ASUS Maximus V Formula Reviewccokeman - December 16, 2012
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Maximus V Formula Closer Look:
ASUS ROG motherboards, and ASUS motherboards in general, usually come with a full suite of tools that can be used in the operating system to improve functionality without having to resort to restarting the computer and working in the BIOS for things like overclocking or fan control. AI Suite II is one of the tools that ASUS has put a lot of time and effort into so that the look, feel, and end user experience is second to none. This all new interface came about at the time of Intel's P67 launch back in March of 2011. With this implementation tailored for the Z77 chipset motherboard, there are five areas to look through, along with the CPU Level Up tab. Starting with the Level Up function, there are three presets beginning at 4.2GHz and going up to 4.6GHz as the maximum preset. Starting low and working through each preset will let you see where your chip falls in terms of scalability without having to resort to a lot of manual fine-tuning. A manual mode is also available if you want to really get your hands dirty and tweak everything yourself.
The ability to tweak the Digi+ VRM power control is found under the Tools tab. With the Z77 boards, you get to control the VRM power control, current limits, and voltage frequencies for the CPU and DRAM. The Smart Digi+ tab manages the settings for you, while the CPU Power and DRAM power tabs allow the user to manually configure the options to deliver higher overclocking margins. In the CPU Power tab, you can adjust the 5-step Load Line Calibration level, the Power Phase control, current limits, and voltage frequency. The DRAM section contains similar controls, including thermal, all with the intent of delivering smooth stable voltage control and improved overclocking margins.
ASUS EPU system delivers measurable energy savings when used to its maximum capabilities. There are three different presets to choose from with each offering a more aggressive approach to energy management. Auto, High Performance, and Max Power saving modes each work around five different aspects of power management to deliver power savings on this board that is built for users who do not worry about power consumption, but rather raw MHz and high end gaming. CO2 emissions reduced through the use of each of the profiles is shown on the right-hand side of the application.
Fan Xpert 2 is an improved utility that brings along an improved feature set, including Fan Auto Tuning, Fan Characteristics Detection, Fixed Fan Speed Mode, Fan Responsiveness Control, Fan Position Search, and Fan Header Rename. This allows the end user to build and use a specific fan profile for each of the fans attached to the system. It is a small part of the AI Suite, but is flexible in how it manages the thermal load of the chassis or CPU by the profiles assigned. Higher fan speeds would equate to improved CPU overclocking by way of lower temperatures. Introduced with the Z77 chipset based boards is the ability to let the AI Suite II software tune the fans. This way the system can tailor the fan speeds to offer the lowest speeds and noise when not under a heavy load and ramp up the airflow as needed to keep your hardware cool.
The Probe II section of AI Suite is full of monitoring tools that provide the end user the ability to monitor the system from within the Windows environment with five different tools: Alert, Temperature, Fan, Preferences, and Alert Log. The first tab, Alert, allows the user to set alert levels for system voltages. The Temperature tab is where the alert levels for system temperatures is set. Under the Fan tab, you have the same functionality, but with fan speed. The Preferences tab sets up how the alerts are displayed. The Alert Log shows when the alerts happened over a period of time, in graph form.
Sensor Recorder is used to display the voltage and fan speeds over a period of time. This is in addition to the alert tracking. AI Charger+ is an application that allows the user to charge both Apple and USB BC 1.1 compatible portable devices, such as Android-based phones and tablets, up to three times faster than through a standard USB port. You can use this feature while the board is in various power states.
USB 3.0 Boost allows the user to improve the transfer speeds of attached USB devices by using several different protocols. By using an attached USB 3.0 external dock, you can see speeds close to the SATA 6Gb/s maximum transfer rates. Even USB 2.0 devices can see a boost in transfer speed using this feature.To further expand on what kind of performance increases you can see by using the USB 3.0 Boost feature, you can see the performance with and without the Turbo function enabled, using both the Intel- and ASMedia-controlled USB 3.0 ports. You can see tangible gains in both read and write performance of the drive by using the USB 3.0 Boost feature. This will result in less time needed to transfer large files.
Under the Update radio button, you can update the BIOS and change the boot logo that is currently displayed by the BIOS or in another saved BIOS. The Settings tab allows the end user to pick what items are shown on the AI Suite tool bar under "Application", while the actual configuration of the tool bar is managed under the "Bar" tab.
Flashing the BIOS has never been easier with USB BIOS Flashback that allows you to back up your current CAP UEFI BIOS manually or on a schedule as well as search for the latest on line to flash. System information is exactly what the name implies and is a place where you can view the system specifics including the motherboard and installed CPU and DRAM.
For the ROG user, ASUS builds in a few other useful utilities. There is a special ROG version of CPU-Z and a tool called Mem TweakIt. Everyone knows what CPU-Z is and its uses. Mem TweakIt is a tool to adjust the DRAM timing from within the Windows environment as a way to test and tune what combination of settings perform better before changing the settings in the BIOS.
ASUS WebStorage is a "cloud" storage tool that allows the end user to back up, retrieve and sync data from many different types of devices. 2GB of cloud storage is included for free with this service. In this increasingly mobile world, having access to your files from anywhere with a keyword means that showing off a treasured picture or listening to your music is just a connection away.
Lucidlogix Virtu MVP software is included with the Maximus V Formula and is used to enable the best of both worlds with regards to energy saving and discrete graphics performance. You get the energy efficiency of the integrated HD4000 Intel graphics when in 2D mode and the full graphics power of the discrete GPU when needed, all while connected to either the on-board GPU or the discrete GPU output. An additional feature of this offering is a boost in performance when in a hybrid mode. Under the performance tab, you can enable HyperFormance mode to enable this boost, along with enabling Virtual Vsync. Lucidlogix' definition of Virtual Vsync is as follows: "Skips non-disclosed frames, where the new frame is not rendered on the discrete graphics if the current frame rate is already faster than what the monitor can display. Rather, the last rendered frame stored at the frame buffer on the integrated graphics is sent to the monitor instead to save the processing power on the discrete graphics." The last tab of interest is the Applications tab, where you choose the mode you want the application to run in.
The included software package is one of the points of difference between the comparison boards. ASUS includes its ROG GameFirst packet management software to prioritize the content you send through the Intel NIC. It includes a new interface that is easier to use. Purchasing this software without the ASUS shell would set you back some additional coin, if you had to purchase it outright.
ROG Connect and RC TweakIt are programs that go hand in hand. RC TweakIt is used on a remote PC, such as a laptop or netbook and even on your Apple or Android-based smartphones, with the app being found in both the iTunes App store and Google Play store. This handy little utility is used through the ROG Connect cable with an interface that looks very much like TurboV Evo. RC TweakIt is used to boost performance on the host PC by adjusting it in the RC TweakIt program. In the screenshots below, you can see the effects of the adjustment in the ROG-themed CPU-Z screen capture and compare it to the RC TweakIt screen capture, and see both the host and remote computer have the same bclock setting. It is fun to play with via a laptop, but so much more fun via a smartphone. This should offer up some conversation the next time you visit a LAN party.
Two full featured applications that are value-added items with the bundle are a fully licensed one-year subscription to Kaspersky Anti-Virus and a fully licensed version of DAEMON Tools disk emulation software so you do not hose up your game disks. When you add the cost of these two programs up, they would set you back about $40. Again, added value to the package.
Boot Setting is a tool that lets you boot directly into the BIOS. With improved initialization routines to reduce boot times as part of the Win 8 ready CAP format UEFI roll out you may not be fast enough on the delete key to get into the BIOS. This tool eliminates that problem altogether and works well.
ROG Exchange moves support and sharing to a new level above what the F12 Screenshot feature did for forum users across the web. By saving a screen shot it was easy to share information in a clear concise manner without the possibility of hosing up a setting when typing a long BIOS information thread. Press F12, boot and share. Easy, right! Now ASUS is taking this thought process to a new level with the ability to share BIOS profiles that are specific to the Maximus V board, be it the Gene, Extreme, or the Formula I am looking at today. Not only can you search and download what works for someone's similar combination of parts, but you can also upload your own profiles. Included is a ranking system that you can use to see whose settings are the most popular and is what the users are looking for. It's a pretty interesting concept that should be fully online by the end of the year.
Everyone likes to customize their Windows wallpaper and themes. ASUS has included a few themes for the user that wants to have a ROG-inspired desktop experience with a half dozen or so wallpapers with specific theming. My favorite of the bunch is shown below.
You get a full suite of functional utilities when you step into an ASUS ROG motherboard. All the tools are integrated together seamlessly in one package that just works.