Sandy Bridge E remains an interesting topic of discussion. Introduced in Q4 2011, this was camp blue’s enthusiast platform, offering the crème-de-la-crème for the crowd who didn’t mind paying a premium. Now, in 2014, when the mainstream segments have already passed two generations (Ivy Bridge, Haswell), Intel hasn’t updated the enthusiast platform in a similar way. Even with the introduction of Ivy Bridge E, the next step in processor architecture, we are still seeing no new chipsets being launched. The existing X79 boards are getting BIOS or firmware upgrades to work with the newer batch of processors, alongside the launch of a handful of new boards. So before Haswell E arrives (Q2 2014?) the enthusiast platform remains X79, now two and a half years old.
Asus are the forerunners when it comes to motherboards, both in terms of features and revenues (motherboards sold in million units). They have diversified their entire motherboard range in a few distinct sections, each trying to cater to a different crowd, keeping a couple of base features which are enforced on every segment to make sure they retain the same quality, and then according to the segment, adding couple of brownie points. So we have their Republic of Gamers range, the TUF (The Ultimate Force)range, and their mainstream range (Pro/Deluxe/WS), each coming with different color schemes (red/black for ROG, black/gold for mainstream, grey/army green for TUF). Asus also uses different VRM circuitry/audio components and/or software tweaks on certain products to differentiate them from others in their huge array of motherboards.
For ROG, the differentiation runs deep – even in names. While Maximus is the name given to mainstream ROG boards, the enthusiast chipset ROG boards get a more intimidating Rampage moniker. The rest remains the same – Gene for Micro ATX, Formula as their top-dog gaming solution with premium audio in terms of SupremeFX, and Extreme as the flagship enthusiast/benching/uber-high end gaming motherboard (additions to this range are Hero – the budget ATX board and Impact – the mini ITX ROG board, introduced in the Z87/Haswell range). For Ivy Bridge E, however, Asus has introduced a single ROG motherboard (X79-Deluxe being the only other motherboard released), and we have it today in our labs for testing.