreme but the list of differences is actually as long as your arm. One significant change lies in the cooling system, but it's not what you might expect. We're used to seeing an option for water cooling on the chipset of an Extreme model but the Rampage II Extreme is passively cooled. Part of the cooler can be unscrewed so there is the possibility of adding an adapter for water cooling but the new X58 chipset shouldn't need that degree of cooling as the memory controller has been moved from the chipset to the Core i7 CPU. Asus includes a small clip-on fan in the package that can be fixed behind the I/O panel but we can't imagine many people will need to use it.
It's a curious thing but the six DDR3 memory slots don't make as much of a visual impact as you might expect as your eye is instead drawn to the ProbeIt and TweakIt features. These are horrid names for some cool kit that probably won't add a great deal of value to the Rampage II Extreme for the majority of users but at the very least they should make you stop in your tracks and wonder at the ingenuity of the Asus engineers.
ProbeIt lines up a collection of solder points outboard of the memory slots where you can directly measure CPU, RAM, chipset and PCI Express voltages with your electrical multi meter. This is very handy if you're the sort of person who doesn't believe the accuracy of BIOS settings or the hardware monitoring features that are built into any decent BIOS. There's no denying that some voltage settings don't work as expected but if you need to second guess a Taiwanese development team you're in deep water and should probably stop paddling.