Preview: ASUS P67 Sandy Bridge Motherboards
Maximus IV Extreme, Sabertooth P67
Maximus IV Extreme
Let’s start with the big kahuna motherboard right off the bat: the Maximus IV Extreme. This is the new flagship, high-end Republic of Gamer premium motherboard, to be oriented to the diehard enthusiast and gaming crowd. Continuing the colour scheme we’ve seen lately from ASUS, the Maximus IV Extreme (aka the M4E) has an entirely black PCB and heatsink design, with various components highlighted in red and white. This is instantly recognizable as an ASUS board, and specifically a Republic of Gamer one. The styling cues are slightly less outrageous here as compared to, say, the Rampage III Extreme, and it’s definitely a sharp looking board in terms of aesthetics.
There is also passive cooling by means of three primary heatsinks and a continuous heatpipe across the board. Functionally speaking, this will help keep temperatures under control, and they do look fantastic from an aesthetic perspective. If I had to wager based on previous board designs, I’d also say the ROG logo in the middle heatsink will glow so it brings a bit of bling to the table here.
It also looks like there is ProbeIt and the GO button included on the M4E. ProbeIt is an enthusiast-oriented feature that allows you to measure critical real-time voltage readings. The GO Button is handy if you’re having boot problems, from a failed overclock or otherwise. If you press it while powered down, it will act as the Mem OK! button, an LED will start to blink and the system will automatically reset your memory to a stable state. However, the GO Button also works if you press it while in the Windows environment, but it will instead overclock your system according to a preset profile that you can define in the BIOS. So it serves a dual function here of sorts.
There’s also the switches to turn off the four PCI-E expansion slots, similar to what we initially saw on the Rampage III Extreme. There are two NEC USB 3.0 controllers for additional ports on the rear, and four SATA III 6G ports to serve the blisteringly fast SSDs that we’re seeing in the market.
We also see the Bluetooth daughter card installed at the rear I/O panel, which means that it appears ASUS is including the RC Bluetooth and ROG Connect features we’ve seen recently on their other premium ROG boards as well. These features allow users to remotely control the board’s settings, clock speeds, voltages, and so forth, either from another connected computer or a smartphone such as an iPhone, for example.
The M4E features 18-phase power management, which is plenty for enthusiast overclockers. ASUS employs a hybrid power management of sorts, which they call the Extreme Engine Digi+. Essentially this means ASUS has used digital VRMs but have gone with multi-phase MOSFETs and analog features in the overall PWM. This allows for a wider range of switching frequencies and less switching delay time.
Moving to the expansion slots, we see that the Rampage III Extreme supports four PCI-E slots as well as one PCI-E x4 and also a single PCI-E x1 slot as well. With four slots and these configurations available, you’ll have the means with which to create a monster Folding @ Home rig if you are so inclined. There is a Molex connector located at the bottom of the expansion slots, which ASUS calls an EZ Plug, to provide supplementary power if you heavily load the slots in an extreme setup, and while this would be somewhat rare it is good to see it available for additional stability.
Another notable feature is an EFI BIOS that should be a game-changer from what we understand. Much information isn’t known at this point, but with every current BIOS considered ancient, this will be essentially a new way of thinking for people. We’re eagerly looking forward to this new feature.
We first saw the TUF series of products in the Sabertooth 55i for Socket LGA 1156, then again in the recent X58 (check back for our upcoming full review), and the trend continues here with the new Socket LGA 1155 Sandy Bridge CPUs. The TUF products have been designed to include the highest quality components for the best stability and extreme durability. Given the military-standard components, it’s not surprising that the aesthetic styling of the Sabertooth boards are design in shades of olive green and beige, very reminiscent of camouflauge attire.
The Sabertooth P67 continues these design cues and features, incorporating ceramics coating technology, TUF capacitors and MOSFETs, a switching power design, and electrostatic discharge guards. But what is probably most noticeable and significant here on the Sabertooth P67 is the inclusion of the "Tactical Vest" across most of the board’s surface. This vest is a play on the military theme, as a sort of flak jacket, but it’s entirely functional; it’s a durable plastic that helps protect the sensitive components on the board from physical damage or accidentally arcing an electrical component while leaving the power supply plugged in. Furthermore, the Tactical Vest is designed to improve cooling for the board components, dissipating heat across the surface rather than having a few hot spots that can cause problems. This is certainly an innovative approach, and one might wonder why this was never done previously, when we consider the potential advantages, saving us from our butter fingers and errant wires that often happen.
The Sabertooth P67 will have two PCI-E slots, so it’s not entirely geared specifically to gamers like the Republic of Gamer series, and will feature two SATA III 6G ports. Much of the enthusiast-oriented features on the Maximus IV Extreme (ie-overclocking, etc) will not be found on the Sabertooth P67, but most of the electrical design and build quality will certainly be common in many instances.