How many different ways can ASUS produce a motherboard that uses the same Z77 chipset? At last count, with the arrival of the Maximus V Formula and Extreme renditions, they figure eighteen is a good number for now. Today, we will be looking at the feature-rich Maximus V Formula, which is in the upper tier of ASUS’ Z77 offerings. The Maximus V Formula is part of the ROG (Republic of Gamers) series of motherboards, which in and of itself brings a high level of expectation. So, let’s dive into this latest offering from ASUS and see if it’s a worthy addition to the Z77 and ROG families.
Packaging and First Look
Like most (if not all) of the ASUS ROG family of motherboards, the box is decked out with a red theme. The front of the box has a few feature descriptive icons; most notably, that it is part of the ROG family, PCI-e 3.0 ready, and Windows 8 ready. The back of the box has a few pictures of some major features along with basic specifications. A descriptive drawing of the back panel I/O area rounds out the back of the box. All the box sides are reserved for additional branding, a multilingual basic feature list, and don’t forget that nifty carrying handle!
Although you won’t find this packaging on the New York Times’ Best Seller list, it does open much like a book would. Inside the cover is another list of some major features. On the right side is a clear window with the motherboard behind it.
I really like the way ASUS has packaged this motherboard, especially for those that can actually pick up the box and look at it before purchasing it (read brick and mortar stores).
Inside, you will find everything housed in two boxes. The first being a folded up cardboard holder for the motherboard with the plastic window on top. The second box is where the accessories are packaged, and there are a lot of them!
Here is a list of everything included in the accessory package:
- User’s manual
- I/O Shield
- 2 x SATA 3Gb/s cables
- 4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable
- 1 x SLI bridge
- 1 x Q-connector (2 in 1)
- 1 x ROG Connect cable(s)
- 1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label Sheet
- 1 x mPCIe Combo card with dual band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n module + Bluetooth v4.0/3.0+HS module
- 1 x 2-in-1 RF Cable
- 2 x Wi-Fi Ring Moving Antennas
- ROG Case Badge
- “Do Not Disturb” Sign
In addition to the above list of accessories, ASUS has included a free copy of Daemon Tools Pro and a full one year license for Kaspersly Anti-Virus. If you were to go out and buy these two pieces of software, they would cost upwards of $75 or more. It’s hard to argue with free stuff! It certainly adds additional value to the product.
With everything unpacked, we have our first unobstructed look at the ASUS Maximus V Formula. Aesthetically, the Maximus V Formula’s black and red theme is just down right awesome looking. We’ll dive into each area of the board as the review progresses, but for now, enjoy the picture show!
Specifications and Features
Manufacturers are keen on listing detailed specifications for their products and ASUS is no different in this regard. In fact, the specification sheet for the Maximus V Formula is, well…. huge, to say the least. So huge in fact, I think I’ll just point you to the ASUS web site and save the real estate.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Maximus V Formula is feature-rich, and you’ll see why as we list them out. Most of what you see below is directly quoted from ASUS, with the occasional commentary on my part.
The first set of features are designated as ROG gaming and ROG exclusive. The SupremeFX audio has been upgraded to version IV for the formula series motherboards. The SupremeFX solution has come a long way from the days when it used to be a stand alone card. A lot of improvements have been made to better isolate it from the rest of the board by way of PCB separation and EMI shielding
AMPed for Perfect Audio
SupremeFX IV builds on its predecessors, with a carefully tested set of audio capacitors that provide a warmer sound, and a new 300 ohm headphone amplifier built-in, it gives both greater grunt and better gaming audio than ever before. Combined with existing SupremeFX innovations such as the ‘Red Line’ physical PCB separation, and EMI shield, SupremeFX IV sets an unparalleled audio standard for PC gamers.
GameFirst II allows the user to prioritize internet traffic using cFos Traffic Shaping technology.
Put Your Frags First
Offering powerful, yet easy-to-use network control, ROG GameFirst II with cFos Traffic Shaping technology is revamped with a more intuitive ROG user interface. Featuring both an exclusive EZ Mode for beginners to setup and Advanced Mode for professional users to tweak, it means whatever your PC does in the background; your fragging will always come first!
The use of Intel for the network solution is becoming standard fare for ASUS now days. Most, if not all of their current lineup now uses Intel exclusively.
Intel Gigabit LAN
Experience the fast network connectivity!
The LAN solution from Intel has been long known to have a better throughput, lower CPU utilization as well as better stability. With the Intel Gigabit LAN solutions onboard, the ultimate network experience can therefore be delivered to its users like never before.
The mPCIe card included in the kit brings Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality to the Maximus V Formula. The mPCIe card is also able to accept a mSATA SSD for those wishing to save space on the motherboard, or even inside their case.
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.
For the water cooling crowd, ASUS has implemented their “Fusion Thermo Solution” water cooling option into the PWM heatsink.
Fusion Thermo Solution
Sharp ROG looks and cooler temps with patent-pending innovation
The exclusive ROG Fusion Thermo Solution offers the world’s first air and water cooling-ready thermal design, available on ROG Maximus V Formula motherboards. Alongside a premium heatsink, it integrates a heatpipe and an all-copper water channel with electroplated barbs on both ends, making it the most flexible choice for power users who wish to have more freedom when selecting cooling setups. Whether by air or water, it brings better heat removal from critical power delivery components for improved stability. It also makes liquid cooling installs simpler and quicker for an undisputed overclocking advantage.
ROG Connect allows you to use another computer or laptop to monitor system states, as well as make on-the-fly real time adjustments to the system settings. ROG Connect is a great feature for the hardcore overclocking crowd, and just plain fun to use for the rest of us.
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.
The power delivery system is enhanced by way of the Extreme Engine Digi+ II feature.
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.
A version of CPU-Z all decked out with a ROG skin is available to further enhance the experience.
Whole new design of CPU-Z
ROG CPU-Z is a customized ROG version authorized by CPUID. It has the same functionality and credibility as the original version, with a unique design. Use the whole new look of ROG CPU-Z to truly report your CPU related information and your uniqueness.
The next set of features are more Z77 chipset specific than ASUS or ROG specific. One of the most intriguing features of the Z77 chipset is LucidLogix Virtu MVP. To be honest, it would take a review of its own to go over everything it’s capable of. Luckily, Lucid has a downloadable white paper that does a great job explaining the technology. Just as hokiealumnus did in his review of the Maximus V GENE, I’ll also point you to Massmann’s exceptional, down to earth explanation of Virtu MVP at the HWBot forums.
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.
SLI and Crossfire support is present and accounted for. The ASUS blurb below claims Quad-SLI and Quad Crossfire support. However, with only three PCI-e graphics slots, it’s only possible by using two dual GPU graphics cards, such as the GTX 690. A single graphics card will run at x16 speeds, two cards in SLI or Crossfire will run at x8/x8, and three cards will run at x8/x4/4.
Why choose when you can have both?
SLI or CrossFireX? Fret no longer because with the ROG Maximus V Formula Series, you’ll be able to run both multi-GPU setups. The board features SLI/CrossFire on Demand technology, supporting up to Quad-GPU SLI or Quad-GPU CrossFireX configuration. Whichever path you take, you can be assured of jaw-dropping graphics at a level previously unseen.
As long as you have an Ivy Bridge CPU, you will be able to take advantage the latest PCI Express 3.0 bus speeds. This means the Maximus V Formula will allow you to get the most out of the latest and greatest video cards available.
PCI Express® 3.0
PCI Express® 3.0 (PCIe 3.0) is the latest PCI Express bus standard with improved encoding schemes that provide twice the performance of current PCIe 2.0. Total bandwidth for a x16 link reaches a maximum of 32GB/s, double the 16GB/s of PCIe 2.0 (in x16 mode). As such, PCIe 3.0 provides users unprecedented data speeds, combined with the convenience and seamless transition offered by complete backward compatibility with PCIe 1.0 and PCIe 2.0 devices. PCIe 3.0 will become a must-have feature for users who wish to improve and optimize graphic performance, as well as have the latest technology available to them.
* Actual PCIe speed depends on installed CPU type.
Up-scaling stereo signals to surround sound, and then listening to it on either your PC or home theater receiver is possible through the use of DTS Connect and DTS UltraPC II.
Expand Your PC Audio Experience
To get the most out of your audio entertainment across all formats and quality levels, DTS Connect combines two enabling technologies. DTS Neo:PC™ upmixes stereo sources (CDs, MP3s, WMAs, internet radio) into as many as 7.1 channels of incredible surround sound. Consumers can then connect their PC to a home theater system.DTS Interactive is capable of performing multi-channel encoding of DTS bitstreams on personal computers, and sending encoded bitstreams out of a digital audio connection (such as S/PDIF or HDMI) designed to deliver audio to an external decoder.
DTS UltraPC II
DTS UltraPC II delivers exceptional 7.1 surround through the most popular PC audio setups – your existing stereo speakers or headphones. In addition to virtual surround, it upgrades original sound to new levels with Audio Restoration, recreating the dynamic range of audio files. Symmetry mode improves the balance of perceived loudness across different input sources and Enhance boosts audio quality through high and low frequency equalization. With these technologies, users experience better home theater audio with ease.
Up Close and Under the Hood
We’ll work our way around the Maximus V Formula’s outer extremities first, starting with the bottom area. Here we find the front panel audio header (AAFP), digital audio (SPDI/F) header, and a 4-pin “EZ Plug” Molex connector. The EZ Plug should be used when using multiple graphics cards in SLI or Crossfire configurations. Further to the right, we find two 4-pin fan headers, two USB 2.0 headers, thermal sensor cable connectors (cables sold separately), and the front panel case connections. Just above and slightly to the left of the front panel connections is a 20-pin TPM (Trusted Platform Module) used primarily for server environments.
From the two pictures below, we can also see a few of the many Japanese 10K black metallic capacitors used throughout the Maximus V Formula. ASUS claims these capacitors offer a 5x longer lifespan (10K hours) and 20% better low temperature endurance when compared to standard capacitors.
Moving over to the board’s right side, we first land on the SATA connector block. The uppermost black ports are SATA 3.0 Gb/s and are native to the Z77 Chipset. The top two red ports are SATA 6.0 Gb/s and are also native to the chipset. The bottom four red ports are SATA 6.0 Gb/s and are provided by the two ASMedia ASM1061 chips located directly behind the SATA block. The two additional native Intel SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports the Z77 chipset supports were sacrificed in order to bring you the mPCIe combo card and the eSATA port; a smart decision in my opinion. Just above the SATA block, is the native onboard USB 3.0 front panel header.
The upper area of the board’s right side is where the 24-pin ATX power connector is located. Just next to the power connector are the QLED status indicators, which tell you with a quick glance if your CPU, memory, VGA card, or boot device is keeping the system from booting properly. Moving a little upward, we come to the voltage readout points and the LN2 mode jumper. The voltage readout points do not support installing a “belt”, so you will have to physically touch the points with a voltage meter probe. The LN2 mode jumper, when enabled, helps the board bypass any cold boot problems a processor may have while using extreme cooling.
The MEM OK/Go Button has two functions. Pressing the button before post enables the MemOK! function, which can help solve memory incompatibility issues that may be preventing a successful boot. Once in the OS, the Go Button can also be used to load a profile assigned to it in BIOS. The last items in this area are the onboard start and reset buttons and the four DDR3 DIMM slots. In a break from tradition, you will only find a locking latch on one side of the DIMM slots.
The upper right side of the motherboard has three more fan headers: two for CPU fans and one for a chassis fan. Also located here is the Q-Code LED post code display and the Slow Mode switch. The Slow Mode switch is another extreme cooling feature that, when on, will prevent the system from crashing by slowing down the CPU. The system tuner takes over from there and applies more stable settings. The Slow Mode switch is tied in with the LN2 Jumper we discussed earlier, and it must be in the enabled position in order for the Slow Mode switch to operate.
Moving over to the upper left side of the Maximus V Formula, we find two EATX12V CPU power connectors: one 8-pin and one 4-pin. I’m not quite sure why ASUS didn’t go with two 8-pin connectors here. I doubt anyone using this motherboard would be trying to use a PSU with only a single 4-pin power lead at their disposal. Even if they were, it would still be usable in the 8-pin socket.
The left side of the Maximus V Formula has a lot going on. Beginning at the very top corner, we find a Clear CMOS and ROG Connect buttons. The row of pins behind that is where the mPCIe combo card gets installed. In its out-of-the-box form, the mPCIe card provides the user with Bluetooth and wireless networking capabilities and can be further expanded by installing a mSATA SSD (sold separately). Everything needed for wireless connectivity is included in the accessory package.
The I/O area offers four USB 2.0 ports, one of which is white in color and is intended to be used for the ROG connect cable. Next to those are the eSATA port and two ASMedia (ASM1042 chip) USB 3.0 Ports. For the audio and video output functions, there are optical SPDI/F out, HDMI (ASM1442 chip), and DisplayPort connections. Further down the I/O area we come to two more native USB 3.0 connections and the Intel LAN port. The last I/O area is the speaker connection block, which supports up to 8 channel audio configurations. The optical SPDI/F in port is also housed in the speaker connection block.
Moving to the bottom of the board’s left side, we find it pretty much dominated by the SupremeFX IV audio circuitry. The black box with the “SurroundFX” label provides the EMI shielding for the audio chip. The large red and silver capacitor next to the EMI shield is a beefed up 1500 uF ‘buffer’ capacitor, which filters the incoming power from the motherboard. The translucent line you see that weaves its way from the SupremeFX shield over to the audio connection block is the PCB separation feature. There are red LEDs all around this area that light up the EMI shield and PCB separation line. Additionally, the SupremeFX IV offers a high fidelity TI 6120A2 300 ohm dedicated headphone amplifier, which will allow usage of high-end professional headphones normally reserved for home theater amplifiers. ASUS has done a nice job with the SupremeFX IV audio in making it about as close to a discrete sound card as you can get, while still being an integrated solution.
Worth noting at this point is my personal experience while listening to the SupremeFX IV audio this motherboard features. I connected a set of 5.1 channel speakers to the analog jacks for a quick test run. The first thing you will notice is the increased volume levels when compared to normal onboard audio solutions; it can crank out some noise! Probably the one aspect I enjoyed the most was watching a 5.1 surround sound DVD movie. The sound in this scenario was leaps and bounds better than any standard onboard audio can give you.
The SupremeFX IV audio solution is jam packed with enhancements that are best described by ASUS in their marketing material.
And here are the up close pictures of the SupremeFX IV area of the motherboard.
Moving more towards the center of the board and beginning with the expansion slot area, we find three PCI-e x16 graphics slots (red), three PCI-e x1 slots, and a single PCI-e x4 slot at the top. For SLI and Crossfire setups, two cards will run at the Ivy Bridge limit of x8/x8, and three cards at x8/x4/x4. Adding additional PCI-e lanes are made possible through the use of the PLX8747 chip, which sits between the lower two PCI-e x16 slots.
The Maximus V Formula uses a single Winbond 25Q64FVAIG BIOS chip. Normally, I would complain about only having a single BIOS chip with no way to switch between two or three different versions. However, because you can flash the BIOS without even starting the computer, even a bad flash won’t ruin your day. The “USB BIOS Flashback” feature allows you to flash the BIOS from a USB stick by pressing the ROG Connect button while the system is off. You don’t even need a CPU or memory installed, all you need is standby power present.
System monitoring is provided by the Nuvoton NCT6779D chip.
The CPU socket area looks open enough to accept just about any air cooler. I can’t think of any water blocks that won’t fit here either. Just below the CPU socket is a bit of bling in the form of a pulsating illuminated ROG plaque. We also have our first look at the combination air and water cooled PWM heatsink assembly called the “Thermo Fusion Solution”. The Thermo Fusion is a very capable passive cooler by itself, but adding the water cooling option makes it just that much better. The Thermo Fusion uses 3/8″ barbs, which may not have been the best decision on ASUS’ part. I think most water cooling enthusiasts would have preferred 1/2″ barbs. I can’t help thinking the best solution would have been not to install barbs at all and instead use G1/4 threads. This would allow users the freedom to use any size tubing desired, along with their favorite fittings; we like options, right?
The Z77 PCH has a large black heatsink with an ASUS logo applied to it. The pink, almost glue-like thermal interface material was found to be making good contact with the PCH chip. Under the heatsink, we find the Z77 PCH chip itself.
The Maximus V Formula shows its wares in the power delivery area. The twelve power phases are broken up into eight for the CPU and four for the iGPU. Couple this with the upgraded ROG alloy chokes and stout MOSFETs, and you have a power section that is tough to beat.
To keep all this power cool, the Thermo Fusion heatsink uses a thermal pad. Once the heatsink was removed the thermal pad was found to be making excellent contact with the target chips. There is a row of MOSFETs on the back side of the motherboard as well, and these are kept cool by way of a heatsink plate with a thermal pad. Again, the thermal pad was making excellent contact with the chips.
The ROG BIOS has a lot of eye candy to look at while you navigate through the different sections, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s all about the “bling”. The ROG BIOS is absolutely loaded with overclocking options, some nifty tools, and enough customization options to keep you busy for quite a long time. Worth noting is the .CAP BIOS structure that the Maximus V formula had installed (BIOS V. 0804). The .CAP BIOS structure provides full Windows 8 support for starters, but also includes specialized controller initialization options to help speed up the boot process. Additionally, UEFI security enhancements have been made to prevent the bad guys from infecting the UEFI.
The first area you are presented with after entering the ROG BIOS is the the Extreme Tweaker section. Obviously, this is where all the overclocking features are; and man are they extensive! It took the four screen shots below just to get the entire list shown; and that doesn’t even include the sub menus that I’ll show you next.
There are four sub menus in the Extreme Tweaker section. The DRAM Timing Control sub menu has adjustments for primary timings, secondary timings, tertiary timings, and if that’s not enough for you, how about some miscellaneous settings too? There is a pretty cool Memory Preset option that you can use to select from several preloaded memory profiles. The profiles are based on many of the newer kits on the market, as well as some older ones.
GPU.DIMM Post is the next sub menu. It’s informational in design and shows the status of the GPU and memory installed. The CPU Power Management and DIGI+ Power Control sub menus offer a host of additional options, including the CPU ratio and a plethora of other settings that allow fine tuning of the power delivery systems.
Under the Main tab, we find basic system information and a Security sub menu allowing for password protection.
Nine sub menus greet you under the Advanced tab. Most of these options are not performance or overclocking related, but are necessary for proper system configuration.
Moving over to the Monitor tab, we find voltage, temperature, and fan speed monitoring capabilities. The Fan Speed Control section is also located here. You can either disable the Q-Fan control to make the fan run at 100% all the time, set your own parameters based on temperatures, or use one of the pre-programmed profile settings.
The Boot tab has the typical settings available on most modern systems today, including the ability to turn off the full screen logo during boot.
Under the Tools tab, we have the EZ Flash 2 Utility for updating the BIOS and the O.C. Profile for saving and naming up to eight profiles. Additionally, the ASUS SPD Information will show you the XMP profiles and JDEC standards for the installed memory. The Tools tab also has the Go Button configuration options.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy interface to access a few basic features, you can hit the F7 key to access the EZ Mode BIOS display. Finally, when you’re done with your ROG BIOS session, hit the exit button on the upper right of the screen to save or discard your changes.
ASUS Bundled Software
The ASUS AI Suite II software is by far the most feature packed software I have ever seen bundled with a motherboard. It’s seamless interface with the UEFI BIOS is amazing. The software has relatively few items missing that need to be accessed from the BIOS. For the vast majority of users, everything you need is right there in the desktop software interface.
The TurboV EVO tool is where the overclockers among us will hang out the most. Voltage control, BCLK, and CPU multiplier settings can all be controlled from here.
To further enhance your desktop overclocking adventure, the DIGI+ VRM controller has a full set of options available. Additional items are available only through UEFI, but most of what is needed can be found here.
The EPU control allows power saving manipulation to satisfy the “Green” in all of us.
Fan Xpert 2 provides a complete desktop solution for setting fan speeds. In Easy Mode you’ll find simplistic fan control with a press of a button. Venture into the Advanced Mode and you will have complete control over all seven fan headers present on the motherboard, provided there is actually a fan hooked to all of them. You can fine tune each fan speed based on temperatures through a graphical type interface. You can even give each of the fans a unique name if you wish. You can forget about buying a fan controller; Fan Xpert 2 does everything a fan controller would do, and a heck of a lot more.
Probe II can be set to alert you should any of the selected voltages fall outside of the customizable values. Sensor Recorder does just that; it records voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds over a specified time period.
If you have mobile devices (who doesn’t now days?), you have the ability to charge them using a pair of USB charging utilities. In order to use the AI charger, your device must be BC 1.1 compliant. Non BC 1.1 compliant devices can use the USB Charger+ utility and still get the job done.
Keeping with USB utilities, the USB 3.0 Boost utility can increase the speed of some USB 3.0 devices. How much benefit you will receive from USB 3.0 Boost depends on whether your device is BOT or UASP compliant.
Wi-Fi GO! and WiFi Engine are tools used to connect with most any Wi-Fi device on your network. Wi-Fi GO! allows for media streaming, remote desktop, and the ability to use your smart phone to control your system, just to name a few. If you want to turn the Wi-Fi controller built into the mPCIe card into an access point, that can be done using Wi-Fi Engine.
If you are looking for that little bit of extra personalization, you can use the MyLogo tool to customize the boot screen.
As Clint Eastwood would say, “Do you feel lucky punk?” If you do, then flashing the BIOS from Windows is possible with the ASUS Update tool. In all honesty, there’s really no reason to risk flashing the BIOS from here when it’s just as easily done by using USB BIOS Flashback or the EZ Flash 2 utility built in to the UEFI.
Under the System Information section, we have three tabs; MB, CPU, and SPD. These tabs are another quick way to view basic system component information.
Adjusting what AI Suite II applications are enabled is as easy as checking or un-checking a box. The bar at the bottom of all the AI Suite II screens can also be customized to your liking.
Even though we’ve come to the end of the AI Suite II applications, there is one more tweaking application you might enjoy. Using ROG Connect, you can use a remote PC to overclock your system by using the supplied cable and the ROG Connect software. The overclocking function is darn near identical to the TurboV EVO utility, function wise. You also have the ability to monitor fan speeds, voltages, and temperatures from the remote PC. The picture below is a screenshot with RC TweakIt opened on my laptop.
AI Suite II is quite impressive, to say the least; a person could literally play with this stuff for days on end. I think it’s safe to say AI Suite II is the Grand Daddy of all desktop based motherboard software.
ASUS will be rolling out yet another piece of software called ROG Exchange. It’s still in Beta form, but I’m told it should be ready to go by mid October at the latest. The ROG Exchange software will allow you to search a database of BIOS profiles uploaded by other ROG users. You will have a host of search criteria to choose from, allowing you to find a profile that gets your overclock where you want it. It will also be interwoven with social media like Facebook where you can “Like” a profile if it worked good for you. There is a video at the ROG Forums that gives you an idea of how the software works. At it’s initial implementation it will be limited to ROG Z77motherboards, but future plans include adding X79 and a few other platforms to the mix. It will however be limited to the ROG family of motherboards. This is just another example of how ASUS supports the enthusiast community… Kudos!
Overclocking and Benchmarks
ASUS Maximus V Formula Motherboard
Intel i7 3770K CPU (Overclockers Approved!)
G.Skill F3-2400C10D-16GTX TridentX 2X8 Gb DDR3 2400 Mhz Kit
ASUS GTX 660 Ti DirectCU II TOP Video Card (Overclockers Approved!)
Kingston HyperX 3K SSD 240 Gb (Overclockers Approved)
EVGA Superclock CPU Cooler
Corsair HX1050 PSU
Before running benchmarks, let’s make sure the system is stable. Using a fifteen minute run of AIDA64’s system stability test, the first check was run with everything set to the motherboard’s default settings. ASUS intentionally defaults the cores at 39x, making the stock speed 3.9 GHz. I didn’t expect any problems here, and none were encountered. I then bumped the CPU voltage to 1.30 V and set LLC to the maximum 100%, which keeps it the same as the other motherboards in the comparison graphs below. Those settings were able to produce a very stable 4.8 GHz overclock.
Armed with stable stock and overclocked speeds, let’s run a few benchmarks. I’ll use the ASRock Z77 Extreme4 and BIOSTAR Z77X Hi-Fi motherboards I recently reviewed as comparisons. Those two motherboards were reviewed using the exact same CPU and memory I am using here. The first set of benchmark runs were all performed at the bone stock settings for each of motherboards, except for setting the memory speed, voltage, and timings manually. I will show the results from each of the benchmarks with a screenshot and then a graph with the competing boards included. As I mentioned above, the ASUS Maximus V Formula has a stock setting of 3.9 GHz, so keep that in mind as you peruse the stock results below.
SuperPi 1M and 32M are very popular benchmarks as everyone tries to shave that extra second off their times. The 32M portion also doubles as a good stability test. If something is not completely stable, the 32M run will most likely fail to complete. No big surprises in the comparisons here with the Maximus V Formula coming out on top; the extra stock speed showing its benefits.
wPrime 32M and 1024M were run next with a bit of a surprise showing up. The BIOSTAR board actually had a very slight win over the Maximus V Formula in the 1024M run; we’re talking about a 1/2 second difference, but notable with the 400 MHz slower stock speed. The ASUS board squeaked out a win in the 32M run, however. The ASRock motherboard had a bit of trouble keeping up here.
Next up is a stock run of Cinebench R10 and 11.5. The extra stock MHz really show their advantage here with substantially better numbers all around.
The AIDA64 Cache & Memory benchmark shows a clean sweep for the Maximus V formula in the memory, L1 Cache, and L2 Cache tests. The only chink in the armor came during the L3 Cache test, where the BIOSTAR board showed a .1 better latency score. Other than that, the higher stock speeds again showed their wares.
Our final stock testing was MaxxMem² Preview. Here again we show a distinct advantage for the Maximus V Formula’s extra MHz at stock.
While the Maximus V Formula has an advantage in the comparisons because of its higher stock speed, that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Not everyone in this world overclocks, and with this motherboard you can enjoy increased performance by basically doing nothing at all out-of-the-box. If nothing else, the results above show ASUS’s bone stock settings are a step up in performance from other motherboards at their bone stock speeds. This is good news for the “Plug and Play” people out there.
If you are an overclocker (and you better be if you’re reading this!), then all of the above is a moot point anyway because you will be able to easily overclock this board well beyond its 3.9 GHz stock setting. With that said, the comparison motherboards were also able to achieve a stable 4.8 GHz overclock. So, now that all the boards are at the same CPU clock speed, lets see how things shake out.
Beginning at the top again, SuperPi 1M and 32M are up first. In a rare oddity, all three boards scored an identical time in the 1M run, but the ASUS Maximus V Formula led the pack in the 32M run by a pretty good margin.
wPrime 32M and 1024M were not so kind to the Maximus V Formula; it fell behind both of the other boards in this test.
Cinebench testing shows the Maximus V Formula handily coming out on top in the 11.5 test. The R10 run has the Maximus V Formula coming out on top in the 1 CPU test, but falling a little behind in the xCPU test.
Continuing on with the AIDA64 Cache & Memory benchmark, the Maximus V Formula came out on top in most of these tests. The memory test has the ASUS board on top in all the categories, except for the write test. The L1 and L2 Cache tests were pretty much a dead heat with all the scores being very close to each other. The L3 Cache test has the Maximus V Formula coming out on top of all the tests, except for the latency test, which was roughly the same for all three comparison boards.
The MaxxMem² Preview test shows the Maximus V Formula dominating all categories, except for a tie with the BIOSTAR board in the latency test.
Pushing the Envelope
Being on air cooling for this review will obviously limit the overclocking, but we’ll see what we can come up with. It’s no great secret the Ivy Bridge CPUs begin to get hot when you start throwing voltages in the 1.4 V range at them, especially when using air cooling. I set the CPU to 5.0 GHz which took 1.420 V to get to. I was able to run wPrime 32M, SuperPi 1M, and MaxxMemm² Preview. All three tests showed some decent gains from the 4.8 GHz runs. Enjoy these results because the CPU temps spiked up to 90° C during these runs. I think I’ll stop there at the risk of damaging something my wallet will struggle to replace (read CPU).
Even on air, the Maximus V Formula was able to easily take the CPU to 5.0 GHz. The motherboard was definitely not the limiting factor while overclocking; the CPU temperatures were. I have a feeling the extreme overclocking crowd (LN2/DICE) will find this board to be one heck of a playground.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
The ASUS Maximus V Formula currently sells for $279.99 at Newegg, which is an excellent price for an upper end Z77 motherboard with as many features as this one offers.
Versatility is the word that keeps coming to mind when I look back at this motherboard. Not an overclocker? You’ll enjoy the extra boost in speed the stock settings provide. Are you an overclocker using a good air cooler? You should have no problem taking a system built around this motherboard to the 4.8 GHz ~ 5.0 GHz range. Is extreme overclocking your game? There are specific motherboard designs and BIOS options for that crowd too.
Let’s talk about connectivity. The included mPCIe card allows you to go cable-free using its wireless network capabilities or the built in Bluetooth module. With a total of eight SATA ports, one eSATA port, and one available mSATA bay on the mPCIe card, the Maximus V Formula should have ample storage options for the vast majority of users. Additional connectivity is available through both onboard and back panel USB 3.0/USB 2.0; fourteen in all. I’d say that’s a pretty versatile connectivity platform.
Old school overclockers that prefer to tweak their system via the UEFI BIOS will find the Extreme Tweaker section more than capable of doing so. If you like overclocking from the desktop, you’ll find everything you need with the AI Suite II software – specifically, the TurboV EVO utility, which offers desktop overclockers a host of tweaking options. How about overclocking from a remote computer? ROG Connect allows you to do just that. No doubt about it, there is plenty of versatility in the way you can tweak the Maximus V Formula!
The AI Suite II is perhaps the most detailed and feature-rich motherboard interface software out there. You can literally control almost all aspects of the the Maximus V Formula from the included utilities, right from the desktop.
About the only complaint I have with the Maximus V Formula is the decision to use 3/8″ barbs on the Fusion Thermo VRM cooler. As I mentioned above, I think it would have been best to just use G1/4 threading and let the user decide what size fittings are used.
All told, it’s difficult to imagine any intended system configuration the Maximus V Formula can’t handle. From a great performing “stock” system, a highly overclocked gaming rig, to an extreme benchmarking system; it’s all there. Couple that with an awesome software suite, and I think ASUS has gem in the Maximus V Formula. It’s a no brainer this time around; Overclockers Approved!
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– Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)