A Closer Look
For those of us accustomed to ATX form factor hardware, this is a tiny little motherboard. Surprisingly, it is full-featured, complete with at least some of the features you’d expect to see on an Asus ROG motherboard, to be honest it isn’t missing much at all. Asus uses their cool-looking black PCB for the Maximus II Gene.
There are lots of large capacitors and ferrite chokes crammed around the CPU socket in hopes of getting some exhaust air from the CPU cooler. Surprisingly we find a heatpipe cooler on this little motherboard, something I’d expect to see on an ROG motherboard, but not on an mATX board. Asus even found room to add the micro LEDs found on ROG boards that denote “Level Up Overclocking”, there are LEDs located above the I/O panel denoting “CPU Normal”, “CPU High”, and “CPU Crazy”.
Actually, rather than mATX, Asus uses the term “uATX”, the “u” standing for the lower case Greek letter “Mu”, the scientific symbol for “micro”, which isn’t available in most font kits. If you didn’t know, all three (mATX, uATX, and “Mu”ATX) are used interchangeably.
To let all observers know that this is an ROG motherboard, the NB cooler is in the black/red ROG colors, and proudly displays the ROG logo. It is a pin-fin cooler, a smaller version of that found on the Asus Maximus II Formula, the ROG full sized P45 board.
Surprisingly, Asus crams a pair of PCI-E 2.0 x 16 slots on the Maximus II Gene. As allowed by the P45 chipset, using one video card allows for x 16, a pair of video cards in CrossFireX runs at x 8.
As this motherboard is intended for gamers, it isn’t that shocking to find a PCI slot along with a PCI-E x1 slot on this small motherboard. I should note that both slots are located so close to the above x 16 slots that a video card with a dual-slot cooling solution will prevent use of the adjoining PCI slot.
What is shocking is the fact that SoundBlaster fans won’t have to use either, rather than the typical Realtec HD Audio found on most P45 motherboards, Asus has installed Creative’s SupremeFX X-Fi on the Maximus II Gene. It sports EAX Advanced HD 4.0, a feature that allows for the re-creation of multiple game environments simultaneously…for example, a gun fired from a cave into a large room will have the sound effects from both areas.
Also found on the X-Fi chip is Creative’s ALchemy. If you didn’t know, games not designed for Vista using Creative’s EAX or DirectSound3D (DS3D) often lose their 3D sound effects, running the game merely in stereo. Creative ALchemy restores the original sound effects to allow the game to be played in Vista as it was originally intended.
Note that all internal motherboard connectors are located around the perimeter of the board, where they should be. Short ATX form factor boards (12″ x 9.6″) often have the connectors located in places that hinder cable management. Although it is even smaller, Asus has given this mATX board the cable management advantage of their full ATX form factor boards. Nice!
Note that Asus has also given the Maximus II Gene onboard power and reset buttons, a feature found on all ROG boards. How they found the room, I’ll never know. Besides the CPU fanbus, there are three other fanbuses, all are PWM fanbuses capable of supporting 3-pin fan connectors. Like I said in the beginning, this is a full-featured motherboard.
There are six SATA ports controlled by the SB. The black SATA port is controlled by the Realtec SATA controller, as is the rear eSATA port. Use this for a case eSATA port.
The Maximus II Gene supports up to 16 gigs of DDR2 memory as allowed by the P45 chipset, and supports DDR2-1300/1200/1066/800/667 memory modules.
Note the small red button just above and forward of the forwardmost DIMM slot.it is the Asus MemOK! button. This is an Asus ROG feature that helps solve memory incompatibility problems. A push of the button patches memory issues by finding failsafe settings, and can greatly improve system booting success.
I mentioned the ROG CPU Level Up Overclocking LEDs, there are also LEDs for memory Level Up Overclocking, located at the bottom of the forwardmost DIMM slot. As for the CPU, there is “DDR Normal”, “DDR High”, and “DDR Crazy”. Just behind the rearmost DIMM slot are the NB Level Up LEDs, showing the same three NB settings. The DIMM LED is located beneath the MemOK! button, denoting that the memory is working properly. Regardless of its small size, this is a full-featured ROG board for sure.
You gotta find some way to save space when cramming such a full-featured motherboard into such a small PCB. Here’s one thing Asus uses to save space, the BIOS battery is standing up rather than lying down taking up lots of space. Another space saver.though there is an IDE connector, Asus dispensed with the floppy connector. Finally.I couldn’t say when the last time I used a floppy was.
Looking at the I/O panel, though there are a couple of eliminated items such as no PS/2 mouse port or coaxial S/PDIF port, neither of which anyone I know uses, the panel is complete. With PS/2 keyboard, six USB ports, an eSATA and an IEEE 1394 port, optical S/PDIF and Audio, Asus included the ROG-mandatory CCMOS button.
The Maximus II Gene sports Asus’ Stack Cool 2, which locates some hot components on the rear of the motherboard to aid cooling. Located here are eight MOSFETs, which I assume are for the 8-phase CPU power supply.
Not much of a bundle here, but considering that mATX cases aren’t going to have the expansion slots to accommodate extra USB, IEEE 1394, or eSATA ports, I see no need for having to pay for them. How many people actually use them anyway? Besides four SATA cables, an IDE cable, and Asus’ nice Q-connectors and padded/shielded Q-shield, they added some zip ties and an ROG LCD Poster. Also included is an ROG case side panel sticker that mimics the graphics on the front of the Gene’s box.