ASUS Maximus V Formula / ThunderFX Review

Not one to rest on their laurels, ASUS adds another Z77 Express chipset based board to its Republic of Gamers lineup. This time in Formula trim. The Maximus V Formula / ThunderFX gives us most of what the Extreme version gave us and a couple of things it didn’t. What’s so special about the Maximus V Formula ThunderFX? Let's find out.

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ASUS AI Suite II

As always, ASUS included their AI Suite II with the Maximus V Formula. The utility itself is little more than a launcher for smaller separate utilities with a common interface. There is a launch bar or dock at the bottom with various buttons on it. When you click on any of them they either perform a specific function or they show a menu with different options to select. Because the utility does so much I’ll keep this limited to the more enthusiast oriented applications. These are: TurboV EVO, DIGI+ Power Control and Fan Xpert2.

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The TurboV EVO application has two modes of operation; manual and automated. The latter is called CPU Level Up. The application gives us the manual mode first. Among the first things you’ll see is a drop down menu. This is where you can select from profiles which you’ve created. Below that are some basic settings. BCLK, CPU voltage, and DDR voltage. There are three additional tabs in the lower section of this window pane. These are advanced mode, GPU Boost, and CPU ratio. The advanced mode has two pages of settings. The bulk of them are voltage settings; the majority of which are on the first page. VCCSA voltage, PCH voltage, etc. and others are found here. This isn’t as comprehensive as the UEFI but for the most part what you need is here.

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As always I can click on the monitor button in the dock at anytime. This brings up a sensor view in the right most window pane. This shows me PC health information such as voltages and temperature readings. I can go back and view clock speed, base clock data, and CPU usages anytime by clicking on the CPU button next to the sensor button. There is also an OS default settings button at the bottom which will undo any changes you’ve made and haven’t saved to a profile. The GPU boost tab gives me iGPU max frequency and iGPU voltage settings. The CPU ratio menu allows us to increase our turbo frequency ratio which in turn increases our CPU’s clock speeds. This can be done for a single core, 2, cores, 3, or all cores.

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The CPU level up function easily allows for overclocking with just a couple of mouse clicks. Typically there are three overclocking levels. I’m presented with three speeds here. 4.600GHz, 4.400GHz, and 4.200GHz. To use the feature all you need to do is select your desired speed and click start. The system will handle the rest. I’ve seen far less aggressive automated overclocking profiles in some other software packages in the past. And as always providing your CPU can handle it the board should have no trouble figuring out how to deliver. I’ve rarely seen issues with this feature in the past.

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The DIGI+ Power control menu is used for tuning settings relating to power delivery on the motherboard. Once you click on the application you’ll find three options. Smart DIGI+, CPU Power Control, and DRAM Power Control. The Smart DIGI+ menu allows you to set the target TDP for your processor. There are two profiles here. 35w and 45w. You know this must be good for the environment or something as there is a leaf on the button of each profile. Conversely if power savings isn’t your think the PC Now! Button will take you to TurboV EVO. The Default button will return the system to the stock power profile. The power control menu on the other hand allows us to set values which correspond with performance. More to the point, these settings impact overclockability directly.

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You can set load-line calibration and current capabilities for both the CPU and iGPU. CPU voltage frequency allows adjustment of the frequency response or transient response times. A higher frequency allows for faster response and more current delivery. The CPU power phase control menu has four options here. These are standard, optimized, extreme and manual control. This controls how many phases are active at a given time. The more power phases you use the stronger the current delivery to the CPU but with that comes increased heat. As we scroll onto the second page of this menu you’ll find three final settings. VRM protection threshold, CPU power thermal control and finally CPU power duty control. The DRAM power control menu is virtually the same as the CPU menu albeit with fewer settings. Current capability, thermal control and phase control are found here.

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The Fan Xpert 2 software is the last point of interest on our tour of the AI Suite II. Once clicked, the Fan Xpert 2 software will run an auto detection of installed fans by polling the fan headers. Once done you can step through a wizard which will allow for additional tuning.

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A menu of detected fans will appear. I’m water cooling and I don’t have any fans hooked up which is why everything is grayed out for me. You can select the fan by name and then choose what position it should represent or is located in. Afterwards you enter the profile menu. Here you can select fan profiles. There are three; Silent, Turbo, and Standard. A full speed option is also available. It simply ramps the fan up to maximum speed. I’m not sure if that counts as a profile or not but the button for it looks different. Sensor data is shown on the right. This shows us what our voltage readings are as well as our temperatures. This can help tell us whether or not the fan speeds are sufficient for the desired thermal results.

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Sort of hidden you’ll find a button at the top right of the main window pane. It’s a graph looking thing and easy to miss. It isn't shown like the regular buttons. Once this is clicked you enter a section which allows for detailed fan control. You can edit custom names for each fan header, auto-tune these, and set smart modes and fixed RPM modes.