It’s taken ten months, but we are finally bringing you our ASUS Rampage V Extreme (1502 BIOS) review. Is it still as good as when it came out? Does it still warrant the exorbitant price or has the competition caught up and perhaps even surpassed ASUS? These are all questions which we were eager to answer.
Motherboards always improve with time, and how much improvement there is to be made is a direct reflection on the quality of the board at launch. Last year, the Rampage V Extreme was unquestionably the most complete X99 motherboard at launch. In typical ASUS tradition, the vendor hit their stride on day one, offering not only the highest-clocking and best-performing motherboard, but one that was the undisputed leader for the X99 chipset for the longest time, courtesy of their specialised overclocking socket. That was in October 2014 and now – almost a year later – the Rampage V Extreme has improved further in both feature support and overclocking/performance.
During this motherboard’s life span, there was a package upgrade which saw the Rampage V Extreme shipping with a discrete USB 3.1 PCI Express x1 card (hence the U3.1 in the model name). As you would expect, this daughter board houses an ASMedia USB 3.1 controller offering two ports for the new USB standard. Unfortunately, this add-on card does not have USB 3.1 Type-C support, so current X170 motherboards have a distinct advantage here as many of the high-end boards support both types. This shouldn’t be a major issue though as there are hardly any USB 3.1 devices at present let alone Type-C devices. Moreover there are adapters one may purchase which allow the use of Type-C devices.
USB aside, the Rampage V Extreme still offers some of the best connectivity options for the X99 chipset money can buy. Not only does it pack 12 SATA 6Gbps ports, you get the usual double SATA Express ports and of course a full speed 32Gbps M.2 connector that supports drives up to 110mm in size (i.e. those 1TB M.2 drives). There are plenty of USB 3.0 ports and if you include the on-board / front panel USB 3.0 connector this motherboard can in total support 14 USB 3.0 devices.
Having said that, it’s imperative that you realize that the board’s USB 3.0 ports share bandwidth. As such, it is not possible for you to use all the ports and achieve the maximum 5Gbps bandwidth that the standard allows. This is simply because USB 3.0 / 3.1 uses PCI Express bandwidth and if you did the math you’d realize that even ten ports would require at the very least 50Gbps. Add SATA Express or M.2 bandwidth requirements to that number and you quickly realize that there’s just no way for the chipset to provide that much bandwidth. On a 40-lane CPU like the Core i7 5930K and 5960X, this would potentially be possible at least logically. However, it would result in inconsistent feature support, for instance in the case of the 5820K having much fewer lanes at its disposal.
Even with that caveat, there still aren’t many (if any) motherboards that can truly claim to offer more connectivity options in a materially useful way. After all this time the Rampage V Extreme should still be the motherboard of choice for those who want to build large storage arrays, but find gaming features far too important to switch to the WS motherboards.
As you may have guessed, multi-GPU functionality and performance were always going to be a strong part of the Rampage V Extreme. After all, this is a high-end extended-ATX motherboard. As such it supports full four-way SLI and CrossFire, and provides additional power for such configurations via a 12V Molex power plug.
Where new features are concerned, ASUS has complemented the MemOK button with the Safe Boot key. This can be viewed as an extension of MemOK. Not only does it reset the memory to 2,133MHz, but it resets all other system settings as well (CPU and uncore multiplier, BCLK, etc.) without clearing the current settings within the UEFI. That means you can easily change the option to the previous selection, prior to the POST failure. It saves time and you need not input all your settings again or worry about loading a profile. It’s especially useful when you haven’t saved a profile.
Another feature added to this area is the “retry” key which allows the system to keep retrying settings that may have failed previously for some reason – more specifically memory training failures. Often when pushing frequencies or tightening timings, memory training during POST may fail even when the system is actually capable of those settings. This button allows you to retry the settings until you get the system to pass POST. It’s perhaps of little to no use to the normal user, but greatly appreciated when overclocking.
Complementing all this is the familiar ROG OC Panel. If you have a panel from the previous boards, you may use it here as well. It provides the same features as before, which is to say near complete control of the system even within Windows without having to resort to software or keyboard shortcuts. OC Panel provides not only a direct way to control clock speeds on the fly, but voltages as well. You may monitor these in detail including real temperatures via temperature probes. For the extreme overclocker, you need not worry about purchasing a separate electronic thermometer, which translates into sizeable savings given that some thermometers can cost upwards of R1,000 (and that’s not even mid-range).
Then of course we come to the UEFI/BIOS, which is incredibly detailed. You’ll need to spend time reading a few guides to figure it all out, but if you’d rather not you can use the EZ Mode and set your clock speeds that way. If that isn’t enough for you, simply select the CPU overclocking profile along with the memory profile you desire and be done with it. A quick warning: many of the profiles in the advanced menu are for extreme overclocking and not gaming, thus it’s best to stick to your XMP profiles and the gamer overclocking profiles.
Most of the settings we tried worked surprisingly well and offered 100% stability with no tuning input from us. Often overlooked or not even mentioned is how Turbo works on most motherboards. Usually if your system goes into standby or sleep mode, when it resumes the clocks don’t necessarily return to what you have set them. This is particularly true of overclocked CPU ratios. On some boards, only a single core returns to the set ratio with the remaining five or seven (depending on the CPU) “stuck” in the low clock states. The only way to fix this is by restarting the entire system. This isn’t so with the Rampage V Extreme and your clock frequencies should always be as you left them. It’s just one of the ways in which the motherboard sets itself apart from the competition.
Finally we come to the audio and gaming portions of the motherboard. ASUS has brought forth slight improvements to SupremeFX in this 2014 guise. It isn’t clear from the documentation as to what was changed, but it’s still based on the well-known Realtek ALC1150 Codec that features audio amplifiers and ELNA high-quality caps. Whatever changes have taken place seem to be software-based and this is where ASUS offers greater value than the competition via Sonic Radar II for example. Briefly explained, it’s a positional audio system and overlay which alerts you to your enemy’s location. There’s loads of this type of software layering here to distinguish the audio characteristics of this motherboard from others, and for the most part it works as advertised.
Networking is another area where ASUS is divergent from the rest of the field, choosing to go with Intel’s solutions over the Atheros or Realtek LAN controllers. As always, we can hardly tell the difference between all these controllers as they all make the same claims of lower CPU usage, prioritized network traffic for games and lower latency. That may not be measurable in any way, but what is measurable is the ESD guard and surge-protection mechanisms which ASUS employs on the network ports. Not a gaming feature per se, but these are things that just might save your computer from a thunderstorm or some other electrical anomaly.
There’s a lot to this motherboard and rightfully so at this insanely high price. It was at the time of release the most expensive X99 motherboard and remains so today. Whether or not the price is justified will be up to you, but it must be said that there simply isn’t any other motherboard we are aware of that combines gaming features and extreme overclocking the way the Rampage V Extreme does. This one is thoroughly deserving of our Dream Machine award.