Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
The Rampage line of ASUS motherboards are famed for their class-leading performance and prestigious reputation. With every new CPU on Intel’s High-End Desktop (HEDT) Platform we’ve seen new ASUS Rampage motherboards. The first Rampage arrived with LGA 775 and the X48 chipset, we saw the second iteration Rampage II come with socket LGA 1366, the X58 chipset and Bloomfield CPUs. The Rampage III arrived with the same socket and chipset but with the new 32nm Gulftown CPUs that introduced 6 cores for the first time. Intel continued the 32nm and 6 core trend when ASUS brought out the Rampage IV Extreme for X79 and Sandy Bridge-E CPUs. With Ivy Bridge-E ASUS refreshed the Rampage IV Extreme with a Black Edition variant that used the same socket and chipset as the original board it improved on. Now we’ve got Intel’s Haswell-E 8 cores and ASUS have brought the Rampage motherboard into its fifth iteration – and it’s more bada$$ than ever before.
The ASUS Rampage V Extreme is the complete package for the Intel LGA 2011-3 X99 platform. It supports all the bells and whistles….. and then ASUS added a gong and foghorn just for good measure. The R5E draws its inspiration from its predecessor and continues to target a broad user-base with features suitable for extreme overclockers, gamers, workstation users and elitist PC users. ASUS haven’t just settled for the X99 chipset, they decided to keep on adding more and keep on improving. Of note for this board is the ASUS OC Socket which adds extra pins to allow for additional voltage controls with Intel Haswell-E CPUs, ASUS claims better DRAM and CPU overclocking than on rival motherboards. We could go through all the new features of the ASUS Rampage V Extreme but there’s just so much, we refer you over to our ASUS X99 launch article which explains in-depth all the new features of the ASUS Rampage V Extreme and other ASUS X99 motherboards.
Packaging and Accessories
An ASUS Rampage V Extreme motherboard wouldn’t be complete without a lavish package. Straight away you notice just how big the Rampage V Extreme is, there must be a ton inside the box!
Flipping the box over gives us a detailed break-down of features, specifications and other technical details of which more can be found at the ASUS Rampage V Extreme product page.
Normally we wouldn’t bother showing you all the different parts of a product’s packaging but with the R5E there’s an exception to be made, it comes beautifully presented and ASUS certainly know how to make their buyers feel special.
You get a tonne of accessories with the R5E so let’s work our way through them. Firstly, you get a variety of documentation, a driver utility DVD, a door hanger and some stickers for managing your internal components.
Next we find an alternate backplate for LN2 pot mounting, the rear I/O shield which is padded, a 2 way Crossfire bridge and 2/3/4 way SLI bridge.
ASUS include 10 SATA cables, a variety of temperature probes, Q-Connectors for the front panel connectors and a WiFi Antennae for the dual band 2.4/5GHz WiFi.
The final piece of the accessory pack is the OC panel, this allows you to easily overclock and tweak your motherboard.
ASUS also give you the option to mount it into a provided 5.25 inch bay and access it from the front of your case, a USB cable is also provided for interfacing between the OC panel and the system.
A Closer Look & Layout Analysis
With a board that is rammed with so many features the layout is important. ASUS have had to make many tough design choices to fit so much onto this board. Sure with an E-ATX footprint it isn’t exactly small but with how much connectivity it has the density and design work is incredible. Just look at how they managed to squeeze the M.2 port in next to the SATA ports and memory lanes/ chipset heastsink.
Down by the PCH we find 12 SATA ports and two SATA Express ports. There’s also a USB 3.0 header.
Moving up that side of the board we find the OC area with all the buttons: start, reset, retry, memOK, safe boot, slow mode, PCIe lane switches and an LN2 mode jumper. The debug LED is also there for troubleshooting with all the respective error codes provided in the manual.
Moving down to the base of the board and we find yet more buttons and connectivity: a BIOS toggle switch, the KeyBot button, USB headers, fan headers and more.
Further along the bottom we find the BIOS chips, a SoundStage button, a TPM header, molex power for the PCIe lanes and the front panel audio connection.
In total we find a huge amount of PCIe lane connectivity with spacing to allow for 4-Way GPU configurations.
At the rear I/O there are a staggering 10 USB 3.0 ports, I’m a little surprised to see only one ethernet port – I myself would have loved to see dual LAN in there even if it meant sacrificing something like two USB 3.0 ports or the WiFi placement.
At the top of the board we can see dual power connectors for the CPU, only the 8 pin is required but the 4 pin is there for extra power if you’re really pushing the voltages high. You can also get a clear view of the new DirectCU implementation for the VRM.
Around the CPU socket we find a couple of heatsinks and we can see the LED cable connection to the ROG branded heatsink, you can alter the lighting effects on this in the BIOS.
On the base of the board we find reinforced backplates for the socket, VRM heatsink and chipset heatsink. ASUS are the only vendor who go to this much effort with ensuring stability of the motherboard PCB.
That’s the board stripped down and shown off so let’s jump into taking a closer look at the rest of the R5E package.
The Test System and Test Software
Before we delve into any testing we would like to take this opportunity to review our test system and thank those sponsors who kindly provided us with test equipment to make our work possible.
- Motherboard: varies by review
- CPU: Intel Core i7 5960X Processor
- GPU: Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X graphics card
- RAM: Crucial 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR4 2133MHz memory Kit (CL15)
- Cooling: Corsair H100i with Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound
- Case: Lian Li PC-T60A test bench
- Storage Drives: Kingston 240GB Hyper X 3K SSD for the boot drive, Patriot SuperSonic Magnum 256GB USB 3.0 flash drive for USB 3.0 testing, SanDisk Extreme Pro 240GB SSD for SATA testing and the Plextor 256GB M6e M.2 SSD for M.2 testing
- PSU: Be Quiet Power Zone 1000W Power Supply
- Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit SP1
- Networking: ASUS RT-AC68U router for LAN/WLAN testing
- SiSoft Sandra Engineer – available here.
- WPrime – available here.
- Cinebench – available here.
- 3DMark – available here.
- Bioshock Infinite – available here.
- Tomb Raider – available here.
- AIDA 64 Engineer – available here.
- DPC Latency Analyser – available here.
- Rightmark Audio Analyser – available here.
- LAN Speed Test Lite – available here.
- Passmark – available here.
The ASUS X99 BIOS is by far the best I’ve tested for this platform out of the three vendors who have released their X99 boards for review. The expertise of the ASUS BIOS team shines through: the BIOS is incredibly fluid, reliable and brimming with features. Literally everything you could possibly think of is available to tweak and tune which is essential for a platform like X99 where overclocking and performance is so central. Below we’ve tried to show you all the great things the BIOS does but I want to draw your attention to the Extreme Tweaker tab. For most people who will delve into CPU and DRAM overclocking this area is just a god-send. You can tweak and tune just about every voltage, frequency, set of timings, operation mode and more. For most people the Auto settings suffice but in the instance where you know a certain thing is holding you back it’s nice to know you can target it directly, for instance if your system is posting a System Agent error (which the R5E’s Debug LEDs will clearly tell you) then you can bump up the System Agent voltage.
ASUS AI Suite III
The software is very familiar to what we saw when we reviewed the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger Z97 motherboard, we’ve got the same ROG-skinned AI Suite III implementation. When you first launch the AI Suite III it chucks you into the Turbo App where you can tune overclocks, configure power saving profiles and change the VRM delivery methods.
By clicking on the icon at the top right next to the cross it opens a splash screen which shows you all the utilities that are integrated into the AI Suite III program. While some of these are separate programs they all run seamlessly and feel well unified within AI Suite 3. This contrasts to some other motherboard vendors who’s software feels very fragmented.
ROG GameFirst III
ASUS bundle their in-house GameFirst III software with the R5E, this allows you to do packet prioritization just like you would on any Killer NIC based system. The only difference here is you get to use an Intel NIC and ASUS’ QoS expertise.
Another software inclusion is ASUS HomeCloud. It isn’t software for gamers or overclockers but if you use your PC for other things being able to configure it as a personal cloud is a great idea.
KeyBot is something we’ve looked at before, again this was on the ASUS Maximus 7 Ranger motherboard. KeyBot allows you to create your own macro and function keys for your keyboard effectively allowing you to turn “any old” keyboard into a keyboard with gamer functionality.
Many vendors include RAMDisk software with their motherboards but with X99 it makes more sense. Remember you can have up to 64GB of DDR4, or 128GB when 16GB modules come out, so being able to turn some of that into a RAMDisk is useful. Even the most intensive professional users involved in rendering and editing probably struggle to use more than 32GB of RAM, this allows you to make good use of any spare.
Overclocking was a strange one. We couldn’t seem to get 4.5GHz truly stable, whereas we were able to run 4.5GHz on other motherboards. I am not quite sure why this was the case because in many benchmarks (GPU and memory ones) the R5E performed better despite having 0.1GHz less clock speed. The issue was probably a trivial one: some particular setting somewhere needed a minor tweak to iron out the instability issues. In the end we settled on 4.4GHz because this was stable and we didn’t have enough time to test out every BIOS eventuality, that’s not to say the R5E cannot do better because we think it can and we will be hoping to push it further at a later date. We did turn a lot of our focus to memory overclocking as well and we were gobsmacked by just how well the R5E did. The R5E is now our go-to motherboard for DDR4 memory reviews for one reason: it’s amazing at memory overclocking and smokes the competition with memory performance. Check for instance the below configuration with Kingston HyperX Predator 3000MHz memory operating at 3100MHz – look at those performance numbers: it’s over 70,000! No other motherboard seems to be able to match the R5E on its memory performance which probably explains why in graphics and memory benchmarks the R5E was able to outperform rivals even though we couldn’t get it to the same CPU frequency.
CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s CPU performance. Cinebench R15 is a totally free utility and is available for download here.
wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton’s method for estimating functions. wPrime is a free utility that is available for download here.
The SiSoft Sandra Dhrystone and Whetstone benchmarks are widely used measures of compute power and performance for a wide array of real world usage scenarios. You can find out more details on these tests here or download SiSoft Sandra here.
3DMark Firestrike is Futuremark’s latest creation for testing the GPU performance of high end gaming PCs using Direct X 11 graphics. You can download a free basic version of 3DMark here.
Tomb Raider is a popular action-adventure video game published by Square Enix based on the Tomb Raider franchise. The game was released in 2013 and as of March 2014 had sold 6 million copies.
Bioshock Infinite is a first person shooter developed by Irrational Games that is the third instalment of the Bioshock series. The game is the last to be produced by Irrational Games before they announced their closure in February 2014. The game has sold over 4 million copies since its 2013 release.
Combined Latency Test
SATA, M.2 and USB Performance
To test the storage performance in our motherboard reviews we use AIDA’s Disk Benchmark utility built into their AIDA64 Engineer Edition software package and run read and write tests. We run each of the benchmark tests on a SATA III, USB 3.0 and M.2 device. For SATA III testing we use a Sandisk Extreme Pro 240GB SATA III SSD, for USB 3.0 testing we use the Patriot Supersonic Magnum USB 3.0 flash drive and for M.2 testing we use Plextor’s 256GB M.2 M6e SSD. The drives are always formatted before use.
For our networking tests we connect the test system up to our Intel Gigabit enabled ASUS Rampage IV Extreme X79 motherboard test system through the ASUS RT-AC68U router and run our tests. We opted for this over a direct point-to-point connection because we wanted to simulate real world performance. For our WiFi tests we do the same except we connect the test system to the ASUS RT-AC68U router via WiFi at a distance of 2 metres from the router.
LAN Speed Test Lite
LAN Speed Test was designed from the ground up to be a simple but powerful tool for measuring file transfer, hard drive, USB Drive, and Local Area Network (LAN) speeds (wired & wireless). It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without effects of windows file caching) while keeping track of the time. Download the free Lan Speed Test Lite utility from here.
Passmark Performance Test 8
The PassMark Advanced Network Test (which is part of PerformanceTest) is designed to test the data transfer rate between two computers both of which must be running PerformanceTest. One of the computers must act as the server and will sit waiting for a connection. The other computer acts as a client. It connects to the server machine and sends data to it for the duration of the test. You can download a trial version of PerformanceTest from here.
RightMark Audio Analyser (RMAA)
RMAA suite is designed for testing quality of analog and digital paths of any audio device. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. A more common mark is also provided for those unfamiliar with measured technical parameters. Available here. We run the RMAA test using a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable connecting the line out to the line in to test the quality of the motherboard audio codec not any external audio devices. We run the complete playback and recording test at default settings and then get RMAA to interpret the results giving the below outputs. We sync the playback and recording audio devices to the same setting as the test for accurate results.
16 Bit, 48KHz (DVD Quality)
16 Bit, 96KHz (Studio Quality)
24 Bit, 96KHz (Studio Quality)
DPC Latency Analyser
Thesycon’s DPC Latency Checker is a Windows tool that analyses the capabilities of a computer system to handle real-time data streams properly. It may help to find the cause for interruptions in real-time audio and video streams, also known as drop-outs. Available here.
To measure power consumption we use a killawatt meter and measure the total system power draw at the wall. We run two different use-case scenarios for 5 minutes and take the average reading. The first scenario is a desktop idle state with the minimum number of programs running as possible, the second is AIDA 64’s System Stability Test with CPU, FPU, cache system memory and GPU options selected: this simulates a heavy & intensive full system load.
Pricing (accurate at the time of writing)
In the UK the ASUS Rampage V Extreme is available to buy for £334.99 at Overclockers. Over in the USA we are seeing a price tag of $500 at Newegg and Amazon. ASUS provide a 3 year warranty for the R5E.
I think the best place to start with concluding this review is with the description for the eTeknix Extreme Performance award which reads as follows:
“The Extreme Performance Award – Awarded to products that break the boundaries by offering the best performance in its product range and offers unparalleled performance compared to its rivals. The type of product that will help you break records and give you bragging rights in front of your friends.”
I think it goes without saying that the ASUS Rampage V Extreme does all these things. It offers the best performance we’ve seen for an X99 motherboard, particularly with graphics and memory performance where it excels. The ASUS Rampage V Extreme is the board to have if you want to the best of the best and can afford to pay for it, just like its predecessor was.
However, I don’t want to sandbox the Rampage V Extreme into a performance silo: this motherboard is about much more than just performance. The founding “ideology” of the Rampage Extreme series may have been about offering the best performance, but it now offers the best of everything else too. It can act as a viable workstation motherboard offering enough PCIe, USB, Storage and Networking connectivity for even the most demanding user. Not to mention a level of component quality and attention to detail that would make it reliable enough for professional use. It could also function as the heart of a gaming system thanks to its high quality networking with packet prioritisation software, its high quality audio implementation and the support for multiple GPU configurations that will allow you to push out games at 4K resolutions or even with huge frame rates to take advantage of some of the new 144Hz monitors that came out recently – notably the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q.
Finding points of criticism about the R5E is difficult but I think a few things are noteworthy. For a board that has so much connectivity it seems a tragic shame to have not implemented dual LAN, especially when ASUS provide solid HomeCloud software which would be able to make great use of it. For example Realtek’s RTL8111GR Gigabit ethernet supports wake-on-WAN whereas Intel’s Gigabit does not meaning you need a LAN client to wake it up. Secondly, I feel like the OC panel is an unnecessary addition. Most people won’t use it, the 5.25 inch bay is a nice touch to give it more potential use but I’m still not so sure. I think the bulk of prospective R5E buyers would take a price cut for the OC panel to be sold as a separate extra.
- Brilliant performance
- Sophisticated and reliable UEFI BIOS
- Best-in-class software package
- Impressive range of connectivity
- Amazing memory performance and overclocking
- Expensive – OC panel isn’t necessary
- No Dual-LAN
“A premium platform like X99 deserves a premium motherboard and that’s exactly what the ASUS Rampage V Extreme offers. Class leading performance, connectivity, quality and features make the R5E the ultimate motherboard for any consumer.”
Thank you to ASUS for providing this review sample.