Extreme. The word embodies all that ASUS has tried to imbue their Maximus V Extreme motherboard with. It certainly looks the part. Do its features and performance measure up to the name? Let’s find out!
Packaging & First Look
ASUS’ packaging has been similar throughout recent Republic of Gamers releases, with a red theme complete with a window into your system’s future. They have a clear plastic topped box for the board and a regular cardboard box for the accessories.
Pulling the board itself out for its photo shoot, we are met with a beautiful example of a Z77 ASUS ROG Extreme motherboard. The Maximus V Extreme’s (also known as “MVE”) heatsinks look great and the ROG red & black color scheme is back and as good looking as ever.
One last gratuitous photo and we’ll be done here.
Specifications & Features
The Maximus V Extreme comes chock full of features – frankly, so much so it’s going to make this review seem quite long! They’ve outlined many of them in a handy-dandy image.
For the full list of specifications, we’ll direct you to ASUS’ Maximus V Extreme page, which has the extremely long list in its entirety. Starting off the features list, it’s great to see that OC Key has made the transition from ultra-high-end Rampage IV Extreme to the high-end-of-the-mainstream Maximus V Extreme. You may remember this from our review of the RIVE. We’ll go over it here too of course.
The key to real time monitoring!Knowing information is key in any situation. Monitor the status of your system in real-time with a convenient graphical overlay displayed right on screen with OSD Monitor. It allows you to view POST codes in real-time, complete hardware status and even the readout from VGA Hotwire and Subzero Sense, all at a pure hardware level.
The key to real time overclocking! Tweak the parameters of your system in real-time with a convenient graphical overlay displayed right on the screen with OSD TweakIt. It provides you with a set of critical and hardware-driven functions so you can tweak your system on-the-fly.
New to the market with later versions of Z77 motherboards is Intel’s Thunderbolt interface. We don’t have any Thunderbolt devices to test, but its inclusion is nice for those that need high-speed external devices. Impressively, you can even operate displays off of Thunderbolt.
Blistering-fast Data Transfers An industry first, ASUS has placed Thunderbolt I/O technology onboard its motherboards, and are set to revolutionize the speed at which peripherals and displays operate. Featuring a maximum bi-directional speed of 10 Gbps, Thunderbolt is 2 times faster than USB 3.0 and an incredible 20 times faster than USB 2.0. And with the ability to daisy-chain up to six devices without the need for a hub or switch, that means less overheard for a clutter free computing experience. For example, users can connect multiple native Thunderbolt storage devices, an HD video capture device and even an HD display to a single Thunderbolt chain while maintaining maximum throughput.
VGA Hotwire was outlined in our review of the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP and is present only on ROG “Extreme” boards. For a board at this level, it’s a nice value-add.
Hotwire your system Love to overvolt but got mad trimming the tiny variable resistors? With the VGA Hotwire feature, plug the two-wire cable onboard and solder two wires on the VGA’s voltage regulator and accurately adjust the voltage, taking your system to the next level while avoiding some risks.
Subzero Sense is interesting and also made the port from the RIVE. Now you can just get a couple cheap thermal probes instead of a full on (sometimes expensive) digital thermometer to go with the probes.
Find out how cold your board is Love overclocking in LN2 mode, but have trouble finding out just how cold your board is? Worry no more, with Subzero Sense you can read the system’s temperature even in its coldest subzero degrees temperature.
This is new to the Maximus V Extreme. The mPCIe Combo card was present with the Maximus V GENE, but unlike the GENE, with the Extreme they include the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module.
mPCIe Combo + Dual-band Wi-Fi / Bluetooth 4.0
Combo Power Up! Hook up immediate extra connectivity to the ROG motherboard and say so long to physical limitations. The unique Combo attaches to the motherboard near the rear I/O , and comes with one mSATA port supporting Intel® Smart Response Technology hybrid storage acceleration with compatible mSATA SSDs, and a dual band 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth v4.0 card bundled into its mini PCI Express 2.0/USB 2.0 combo port on the opposite side. This way, you can connect extra devices without taking up valuable space on the motherboard, and get the best of both worlds: for better connectivity and expandability without sacrificing essential features.
ROG Connect is a ROG staple, and overclockers that use ASUS boards use this feature extensively. It works great and gives you all the control you need.
Plug and Overclock – Tweak it the hardcore way! Monitor the status of your desktop PC and tweak its parameters in real-time via a notebook—just like a race car engineer—with ROG Connect. ROG Connect links your main system to a notebook through a USB cable, allowing you to view real-time POST code and hardware status readouts on your notebook, as well as make on-the-fly parameter adjustments at a purely hardware level.
Power is always a consideration when overclocking and ASUS outfits the MVE with their Extreme Engine Digi+ II VRM.
Extreme Engine Digi+ II
Optimum power efficiency with premium components and intelligent digital design The Extreme Engine Digi+ II has been upgraded and equipped with the finest Japan-made 10K Black Metallic capacitors, while the digital VRM design allows you to achieve ultimate performance with adjustable CPU and memory power management frequencies. Precise adjustments create greater efficiency, stability, double lifespan and performance for total system control.
I went over Virtu MVP in detail in our Maximus V GENE review, but if you didn’t read that, I’ll quote it here for good measure.
Virtu MVP has been a hot topic on HWBot since its introduction. What it does is use the iGPU for what it’s best at – computing – and let your discrete GPU do what it’s best at – rendering. It does well at helping you maintain solid framerates, but is not something that can really be tested and benchmarked, because it leads to artificially high scores. In the ASUS paragraph below, they reference 60% higher 3DMark Vantage scores. This is akin to using NVIDIA’s PhysX to boost your Vantage score. The score goes up but it doesn’t really mean you’re getting upto 60% better performance. Massman at HWBot put it best, so I’ll let him say in layman’s terms what this does.
1) Lucid combines any IGP with a discrete graphics card
2) The IGP’s task is to track down redundant frames
3) When there’s a redundant frame, the IGP tells the discrete graphics card not to render it. This means that instead of rendering the entire frame (=100%), the discrete graphics card might render a part of the (~25%) or not at all (0%).
4) Because some frames are not rendered completely, more frames can be processed (20% rendering instead of 100% = 5x faster). 5) The FPS counter goes up super-dooper fast.
For more details you can check out the Lucid whitepaper here. It’s interesting technology and a leap in the ability to smooth out gaming, but it is not directly benchmark-able vs. other solutions because the metrics we have to use basically show false positives. That’s not to say the technology isn’t good nor that it doesn’t help give you a smooth gaming experience, it just means we can’t fairly quantify that.
LucidLogix Virtu MVP
Up to 60% Hybrid Graphics Boost and 3X Faster Video Conversion LucidLogix Virtu MVP featuring HyperFormance™ Technology boosts your discrete graphics card up to 60% beyond its original performance through the test of 3DMark Vantage. Designed for Intel® processor graphics and Windows® 7 PCs, it perfectly combines the performance of discrete graphics cards with fast computing iGPU. Also with the newly designed Virtual Sync, users can enjoy a smoother gaming experience by eliminating tearing artifacts. LucidLogix Virtu MVP could also dynamically assign tasks to the best available graphics resource, based on power, performance and system load. This allows users to fully utilize 3x faster video conversion with Intel® Quick Sync Video 2.0 technology while retaining high-end 3D rendering and gaming performance, provided by both NVIDIA® and AMD graphic cards. When the discrete graphics card is not required, power consumption goes automatically down to near zero, making the system more environmentally-friendly. For users searching for perfection, LucidLogix Virtu MVP provides great graphical performance and the best flexibility and efficiency. * LucidLogix® Virtu Universal MVP™ supports Windows® 7 operating system. ** Intel® Quick Sync Video feature is supported by 3rd/2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family. *** System Config: OS: Windows 7 64bit SP1 | MB: P8Z77-V DELUXE | CPU: CPU-1155-QB15-2700K-3.5G-Sandy BRIDGE100-8M |DIMM: DDR3 G.SKILL 17000CL9Q-16GBZH 4GB * 4 | Lucidvirtu MVP version: V188.8.131.5297 | On-board Intel VGA Driver version: V184.108.40.20698 | ASUS GTX580 Driver version: V220.127.116.1162
Of course, as has been present since the P67 chipset’s release, you can use CrossfireX or SLI. What’s different on the Maximus V Extreme is that you can use up to 4-way CrossfireX/SLI thanks to a PLX chip, which we’ll talk about later.
Why choose when you can have both? SLI or CrossFireX? Fret no longer because with the ROG Maximus V Extreme you’ll be able to run both multi-GPU setups. The board features SLI/CrossFire on Demand technology, supporting up to four graphics cards in a 4-Way SLI or CrossFireX configuration. Whichever path you take, you can be assured of jaw-dropping graphics at a level previously unseen.
With features done, let’s have a look inside the box.
ASUS Extreme ROG motherboards come with what can only be seen as an extreme accessory stack. I mean, just look at the box; it’s practically overflowing with accessories. While you’re going to pay a pretty penny for an Extreme SKU, it does include an extreme number of features and value-adds.
In the “normal” accessory pile, you see a USB/eSATA bracket, enough SATA cables for all of your drives (six SATA III and two SATA II), the user manual, driver disc, handy labels for your cables, and the I/O backplate. Inside the driver disc pouch is a handy chart on PCIe configuration options.
Aside from the “normal” pile, you have quite a few non-standard motherboard accessories. Here we’re getting into Extreme territory. Like the Maximus V Formula, first up we have the mPCIe combo card. Frankly, I thought they would only include this on the GENE because it saves space for mATX builds. Not so. They included it with the big dogs and even added the dual band Wi-Fi & Bluetooth module as an additional value. This solves the problem of trying to add even more controllers onto the PCB: just make wireless features an option via an included card and call it a day! They also include two antennas that plug in as displayed and come out of the rear I/O backplate. In addition to the wireless capabilities, you can even add an mSATA drive to the other side of the controller card if that interests you.
When speaking with them about the MVE, ASUS pointed out was that the mPCIe card has a real purpose on this board. On the MVG, it is to help save space in SFF builds, but doesn’t come with the WiFi/Bluetooth module already installed. On the MVE, since it comes with the module, it is to keep you from taking up an expansion slot with a WiFi/Bluetooth card like competing motherboards. They’ve labeled and sold this as a 4-way CFX/SLI board and they say their board lets you use 4-way without compromising the wireless solution.
Next up in our more enthusiast-oriented accessories are the video card bridges. They only include one Crossfire bridge as most manufacturers are wont to do for some reason. However, because Tri- and Quad- SLI requires rigid bridges, they include all of those to custom-fit the motherboard.
Now we get to what I like to consider the ‘advanced overclocking’ accessories. In standard ROG fare, you have the ROG Connect USB cable for controlling this PC with another. Then you have the ROG ProbeIt connectors, which are stellar for extreme overclockers that need to monitor voltages with a multimeter. These allow you to plug your meter in and forget it, rather than hunting and probing individual measuring points every time. It’s a serious time saver, and seconds count when you’re benching with dry ice and liquid nitrogen.
The last advanced overclocking accessory is the OC Key. You saw a screenshot of what it’s capable of above. Originally included with the X79-based Rampage IV Extreme, it’s great to see this part make the port to the more mainstream Maximus offering.
There are more accessories than you can shake a stick at with this motherboard. A good accessory stack is nothing without the board it supports though, so let’s get to know the Maximus V Extreme better.
Up Close & Personal
Starting our tour with the upper left-hand side of the board, you can see where the mPCIe connector attaches to the board. Also up here are the CPU power connectors – you get one standard EPS-12V, 8-pin connector and one 4-pin for auxiliary power. I’d question why they didn’t just put two 8-pin connectors but that’s pretty obvious – there is no room! Moving below that large MOSFET heatsink, you can see the auxiliary PCIe slot 6-pin power connector, two fan headers and the OC Key connector.
Moving all the way down to the bottom of the board you can see all of the front panel connectors, including FP audio, two fan headers, two USB 2.0 headers, one USB 3.0 header and the power/reset switch & LED connectors. That little red button in the far bottom right is the button to switch between the dual BIOS chips. Said chips can be seen just above the far right edge of the bottom PCIe slot. If you can’t tell yet, this PCB is absolutely packed with components.
In the upper right, we have what I like to call the Control & Monitor Corner. This is where much of your time will be spent when working with this board. You have the standard power & reset buttons as well as the POST code indicator. There is also a fan header. That’s where the ‘standard’ items stop. Additionally, you have a plethora of monitoring connectors. The plug-ins are where you connect the ProbeIt connectors. They also have standard probe points if you want to monitor more than two things at once.
Then you have the control features. LN2 mode, which helps with LN2 overclocking by (in theory) helping the board get past any cold boot issues. Most of the time that’s up to the CPU, but it’s better to have that than not! When that jumper is enabled, you also have the use of the Slow Mode switch, which is VERY handy when benchmarking. Say you just finished a SuperPi 1M run at a speed that is barely able to finish. Once done, you can engage slow mode and the system will drop your multiplier to keep it stable enough to let you save your screenshot. All overclockers that push the limits can appreciate that feature. But wait, there’s more!
The smaller red button is the MemOK button. If you’re overclocking memory and push it too far, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to POST when the system restarts with those settings. All you need to do is hold down the MemOK button and it will reset your memory to stable settings, leaving the rest of the BIOS alone. That in itself saves plenty of time. That button also serves double duty as the GO button, which will apply your preset overclock if pressed while you’re in your OS.
Last, but not least, we have the GPU Hotwire feature, which is those red and black connector pins you see there. GPU Hotwire allows you to connect ASUS GPUs with GPU Hotwire and directly control their GPU, vMEM and vPLL voltages directly from your motherboard. Additionally – and this is really neat – you have VGA sense, which adds monitoring probe points for you to check your GPU’s voltage. Last on the GPU front, there is a bank of switches that allow you to disable any of the PCIe x16 slots at will. For extreme overclockers that spend a bunch of time prepping and running insulated sub-zero GPUs, this is a huge time saver. You can put four GPUs on, bench all four, then simply turn one off and bench three, etc. etc. until you’re at one. It’s also a valuable tool if your overclocking adventures take out a GPU, you can find out which one is deceased and disable that one slot and keep on benching. As you can see, there really is a staggering amount of controlling and monitoring going on up here.
Whew. Not quite done with the upper-right corner, we’ve got a second USB 3.0 header next to the 24-pin main power connector. There is also QLED, which is seriously handy for at-a-glance determination of where your system is failing at POST.
If you’re going for seriously upgraded onboard sound, the Maximus V Formula is more your style. The Maximus V Extreme has a Realtek audio codec that is sufficient for most people, but there is so little room on this PCB that they couldn’t go to the lengths they did with SupremeFX IV. This board is built for one thing – ultra high end performance, pushing your components to the max. If you want better sound, you’ll need a sound card.
Continuing our tour you see the ASMedia USB 3.0 controller for that bottom header and the Nuvoton system monitoring chip.
Also making the transfer from the Rampage IV Extreme is the Sub-Zero Sense. You can plug K-type thermal probes directly into your board and monitor it from there without the need for an external thermometer. The temperature is displayed via the OC Key and in AISuite.
Then you have the SATA connections. Like the Maximus V Formula, the Extreme comes with the two native SATA 6 Gb/s connectors but ASUS has chosen to use only two of the native SATA II connectors from the Z77 PCH, exchanging the other two ports for two ASMedia controlled SATA 6 Gb/s connections. There are two more via a second ASMedia controller, for six SATA 6 Gb/s connections total.
Here is a closer-up photo of the dual BIOS chips. They’re even removable, so if you REALLY nuke one, you can replace it no problem.
Rounding out our controller tour, we have the Intel ethernet interface chip (the controller itself is native to the Z77 PCH), the ASMedia HDMI/DVI interface chip and last, but not least, the ASMedia USB 3.0 controller for the rear I/O USB 3.0 ports.
Speaking of the rear I/O, as you can see there is plenty of connectivity here. The one port that costs the most is that on the far left – the Intel Thunderbolt connector. To its right, you have the CMOS reset button and ROG Connect switch (which doubles as the OC Key enable/disable switch). Then there are four USB 2.0 ports, one of which is reserved for the ROG Connect cable. There is one ethernet port, the PS/2 port and then four USB 3.0 ports. On the video side, there are both HDMI and DisplayPort outputs. Then for audio you have the Realtek-controlled digital and analog outputs (and single mic input).
That’s already a lot of stuff, but it’s just what you can SEE. There is even more underneath those nice looking heatsinks.
Under the Hood
Take a minute to examine the bare PCB of the Maximus V Extreme. Just look at how chock-full of electronics this board is. It really is a sight. We talk about powerful motherboards and this has got to be one of the most power-full boards I’ve ever seen. I might be wrong on this, but based on the number of choke/MOSFET/capacitor combinations throughout this board, there are fully thirty one (that’s 31) power phases disbursed throughout this PCB. Obviously that’s not just for the CPU; its power uses the huge alloy chokes, but for the components as a whole, all told there are 31 phases. Crazy.
Here are the very nice looking, not to mention heavy, heatsinks themselves. There are two segments connected by heatpipes – the MOSEFET heatsinks and the PLX PCIe multiplier + Z77 PCH heatsinks. There is also a small MOSFET sink on the back of the board. All dissipate all the heat they need to and look great to boot.
Up first on our under-the-heatsink journey is the PLX PCIe expander chip, the PEX 8747. There is a stellar article by Anandtech’s Ryan Smiththat goes into a lot of detail on the benefits and drawbacks of the PEX 8747 chip. What the chip does is effectively add 16 PCIe lanes to the existing 16 native to the Ivy Bridge CPUs. It’s obviously not that simple – you can’t get something from nothing. It is literally an article in itself to explain the method they’ve used to squeeze 32 PCIe lanes into the 16 lanes on the CPU.
One thing that you need to know about this chip as it pertains to this motherboard is that the Maximus V Extreme does not use this chip for one or two GPUs. It uses the native 16x for one GPU and 8x+8x for two GPUs. By doing this, ASUS eliminates the lag you see experienced in the Anandtech article. Only when you add a third (and fourth) GPU does this chip come into play on this board – which is to say, only when it is required is it put to use. With this implementation, ASUS has given us the best of both worlds. We’ll be testing this with one GPU – can ASUS really give us the best of both worlds with no lag at all? We’ll test it against the Maximus V GENE (that doesn’t have the PLX chip) and see if there is any difference.
Moving on, we have the Z77 platform controller hub.
Last, but absolutely not least is the CPU power section, complete with eight strong DIGI+VRM phases for the CPU and four for the iGPU. These use ASUS’ well-known, upgraded alloy chokes, “Japan-made 10K Black Metallic capacitors” and upgraded MOSFETs. It’s plenty of power to push any Ivy Bridge CPU to the limit (or past it!). This is all controlled by the proprietary ASUS DIGI+VRM/EPU controller chip.
What a board; it is just full of electronics from top to bottom and side to side.
To explore the Maximus V Extreme UEFI, we’ll begin at the beginning. When you boot to BIOS on this board, you are dropped right into the Extreme Tweaker menu. Here you control every voltage, BCLK and multiplier setting you could need. Once you dig into the RAM sub-menus, tweaking ability gets even more detailed. There are more RAM settings and RAM profiles than any one person could ever need, but as a whole, they have at least something for everybody.
Moving into the other Extreme Tweaker sub-menus, there is GPU.DIMM Post to check your GPU & RAM at a glance. CPU Power management has a couple of options, but when you want real power management, just jump into the DIGI+ VRM menu. There you can control CPU, RAM & VCCIO power, with adjustments for LLC, VRM frequencies and more. In GPU Tweakers’ Paradise you can adjust voltages for the PCIe slots and PLX chip. Additionally, this is where you can adjust GPUs that are connected via GPU Hotwire.
There are additional CPU configuration options within the Advanced menu. There are other more standard BIOS options here, screenshots for which you can check out below.
The Monitor menu is where you can both check the status of your system’s voltages, temperatures and fan speeds as well as set BIOS control over your fans. There are a lot of options in here, with control over fan headers for the CPU, the three Chassis fans and three OPT fans.
In the next series of screenshots we’ll detail is the Tool menu, which is close to being as important as Extreme Tweaker. It is here that you can store your OC Profiles, check your RAM’s SPD, set the GO Button profile and flash your BIOS.
The remaining BIOS screens are your standard fare, like device control, storage configuration, etc etc. They’re all below for your perusal.
One thing that’s transparent to the user but important to point out is that this UEFI, like all of ASUS’ Z77 (and all X79) boards, is in a CAP format. The biggest difference the end-user will notice is the drastically reduced boot time, letting you get into Windows much faster (it’s a very palpable difference). It also has extra security to prevent UEFI infection and some Windows 8-centric features.
The ASUS software suite on the Maximus V Extreme is, well, extreme in its own right. There is a lot to go over, so let’s dig in.
First up is the AISuite set of tools. If it is an upper-level setting and you can do it in BIOS, chances are there’s an AISuite companion setting. There are some functions that it can’t do (set memory timings, for one…but you have another program for that), but by and large, AISuite does much of the tweaking that can be done in BIOS.
The most important tool for overclockers is TurboV EVO. It has been, and continues to be, one of the easiest to use and most seamless motherboard overclocking programs on the market. ASUS got it right with AISuite and has continued to keep it up to date, doing everything you need it to do on any given motherboard.
Thanks to the DIGI+VRM controller, you also have auto and fine-grained manual control of all things VRM. You can control both CPU and RAM VRM settings from in-OS. I’m fairly certain ASUS is alone in this respect, no one else has this kind of control via software.
Fan Xpert 2 gives you auto or manual control over most of the fans attached to your motherboard.
Probe II gives you handy pop-ups if your monitored voltages, temperatures or fan speeds go out of range. The range is completely customizable too, so if you intentionally set something (like Vcore) out of the range, you can simply adjust the range. It’s great for telling if you have a fan or pump go kaput, rather than having your CPU throttle due to heat. Sensor Recorder is great for those that enjoy monitoring their system. If there is a sensor, you can record it right here.
AiCharger+ is for those of you with iDevices, allowing faster charging via USB. USB 3.0 Boost uses a couple of methods, which I went over in a prior review but will pass on here to so you don’t have to find it on your own.
USB 3.0 Boost makes transferring via USB 3.0 faster via Turbo and UASP protocol. Turbo speeds up normal BOT protocol speeds by allowing a large package of commands to be sent rather than just one at a time. UASP allows parallel commands to be sent to the device. ASUS has some graphics explaining what USB 3.0 Boost does and its benefits if that interests you.
Last up are some of the more mundane AISuite features. You can update your BIOS from here, which I do not recommend – use EZ Flash II, it’s safer – and you can change the boot logo from BIOS. With ASUS’ CAP UEFIs, booting is so quick you’ll rarely catch a glimpse of the boot logo, but if you want to change what you see for a second or two, you can. Last in our series of screenshots is System Info (warning – wide image) and Settings, which are both pretty self-explanatory.
AISuite is a strong set of programs with a convenient base of operation in the AISuite toolbar. Nothing to complain about there. However, most of that is present on most ASUS boards, so what separates the Extreme? OC Key.
OC Key is actually hardware, but it seems appropriate to go over in the software section. When boiled down to basics, OC Key is basically ROG Connect but without the second computer. It’s right there on this computer. Using the OC Key Plus software, you can even keep the interface on screen and then use a hotkey to switch keyboard control. Alternatively, you can hook two keyboards up to the system and have one control the OS and the other control the OC Key. The TweakIt menu is where you can do the main CPU & RAM oriented adjusting.
You can also monitor everything you need from right here – temps, frequencies, fan speeds; it’s all right here via OC Key.
Lastly, you can even control the GPUs you’ve got hooked up through VGA Hotwire.
As mentioned before, you can run OC Key Plus to give yourself hotkeys for switching control of OC Key on and off.
OC Key was an inventive and innovative piece of hardware on the Rampage IV Extreme. It’s a fun tool and a boon to extreme overclockers if they don’t want to use ROG Connect. I’m glad they decided to bring it to the mainstream performance market in the Maximus line.
Other Tweaking Software
GPU TweakIt Server allows you to use ROG Connect to overclock your GPU as well.
Mem TweakIt is -I think- the only software of its kind; at least I have yet to see it on other motherboards. It allows you to tweak almost all memory timings, right from inside the OS. This one has been around for a couple generations now and it is a great boon to memory tweakers out there.
Lastly, we have ROG Connect, the impressively effective remote overclocking tool. Install the program, plug the included USB cable into both PCs and you’re good to go. (The image is from a past review; my apologies for forgetting to nab a screenshot.)
Overall, a great software stack to compliment a very strong motherboard.
Today’s processing comparison tests come to us courtesy of Intel and ASUS (times two). We’ll also be exploring GPU performance courtesy the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP.
|CPU||Intel i7 3770K|
|Motherboard||Intel DZ77GA-70K ASUS Maximus V GENE ASUS Maximus V Extreme|
|RAM||G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-2133 G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666|
|GPU||ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP|
|OS||Windows 7 x64|
Put them together and you certainly have a great looking system (especially when combined with EK’s SupremeHF full copper waterblock).
Overclocking for Stability
Overclocking an i7 3770K on the Maximus V Extreme was very much the same as it was on the Maximus V GENE. A board doesn’t make a 4.8 GHz Ivy Bridge CPU into a 5.0 GHz one – no board can, no matter who makes it. I tried – boy, did I try – to make 4.9 GHz, but the CPU just wouldn’t do it. Heat and voltages both just became too high for stability on ambient cooling. Thus, we’re still using the same 4.8 GHz overclock, complete with easy set-it-and-forget-it DDR3-2800 RAM speed.
Obtaining was a painless exercise pulled off with ease through the MVE’s great BIOS interface.
LLC Voltage Tests
Regrettably this build had to be torn down before I could do LLC testing for you. I’ll try to re-build it once additional Piledriver testing has been completed and report the LLC voltage output scaling. Anecdotally, while overclocking, the MVG felt like it scaled pretty much identical to the Maximus V GENE, whose chart can be seen right here.
In benchmarks, I wouldn’t expect a ton of variation. The one thing to watch out for is graphics; we’ll get to that very shortly.
Rendering & Compression
First we’ll look at rendering, compression and video encoding. Strangly, both Cinebench tests saw the MVE lose a little bit off the GENE’s scores when the systems were overclocked, but not at stock. 7-zip showed a slight gain. PoV Ray & x264 both had a similar back and forth. As you can see, the stock results are basically identical. The overclocked discrepancy is a function of the overclocked results only being run once, where the stock runs are an average of three runs. There’s nothing to be concerned about here, the boards will perform very close to identically.
The one thing to watch out for is graphics. I went through our entire GPU review suite using the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II to see if single-GPU performance was affected in any meaningful way with the PLX chip onboard.
Thankfully, that answer was no; the PLX chip does not have a meaningful impact on single-GPU performance. They went back and forth in both synthetic and game benchmarks, just like 2D benchmarks did. ASUS said they took the PLX chip out of the equation when you run a single GPU and now you have proof they did just that. Win or lose, there was one FPS or less difference in every game except Dirt 3, which runs such high FPS, it jumped all the way up to a whopping 1.3 FPS variation.
When benching SuperPi and WPrime, the Maximus V Extreme showed slight gains in two of the benchmarks and slight losses in the other two. Again, the boards are identical when benching CPUs at the same speeds; if extended through, say, 10+ runs, I daresay they’d be within a couple tenths of a percent every time.
So, what did all those benchmarks teach us? The Maximus V Extreme and the Maximus V GENE will perform the same at the same frequencies throughout. Time and time again we see that motherboards are bought for their features and their build quality. No motherboard from anyone can take the same CPU & RAM and make it work miracles at identical frequencies.
Pushing the Envelope
As with the 24/7 overclock, there is only so far you can push an Ivy Bridge CPU before temperatures rear their ugly head and get in the way. With Sandy Bridge, you could get very near (or even to) the max multiplier on water cooling. Not so with Ivy, so we’re stuck pushing as far as temperatures would let us. In this case, the board and CPU did ok for themselves, reaching just north of five GHz for running full-threaded WPrime.
Of course, stopping there is no fun. We were able to squeeze an extra 150 MHz plus for single-threaded benchmarks PiFast and SuperPi, topping out at 5170 MHz for SuperPi 1M.
Ambient Ivy benchmarking is tough, but once you get to know your CPU (and its limitations), it’s still fun seeing how many MHz you can squeeze out. This motherboard is made for cold and if time had allowed, I’d have taken it cold to show what can be done under those conditions. That will happen eventually, time just hasn’t been on my side recently. When it does, you can rest assured it will be livestreamed!
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
The ASUS Maximus V Extreme is a wonderful motherboard. So wonderful, in fact, that only a very small subset of users need it. Sure, everyone wants one, but at the frankly extreme price of $369.00, do you really need it? That’s a decision only you can make.
Good things come in threes, and there are three user groups who absolutely do need this motherboard – first and foremost is the extreme overclockers. Like the Rampage IV Extreme before it, the Maximus V Extreme is tailor-made with you in mind. If you benchmark under extreme cooling, from single-stage phase change all the way to liquid nitrogen (and liquid helium!), you can’t go wrong with the MVE.
The other user group is those that run multiple GPUs. If you run two, three or even four GPUs in your gaming / benching system, the MVE’s implementation of the PLX chip is perfect for you. For running one GPU, you aren’t hit with the PLX lag other boards can see, but at the same time you have it there in the event you need it. It really is the best of both worlds.
The last group is those that just want every possible feature they can get in a motherboard. These are the (well-funded) tinkerers. They want to have all the toys – the ROG Connect, the OC Key, the ProbeIT multimeter plugs – and they want to play with them to their heart’s content. This board is also for you. ASUS has seen fit to give you all the tools to toy that you could ask for.
This board isn’t for everybody; in fact, I’d say it’s not for most people. There are plenty of boards out there that are for most people and this isn’t one of ‘em. With the Maximus V Extreme, ASUS took everything an overclocker could want and the kitchen sink and threw it all into a great looking package. If you have the money to spend and fit any of the molds mentioned, it is absolutely a worthy investment. – Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)