ASUS ROG Maximus VI Hero Reviewccokeman - June 20, 2013
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ASUS ROG Maximus VI Hero Closer Look:
ASUS Maximus VI Hero is built upon the Intel Z87 PCH for use with Intel 22nm Fourth Generation Core series processors that fit in the LGA 1150 socket. As an ROG product, the Maximus VI Hero features the customary red and black color scheme that just looks right and has served the brand well, as seen by the competition adopting the look. The Maximus VI Hero is an ATX form factor motherboard measuring 12" x 9.6" so it should fit every chassis designed for the ATX form factor. The board is laid out well with everything in the usual areas. The PCB 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. 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 ot the enthusiast level.
The I/O panel houses a PS/2 combo mouse/keyboard port, a pair of the four USB 2.0 ports, USB BIOS flashback button, the second pair of USB 2.0 ports with the bottom port used for the USB BIOS flashback functionality, the optical S/PDIF port, HDMI 1.4 port, four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, Intel I217V managed Gigabit LAN, and the Supreme FX audio ports. Expansion capabilities include a pair of PCIe 3.0/2.0 16x slots (Red) that support multi-GPU strategies from NVIDIA and AMD. These slots run at 16x with one slot populated and 8x x 8x when both are populated. The third PCIe 16x slot in black is PCIe 2.0 compliant and runs electrically at x4 while the remaining 1x PCIe slots are PCIe 2.0 compliant.
In front of the PCIe slots is the Supreme FX audio solution that is fully isolated from the PCB to reduce EMI intrusion into the sound solution. If you look closely you can see the outline of the "Red Line Moat" that lights up a bright red when the system is powered up. The sound codec is covered in a metal shield to again reduce EMI intrusion into the sound stream. ELNA premium audio capacitors are used to enhance the sound delivered to the end user. Perfect Voice is a new technology used and supported on the ROG Maximus VI Hero that, when enabled, reduces the effects of ambient noise on your conversations. 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.
Along the bottom of the PCB we find a large cross section of the connectivity for the Maximus VI Hero. From the left is the EMI-shielded Supreme FX sound solution, front panel sound connection, S/PDIF out connection, Trusted platform module header, ROG EXT header that is used to connect to the OC Panel (offered separately) for a more hands on overclocking experience, a pair of USB 2.0 headers, TGM header, Clear RTC jumper, Direct Key button used to boot directly into the BIOS (useful when Fastboot is enabled), one of the five 4-pin controllable fan headers, the front panel connection for use with the front panel Q-connector, and the DirectKey jumper to connect an external switch to use with the DirectKey functionality.
Moving up the right side of the PCB are a total of eight SATA 6Gbps ports; six through the Z87 PCH and two at the bottom of the stack by way of an ASMedia ASM1061 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. Further up is the front panel SuperSpeed USB 3.0 header, 24-pin ATX power connector, O-LEDs, Mem OK button, Power and Reset buttons, another one of the five hardware controlled fan headers, and the Debug LED. The Mem OK button is used for tuning the timings and voltages for memory modules that may not be supported or have stability issues. In front of the Reset button is the Extreme Engine Digi+ III controller. Just behind that 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 Hero. 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.
Along the top of the PCB are the primary and secondary hardware controlled CPU fan headers, the top section of the VRM heatsink and 8-pin auxiliary CPU power connection. Some motherboard have an additional connection here to ensure there is no shortage of current for the CPU.
ASUS ROG Maximus VI Hero 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 Hero 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.
The heat sink package used on the Maximus VI Hero is fairly robust with a heat pipe interconnected system over the 8+2 phase VRM circuit and a large flat passive sink that sits over the Z87 Express PCH. The design of the cooling package compliments the look of the board and is fully capable of managing the thermal load of the VRM and PCH. During my overclocked testing the VRM circuit stays at room temperature with a low CFM fan blowing over the heat sink.
The ROG Maximus VI Hero has all the hardware features that motherboards in the ROG lineup are known for from strong multi-GPU graphics solutions to solid components selection and hardware level implementations of the components. The hardware is not all that makes up the ROG package so let's see what ASUS has included with the software package.