When it comes to feature-filled motherboards, ASUS’ Deluxe line of motherboards is pretty tough to beat. Not only does ASUS include basics like power LED, rounded corners, and color-coded connections with a black PCB, in more recent years they’ve also been throwing in extra goodies like dual Gigabit LAN, 802.11b/g WiFi, and heat pipe silent cooling. Because of this, and their reputation for building stable motherboards, ASUS’ Deluxe boards have proven quite popular among the general hardware enthusiast/gaming crowd.
However, there’s a subset of gamers and hardware enthusiasts who demand a little more from their motherboard. These users want no limits overclocking, that means a motherboard with more than just looks: it’s also got to have the bus speeds, voltages, and other settings in BIOS that allow them to push their CPU, memory, and other components to clock speeds that are higher than your typical user. But having a robust BIOS isn’t enough: many of the higher-end motherboards also come with other extras such as 5.25” front panel drive bays, LEDs, and other extras you wouldn’t find in your typical motherboard.
To service this market, ASUS has created their Republic of Gamers line of motherboards.
ASUS’ first Core 2-compatible Republic of Gamers motherboard is the Striker Extreme, which is built on NVIDIA’s recently released nForce 680i SLI chipset. The Striker Extreme supports some impressive specs, including three PCI Express graphics slots, an 8-phase power system with all-solid capacitors, heat pipe cooling on the North Bridge and South Bridge of the nForce chipset, and more. We just got our hands on a Strike Extreme board and will be providing our first impressions of the motherboard in this article, with a full review to come shortly thereafter.
LEDs and LCD Poster
Arguably one of the Striker Extreme’s most distinctive features is the LCD Poster on the back panel of the motherboard itself.
The LCD Poster acts as a diagnostic LED display, only it’s about 2X more effective. Traditional diagnostic LEDs are simple LED panels that only display two-digit number codes. You must then look up the number code in your motherboard’s manual to figure out what’s going wrong. Say for instance, the code “00” could represent memory initialization, so if you see this code on your diagnostic LED display, that would tell you that your memory is either installed incorrectly or it’s dead. The problem with this method is sometimes the codes displayed by the diagnostic LED may not be in the manual, or perhaps you lose your motherboard manual entirely.
Well on the Striker Extreme rather than displaying a two-digit number, it actually lists the various stages during POST, ASUS’ LCD Poster isn’t limited to just two digits either. During memory initialization the LCD Poster will actually read “Det RAM” or “Det IDE” when it’s detecting the IDE drives. This means you don’t have to look up obscure numbers codes in the manual, all you have to do is read the display.
In addition, the LCD Poster is located on the back panel of the motherboard. Typically most diagnostic LEDs or located on the motherboard itself, so you have to keep your case open in order to read the LED display. With the Striker Extreme, you can read the LCD Poster without having to open up your case.
Located just below the LCD Poster is a button for turning on an array of blue LEDs. It turns out that ASUS has outfitted the Striker Extreme board with multiple blue LEDs which are placed on the bottom and right hand edge of the motherboard. Simply press the button below the LCD Poster and they all light up! ASUS says this is supposed to make component installation easier, but in practice we’re not convinced that the blue LEDs provide enough light to say, plug in a fan header in the dark. It’s a nice touch though, particularly if your system chassis has a case window.
Also on the back panel of the motherboard you’ll find four USB ports, two eSATA ports, dual GigE, and your optical and Firewire connections.