Articles: Mainboards

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As we have already mentioned before, ASUS Striker Extreme will hardly surprise anyone with its functionality. In fact, the chipset it is based on, Nvidia nForce 680i SLI, determines it all (you can read more about this core logic set in our Nvidia nForce 680i SLI Chipset Review). Therefore, we will not go into detailed regarding the features of ASUS Striker Extreme mainboard provided by the chipset.

Nevertheless, there are a few features of ASUS Striker Extreme that we should dwell on here. Just like the reference Nvidia nForce 680i SLI based mainboards, our today’s hero supports all LGA775 processors. Just like the reference board, Striker Extreme also features two fully-fledged PCI Express x16 slots and one more PCI Express x16 slot connected to the PCI Express x8 bus. As a result this mainboard can support two graphics cards in SLI mode and an additional graphics card functioning as a physics accelerator.

The mainboard is equipped with four DDR2 DIMM slots for system memory. The memory on ASUS Striker Extreme may be clocked within a very broad frequency range and may work in single- or dual-channel mode. I would like to specifically stress extremely advanced options this board offers for setting the memory bus frequency. Thanks to the Nvidia nForce 680i features, this frequency may be set using the divider on the FSB frequency (the supported FSB:DRAM dividers are not very numerous and include 1:2, 5:8, 3:4 and 1:1) or in the pseudo-asynchronous way. With pseudo-asynchronous mode enabled the mainboard BIOS Setup asks you to type in the desired memory frequency from the range between 400MHz and 2600MHz, however, the actual frequency will be set as the closest available to what you choose. This value will be determined using a much broader variety of dividers, which are much more numerous for the asynchronous mode.

Here I would like to remind you of the sticker on the mainboard package saying that the mainboard is guaranteed to work only with the memory modules from the Qualified Vendor List available on ASUS website. And this sticker is not there for nothing. ASUS Striker Extreme really has some compatibility issues with certain memory modules, which you may have read about on the forums. However, I have to give credit to ASUS engineers: they are eliminating these issues little by little in the new BIOS versions.

Besides the three PCI Express x16 slots that I have already mentioned, ASUS Striker Extreme also has one PCI Express x1 slot and two PCI slots. To the right of the first PCI Express x16 slot there is a small unique slot for the ASUS Supreme-FX sound card that is bundled with ASUS Striker Extreme mainboard.

The physical design of this slot is similar to PCI Express x1 but turned by 180 degrees, however there is no electrical compatibility with the PCI Express x1. The thing is that Supreme-FX is actually not a fully-fledged sound card, but simply an analogue part of the sound tract connected to the AC97 interface. That is why you can only see a one microchip on the Supreme-FX card: the high-definition 8-channel Analog Devices AD1988B codec.

So, it wouldn’t be fair to compare ASUS Supreme-FX against any other stand alone sound cards, this solution is analogous to the Karajan audio unit used on DFI mainboards. Supreme-FX may outperform the integrated sound solutions offered by other mainboard manufacturers only thanks to the reduction of noises generated by analogue sound tract EMI.

Note that the AD1988B codec still has a few interesting peculiarities. Namely, it supports the Andrea SuperBeam Array Microphone that comes bundled with ASUS Striker Extreme mainboard. This codec provides great sound quality compliant with Windows Vista Premium Logo and Dolby Master Studio.

ASUS Striker Extreme mainboard boasts six Serial ATA ports with NCQ support, 3Gbit/s data transfer rate and allows building RAID arrays of level 1, 0, 0+1 and 5. Also there are two Gigabit network ports and ten USB 2.0 ports. These features are implemented through the Nvidia nForce 680i SLI chipset South Bridge.

As for the two Firewire and two eSATA ports laid out on the PCB, they are implemented using two external chips: VIA VT6308P and Silicon Image SiI3132. SiI3132 Serial ATA controller not only supports two external eSATA ports (SATA On-the-Go, according to ASUS), but also supports RAID arrays 1 and 0.

As for the definite strengths of ASUS Striker Extreme, we should certainly mention pretty well-established hardware monitoring system. First, there are eight fan connectors on the PCB. And the mainboard can not only control the rotation speeds of all eight fans but also adjust their rotation speed depending on the temperature. The temperature monitoring system is also very impressive. ASUS Striker Extreme can read the temperatures from four other sensors, besides the CPU one. Three of them are external sensors: they can be connected to the mainboard and placed anywhere inside the case according to user’s needs.

These sensors are supplied with the board and feature s flexible cable, a little over 40cm long. That said it is not surprising at all that the mainboard can also monitor the voltages in all possible mainboard knots, including not only input voltages, but also the processor Vcore, Vmem, chipset North and South Bridge voltages. ASUS engineers decided not to equip their mainboard with a POST controller, like the one we saw on the reference mainboards. Instead, ASUS Striker Extreme features an LCD Poster indicator on the rear panel.

The function of this indicator is similar to that of the POST controller. During the system boot-up it displays the initialization info. And this info doesn’t come out in POST codes, but in text format, very easy to read for the inexperienced user. Once the system boot-up has been successfully completed, LCD Poster may display any other information such as system time, or the preset user phrase.

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