ASUS ROG Maximus VII Hero Reviewccokeman - May 26, 2014
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ASUS ROG Maximus VII Hero Closer Look:
For the Z97 launch, ASUS revamped its entire set of utilities with a new look as well as added features like KeyBot, a utility that upgrades the functionality of any keyboard. The new look is something that ASUS worked on for a while and in the end provides the end user with a smoother operating, better functioning set of tools. ASUS still has included all the tools we are used to using and testing (eg. Sonic Radar, Secure Erase, and Ramdisk), but just bring more to the table. Let's dig into the tools and see what we have and see how it looks.
AI Suite III: Let's start off with AI Suite III, the latest version of ASUS' popular software package that aggregates almost all the software into one simple-to-use tool. If you are familiar with AI Suite, you no doubt have gotten used to the application and how to navigate through it. With this revision, we get an all-new look that takes a few minutes to learn the layout and then it's right back to the familiar tools. The main screen contains a lot of information about each of the seven tabs. For this generation, we have the 5-Way optimization tool using ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors to manage the functionality. Using this feature, we get a nice conservative, yet realistic overclock based on the variability of the CPU samples out in the market. The 5-Way optimization tool makes use of the five main tools (Turbo App, Fan Xpert III, TPU, Digi+ Power, and EPU), along with overclocking, sound profiles, and network setting. In all, it's a pretty comprehensive tool. Using the 5-Way optimization tool to tune the system resulted in a stable overclock of just over 4.2GHz, which required no other work on my part. All the parameters were set by the tool, including fan speeds and power profiles.
The 5-Way Optimization tool, much like I saw with the previous iteration, worked flawlessly to deliver a nice overall tune-up. We think we can always do better by manually tuning the system, but this tool just works. Under the TPU section of the main window, we can adjust the CPU ratio, CPU Strap settings, voltages by manual or adaptive modes, save and load profiles, and get into the warning setting mode by clicking the arrow in the bottom left CPU speed window. Here you can set the warning thresholds for voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds, as well as set the desired temperature display in degrees Fahrenheit or degrees Celsius.
The EPU tab is all about managing the power profiles and rules for the system. There are four preset profiles under EPU: Auto, High Performance (power consumption is not a large concern), Max Power Saving, and Away (designed to minimize the power profile by adjusting sleep timers, fan speeds, and the wattage level). In the case of the wattage level in Away mod, the applied wattage was 42W, or half of the 84W TDP of the installed i7 4770K. Be aware that setting the wattage level will reduce the overall CPU speed and system performance, as you might expect. A Global setting mode is included to set the maximum CPU Power level allowable, along with a setting to turn off unused SATA ports to reduce the overall power consumption foot print.
Digi+ Power Control allows the user to set Load Line Calibration levels, CPU Current controls, Active Frequency switching, and CPU Phase control for the CPU with Current controls, Voltage phase, and frequency controls; for the ultimate in manual tuning. If manually tuning the system is not your bag, then the 5-Way optimization tool takes care of it for you. ASUS' "Auto" rules are set up to deliver the best possible performance without any user interaction other than selecting the feature.
ASUS Fan Xpert III is a utility that manages the fan speeds dynamically to provide the best possible noise/cooling ratio based on thermal need. Connecting your fans to the six on-board 4-pin PWM fan headers allows the utility to tune the fan speeds by finding the minimum and maximum values for the installed fans. This way, Fan Xpert III can slow down the fans' speeds to reduce the overall noise signature when max cooling is not required, as well as increasing the speeds when max cooling is needed. It is an interesting tool to watch as it goes through the tuning algorithms, but the end result is as you would expect. If the self-tuning feature is not to your liking, you also have the option of using four preset profiles or building your own profile by fan header. During my testing, I knew when the thermal load was increasing. Another part of the tool is that you can identify fans in your chassis and name them so you know what fans need to run at what temperatures. This part of the tool is easy to use and will stop all the other fans in the system to allow identification one by one.
Turbo APP is a new tool added into AI Suite III that allows you to set system operational parameters at the application level. You can set the priority of the application, what performance level you need for that application, the sound profiles, and LAN requirements. It's a nice tool to use when you do not want to stress the system all the time. Turbo App is all about maximizing system performance on an as-needed basis.
Once you get past the performance tuning DIP5 section, you have a wealth of other features to use pulled from a secondary menu. EZ Update is used to check ASUS' servers for the latest CrashFree BIOS 3 BIOS and motherboard hardware drivers. USB Charger is a more flexible application where you can choose your device type and enable fast charging while in a sleep state by connecting your charging plug to the ROG Connect port on the I/O panel.
System information gives you basic information about the installed hardware, including the CPU, motherboard, and memory SPD settings. USB BIOS Flashback is a tool introduced on the last generation boards that proves its worth. You can use this functionality without the DRAM or CPU being in their sockets to update the system BIOS. As long as power is applied to the board, the flash drive is installed in the ROG Connect port, and the USB BIOS Flashback button is pushed, the BIOS will flash the CrashFree BIOS. This tool can come in handy if you manage to corrupt the BIOS from some spirited overclocking. USB 3.0 Boost is a truly unique tool that uses optimizations to the BOT protocols and UASP support to drive improved USB 3.0 performance.
Version is a simple interface that tells the end user what version of the software tools are installed under AI Suite III. It's quick and easy to access and can be used for diagnostic purposes. Push Notice is a new tool that is used to send system alerts to a paired mobile device, such as your cell phone, laptop, or tablet. As long as you have an active connection, you can get the alerts.
ASUS' latest version steps up with a ton of added functionality that just works as it should.