Asus Maximus IV Extreme Review

Posted Jul 14, 2011
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Asus is the big daddy of motherboard manufacturers, shipping more units that most of its competitors combined. The big daddy of Asus’s motherboard arsenal is the Maximus 4 Extreme. Read on to find out what makes this board the most complete for Sandybridge processors.

Motherboard Specifications

 

Socket LGA 1155 / P67
Processor Support All current LGA 1155 Processors
Segment Enthusiast
Size E-ATX
Memory DDR3 4 Slots / 32 GB
Features NF 200 Bridge Chip4 PCI-E 16x Slots; 3 @ 16xExtra Durable Components (Like the Sabertooth)Digital Voltage Regulation (Digi+ VRM; 8+3 Phase)Dual Intel LANDual EFIProbelt Voltage monitoring pointsRemote Computing (ROG Connect/ iDirect)Onboard ButtonsOnboard Switches to contorl PCI-e 16x slotsOnboard Diagnostic LED’s

10 USB 3.0 Ports

LN2 Switch

Bluetooth Module

Thermal Monitoring Cables

Slots PCI-e 16x (2) (16x or 8x,8x)
Overclocking Yes (Both Processor & Graphics Core)
I/O USB 2.0 & 3.0  Sata 6GBPS Realtek LAN

The board is absolutely loaded with features. What I like most about the board is the inclusion of the NF200 bridge chip to provide extra PCI-e lanes which ensures full x16 lanes to 3 PCI-e x16 slots. Apart from that the presence of switches to control PCI-e slots, onboard buttons, 10 USB 3.0 ports (yes 10!) and the usual Asus Easy (Q) accessories makes this a very complete package. Oh and before you go out and buy this board, please note this is an E-ATX board and would need an E-ATX compliant casing.

Packaging & Accessories

The board is from the Asus Republic of Gamers series and comes in a traditional (read: humongous) ROG box. The box has a large central window which shows a bit of the board. Inside the red cardboard container is a clear transparent plastic shield which protects the board. Below the board is cardboard container which holds all the accessories. The board comes loaded with accessories and extras. Apart from the usual manuals, disk, cables, USB 2.0 module and Asus “Q” accessories the package contains a Bluetooth module, a set of decals to label optical drive cables, SLI & XFire bridges, temperature monitoring cables and probelt connectors. There are some cable ties in the package as well.

Motherboard Tour Like all ROG boards, red and black colors are liberally used all over the board. This full length E-ATX features high quality components for CPU and memory power regulation. 8 phase CPU power and 3 phase memory power regulation circuitry employs the best there is. The board uses ML caps for CPU power and solid caps all over the board. All power circuitry is passively cooled. The heat sink that cools the NF-200 has a nifty ROG logo that is illuminated by a red LED. All heat sinks share a common heat pipe. The voltage regulation circuitry is covered by passive heat-sinks connected by a heat pipe. Despite the presence of heat sinks, the board can take almost any aftermarket cooler without breaking a sweat. We tested our setup with a HR-02 and had no problems installing it. In front of the socket area are the memory slots which feature the excellent single clip retention mechanism. A lot of goodies are located in front of the memory slot. The diagnostic LED display, probelt, power & reset buttons, the LN2 switch as well as the PCI-e x16 slot switches are located here. A small red mem OK! button completes the tour of this area. Moving along the front edge we find the 8 SATA right angled ports. The red ports are SATA 6 Gbps compliant while the grey ports work at SATA 3G Gbps specifications. The extra SATA 6 Gbps ports are powered by a Marvell controller. E-SATA functionality is provided by JMicron IC. The left edge of the board is very busy. It features the front panel connectors, USB connectors (2x USB 3.0 and 8x USB 2.0) and a clear CMOS button. The bundled blue tooth dongle can also be connected here. The P67 PCH is covered by a low profile heatsink and should not interfere with extra long add-on cards (read GPUs). The board features 3 full speed PCI-e x16 slots (which work with 16 lanes), the 4th slot shares its bandwidth with one of the other three and thus is relegated to x8 if the former is used. Thus for maximal benefit 3 GPUs should be inserted in slots which are always @ x16 connectivity. The manual clearly states how to place cards so as to achieve maximal benefit. Solitary PCI-e x1 and x4 slots complete the list. Apart from the usual 24pin and CPU 8pin power connectors the board features 4 pin molex connectors to provide extra power for the PCI-e x16 slots. The board has 8 fan connectors! There is the CPU fan connector, 3 chassis fan connectors, 3 optional fan connectors and 1 power fan connector. All provide PWM (Q-fan) control. There are three strategically located thermal sensor connectors. They can be used to monitor temperatures of various components on the board or in the chassis. The most striking aspect of rear panel connectivity is the absolute lack of USB 2.0 ports. All the ports (8) here are USB 3.0 (powered by NEC). There are 2 E-SATA ports, dual Intel Ethernet ports, traditional PS/2 mouse & keyboard hybrid port, digital SP/DIF port, ROG connect port (a USB port in reality) & switch and the traditional audio ports. Asus needed the extra real estate offered by E-ATX specification. As compared to the Rampage 3 Extreme Black edition which was recently reviewed by WCCFTech, this is a more complete package. If you read the review, the R3E-BE was missing the NF200 chip which kind of made the entire concept of a special edition board redundant and that too that bears the ROG logo. This thus is (more) complete offering.

EFI

Rather than offering a basic view, the EFI throws the user right into the mix of things. This is expected of a high end board such as this. The board offers complete control over over-clocking; you won’t find an easier to use EFI than Asus’ implementation (not only on this board but on all Asus board compared to others).

SOFTWARE & OVER-CLOCKING

Asus bundles the board with AI Suite II (ROG edition). This is akin to MSI’s control center and offers an all in one solution to over-clocking and monitoring. It is possible to utilize automatic over-clocking via Turbo-V, or manually. The latter will be the favorite amongst many of the board’s potential customers. We were able to achieve 4.5GHz (via Turbo-V) over-clock on our 2600K using this board. Note: It is highly recommended that the latest version of AI Suite II be used. This can easily be downloaded from Asus’s support website.

CPU-Z

Testing

Testing motherboards is not an easy task. No matter what types of test are done the CPU’s performance does come into play. Testing IO is basically only testing the ability of the PCH. Thus what separates motherboards these days is their ability to provide functionality you need (read over clocking potential, RAID, multi GPU setup etc). But as the saying goes; when in Rome do as Romans do; we’ll put up some numbers to prove that we did spend time testing the board to dissect the ‘quantum’ difference between it and its peers! For a motherboard like the M4E, its feature set alone determines its potential customers. Those desiring multi GPU full speed functionality, features to aid extreme over-clocking take precedence over benchmark numbers. It goes without saying the board will perform, but as has been seen before these numbers are not enough to determine which is the best as they all end up performing the same.

System Specs

Motherboard Asus Maximus 4 ExtremeMSI Z68A-GD65MSI P67A-GD65MSI P67A-C43Asus P8P67Asus Sabertooth P67
Processor Core i7 2600K
Video HIS 6950 2GB
Memory G.Skill Sniper 2X4GB (1600MHzl CL9; 1.25V)
Hard Disk Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB (Both systems)
Power Corsair HX 620
OS Windows 7 (Service Pack 1)

TEST SUITE

Synthetic Sandra 2011X 264 Benchmark (HD V3)Cinebench  3D Mark 11 – Physics Test
Real World 7-ZipFar Cry 2Crysis Warhead
I/O Performance SATA – HD TunreUSB – Crystal Mark 3

LEGEND

M4E Asus Maximus 4 Extreme
S67 Asus Sabertooth P67
P67 Asus P8P67
C43 MSI P67A-C43
GD 65 MSI P67A-GD65
Z68 MSI Z68A-GD65

All benchmark indices are rounded off to the nearest 0.

Synthetics

Sandra Sandra is a very competent stress testing and benchmarking suite. The Maximus does what the other P67 (and one Z68) boards do, perform extremely well! X264 HD V3 & Cinebench R11.5 X264HD benchmark measures the encoding performance of the processor. It offers a standardized benchmark as the clip as well as the encoder used is uniform. Cinebench is based on Maxon’s Cinema 4D. It is used to compare graphics as well as processor performance. The minor performance differences are not enough to justify ranking. All products do equally well. 3D Mark 11 –Physics Test & Games This is the latest incarnation of one of the oldest graphics benchmarking suites. The latest incarnation supports DirectX 11. It has a physics test that emulates physics on the processor. Again the M4E leads the pack, but not by much (despite how the graph depicts the 50 points lead!)  The base line for all.

Games

The base line for all tests is a Core i7-950 processor running at its default speed (100%)

Far Cry 2

 

Far Cry 2 1680×1050
Benchmark Inbuilt ‘Ranch Small’ CPU
Rendering Path DX9 – Medium

Crysis -Warhead

Crysis Warhead 1680×1050
Benchmark Customized
Rendering Path DX9; Physics Set to Enthusiast

The situation does not change when testing games. All boards are neck ‘n’ neck.

7-Zip

Some might argue against using 7-zip’s compression and decompression benchmark as a ‘real world’ test. But if you try and think about it for a minute, the benchmark does show how fast the program will either compress or decompress, while negating the impact of disk transfers.

M4E is up there with the best, but the rest are not miles off either!

 IO Tests: Storage

USB Tests

USB performance was compared between boards. Crystal Mark V3 was used in conjunction with a USB 3.0 compliant Kingston Data Traveler (Ultimate 16 GB)

SATA Performance

HD Tune was used to assess SATA performance.

To make things as fair as possible only Intel powered SATA ports were used during testing. And as all the ports are coming off the P67/Z68 PCH, the performance thus is the similar. If Intel’s SSD cache technology (on Z68) is taken in to consideration, it would lead the pack.

Result Impressions

The board’s results mirror those of other P67 and Z68 boards reviewed by WCCFTech. The MSI P67-C43 (link), P67-GD65 (link) and the Z68-GD65 (link), the Asus Sabertooth P67 (link) and P8P67 (link) all have shown similar benchmark performance.

 

Conclusions

As has already been mentioned, the board is chock full of features. The question you need to ask is do you need these features? Are you the type of user who loves to push hardware beyond the extreme, play with exotics like Liquid Nitrogen and don’t mind burning a card or two while setting that all important benchmark record than this product is for you. There are cheaper alternatives for the rest of us who are happy with good over clocks and a basic set of features (maybe a GPU or two, who cares about the added 5 frames per second that x16 offers). But for the enthusiast the bus stops here.

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