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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

ASUS Maximus III Gene is a socket LGA1156 motherboard based on Intel P55 chipset using the microATX form factor and featuring two PCI Express x16 slots, Japanese solid capacitors and many overclocking options. Like Rampage III Extreme it is part of "Republic of Gamers" (ROG) product line, which is the high-performance series from ASUS with a unique visual identity.

In Figure 1 you have an overall look at ASUS Maximus III Gene motherboard. It is a microATX motherboard without on-board video, which is very rare to see.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 1: ASUS Maximus III Gene motherboard.

In the next pages we will analyse this motherboard in detail.

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

One of the main features of socket LGA1156 processors is the presence of an integrated PCI Express 2.0 controller inside the CPU. This controller supports one x16 connection or two x8 connections. Maximus III Gene has two PCI Express x16 slots and therefore the first one works at x16 only if the second slot is empty. If there is a video card installed on the second slot both the first and the second slot will work at x8. If you have just one video card install it on the first slot for best performance. These slots are compatible with SLI and CrossFireX arrays.

The portrayed motherboard comes with one PCI Express x4 slot and one standard PCI slot. Keep in mind that the absence of PCI Express x1 slots is not a problem, because PCI Express x1 expansion cards can be installed on any type of PCI Express slot (i.e., x16, x8, x4 and x1).

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 2: Slots.

Near the standard PCI slot you can see a power button and a reset button.

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

Socket LGA1156 CPUs, like socket LGA1366 and AMD processors, have an embedded memory controller. All other Intel CPUs use an external memory controller, which is located on the north bridge chip (a.k.a. MCH or Memory Controller Hub) from the chipset. This means that with other Intel CPUs the chipset (and thus the motherboard) is the component that says what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have on your PC. Since now the memory controller is inside the CPU, it is the processor, and not the chipset, that defines the memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

At the moment, the integrated memory controller of socket LGA1156 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz under dual-channel architecture, however ASUS says Maximus III Gene supports DDR3 memories up to 2,133 MHz through overclocking. It has four DDR3 sockets and since, at the moment, each DDR3 memory module can have up to 4 GB, you can have up to 16 GB with this motherboard.

The first and the third sockets are red, while the second and the fourth are black. In order to achieve the maximum performance, you should install two or four memory modules to enable the dual-channel architecture. When only two modules are used make sure to install them on the red sockets. If you install them on the black ones the computer won’t turn on.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 3: Memory modules. Install two or four modules for the best performance.

[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]Intel P55 chipset is a single-chip solution. The basic features provided by this chipset include six SATA-300 ports (RAID support is optional), no support for parallel ATA (PATA) ports, 14 USB 2.0 ports supporting port disable, embedded Gigabit Ethernet MAC (Medium Access Control) and eight x1 PCI Express lanes.

ASUS Maximus III Gene provides all the six SATA-300 ports with support for Intel Matrix Storage, which provides RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. These ports are placed on the edge of the motherboard rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. A seventh SATA-300 port is available (mounted vertically), controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip, which also controls the eSATA-300 port available on the rear panel. There are no SATA-600 ports.

There are also no parallel ATA (PATA, a.k.a. IDE) ports nor a floppy disk drive controller.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 4: SATA ports.

This motherboard has 14 USB 2.0 ports, nine soldered on the rear panel (one exclusive for the "ROG Connect" feature, which allows you to control overclocking settings in real time using another computer) and five available on three motherboard headers. Notice that because of this even number of ports, one of the motherboard headers supports only one USB port and not two as it usually happens. Therefore you have to pay attention when installing the USB cable coming from the front panel of your case to make sure you install it on a header that has two USB ports. ASUS Maximum III Gene doesn’t come with USB 3.0 ports.

Two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports are provided, one standard-sized on the rear panel and one through a header on the motherboard, controlled by a VIA VT6315N chip.

Eight-channel audio is generated by the chipset using a VIA VT2020 codec. Unfortunately this component isn’t listed on VIA’s website; the only information we could find out is that it presents a 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio on its outputs, which is a professional-grade number. The motherboard comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output and you can add a coaxial SPDIF output installing an adapter on the motherboard “SPDIF_OUT” header. You can also connect this output to your video card, so you can use an HDMI port with both video and audio signals.

ASUS Maximus III Gene has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8112L chip, which is connected to the system using a PCI Express x1 lane and thus not presenting any potential performance issues. Curiously, this chip isn’t listed at Realtek’s website.

ASUS says they made a survey among users and detected most buyers preferred one high-performance Ethernet port instead of two, and this is why their newer motherboards don’t come with two Gigabit Ethernet ports.

[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals (Cont’d)”]In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with keyboard PS/2 connector, nine USB 2.0 ports, clear CMOS button, optical SPDIF output, FireWire port, eSATA-300 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, ROG Connect button and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 5: Motherboard rear panel.

No mouse PS/2 connector is available, thus you have to use a USB mouse
or a wireless mouse with a USB receptor with this motherboard.

The ROG Connect feature is quite interesting. It allows you to use the seventh USB 2.0 port of the rear panel (the one near the ROG Connect button) to connect your PC to another computer (a laptop, for example) through a cable that comes with the motherboard for overclocking and diagnosing your computer from the second computer.

Speaking of diagnosing, instead of a POST display Maximus III Gene has a series of four LEDs that indicate which component is failing when the computer is not turning on.

There are several other smaller features targeted to enthusiasts. For example, all the four connectors for auxiliary fans support PWM technology in order to automatically control the speed of each fan, and on two of them the motherboard supports the installation of a thermal sensor in order to control the fan speed according to the temperature on where you installed the corresponding thermal sensor.

In Figure 6, you can see all accessories that come with this motherboard. Besides the standard accessories (manual, driver DVD, case backplate, cables) it comes with an SLI bridge, a big sticker for you to place on the side of your case and a USB cable for the ROG function. There are also some stickers that you can use to label SATA cables.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 6: Accessories.

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

ASUS Maximus III Gene comes with a 10-phase voltage regulator circuit. From the 10 available phases, eight are used to generate the CPU main voltage (Vcc, a.k.a. Vcore) while the other two are used to generate the voltage required by the integrated memory controller and L3 memory cache (VTT). Thus this motherboard has a “8+2” configuration. It also comes with a separated two-phase circuit for the memory modules.

This motherboard comes with two passive heatsinks installed on top of the transistors of the voltage regulator circuit, connected to each other using a heatpipe. This heatpipe doesn’t make any sense, because it doesn’t carry the heat generated by the transistors to a heatsink so it could be dissipated. If this heatpipe wasn’t available the heat would be dissipated the same way.

In Figure 7, you can see the voltage regulator circuit.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 7: Voltage regulator circuit.

As mentioned earlier, all capacitors used on this motherboard are solid made in Japan and the voltage regulator circuit uses ferrite chokes, which are better than iron chokes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.

[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]

ASUS Maximus III Gene provides lots of overclocking options. Below we list only the main ones available on 0209 BIOS.

  • CPU base clock: From 80 MHz to 500 MHz in 1 MHz steps.
  • PCI Express clock: From 100 MHz to 200 MHz in 1 MHz steps.
  • CPU voltage: From 0.85000 V to 1.7000 V in 0.00625 V steps.
  • CPU clock multiplier (VCCPLL) voltage: From 1.60325 V to 2.50425 V in 0.01325 V steps.
  • CPU memory controller voltage (VTT): From 1.00700 to 2.00075 in 0.01325 V steps.
  • Memory voltage: From 1.35150 V to 2.50425 V in 0.01325 V steps.
  • Chipset (PCH) voltage: From 1.00700 V to 1.35150 V in 0.01325 V steps.

Memory timings can also be tweaked.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 8: Overclocking menu.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 9: Overclocking menu (Cont’d).

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 10: Overclocking menu (Cont’d).

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 11: Memory timing options.

ASUS Maximus III GeneFigure 12: More options.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

ASUS Maximus III Gene motherboard main features are:

  • Socket: 1156.
  • Chipset: Intel P55.
  • Super I/O: Winbond W83667HG.
  • Parallel ATA: None.
  • Serial ATA: Six SATA-300 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10) and one SATA-300 port controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip.
  • External SATA: One eSATA-300 port controlled by the same JMicron JMB363 chip.
  • USB: 14 USB 2.0 ports, nine soldered on the motherboard rear panel and five available through three headers on the motherboard.
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): Two ports, one normal-sized soldered on the rear panel and one available through a header on the motherboard, controlled by a VIA VT6315P chip.
  • On-board video: No.
  • On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a VIA VT2020 codec (8-channel, 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its outputs, no more technical information is provided). On-board optical SPDIF output.
  • On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8112L chip, connected to the system through one PCI Express x1 lane.
  • Buzzer: No.
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: Two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (first one working at x16 if the second slot is free or at x8 if the second slot is used; the second slot always work at x8), one PCI Express x4 slot and one standard PCI slot.
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to 16 GB up to DDR3-2200 through overclocking).
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and four four-pin connectors (PWM control) for auxiliary fans, two of them supporting thermal sensors.
  • Extra Features: External clear CMOS button, POST diagnostics LEDs, ROG Connect connection.
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One.
  • Programs included: Motherboard drivers and utilities .
  • More Information: https://www.asus.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 140.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

When you see a microATX motherboards you probably think about a motherboard with on-board video targeted to basic computers or HTPCs (Home Theater PCs), usually with one PCI Express x16 slot and lacking SLI and CrossFireX support and powerful overclocking features.

Well, ASUS Maximus III Gene is an exception. It is a microATX motherboard without on-board video featuring two PCI Express x16 slots supporting SLI and CrossFireX setups and lots of overclocking features. It is part of ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) series, which has a unique visual identity and lots of overclocking features, and the ROG Connect function allows you to manipulate overclocking settings using a second computer. The "Clear CMOS" button on the rear panel leaves no doubt that this is a motherboard targeted to overclocking.

It is not a high-end motherboard, as it lacks some features like USB 3.0 and SATA-600 ports. The other side of the coin is that it doesn’t carry a high-end price tag.

Maximus III Gene has an excellent cost/benefit ratio if you are looking for a socket LGA1156 microATX motherboard with no on-board video, lots of overcloking options and supporting SLI and CrossFireX setups in order to build a powerful gaming computer inside a small case.