ASUS Maximus II Formula P45 Motherboard

 My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
He doesn’t sound too happy, does he? This is in stark contrast to me, who was awoken from my slumber by the postman holding a large package from Asus. I already knew what it was; I’d been hassling the editor for weeks upon first hearing news of a new P45 Republic Of Gamers Board from Asus.

The new chipset from Intel has been around for a few weeks now and we covered the early editions of P45 in a previous review of the Asus P5Q Deluxe & MSI P45 Diamond, so I won’t be going into great detail regarding the new features P45 has to offer. Rather, I will be concentrating on the Maximus II itself. I will, however, be making a lot of comparisons with the former motherboards as both, especially the P5Q Deluxe, were excellent performers and set a very high benchmark for future releases to match.

The original Asus Maximus was based on the Intel X38 chipset and came in two flavours, the Formula (DDR2) and Extreme (DDR3) editions, and rapidly became the choice platforms for anyone wishing to utilise multi-GPU (Crossfire) configurations. These motherboards were then superseded with the X48-based Asus Rampage Formula (DDR2), which officially supported higher frequencies than its X38 sibling while also supporting dual PCIe 2.0 16x slots. So where does that leave the Maximus II? Well, as mentioned previously, the Maximus II is a P45-based motherboard, but confusingly the P45 does not support dual x16 PCIe 2.0 slots when used in Crossfire mode, which the original Maximus did.

So a step back then? Well, yes and no. Firstly, the P45 chipset supports a single x16 PCIe 2.0 or dual x8 PCIe 2.0 lanes in Crossfire mode and, while it appears that 8 less lanes per channel is detrimental to performance, actual figures between x16+x16 and x8+x8 are very similar and certainly not as restrictive as one might think. Add to the fact that next gen PCIe 2.0 offers twice the bandwidth of PCIe 1.1 and it becomes apparent that x8 PCIe 2.0 is no slouch. This, however, was with testing 3870×2 in Crossfire mode which, due to the onboard bridging chip used in 3870×2’s, limits the card to PCIe 1.1. So how this will translate to PCIe 2.0 cards used in Crossfire is debatable and something we will strive to investigate in future reviews. Secondly, the P45 chipset appears to be a better overclocking platform than its X38/X48 stablemate, with improved power delivery and an increase in attainable FSB.

So which chipset should you go for? I really don’t think there is a definitive answer to that as, like most things hardware related, it depends on your specific requirements but before making any decision, take the time to read on and see what the current pinnacle of P45 has to offer in the guise of the Maximus II.

LGA775 socket for Intel® Core™2 Extreme / Core™2 Quad / Core™2 Duo / Pentium® dual-core/Celeron® dual-core /Celeron® Processors
Intel® P45/ICH10R with Intel® Fast Memory Access Technology System Bus 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz
Dual-channel memory architecture max.16GB, DDR2-1200/1066/800/667 MHz, non-ECC and un-buffered memory
Expansion Slots  
– 2 x PCIe2.0 x16 slots 
– 3 x PCIe x1 slots (the PCIEx1_1 (black) is compatible with audio slot)
– 2 x PCI 2.2 slots
ICH10R Southbridge: 
– 6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Marvell® 88SE6121 controller:
– 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
– 1 x External SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go) 
Silicon Image Sil5723:
– 2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Dual Gigabit LAN controllers, both featuring AI NET2
High Definition Audio
SupremeFX X-Fi Audio Card:
– ADI® AD2000B 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
– Creative X-Fi capability
– X-Fi interface
– Coaxial/Optical S/PDIF out ports
max.12 USB 2.0 ports(6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at back panel)
There are two aspects of the specification that stand out other than the usual plethora we have come to expect from a ROG board, and they are the memory support and an X-FI based sound card. It is now commonplace to find modern motherboards supporting ‘up to’ 8GB of memory. However, with the Maximus, it is now theoretically possible to install a massive 16GB of DDR2 RAM and not only that but officially supporting up to 1200Mhz modules!

That, however, is not what raised my eyebrows the most. Asus gaining a license to utilize X-FI? In past ROG boards, Asus have based their sound solution around Realtek and, while the Realtek chipset is ‘adequate’, it isn’t on a par with a dedicated solution, so I was surprised to learn that Asus are using X-FI in preference to their very own Xonar card. An interesting move indeed!