Asus Maximus V Gene Reviewccokeman - June 28, 2012
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The Maximus V Gene is the "Mini-Me" version of the full size Maximus V motherboard. While short in stature, it is not short on features, as we will soon see. As an uATX form factor board, it measures only 9.6 x 9.6 inches in size. Built around the Z77 chipset and LGA 1155 socket, the ROG Asus Maximus V Gene will work with either Intel Second or Third generation Core series processors, such as the Core i7 2600k (32nm) and Core i7 3770K (22nm). As a smaller form factor board, there are limited expansion options to a point, although ASUS has made some concessions to the size with added flexibility to maintain the graphics capabilities of the Maximus V Gene. The front side of the PCB has a layout that is typical of most Socket 1155 boards, just with less real estate to park the hardware. The black and red theme is used throughout, following the ROG theme. The back side of the PCB is bare, with the exception of the Foxconn CPU retention mechanism backing plate.
Starting with the I/O panel, we get to a few of the features that make this ROG offering unique in ways other than the ROG theme. To the far left is the CMOS clear button, followed by the header used for a mPCIe add-in card, which can be used to add a small mSATA SSD to take advantage of Intel's Smart Response technology for improved responsiveness, or any number of mPCIe devices, such as a Bluetooth or WiFi module. The ROG Connect button is up next and has several uses, including USB BIOS flashback and connecting to a laptop or netbook to allow external control of the operating parameters, including bclock and voltages, to allow on-the-fly tuning. Next up are three USB 2.0 ports and the ROG Connect port, used with ROG Connect software and cable, as well as with a flash drive when using USB BIOS flashback. A single eSATA port is next, along with a quartet of USB 3.0 ports, two controlled through the Z77 chipset with the other two controlled by an ASMedia controller. An optical SPDI/F port sits over the HDMI 1.4a port and full size DisplayPort 1.1a port that support Intel® InTru™ 3D , Insider™, and Clear Video HD Technology. The RJ-45 LAN Gigabit port is Intel-controlled. Last up are the gold-plated analog speaker connections for the Supreme FX III 8-channel audio solution, which supports EAX® Advanced™ HD 5.0 and THX® TruStudio PRO™. Expansion capabilities come in the form of a pair of 16x PCIe 3.0 ports (when used with an Intel Third Generation Core series processor), which support both Quad CrossFire and Quad SLI, as well as Lucidlogix® Virtu™ MVP Technology. Rounding it out is a single PCIe 2.0 4x slot.
On the bottom left side of the PCB is the area that houses the Supreme FX III sound solution components. To offer a richer sound solution, ASUS has created a buffer zone that separates the components on the PCB from the rest of the board by a PCB "moat" called the Redline PCB Moat. This system keeps the digital and analog sides of the solution apart, including the reference ground, to allow this onboard solution to effectively act as an add-in card without having to use an add-in device. PCB Shield is used to arrange the components of the Supreme FX III sound solution to reduce the chance of a reduction in audio quality through crosstalk. The audio processor is encased in a stainless steel cover to reduce any stray EMI signals from compromising the audio quality. A large 1500uF capacitor is used to ensure that the audio components have a steady supply of power even in the highest power drain situations. When powered up, the Red Line Moat is clearly visible and is an attractive feature of this board.
Along the bottom of the PCB are the components of the Supreme FX III sound solution, the front panel audio and SPDI/F headers, and the Start and Reset buttons for use either in or outside a chassis. Just to the right of the reset button is the ROG chip, followed by the LN2 jumper, Thunderbolt header for use when Thunderbolt devices are available (including sound solutions), the socketed BIOS chip, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, one of the five 4-pin Fan Xpert 2 controllable fan headers (two for the CPU and three chassis), the front panel connections, and the Debug LED.
Drive connectivity on the ROG Asus Maxumus V Gene comes in the form of six SATA ports: four SATA 6Gb/s and two SATA 3Gb/s. Starting at the bottom of the PCB, the first two are the ASMedia-controlled SATA 6Gb/s ports, followed by the Z77-controlled SATA 6Gb/s ports in red and the SATA 3Gb/s ports in black. This configuration supports Raid 0, 1, 5, 10 and Intel Smart Response Technology, Intel Rapid Start Technology, and Intel Smart Connect Technology. Above the drive connections is the onboard Z77-controlled USB 3.0 header that supports two ports. The 24-pin ATX power connection is next, followed by features that are both ROG staples and ASUS specific features. The "Go" button is used to enable ASUS's Mem Ok feature to run through a set of algorithms that change the memory timings and voltages to allow for a successful boot. By pressing it quickly, you can load the "Go" button profile set in the uEFI BIOS. The ProbeIt voltage check points are there for the extreme user to validate the voltages applied in the BIOS. You get the option of checking all the most tweaked voltages like vcore, vdimm, vccsa, and the IGP voltage. In front of the ATX 24-pin connector is a series of LEDs. These are another "Q" feature called Q-LED. These LEDs light up if there is an error detected during the boot sequence and serves as an additional diagnostic tool along with the "Go" LED that flashes if the Mem Ok feature has been enabled.
The ROG Maximus V Gene supports up to 32GB of DDR3 memory at speeds of up to 2666MHz(OC) in a dual-channel four-DIMM configuration, supporting Intel's latest XMP 1.3 standard. That is, of course, if your CPU's memory controller can handle speeds that high. ASUS has adopted a new T topology for the trace layout that feeds the four DIMM slots in lieu of the previous generation's daisy chain layout. This results in a shorter path to the CPU memory controller and leads to the potential of a 10+ percent increase in the overclocking margins when the CPU is not the limitation. Two phases of the 8+4+2 phase power circuit are dedicated solely to power the memory. ASUS has been using its Q-DIMM socket retention system for some time now and it is still a system that removes the lower latches on the DIMM sockets that could otherwise cause problems with removing the memory modules with large video cards installed. It has previously proven its worth to me in more than a few memory benchmarking sessions illustrated in the second picture below. The close proximity of the top 16x PCIe slot makes this feature a necessity.
Around the top of the PCB, you can see the Extreme Engine Digi+ II controller for the system memory slots. This is a fully digital controller that is an improvement over the previous generation's analog solution. The power phases circuitry can be controlled via the AI Suite II software, including the current capabilities and voltage frequency. To the right of the DIMM slots are two of the Fan Xpert 2 controlled PWM fan headers. The 8-pin auxiliary CPU power connection sits at the top of the PCB behind the rear I/O connections.
Designed for use with Intel's Second and Third Generation Core series processors, the Maximus V Gene uses an LGA 1155 socket to mount the processor. On this board, the hardware is made by Foxconn instead of LOTES. Around the socket are the components of the Extreme Engine Digi+ fully digital, dual-driver 8+4+2 phase power circuit that feeds the CPU, integrated graphics processor, and DRAM. Eight phases are dedicated to the CPU, while four feed the IGP. There are a total of twelve alloy chokes around the CPU socket, one for each phase. The capacitors have been upgraded to 10K Black Mettalic Nihicon caps that show up to 5x the durability of standard Japanese capacitors. This part of the system is integral to managing the voltage and current loads imposed by overclocking.
The cooling solution used on the Maximus V Gene is a combination of a passively cooled heat sinks used to cover the components of the Extreme Engine Digi+ power circuit and the Z77 Intel chipset. Over the power circuits are a pair of large, extruded aluminum heat sinks interconnected via a heat pipe to vent as much heat out the back of the chassis as possible. The large heat sink that is used to cover the Z77 chipset is low enough that, even with a pair of cards in the 16x PCIe slots, there are no fitting concerns.
For a small board, ASUS managed to pack the Maximus V Gene chock full of features that even a full size ATX form factor board would be proud to own. It's got all the hardware to meet the needs of the extreme user, as well as the user just looking for a full featured board for a small form factor build.