ASUS Maximus IX Hero Motherboard Review
Now that we have taken a look at both the ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 and GIGABYTE AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5, it is time to check out one of the newest models from the highly lauded ASUS Republic of Gamers series. The Maximus IX Hero that are reviewing today represents the most affordable entry into the ROG family, with a suggested retail price of about $230 USD. Despite sitting behind the Maximus IX Code and the Maximus IX Formula - which feature various additions ranging from full-body shielding, to onboard Wi-Fi, to MOSFET water blocks, and greater RGB LED lighting - the Maximus IX Hero shouldn't be overlooked since it features a very healthy specs list.
Looking at the fundamentals, we see that the Maximus IX Hero features a 10-phase digital CPU power design with OptiMOS MOSFETs, MicroFine alloy chokes, 10K Black Metallic capacitors, three physical PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX, three PCI-E x1 slots, six SATA 6Gb/s ports, and two full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slots – at least one of which will support Intel’s upcoming Optane SSD product line. There are also two high-speed USB 3.1 ports, one Type-A and one Type-C, four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, and one USB 3.0 header. Surprisingly, there is no internal USB 2.0 header, but we will gladly overlook that since this model features the very first USB 3.1 front panel header that we have ever seen. Those with newer cases that support this latest USB standard will finally be able to direct all of that speed to your case's front ports. Rounding out the connectivity is one Intel-powered gigabit LAN Port, and a M.2 Key E slot that supports M.2 Wi-Fi cards. Not only that, but they have integrated two antenna cutouts into the rear I/O panel. With these two additions, adding Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth to this motherboard should be a piece of cake.
While that is an impressive amount of inputs and outputs, what makes ROG models really interesting and special are the unique additions that you won't find anywhere else. For example, on this model audio duties are handled by the newest generation of SupremeFX onboard audio. This new implementation is obviously based on the new Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel HD audio codec and features audio-grade Nichicon capacitors. The codec has its own electromagnetic interference (EMI) cover and is also protected by a PCB-level isolation line, which helps keep noise out of the audio signal. Now those elements are fairly standard based on the Z270 motherboards that we have seen so far, except for the EMI cover. However, on the Maximus IX Hero, that audio signal is improved by a widely acclaimed ESS ES9023P DAC and is then further boosted by a dedicated TI R4580 headphone amplifier. We have seen these components used before, and the end result has always been excellent. Another benefit of SupremeFX is compatibility with the ASUS audio software suite that consists of Sonic Studio II and Sonic Radar II.
Do you like onboard headers? Because this motherboard has a lot of them. For starters, there are eight fan headers, some of which are of the high current variety that can support water pumps and high amperage fans. There are headers designed to help you monitor the temperature and flow rate of your liquid cooling system, there are temperature sensor headers. There is an ROG_EXT header that will allow you to plug in an ASUS OC Panel II device. There are also two RGB light strip headers, which we will explain down below. What about buttons, switches and jumpers? There are a lot of those too. There is an 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, and a MemOk! button (initiates memory compatibility tuning process). There is also a clear CMOS button and ROG Connect button on the rear I/O panel.
This new model also features RGB LED lighting in the form of AURA SYNC. There are RGB LEDs integrated into the chipset and MOSFET coolers, and they can be all controlled using the AURA lighting control utility. These lights can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects, like pulsating with the beat of your music, cycling through all the colours, fading in and out, flash on and off, or just statically displaying one colour. There are also two RGB headers, each capable of powering a 12V/2A 5050 LED lighting strip and controlling it via the AURA utility. What makes this AURA SYNC implementation different than the regular AURA is that synchronize colours and effects with other SYNC compatible components, like graphics cards, keyboards, and mice. Overall, if lighting matters to you, this motherboard has customization options that very few other models can match.
If performance matters to you more than looks - as it should - this model is packed with various ASUS automatic overclocking features that have proven themselves to be extremely capable in the past. They are also quite difficult to implement perfectly right off the bat when a new processor generation is introduced, so we can't wait to see what ASUS have come up with and how well they work. I don't think we have ever been letdown by an ROG motherboard in the past, so let's see if ASUS have managed to extend that legacy.
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