Despite its small size and heavy features list, the layout of the Rampage II Gene isnít compromised with layout issues. ASUS has managed to get everything on the board without any significant gotchas that may make one feature or another unusable for the most part.
Now obviously with just one PCI slot and one x4 PCIe slot, those of you running two dual-slot graphics cards like GeForce GTX 260 SLI or Radeon 4870s in CrossFire will lose access to both of these expansion slots on the Rampage II Gene. There just isnít enough PCB real estate in the micro-ATX form factor to separate the PCI Express graphics slots away from each other.
Thatís the only real caveat with the Rampage II Gene, and it isnít ASUSí fault. Itís simply one of the limitations of having such a small footprint as your foundation. Fortunately the built-in components ASUS has used on the Gene are so good you likely wonít need either of the boardís expansion slots, but it is something to consider if you needed one of the expansion slots for something like WiFi, but thatís what USB-based wireless network adapters are there for.
The Rampage II Gene utilizes an 8-phase power design for powering the CPU, and two dedicated power phases for the other components (north bridge, QPI, and memory). This puts it on par with other X58 motherboards in its price range. The boardís cooling is also roughly on par with other motherboards in the $250 price range, with the Rampage II Gene sporting heatpipe cooling for the X58 north bridge and the boardís MOSFETs. The heatpipe and heatsinks used to cool all the motherboards components are made from aluminum rather than copper, which is the metal of choice on higher-end X58 mobos. The motherboard cooling gets the job done well enough, although the hardcore crowd may end up opting to swap out the stock cooler with a nice copper waterblock or another aftermarket solution.
Moving more specifically to the area surrounding the CPU socket, we ran into our first board layout issue. Normally we use Core i7-certified OCZ Reaper HPC PC3-15000 DDR3 memory modules (more specifically, OCZís 6GB DDR3 kit) alongside a socket 1366 cooler from Thermalright, the Ultra 120 eXtreme. The Ultra 120 eXtreme is a cooler with a massive heatsink, while OCZís Reaper modules have a heatpipe that rests above the memory moduleís heatspreader.
Unfortunately the fins on the Thermalright heatsink are so long, they rest over the first two DIMM slots on the Rampage II Gene. As a result they were bumping up against the heatpipe cooling on the Reaper memory modules. We simply couldnít get the two components to fit together. The solution? We switched to more conventional OCZ Platinum DDR3 memory. The Platinum memory modules donít have the fancy heatpipe cooling, relying simply on their heatspreader instead.
Another solution to the problem would be to go from triple-channel memory down to dual-channel using just two memory slots, or we couldíve used a smaller CPU cooler.
Other than this issue, the rest of the area around the CPU socket is clear. The motherboard cooling didnít interfere with our Thermalright cooler, and we had no problems getting everything mounted and installed. Like other ASUS X58 motherboards weíve tested, the Rampage II Gene includes mounting holes for both LGA775 and 1366, so if youíd like to reuse your old LGA775 cooler on the board, you can.
The Rampage II Gene is filled with numerous design touches that are designed to make the board easier to work with. The memory slots have tabs on the top, but not on the bottom. By removing the tabs you can install your graphics card and RAM whenever youíd like, as the tabs wouldíve interfered with the GPU. Donít worry, even without the tabs the memory modules still lock into place nicely. The built-in power/reset buttons are not only present, theyíre also backlit, so you can see them under any lighting conditions. A button for clearing CMOS is also present on the backplate of the motherboard.
All these nice touches make the Rampage II Gene easy to work with.