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ASUS Maximus VIII Impact Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Feature Testing: Onboard Audio

Feature Testing: Onboard Audio


Since fewer and fewer consumers seem to be buying discrete sound cards, the quality of a motherboard's onboard audio is now more important than ever. We figured that it was worthwhile to take a closer look at just how good the analog signal quality is on this Maximus VIII Impact since it features a new implementation of SupremeFX audio.

Since isolated results don't really mean much, but we have also included some numbers from the GIGABYTE Z170-HD3 DDR3, ASUS X99-A, ASUS X99-PRO, ASUS Rampage V Extreme, GIGABYTE X99-Gaming G1 WIFI, MSI X99S Gaming 7, EVGA X99 Classified, and ASUS X99 Deluxe motherboards that we have previously reviewed. The GIGABYTE Z170-HD3 motherboard is based on the Realtek ALC887, a lower-end 7.1 channel HD audio codec, whereas most of the other models in this comparison feature onboard audio solutions that are built around the higher-end Realtek ALC1150 codec, but feature different op-amps, headphone amplifiers, filtering capacitors, secondary components and layouts. The GIGABYTE X99-Gaming G1 WIFI and EVGA are both based on the same Creative Core3D CA0132 quad-core audio processor, but feature vastly different hardware implementations.

We are going to do this using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, since sound quality isn't really something that can be adequately explained with only numbers. To do this we have turned to the RightMark Audio Analyzer, basically the standard application for this type of testing.

Since all the three motherboards support very high quality 24-bit, 192kHz audio playback we selected that as the sample mode option. Basically, what this test does is pipe the audio signal from the front-channel output to the line-in input via a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male mini-plug cable, and then RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA) does the audio analysis. Obviously we disabled all software enhancements since they interfere with the pure technical performance that we are trying to benchmark.


As expected, the new SupremeFX Impact III module achieved some great numbers when it came to dynamic range, noise, and intermodulation distortion (IMD). The total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N) result was actually the second best that we've measured, slightly behind the beastly Rampage V Extreme. When it comes to actual listening enjoyment, the sound quality was above reproach as we listened to a few albums with a mix of Grado SR225i and Koss PortaPro headphones, Westone UM1 IEMs, and Logitech Z-5500 5.1 speakers.

As we tend to repeat, we aren't experts in this area, but we suspect that your average user will likewise be perfectly satisfied with this motherboard's onboard audio capabilities.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Auto & Manual Overclocking Results

Auto & Manual Overclocking Results


It wouldn't be an HWC review if we didn't include some overclocking results, so we thoroughly tested this motherboard's capabilities, especially its auto-overclocking functionality. This reviewer has just now gotten his hands on the Skylake platform, so there won't be any ground breaking insights on how to overclock on this new platform, but our personal pointers are to increase the vCore up to around 1.40V if you're cooling can handle it, while increasing the VCCIO up to 1.20V, and the System Agent voltage up to 1.25V. These last two are really only needed if you plan on seriously pushing the Uncore/cache frequency or the memory frequency. While faster memory speeds are always welcome, we haven't really noticed any substantial gains from overclocking the cache. If you have an unlocked K-series processors, there's no reason to go crazy increasing the BCLK if you can achieve similar results by just tweaking the various multipliers instead.


Auto Overclocking

The Maximus VIII Impact features two types of automatic overclocking. There is the TPU option that you can find in the UEFI BIOS and the 5-Way Optimization feature that is located in the Ai Suite III utility. The BIOS-based option relies on presets and it is quite simple since it only offers two choices, TPU I or TPU II. TPU I applies an overclocking preset that is designed for those with air cooling, while TPU II is a more aggressive option for those with liquid cooling. In practice, TPU I overclocked our Core i7-6700K to between 4.1 to 4.3Ghz depending on how many cores were loaded. TPU II on the other hand appplied a 4.6Ghz across the board, while setting a flexible vCore that peaked at 1.36V when all cores were fully loaded. You will indeed need a capable cooler to handle this particularl overclock, so either the recommend liquid cooling solution or a high-end air cooler should adequately handle the thermal output. Both settings set the Cache/Uncore to 4100Mhz - ASUS' reference default - while the memory speed was bumped to a respectable DDR4-2933. Since were using an extreme DDR4-4000 kit the XMP preset was not applied, but it will usually do so for most memory kits. Although this BIOS-based automatic overclocking option is very fast - just the time it takes to save & exit the BIOS - it is based on presets and as such it produces slightly less impressive results than an intelligent software-based approach. Thankfully, one is included.

As mentioned above, within the Ai Suite III utility there is the 5-Way Optimization automatic overclocking feature. While this feature also makes use of the TPU - which stands for TurboV Processing Unit - it is regarded as an intelligent approach to automatic overclocking because it does not rely on presets. Instead, it slowly increases your processor's clock speed and voltage, tests for stability, monitors fan speeds and temperatures, and repeats until it has found the sweet spot. Nowadays, you can even specify a clock speed to start from and even what maximum temperature you feel comfortable with.

With all of that said, let's see what 5-Way Optimization is capable of:

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Since we are always aggressive when it comes to overclocking, we selected the TPU II and Extreme Tuning options applied to all cores. However, that resulted in an attempted overclock that was too optimistic for our particular chip at the given voltage, and thus consistently resulted in a crash during the Ai Suite stress testing process. As a result, we instead selected TPU I and ended up with the above overclock.

4.7Ghz with a peak vCore of about 1.375V is quite respectable by any measure, but to have it done without any manual effort is a delight. As mentioned above, usually ASUS motherboards will apply the XMP profile, but since we were using a rare DDR4-4000 memory kit, we aren't entirely surprised that it failed to do so. Nevertheless, DDR4-2933 is still a heck of a lot better than DDR4-2133 or DDR4-2400, though we do wish that it hadn't used the DDR4-4000 XMP profile's loose memory timings.


Manual Overclocking

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By this point we are quite familiar with the capabilities of our particular Core i7-6700K, so we knew that we did not have a lot of headroom above 4.85Ghz @ 1.40V available to us, at least not without a serious vCore increase and the accompanying heat output. As expected on an RoG board, we had zero issues reaching this level, we just increased the CPU multiplier to 48X, kicked the BCLK up to 101.25Mhz and set a 1.40Vcore. Although it does not provided much of a performance gain, we did increase the cache/uncore frequency from the stock 4000Mhz to 4250Mhz without having to touch any other voltage settings. On the memory front, we were really pushing things thanks to our Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-4000 memory kit. We managed to hit DDR4-4050 at 1.35Vdimm while also keeping this kits default XMP timings. There is a some additional headroom to be had, but we will show that off in an upcoming review.

Overall, overclocking on this motherboard was a breeze and a pleasure. The automatic overclocking results speak for themselves and the motherboard didn't inhibit us in anyway during our hands-on overclocking attempts.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
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System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks


In the System and Gaming Benchmarks sections, we reveal the results from a number of benchmarks run with the Core i7-6700K and ASUS Maximus VIII Impact at default clocks with three different DDR4 memory speeds, with the best automatic overclock, and using own our manual overclock. This will illustrate how much performance can be achieved with this motherboard in stock and overclocked form. For a thorough comparison of the Core i7-6700K versus a number of different CPUs have a look at our "The Intel i7-6700K Review; Skylake Arrives" article.

SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP


When running the SuperPI 32MB benchmark, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system. We are running one instance of SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP. This is therefore a single-thread workload.

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wPRIME 2.10


wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum. This is a highly multi-threaded workload.

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Cinebench R15


Cinebench R15 64-bit
Test1: CPU Image Render
Comparison: Generated Score


The latest benchmark from MAXON, Cinebench R15 makes use of all your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene using various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. This particular benchmarking can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.

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WinRAR x64


WinRAR x64 5.30 beta 6
Test: Built-in benchmark, processing 1000MB of data.
Comparison: Time to Finish

One of the most popular file archival and compression utilities, WinRAR's built-in benchmark is a great way of measuring a processor's compression and decompression performance. Since it is a memory bandwidth intensive workload it is also useful in evaluating the efficiency of a system's memory subsystem.


MAXIMUS_VIII_IMPACT_152.jpg

If you are curious as to why the Auto OC results are somewhat lackluster it's due to a lack of memory bandwidth. This is a bandwidth intensive workload, so low-ish DDR4-2933 with incredibly loose 19-23-23-45-2T timings is a real limitation.


FAHBench


FAHBench 1.2.0
Test: OpenCL on CPU
Comparison: Generated Score

FAHBench is the official Folding@home benchmark that measures the compute performance of CPUs and GPUs. It can test both OpenCL and CUDA code, using either single or double precision, and implicit or explicit modeling. The single precision implicit model most closely relates to current folding performance.


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HEVC Decode Benchmark v1.61


HEVC Decode Benchmark (Cobra) v1.61
Test: Frame rates at various resolution, focusing on the top quality 25Mbps bitrate results.
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

The HEVC Decode Benchmark measures a system's HEVC video decoding performance at various bitrates and resolutions. HEVC, also known as H.265, is the successor to the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) standard and it is very computationally intensive if not hardware accelerated. This decode test is done entirely on the CPU.


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LuxMark v3.0


Test: OpenCL CPU Mode benchmark of the LuxBall HDR scene.
Comparison: Generated Score

LuxMark is a OpenCL benchmarking tool that utilizes the LuxRender 3D rendering engine. Since it OpenCL based, this benchmark can be used to test OpenCL rendering performance on both CPUs and GPUs, and it can put a significant load on the system due to its highly parallelized code.


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PCMark 8


PCMark 8 is the latest iteration of Futuremark’s system benchmark franchise. It generates an overall score based upon system performance with all components being stressed in one way or another. The result is posted as a generalized score. In this case, we tested with both the standard Conventional benchmark and the Accelerated benchmark, which automatically chooses the optimal device on which to perform OpenCL acceleration.

MAXIMUS_VIII_IMPACT_156.jpg


AIDA64 Memory Benchmark

AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a diagnostic and benchmarking software suite for home users that provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives.

The benchmarks used in this review are the memory bandwidth and latency benchmarks. Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, Memory Copy) measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x86/x64, x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE4.1, AVX, and AVX2 instruction set extension.
The Memory Latency benchmark measures the typical delay when the CPU reads data from system memory. Memory latency time means the penalty measured from the issuing of the read command until the data arrives to the integer registers of the CPU.


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
12,840
Location
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Gaming Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks



Futuremark 3DMark (2013)


3DMark v1.1.0
Graphic Settings: Fire Strike Preset
Rendered Resolution: 1920x1080
Test: Specific Physics Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score


3DMark is the brand new cross-platform benchmark from the gurus over at Futuremark. Designed to test a full range of hardware from smartphones to high-end PCs, it includes three tests for DirectX 9, DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 hardware, and allows users to compare 3DMark scores with other Windows, Android and iOS devices. Most important to us is the new Fire Strike preset, a DirectX 11 showcase that tests tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Like every new 3DMark version, this test is extremely GPU-bound, but it does contain a heavy physics test that can show off the potential of modern multi-core processors.


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Futuremark 3DMark 11


3DMark 11 v1.0.5
Graphic Settings: Extreme Preset
Resolution: 1920x1080
Test: Specific Physics Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score


3DMark 11 is Futuremark's very latest benchmark, designed to tests all of the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. At the moment, it is lot more GPU-bound than past versions are now, but it does contain a terrific physics test which really taxes modern multi-core processors.


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Futuremark 3DMark Vantage


3DMark Vantage v1.1.2
Graphic Settings: Performance Preset
Resolution: 1280x1024

Test: Specific CPU Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score

3DMark Vantage is the follow-up to the highly successful 3DMark06. It uses DirectX 10 exclusively so if you are running Windows XP, you can forget about this benchmark. Along with being a very capable graphics card testing application, it also has very heavily multi-threaded CPU tests, such Physics Simulation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which makes it a good all-around gaming benchmark.


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Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark


Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
Resolution: 1920x1080
Anti-Aliasing: 4X
Anisotropic Filtering: 8X
Graphic Settings: High

Comparison: Particle Performance Metric

Originally intended to demonstrate new processing effects added to Half Life 2: Episode 2 and future projects, the particle benchmark condenses what can be found throughout HL2:EP2 and combines it all into one small but deadly package. This test does not symbolize the performance scale for just Episode Two exclusively, but also for many other games and applications that utilize multi-core processing and particle effects. As you will see the benchmark does not score in FPS but rather in its own "Particle Performance Metric", which is useful for direct CPU comparisons.


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X3: Terran Conflict


X3: Terran Conflict 1.2.0.0
Resolution: 1920x1080
Texture & Shader Quality: High
Antialiasing 4X
Anisotropic Mode: 8X
Glow Enabled

Game Benchmark
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

X3: Terran Conflict (X3TC) is the culmination of the X-series of space trading and combat simulator computer games from German developer Egosoft. With its vast space worlds, intricately detailed ships, and excellent multi-threaded game engine, it remains a great test of modern CPU performance.


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Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark


Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
Resolution: 1920x1080
Texture & Shader Quality: Maximum IQ
DirectX 11
Fullscreen

Game Benchmark
Comparison: Generated Score

Square Enix released this benchmarking tool to rate how your system will perform in Heavensward, the expansion to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. This official benchmark software uses actual maps and playable characters to benchmark gaming performance and assign a score to your PC.


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Voltage Regulation / Power Consumption

Voltage Regulation

Due to its small size the Maximus VIII Impact does not have any of the onboard voltage measurement points that we usually rely on in order to accurately measure the various system voltages. As a result, in this abbreviated overview, we utilized the AIDA64 System Stability Test to put a very substantial load on the system while also monitoring the stability of the all-important CPU vCore line. This testing was achieved with a 90 minute run, and in order to increase the strain on the motherboard's voltage regulation components we overclocked our Core i7-6700K to 4.5Ghz at 1.30V (real). Although voltage droop is part Intel's specifications, we set the Load-Line Calibration (LLC) setting to a high level in order to see if this motherboard had what it takes to maintain a rock steady vCore line.

MAXIMUS_VIII_IMPACT_148.jpg

As you can see, the Maximus VIII Impact has excellent vCore output regulation. Using Load-Line Calibration (LLC) settings we were able to eliminate any vDroop, and throughout the 90 minute test the vCore line never had any dips or spikes, nor did it deviate from the 1.300V voltage that we set. That is as good a result as we can hope for.

We also kept an eye on the other system voltages using the voltage monitoring capabilities of the Ai Suite III utility, and did not notice any great variations there either. What you set in the bios appears to be generally what the board put outs, and it seems to be able to maintain those voltages even when under heavy load when you select the appropriate power control settings. That is exactly what we want from a motherboard.


Power Consumption

For this section, every energy saving feature was enabled in the BIOS and the Windows power plan was changed from High Performance to Balanced. For our idle test, we let the system idle for 15 minutes and measured the peak wattage through our UPM EM100 power meter. For our CPU load test, we ran Prime 95 In-place large FFTs on all available threads, measuring the peak wattage via the UPM EM100 power meter. For our overall system load test, we ran Prime 95 on all available threads while simultaneously loading the GPU with 3DMark Vantage - Test 6 Perlin Noise.

MAXIMUS_VIII_IMPACT_165.jpg

Although it is a fairly apples to oranges situation, if we compare this Maximus VIII Impact to the full-sized GIGABYTE Z170-HD3 DDR3 that we recently reviewed, the numbers are interesting. While the ASUS model actually achieved worse idle numbers than the GIGABYTE, the understandable reason for this is that the Maximus VIII Impact has more onboard ICs, like the Alpine Ridge USB 3.1 controller, the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module, and even the additional components needed for the SupremeFX audio module.

At stock settings, the ASUS has lower power consumption numbers under load, and this can partially be attributed to DDR4's lower voltage when compared to the GIGABYTE's DDR3 modules. Conversely, when overclocked, the little ASUS motherboard once again needed more watts than the GIGABYTE, but this time the DDR4 memory is probably to blame since we had it clocked so high relative to the DDR3 on the GIGABYTE model.

Overall though, given what is had onboard, the Maximus VIII Impact achieved power consumption that were very much inline with our expectations. Those users really interested in achieving the lowest possible power consumption numbers have a ton of tweaking options on this model, so lower numbers can most certainly be achieved.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


It is said that history has a way of repeating itself, and that is certainly true when it comes to the ASUS Republic of Gamers series motherboards. Specifically, the Impact models have consistently been the best Mini-ITX motherboards on the market and that still holds true today. The Maximus VIII Impact is a tiny motherboard that puts most full-sized ATX models to shame with its long features list and a wide range of class-leading capabilities.

For starters, despite its compact size, the Impact doesn’t have many of the usual Mini-ITX shortcomings. It features a robust 8-phase CPU power design with many of the same high-quality components as the full-size RoG models. It features great connectivity features in the form of four SATA 6Gb/s ports, one high-speed U.2 32Gb/s connector, four USB 3.0 ports, and both USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports. The gigabit LAN port is powered by an Intel i219-V controller and there's even onboard dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with support for MU-MIMO and Bluetooth 4.1. Video output is limited to a sole HDMI port – no DisplayPort or VGA - this is a non-issue to us, since you don't by a Maximus VIII Impact to use an integrated GPU. A lot of that rear I/O panel room is taken up by the helpful Q-Code LED, power and reset buttons, Clear CMOS and USB BIOS Flashback, as well as the Wi-Fi and audio modules.

Speaking of which, as we have come to expect from all RoG motherboards, this model has a fantastic onboard audio solution. The new SupremeFX Impact III modules features a proven Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, an aswesome ESS ES9023P DAC, a dedicated headphone amplifier, audio-grade Nichicon capacitors, and all the unique software audio features that ASUS have developed. A cool new addition is that there are color-coded LEDs inside the actual audio jacks, which helps greatly with identifying the correct jack.

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Despite its small dimensions the Impact proved to be as capable an overclocker as any of the full-sized Z170 motherboards that we have reviewed. We were able to achieve some sizeable performance increases by manually overclocking our i7-6770K to 4.86Ghz, accompanied by a mild 4.25Ghz cache/uncore, and an insane DDR4-4050 memory frequency. We were really impressed that this motherboard supported our Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-4000 memory kit right out of the box, clearly the ASUS BIOS team is doing some great work. During our overclocking endeavours we didn't experience any unexpected BSODs or random reboots, and when we did push things too far the motherboard recovered perfectly.

When it came time to test the motherboard’s automatic overclocking capabilities, we were once again not disappointed. Both of the TPU-powered overclocking options are quick and simple, and the software-based 5-Way Optimization feature was more than willing to unleash all of our processor's untapped potential. While our particular Core i7-6700K could not handle the most aggressive optimization settings, we still ended up with a hugely respectable 4.7Ghz core clock...all the while maintaining a 52W idle system load thanks to the holistic tweaking approach that ASUS have implemented. When you combine all of this motherboard's countless features and the capabilities, there's everything you need to build a powerful, compact, future-looking gaming system.

Obviously, it's not all perfect though. The biggest ding against this motherboard is the lack of a M.2 x4 slot. One of the biggest perks of M.2 SSDs is that they require no additional cables and take up very little room, both of which are boons for those who want a build a compact system. ASUS would likely counter this saying that there were PCB space limitations to consider, and that within the small confines up a Mini-ITX case an M.2 SSD is likely to have thermal and thus performance issues due to throttling, which is indeed an issue with the Samsung SSD 950 PRO. We wouldn't have minded to see an M.2 slot mounted on the backside of the motherboard, like on their Z170I PRO GAMING, though that would make future upgrades a slight hassle. There's nothing wrong with the U.2 interface, but currently the only U.2-capable drive that we know of is the Intel SSD 750. It is a fantastic product that we have lauded, but it is very expensive from a gigabyte-per-dollar basis.

Speaking of money, the ASUS Maximus VIII Impact currently retails for about $240USD or $330CAD. That is not cheap, but it is understandable when you consider that this is the ultimate gaming-oriented Mini-ITX motherboard on the market. At the end of the day, if we were building a tiny system this is the motherboard that we would want in it.

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