PCB Design and Functionality
You will absolutely love the attractive combination of black, red and white colors that is why the looks of Asus Maximus III Formula make a spot-on unforgettable impression. The board looks very beautiful, I would even say holiday-beautiful:
Intel P55 Express chip doesn’t heat up too much during work that is why we expressed our serious concerns about the justification for bulky and unnecessarily complex chipset cooling systems in many of our LGA1156 mainboard reviews. They look absolutely silly, because they are not really necessary and serve only eye-catching purposes. Formally, the cooling solution on Asus Maximus III Formula has everything we have been so annoyed with before: it not only uses the heatpipes but also has an “extra” central heatsink. However, the developers won’t hear any complaints from us this time. On the contrary, we have to give them due credit for their work.
First, I have to say a few words about Intel P55 Express heatsink. It is not too tall, so it won’t interfere with any of the expansion cards, but it is large enough to serve its cooling purpose properly. There are no useless heatpipes leading to it, so there is nothing to complain about. As for the remaining two heatsinks over the processor voltage regulator components, just look how short they are – they are just a little taller than the capacitors next to them, or PCI Express slots, for instance. They look almost decorative!
In fact, Asus Maximus III Formula mainboard could possibly work just fine even without them, but you have to agree that without these heatsinks it will look a little too naked for our taste, which is unacceptable for a mainboard with its status. However, these heatsinks are not there just to please your eye: they do heat up during work and dissipate this heat, so maybe they could use some help from an additional heatsink? This heatsink is also pretty low-profile that is why none of them will actually interfere with the installation or removal of any CPU coolers or graphics accelerators. However, additional heat dissipating surface will not only improve the cooling, but will also provide a great spot for highlighted “Republic of Gamers” series logo. I have to admit that Asus engineers accomplished something practically impossible having combined mutually excluding features: they created very convenient cooling system with high efficiency, stylish looks and without any annoying features despite the use of heatpipes and an additional heatsink.
Six Serial ATA ports are provided by Asus Maximus III Formula chipset, while the additional ones are implemented via JMicron JMB363 controllers, although we were a little surprised with the choice of these particular microchips. Besides two Serial ATA lines, these controllers also support PATA ports, but they are not utilized in any way. One JMicron JMB363 controller delivers two SATA ports with white connectors. The other controller has one line split into two with JMicron JMB322 (red SATA connectors), and the other line is laid out as eSATA on the back panel. By the way, you should pay special attention to the connectors layout on the back panel, as it also looks pretty unusual.
First we see a stack with one PS/2 keyboard connector and two USB ports. There is a glowing Clear CMOS button and another two USB ports next to it. The next stack contains two USB ports, an eSATA and an IEEE1394 (FireWire) port implemented through VIA VT6308P controller. The second IEEE1394 port is available as an onboard pin-connector. Next come two more USB and a LAN port (the network adapter is built with a Gigabit Realtek RTL8110SC controller). There is one more separate USB port next to the “ROG Connect” button. It works like a regular USB port, but if you press this button and use the enclosed cable and software, you can use this port to connect two computer systems together. We are going to dwell on “ROG Connect” and other Asus brand name technologies in a separate chapter of our review. The discrete SupremeFX X-Fi sound card carries the complete set of audio connectors. Moreover, there is an additional bracket with two USB and one eSATA port included with the board.