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ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero Review

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Category: Motherboards
Price: $244
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ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero Introduction:

AMD's RYZEN CPU's surely upset the apple cart this year, causing Intel to course correct to try and counter the onslaught of AMD processors. There were some early missteps on AMD's part, with a ton of BIOS updates that fixed memory compatibility and allowed the processors to perform as intended. All of AMD's board partners put out some solid products and followed up with the updates to allow them to perform.

ASUS' Crosshair line has, for a time, been the gold standard of AMD performance motherboards. When others would fail, ASUS had its product wrapped up tight and just performed. Released back in March, the Ryzen CPU's and X370 chipset motherboards, including the Crosshair VI Hero, strode broadly into the light.

Today I am looking at the ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero motherboard that comes with all of the features we have come to love from ASUS' ROG brand with some newer twists. Priced at $244, it is not the most expensive board on the market, but does sit in the upper third of pricing. In the past, the Crosshair boards have been the most stable AMD boards I have worked with. Let's see if that holds true with the X370-based Crosshair VI Hero.  

ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero Closer Look:

ASUS' packaging for the ROG Crosshair VI Hero follows true to its latest branding strategy with a brilliant red base using black to argent accents. The ROG logo fills in the upper right corner, while the bottom left is in black with the basic feature set. This includes being built on the AMD X370 chipset platform for AMD RYZEN processors and offering multi-GPU support for both AMD's CrossFireX and NVIDIA's SLI solutions. If you happen to have a 3D printer, you can make your own accessories with 3D source files available from ASUS on the product page for this board.

As an ROG board, you can bet that ASUS AURA lighting support is built-in for use with ASUS and compatible RGB accessories. The back side of the package shows a visual of the board and list the specifications on the back, along with some basic info on the USB 3.1 front panel socket on the PCB, the Aura lighting, all-new SupremeFX audio codec, and 3D printing accessory mounts.

 

 

Inside the newly designed box, the motherboard lies underneath a clear plastic cover. Underneath is where the accessory bundle resides while in transit. It will make its way all over your desk before you are done with the installation. You get the owner's manual/user's guide, drive cable labels, warranty card, a coupon for a rebate on Cable Mods products and a handy coaster so you do not ruin your desk with your cool beverage of choice. The hardware portion of the bundle includes a 3D mounting kit, an 80cm RGB LED extension cable, a quartet of SATA 6Gbps data cables, a Q-connector, Q-Shield, and High Bandwidth SLI bridge. This gets you what you need to get started with the installation of the motherboard in your chassis. 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS ROG Crosshair VI hero is built for use with AMD's latest RYZEN processors from the R3 1200 up to the R7 1800X I am using to test this board. The black on black with gold accented theme used for the board allows it to match any chassis you want and comes with ASUS AURA lighting system so that you can further color match the board and components. The layout is fairly standard for a mid-range series motherboard. Looking at the back of the board, there is not much to discuss other than the support frame for the cooler mounting package. 

 

 

The board's I/O connectivity is hidden up under the decorative shroud that extends from the top of the PCB down and over the SupremeFX sound solution. From the left you have the BIOS Flashback and BIOS reset/CMOS clear buttons, four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports that pull off the RYZEN CPU, four USB 2.0 and four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports that come off the X370 chipset, and a pair of ASMedia USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (one each of Type-A and USB Type-C). A single LANGuard-protected Intel® I211-AT controlled Gigabit LAN port is used for network connectivity. Gold plated audio jacks are used for the analog audio outputs used by the ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition audio solution. Digital sound output comes by way of the Optical S/PDIF port.

ASUS has equipped the Crosshair VI Hero with six total expansion slots. You get two PCIe 3.0 x16 SafeSlots, one PCIe 2.0 x16 slot, and three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots in total with this package. ASUS uses SafeSlot technology on the primary 16x PCIe 3.0 slots. SafeSlot technology increases the shear resistance and increases retention force to keep your video card seated and not rip the slot off the board if you travel with your PC to LAN events. 

 

 

Hidden under the shroud that runs down the I/O side of the board is the bulk of the new SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio solution. This solution uses an all-new SupremeFX S1220 codec, Nichicon capacitors for a richer sound, an ESS® Sabre Hi-Fi ES9023P DAC capable of -94 dB THD, a Texas Instruments® RC4850 op-amp, and features an impedance sensing feature for both the front and rear audio ports to ensure the system meets your needs. Rated at 113dB signal-to-noise ratio, this new codec raises the bar for ASUS SupremeFX sound solutions. Along with the hardware to deliver an excellent sound experience, you get ASUS' Sonic Studio and Sonic Radar to use this HD sound solution to its maximum potential.

As with all of ASUS' ROG offerings of late, the audio hardware resides on a section of the motherboard that is electrically isolated to reduce unwanted interference between channels and from any other sources. 

 

 

ASUS' SupremeFX sound solution takes up residence on the left side of the PCB so the connectivity and tools along the bottom of the PCB start a little right of that. Oddly enough, the front panel audio connection starts us off with one of the fan connections on the PCB following to the right. Next up are the manual power/start and reset buttons if you choose to run in an open chassis or just don't feel like reaching for the chassis' power button. Next up are some switches that are more for the overclocking enthusiast than anyone else. The Safe Boot button allows you to get into the BIOS with a set of "Safe" settings, while the "Retry" button is used to quickly retry the same applied settings in the BIOS if the Safe Boot button fails you. The Slow Mode switch is used to reduce frequencies while running sub-zero cooling and overclocking to try and stabilize the system. The LN2 mode jumper is also used when running sub-zero with Liquid Nitrogen or Helium. 

The TPM header is followed by the ROG extension cable header that pairs with a USB 2.0 header. A USB 3.0 header is followed by a thermal sensor, fan header for use with a water pump pulling up to 36 watts of current, an RGB lighting header, and the front panel connection header. The bottom right corner is going to be the "Cooling Zone" on this board. The reason being is that the high amp fan header is in this section, as well as the water inlet and outlet sensors and the flow meter header, are located in this area. If you plan on water cooling you can certainly use these features.

 

 

Drive connectivity starts with the M.2 Socket 3 with MKey support for 2242/2260/2280/22110 devices. A total of eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports come off the X370 chipset and support RAID 0/1/10 configurations. A USB 3.1 header is between the SATA ports and the 24-pin ATX socket. ASUS' ProbeIt feature is located right in front of the 24-pin connection and allows you to manually check voltages of the Vcore, DRAM, Chipset, and more. At the top right of the PCB is the Q-Code LED. The QLED's are under it, followed by the CPU LED that all work in tandem to help you diagnose boot issues. The small screw mounting lug you see is used for a 3D printed cable cover that can be either short or long depending on the look you want. ASUS offers the files for free on its website so you can pick your poison!  

 

 

Across the top of the board are the AIO specific header and two fan headers. The AIO specific header is rated for one amp, whereas the specific water pump header at the bottom of the PCB is rated for three amps. A large heat sink is used to cover the Digi+ VRM power circuitry. This heat sink is connected to the other VRM heat sink by way of a small heat pipe. To provide power directly to the CPU, ASUS supplied both an 8-pin and 4-pin auxiliary power connector to the board.

Eliminating current in rush through a static discharge has been a problem for a long time, but ASUS continues to address this concern with ESD protection on all connection points with its ESD Guard technology. It's all a part of the Best Gaming Protection strategy.

 

 

The AM4 socket sits within the mounting brackets for the cooling solution. If you happen to be using a clip-on style cooling solution from an AM3+ motherboard after an upgrade, you are in luck as there is no change to the mounting mechanism. If you are using a bolt-on solution, then ASUS still has you covered if you are going to repurpose your previous AM3+ heatsink. ASUS put mounting holes for both AM3 and AM4 heat sinks, saving the upgrading end user some cash.

Around the CPU socket are components of the ASUS Digi+ VRM package: ASUS Microfine Alloy chokes that run up to 31% cooler than chokes made with a larger granular structure and Japanese-made 10K Black capacitors that are designed for a 5x greater lifespan with a 20% greater temperature tolerance. ASUS has gone with a 50% smaller NexFET package that, when you add it all up, you get a VRM package that is up to 90% more efficient. ASUS uses a dedicated clock generator for the AM4 processor as part of the OC Design to extend the BCLK range from 100MHz to up to 158MHz.

Four Q-DIMM slots support up to 64GB of DDR4 3200MHz memory. ASUS Third Gen T-Topology is used to enhance memory performance by using equal length traces between the CPU and memory DIMMs for a more balanced approach when it comes to pushing memory performance.   

 

 

The cooling package on this board is fairly robust, as you would expect with an ROG design from ASUS. The Digi+ VRM circuits are covered with a pair of heat pipe interconnected aluminum heat sinks. The heat sink to the left of the socket is positioned to allow the thermal load to go out the I/O panel. The heat sink over the X370 chipset is a pretty unique design with AURA lighting under the hollow design that provides a pretty interesting and, again, unique look. 

 

 

The hardware is just part of the package and is a big part of the user experience, but the software package and BIOS do round out the package.




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