It’s official: People who buy motherboards with mainstream chipsets such as the P45 don’t want to pay for DDR3. At least, that’s what it seems like to us. Asus’s impressive Maximus II Formula is the third P45-based board we’ve tested, and not one of them sports DDR3 slots. But that doesn’t take anything away from the MIIF, the coolest P45 board we’ve encountered.
With its subdued heatsink, motherboard-based X-Fi support, and oversized start and reset buttons, the Maximus II Formula sports some slick features. It performs quite ably too. MSI’s more garish P45 Platinum outpaces the MIIF by a small margin in some benchmarks, but the MIIF led the MSI and a Gigabyte P45 board in RAM speeds. So, we’ll call it a wash.
In hardware features, it’s close, but we give the edge to the MIIF, with its eight SATA ports and superior audio. We also prefer its ADI-based codecs and drivers over Realtek’s. We’ve been worried about ADI software support since the company quit the PC audio business, but a spokesperson told us that ADI is not quitting on driver support (let’s hope). Plus, there’s the MIIF’s X-Fi support, which produces more satisfying gaming audio than Realtek’s solution—despite the absence of promised EAX4 support. Creative-licensed X-Fi drivers supposedly enable EAX4 on boards that don’t even use Creative hardware. That’s cool, but we couldn’t get the EAX4 support to work, and even the tools Creative gave us said the feature wasn’t working.
A cool-looking start button is one of nifty features you get with Asus’s Maximus II Formula. (click for full)
Creative officials insist that it’s there, but it’s not, at least not with the drivers that come out of the box or the ones on Asus’s website. If Creative and Asus are true to their word, the feature will eventually pop up, making the audio experience even better.
There’s a catch to all this goodness: The MIIF has a $260 street price, while the equally fast MSI P45 Platinum is about $75 less. But that extra $75 does get you a lot, including an English-language POST LCD box, X-Fi EAX4 support (hopefully), and more SATA ports. It also gets you a heatsink that doesn’t look like a bad art-school project.
Asus Maximus II Formula
Tons of SATA ports, some X-Fi support, an eye-pleasing color scheme.
Diet Dr Pepper
Pricey; we couldn’t enable the EAX4 modes.
Asus Maximus II Formula
MSI P45 Platinum
ScienceMark 2.0 Overall
ScienceMark 2.0 Mem
Valve Particle Test (fps)
Quake 4 (fps)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed consists of a Core 2 Quad Q9300, 2GB of DDR2/1066 RAM, a GeForce 8800 GTX, and Windows XP Pro SP2 .