The Intel Core i7 platform has been on the move for 4 months and not much has changed since its introduction. The Core i7 is still the most powerful desktop processor you can buy for money, and it should come as no surprise that it is also the most expensive.
The same three processors that were released at launch are still available today. The cheapest is the Core i7 920, which currently costs around $ 290. Regarding chipset support, those wishing to build a Core i7 system will have the only option to purchase an X58 motherboard until the Intel P55 is released later this year.
With prices starting at $ 200, these are anything but cheap and in reality a worthy X58 board costs no less than $ 250. Added to this is the mandatory DDR3 memory, which has improved its value enormously in recent months. A 6GB kit will still cost $ 100 to $ 150 if you choose a reasonable price.
Still, it's still possible to bring the guts of a simple Core i7 system together 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 buy the cheaper one? Possibility? That's exactly what I did building my latest game system a few months ago, and the results were impressive.
All of this was packaged in a small Lian-Li PC-A06B case, resulting in a compact and lightweight gaming system. Also included were a Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme cooler and a GeForce GTX 295 graphics card. With limited case cooling, this system ran remarkably cool, especially considering that the processor was overclocked.
This got me thinking about building a microATX gaming system around the Core i7 platform as this seemed feasible except for the lack of X58 motherboards with this form factor.
And then came the Asus Rampage II GENE, one of only two microATX motherboards currently available that support the Core i7. While microATX motherboards typically don't offer the support and functionality of a standard ATX board, Asus appears to have been working against this establishment to ensure that the Rampage II GENE contains everything a player may need and overclocking support.
Asus has been pushing its motherboard series "Republic of Gamers" for some time, which has grown considerably in recent years. During this time we checked some of their ROG products from the Formula and Extreme series. And now, with the new "GENE" series, Asus says that they are aimed at casual gamers, overclockers, LAN party-goers and case modders. Basically they try to offer something for almost everyone. With that in mind, we'll see how this X58 microATX behaves next.