ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero Z390 Motherboard Review

Taking a queue from Hollywood, ASUS brings us another sequel to its long running ROG franchise with its Maximus XI Hero. While most movie sequels never live up to the original, computer hardware usually improves on the previous iteration. However, that’s not always the case. Is that the case here? Read on and find out.

continued...

Motherboard Overclocking Software

For those who don’t know, ASUS’ AI Suite III is a Windows-based performance tuning and monitoring utility, or rather suite of utilities. It has been quite some time since ASUS updated its AI Suite III software. AI Suite III is probably more than five years old now. It said many changes and I’m not sure why ASUS continues to call it AI Suite III. even though there have been many changes throughout AI Suite III’s existence, has been some time since any significant changes of been made. However, there is a substantial change in the release which comes with the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero.

ASUS has overhauled its AI Overclocking feature and added it to AI Suite III. Previously, you had to rely on 5-Way optimization of DIP5 to handle automated overclocking. That feature remains and is largely unchanged from previous releases. However, the AI Overclocking feature is new and quite different. AI Overclocking is quite innovative as it actively evaluates several facets of the system configuration including the CPU, voltages, and cooling capacity. The software then makes predictions as to the capability of the CPU to overclock in the current configuration. It lets you know the predicted stable frequencies for AVX and non-AVX workloads. It even tells you how much voltage is required for both workloads to achieve a stable overclock.

This is truly a unique feature, and one that’s primarily implemented via the UEFI or hardware. AI Suite III simply seems to have the ability to interface with the AI Overclocking feature and implement the settings if desired. What’s interesting here, is that these predictions are rather accurate in my experiences thus far.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

For those who would rather split the difference between a manual and automated process, ASUS still includes its Dual-Intelligent Processors 5 or "DIP5" feature. This is effectively a guided means of software-based overclocking. The implementation can essentially be fully automated, but, works best with some user input. Specifically, you input your overclocking goals in terms of clock speeds, voltage thresholds, TDP, or temperature thresholds and a few other things. Fan tuning is also part of the applications parameters. You can even choose the criteria which the software will use to determine whether the automated overclocking endeavor was stable, and therefore successful or not.

Before the new AI Overclocking feature, this was the gold standard in bundled utilities as far as automated overclocking was concerned. Again, is not fully automated, although you can simply click next through it in force it to do its job. However, my experiences show the success rates using that methodology are generally not that good. This is a pretty good option as it generally gets within one or 200 MHz of the CPUs actual clock ceiling using air or water cooling. The biggest problem with this methodology, is that CPU voltages tend to be higher than they need to be in the overclock’s are not always good enough for 24/7 or 365 operation.

Article Image Article Image Article Image

Article Image Article Image Article Image

Aside from the aforementioned AI Overclocking feature, the software remains unchanged from previous iterations. It provides a wealth of PC health information, with readouts which can be expanded to provide additional information. Monitoring thresholds for voltages fan speeds and temperatures can be modified as the user sees fit. Overclocking profiles can be saved stored or loaded from other sources. Other features such as power savings are as good as those offered by any other manufacturer.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The AI Suite III software is somewhat complicated. It was more basic in its earliest forms, but, has grown considerably in complexity and capability. This has introduced somewhat of a learning curve as far as its interface is concerned. It’s far more daunting to look at for the first time than it really is. I have to give ASUS props in that it’s not too difficult to master of the software, but for the uninitiated it can be a little overwhelming at first. Aside from some minor navigational issues with its menus such as having no back button and a navigation menu that’s largely hidden is surprisingly easy to use. I will say it’s one of the more complicated tools at the time of this writing as GIGABYTE, ASRock, and MSI have all made utilities which are easier to use. However, those utilities are not nearly as capable nor as robust as AI Suite III.

Aside from overclocking, which is clearly AI Suite III’s most significant strength over competing software, its fan control is second to none. It has both automated and manual options that simply have no equal. While the feature gap is closed significantly in the last couple of years, there are still a handful of things that AI Suite III’s Fan Xpert 4 does that other tools do not. Chief among them, is the ability to provide custom names and locations for specific fans in the chassis. ASUS also offers settings to control fan speed changes both up and down which are independent of each other. This is sometimes known as fan smoothing. This feature allows the adjustment of fan speed changes to make them less noticeable, or to make them occur more quickly if desired. As far as I know, ASUS was the first company to offer this feature. Today I believe they offer this feature on more models than any other manufacturer today. One thing that has been added recently was an option for setting a critical temperature threshold in this menu.

Article Image Article Image Article Image

ASUS also offers nearly, UEFI BIOS level voltage control and power phase control from within the Windows environment. Many competing utilities simply don’t do this. The user experience is further improved by rollovers with detailed descriptions on the usage and operating ranges of many of these features. This can aid the novice and even advanced users and making the most appropriate selections for their usage scenarios and system needs.

Another unique feature of the application is the ability to create performance profiles for specific applications which are triggered automatically when those applications are launched. I have yet to see a feature remotely resembling this one, from any other manufacturer. Having said that, aside from potential power savings considerations, there really isn’t much of an application for this feature. If you have an overclock that is capable of operating on every day of the year with absolute stability, there isn’t much of a need for this. Unless you’re forcing the CPU to operate at its maximum frequency 100% of the time, the CPU will down clock unless more of its resources are needed. Again, this depends on a variety of other settings in your system configuration, so your mileage may vary.

Aura

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

Lastly, we have ASUS’ Aura software. This is a utility which is used expressly for the configuration of onboard RGB LED lighting. For quite some time, these utilities didn’t work very well and seemingly underwent massive changes every couple of months. It has been a while since that’s been the case, so if you have ever seen our coverage of this particular utility before there’s nothing new here. It isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing utility for this purpose, but I would argue it’s easily the most functional and most feature-rich. It offers a wider range of configuration options for many of its visual effects and color palette. It offers the ability to alter the speed of many of its visual effects, which admittedly isn’t entirely unique either. One thing that is unique is the ability to create lighting schemes and profiles for the system while the power is off and while it’s on. This is something that I like quite a bit and using my own system.

Older versions of the software were not terribly reliable. It has been known to crash in the background without generating any type of error message in which case you’re only indication that things are gone wrong is that your lighting scheme isn’t doing what you told to do. This is something I experience on an older motherboard that’s in my own system, but it isn’t something I’ve seen recently on my test bench. I have encountered these issues on the test bench some time ago, but more modern iterations of the Aura software have corrected this.

The application not only provides LED lighting control for onboard lighting, but for, RGB headers and compatible hardware attached to the system. This allows one to configure an entire RGB LED ecosystem using this one piece of software. Of course, it requires that any peripherals or graphics cards are compatible with Aura. Unfortunately, it isn’t an industry standard or compatible with an industry standard. Other manufacturers are pushing their own configuration utilities with their own compatibility requirements. At the time of this writing, I am uncertain which manufacturer holds the widest range of compatible devices, so I won’t speculate on the subject of compatibility with other brands of hardware. However, ASUS is practically a one-stop shop for all your computing needs. You can get graphics cards, storage devices, monitors and other peripherals from ASUS. This is quickly becoming case with other brands as well, but third-party compatibility with products from companies like Corsair are also out there to choose from.