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The cat is out the bag and ASUS has just this week announced no less than 17 P67 and H67 motherboards, which will ship once Intel officially takes the reins off its upcoming Sandy Bridge CPUs early next year. That’s what, just 6 weeks away now? Yikes!

Ten of which will be based on the P67 PCH, while six will be packing the graphics ready H67 hardware with display outputs on the back.

Of the few that were shown off recently, as expected there’s a Republic of Gamers flavour – the Maximus IV Extreme, but also a very heavy duty ‘TUF’ motherboard, the Sabertooth P67, will be in the launch line-up too. Of course there’s also the standard series P8P67 hardware with Deluxe, EVO, Pro and workstation ‘WS’ varieties as well.

Maximus IV Extreme

As is ever the case with the Republic of Gamer series, there’s always something new to tempt our tech-buds. The latest luxury flavours crammed into the new Maximus IV Extreme include an pin-in-socket CPU thermal probe, in addition to the one in CPU silicon, just to let extreme overclockers know exactly how the whole socket is withstanding the uber cold and extreme voltage.

There’s more than just stuff for extreme overclockers though – us normal overclockers can have fun with the voltage nudge switches and manual voltage check points, while gamers get the benefit of an extra Nvidia ‘NF200′ chipset which creates additional PCI-Express lanes for some super-sized, multi-multi-GPU gaming rigs.

The rear I/O is pretty special too: there’s not a single USB 2 in sight! ASUS has strapped two USB 3 chipsets to two high performance USB hubs and split half the lanes into extra ones, while leaving the rest untouched and at full bandwidth. Even the split lanes still offer more bandwidth than USB 2 and are still completely backward compatible too, so why not?

ASUS Maximus IV Extreme

ASUS Maximus IV Extreme

Other inbuilt features include ROG Connect, RC Bluetooth, and USB BIOS Flashback that will update your BIOS (either one) even without a CPU installed, and there’s also the new ROG iDirect, which, like RC Bluetooth connects to your mobile phone to display system information, but instead this is specifically designed for iPhones and iPads.

Finally the software side has also been updated and the Maximus IV Extreme gets its own version of ASUS’ P8P67 series EFI BIOS, but with a specific design and unique board tweaks.

P67 Sabertooth

The latest TUF, military grade motherboard – the P67 Sabertooth – not only adheres to its extremes in the hardware, but also visually too. The ‘Tactical Jacket’ covering the PCB and components underneath protects them from the worst of the elements, while still leaving the CeraMIX heatsinks, CPU, memory and expansion slots completely accessible.

The Tactical Jacket is purportedly designed to direct airflow over specific components underneath it too, as beneath the flat surface sits a network of airflow channels which routes air from the CPU cooler and other fans.

ASUS Sabertooth P67 motherboard

ASUS Sabertooth P67 motherboard

As usual for the TUF series, the board is designed to withstand serious thermal extremes of -40C to plus 85C at higher than normal humidity levels, which ASUS subjects the board to over and over in its thermal shock testing routine. It’s really able take almost any earthly environment thrown at it!

P8P67 Series

Let’s also not forget those ASUS boards ‘for the rest of us’, and we’ve not been left out in the cold when it comes to the P8P67 Series. The Deluxe, for example, is akin to its namesake and is packed with all sorts of extras: onboard Bluetooth, USB 3 front and back – including , 8 channel High-Definition surround sound and proper 8x-8x Nvidia SLI or AMD CrossFire support, eight SATA ports – four of which are 6Gbps and there’s also extra, powered eSATA ports too, some tasty looking heatsinks, plus the latest ‘Dual Intelligent Processors 2‘ tech!

The DIP 2 is more than just the previous generation’s TPU and EPU with a ’2′ stuffed on the end – both power use and overclocking elements are now governed by a completely new microprocessor to tie everything in more acutely. In addition to this, ASUS has completely revamped the power hardware to an all digital design, dubbed DIGI+ VRM, which now provides a massive 40 Amp per phase. Because the changes are so considerable to the DIGI+ VRM and Dual Intelligent Processors 2 design, I’ll detail them in their own article at a later date.

ASUS P8P67 Pro motherboard

ASUS P8P67 Pro motherboard

Finally, the P8P67 series also gets the EFI BIOS treatment, and I’m probably not supposed to tell you this but I’ve already used it and overclocked with it.

It. Is. Awesomeee!

No, seriously.

OK, it takes a little getting used to the new layout and features, but even at this early stage the ASUS designers have nailed a gorgeously futurist aesthetic design and everything I tried out worked perfectly. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s still bug fixes at this early stage, but I honestly didn’t notice any.

Seriously, I cannot wait for Sandy Bridge to drop! Roll on 2011!

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