ASUS Maximus VI Extreme Motherboard Review

We teased you a bit with a few results and several pictures of the ASUS Maximus VI Extreme (aka M6E occasionally because that’s immensely easier) in our initial Haswell review. Sorry this took so long, but this motherboard has more features than you can even imagine, so let’s jump right in and we’ll show you what ASUS’ flagship is made of.

Packaging & First Look

The Maximus VI Extreme’s box is just like those that came before, showing off the board under a flap, which also shows some of the board’s features. They also show off the new OC Panel (we’ll get to that very nifty inclusion later) in the window.

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme Box

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme Box

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme Box Rear

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme Box Rear

Box Opened

Box Opened

Now we see the Maximus VI Extreme in the flesh. Keeping with the Republic of Gamers (RoG) theme the M6E uses a red and black palette that adds to a long line of great looking boards.

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

It really is a phenomenal looking motherboard. In case you didn’t notice, the most striking feature when I first laid eyes on this was ASUS’ departure from their normal form factor for the Extreme. Rather than using a slightly extended EATX form factor like years past, the Maximus VI Extreme is a standard ATX form factor.

While really designed with a feature set more attuned with the extreme overclocking crowd, gamers, modders and more casual overclockers alike will appreciate the vast expansion of cases in which you can fit the M6E.

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

Specifications & Features

There is no shortage of features on the M6E and most of the big ones are outlined in this handy-dandy at-a-glance chart.

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme At a Glance

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme At a Glance

Please accept my apologies for the blurry specification chart; it came like that, I promise.

Specifications

Specifications

Amazingly, ASUS continues to add features without taking anything away. The only thing missing from the Maximus V to the Maximus VI is the OC Key, which was replaced with the much more useful OC Panel, so no loss there.

They also added a significant number of features to the UEFI. Some of the small ones are also the neatest and we’ll take a look at them with the rest of the UEFI. A big addition to the UEFI is SSD Secure Erase. Rather than trying to find software to do it (which, other than OCZ, can be difficult) or having to use a Linux live CD to secure erase, you can now secure erase your drives right from your UEFI.

SSD Secure Erase

SSD Secure Erase

On the software side, you get the standard ASUS fare, with an updated AISuite III, and one nifty new addition – ROG RAMDisk. There is RAMDisk software available for free, but none of them have an unlimited disk size. ROG RAMDisk lets you use as much RAM as you can, up to 80% of your total system memory, no matter how many GB that ends up being.

ROG RAMDisk

ROG RAMDisk

ROG RAMDisk

ROG RAMDisk

Obviously there are a lot more features to go over, which we’ll do as we progress through the board, UEFI and software tours.

Accessories

Before zooming in on the board, let’s look at this huge box of accessories. There are no less than ten SATA 6Gb/s ports on the M6E and you get SATA III cables for all of them. In a very nice change, ASUS has supplied straight-ended cables finally. The angled connectors are ok, but it’s always nice to have the option to use straight-ended cables, especially when you’re cramped for space, as some SSD mounts in cases are wont to do. Below the SATA cables is the ROG Connect cable. Like I said, they didn’t take anything away, just added – so you still get ROG Connect if you want to use it.

Accessories Box

Accessories Box

Cables Galore

Cables Galore

Being a quad-SLI / quad-CrossfireX board, they supply you with plenty of GPU bridges. As most AMD GPUs come with a CrossfireX bridge, they have only supplied one of those. For those that prefer the green team, they’ve included SLI bridges for two, three and four card configurations.

Multi-GPU Bridges

Multi-GPU Bridges

ASUS has finally listened to me! All of my complaining over the years about that awful, horrible case sticker have paid off. They’ve traded it for a classy looking black and red case badge. It’s larger than most case badges out there, but it’s a good looking badge. I’d be proud to display this one, unlike the horrid previous sticker, which only saw enough light of day for a photo and then was swiftly placed back in the box, preferably never to be seen again.

In another welcome but unexpected change, they took their easy front panel connectors and made them a dark gray instead of beige. Someone started paying attention to the little details like this and, while they’re less than important in the grand scheme of things, they make for nice changes.

Easy Front Panel Hook-Ups & Case Badge

Easy Front Panel Hook-Ups & Case Badge

Case Badge Close-Up

Case Badge Close-Up

There are also the boiler-plate inclusions – the driver disc, user guide, setup guide and motherboard diagram. They also included the very convenient SATA cable labels. These are especially important if you run a RAID array and need to keep your drives in the proper positions.

Instruction Manual, Driver Disc, Labeling Stickers

Instruction Manual, Driver Disc, Labeling Stickers

Board Diagram

Board Diagram

Last up in the “standard” accessories section is the rear I/O plate, which is pretty self-explanatory.

Rear I/O Plate

Rear I/O Plate

mPCIe Combo II

Now we get to the Accessories with a capital “A”. These are the kind of accessories you expect with a flagship, $400 motherboard. First up is the mPCIe Combo II, which has two ports on it. One – the mPCIe port – comes pre-populated with a WiFi card. Not just any WiFi card though, this one is capable of running the 802.11ac standard, with transfer rates up to 1 Gb/s (500 Mb/s single-link) running on the 5 GHz band. Those are ideal, perfect-condition numbers though. In ASUS’ real-world testing, they’re seeing more like 300-450 Mb/s transfer rates. The module also has Bluetooth 4.0 built-in. ASUS also points out that the positioning of the WiFi module’s location is optimal from a lack of interference perspective; if it were closer to, say, the GPU(s), there would be increased heat and interference.

mPCIe Combo II

mPCIe Combo II

mPCIe Combo II

mPCIe Combo II

mPCIe Combo II

mPCIe Combo II

On the other side, there is an empty M.2 NGFF socket. The reason for this change seems to be support for SATA 6Gb/s.

mPCIe Combo II

mPCIe Combo II

mPCIe Combo II

mPCIe Combo II

While I see their reasoning, let’s be honest – this is the first motherboard to use the NGFF socket. That means there aren’t going to be a ton of drives / devices to use here yet. That’s the cost of being an early adopter. TweakTown actually very recently ran some testing with an ADATA drive and the results were, well, they were ok. It’s better than SATA II, which you were previously limited to with the standard mPCIe ports. Regardless, we doubt there will be a significant amount of people using this with the availability of cheap SSDs and ten ports available, it’s pretty unnecessary.

On the WiFi side, they have included a neat new antenna. Rather than the dual circle antennas of old (which, let’s face it, were cumbersome), ASUS has included a new antenna style that can either lay flat, or twist and stand up, with a small footprint. It’s another one of those small things that shows they’re paying attention to the details.

Flat WiFi Antenna

Flat WiFi Antenna

mPCIe Combo With Antenna

mPCIe Combo With Antenna

Vertical WiFi Antenna

Vertical WiFi Antenna

ROG OCPanel

While the mPCIe Combo II is very neat, it’s not the main event as far as Accessories go. The Accessory with a bold capital “A” is the new ROG OC Panel.

ASUS has included innovations in the outside-the-box overclocking tool arena for years. I never actually used the first option here – TweakIt onboard controls. ROG Connect on the other hand I’ve used extensively when overclocking using extreme methods. Around since 2009 it is still a useful tool and you can use it to this day on this motherboard.

The OC Station was…well, it just plain wasn’t. A neat tool that lots of people drooled over, the problem was nobody could get one. They just simply weren’t available. Even I never touched one of those.

Most recently, on the Rampage IV Extreme and Maximus V Extreme, was the OC Key. While it was a nifty tool, its use could be considered cumbersome. If you took the time to get used to it, it was a useful tool, but ASUS could do better.

Overclocking Tool Evolution

Overclocking Tool Evolution

Indeed, that is precisely what they’ve done. Meet the OC Panel. (Say hi OC Panel!) Some have commented it looks a bit large, but that’s because they haven’t used it nor have they grasped its potential. In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I really, really like this tool – and if you buy the Maximus VI Extreme, it’s included.

OC Panel

OC Panel

The OC Panel itself is admittedly somewhat large, but that’s because of all the features it has. In the slide on the right you can see it has two plugs – one for the OC Panel cable and another for SATA power. You don’t need SATA power unless you’re using certain features. Most people other than extreme overclockers won’t need to bother with that. I haven’t plugged it in yet.

Meet OC Panel

Meet OC Panel

OC Panel Connectivity

OC Panel Connectivity

The configuration many will use is “normal mode”. You can use an included 5.25″ adapter and the OC Panel acts more as a display of information. It isn’t quite as useful in this configuration (relative to extreme mode), but it does still have some nifty features. You can monitor at a glance CPU temperature, CPU fan speed, BCLK and multiplier.

One cool feature is that the text in between the BCLK and multiplier actually shows you what the board is doing on POST. You can watch that text as the POST codes change so you know what your board is doing in that instant – and more importantly where it’s failing if you have an overclock go south.

OC Panel Normal Mode

OC Panel Normal Mode

Here are a couple pictures in “normal mode”. Note the bottom buttons on the left and right – they implement an OC Profiles you set in the UEFI and adjust the CPU Fan Speed, respectively.

5.25" Drive Bay Configuration

5.25″ Drive Bay Configuration

Configuration

Configuration

Now we come to OC Panel’s fun part – “extreme mode”. This is where overclockers – casual and extreme alike – are going to get the most out of the OC Panel.

OC Panel Standing Up

OC Panel Standing Up

Thermal Prob Connectors

Thermal Probe Connectors

OC Panel Cable / SATA Power Connectors

OC Panel Cable / SATA Power Connectors

You can change several important voltages with OC Panel (Vcore & VDIMM being the most important) as well as BCLK and CPU multiplier. That’s not all though, there are a slew of other features.

On the side you can see plugs to use two thermal probes – right on the OC Panel. Since this is going to be next to your rig anyway, you can plug those in and not have to worry about using your thermometer in addition to the OC Panel. If you don’t already have a thermometer, you don’t need to get one, just grab some K-type thermal probes and you’re on your way.

When you remove the gray plastic cover, you’re met with even more features. These are geared toward more extreme overclockers. If you plug SATA power into the OC Panel, you can control four fans right from OC Panel. When overclocking on extreme cooling, you still need fans to move air and cool non-frozen parts; this saves a bit of time so you don’t have to also use a fan controller.

There are also ports for VGA Hotwire control. For those of you that don’t know what VGA Hotwire is, here is ASUS’ description:

Propreitary VGA hotwire allows you to plug and solder wires on the card’s voltage regulators and accurately read and control Vcore, Vmem, and PLL voltages from ASUS ROG MBs on a hardware level.

On ASUS cards that feature VGA HotWire plugs, it’s as simple as plugging in (or soldering, on some cards) six wires and then plugging them into the OC Panel for full voltage control via UEFI, in the OS and with the OC Panel. There are even multimeter probe points so monitor your actual voltages real-time. Last but not least there are on-board slow mode and pause switches.

OC Panel Extreme Mode

OC Panel Extreme Mode

Extreme Mode Display

Extreme Mode Display

Here is the OC Panel’s extreme mode in the flesh. Now you see why it’s as large as it is – and the size is well justified!

Secrets Inside!

Secrets Inside!

"Extreme" Mode

“Extreme” Mode

Connectors Again

Connectors Again

Interior Connectivity

Interior Connectivity

 

The ROG OC Panel is far and away the best accessory I’ve seen with any motherboard to date. One thing to note is that, while ASUS says the OC Panel is “completely hardware based”, you do have to install the ROG Connect Plus software, which basically acts as a server for the OC Panel. Without that installed, the OC Panel will not function. The program is small, light and takes up less than a fraction of a fraction of system resources, so it’s not a big deal, but to me that’s not “completely hardware based”, but it is close.

The best part about OC Panel is that it can be used on any Maximus VI motherboard. From the entry-level Hero up to the flagship Extreme, all ROG Z87 motherboards come with the header to use the OC Panel. The OC Panel is included with the Maximus VI Extreme, but ASUS expects them to be available for purchase as a separate accessory as well. Let’s just hope they’re more readily available than the OC Station was several years ago. I’m pretty confident they will be; they are much smaller and easier to manufacture. No word on pricing yet, but I’d expect them to come in somewhere near $30. Fingers crossed!

Up Close & Personal

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of this board’s aesthetics. It just looks good. I think a lot of hardware looks good, hence, my propensity for gratuitous photos. So here are a couple of the M6E. On the plus side, it’s not totally gratuitous. You can see in this first one that the PLX chip heatsink does serve its purpose, with tall aluminum fins for easy airflow.

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme

More heatsink goodness.

Board Heatsinks

Board Heatsinks

Now, getting down to the micro level, let’s check out what this board has in store for us. I like to call this the overclocking corner; ASUS calls it the “OC Zone”. Here you’ll find onboard power and reset buttons, switches to disable/enable individual PCIe slots. Say you wanted to bench more than one GPU cold and one died…flip the switch. Or say you want to bench both single and dual GPUs, but didn’t want to bother prepping that setup separately. Bench one with the second GPU’s switch off, then when you’re done, enable the second for dual GPU benching.

In this corner also resides two fan headers, the MemOK button (a lifesaver if you try to push your memory too far; hold that down while you’re booting and it will automatically set safe frequency/timings to let the board boot to BIOS), the slow mode switch and the POST code indicator.

Looking a little left in the further out photo, below the 24-pin power connector, you can see ASUS’ QLED, which are LED indicators that flash as you go through POST. This is the fastest and easiest way to determine where a problem is if your system won’t boot up. These things are a life saver and keep you from having to remember or look up POST codes.

Overclocking Corner

Overclocking Corner

Overclocking Corner With RAM Slots

Overclocking Corner With RAM Slots

There are plentiful connections for your front panel. In addition to the standard audio/usb, you get two fan headers, one temp prob header, the OC Panel header and in the bottom right, the button to switch between BIOS chips. I’ve found this switch to be a godsend over the years, allowing me to keep a known-stable BIOS for daily use on one chip and the latest beta for experimentation on the other.

Front Panel Connectivity

Front Panel Connectivity

Front Panel Connectivity II

Front Panel Connectivity II

Speaking of the dual BIOS, here are the chips next to each other, residing under a PCIe x16 slot and next to the PCH heatsink.

Dual BIOS Chips

Dual BIOS Chips

Onboard audio comes in the form of a Realtek ALC1150 CODEC. This is an upgrade from the ALC 898 featured on the previous generation Extreme.

OnBoard Sound, Courtesy RealTek

OnBoard Sound, Courtesy RealTek

If you have a need for storage, there is no lack of it on the M6E. ASUS has supplied the six native SATA 6Gb/s ports and added four more, courtesy ASMedia ASM1061 storage controllers.

SATA 6Gb/s Times Ten

SATA 6Gb/s Times Ten

As this is a quad-GPU capable board, you get plenty of PCIe connectivity. To save you any confusion, ASUS has supplied a handy-dandy slide to show you how best to take advantage of your multi-GPU configuration. ASUS continues to use the same method they did on the Maximus V Extreme. If you use one or two GPUs, the board will put you through the (faster) native 16 lanes of PCIe connectivity.

That means you’re running totally around the PLX chip, which does introduce a (minimal) amount of lag. Only when you add a third and fourth card does the PLX chip come into play, which is then a requirement to give you additional PCIe lanes. So be sure to insert your GPUs properly for the best performance.

PCIe Slots

PCIe Slots

PCIe Configurations

PCIe Configurations

In the far upper left corner of the board you can see where the mPCIe combo mounts as well as the two CPU power connectors – one standard 8-pin EPS12V connector and one additional 4-pin ATX12V for some extra redundancy if your PSU has it. The latter is really unnecessary unless you’re running on extreme cooling and even then isn’t really a requirement.

mPCIe Combo II Port, CPU Power Plugs

mPCIe Combo II Port, CPU Power Plugs

Here is another angle of the OC Zone’s corner. There is a very interesting innovation here and it’s on the CPU fan header. If you look closely, you can see a plastic part attached next to the 4-pin PWM header. That is a mechanical switch. If you plug a 4-pin PWM fan into that header, it touches a small metal contact point, which physically tells the board that you’re running a PWM CPU fan.

If you plug a 3-pin, voltage controlled fan, the physical switch won’t be triggered and the motherboard will automatically know you’re running a 3-pin fan. It’s simple, but it’s innovative and the first implementation of its kind that I know of. It’s just another one of those small things that they’re paying attention to.

Fan Headers, POST Code Indicator

Fan Headers, POST Code Indicator

Next to and slightly above the first PCIe slot reside two additional fan headers, a temperature header and a PCIe auxiliary power header for a 6-pin PCIe power connector. That is another one of those items that isn’t really necessary unless you’re running sub-zero, but when you are, it is good to use to help stiffen the available power to your PCIe slots. Every available watt counts!

Auxiliary PCIe Power, Headers

Auxiliary PCIe Power, Headers

As you’ve seen, there are quite a few fan headers on this board. All told, there are eight fan headers – 1x CPU fan header, 1x CPU OPT fan header, 3x Chassis fan headers and 3x Optional fan headers, all of which accept both 3-pin voltage controlled and 4-pin PWM fans. There are also three OPT TEMP headers for plugging in three thermistors (not included).

Here we have the rear I/O, which has plenty of connectivity. There are six USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports, one of which is for ROG Connect / USB BIOS Flashback (which allows you to flash your BIOS from a USB stick with nothing other than power applied to the board – no CPU, RAM, GPU or anything else other than power is required). There is one Ethernet port, an external clear CMOS button (lifesaver!), analog and digital (SPDIF optical) audio outputs and two video outputs – HDMI and DisplayPort. They even threw in a PS/2 port for those of us that still have PS/2 keyboards (myself included).

Rear External I/O

Rear External I/O

The only thing missing is a Thunderbolt port. This is moderately disappointing because the controller is built in to the Z87 PCH, they just would have had to add the traces and the port. That said, frankly, Thunderbolt hasn’t seen extremely wide adaptation and there are more important things that need traces on this board – like extra PCIe slots, better RAM traces and any number of other important-to-overclocking items. Personally I’m not upset about this, but if Thunderbolt is on your must-have list, you won’t see it on the M6E.

* Clarification, courtesy ASUS – Thunderbolt is supported by the Z87 chipset, but it is not native, thus it does require an additional controller built into the board, which would come as an extra expense.

Under the Hood

Welcome to the ballpark on a balmy sunny evening folks at heatsink stadium. The i7 4770Ks are taking the field!

Heatsink Stadium?

Heatsink Stadium?

Ok, that was a stretch, I admit.

As mentioned before, I’m a fan of this heatsink design. It’s functional with style and that’s just how we like it. There was great contact throughout. Unfortunately, ASUS continues to use that nasty pink sticky stuff on the PCH. It’s probably just fine for every day operation, but for those of us that review boards and have to remove it, it’s a massive headache.

Good Heatsink Contact

Good Heatsink Contact

Heatsinks Removed

Heatsinks Removed

Here we have the Maximus VI Extreme in the buff.

Look Ma', No Heatinks!

Look Ma’, No Heatinks!

Rear of PCB

Rear of PCB

We’ll start with the Z87 PCH itself. As mentioned in the initial Haswell review, the Z87 PCH comes without any laser etching on the chip itself, a departure from previous generations.

Z87 Chipset, Still with No Markings

Z87 Chipset, Still with No Markings

Here we have the chip that allows the M6E to run more than two GPUs – the PLX PEX8747 chip. This definitely will only be seen on higher-end boards (because only that market will need more than two GPUs!) and increases the BOM cost by a fair amount all by itself.

PLX PEX8747 Chip

PLX PEX8747 Chip

Continuing on our tour, in the lower left is the Z87 PCH again, then moving clockwise you can see the two ASMedia ASM1061 storage controllers, the nuvoTon sensor controller and a proprietary ROG chip.

ASMedia SATA & nuvoTon Sensor Controllers

ASMedia SATA & nuvoTon Sensor Controllers

This is the DIGI+ / EPU chip. Its functionality isn’t as great as it once was, with Intel’s on-chip VRM, but it still allows that interface to be seamless and have ASUS’ extensive control over the on-chip controller.

DIGI+ / EPU Controller

DIGI+ / EPU Controller

With that change comes some changes to the ROG power delivery section. On the third generation, this is aptly named Extreme Engine DIGI+ III. You’ll notice below that ASUS continues to elect to use only eight power phases for CPU power delivery. Some other brands go with more, ASUS says they get it done with just eight and with premium components. The new chokes are rated at 60 A / each, so you’re looking at a maximum 480 A worth of power delivery, which is plenty for even the most die hard CPU clocker operating at 2.0+ volts. In addition to the strong chokes, they also say they use more efficient NexFET MOSFETs as well as 10K Nichicon-GT capacitors.

Extreme Engine DIGI+ III

Extreme Engine DIGI+ III

There’s not a whole lot more to say about it, other than to say it’s plenty to power your overclocks. It is, however, fun to photograph for a computer geek, so enjoy some photos!

Socket Area

Socket Area

M6E CPU Power

M6E CPU Power

CPU Power Section

CPU Power Section

M6E CPU Power

M6E CPU Power

 

Rear of Power Section

Rear of Power Section

Ok, one more and I’ll stop.

M6E CPU Power

M6E CPU Power

Well, we’ve toured the board, inside and out, front to back. Its accessory stack is one of the most robust I’ve ever seen. Let’s install this thing, put some power to it and see what it looks like when you turn it on!

The UEFI

There is a ton of stuff to cover in the UEFI, so let’s get right to it. That’s exactly what ASUS does, dropping you first in the Extreme Tweaker menu in Advanced mode. This is where all your work is done, from the most basic multiplier adjustment to the most complex RAM timing adjustments, it’s all right here.

ASUS has done a great job with the Auto voltage settings on this board, so the world is really your oyster as far as overclocking goes. You can get detailed and tweak as much as you want or go with very few adjustments (though most of the BIOS would be wasted on those who don’t enjoy tinkering).

Extreme Tuner Menu

Extreme Tuner Menu

Extreme Tuner Menu

Extreme Tuner Menu

Extreme Tuner Menu

Extreme Tuner Menu

Extreme Tuner Menu

Extreme Tuner Menu

Thankfully, with all the room afforded for a UEFI (as opposed to very space-limited BIOSes of yesteryear), there is room to innovate. On the right, you can see two new buttons – Quick Note and Last Modified Log. I haven’t used quick note yet, because I have an actual notebook right on my desk, but the last modified log is a great tool. It does just what it says – shows you what you have changed since booting into the UEFI.

Quick Note

Quick Note

Last Modified Log

Last Modified Log

The first sub-menu we’ll look at is DRAM Timing Control. Like the voltages, Auto will do fine for the vast majority of people past the first four timings (the ones typically contained in an XMP profile and/or written on the memory sticks themselves), but if you want to tweak past that, there are myriad timings and settings for you to tweak to your heart’s content.

There are things in here even I have no idea what they do. Most of them won’t affect real-world performance, but they can mean that extra tenth or hundredth of a second when you’re benchmarking and every thousandth counts at the top.

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control

DRAM Timing Control

RTL IOL Control

RTL IOL Control

Beyond the standard timing control, the Maximus VI Extreme carries forth the previous Extreme’s memory preset menu. There are 28 memory presets, so there is one for pretty much any memory kit that has come out in recent years. The ROG team spent countless hours testing just the right timings and sub-timings for all of these kits and each one is a perfect starting point for your own tweaking on your particular RAM.

Memory Presets

Memory Presets

Memory Presets

Memory Presets

DIGI+ Power Control is also in the Extreme Tweaker menu. All of the typical controls are here, though some of them (LLC, for instance) aren’t as important to use as they were in the past, with Intel’s now-integrated voltage regulation.

DIGI + Power Control

DIGI + Power Control

As if the rest of the UEFI wasn’t already a tweakers’ paradise, there is an actual Tweakers’ Paradise menu with plenty of extra settings for you to toy with.

Tweakers' Paradise

Tweakers’ Paradise

Tweakers' Paradise

Tweakers’ Paradise

CPU Power Management is where you tweak the integrated voltage regulator’s settings. You can leave most of this completely alone when overclocking with fixed voltages on ambient cooling, but again, the settings are there for your use whenever you feel like diving in.

CPU Power Management

CPU Power Management

CPU Power Management

CPU Power Management

There are several overclocking presets for you to use and they do their job very well. I daresay there will be few boards out there that allow you to get 200 BCLK without even thinking about it, but the M6E uses some ASUS “magic” (their word, on which they wouldn’t elaborate) to enable most CPUs to just pop up at 200 MHz BCLK. On my CPU it worked like a charm, though it seemed to disallow multiplier adjustment in the OS. That wasn’t a problem with the 190/195 MHz settings.

Overclocking Presets - 200 BCLK Magic Button!

Overclocking Presets – 200 BCLK Magic Button!

Now we move on to the more normal UEFI features. The Advanced menu is where you can change all sorts of settings, most of which are standard settings you would find on most motherboards. In an effort at expediency, the ‘normal’ settings will be featured in a slideshow at the end of this section.

One important item you’ll want to dig to is CPU Configuration CPU Power Management Configuration. When overclocking, assuming you don’t want your CPU to throttle frequency (which it can actually do without you even noticing, affecting performance), come in here and disable both EIST and CPU C States.

Advanced Menu

Advanced Menu

CPU Power Management

CPU Power Management

Moving on to the “Monitor” section, you have full system monitoring of voltages, temperatures and fan speeds. Fan Speed Control is also contained in this section and lets you control your CPU fan and four of the board’s other fan headers.

Monitor Menu

Monitor Menu 

Voltage Monitor

Voltage Monitor

Temperature Monitor

Temperature Monitor 

Fan Speed Monitor

Fan Speed Monitor

Fan Speed Control

Fan Speed Control

Fan Speed Control

Fan Speed Control

Now we’ll have a look at the “Tool” menu. Other than Extreme Tweaker, this will become the most frequently visited section of your BIOS. The first thing we’ll look at is the new feature mentioned earlier – SSD Secure Erase. It’s quite self-explanatory, just don’t do it to a drive you’re using!

Tools Menu

Tools Menu

ROG SSD Secure Erase

ROG SSD Secure Erase

OC Profiles are the reason most people will come back to the Tool menu over and over. There are eight available profile spots. Not enough you say? They have now included the ability to save profiles to a USB flash drive, so you can save an unlimited amount of profiles. Regrettably, those cannot be ported between different UEFI versions, so keep that in mind.

OC Profiles

OC Profiles

Load From Saved

Load From Saved

The remaining tools are SPD Information, EZ Flash 2 (still one of the easiest and most painless ways to flash a BIOS), BIOS Flashback (to transfer from one BIOS chip to another) and last, but not least, the OC Panel H-Key configuration, which does just what it says and lets you set a custom configuration for what the OC Panel does when you press its O.C. key.

SPD Information

SPD Information

EZ Flash 2

EZ Flash 2

BIOS Flashback

BIOS Flashback

OC Panel H-Key Config

OC Panel H-Key Config

The last feature is one of the most handy. When you finish up in the UEFI and you go to Save & Exit, a new window pops up. It shows all changes you have made and are about to apply when you restart. This is a very handy confirmation page, much better than a simple “are you sure?” and lets you make sure you haven’t done anything you didn’t want – or missed something you wanted to do – while changing your settings around. Yet another small-but-important attention to detail.

Save & Exit - Settings Changes

Save & Exit – Settings Changes

The remaining UEFI screens are all pretty standard and we’ll just let you look through the slideshow.

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Author’s note: I forgot to mention two features of the UEFI. One has to do with the SATA configuration – You can rename the ports in the UEFI. Additionally, and an important thing that I just forgot is “My Favorites”. You can add commands to this menu (hit F4 while they’re selected) to have all the settings you want right there for easier access.

ASUS continues to impress with their UEFI. The Auto settings for pretty much everything on the Maximus VI Extreme are solid and can be used without fuss, but they give you the option to tweak anything and everything you could possibly tweak with the Haswell platform.

ASUS Software

AISuite III

ASUS complete revamped their AISuite for Haswell and they’re now on AISuite III. AISuite II lasted for several generations and this is a solid evolution for the platform. When you first enter AISuite III, you’re placed into a screen from which you can see any number of controls, right at your finger tips. This is much more user friendly than starting with just a menu bar.

Additionally, at the bottom of every AISuite III window are frequency, voltage, temperature and fan speed monitors, so there is no more having to dig for that.

New AISuite III Home

New AISuite III Home

The TPU section is where most overclockers will spend their time in AISuite III. It has all of your multiplier, BCLK and voltage controls, right at your mouse’s beck and call. You can even change the CPU strap from here, though that will require a restart, so you might as well do it in UEFI.

Author’s Note: ASUS pointed out two items I forgot to mention. These voltages can now be keyed in manually if you’d prefer to do that rather than use the sliders. Additionally, the voltages are color coded. As you move up, they will change colors to indicate whether your voltages are safe or getting to the not-so-safe range.

TPU Home

TPU Home

CPU Strap Adjustment

CPU Strap Adjustment

EPU isn’t that important to our audience, but those of you that enjoy power efficiency can take advantage of it right here. I will say, for our 24/7 machine slash photo editing slash review writing machine, TPU does do a great job of helping with efficient operation. Board and chassis temperatures noticeably decrease when using the features offered here.

EPU Auto

EPU Auto

EPU High Performance

EPU High Performance

EPU Max Power Saving

EPU Max Power Saving

EPU Away Mode

EPU Away Mode

DIGI+ power control is still alive and well, offering an impressive array of in-OS power control features. These are fun to play around with to find out what settings affect your overclock’s stability.

CPU DIGI+ Power Control

CPU DIGI+ Power Control

RAM DIGI+ Power Control

RAM DIGI+ Power Control

FanXpert 2 retains its solid control over your fans. You can let Fan Xpert 2 auto-tune your fans (it takes a few minutes), you can control them all with presets (normal/turbo/full speed) or you can individually control their fan curves. You have control of the four fans available in Fan Xpert in the UEFI.

FanXpert 2

FanXpert 2

Individual Fan Control

Individual Fan Control

There are plenty of other features in AISuite like USB 3.0 Boost, USB Charger, etc. They’re all relatively self-explanatory by looking at the screens, so be sure to click through the slide show.

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AISuite III is a great step in the AISuite family. Its interface is cleaner and more user friendly. All of the control you’re used to in previous versions (which is extensive and DIGI+ control in-OS still impresses me) is there, it’s just cleaned up and easier to use.

Other Tweaking Software

For the extreme crowd, or those that don’t like software packages with nice GUIs like AISuite III, ASUS has come out with a tool for you. Called TurboV Core (heh, Vcore), this is a small program that you can install and it has everything you can access in AISuite III, but without the GUI and without the extra stuff. TPU, Fan Xpert 2, USB Boost, all of that can be eschewed now for those that want a light-weight, simple to use in-OS clocking tool.

TurboV Core

TurboV Core

TurboV Core

TurboV Core

TurboV Core

TurboV Core

Extreme overclockers will absolutely love this tool. Good on ASUS for including it. ASUS says it is designed for the Maximus VI Extreme, but may work on the other boards, though it will be unsupported. If you ask me, chances are pretty good you can use it on the entire ASUS line; anything that can use AISuite III should be able to use TurboV Core.

That’s all the overclocking software, with the exception of ROG Connect, which you are all probably familiar with by now. If not, here’s a screenshot. You can also uses Mem TweakIt, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have the ability to change timings quite yet. As mentioned in the features section, you also get ASUS RAMDisk software. They also include a copy of Kapersky Antivirus and DAEMON Tools Pro for good measure.

Test Systems

Our test systems for this review are identical save for the motherboard itself. It should be a good match-up for your comparing pleasure today.

CPU Intel i7 4770K
Motherboard Intel DZ87KLT-75K
ASUS Maximus VI Extreme
RAM G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2600
GPU ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP
OS Windows 7 Professional x64

Here’s a photo of the system running with the OC Panel in the picture just to show it to you in use. Obviously this GPU is different from the HD 7970 in the chart; I had moved on to re-testing other GPUs on Haswell by the time I took a system photo.

 

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme In Use

ASUS Maximus VI Extreme In Use

 

Overclocking for Stability

Overclocking the Maximus VI Extreme is quick, painless and rewarding. Unlike the Intel board, the M6E was able to run fast RAM and overclock the CPU. While the Intel board had to be dropped down to DDR3-1866 to run the CPU at 4.8 GHz, the M6E had no problem running DDR3-2600 with the CPU at 4.8 GHz.

4.8 Ghz + DDR3-2600 24/7 Stable

4.8 Ghz + DDR3-2600 24/7 Stable

It would even run 4.9 GHz perfectly stable.

4900 MHz & DDR3-2600 Stable

4900 MHz & DDR3-2600 Stable

However, while it will run 4.9 GHz no problem, even on our custom water loop temps were getting too toasty for my liking and I dropped back down to 4.8 for 24/7 overclock testing. It’s perfectly capable of more if you can cool your CPU. Heck, this was perfectly acceptable, it’s just my own personal preference that likes to keep voltage at or below 1.3 V and temps below 90 °C.

Benchmark Results

Because of the extensive feature set of this board, this review is already long. I’ll just mention that, on both boards, all stock benchmarks were run three times with the result averaged and overclocked benchmarks were run once. After a short two paragraphs, we’ll just let you look through the results at your leisure.

What you’ll see below is that at stock in single threaded tasks (SuperPi), the boards were about equal; they were both running DDR3-2600 memory at stock. However, when you set XMP on the M6E, the board automatically sets ASUS’ multi-core enhancement, meaning it runs all four cores at the maximum turbo (3.9 GHz) all the time. That translates to to the M6E running away with multi-threaded benchmarks at stock.

With regard to overclocked results, the M6E wins out because it was capable of running DDR3-2600, which was much faster than the Intel board was capable of running. So even CPU clock-for-CPU clock, without the multi-core enhancement boost, the M6E still wins the day.

Rendering & Compression

Cinebench R10

Cinebench R10

Cinebench R11.5

Cinebench R11.5

PoV Ray 3.7

PoV Ray 3.7

7zip

7zip

x264 Benchmark Pass 1

x264 Benchmark Pass 1

x264 Benchmark Pass 2

x264 Benchmark Pass 2

3D Benchmarking

3DMark03

3DMark03

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

3DMark 11

3DMark 11

3DMark Fire Strike

3DMark Fire Strike

2D Benchmarking

SuperPi 1M

SuperPi 1M

SuperPi 32M

SuperPi 32M

WPrime 32M

WPrime 32M

WPrime 1024M

WPrime 1024M

Pushing the Envelope

Now we get to the fun part. I don’t have any results on liquid nitrogen for you unfortunately; June has just been too busy to make it to Airgas for the juice. However, I was able to squeeze out some solid overclocks and benchmarks with water cooling, so enjoy!

First up I just had to test out ASUS’ magic 200 MHz BCLK profile and, sure enough, it boots right into the OS with no other changes. Here is the 200 MHz BCLK CPUz validation. This is an impressive feat in itself, I love the magic button!

200 MHz BCLK? No problem.

200 MHz BCLK? No problem.

200 MHz BCLK Validated

200 MHz BCLK Validated

Of course, it’s more fun to benchmark there, so I went down to the 190 MHz BCLK preset, set the CPU to 5.0 GHz and ran both WPrime 32M and WPrime 1024M. Both passed without a problem, so the high BCLK presets are perfectly stable for benchmarking. It will be up to you to determine what’s the most efficient for your CPU.

WPrimes Run at 192 MHz BCLK & 5 GHz

WPrimes Run at 192 MHz BCLK & 5 GHz

Then I pushed a little harder to see what could be accomplished north of 5.0 GHz. Turns out, 5108 Mhz was stable through both SuperPi benchmarks, PiFast and WPrime 32M. WPrime 1024M crashed at this voltage and would have gotten too hot anyway.

SuperPi 1M @ 5108 MHz

SuperPi 1M @ 5108 MHz

SuperPi 32M @ 5108 MHz

SuperPi 32M @ 5108 MHz

PiFast @ 5108 MHz

PiFast @ 5108 MHz

WPrime 32M @ 5108 MHz

WPrime 32M @ 5108 MHz

Las but not least, I wanted at least a validation higher than that. Thanks to a little more voltage and another tick of the multiplier, we ended up with 5209 MHz, CPUz validated.

5209 MHz Validated

5209 MHz Validated

Pushing the limits on ambient was as easy as it was to run 24/7 overclocks. Even better, you can push memory quite well with this board too. I’ve already run SuperPi 32M at DDR3-3000 stable and obtained a validation higher than that. You’ll have to wait for the G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2933 memory kit review for those though!

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

In case you haven’t been able to tell throughout this review, the ASUS Maximus VI Extreme is an impressive board. If you need features, it has them in spades. Accessories too. It is the flagship of the flagships.

That said, there is always one drawback to boards like this, and that is price. If you want the best ASUS has to offer, you’re going to have to pay for it. The Maximus VI Extreme will run you $399.99 on Newegg. It has also been in stock all of twice, for less than 24 hours as far as I can tell. There aren’t massive quantities available, but it also speaks to how in-demand this board is. ASUS has a loyal following, both with gamers and overclockers and they’re eating up this board.

That following has good reason to gravitate toward the Maximus VI Extreme. It includes the most useful, coolest accessory of any board I’ve reviewed. It improves on the past generation both in UEFI additions and software. It overclocks as far as your CPU -and memory- will let you go.

The M6E is a niche product, no doubt about it. Most people, especially ambient overclockers or those that don’t need the four GPU capability, can be fine with a lesser board and there’s nothing wrong with that. ASUS would say they have one for your market segment too. Indeed, the Maximus VI GENE is available now and for a very impressive $209.99.

But if you need the best, or even just want the best ASUS has to offer, it’s right here in the Maximus VI Extreme. If you can use all this board has to offer, it is well worth the price of admission. Designed by overclockers for overclockers, the ASUS Maximus VI Extreme is most definitely Overclockers Approved.

Overclockers_clear_approved

Click the Approved stamp for an explanation of what it means.

Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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