ASUS Blitz Formula

ASUS adds another motherboard to their Republic of Gamers lineup in the form of the ASUS Blitz Formula. While the P35 chipset is intended to be a mainstream chipset, ASUS kicks things into high gear and shows us what the P35 chipset can really do.

Introduction

ASUS is one of the most well known as respected of all computer hardware manufacturers. Their reputation for quality and reliability is generally well deserved. Their most recent boards have been well received here at the [H] and with that said the Blitz Formula may be the most exciting board weآ’ve seen from ASUS in the last year. The ASUS Blitz Formula is based on Intelآ’s already proven and very popular P35 chipset. Recently the P35 chipset replaced the P965 Express chipset as their mainstream chipset. Aside from an improved memory controller and support for 1333MHz FSB speeds and 45nm CPU support, the P35 generally boasts improved overclocking over similar designs using the P965 Express chipset. Though DDR 3 is out and newer modules and speed revisions seem to be making headlines all the time, many people arenآ’t interested in DDR 3 at present. ASUS like most other companies have realized this and have continued to support DDR 2 and will likely continue to do so for some time. The Blitz Formula uses DDR 2 memory and does not support DDR 3.

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The ASUS Blitz Formula supports the latest Intel آ® Coreآ™2 Extreme Quad-Core / Coreآ™2 Duo / Intelآ® Pentiumآ® Extreme and Intelآ® Pentiumآ® D processors. Following industry trends, the Blitz Formula only requires a few components to create a fully functional machine. The required components are: LGA775 CPU, DDR 2 memory, power supply, drives and a video card. ASUS Integrated the following components into the ASUS Blitz Formula: 1 ATA 133 port, 1 floppy port, 6 SATA ports, 12 USB ports (6 ports on the backplane, and 6 ports available via 3 headers supporting 2 ports each), 2 IEEE1394 ports (1 via header, 1 via backplane), 2 gigabit Ethernet supports, 6 mini-headphone jacks, and of course keyboard and mouse ports.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

The packaging is practically the same as all of the other Republic of Gamers branded motherboards. The board is placed in a plastic clamshell and all the accessories are stuffed into a smaller cardboard box with similar artwork as the main box. It gets the job done and protects the contents during shipping.

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Board Layout

The layout of the Blitz Formula is overall very good and the quality of its construction is excellent. Though there arenآ’t really any glaring problems there is one very large problem that stands out which is around the CPU area, which we will discuss below. Otherwise the boardآ’s layout is almost ideal. The things that usually set me off concerning a motherboard layout arenآ’t really present here. You can add memory with a full sized video card in place. All chipset cooling is out of the way. All the ports and headers are well placed. Really the board is aesthetically pleasing all around. There is also some added functionality here that I've not seen on any other boards to date. ASUS has included a clear CMOS button on the backplane, as well as additional surface mounted power, and reset buttons. Finally they've included some additional power and hard drive LED's for diagnostic purposes.

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The CPU area is where the largest and really the only problem is present. This area has some large copper heap pipes and heat sinks in the way. When fitting some heat sink and fan units, you might find some trouble with clearances here. One thing to note is that I tried to install my Apogee GT water block which is among the more popular blocks out there right now and I was not able to make it fit. No matter how I oriented the block, there was always a heat pipe or heat sink fins in the way to prevent itآ’s installation. This isnآ’t something that canآ’t be fixed with a little dremel work on the block, but I find this distressing as I would have thought this would be something youآ’d want to get right on an enthusiast board. Still as I said this isnآ’t the end of the world and this problem can be solved in a number of ways.

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The board has the standard 4 240-pin DDR 2 DIMM Slots and they are located in the usual place near the front edge of the board in front of the CPU area. You can install and remove memory without pulling out the video card, and thatآ’s really something I always like to see on a board. Also there is no mystery to the color coding and installing memory for proper dual channel operation is easily figured out.

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The north bridge is located to the left of the CPU socket and is cooled by ASUSآ’ new Fusion Block cooling system. This is one of the most unique features on a motherboard Iآ’ve ever seen. The Fusion block is essentially a hybrid water block and heat pipe cooling solution. I have tested the Fusion block with and without water cooling, and I found that while it was running without water, it worked about as well as most heat pipe cooling solutions for north and south bridges. So in that sense it is unremarkable. However with water cooling, it ran much cooler and was almost cold to the touch. While I could debate this coolers worth as a water block compared to say the MCW30 from Swiftech, I wonآ’t as I didnآ’t really get a chance to compare the two. The water did help the north bridge temperatures quite a bit, and help the rest of the chips cooled by the Fusion block, but mostly the effects seemed confined to the north bridge. Just to be clear, the water does not flow to the other components that are cooled by the heatpipes attached to the Fusion block as most of you will understand. This isnآ’t necessarily a bad thing if thatآ’s the case as south bridge cooling wonآ’t really lead to higher overclocks. In fact some individuals donآ’t even recommend cooling the south bridge because it adds heat to the loop and yields no practical returns outside of some minor acoustic benefits.

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The south bridge is located in front of the lower PCIe x16 slot and connects to the Crosslinx chip used for dynamically reconfiguring the PEG slots to function in a dual x8 configuration rather than the standard x16/x4 configuration seen on most P965 and P35 chipset based boards. The south bridge always ran cool thanks to the Fusion block. Another unique feature of the Blitz Formula is the Crosslinx feature. I mentioned it in passing earlier but what it does is allow the configuration of the two PCIe graphics slots (also known as PEG slots) to be changed from a standard x16/x4 configuration into a dual x8 configuration. This allows for more even bandwidth distribution of data between both cards. While there is no support for a dual x16 configuration (ostensibly due to the lack of PCIe lanes available on the P35 chipset) the need for that much bandwidth has been debated often in the community. One thing is certain is that until now, the i975x had one practical advantage over newer chipsets and that was the dual x8 configuration of PCIe graphics ports when dual ATI video cards were used in a Crossfire configuration. Since the Blitz Formula now has the ability to run itsآ’ own PEG slots at x8/x8 mode, it is now probably the best choice for a Crossfire video card setup you can buy today. In this area you will also find additional power and reset button here along with the additional hard drive and power LEDs I spoke of earlier. Certainly ASUS deserves kudos for such innovative thinking although more for including it, not devising it.

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The Blitz Formula has two PCIe x16 slots, one operating in x16 mode, the other in x4 mode unless two video cards are used, (in which case both slots operate in x8 mode) and three PCIe x1 slots. Also the board has two legacy PCI v2.2 slots for older expansion cards.

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The Blitz Formula has 1 PS/2 keyboard port, 2 RJ-45 ports, 1 IEEE1394 port, and SPDIF port, and six USB 2.0 ports on the backplane along with a Clear CMOS button. (In my opinion, every system needs this.)