ASUS ROG Rampage VI Apex Intel X299 Motherboard Review: Page 4 of 9
Posted by Damon Bailey on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 8:00am
A Closer Look
It’s hard to mistake ASUS’s ROG Rampage VI Apex. The unique X-shaped PCB is quite striking, and coupled with the gunmetal grey and black accents make an jaw dropping first impression.
Without many components on the rear of the board, the unusual shape of the PCB is even more apparent.
If you are new to ASUS’s Dimm.2 configuration, this layout of the ram slots is going to look a bit odd to you. For maximum overclocking capabilities, ASUS limits ram to one stick per channel, pictured here as the gray slots closest to the CPU. The outer two black slots are actually for the Dimm.2 modules, each is an adapter card that combines two M.2 slots, and some special extras into a single, easy to cool, and easy to access module.
Outside of the PCB shape, the lower half the board is a bit more traditional. Four PCIe x16 slots dominate most of the lower end of the board, next to the large chipset heatsink. ASUS crams an astronomical amount of connectors, buttons, lights and other bits onto the outer edge of the PCB. Two 4-pin fan headers are just above the top most PCIe X16 slot.
Rear I/O is comprised of six USB 3.0 plugs, two USB 3.1 plugs, including a reversible type-C, and two USB 2.0. a single Gigabit LAN port is here, along with the standard 8 channel Audio and optical audio plugs, as well as the two antenna connectors for the Wifi module. As USB can get a bit unreliable on the bleeding edge of overclocking, full PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports are found back here, as well as the USB Bios Flashback and CMOS reset buttons.
The lower edge of the board towards the rear has only a few plugs, the SupremFX powered front panel audio header, ASUS’s ‘molex’ style EZPlug for providing extra power to multiple hungry GPU’s, a TPM header, and an analog RGB header capable of driving an impressive 3M or 3 Amps worth of RGB lighting.
The forward end of the lowder edge is much busier. A BIOS selection button, ROG Connect header, USB 2.0 header, water flow meter connection, and 1 of a a dozen 4-pin fan headers are found here. Next to these are the RGB Lighting hardware disable jumpers, a welcome addition to any builders tired of the RGB madness. Any or all of the 4 RGB zones can instantly be disabled without booting or using a single piece of software. Above these is the MemOK button for booting with temperamental ram kits, and the usual front panel I/O connector. A Intel VROC hardware key connector, and two more 4-pin fan headers are here as well.
Going up the front edge, we have six SATA 6Gbps ports, two front panel USB 3.0 headers, a front panel USB 3.1 Gen 2 header, and the 24 pin main power connector.
Just between the USB 3.0 header and the heatsink are two connectors for water temp sensors, and behind the 24 pin are two more 4-pin fan headers.
The front panel USB 3.1 connection is powered by ASMedia’s new ASM3142 controller for 16Gbps performance at a much reduced power draw than previous generations.
The O/C Specific hardware control section holds down most of the front top corner. You get 4 switches that allow you to instantly disable the PCIe plugs for troubleshooting, each with its own active light. All 4 Dimm slots also get a light to indicate that slot’s status. 4 large switches allow fast access to Slow Mode and Pause, as well as two reserved switches for technician usage. And LN2 mode jumper fully unlocks the board’s capability of venturing into the overclocking danger zone. Voltage test points are just under these, and above them are the safe mode button in red, one thing I now dearly wish other boards had, a re-try button, and hardware power and reset switches. the POST code readout is here, as well as 4 LED’s that indicate booting status to quickly point you to a specific sub-system for troubleshooting a failed boot. For those keeping count, the three 4-pin fan headers here brings our count up to TEN so far.
Along the top, hiding behind the VRM heatsink are two 8-pin power connections for the CPU. The slotted heatsink helps remove heat quickly, and one of the included fan brackets can be installed here for a little extra cooling power.
The top rear corner holds the last two of our dozen 4-pin fan headers, as well as a second analog RGB lighting header.
A quick peak at the Wifi card under the rear heatsink and I/O cover.
Hidden around the board about everywhere are numerous chips that comprise ASUS’s PRO CLOCK II and Extreme Engine Digi+. Both chips above work under control of ASUS’s TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) to provide whatever you put in the socket, the best voltage and clock control possible for maximum stable overclocks.
You have to open the CPU retention lid up to get to the socket protector inside, rather than the more common snap on style.
With that out of the way, we get a look at the LGA 2066 socket. If you plan on running this board with extreme cooling such as Dry Ice or LN2, you probably know that access to DMI voltage is important for avoiding the cold bug that drops out the display signals. Since Intel no longer has a pin in the socket for this use, ASUS has a special included contact pin to install through the rear of the board to allow access to this on Kaby Lake-X CPU’s.
ASUS includes two Dimm.2 modules that support 2 drives each. The Dimm.2 socket closest to the rear I/O is connected to CPU lanes for VROC usage, and the front module connects to PCH lanes and SATA ports for Intel RST usage, including Optane.
A drive can be installed on each side of the card for a total of Four M.2 drives. Each Dimm.2 card includes a thermal probe header for each drive, as well as RGB lighting disable jumpers. Yes, even the Dimm.2 modules have lighting.
Included cooling brackets can be installed on each Dimm.2 module and any 10mm thick fan can be used.
Be careful to install the Dimm.2 modules in only the black Dimm.2 sockets. The modules CAN be inserted into the DIMM slots, but the locking mechanism will not allow them to fasten down correctly in case you were wondering. Of course we had to try (with the power off of course)!
Let’s put some power on the board and see the lights! As long as the board has power, and you haven’t used the jumpers to disable it, all of the onboard RGB lights come on and cycle through tons of colors.
Including the Dimm.2 modules.
It’s hard to beat the look here, such a gorgeous board that pictures really don’t do it justice.