ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme Motherboard Review

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Folks, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited to get my hands on ASUS’ flagship Z170 board, the Maximus VIII Extreme (M8E as I will call it moving forward), to test it out to see what it will do. I never had the pleasure to work on one before, believe it or not! I’ve worked with other boards in its class however, so it will be nice to see how this feels in my hands versus the other boards. As is the case with past versions of this board, it comes chock-full of all the features the latest chipset offers including USB3.1 Gen2 (inc. Type-C), M.2 slot, DDR4 support and a slew of others you will see, and we will discuss just a few flicks of the webwheel down the article. The M8E promises to provide both the extreme overclocker and the enthusiast gamer with everything they need to beat world records under sub-ambient cooling, or game with the best of them. It is now time to get comfy in your favorite chair and see what this board can do!

Specifications

We will change things up in this review and start of with the Specifications table as shown at the ASUS website for the M8E. See what I did there? Ok, terrible jokes regarding our standard framework aside, we see the obvious out of the gate in that the Z170 based board supports Intel Socket 1151 6th Generation CPUs (AKA – Skylake based like the 6600/6700K). As is the status quo for this chipset, there are a total of four DIMM slots supporting a maximum of 64GB of Non ECC, Un-buffered DDR4 memory at speeds up to 3866 MHz (OC). Now, you may not reach those speeds with the full allotment of RAM, but for those with more sane amounts, with the right CPU, you most certainly can get there.

On the graphics side of things, the board supports up to Quad GPU SLI from NVIDIA and 4-Way CrossfireX from the AMD camp. It does this using a total of four full length PCIe slots. There doesn’t appear to be a PLX chip on the board so the NVIDIA solution will have to be by two dual-GPU cards as the green team doesn’t run on 4x slots (what the last slot breaks down to when running four cards). Your breakdown is a typical 16x, 8x/8x, 8x/4x/4x, or 8x/4x/4x/4x. Of course, there is the onboard solution that supports up to 4K resolution with HDMI and Displayport connectivity.

For storage, the M8E sports a plethora of ports in a couple of different flavors. First, it has a total of eight standard SATA 6Gb/s ports (gray). Six come from the chipset, while two more come from the ASMedia ASM1061 controller. The six from the chipset support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. There are two SATA Express ports shared with four more SATA ports. As mentioned in the introduction, it also comes with 1x M.2 x4 socket 3 with M Key that supports up to 110mm storage devices. It supports both SATA and PCIe mode as well.

The network consists of Intel’s latest NIC, the I219V Gigabit LAN controller, which supports GameFirst technology for network traffic management. This port also has the Anti-Surge LANGuard which helps prevent death by electric shock. The board also comes with a built in ASUS 3tR dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas that are 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant. It also supports Bluetooth 4.0.

The audio used on the board is of ASUS’ own flavor, the ROG Supreme FX 2015. This is an 8-Channel HD Audio Codec. It uses the ESS ES9023P DAC, and Texas Instruments TI RC4580 2VRMS audio OP AMP(s). On the back of the board you find a typical fare of gold plated jacks along with an Optical S/PDIF port. It also comes with the Sonic Studio II and Sonic Radar II (the latter an occasionally controversial software – in professional gaming anyway – that shows on screen where sounds are coming from).

There are plenty of USB ports on this board. A total of eight USB3, four at back panel, blue, four at mid-board and six USB2 (all six at mid-board) which are all driven by the Intel chipset. The USB3.1 ports are managed by the ASMedia USB3.1 controller. There are two of those located on the back panel, red, and are Type-A slots. On the Intel USB3.1 controller, there are a total of two on the back panel, a Type-A and Type-C.

The last item I would like to mention here is the OC Panel II which is included when you buy the board. This neat handheld, or 5.25″ mountable device, sports a 2.6″ LCM display and does few things that make life more convenient, particularly for the extreme overclocking crowd. Not only can you monitor temperatures and control fan speeds, you can overclock with it too! For the extreme crowd, it has VGA Hotwire, Subzero Sense, Slow Mode, a Pause switch, ProbeIt, ReTry button, Safe Boot button, two K-Type thermal probe connections and 4 x 4 pin extra fan connectors. If you have never used this device before, its a treat when you are running sub-ambient, that is for sure.

Outside of all these goodies there are a ton of other exclusively features which are too long to list again. Please check out the remainder of this table and the ASUS website for more details.

ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme Specifications
CPU Intel® Socket 1151 for 6th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 14 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
* Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
Chipset Intel Z170
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 3866(O.C.)/3800(O.C.)/3733(O.C.)/3600(O.C.)/3500(O.C.)/3466(O.C.)/3400(O.C.)/3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
** Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor- Intel® HD Graphics support
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort 1.2 ports
– Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz
– Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 512 MB
Supports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
Expansion Slots 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4, gray)
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray)
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 (black)
Storage

Intel® Z170 chipset :
1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*1
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray, , 4 ports from 2 x SATA Express
2 x SATA Express port
1 x U.2 port
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology supports*2
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology*2
ASMedia® ASM1061 controller :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), black, *3

LAN, Wireless, and Bluetooth Intel® I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s), GameFirst technology
Intel® LAN- Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
Anti-surge LANGuardWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
Up to 1300Mbps transfer speedBluetooth V4.0
Audio ROG SupremeFX 2015 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
– Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
– SupremeFX Shielding Technology
– ESS® ES9023P DAC: dB SNR, dB THD+N (Max. kHz/ -bit)
– TI RC4580 2VRMS audio OP AMP(s)
Audio Feature :
– Gold-plated jacks
– DTS Connect
– Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
– Sonic SenseAmp
– Sonic Studio II
– Sonic Radar II
USB Ports Intel® Z170 chipset :
8 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue, 4 at mid-board)
Intel® Z170 chipset : *4
6 x USB 2.0 port(s) (6 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.1 controller :
2 x USB 3.1 port(s) (2 at back panel, red, Type-A)
Intel® USB 3.1 controller :
2 x USB 3.1 port(s) (2 at back panel, , Type-A + Type-C)
OC Panel II 2.6 ” LCM display
EXTREME/NORMAL mode switch
EXTREME Mode for subzero OC benching:
– VGA Hotwire
– Subzero Sense
– Slow Mode
– Pause Switch
– ProbeIt
– ReTry button
– Safe Boot button
2 x Thermal sensor connectors
4 x 4-pin extra fan connectors *5
NORMAL Mode for in-chassis usage:
– OC button
– FanSpeed control button
– LCM backlight on/off button
I/O Ports:
– POWER:1 x SATA power connector
– ROG_EXT port:1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
ROG Exclusive Features Start Button
Reset Button
LN2 Mode
Extreme Engine Digi+ :
– MicroFine Alloy Chokes
– 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
– OptiMOS™ MOSFET
Mem TweakIt
ROG Extreme OC kit :
– ReTry button
– Safe Boot button
– Start button
– Reset button
– Slow Mode
– LN2 Mode
– PCIe x16 Lane Switch
– Debug LED
– EZ Plug
– DRAM channel jumper
ProbeIt
KeyBot II
– One-click Overclocking
– X.M.P.
– DirectKey
– ClrCMOS
– Power On
UEFI BIOS features :
– O.C. Profile
– GPU.DIMM Post
– Tweakers’ Paradise
– ROG SSD Secure Erase
– Graphic Card Information Preview
ROG RAMDisk
iROG
Extreme Tweaker
USB BIOS Flashback
Overclocking Protection :
– COP EX (Component Overheat Protection – EX)
Special Features OC Design – ASUS PRO Clock Technology
– Full BCLK range for extreme overclocking performance
5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors 5
– 5-Way Optimization tuning key perfectly consolidates TPU, EPU, DIGI+ Power Control, Fan Xpert 3, and Turbo App
ASUS Wi-Fi GO!
– Wi-Fi GO! Function: Cloud GO!, Remote Desktop, Remote Keyboard & Mouse, File Transfer
– Wi-Fi GO! & NFC Remote app for portable smartphone/tablet, supporting iOS 7 & Android 4.0 systems
ASUS Exclusive Features :
– GPU Boost
– MemOK!
– AI Suite 3
– Ai Charger+
– USB 3.1 Boost
– Disk Unlocker
– Mobo Connect
– PC Cleaner
Remote Entertainment
– Media Streamer
– HyStream
ASUS EZ DIY :
– ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
– ASUS EZ Flash 3
– ASUS USB BIOS Flashback
– Push Notice
ASUS Q-Design :
– ASUS Q-Shield
– ASUS Q-Code
– ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
– ASUS Q-Slot
– ASUS Q-DIMM
– ASUS Q-Connector
RAMCache
OS Support Windows® 10 , 64bit
Windows® 8.1 , 64bit
Windows® 7 , 32bit/64bit
Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
1 x USB 3.1 (black)Type-C
3 x USB 3.1 (red)Type-A
4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
1 x ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module (Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v4.0/3.0+HS)
Internal I/O Ports 2 x SATA Express connector: gray, Compatible with 4 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M Key design, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Supports both SATA & PCIE SSD)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
4 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
1 x Thunderbolt header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x 4-pin EZ_PLUG Power connector(s)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x 5-pin EXT_FAN(Extension Fan) connector
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x Slow Mode switch(es)
9 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
3 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x DRAM channel jumper
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x BIOS Switch button(s)
1 x SLI/CFX button (2/3/4-way adjustments)
1 x Water Pump header (4-pin)
1 x LN2 Mode jumper(s)
1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header(s)
1 x Safe Boot button
1 x ReTry button
Accessories User’s manual
ASUS Q-Shield
8 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x M.2 Screw Package
1 x CPU installation tool
1 x Supporting DVD
1 x ASUS 3T3R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant)
1 x Fan Extension Card (3 x 4-pin fan out)
1 x Fan Extension card screw pack
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x CrossFire cable(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (1 in 1)
3 x Thermal sensor cable pack(s)
1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
ROG Fan Label
1 x 5-pin to 5-pin cable
1 x ROG Door Hanger(s)
OC Panel II :
1 x OC Panel II(s)
1 x OC Panel II 5.25-inch bay metal case
1 x OC Panel II Cable(s)
1 x OC Panel II screw pack(s)
BIOS 1 x 128 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI3.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 3.0, ACPI 5.0, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 3, CrashFree BIOS 3, F11 EZ Tuning Wizard, F6 Qfan Control, F3 My Favorites, F9 Quick Note, Last Modified log, F12 PrintScreen, F3 Shortcut functions and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information.
Form Factor Extended ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 10.7 inch ( 30.5 cm x 27.2 cm )
Notes *1 The M.2 slot shares bandwidth with U.2 slot and SATA Express 1 slot. Please refers to user manual for detail information.
*2 This function will work depending on the CPU installed.
*3 These SATA ports are for data hard drives only. ATAPI devices are not supported.
*4 2 x USB2.0 port at mid-board comes from the ROG extension (ROG_EXT) port.
*5 2 of the Fan connectors on OC Panel support PWM mode.

Features

Below is an image from the ASUS website for the M8E which shows the locations of a lot of the Features and Specifications listed above and below… a site map if you will!

Features Map

Features Map

Some of the major features ASUS would like to to share from their webpage are listed below.

First off, they wax poetic about the Republic of Gamers (ROG) line up, and rightfully so. The ROG line has most always been noted as one of the best in the market. They state the ROG, “has delivered exemplary design and performance to thrill the world’s best gamers and PC enthusiasts”. The Z170 ROG line, and the M8E, do not appear to be an exception either… don’t worry, we will have a review on the ITX sized Z170 Impact soon too!

Next up is the audio. ASUS chooses to forgo the more commonly used Realtek ALC1150 Codec to use their own in the Supreme FX 2015… an updated version of past generations. They have items from their shielded design, Nichicon capacitors, ESS ES9023P digital-to-analog converter (DAC), ultra-low jitter clock, 2VRMS headphone amp, and Sonic SenseAmp which will automatically detect and optimize any headset (32-600ohms) for the best sound quality. The Sonic Studio II software allows you to tweak the sound to your specific liking.

Moving on ASUS states the M8E has the best gaming performance as well. With the best performance is smoother game play. This smoother game play is achieved by having a superior overclocking ability with its intuitive OC Gadget and utilities. When you overclock, of course it’s necessary to keep things cool. With the large, but doesn’t-get-in-the-way, heatsinks it has no problem keeping the board cool for those long gaming (or overclocking) sessions.

Continuing on the gaming theme, ASUS uses the new and popular Intel NIC solution, the I219-V. This network solution is said to offer smoother gaming by reducing CPU overhead and offering exceptionally high TCP and UDP throughput which online gaming needs for the best fragging experience. It also has network traffic shaping to give priority to gaming traffic.

Stability and reliability are two very important features in any motherboard for any user, be it a gamer, or an extreme overclcoker. To that end, ASUS implemented several features to help with that with their use of premium components and features such as the CPU installation tool to make sure one doesn’t bork the socket upon installation, Backplates for rigidity, and ESD gaurds to prevent static electricity from taking out components, etc.

With every good piece of hardware, there is usually some good software standing on top of it to help. To that end, ASUS includes a lot of it. The AI Suite 3, a one stop control panel for your motherboard, RAMDisk software, Mem TweakIT, Sonic Radar 3 to help out the gamer with on OSD for the positions of the audio, Steam OS support, and a year of Kaspersky anti-virus. Check out the table below from ASUS for more details on everything mentioned above!

ico-supspecs For almost a decade, Republic of Gamers (ROG) has delivered exemplary design and performance to thrill the world’s best gamers and PC enthusiasts. But our work has only just begun. With our pimped, pumped and packed Maximus VIII Z170-series motherboards, competitors be warned, gamers get set and enthusiasts prepare to push your limits — ROG is ready to accept all challenges!
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Best Gaming Audio

You’d never win with your eyes closed, so open your ears up to the best audio for the battlefield! ROG’s awesome audio expertise is the result of extensive R&D, and SupremeFX 2015 is the crystal-clear result — onboard sound as superior as your gaming rep!

Champion-level Audio from SupremeFX 2015

Maximus VIII Extreme’s onboard audio isn’t just good — it’s as good as you can get! You benefit from the best gaming-audio inputs and outputs, with special shielded designs, and a collection of carefully selected professional-grade audio components, including an ESS® ES9023P digital-to-analog converter (DAC) with Hyperstream™ technology, ultra-low-jitter clock, Nichicon capacitors, 2VRMS headphone amp, and Sonic SenseAmp that automatically detects and optimizes any headset (32-600ohms) for purest sound quality. SupremeFX 2015 also features intuitive Sonic Studio II, so you’ll apply and enjoy different audio effects for perfect entertainment — plus Perfect Voice noise-cancellation technology for team conversations with total clarity!

ico-gamperf

Best Gaming Performance

Greater performance means smoother gameplay — and that means more chance to win. With the best overclocking (OC) design, UEFI BIOS and intuitive OC gadget and utility, you’ll enjoy unmatched performance — coupled with an exclusive cooling design ensures your system never breaks a sweat.

ico-gamnetwk

Best Gaming Networking

Lag means lost frags, so Maximus VIII Extreme motherboards deliver the sucker punch of superior hardware and software — letting you focus on the game, while your ROG rig lands lag a knock-out blow!

ROG features the very latest Intel® Ethernet (I219-V) for faster, smoother gaming — always. Intel’s LAN has the serious double advantage of reducing CPU overhead and offering exceptionally high TCP and UDP throughput, so there’s more power for your game and your gameplay.

 

ico-gamprotcn

Best Gaming Protection

As a gamer you demand stability and durability, so ROG integrates long-lasting, premium components, plus exclusive smart DIY designs across the board — ensuring the best gaming experiences.

  • CPU installation tool
  • TrueVolt USB
  • Q-connector
  • Q-Slot
  • Q-DIMM
  • DRAM Over-current Protection
  • Backplates
  • ESD Guards
  • Stainless Steel Back I/O
  • Black nickel-coated Q-Shield
ico-rogmore  

  • AI Suite 3 – One-stop control panel
  • ROG theme CPU-Z – Shows your important system information with pride

  • Mem TweakIt – Dynamic timing monitoring, DRAM efficiency gauge

  • RAMDisk – Boost your favorite applications up to 20X faster than SSD with the junction function.

  • Sonic Radar II – A stealthy overlay that maps battlefield sounds so you can locate opponents and teammates at a glance.

  • Kaspersky® Anti-Virus (1 year) – The best protection from viruses and spyware

  • DAEMON Tools Pro Standard (1 year) – The leading tool for optical and virtual discs

  • PC Cleaner – Accelerate your PC by eliminating clogs with simple click

  • 100% SteamOS support – Play your favorite Steam games now and forever.

  • Radar on the latest gaming innovations -OG’s sights are locked on future revolutions and relationships

Retail Packaging and Accessories

In the slideshow below, we see the familiar dark red ROG theme gracing the entirety of the box. On the front is the name of the board, a small picture of the OC Panel II in its 5.25″ bay holder, and some supported features. The back of the packaging goes into a little more detail showing the back I/O connectivity, the famous OC Panel II, and storage inputs among other things. The box has a ‘flap’ for the front cover that you can open up. On the inside of it, there are even more details on the features of the board. On the right side we see the M8E and the OC Panel II (OCPII moving forward). The last picture in the slideshow shows the slew of accessories that are included. If you look hard enough, there is a kitchen sink pictured too!

For a more comprehensive list of what is included, please refer to the specifications table above.

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A Closer Look

Below we finally see the first pictures of ASUS’ flagship board, the Maximus Extreme VIII. Like ASUS’ other boards in their ROG line, the PCB is black, the heatsinks being almost gunmetal or grey in color with the “Extreme” moniker labeled across the VRM heatsink. The PCH heatsink is the same color but with some added red accents as well as an RGB LED underneath that you can change to several different colors and themes. The new trend on motherboards are shrouds to hide what I call, the ‘ugly parts’. The M8E shroud covers the back I/O reaching out over the VRM heatsinks and down to cover the audio portion of the board on the lower left hand side.

The M8E sports a total of four 16x (physical) PCIe slots along with two 1x slots placed between the 2nd and 3rd, as well as 3rd and 4th, full length slots. As is the norm with the Z170 platform, there are a total of four DDR4 DIMM slots, two black and two grey, and supports up to 64 GB of RAM at speeds up to 3866 MHz. In the upper right hand corner, dubbed, “OC Zone” is where one will find a bunch of hand buttons, switches, and the debug LED to help with your overclocking and troubleshooting adventures.

At the top of the board towards the left side, hiding under the shroud from this angle, are the two CPU power plugs, a required 8-pin, and optional 4-pin (for those using extreme overclocking). There is plenty of power available through those ports to be fed to the eight fully digital power phases for the CPU (also four phases for the iGPU, two phases for DRAM with digital power utility, and one phase for VCCSA – System Agent). The back side of the board shows there is a backplate for the VRM coolers, as well as for the PCH area of the board. The PCIe slots break down to full 16x electrical for the top slot, down to 8x for the rest of the full size slots.

ASUS M8E - Front

ASUS M8E – Front

Back

Back

Alternate 1

Alternate 1

Alternate 2

Alternate 2

Alternate 3

Alternate 3

Next is the shot of the very cool OC Panel II device. An intuitive piece of equipment that assists the user with monitoring functionality, fan control, as well as overclocking. OCPII can also fit into an the included 5.25″ bay and slide right into you computer, or you can use it as a standalone device. There are two modes for this device, Easy mode, and Extreme mode. Easy mode, as the name implies, gives one quick and easy access to allow monitoring items such as CPU temperature, core ratios, and fan speeds. Pressing the OC button again allows one to adjust the fan speeds (Turbo, Standard, and Silent modes).

Switching the device to Extreme mode unlocks the beast and allows use of the full functionality to all of the ROG features. This includes Sub-Zero sense (K Type probes for extreme overclocking temperature monitoring), VGA Hotwire, Slow mode, and the Pause switch. If you slide open the bottom portion, you get direct access to two PWM and two full speed fan headers as well as reset and power functionality remotely. The Safe Boot and Retry buttons are also active here to help with configuration testing and troubleshooting problems. I was able to use the device successfully except for BCLK. Trying to set any BCLK would result in the system freezing and requiring a hard power down to reboot. I talked with ASUS on this concern and it will be fixed soon with a UEFI update (EDITORS NOTE: I have the new beta BIOS that corrects the issue). No worries though as their windows based software can adjust it in Windows in the meantime.

This is a really solid value add for anyone that would like to monitor and control their board at a granular level without accessing the BIOS… but it is a particularly useful tool for the extreme overclocker. I do like how they added the 5.25″ adapter so it will fit nice inside of a case.

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OC Panel II

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Alternate Angle

OC Panel II Details (Courtesy of Newegg.com)

OC Panel II Details (Image courtesy of Newegg.com)

Zooming in on the board we will start with the entire bottom. On the left side, mostly covered up buy the shroud, is the audio section. You will see a bit later in the review that the Supreme FX 2015 audio CODEC (based off of Realtek 1150 CODEC – it uses the Sabre DAC for stereo output) is covered with an EMI shield as is the standard these days. Also hidden underneath is the ESS Hyperstream DAC, the 2V (RMS) Heaphone output, an NEC de-pop relay, and its own dedicated clock. Peeking out from under the shroud are the premium Nichicon Caps.

Next we see a total of four full length PCIe slots with 1x slots shoehorned in between. There are three PCIe 16x slots fed from the CPU and one one from the PCH (bottom most slot and the PCIe 1x slots). For multi-GPU they break down to this…

  • 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4, gray)
  • 1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray)
  • 2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 (black)

…which is very typical of the Z170 platform on boards that do not have the PLX chip (which has become exceedingly rare these days on Intel’s mainstream platform). Outside of the PCH heatsink and its adjustable RGB LED, we can see the M.2 Socket 3 Type M slot just below it. This slot will fit devices up to 110 mm in length so it should be able to fit nearly anything there (as always, please confirm compatibility!!).

In the upper right hand part of the board where the DIMM slots are, there is plenty going on there. We already mentioned the massive 64 GB capacity and potential speeds (3866 MHz OC), but there is also front panel USB ports, the 24 pin ATX to feed the board power, and the OC Zone. The OC Zone has power and reset buttons, DIP switches to easily enable/disable PCIe lanes for troubleshooting purposes, DRAM channel jumpers to easily disable DRAM channels, a MemOK! Button, Safe boot and retry buttons, LN2 mode switch and slow mode jumpers, as well as the ProbeIt! locations to measure major voltages. About the only thing missing here are hard buttons for BCLK and multiplier adjustments… oh wait, that is covered with the OCPII, never mind!

Last in this grouping of pictures is a shot of the socket area. With the large heatsinks and shroud, its a pretty cool looking area. It is relatively free of things around it except for some dark caps so it should be pretty easy to get insulation in all the right places.

Bottom

Bottom

DIMM area

DIMM area

Socket

Socket area

Next up the I/O! The first picture here shows the back I/O. From left to right we see, a clear CMOS and BIOS Flashback button, a stack for USB with two USB3 up top and two USB3.1 slots on the bottom. Next to that is the Wi-Fi module that supports up to 1.3 Gbps wireless networks, Bluetooth 4.0, dual band (2.4/5 GHz) supporting 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. Following that is a full sized DisplayPort with HDMI below it. We then see the Intel NIC, another USB3.1 port, and a Type-C USB3.1. The last two stacks here hold a legacy PS/2 mouse/keyboard combo port and more USB3.0 ports as well as the typical back audio with Optical.

The storage ports, again from left to right, consist of a U.2 port, two SATA Express ports (shared with four standard SATA ports), and four more SATAIII 6 Gbps ports.

Back I/O Ports

Back I/O ports

SATA Ports

SATA/SATAe/SFF-8639 ports

Bottom I/O headers/ports

Bottom I/O headers/ports

The first picture here is with the plastic shroud removed. This exposes the back I/O ports from the top as well as the audio. Not too much to see outside of the EMI protected audio chip and some of the other goodies surrounding it. The next image, we took off all the heatsinks as well exposing the board fully. The heatsinks made great contact with everything so we were set there.

The last image simply shows the VRMs around the CPU socket. Some things to note here are the use of microfine alloy chokes which ASUS states is, “…custom designed for high permeability, with half the inductance loss, 75% less hysteresis loss, and higher efficiency.” Or what that really means in the end is 30% lower operating temperatures. The optiMOS MOSFETs are said to provide an extremely low Rds On value (up to 50% lower than traditional MOSFETs) and 2x higher Idrain at max 50A. With its eight phases, the FET’s “…are capable of supplying sustained and peak currents that are a magnitude higher than the platform requires when overclocked to the max.” The 10K black metallic caps are more robust than generic capacitors in that it lasts 5x longer, and has 20% greater temperature endurance. In other words, the power delivery area of the M8E will handle anything you can throw at it and likely be cooler and last longer than most other caps/FETs/Chokes used. A a great choice on a motherboard that is designed to push the limits!

Shroudless!

Shroudless!

No heatsinks at all!

No heatsinks at all!

Good contact on the heatsinks!

Good contact on the heatsinks!

VRM area without heatsinks - sexy closeup!

VRM area without heatsinks – sexy closeup!

Last, but not least, are some pictures of just some of the IC’s used on the board. From their TPU processor all the way to the Winbond BIOS chips with some Nuvoton and ASMedia sprinkled in between!

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UEFI BIOS

Below we see our first shots of the UEFI BIOS. It looks a bit different than the Z170 Sabertooth Mark 1 that I reviewed because it is part of their ROG theme and there are a few more options available, particularly for the extreme overclocker (see second slideshow for those details). The first screen is the EZMode which allows you to see the system state, and make a few high-level changes. Out of EZ Mode, the first screen is Main, followed by the Extreme Tweaker which is where the vast majority of the overclocking magic happens. The Advanced section digs down to the particularly on the board, its connectivity, and peripherals, while the Monitor section gives you control over the fan/pump headers as well as allowing one to set thresholds. Boot seems pretty self explanatory, and the Tool section is where you will find the BIOS flashing utility, the ability to Secure Erase your SSD through the BIOS (I love this feature!), flash the BIOS back.

Also pictured here is the customizable My Favorites section. It comes populated with some of the most commonly used features, but you can take it to a personal level by adding/removing your own to what you personally use the most. As with the Sabertooth UEFI, this one was also very easy to use. Options were where I expected them to be so the learning curve wasn’t bad (particularly since I just worked on the Sabertooth).

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Below we see many of the BIOS screenshots in the Extreme Tweaker section. Here is where you will find all of the dozens and dozens of options available for overclocking the CPU. Anything from power, DRAM configuration, and CPU configuration will be found here.

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Test Setup
CPU Intel 6700K @ Stock (for the motherboard – 4.0 boost to 4.2 GHz)
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme
RAM 2×4 GB DDR4 GSkill Ripjaws 4 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35 V
Graphics Card AMD R7 250
Solid State Drive OCZ Vertex 3
Power Supply SeaSonic SS-1000XP (80+ Platinum)
Operating System Windows 7 x64 SP3
Graphics Drivers Catalyst 15.7.1
Equipment
Digital Multimeter

AIDA64 and MaxxMEM – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput

Stock

AIDA64 – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz

MaxxMEM2

MaxMemm

MaxxMem – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 and R15 – CPU Rendering Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Stock

Cinebench R11.5 – Stock

4.7 GHz - 11.30

4.7 GHz – 11.30

R15

Cinebench R15 - Stock

Cinebench R15 – Stock

4.7 GHz - 1,029

4.7 GHz – 1,029

Super Pi 1M and 32M / Pifast – Single Threaded CPU Benchmark

Super Pi 1M - Stock

Super Pi 1M – Stock

4.7 GHz - 7.769s

4.7 GHz – 7.769s

32M

Super Pi 32M - Stock

Super Pi 32M – Stock

4.7 GHz - 6:45.101

4.7 GHz – 6:45.101

PiFast

PiFast - Stock

PiFast – Stock

4.7 GHz - 13.60s

4.7 GHz – 13.60s

WPrime 32M and 1024M, x264, PoV Ray R3.73, 7Zip, and Intel XTU – Multi-Threaded CPU benchmarks

WPrime 32M/1024M - Stock

WPrime 32M/1024M – Stock

4.7 GHz - 4.449s and 134.674s

4.7 GHz – 4.449s and 134.674s

x264 Pass 1 and 2

x264 - Stock

x264 – Stock

4.7 GHz

4.7 GHz

PoV Ray R3.73

POVRay - Stock

POVRay – Stock

4.7 GHz - 2,235.18

4.7 GHz – 2,235.18

7zip – Compression Benchmark

7Zip - Stock

7Zip – Stock

4.7 GHz - 29,822

4.7 GHz – 29,822

Intel XTU

Intel XTU - Stock

Intel XTU – Stock

4.7 GHz - 1,414

4.7 GHz – 1,414

Motherboard Comparison

Below is look at all of the Z170 motherboards I have tested and compared them against the benchmarks we run. As is typical, there is very little variance here. All the results are right around 1% or less difference between the boards (outside of the Sabertooth being nearly 4% behind in both WPrimes and the Gigabyte falling short in Pifast). With Cinebench, Intel XTU, 7Zip, POVRay, and x264 benchmarks, we see more of the same story there as well. Last, but not least, with memory bandwidth in AIDA64 and MaxxMem, everything is really close here except for some results in MaxxMem with the MSI and Gigabyte offerings.

Like I said, not too much to show here. The M8E is right among its peers if not poking its head ever so slightly above the rest in this batch of testing.

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Pushing the Limits

What fun is it if I left the CPU at 24/7 clocks with this monster of a board, right? I pushed things up to 4.92 GHz at 1.45 V (actual – read from voltage read points in the OC Section on the motherboard), further than I have been before on this chip, and managed to be stable enough to pass some pretty hard on the CPU (but short!) benchmarks in Cinebench R15, WPrime 32M, and then the long runner, HyperPi 32M. I noticed very little Vdroop on load.

ASUS states their onboard clock generator is good to 400 BCLK (with a CPU that could do it). While I think that may be reserved for extreme cooling, which will happen shortly after this review, I was able to easily jump up to 250 MHz BCLK and mess around with nearly every memory speed/multiplier. This has to be the easiest jump to that BCLK I have seen on that platform. Some boards won’t even do that (with this same CPU). I cannot wait to take this thing and my frighteningly mediocre chip under LN2!

250 BCLK? No Problem!

250 BCLK? No Problem!

4.92 GHz Hyper Pi 32M, Cinebench R15, and WPrime 32M? No Problem!

4.92 GHz Hyper Pi 32M, Cinebench R15, and WPrime 32M? No Problem!

Conclusion

There is little doubt in most anyone’s mind that the pedigree of the ASUS ROG series, in particular the Maximus (insert version here) Extreme, comes from some good DNA. Previous generations of this board, have had rave reviews for its feature set and overclocking ability. The latest version of the Maximus VIII Extreme surely didn’t fall far from tree. Its robust, all digital, power delivery section, the OC Panel II, and the OC Zone on the motherboard, all point to its ‘overclocking’ heritage. While the Intel I-219V NIC with GameFirst technology, the latest Supreme FX 2015 audio, and Sonic Radar II (among other items) have the gaming crowd squarely in the cross hairs too.

The UEFI implementation looked good and was intuitive on its placement of the major options one tends to use from overclocking options, to boot options, to fan control and temperature monitoring. Movement was smooth be it the mouse or keyboard as well.

I did not run into one issue with the board (not saying I didn’t have some personal miscues) as I tested it. The Z170 platform has had a bit of time to mature so I did expect that and was not let down. I was able to easily reach 250 BCLK using any multiplier to keep my RAM speed pegged darn close to its 3000 MHz rating. The OC Panel II proved to be a very useful tool in both monitoring as well as on the fly adjustments. As stated previously, BCLK adjustments are not working on the OCPII but that will be fixed soon with a UEFI update.

EDITORS NOTE: I have a new beta BIOS released on the 16th that resolves the issue! We should see this available to the public soon.

The pricing for the ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme board comes in at $499.99 from Newegg.com. That is in fact, the highest price of all Z170 motherboards that are currently out and at Newegg. The closest competitor is the Gigabyte G1 Gaming board at $473.99 followed by the MSI Gaming 9 ACK at $399.99, and the EVGA Classified, also at $399. Although there are tons of features for the gamer, I still peg this board, right or wrong, as an overclocking centric board. That said, no other board comes with the OC Panel II and can do what it does. So the premium over boards like the Classified, SOC Force, and the OC Formula can be justified (though those boards have buttons on the motherboard – none are a dual use and can monitor or control fans). The truth is, this board isn’t for everyone. A gamer can get away with a lot less expensive board from the ASUS lineup and still overclock well under ambient cooling.

The ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme really packed a ton of features for all kinds of enthusiasts on this board, be it for gaming or extreme overclocking. If you are in the market for a board made for extreme cooling, is also great for gaming, and want what most would arguably consider the best, look no further, go get the M8E people!

What Does This Mean? Click to Find Out!

What Does This Mean? Click to Find Out!

– Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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