Now that the home entertainment market has moved towards streaming video services and Blu-ray content, there has never been a better time to convert DVD collections to digital.
ASUS Rampage II Gene
An ASUS microATX motherboard for Core i7 CPUs with advanced overclocking features.
- Lots of innovative tools and features, user-friendly BIOS, provides all of the power and most of the connectivity of the Rampage II Extreme
- Carries the stigma of being a microATX motherboard, it's not cheap (though the price is justified)
The Asus Rampage II Gene is easily one of the most powerful and feature-packed microATX motherboards on the market. It deserves to be a rampaging success.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
The ASUS Rampage II Gene is a microATX motherboard that features Intel’s latest X58 Express chipset for Core i7 CPUs (central processing units). It’s essentially a ‘Mini Me’ version of the ASUS Rampage II Extreme — a regular ATX board with familiar specifications. (This is reflected by the Gene’s near-identical packaging; albeit in a shrunk down form.)
Despite its micro design, the Rampage II Gene packs a Goliath-sized wallop that will do overclockers proud. It also comes with plenty of premium bells and whistles, including a diagnostic LED display, Power-on/Reset/Clear CMOS switches, X-Fi HD audio, area-specific LED heat indicators and a tweak-friendly BIOS menu. As befits a Republic of Gamers motherboard, both Nvidia SLI and ATI Crossfire are supported, which means you don’t need to stick to one manufacturer’s camp. While it’s certainly not cheap compared to other microATX boards, the ASUS Rampage II Gene represents solid value given what it offers.
In terms of connectivity, the ASUS Rampage II Gene provides a similar feature set to the ASUS Rampage II Extreme. The rear panel contains four USB ports, a PS/2 keyboard connection, FireWire, eSATA and a clear CMOS switch. The only notable absence is a PS/2 mouse port, which few people will miss. The Rampage II Extreme’s trio of PCI Express 2.0 graphics ports (x16) has been downgraded to two. Again, this is not something that should affect most users, especially considering the prevalence of multi-GPU graphics boards on the market (e.g. equipped with two ATI Radeon HD 4870x2s, you’ll still be able to install a quad-GPU setup using the Rampage II Gene). The other feature to get the chop is dual Gigabit LAN — instead, a single Gigabit port is offered.
Elsewhere, the ASUS Rampage II Gene comes with six SATA ports, an SPDIF optical connector, an extra pair of USB ports, a 4xPCI-E slot, PCI slot and 8-channel audio with Creative EAX 4.0 support. The board also boasts dedicated ‘Voltiminder’ LED warning lights for CPU and memory that keep you abreast of voltage levels (going from green, to orange, to red). We also liked the dinky Power-on and Reset buttons. According to ASUS’ Web site, the Rampage II Gene can support up to a whopping 24GB of DDR3 RAM, which is frankly a bit ridiculous. RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID10 are naturally also supported.
With dimensions of 244x244mm, the Rampage II Gene is around 4/5th the size of a regular ATX motherboard. ASUS has consequently been forced to make some superficial hardware adjustments to fit everything onto the board. For example, there are no locking clips at the bottom of each memory slot, due to their close proximity to the bottommost PCI-E x16 graphics card slot (instead, a metal spring is used). Likewise, the CMOS battery has been moved to an upright position on the upper corner. These small changes in no way hamper the installation process, though, and actually prove beneficial (e.g. swapping over RAM would have required removing the graphics card first, if it wasn’t for the unconventional spring mechanism).
We installed the ASUS Rampage II Gene into an ASUS AU-T1 PC case with an Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition CPU, a Kingston SSDNow M series SNM125-S2/80GB HDD and 3GB of Kingston triple-channel DDR3 RAM. For graphics, we connected a Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 x2, which the board recognised without any problems.
The ASUS Rampage II Gene utilises 180° SATA ports, which makes HDD installation easier if you’re using regular-sized hard drives. The inclusion of 775 and 1366 mounting sockets for two types of CPU coolers is also a nice touch. We found the entire installation process to be swift and hassle-free, and it was complemented by the user-friendly BIOS. Each setting comes with a cavalcade of options which are set out in straightforward English. There’s also a dedicated overclocking section called Extreme Tweaker with plenty of advanced settings for hardcore enthusiast types.
If you’re a tech-shy gamer who nevertheless wants a maxed-out rig, the BIOS also offers a host of automated tools and features. These include CPU Level Up (which automatically boosts your CPU’s voltage level and clock speed), Memory Level Up (which optimises memory settings) and a pair of overclocking tuning modes (Extreme OS and Gamer).
So, why go micro? If you’re a LAN party regular, the Gene’s small form factor will allow you to invest in a mini-tower for increased portability — without making any concessions to your hardware’s grunt (although getting graphics cards to fit may be a bit of a pinch). Alternatively, it will free up extra room in a regular-sized chassis, which can be very helpful if you intend to install water cooling solutions and the like. It may also be attractive if you want an unobtrusive home theatre PC to add to your home entertainment setup. Finally, there’s the difference in price — at $599, the ASUS Rampage II Gene is $100 cheaper than its Extreme brother. While it lacks a few of features found on the Rampage II Extreme, it hasn’t compromised on power, and certainly offers more overclocking potential than the average microATX motherboard. All in all, a rock-solid effort.
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