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The Intel Core i7 platform has been out and about for 4 months and since its arrival not much has changed. The Core i7 is still the most powerful desktop processor money can buy and it should come as no surprise that it is also the most expensive.
The same three processors released at launch remain today with the cheapest being the Core i7 920 which currently costs around $290. In terms of supporting chipsets, until the Intel P55 is released later this year those looking at building a Core i7 system have the sole option of buying an X58 motherboard.
With prices starting at $200 these are far from cheap and in reality a worthy X58 board will cost you no less than $250. Then there is the mandatory DDR3 memory which has improved its value tremendously over the past few months. Still a 6GB kit goes for $100-150 if you choose decently price units.
With that said, it is still possible to get together the guts of a basic Core i7 system for $600 and to be honest there is almost no difference between the Core i7 920 and the $1000 965 Extreme Edition processor, so why not go for the cheaper option? This is exactly what I did a few months ago when building my latest gaming system and the results have been impressive.
All of this went together in a little Lian-Li PC-A06B case making for a compact and lightweight gaming system. Also included was a Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme cooler and a GeForce GTX 295 graphics card. With limited case cooling this system ran remarkably cool, particularly considering that the processor was overclocked.
This got me thinking about building a microATX gaming system around the Core i7 platform as it seemed like a feasible thing to do, except for the lack of X58 motherboards using this form factor.
And then the Asus Rampage II GENE arrived, which is one of only two microATX motherboards currently available that support the Core i7. While microATX motherboards usually lack the support and features of a standard ATX board, Asus has evidently worked against that establishment making sure that the Rampage II GENE includes everything today's gamer might need along with overclocking support.
For some time now Asus has been pushing their "Republic of Gamers" motherboard series which has grown considerably over the past few years. During this time we have reviewed some of their ROG products belonging to the Formula and Extreme series. And now with the new "GENE" series Asus says they are aiming at the casual gaming crowd, overclockers, LAN party goers and case modders. So basically they are trying to cater for just about everyone. With that in mind we will see how this X58 microATX performs next.