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Maximum PC Staff Feb 24, 2010

Asus Maximus III Formula

At A Glance

M.I. 3

X-Fi soft audio; good overclocking capabilities; RC features.

JAWS 3

Isn't it too soon to lose PATA ports?

It's all about the pieces of flair

In a world where you can get a pretty decent $99.99 motherboard, a lot of consumers don’t understand why you would pay one-and-a-half times more for a board using the same chipset.

That’s because those same consumers don’t seem to understand the attitude and atmosphere you get with a high-end motherboard. It’s about the flair, and the Asus Maximus III Formula offers that in spades.

While some of the flair is extraneous, such as the garish case sticker, some can be truly handy. A set of stickers lets you label your SATA cables, for example. And then there’s the flair that we’ve come to expect of Asus: the ever-useful Q-connector for front-panel connections and the no-snag I/O shield and snag-free RAM slots we first saw on the P7P55D Deluxe. Audio is upgraded over baseline boards with the SupremeFX X-Fi module. The module and drivers give you X-Fi algorithms and the codecs are moved off the noisy motherboard. Since RAM configuration can affect system reliability, the board also includes a handy BIOS-based MemPerfect utility to validate your RAM settings.

Asus takes remote-control monitoring and overclocking to the next level with the MIIIF, too. You can now connect a laptop directly to the motherboard to monitor voltages, temperature, and fans; read POST codes; and even overclock the board. It’s neat, but we wish Asus would build in logging and graphing capabilities, as well.

You can remotely monitor and overclock your Maximus III Formula using a second PC.

We found no flaws in the board’s physical layout, although the SATA ports are interesting. Six ports face forward while another two pairs in two different spots face up. Fortunately, all the ports are accessible even if the board is running in CrossFire X or SLI mode. Why two locations? Asus actually integrates two additional SATA controllers: one for the board’s built-in fussless RAID configuration and the second one strictly to control two optical drives.

The board’s performance was quite good. For the most part, P55-board performance has been consistent among board models, with most of the variation arising from the unpredictable nature of the CPU’s Turbo Boost mode, which kicks up clocks based on load, power consumption, and temperature.

In the auto-overclocking department, Asus gives you multiple methods to overclock, but as with the Asus P7P55D Deluxe , we found the board overclocks best from the BIOS rather than using the Turbo V app. We took our Core i7-870 from a stock clock of 2.93GHz to a very stable 3.7GHz, with very little tweaking.

So, where does this put the Maximus III Formula? In the plus column, it offers performance equal to our current favorite, Gigabyte’s GA-P55-UD6 . The Gigabyte board has legacy floppy and PATA ports, though, and more flexible DIMM arrangements; but the MIIIF has the better audio subsystem and the nifty memory-validation tool, as well as the cool, but probably not very mainstream, remote-control capabilities.

Needless to say, it’s pretty damned close. But if you put a phaser to our heads and made us pick, we’d go with the Maximus III Formula, as we’re suckers for Creative audio and we think the MemPerfect feature could eliminate a lot of headaches in configuring RAM.

Benchmarks

Intel DP55KG
Asus Maximus III Formula
PCMark Vantage 64-bit Overall
7,130
7,080
Everest Ultimate MEM Read (MB/s) 15,691
13,538
Everest Ultimate MEM Write (MB/s) 10,839
10,0864
Everest Ultimate MEM Copy (MB/s) 14,925 14,893
Everest Ultimate MEM Latency (ns) 50.3
52.7
SiSoft Sandra RAM Bandwidth (GB/s) 16.6
17
3DMark Vantage Overall
14,918
15,002
3DMark Vantage GPU
12,172
12,234
3DMark Vantage CPU 46,138 46,732
Valve Particle Test (fps)
152161
Crysis CPU (fps)
130
152.3
Resident Evil 5 fixed DX9 (fps) 147.5
117.1
World in Conflict (fps)189
230

Best scores are bolded. We tested motherboards using a Core i7-870, 4GB of DDR3/1333 Corsair DRAM, an EVGA GeForce GTX 280, a Western Digital Raptor 150, and 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium.

THE VERDICT

Asus Maximus III Formula

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