As mentioned previously, the ROG brand was initially started on motherboards and has slowly spread into other components that ASUS sells to consumers.  This includes graphics cards, laptops/notebooks, audio and sound solutions, and also desktops.

Motherboards

If we focus purely on Intel chipsets, the staggered mainstream/enthusiast chipset divide gives ASUS a challenge on how to segregate ROG as a brand.  Should it be focused entirely on the enthusiast chipset, or should the philosophy filter down on to the mainstream so we can offer valid ROG products in the mainstream?  ASUS went straight in for the latter, and as a result on the Intel side we have two separate naming conventions.

The Rampage line of ROG motherboards caters for the enthusiast chipsets – the X58 chipset for Nehalem/Westmere, and for X79 on Sandy Bridge-E processors.  Both of these lines offer their top processors in the $999 region, so it is small wonder that ASUS want to pair these with ROG products to offer a Halo solution to enthusiasts and overclockers alike.

The Rampage motherboard lines are often segregated in three ways – the mATX Gene, the larger Formula, and the enthusiast overclocking Extreme.  As we will see in the reviews of the X79 Rampage lineup, this segregation will become apparent based on the features of each motherboard (such as enhanced audio on the Gene/Formula compared to the Extreme, yet the Extreme has extreme overclocking features). 

The Maximus moniker is picked up by the mainstream chipsets, such as P55, P67, Z68 and Z77.  AMD Chipsets, such as the latest AM3+ 990FX, are given the Crosshair treatment, which for all intents and purposes is the same as the Intel provisions.

It is important to note this segregation between the Gene, Formula and the Extreme.  While the boards cater for almost all areas, some boards do focus on specific features.  For example, the Gene + Formula more on Gaming than the Extreme but the Extreme is still good for gaming.  Similarly the Extreme is geared for overclocking but the Gene + Formula still benefit from the under the hood tweaks that the Extreme gets without increasing the bill of materials.

All three boards are aimed at the high end user, the user who would want the Deluxe or the Premium level of features, but also the series of specific gaming and overclocking features that a high end product deserves.  The ROG Motherboard teams are separate from the main ASUS channel motherboard teams in terms of personnel and direction (unlike the GPU segmentation) in order to focus on the core of the ROG brand.  An example of this is the power delivery on ROG, which features a bespoke set of components upgraded over the channel boards to ensure longer levels of high performance and stability.  Nevertheless, there remains an underlying commitment and personnel to ensure a consistency across the brand ranges in terms of software (AI Suite) and features (Digi+, USB 3 Boost).

Graphics Cards

In similar vein, with GPUs ASUS have various naming schemes for their top end, sometimes limited production graphic solutions.  These are more often than not the top end card with extra features to aid the user in terms of performance and/or overclocking, similar to the motherboards.  ASUS split the graphic cards into ARES, MARS and Matrix.

The first ROG card I ever came across was the original MARS – a dual GTX 285 GPU that as a single card outperformed the top-end NVIDIA solution at the time, the GTX295.  These cards were expensive, and a limited production run as the GPUs had to be binned within voltage parameters to still keep them relatively safe for a PC build (or what was considered safe at the time).  The MARS II was designed in similar vein for the next generation – a dual GTX580 on a single PCB.

Gallery: ASUS ROG Mars

The ARES is a similar product on the AMD side – essentially two full fat 5870 X2 GPUs on the same PCB.  To tackle the extra heat generated from a dual GPU solution, various style design choices were made as shown in the gallery below.

Gallery: ASUS ROG Ares

The Matrix line of GPUs is more user friendly to the rest of us, available to buy in various high-end NVIDIA and AMD forms.  In recent shows, ASUS are keen to promote their Matrix brand for gamers, focusing on performance and features to also squeeze that more out of a system.  As a result, the Matrix features extended voltage controls and independent fan adjustment, as well as distinct and aggressive styling.  ASUS pairs their ROG GPUs (and their high end cards) with GPU Tweak, a tool to overclock these cards.

Laptops/Notebooks

Truth be told, my experiences with notebooks aimed at gaming is actually quite minimal.  For a LAN, I would rather take a full sized PC with a monitor.  Typically coming from a penniless student style perspective, the PC would be cheaper too.  But the appeal for a gaming notebook has cropped up from time to time.  Having a look around the last big UK gaming LAN, i45, there were a small number of users with gaming notebooks, suggesting the market is there.  ASUS know this, so divert some resources to their gaming notebooks. 

For a gaming notebook, the focus is on portability.  So as long as you can carry it, size (17 inch screen and over an inch thick) is not much of an issue, and neither is battery life.  A gaming notebook needs appropriate power under the hood and cooling to be able to run games at the highest resolution of the screen with all the trimmings.  The gaming range at ASUS thus varies from the 15” G53 to the 17” G75.  The top end features dual cooling systems, one for the Core i7 processor and the other for a high end GPU.  Storage and playback are priorities too, with SSD + HDD combination systems also having BluRay capabilities.  ASUS ROG is always focused on sound, so attach some improved audio as well.  Not to mention additional turbo buttons to increase CPU clocks and fan speeds to cope.

Sound

As you may imagine, one of the main gaming priorities, especially in First Person Shooters, is sound.  Having done a bit of the clan gaming myself, I am well aware of how a good sound system under the hood is more than vital.  ASUS clearly know this as well, employing bespoke audio engineers within their teams to try and achieve results.  This is seen on their motherboards, with audio systems that are electronically shielded as much as possible from the other components (e.g. in a separate PCB layer), but also ASUS have ventured out into dedicated ROG audio products.

The Vulcan Active Noice Cancelling (Vulcan ANC) headphones have been with us for a while, and focus on several key areas for gamers:  lightweight, easy to wear (with memory foam inserts), noise isolation for high frequencies, noise cancellation from low frequency sources (computer fans), a tuned audio delivery system with 40mm drivers, detachable microphone and in-line volume control. 

In similar style, the recently released Xonar Phoebus is a sound card/control box combination, aimed at users who want an independent sound card with 118dB SNR clarity.  Noise cancellation and isolation thus takes place on board, with distinct hardware for amplification and gain settings.  The Xonar Phoebus is also paired with software to help tune settings to the individual.

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  • Jambe - Friday, August 03, 2012 - link

    "Here on the Gene, ASUS are using two SATA 3 Gbps from the chipset (black), two SATA 6 Gbps from chipset (red) and two more SATA 6 Gbps from a controller (black, ASMedia)."

    The ASMedia 6 Gbps ports are red, not black. It might also be worth pointing out that the outside cluster is the ASMedia set and the middle one is the Intel set.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    Many thanks for pointing this out. In my reviews I do go down the right hand side in order, especially in that paragraph. 24000 words and the odd one sometimes goes astray!

    Ian
    Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    Doesn't the OC Key have a Single DVI limitation? You say in your article, "As long as you've got DVI, you're fine," or something along those lines, but the reality is that most of the high end users now use dual DVI (or Displayport) for 2560x1600/1440. After all, what's the point of pimping out your drag racing ride with the highest of the high end and then shrug and say, "1920x1200/1080 for yous!"

    Soooo... the high end are not using the OC Key because the OC Key doesn't support what the high end users are doing.

    http://rog.asus.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-1128...

    Honestly, I think the OC Key is just one big wasted opportunity because of this. Anyone willing to fork over $450 on a motherboard, $500+ on a CPU, have 8 sticks of memory, have four GPU's...

    You think they need just a single-DVI OC Key? It's really rather absurd. It might be true, but people who spend that scratch will probably need the superior bandwidth sooner rather than later.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    OC Key is not designed for gamers. It is designed for extreme overclockers who are competing for scores, most likely also using sub-zero cooling (Dry Ice, Phase or LN2). I have used it on occasion for competitive overclocking, and also have seen it used in overclocking competitions.

    That is its usage scenario.

    Ian
    Reply
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  • Laststop311 - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    I have an m18x desktop replacement. Has a 4.1 Ghz on all 4 cores OC without using turbo, the i7-2960xm, 4x4GB 1866MHz RAM, Crossfire Radeon 6990m's with both with a healthy overclock.

    It chews through almost every game on my 27" dell ultrasharp external monitor at 2560x1440 at at least 45 fps soe more some less but almost ALWAYS at very min above 25-30. Once I get the money to change out the 6990m's with 7970m's in crossfire I'll be playing every game at 45+ fps at 2560x1440 and full yltra settings.

    So don't sit there and tell me laptops suck for LAN partys. Because actually I can carry my m18x in a little carrier like it's a backpack and set up at the lan and be ready to go in a hurry.

    And the funny part is the laptop pulls higher fps then a lot of my friends pc's and that's not even with the 6990's upgraded to 7970m's.

    ALSO the r2 version of the m18x came with a new specially designed beefier heatsink set up for the XM processor that is triple the surface area but fits right in place. So I'll also be getting that much larger cpu heatsink to crank my OC from 4.1Ghz to 4.3-4.4 or so, basically a crazy killer speed demon laptop cpu
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  • Laststop311 - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    Claro Halo has a very very nice clean headphone amp (Headphone output with TPA6120 AMP IC) that can drive up to 600 ohms like a champ.

    It has incredibly high quality stereo RCA outputs for a low line level signal to a high quality stereo receiver (hardly any cards have gold plated RCA outputs which is crucial for a high quality connection to a high end receiver.) As well as a 5.1 optical output. If you require 7.1 output you can get the add on XT card that plugs in a connector on the sound card for additional gold plated 7.1 analog outputs.

    It also has 120dB s/n which is +2 better. It also has swappable OP-AMPS to customize the character of the sound exactly how you like it. You can also switch it to 32 ohm output mode from 300/600 ohm mode on the headphone amp output to adjust between huge full size cans and in ear monitors that are much more sensitive.

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    Every input and output is gold plated.

    Claro Halo is the best sound card hands down.
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  • macforth - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    A very interesting read.......Thanks for that Ian.

    I have just bought an ROG, but it's the Maximus V Extreme..I am about to build a WC setup and run 690's in SLI.

    The reason I chose the 1155 as against the 2011, is the cost of the top MB and top CPU (given the gaming world's belief that there's little gain), PCIe 3, and I don't need the abilities that the 2011 shines in. I more play games. And to be quite honest, to me ROG spells GAMER!

    It's a while since I have seen any comparison of an ROG 2011 v 1155 just for games......and certainly not since the last proliferation of 1155's game to town.

    Ahhhh it would be very very interesting!
    Reply
  • DaViper - Sunday, August 05, 2012 - link

    Very Good Article Ian Cutress, BUT wheres the rest of the ROG Brand like the Crosshair Boards. there really is nothing in the Article about anything AMD/ATI side of ROG. We that do have the AMD side do like to see reviews about them as well but most of the time we get left out and considering here shortly there will be a New Addition to that line although it's named for Gamers but instead it's aimed Squarely at OverClockers and has all the Gamers Perks Removed. Reply

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