The Asus Rampage II GENE is the motherboard that I've been waiting for ever since the Core i7 processors were released. Actually, I have been thinking about building a high-end mATX gaming system since the heyday of the Core 2 Quad, but without a competent motherboard to go along this idea never eventuated.
This is a problem that gamers and end-users alike have had to face with the microATX form factor, where quality high-end motherboards have been hard to find all along. Besides the Rampage II GENE we can name two other DFI motherboards that belong to this select category, the LANParty JR P45-T2RS and the LANParty JR X58-T3H6. Asus will be launching their own Core 2 mATX board called the Maximus II GENE which will use the P45 chipset and thus could make for an excellent entry-level alternative.
For now Asus will have to share the title with DFI as the only motherboard manufacturers to offer a mATX Core i7 board. And although we have not tested this new DFI model, we can talk for all the previous mATX motherboards that came to market. The Rampage II GENE is easily the most prominent mATX motherboard we have ever seen, boasting of a wealth of useful features that cannot be matched by many of today's standard ATX boards.
Performance wise the Rampage II GENE met all our expectations matching the performance of the P6T Deluxe, a high-end standard ATX Core i7 motherboard. In this sense, the Rampage II GENE makes for the ultimate LAN goer dream PC, combining today's most powerful hardware into such a compact and portable format. The trick remaining will be perhaps finding a microATX case that can support full-length graphics cards, though they do exist.
The experience we had overclocking our Core i7 processor was also very satisfactory. The 3.60GHz and 4.0GHz configurations were not overclocked "by us", rather we simply used the Asus CPU Level Up function which can be accessed via the BIOS or even the OS.
For all the reasons above, it's hard not to be blown away by the Rampage II GENE kind of execution. Not everyone will be pleased to shell out $260 for it, and availability could be less tricky, but in the end it's probably worth it if you want a top notch mATX motherboard. The Rampage II GENE deserves our Outstanding product award.