ASUS Maximus IV Extreme Motherboard Review
ASUS expands its Intel based Republic of Gamers line once again with the Maximus IV Extreme. This motherboard has a lot to live up to as each Maximus before this was nothing short of excellent and quite possibly the best motherboards available at the time of release. The Maximus IV Extreme continues the tradition and exceeds expectations.
ASUS is the largest and most well known motherboard manufacturer. Like many companies, it has many brands to segment its markets and make things easier for the consumer given the wide range of products ASUS offers. To this end it has created its Republic of Gamers brand. ROG represents the pinnacle of ASUS motherboard design. Targeted towards the gamer and computing enthusiast, these boards tend to feature the most robust electrical designs, BIOS features, integrated components, and of course class leading overclocking. These are the flagships of ASUS motherboards. These are a no holds barred, I don’t give a damn how much it costs, type of solution. And certainly not a budget solution. Then again, these don’t need to be. There are plenty of other budget oriented solutions and between the lowest end boards and the ROG line exists a plethora of boards with various price points and feature sets. The ROG line simply represents one extreme end of the spectrum.
The Maximus IV Extreme is based on Intel’s P67 Express chipset which is at this point a mature solution. Why P67 and not Z68? That’s the question which will inevitably be asked on the forums. While ASUS’ actual motives are its own, we suspect it is due to the fact that ASUS knows that enthusiasts who buy hardware like this will most likely be running an SSD for their operating system. As a result the Smart Response Technology will do the end user no good. Furthermore not everyone cares about the Quick Sync feature. Those who do want those things can look at the Maximus IV Extreme-Z which is more or less the same board but based on the Z68 chipset instead of P67. So ASUS has everyone again covered.
ASUS has done a lot with this motherboard. The board features full support for both 3-Way SLI and CrossFireX using up to three cards. This is accomplished by adding an nForce 200 MCP. This eliminates the 2 GPU device connection limitations of the PCIe controller in the CPU. Also included is the BIOS Print feature which allows you to screen capture your own BIOS screens with a great amount of detail and resolution. ROG connect for remote monitoring and overclocking, ROG iDirect, to do the same thing, but via your iPhone or iPad, ROG Bluetooth, to monitor wirelessly, Probe It to monitor voltages with a volt-meter, and USB BIOS flashback which is a new feature designed to flash the BIOS without even so much as powering on the system. The board has an 8-phase digital power design and uses its Extreme Digi+ engine for control of the power phases.
ASUS didn’t stop there. The board also has dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports onboard, USB 3.0 support and SATA 6Gb/s support. Essentially if you wanted to design a balls to the wall motherboard the result would probably be very similar to the Maximus IV Extreme. It’s just about everything you can imagine without any true compromise.
Main Specifications Overview:
Detailed Specifications Overview:
ASUS once again turns to its standard ROG packaging for the Maximus IV Extreme. Not that this is a bad thing. The packaging is some of the nicest looking and most elegant around. The package is well constructed, but presentation is equally well thought out. A flap allows one to view the motherboard without even removing it from the box. The board is well protected, and tons of accessories are included as well. Included in the box are the User’s Guide, ROG Exclusive Features Guide, driver DVD, Bluetooth Module, thermal probes, ASUS Q-Connectors, SLI and CrossFireX Bridges, I/O shield, ROG Connect cable, USB bracket, thermal probes for the Probe It feature, and enough SATA cables for every device supported by the Maximus IV Extreme. For those who like these, these are right angled cables, for those who don’t like that, well you’ll just have to either learn to love these or buy cables elsewhere.
Getting to the layout of the Maximus IV Extreme itself, the layout is very good with one minor complaint. The 4-pin Molex connection used for auxiliary power for the PCIe bus shouldn’t be located where it is. I’d prefer to see one which is at a right angle at the bottom edge of the board. This would make for a cleaner setup once the system is built. This is a minor annoyance, but I felt it was worth mentioning. Of course, while we complain about its placement, we do also understand that the placement of the Molex connection is likely due to ASUS wanting to have the best electrical path for the power to the PCIe devices. Beyond that nitpick however, the board’s design is exceptional. Version 1.02 of the PCB is what we had on hand for all testing.
The CPU socket area is clear of obstructions allowing the installation of large CPU cooling solutions. The MOSFETs and nForce 200 MCP are cooled by a heat pipe cooling solution that stretches around the back of the CPU socket. The CPU socket area design posed no challenges I could see for the installation of large CPU cooling solutions.
ASUS chose to color code its DIMM slots red and black. This is keeping with the standard ROG color schemes. As usual ASUS chose to use its single sided locking mechanism for the DIMM slots. This allows a great deal of flexibility in the placement of the memory slots. Directly in front of the DIMM slots you’ll find the onboard power and reset buttons, Probe It headers, and switches which are used to control the allocation of PCIe lanes to the expansion slots. The Rampage III Black Edition also featured these. I’ve found it to be a nice feature in my own system. You can enable or disable PCIe slots without actually removing the card. This can aid in multi-GPU troubleshooting which I had to do in my own machine recently.
The nForce 200 MCP is placed where a north bridge would traditionally be found. The heat pipe cooling unit which cools the MOSFETs can be found here. It is solid black with a red back lit ROG logo on it.
ASUS used a flat heat sink on the actual chipset for cooling. It’s a flat, yet stylish all black heat sink which matches the rest of the board’s appearance. In front of that you’ll find the motherboards eight SATA ports. The SATA ports are nicely color coded. Though rather than being coded by controller, they are coded by speed. Red for the SATA 6Gb/s ports and grey for the SATA 3Gb/s ports. Just keep in mind that the ports closest to the grey ones are your P67 Express ports while your furthest ports from the grey ones are connected to the Marvell 9182 controller.
ASUS has done a good job with the expansion area. I don’t have any major complaints or significant thoughts here. You have adequate spacing for 3-Way SLI and CrossFireX. Though this would eliminate the possibility of adding any other cards into the mix unless you water cooled your graphics cards and were able to slim them down to single slot solutions.
The rear I/O panel of course contains all your connectivity options. The blue ports all represent your USB 3.0 ports. You also will find a dedicated ROG Connect port, which works for its new BIOS flashing feature as well. These two features are controlled via the ROG Connect button on the back plane. Six-mini-stereo jacks are provided as well. I’d like to have seen gold plated connectors rather than plastic, but that’s just a personal thing for me. Also the optical output is present as is the legacy PS/2 mouse / keyboard combination port. You’ve got dual eSATA ports and a clear CMOS button. And finally the dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports. All in all as usual, ASUS did a good job and made good usage of the space.