ASUS ROG Maximus VI Extreme Reviewccokeman -
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ASUS ROG Maximus VI Extreme Closer Look:
ASUS' Maximus VI Extreme is built upon the Intel Z87 PCH for use with Intel 22nm Fourth Generation Core series processors that fit in the LGA 1150 socket. What you get with an ROG product is a board that features ASUS' red and black theme from top to bottom. The Maximus VI Extreme is an ATX form factor motherboard measuring 12" x 9.6", so it should fit every chassis designed for the ATX form factor. Typically the Extreme series have been EATX designs that were a bit wider making chassis a bit more dependent on size, although really I have not had any issues with fitment in the majority of mid tower chassis I have looked at.
The shrink in board size comes from the fact that much of the functionality that caused the board extension is now housed on the OC Command Center OC Panel. This board is well thought out as far as layout goes, with some areas tighter than others due to the 4-Way graphics solution capabilities. ASUS' PCB design continues with its exclusive fiber weave technology and is a pitch black rather than the black coloring that turns brown under a bright light. The back side of the PCB has additional support/cooling plates under the VRM circuits around the CPU socket. These and the rest of the cooling solutions are held on with spring loaded screws instead of push pins. A feature more and more companies are adopting in lieu of push pins, at least at the enthusiast level.
Left to right on the I/O panel is the riser connection for the mPCIe Combo II with 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.0. Next is the ROG Connect/USB BIOS Flashback button on the bottom with the clear CMOS button on top. Follow that up with a pair of USB 2.0 ports (the top one is used for the USB BIOS Flashback and ROG Connect feature set), four ASMedia-controlled USB 3.0 ports, Intel I217V managed Gigabit LAN, HDMI 1.4 port, full size DisplayPort, Optical S/PDIF output, two Intel Z87 PCH-controlled USB 3.0 ports that support ASUS USB 3.0 Boost, PS/2 mouse/keyboard port, and finally the eight channel audio ports supported by a Realteck ALC 1150 Codec. Behind the I/O port at each connection point there are small diodes that are used to keep damage from an ESD to a minimum. In fact this system is used for each external connection point and has been an ASUS standard for the past several generations. Expansion capabilities are, as you might expect, pretty robust. There are five PCIe 3.0/2.0 16x ports that support up to Quad SLI/CrossfireX configurations at 16x for a single GPU, 8x / 8x with two cards, 8x / 16x / 8x with a three way setup, and 8x / 16x / 8x / 8x when running four discrete video cards thanks to the onboard PLX 8747 Gen 3 48-lane switch. Additionally you have a single PCIe 2.0 port for use with discrete sound or storage solutions.
Across the bottom of the PCB you find a wealth of connectivity that helps make the Maximus VI Extreme the feature rich board it is. From the left is the front panel sound connection, Digital S/PDIF connection, Fast Boot switch, PWM-controlled fan header, DirectKey Button used to boot directly into the BIOS (useful when FastBoot is enabled), ROG EXT header that is used to connect to the OC Panel for that full on OC experience, a pair of USB 2.0 headers, temperature sensor header, DirectKey Jumper for use with an externally accessible switch, front panel connections for use with the front panel Q-connector, and the BIOS switch to change between the two 64MB socketed BIOS ICs. An LED beside each BIOS IC will light up to indicate which of the two is the active BIOS.
On the right side of the PCB are a total of ten SATA 6Gbps ports; six through the Z87 PCH and four at the bottom of the stack by way of an ASMedia controller. The ports to the right are managed by the Intel Z87 PCH and support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10, as well as offering support for Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology, and Intel® Smart Connect Technology. Additionally the Z87 PCH supports the use of the socket M2 (NGFF) PCIe socket on the riser at the rear panel. Further up is the front panel SuperSpeed USB 3.0 header, 24-pin ATX power connector, Q-LEDs, Mem OK button, Power and Reset buttons, another one of the five hardware controlled fan headers, ProbeIt voltage read points, CMOS Clear jumper, Slow Mode switch, PCIe 16x lane switch, and on-board Power and Reset switches. The Mem OK button is used for tuning the timings and voltages for memory modules that may not be supported or have stability issues. The PCIe 16x lane switch is useful for diagnosing or isolating a failed card without having to remove it, while the Slow Mode Switch is useful for avoiding a CPU crash when under LN2 cooling. Just under the Q-DIMM slots are some of the 60A Black Wing Chokes and Nichicon 10K Black Capacitors that feature an improved lifespan over the previous gen 5K capacitors.
Dual Channel four DIMM memory configurations in capacities up to 32GB and DDR3 2800 (OC) are supported on the Maximus VI Extreme. ASUS' 2nd Generation T-Topology trace layout improves memory overclocking margins by up to 5% in dual DIMM configurations and up to 10% in single DIMM configurations as long as the CPU's memory controller can handle the configuration. ASUS says it best here: "The new 2nd Generation T-Topology design further optimizes its layout and termination to minimize coupling noise and signal reflection effect to seek for further room in high frequency DRAM O.C." As proof I was able to push my G.Skill Trident modules up another 50MHz over the previous best of 2600MHz. The Q-Clip design makes installing or removing the memory modules much easier when the system is populated with a large discrete video card(s).
Along the top of the PCB are the Q-Code debug LED, the primary and secondary hardware controlled CPU fan headers, the top section of the VRM heat sink, and the 8-pin plus 4-pin auxiliary CPU power connections. Here we also have a closer look at the socket for the mPCIe riser card.
ASUS' ROG Maximus VI Extreme is designed for use with Intel's Fourth Generation Core series processors, including i3/i5/i7/Pentium/Celeron using the LGA 1150 socket. While the socket changes with this generation, the heat sink mounting points remain the same as socket 1155/1156. ASUS uses an 8+2 phase power circuit on the Maximus VI Extreme with eight phases dedicated to the CPU and two for the DRAM. ASUS' Extreme Engine Digi+ III all digital controller is used. This fully digital design allows the controller to have full control over the on-die Integrated Voltage Regulator to control Switching Frequency, Thermal Management, Fault Tolerance, Power Efficiency, Phase Switching Capability, Power Response, and Current Slope. Supporting this controller are ASUS' 60A rated Black Wing Chokes that feature a gold plated coil with metal cooling fins, a NexFET™ Power Block MOSFET package, and Nichicon 10K Black Metallic Capacitors. The goal here is to improve efficiency, current delivery, and long term stability.
ASUS' heat sink package used on the Maximus VI Extreme includes a trio of aluminum heat sinks interconnected via a large heat pipe over the 8+2 phase VRM circuit. The Z87 PCH is covered with a large finned passive sink that sits low enough to not interfere with the graphics cards in all four slots. ASUS Cooling VRM Cooling solution designs have proven capable over the years. During my overclocked testing the VRM circuit stays right at ambient room temperature with a little help from a low CFM fan blowing over the main heat sink package.
If you compare the feature set we saw on the Maximus VI Hero with that of the Maximus VI Extreme, you can see how each of the boards are segmented to fit at a specific feature set/price point. The Maximus VI Extreme expands on those capabilities by increasing the scope of the hardware integrated on board to provide a best in class feature set. Fortunately the hardware is not all that makes up the ROG package. You get a comprehensive list of software and utilities that fill out the package.