ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme Motherboard Review
In 2015, we have had the enviable opportunity of reviewing most of the ASUS Z170 Republic of Gamers (RoG) motherboard lineup, starting with the Maximus VIII Hero, then the Maximus VIII Gene, and lastly the Maximus VIII Impact. Now that we are in 2016, we figured that we might as well continue the trend and start off the year big by reviewing the undisputed flagship model, the Maximus VIII Extreme.
This eight iteration of the Maximus Extreme model retails for about $485 USD / $640 CAD, which is about the same USD price as the Rampage V Extreme when it launched back in December 2014. This high price - which is even worse for us Canadians due to a collapsing dollar - leads to us to have some equally high expectations of this enthusiast-oriented motherboards.
What do you get for that money? Well let's rattle off some specs: 12-phase digital CPU power design with OptiMOS MOSFETs, MicroFine alloy chokes, 10K Black Metallic capacitors, four physical PCI-E x16 slots with support for 2-Way SLI or 4-Way CrossFireX configurations, two PCI-E x1 slots, eight SATA 6Gb/s port and up to two SATA Express ports, one M.2 x4 connector, one U.2 connector, one Intel-powered Gigabit LAN port, and both DisplayPort and HDMI video outputs. There are also four USB 3.0 ports, three USB 3.1 Type-A ports, and one USB 3.1 Type-C port. Rounding out the connectivity is onboard dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi capable of transfer speeds up to 1300Mbps, Bluetooth v4.0 capabilities, and a capable external 3T3R antenna.
While those are all solid specs, what makes RoG models interesting and special are the unique features. For example, the onboard audio is handled by the new RoG SupremeFX 2015 design, which is based on a fairly common Realtek ALC1150 ten-channel HD audio codec, but is shielded by an EMI cover, is routed through a widely acclaimed ESS ES9023P DAC, a dedicated TI R4580 headphone amplifier, audio-grade Nichicon capacitors, and there's a PCB isolation line surrounds the whole audio section. It also supports the ASUS-only software suite consisting of Sonic SenseAmp, Sonic Studio II, and Sonic Radar II game enhancing utilities.
As we have come to expect from Extreme motherboards, overclockers will be absolutely enamored with this model's capabilities. It features a Q-Code debug LED display, PCI-E x16 lane switch, DRAM channel jumper, LN2 Mode jumper (helps remedy cold-boot bug during post at sub-zero temperatures), Slow Mode switch (drops the CPU multiplier to temporarily enhance system stability), Safe Boot button (powers off system, loads previous Safe Mode BIOS settings), ReTry button (hardware-level reboot similar to turning off your PSU), power-on Start button, Reset button, MemOk! button (initiates memory compatibility tuning process), thermal probe header, diagnostic LEDs, and even a ProbeIt area with an assortment of voltage read points. When you combine these physical features with the expansive number of settings in the UEFI BIOS, there's not much that an overclocker can't do on this motherboard.
Since the Maximus VIII Extreme is the current flagship, it comes bundled with the unique OC Panel II, an external monitoring and tweaking peripheral which should retail for about $100. Although this accessory has a 'Normal Mode" whereby it can be installed in a case and used as a means of displaying real-time info like CPU temperature, basic system clocks, and fan speeds, it also allows for some basic auto overclocking and CPU fan speed adjustments. More interesting however is the "Extreme Mode", which reveals the OC Panel as an external overclocking console that houses a ton of overclocker-friendly functionality.
Thus far, we wouldn't hesitate to say that all of the ASUS Z170 RoG motherboards that we have reviewed have been pretty much excellent. Can the Maximus VIII Extreme distinguish itself enough to warrant its price premium over those models? That's what we are here to find out.
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