ASUS Maximus VIII Gene LGA 1151 Motherboard Review

ASUS’ Maximus VIII Gene is the latest in a long line of mATX powerhouses from ASUS’ Republic of Gamers brand. This motherboard is poised to offer an amazing feature set, class leading overclocking, and stability in a compact package. We’ve had great experiences with motherboards in the Gene line, so our expectations are high.

Introduction

ASUS is one of the largest and most influential motherboard manufacturers in the world today. ASUS has always had a focus on the enthusiast and gaming communities, and to extend this focus, ASUS launched its Republic of Gamers brand which targets the PC gaming enthusiast more directly than its other products do. This brand shares little with the standard retail channel motherboards. The motherboards in this product line have less of an economical appeal and more of a pure performance orientation. Recently, some models were launched to bring some of what ROG has to offer to more reasonable price points, but in each form factor and market segment, the ROG offerings tend to be among the more expensive options on the market. However this new Maximus VIII Gene comes in at "only" $210.

Many features in this lineup are pioneered first, then extended to the normal retail channel motherboards a product generation or two later. Features like the PCB audio isolation, integrated amplifiers, dedicated audio capacitors, and the like appeared on the ROG motherboards first. Now this is the accepted standard for enthusiast motherboards today across all the major brands. Other features like voltage check points, memory OK, and KeyBot II were pioneered on ROG first, then copied by the industry. In a way, ROG offerings are like a preview of what’s to come in a year or two’s time on standard retail motherboards.

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The Maximus VIII Gene is based on Intel’s Z170 Express chipset and supports all the features offered by the chipset, as well as other unique and industry standard features. Examples of this include: DDR4, SATA 6Gb/s, SATA Express, USB 3.0 and 3.1, and PCI-Express Gen 3.0 support. These are all just a few examples of the what the Maximus VIII Gene has to offer. The Maximus VIII Gene, like other offerings in the series, offers a robust design for stability and overclocking. ASUS’ all digital DIGI+Power controls offer precise control over the power phases. ASUS Pro Clock technology allows the base clock of the system to be adjusted to far greater ranges than the stock Intel clock generator allows for. It’s possible to go anywhere between 100MHz and 650MHz using this feature.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The packaging for the Maximus VIII Gene is fairly standard for the ROG line. This is of course, much nicer than it is for most motherboards on the market today. The box has an almost plastic, or fabric like feel to it. It doesn’t feel like simple cardboard. There is a flap on the box, which when opened gives you a lot of product information about the motherboard itself, and what features it offers. The box and the enclosed packaging keeps the motherboard safe during transit. Our sample arrived intact, and with the following accessories included: User's manual, ASUS Q-Shield, 4x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s), 1x M.2 Screw Package, 1x CPU installation tool, 1x Supporting DVD, 1x SLI bridge(s), 1x Q-connector(s) (1 in 1) , 1x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s), ROG Fan Label, and 1x ROG Door Hanger.

Board Layout

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The layout of the Maximus VIII Gene is superb. The only complaints I could make is with regard to the placement of the power, reset and clear CMOS buttons on the motherboard, and the placement of the M.2 slot. I’d prefer the controls to be closer to the RAM slots, but this is something that boils down to preference. The case you install this in has a lot to do with where these controls work best. You also have to keep in mind that these controls won’t be used very often if the machine is placed into a proper chassis. I do like the placement of the M.2 slot as well, although being above the primary PCI-Express x16 slot would be better for the drive. Being underneath the graphics card isn’t necessarily the best choice.

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The CPU area is clear of any major obstructions. There shouldn’t be any issues with the installation of larger heat sinks and fans, and even if there are, other solutions are available to remediate this problem. There are 10 power phases here, for an 8+2 phase configuration. Solid, black electrolytic capacitors can be seen here, flanking the CPU socket and the chokes. The MOSFET coolers are extremely robust and well made. These are securely screwed down to prevent wobbling and loss of contact and therefore heat conduction. These have a large heat pipe imbedded din them. These coolers are some of the most efficient I’ve seen. At stock speeds I saw temps of 93-100F, and overclocked 96-103F. These are among the coolest I’ve ever seen, so kudos to ASUS for masterfully designing and crafting these.

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There are four 288-pin DDR4 DIMM slots, each supporting up to 16GB modules, for a total of 64GB of RAM. Speeds up to DDR4 3733MHz are supported as of the time of this writing. Granted, these speeds are only achievable through overclocking, as Intel sticks with JEDEC specs only. At least officially speaking anyway. The slots only use one locking tab to make installation and removal easier. These slots are also color coded gray, and black to denote proper dual channel memory mode operation. I could only find a single power phase that matched the design of the chokes around the CPU. There is another type of choke here as well. I am not sure if one or both of these are used for the memory subsystem. Ordinarily there are at least two identical chokes and phases used for the memory subsystem. ASUS also uses it’s "T-Topology" design, which is essentially equidistant trace paths. This maximizes signal strength, reducing crosstalk and other noise. This also means that all the memory banks should be just as capable. This helps in maintaining stability while all four DIMM slots have an electrical load on them.

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The chipset is cooled with a nice looking heat sink. It has the ROG logo on it, and is very nicely made. Directly in front of it you will find the two SATA Express ports, and 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports, Directly behind the chipset you will find the M.2 slot.

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The expansion slot area is pretty well thought out. Again I’m not a fan of where the onboard controls for power, reset, etc. are located. Aside from that the slot configuration is perfect for dual GPU systems. The M.2 slot is nestled in between the two PCI-Express x16 slots. Again this isn’t great, but the lack of PCB real estate forces ASUS into doing it this way. The M.2 slot supports 40mm, 60mm, 80mm and 110mm devices. The PCI-Express slots allow for an x16/x0/x0 or x8/x8/x4 lane configuration.

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The I/O panel is packed full of connectivity options. ASUS wasted little space on the Maximus VIII Gene’s back panel. On the I/O panel you’ll find two buttons, a BIOS flashback button, and a clear CMOS button. There are 6x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 3.1 ports (1x Type-A, 1x Type-C), 1x PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, 1x RJ-45 port, 1x optical output, 5x mini-stereo jacks for analog audio. For video there are two options. DisplayPort, and HDMI.