ASUS ROG Maximus VI Gene Reviewccokeman - January 30, 2014
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Asus ROG Maximus VI Gene Closer Look:
The ASUS ROG Maximus VI Gene is built upon the Intel Lynx Point Z87 PCH for use with Intel's socket 1150 Fourth Generation Core series processors including the Core i7, i5, and i3. Visually you get the full red and black ROG experience with branding across the heat sink package and jet black PCB. ASUS uses a proprietary fiber weave in the PCB to reduce EMI interference and moisture resistance. The back side of the PCB has a pair of retaining brackets / heat sinks for the Extreme Engine Digi+ III power control circuitry. If you look closely you can see the parting line for the Redline moat that isolates the Supreme FX hardware from the rest of the PCB. Also seen on the back of the PCB is a ROG labeled IC that sits between the two 16x PCIe slots.
The I/O connectivity consists of, from left to right, a header for the add-on m-PCIe Combo II riser card that adds an M.2 slot for use with an SSD and a mini PCIe slot for use with available Bluetooth or WiFi modules. Next up are the ROG Connect and Clear CMOS buttons, a quartet of Z87 controlled USB 2.0 ports, four Asmedia controlled USB 3.0 ports, Optical S/PDIF output, a single HDMI 1.4 port supporting max resolutions of 4096x2160 @ 24 Hz / 2560x1600 @ 60 Hz, the single Intel I217V controlled Gigabit LAN port supporting GameFirst II technology, a pair of Z87-controlled USB 3.0 ports that support the use of ASUS USB 3.0 Boost technology, and the outputs for the Realtek 1150-based SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC.
As an mATX board the ROG Maximus VI Gene is going to be somewhat limited in its expansion capabilities, with a pair of 16x PCIe slots and a single PCIe 2.0 x4 slot. However, Quad GPU technology is supported for both SLI and CrossfireX using a pair of Dual GPU cards, including ASUS' latest forray into dual GPU single PCB cards, the Mars 760. When both slots are occupied they run at x8 / x8. In front of the expansion slots is the hardware for the Supreme FX audio solution. The codec is shielded to prevent EMI interference and the audio solution is surrounded by a "red line moat" used to isolate the sound components from the rest of the PCB. ELNA Japanese made audio grade capacitors are used along with an op amp that works together with Perfect Voice technology to deliver an audiophile grade solution.
Additional connectivity and features are along the bottom of the PCB. An optical S/PDIF output sits above the front panel audio connection, onboard power and reset buttons are used when the chassis is open or on a tech bench, the ROG Extension connection will allow the use of ASUS Overclocking Command Center or OC Panel with this board, a single USB 2.0 header supporting two ports, TPM Header, Direct Key button and jumper seen just above the button, a 4-pin PWM controlled fan header used with Fan Xpert 2, and the front panel connections.
A total of eight SATA 6Gbps ports are available, six by way of the Z87 PCH supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 10. Port 5 is disabled when the mPCIe Combo II card is used and the M.2 port is in use. The additional 6Gbps ports are handled by an ASMedia® ASM1061 controller. North of the SATA ports are a USB 3.0 header supporting two ports, the 24-pin EATX power connection, another 4-pin fan header and the Mem OK button. Pushing the Mem OK button allows the board to go through a series of adjustments to allow a successful POST sequence. The top right corner of the PCB has the LN2 mode jumper to eliminate cold bugs when running the processor at sub zero temperatures. The Q-LED displays the post codes to help run diagnostics with a failed boot, a tool that proves its worth when pushing the limits of your hardware. Just under the Q-LED is the Extreme Engine Digi+3 controller and part of the power circuit that features 60A Black Wing Chokes and Nichicon 10K Black Capacitors. Dual channel memory configurations of up to 32GB and speeds of up to DDR3 300MHz are supported. 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."
Across the top of the PCB is the Q-Code LED, voltage measurement points for all of the pertinent voltages including vcore and vDIMM, the top heat sink of the heat pipe interconnect cooling system for the Digi+ 3 system, a pair of CPU fan headers, and the 8-pin auxiliary CPU power connection. To the far right is the socket for the mPCIe 2.0 Combo II riser card. At the back of each external connection point are a series of diodes used to mitigate the impact of an ESD on the board components.
The ASUS ROG Maximus VI Gene is built for use with Intel's Fourth Generation Core series processors designed for use in the LGA 1150 socket, including the Core i7 4770K used in this review. Across the mainstream line up the Socket 115X CPU heat sink mounting points have remained unchanged, allowing the end user the ability to save some cash and re-purpose the cooling solution from a previous Intel socket 115X build. "ASUS uses an 8+2 phase power circuit on the Maximus VI Gene 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 on the ROG Maximus VI Gene is fully functional and meshes well with the theme of the board. Covering the NexFET™ Power Block MOSFET package is a two-piece heat pipe interconnected solution that stays relatively cool without additional airflow running at stock speeds. When overclocking a fan helps drop the temperatures back to ambient to improve stability. Covering the Z87 PCH is a slotted passive heat sink covered with the ASUS Republic of Gamers logo. The design is low enough that it does not cause any fit issues when dual GPU solutions are used. This heat sink stayed cool under load at all times and seems to need little in the way of airflow to get the job done.
As an ROG board the Maximus VI Gene delivers everything you need in terms of feature set and long term reliability. When you put the MVIH, MVIE and MVIG side by side and compare the features, you see a solid hardware base across the three offerings that differs slightly to hit each price point without influencing the core feature set. Hardware is not all you get with the ROG offerings. Although on its own the hardware is a pretty solid package, ASUS provides a comprehensive set of software offerings that add value and functionality. Something we dig into on the next few pages.