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ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
In 2015, we have had the enviable opportunity of reviewing most of the ASUS Z170 Republic of Gamers (RoG) motherboard lineup, starting with the Maximus VIII Hero, then the Maximus VIII Gene, and lastly the Maximus VIII Impact. Now that we are in 2016, we figured that we might as well continue the trend and start off the year big by reviewing the undisputed flagship model, the Maximus VIII Extreme.

This eight iteration of the Maximus Extreme model retails for about $485 USD / $640 CAD, which is about the same USD price as the Rampage V Extreme when it launched back in December 2014. This high price - which is even worse for us Canadians due to a collapsing dollar - leads to us to have some equally high expectations of this enthusiast-oriented motherboards.

What do you get for that money? Well let's rattle off some specs: 12-phase digital CPU power design with OptiMOS MOSFETs, MicroFine alloy chokes, 10K Black Metallic capacitors, four physical PCI-E x16 slots with support for 2-Way SLI or 4-Way CrossFireX configurations, two PCI-E x1 slots, eight SATA 6Gb/s port and up to two SATA Express ports, one M.2 x4 connector, one U.2 connector, one Intel-powered Gigabit LAN port, and both DisplayPort and HDMI video outputs. There are also four USB 3.0 ports, three USB 3.1 Type-A ports, and one USB 3.1 Type-C port. Rounding out the connectivity is onboard dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi capable of transfer speeds up to 1300Mbps, Bluetooth v4.0 capabilities, and a capable external 3T3R antenna.

While those are all solid specs, what makes RoG models interesting and special are the unique features. For example, the onboard audio is handled by the new RoG SupremeFX 2015 design, which is based on a fairly common Realtek ALC1150 ten-channel HD audio codec, but is shielded by an EMI cover, is routed through a widely acclaimed ESS ES9023P DAC, a dedicated TI R4580 headphone amplifier, audio-grade Nichicon capacitors, and there's a PCB isolation line surrounds the whole audio section. It also supports the ASUS-only software suite consisting of Sonic SenseAmp, Sonic Studio II, and Sonic Radar II game enhancing utilities.

As we have come to expect from Extreme motherboards, overclockers will be absolutely enamored with this model's capabilities. It features a Q-Code debug LED display, PCI-E x16 lane switch, DRAM channel jumper, LN2 Mode jumper (helps remedy cold-boot bug during post at sub-zero temperatures), Slow Mode switch (drops the CPU multiplier to temporarily enhance system stability), Safe Boot button (powers off system, loads previous Safe Mode BIOS settings), ReTry button (hardware-level reboot similar to turning off your PSU), power-on Start button, Reset button, MemOk! button (initiates memory compatibility tuning process), thermal probe header, diagnostic LEDs, and even a ProbeIt area with an assortment of voltage read points. When you combine these physical features with the expansive number of settings in the UEFI BIOS, there's not much that an overclocker can't do on this motherboard.

Since the Maximus VIII Extreme is the current flagship, it comes bundled with the unique OC Panel II, an external monitoring and tweaking peripheral which should retail for about $100. Although this accessory has a 'Normal Mode" whereby it can be installed in a case and used as a means of displaying real-time info like CPU temperature, basic system clocks, and fan speeds, it also allows for some basic auto overclocking and CPU fan speed adjustments. More interesting however is the "Extreme Mode", which reveals the OC Panel as an external overclocking console that houses a ton of overclocker-friendly functionality.

Thus far, we wouldn't hesitate to say that all of the ASUS Z170 RoG motherboards that we have reviewed have been pretty much excellent. Can the Maximus VIII Extreme distinguish itself enough to warrant its price premium over those models? That's what we are here to find out.

 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


Now that we have gone over the Maximus VIII Extreme features and specifications, it is time to examine the packaging and then crack open the box to take a look at the bundled accessories. Let's check it out:


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Similar to previous RoG releases, this model features a predominantly red colour scheme with the RoG logo featured prominently on every side. As ASUS tend to do on pricier motherboards, there is a side flap and a window revealing the motherboard and the OC Panel accessory in all its glory.

The back of the box is plain by comparison, listing the specifications and highlighting a few of this product's unique features. The back of the box also reveals a few of this model's more notable features like the aforementioned OC Panel, the U.2 & SATA Express connectivity, as well as the onboard 802.11ac WiFi. It also contains a basic specs list and shows a representation of the I/O panel in full detail.



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When you open the packaging, you are greeted with an inner box that contains two separate sections. The top half holds the motherboard and the OC Panel accessory, both protected by a plastic shield, and the bottom half contains the numerous bundled accessories, software and documentation.



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As you would expect from such a high-end motherboard, the Maximus VIII Extreme comes with a sizeable accessories bundle. There is the usual User Guide and installation DVD, as well as some stickers that you can wrap around SATA cables to label individual connections. They have also thrown in a few trinkets like a Republic of Gamers case badge and a handy door hanger to notify would be interlopers that you are in the midst of a gaming sessions. The unusual looking 5.25-inch drive bay that you see here is where you can choose install the OC Panel. What is the OC Panel exactly? Keeping reading!



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This is the impressive looking OC Panel II device that we discussed briefly in the introduction. This device has numerous real-time tweaking and monitoring capabilities - as well as a few hidden features - that can be a huge boon to a hardcore overclocker. Aside from the addition of a ReTry button and Safe Boot button, the design and implementation of the OC Panel hasn't changed since we last took an in-depth look at it, so feel free to click here if you want to know more.



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Since this motherboard is likely to be used with more than one graphics card, ASUS have included a flexible 2-way SLI bridge and a a flexible 2-way CrossFireX bridge. While the single SLI bridge is fine, you will need two more CrossFire bridges in order to utilize this motherboard's full 4-Way CrossFireX capabilities.



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Here we have the sleek black nickel-plated rear I/O shield, the proprietary cable that connects the OC Panel accessory to the motherboard, and the WiFi antenna. This antenna works in conjunction with the ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module that supports dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with transfer speeds of up 1300Mbps. This is a 3T3R antenna which means that it has 3 transmitter (T) and 3 receiver (R) antennas, and thus should have excellent wireless signal sensitivity and transmission range. There is also the CPU Installation Tool, which helps with the installation or removal of the processor from the CPU socket. Please check out our Maximus VIII GENE review for a great showcase of this feature.



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Last but not least, there are eight SATA 6Gb/s cables and one Q-connector to help connect the case wires to the front-panel header. ASUS have also included the Fan Extension Card. This is basically a fan header multiplier that connects to the motherboard via a proprietary connector. It provides three additional four-pin PWM fan headers, as well as three thermistor headers for enhanced temperature monitoring in the BIOS or the Ai Suite utility. Given the above, it should come as no surprise that ASUS have bunblded three thermal probes too.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Maximus VIII Extreme

A Closer Look at the Maximus VIII Extreme




Compared to past Republic of Gamers motherboards, ASUS have really toned down the amount of red on the Maximus VIII Extreme. The usual black and red colour scheme has been intruded upon by a significant dose of grey, both on the various slots and connectors as well as the heatsinks and large plastic shroud. Speaking of the shroud, although it looks good, it doesn't exactly exude a sense of high-end quality since it feels like cheap plastic and it even rattles around a bit if you push on it. We have never before commented on the tactile feel of a motherboard, but when you spend this much money on one, higher quality materials are expected throughout the product.

If you have a keen eye, you might have noticed this motherboard has a larger than usual PCB. At 305mm x 272mm it is a little bit wider than the standard ATX dimensions (305mm × 244mm) and is thus classified as an Extended ATX (EATX) motherboard. It should fit in any E-ATX cases compatible cases, and maybe even some of the larger ATX cases but caveat emptor definitely applies. Thanks to this expansive area, ASUS have managed to fit a huge assortment of expansions slots and headers, while maintaining a clean and user-friendly layout. We are pleased that the ATX power connector, the 8-pin and 4-pin CPU power connectors, all the storage ports and connectors, USB headers, and wide variety of buttons are all conveniently placed at the edge of the motherboard. The CPU socket area does look a little busier than we would like, but we will address below and in the Installation Section.



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Since it is caught between heatsinks on three sides, the CPU socket area definitely looks a little cramped. However, after having installed our large tower heatsink, the water block from an all-in-one liquid cooler, and seeing others install huge LN2 pots, we have come to the conclusion that it is really a non-issue. Feel free to check out our Installation section to get a better look at the clearances.

Since it does have top-level overclocking ambitions, the Maximus VIII Extreme was designed with a high-performance all-digital 12-phase CPU power design featuring OptiMOS MOSFETs, MicroFine alloy chokes, and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors. There are eight phases dedicated to the CPU cores and four phases dedicated to the integrated GPU. This might seem like a lot, but a huge chunk of Skylake's die and power envelope is taken up by the Gen9 iGPU. There also two additional phases off to the side dedicated to the VCCIO (memory controller) and VCCSA (system agent) Overall, these are basically all the same PWM design choices and high-end components that you see on all RoG models, just more of them, so we expect the same (or better) excellent power handling and tuning capabilities and very high overclocking potential.

Since high-level overclocking can only be achieved via adequate power supply, ASUS have included one 8-pin CPU power connector and a supplementary 4-pin CPU power connector. This is a welcome addition since very highly overclocked processors can draw a ton of current through the 8-pin CPU power connector, enough to trip up certain power supplies with wonky over-current protection (OCP).


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The four DDR4 slots feature their own 2-phase power design, which should have no problems handling the up to 64GB of total system memory or the overclocked memory speeds of up to DDR4-3866. Unlike the two slot Maximus VIII Impact that we reviewed earlier, this Extreme model has not been validated for DDR4-4000. This comes into play in our overclocking section, so definitely check that out. Since this is an RoG model, ASUS have also implemented enhanced DRAM overcurrent protection (OCP) and short circuit damage prevention, so you will be able to push those new DDR4 modules as hard as you want without worrying that the memory slots will let you down. Like on all ASUS motherboards, this model features the handy Q-DIMM memory slots, which prevent any clearance issues that can arise between conventional memory clips and the back of any nearby expansion card.

While the 24-pin ATX power connector is in its usual spot, the top-right corner of the motherboard is filled with goodies. From the Q-Code debug LED display, to the LN2 Mode jumper (helps remedy cold-boot bug during post at sub-zero temperatures), Slow Mode switch (drops the CPU multiplier to enhance system stability), Safe Boot button (powers off system, loads previous Safe Mode BIOS settings), ReTry button (hardware-level reboot similar to turning off your PSU) power-on Start button, reset button, MemOk! button (initiates memory compatibility tuning process), PCI-E x16 Lane switch (enable/disable PCI-E x16 slots), and the eight ProbeIt voltage read points. This feature-filled part of the motherboard is a large part of what makes the Maximus VIII Extreme so attractive to hardcore overclockers.



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To the left of the 24-pin ATX power connector are two internal USB 3.0 headers that can be used to effectively double the number of USB 3.0 ports from four to eight, and which are supplied directly by the Z170 chipset itself and thus should provide optimal transfer speeds.

This motherboard features four onboard case fans (with more available on the Fan Expansion Card), and next to three of them is a thermal sensor connector where you can plug in a thermal probe.



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Although the "northbridge" heatsink looks cool, it is largely an aesthetic touch, since there is nothing substantial under it aside from an ASMedia ASM1187e PCI-E 2.0 switch. The heatsink does perhaps help transfer some of the heat from the MOSFET heatsinks thanks to the linked heatpipe.



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The large PCH heatsink helps cool the low wattage Z170 chipset, but largely it is an aesthetic design touch. It features a built-in RGB LED light, which can be adjusted to change shades to indicate CPU temperature, pulsate with the beat of your music, cycle through all the colours, fade in and out, flash on and off, or just statically display one colour.




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This motherboard features eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, six of which are supplied by the Z170 PCH and support RAID 0/1/5/10 plus Intel Rapid Storage Technology and Smart Response Technology. The black SATA ports are courtesy of an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. There are two SATA Express 10Gb/s ports made up of four of the Intel-powered SATA ports.

The the left of the SATA ports is a U.2 (SFF-8639) connector. This connector features a PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface that is connected directly to the processor for best possible performance, and features up to 32Gb/s of bandwidth. At this present time, the only solid state drive that supports this interface is the U.2 version of the Intel SSD 750.


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There is a M.2 connector with a full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface, theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gb/s, and support for SATA, PCI-E, and PCI-E NVMe M.2 solid state drives.

The only noteworthy limitation is with this connector is that if you install a SATA-based M.2 SSD , one of the SATA Express ports (and thus two SATA ports) will be automatically disabled. This is thanks to two ASMedia ASM1480 PCI-E 3.0 switches, which help route the lanes from the PCH.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Maximus VIII Extreme pt.2

A Closer Look at the Maximus VIII Extreme pt.2




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In the lower-right hand corner of the motherboard, there is a BIOS Switch button, which allows you to switch between the motherboard's two onboard BIOS chips. There are also accompanying BIOS LEDs to indicate which of the two chips is being utilized. The front panel header is not colour-coded, but ASUS includes the user-friendly Q-Panel connector to help connect case wires to the motherboard. Next to the BIOS Switch button is the SLI/CFX button. When the system is turned off, pressing this button will utilize the LEDs next to the expansion slots to indicate which PCI-E x16 slots to use for 2-way, 3-way, or 4-way graphics card configurations. The EXT_FAN header is where you can plug in the Fan Extension Card accessory.

Along the bottom edge of the motherboard, there is the ROG_EXT pins which is were you plug in one of the cables that runs to the OC Panel accessory. Next to that is a ThunderBolt header that needs to be linked to a TB expansion card. The molex power connector can be used to help ensure that the PCI-E x16 slots get all the power that they require for triple or quad graphics card configurations. The AAFP pins are where you would plug in your case's front panel audio connector.



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Much like previous chips, mainstream Skylake processors support sixteen PCI-E 3.0 lanes for graphics purposes. On most motherboards, this is divided across two separate PCI-E x16 slots. However, thanks to a handful of ASMedia ASM1480 PCI-E 3.0 switches, the Maximus VIII Extreme features four mechanical PCI-E x16 slots.

In a simple single graphics card setup, you will get full speed PCI-E 3.0 x16 transfer rates. In a dual graphics card configuration, the first and third slots will operate at PCI-E 3.0 x8, which will still provide ample bandwidth for even the highest end GPU. This 2-Way configuration is the limit for SLI however, as NVIDIA doesn't support SLI on any PCI-E x4 slots. If you install three Radeon graphics cards, the expansion slots will be running at x8/x4/x4 in PCI-E 3.0 mode. If you attempt a 4-Way CrossFireX setup, you will need to use the bottommost slot, which utilizes four PCI-E 3.0 lanes from the Z170 PCH. This is obviously not optimal since this last slot doesn't have a direct low latency connection to the processor.




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The Maximus VIII Extreme features the new SupremeFX 2015 onboard audio solution, and we decided to remove the plastic shroud that runs on the left side of the motherboard to get a better look at it.

While there is an EMI shield covering it, we know that this implementation is still based on the popular Realtek ALC1150 10-channel HD audio codec. What elevates this onboard audio above others is the use of the well-regarded ESS 9023P digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which is a 192 kHz/24-bit capable stereo audio DAC with a solid 112dB SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) and an integrated 2Vrms op-amp driver. This DAC is responsible for converting the digital data into clean and continuous analog signal. The audio passes through this very important chip before heading to the amplifiers, capacitors, and then the outputs. There is a Texas Instruments R4580 headphone amplifier, which supposedly has enough grunt to power 600 ohm cans. An Anpec APM3095P MOSFET is what provides the SenseAmp feature, which detects headphone impedance and adjusts the headphone amplifier automatically. This ensures that headphones are properly driven/powered given their specific Ohm rating, which is something that your average user probably has no knowledge of.

The PCB isolation line surrounds the audio section of the PCB and isolates it from the rest of the system. All of this serves to help to preserve the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and thus ensure the highest possible sound quality. A NEC TOKIN UD2 audio de-pop relay basically serves as a surge protector for the rest of electrical audio components, and also eliminates the popping sound that often occurs when a system is powered on or off. Last not but least, audio-grade Nichicon capacitors are used and it all leads to gold-plated audio jacks.




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This Extreme model has very solid connectivity on its rear I/O panel. Starting from left to right, we have the Clear CMOS button and ROG Connect button, two USB 3.0 and two USB 3.1 ports, WiFi/Bluetooth antenna ports, HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2 video outputs, an Intel I219V-powered Gigabit LAN port, one USB 3.1 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, two USB 3.1 ports, and the six audio jacks which include an S/PDIF output.

What's powering all these ports and buttons you ask? Well, starting from the top left, we have an ASMedia ASM1042A USB 3.0 controller, ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 (Type-A) controller, Intel Alpine Ridge USB 3.1 (Type-A and Type-C) controller, Intel I219V ethernet controller, EtronTech EJ179S USB 3.1 Type-C switch, , Texas Instruments TPS65982 Type-C USB power delivery controller, and Nuvoton NCT6793D Super I/O monitoring controller.



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The rear-mounted CPU VRM components are protected and cooled by their own backplate, which is always a nice touch on a motherboard that will likely see occasions of very high CPU power draw. All the heatsinks and the shroud are attached with metal screws, which is what we expect from a high-end motherboard like this one.

Like on the front with the SATA Express diagram, ASUS have also included a convenient table explaining the SATA and SATA Express port numbers.



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Lastly, on the rear of the motherboard we also get a good look at some of the LEDs that are placed all along the PCB isolation line that surrounds the audio sub-system.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
Montreal
Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.


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When installed in the East-West or North-South orientation, our Prolimatech Mega Shadow had no issues physically clearing the "northbridge" or MOSFET heatsinks. Despite the fact that the CPU socket area is a little cramped, we don't foresee any obstacles with even the largest of coolers, but those who need to insulate the motherboard for LN2 use might have some work cut out for them if they don't remove the MOSFET heatsink.



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Unlike on most motherboards, we did not encounter any clearance issues between the memory modules and our large CPU cooler. Our cooler's fan clips did not make contact with the nearest memory module, but obviously you will need to remove the clips and the fan in order to install or remove the RAM modules.



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Although there isn't a huge gap between the back of the graphics card and the memory slots, it really doesn't matter with the clip-less Q-DIMM memory slots that ASUS uses on most of their models. The 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin CPU power connector and the optional 4-pin CPU power are all ideally placed, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.



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The Maximus VIII Extreme will hold two, three or even four dual-slot graphics cards without issue. The cards will slightly extend past the motherboard length-wise, and that last card will overhang the motherboard as well as all the headers on the bottom edge. When your primary graphics card is installed the release clip is very difficult to reach because it is caught between the back of the graphics card and the heatsink. You will need something long and non-metallic - like a pen or pencil - to push on the clip in order to release the graphics card.

If you have a graphics card installed in the third PCI-E x16 slot, you will need to remove it before installing or removing any M.2 solid state drive.



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The eight right-angle SATA ports, two SATA Express ports, and single U.2 connector are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed.



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The Prolimatech Mega Shadow heatsink's large mounting bracket installed without issue, but it did come pretty close to one little electrical component. This is the case on most motherboards, so nothing to worry about there.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


This new generation of motherboards carries forward ASUS' familiar UEFI bios layout. Although fundamentally similar to past versions, this latest implementation has obviously been tweaked with a bunch of new Skylake-oriented features. As we have come to expect from ASUS, this is a very smooth and responsive UEFI BIOS, incrementally better than anything we've experienced from other manufacturers. The UEFI BIOS is divided across two distinct modes. The EZ Mode is simplified and features a mouse-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) for basic tasks, while the Advanced Mode has all the settings, options, and features that you could ever want. From within the EZ Mode you can switch to the Advanced Mode by pressing F7, and vice-versa to get back to the EZ Mode.



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The EZ Mode makes pretty good use of the graphical user interface (GUI) and was designed to be used with a mouse. It obviously does not have all the functionality of the Advanced mode, but it is not meant to. It simply gives novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings. The Q-Fan Tuning feature can be found in both BIOS modes, but fundamentally it gives you full manual or preset-based control over the systems fans. The EZ Tuning Wizard is particularly interesting since it brings overclocking to an even simpler level. Basically, the wizard asks you how you generally use your system, what kind of CPU cooler you have installed, and based on your answer it comes up with an appropriate tuning level for your respective system. It worked perfect during our short time toying with it, and the fact that it never actually mentions "overclocking" should help alleviate some of the fears less knowledgeable users might associate with the word. The EZ Tuning Wizard can also be used as a very user-friendly way of setting up a RAID array.



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The My Favorites tab allows you to have all your most useful or most used settings in one place, so you no longer have to search through the whole bios to find what you need time and time again. My favorites used to come as a blank page, but now ASUS have included what it believes are the most used BIOS settings. You can obviously edit this selection, and add or remove any settings that you want.



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The next tab in the BIOS is the Main section, which displays the standard storage devices and some basic system information. This System Information section lists some rudimentary specification info, including the BIOS date & version, the type of processor and the amount of memory installed. You can also set the system language, and an administrator and/or individual user password.



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Next up is the Extreme Tweaker section, which is where all the fun happens. Once the manual option is selected in the Ai Overclock Tuner setting, the BIOS opens up to reveal all of the essential system clock control options: CPU multiplier with an all-core and per-core option, BLCK frequency, CPU strap, memory frequency, memory timing options, and all the voltage options.

The OC Tuner feature allows novice users to automatically overclock their systems without having to mess around with clocks speeds, multipliers, and voltages. The are two options in this feature, a multiplier-only tuning mode or a multiplier and BCLK tuning mode. You can read more about this automatic overclocking feature in our Overclocking Results section.




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As its name suggests, the DRAM Timing Control section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select and change all the memory settings, and each memory channel has its own section, from which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It has just about every memory modifier that an enthusiast or overclocker would need to fine-tune their modules. There's really an overabundance of options and it is quite impressive.



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The DIGI+ Power Control section has a whole slew of advanced power regulation settings for the CPU cores, CPU VTT and VCCSA (system agent/memory controller), and DRAM channels. This motherboard is setup well enough so that you should never actually have to tweak any of these settings though, unless you are really pushing the limits with phase-change or LN2 cooling. The exception to this is obviously Load-Line Calibration (LLC), which is a worthwhile feature that eliminates droopage on the CPU vCORE, and which we will take a closer look at in our Voltage Regulation section.



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The Internal CPU Power Management section is where you can enable or disable all the CPU-specific features like SpeedStep and Turbo Mode, as well as setting the Turbo limits. ASUS have really bolstered this section with an overwhelming array of CPU power tuning settings.



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The Tweakers Paradise sub-menus has a ton of fairly obscure settings that should come in handy in the hands of experts top-level overclockers. The only setting that might be familiar to your average well-versed power user is FCLK Frequency, which should be set to 1Ghz whenever possible to ensure best possible performance. ASUS sets this by default.



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Occupying the middle to bottom section of the Extreme Tweaker are the prodigious voltage options. As you would expect, all the key system voltages are present and accounted for, as far as bunch of other voltage options that we have frankly never even seen before. For some of the key voltages like the CPU Core voltage and the CPU Cache voltage, ASUS have allowed four separate entry modes. The Auto and Manual modes are self-evident, the Offset Mode allows you to specify how much higher (or lower) the voltage should be in reference to stock level, so something like +0.10V or +0.15V. The Adaptive Mode allows you to set both a base voltage and higher Turbo Mode voltage that is enabled under heavy system loads. This helps minimize the amount of voltage running through an overclocked processor when it's not under load.

Usually we would now say that we wish there were more drop-down menus in this section. Although can manually type in whatever you want, but that is not particularly useful when you don't know or don’t remember what the default voltages are. Thankfully, ASUS have thought about this, and they have included real-time voltage read outs next to all the key system voltages. This is an fantastic addition and we couldn't be happier to see it here.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
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BIOS Rundown pt.2

BIOS Rundown pt.2



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The Advanced tab is where you can tweak countless settings and enable or disable all of the motherboard's components. The CPU Configuration sub-menu is where you can manipulate all the CPU-specific features like the Thermal Monitor, Hyper-Threading, Virtualization, Enhanced SpeedStep, Turbo Mode, C-States, etc.



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The Advanced Tab is also where you can enable/disable or just find all the various settings and options for all the onboard devices like the audio, LAN, USB 3.0, SATA ports, etc. As you can see, there is a bewildering and overwhelming array of settings and options here. It is downright remarkable.



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The Monitor section contains the anti-surge setting, but is mostly dedicated to monitoring the various voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. This whole section is really quite impressive, it has all the essential temperature and voltage readouts, as well as truly excellent and comprehensive fan control functionality.


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The Boot tab is essentially where you set storage device priority, select the boot drive, enable/disable the full screen logo, and ton of other boot settings that can help with the installation or troubleshooting of various OS installations.





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ASUS EZ Flash 3 is a built-in utility that greatly simplifies the BIOS updating process. You can easily update your BIOS from a ROM file located on your hard drive(s) or USB flash drive(s). It's quick, painless, and it takes the worry out of BIOS flashing.

The ASUS Overclocking Profile feature gives users the option to save and switch between BIOS profiles, for example an everyday profile and a benchmarking profile. Not only is this infinitely quicker than manually inserting every setting, but the profiles can be saved and shared among other Maximus VIII Impact owners.


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Before you save your settings and exit the BIOS, there is a handy window that lists the changes you made during this session. It's a well thought out and implemented idea. The new General Help pop-up that you can find in the top-right corner is very handy for those who can't remember all the new function key tasks.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Location
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Included Software

Included Software


Ai Suite III

The most important and all-encompassing utility in ASUS' impressive suite of software is the aptly named Ai Suite III. Whereas ASUS used to have a handful of standalone apps for different functions, many were consolidated under the Ai Suite moniker back in 2011. This system management utility is the hub from which you can monitor system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, and fan rotation but more importantly it allows users to do both automatic and manual overclocking from within Windows. Although it's basic UI has been established for a while, ASUS regularly adds to the capabilities to this utility, so let's check it out.

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There are six main sections that are the focus of the Ai Suite III utility, and they are all linked to the Dual Intelligent Processors 5. As a refresher, DIP5 refers to two co-processors - the TurboV Processing Unit (TPU) and the Energy Processing Unit (EPU) - that are tasked with for optimizing the system with a focus on either better performance and improved energy efficiency.

The 5-Way Optimization section is the coolest, and is where you will find the 5-Way Optimization automatic overclocking feature. There is also the Energy Processing Unit (EPU) power saving or performance profiles, Fan Xpert 3 fan speed optimization status, DIGI+ VRM optimization, awesome new Turbo App functionality, and some display-only information regarding TurboV Processing Unit (TPU). We'll go into it in-depth below.

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On the left hand side of the Ai Suite utility is an arrow that activates a pop-out menu when clicked. Here you will find features like USB 3.0 Boost. When enabled, USB 3.0 Boost implements the UAS Protocol (UASP) USB protocol that greatly enhances speeds while also lowering CPU utilization. The EZ Update tool allows users to update their motherboard's BIOS either directly from the internet or from a downloaded file.

System Information just contains a bunch of basic system information regarding your CPU, motherboard or RAM. You can also find you can find your serial number, BIOS version, etc. BIOS Flashback allows you to copy the content of BIOS1 to BIOS2, as well as force the use of BIOS1 or BIOS2.

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At the bottom is a static strip that displays information on CPU and DRAM frequency, real-time voltage and temperatures measurements, as well as CPU and case fans speeds. You can also set safe thresholds for voltages, temperatures and fan speeds as well as setting alerts to warn you of any serious fluctuations. It is essentially a replacement for the Probe II utility.

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Clicking on the 5-Way Optimization button reveals the coolest part of the whole Dual Intelligent Processors 5 utility. There is a certain level of fan optimization functionality in this section, but what's really interesting is the automatic overclocking feature. You have the option of 3 different overclocking levels depending on whether you have an unlocked processor or not. We don't want to reveal too much here, so go check out the Overclocking Results section to see how well this auto-overclocking feature worked.

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The TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) tab is where you can manually adjust the BCLK frequency, CPU multiplier and Cache/Uncore multiplier. You will also be able to change the CPU multiplier, either per core or as a group. There are also an impressive eleven adjustable system voltages. You can adjust all these settings on-the-fly without having to reboot the system.

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The EPU (Energy Processing Unit) tab is you will be able to fine-tune the various selection of power saving or performance profiles. This is a versatile feature for those who truly care about maximizing energy savings.

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The DIGI+ Power Control tab is where you will find the power options for the CPU, System Agent/Memory Controller, and RAM. There are adjustable settings for load-line calibration, current capability, voltage frequency, and phase control. There are different power controls for each memory channel since they are independently powered.

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The Fan Xpert 3 tab is, as you might expect, where you can fully manage and optimize your CPU and system fans. While there are now a series of four fan presets (Silent/Standard/Turbo/Full Speed), you can also manually adjust the full fan speed curve to your preferences, or simply use the fully automated Fan Tuning feature.

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The Turbo App section allows you set custom system configurations for any applications that you want. For example, if you know that your processor can withstand a higher clock speed in a lightly threaded application, you can see this utility to automatically adjust your system overclock every time you open that app, as well as tweak network priority and audio settings.
 
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MAC

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Messages
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Location
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Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2


Lighting Control


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The RGB LED that is integrated into the chipset cooler can be controlled using the new Lightning Control utility. The light can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects. The presets can cause the LEDs to change shades to indicate CPU temperature, pulsate with the beat of your music, cycle through all the colours, fade in and out, flash on and off, or just statically display one colour.


ROG CPU-Z


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ROG CPU-Z is a special edition of CPU-Z especially created to match the aesthetics of ASUS Republics of Gamers motherboards. It is kept as up-to-date as the regular version, and is available at the same place: CPUID.com


MemTweakIt


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MemTweakIt is memory tweaking tool which allows for modification of just about every primary and secondary memory timing within Windows, and without having to reboot the system. It's a joy to use and a great tool for overclockers.


GameFirst IV


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GameFirst IV is a utility designed to help reduce latency courtesy of cFosSpeed traffic-shapping technology. This utility provides users with a lot of control and monitoring capabilities over every application that is accessing the network. It displays CPU usage, NPU usage, ICMP and UDP average ping, and the network utilization of every system process and program. This tool also allows you give priority to certain applications, and throttle or block others to free network resources for other applications. It is your one-stop tool for monitoring and controlling all network traffic.


Sonic Radar II


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The idea behind Sonic Radar II is simple enough, once configured in the above utility, it is basically a radar overlay that shows the positional location that sound is coming from in games. It is essentially a gaming aid, or a really useful tool for those who are hard of hearing or those who just can't have sound enabled in a given scenario (gaming at work anyone?).

Separate from Sonic Radar is a utility called Sonic Studio II, which is an audio suite that allows users control over six audio controls like Reverb, Bass Boost, Equalizer, Voice Clarity, Smart EQ (Smart Volume), and Virtual Surround. It also provides access to the Perfect Voice noise-cancellation feature and Casting Enhancer audio streaming.


KeyBot II


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On each Republics of Gamers model you will find a KeyBot button on the top of the board, and a KeyBot microprocessor on the rear. ASUS is dubbing KeyBot as a free, instant keyboard upgrade. Users plug in their existing keyboard to the dedicated USB port on the rear I/O shield to engage the KeyBot chip, and a user-friendly utility allows for the easy programming of macro keys, assigning of function keys, or creation of shortcuts for everything from launching any of any application with a single press to multimedia playback control. Users will also be able to create and share their KeyBot profiles with friends, which should be great for games with complex macros. KeyBot also functions with the S5 sleep mode, so users can wake their PC and boot directly into the UEFI BIOS or enable/disable CPU Level Up with just one tap.


RAMDisk


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The Maximus VIII Extreme comes with the familiar RAMDisk utility. For those not familiar with what a RAMDisk is, it basically acts as a virtual drive that is much faster than even the fastest high-end solid state drive. The reason for this is that it makes use of unused system memory (ie: RAM), and turns a chunk of it into an OS-level storage partition that can be used to accelerate the performance and response times of installed or cached applications.


Boot Setting


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ASUS Boot Setting allows users to boot directly into the BIOS without having to repeatedly hit delete during the POST screen. It is a pretty hand tool when you are rebooting as often as overclockers tend to do.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we are going to be testing the performance of the Maximus VIII Extreme in four configurations: default settings @ DDR4-2133, default setting @ DDR4-3600, automatic overclock settings, and manual overclock settings. The components and software are the same across all four configurations, and aside from manually selecting the frequencies, timings, and voltages in the manual overclock configuration, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.

Intel Core i7 LGA1151 DDR4 Test Setup​

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks are applied to Windows 7 and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • UAC – Disabled
  • Indexing – Disabled
  • Superfetch – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan – High Performance
  • V-Sync – Off

D) All available Windows updates are then installed.

E) All programs are installed and then updated, followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three to eight times, and unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged.


Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • 3DMark Vantage Professional Edition v1.1.3
  • 3DMark11 Professional Edition v1.0.132.0
  • 3DMark 2013 Professional Edition v1.5.915
  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition v5.50.3600
  • Cinebench R15 64-bit
  • FAHBench 1.2.0
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • HEVC Decode Benchmark (Cobra) v1.61
  • LuxMark v3.0
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • PCMark 8
  • SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP
  • Sisoft Sandra 2015.SP3 20.28
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark v1.0.0.0
  • WinRAR x64 5.30 beta 6
  • wPRIME version v2.10
  • X3: Terran Conflict Demo v1.0
That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 
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