ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Impact Reviewccokeman -
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ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Impact Introduction:
As more and more people give up their full towers for systems with a smaller footprint, finding that good, solid motherboard to fit in the smaller case is a challenge. Even more so when you want to have the same overclocking tools and capabilities in the small build. A motherboard built to take on that challenge is the ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Impact. When you put together the right parts and engineering with the skill and will to make it the best it can be, this is the result. ASUS borrows heavily from the ROG gene pool to get this one up and running, but it comes prepared to do battle all day long. To start with, you get ASUS' full gaming centric software suite with tools like Sonic Radar, GameFirst LAN Control, KeyBot II, RAMDisk, OverWolf, 5-Way Optimization, and more. On the hardware side you get the ASUS SupremeFX Impact III 5.1 sound solution with audiograde hardware, all-digital Extreme Engine Digi+ based Impact Power III to deliver all the power your parts can handle, Wireless and wired LAN connectivity, and every bit of it is seamlessly integrated.
Priced at $238 it is not for the faint of pocket but if you make the move to this little 6.7 x 6.7 inch gem you wont be disappointed. Lets dig into what ASUS has to offer and see if it delivers all the performance and flexibility its DNA has to offer.
ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Impact Closer Look:
When you look at the packaging, the Republic of Gamers theme is easy to see with the red base and black highlights. There is just so much less of a box due to the Mini-ITX form factor of the Maximus VIII Impact. The front panel shows the name of the board, the ROG logo at the top left, and a decal showing that you get a 15 day trial of the game World of Warships as a bonus. The rear panel highlights the specifications, shows an image of the rear I/O panel, and images of the specific hardware features on the board, including the ASUS Impact III power solution and U.2 storage connectivity. Much like the larger ROG boards, the front panel of the box lifts up to go into detail on the ASUS ROG hardware. On the M8I, this would be the SupremeFX Impact III 5.1 sound solution, LAN Guard and GameFirst technology, KeyBot II software functionality, and more.
ASUS houses the M8I and the included accessory bundle on two levels in the fairly heavy box. The top level holds the motherboard, while the bottom has the robust accessory bundle neatly organized. ASUS put together a bundle that allows the Maximus VIII Impact to deliver all the functionality we are used to with an ASUS ROG board. Starting off, you get a very detailed manual, quick start guide, fan hub and data cable labels, and the all important driver and software disc. One quick check before installing the OS would be to look to ASUS' product page for the board to find any newer driver or software updates. On the hardware side of the bundle is the Q-Shield, front panel cable extention, four SATA 6Gbps data cables, CPU installation tool, a 2T2R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas supporting Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Fan Extension Card that adds three controllable fan headers, mounting screw kit and 5-pin cable to connect the fan extension card to the PCB, and a single thermister cable for use with temperature controls and moitoring.
The ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Impact is a Mini-ITX form factor motherboard built around the Intel Z170 PCH for use with Intel 6th Generation Core series processors like the Core i7 6700K. Measuring 6.7 x 6.7 inches, it fits neatly into this form factor from both a size and height perspective. Looking at the PCB, you can see what real estate there is available is well used, with the majority of the Impact Power III power circuitry rising at the top of the PCB. You can also notice that the SupremeFX sound is attached to a riser instead of the traditional location on the PCB since space is at a true premium. The back side of the PCB has the small CPU socket backplate with low height screws holding the Z170 PCH heat sink on. If you look closely, you can see these screws are not the highest component on the back side of the PCB.
Visually you can see a lot of the cool features and how they are integrated from the top look at the board, but around the edges there is a lot more to look at. The I/O panel is a bit unique on the ROG Impact series. ASUS uses this area to house the Q-LED diagnostic LED and externally accessible power, reset, Clear CMOS and USB BIOS Flashback buttons. ASUS calls this the Impact Control III section of the board. Just left of the Impact Control area is an HDMI 1.4 port and optical S/PDIF, followed by four Z170-controlled USB 3.0 ports, the bottom of which is used for USB BIOS Flashback and KeyBot functionality, two 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac with MU-MIMO Wi-Fi antenna ports, and a single U.2 storage connection that supports NVMe.
Next up is the ASUS SupremeFX Impact III 5.1 audio solution that mounts to the main PCB via a header under the PCB and shielding. ASUS uses audiophile level components to deliver a sound solution up to the standards of the ROG brand by moving to Nichicon Audio capacitors, using an NEC De-pop relay, Gold Plated contacts, an ESS® ES9023P DAC, 2VRMS Headphone Amp, and Left/Right Channel Track Separation similar to what is used on the full board implementations. Rounding out the I/O is an Intel I219V-controlled Gigabit LAN port that features LAN Guard protection circuitry and one each of Type A and Type C Intel Alpine Ridge-managed USB 3.1 ports. As far as PCIe slots go, you get, well, just one 16x PCIe 3.0 slot for use either with a discrete video card or the device of your choice. As a small form factor gaming-centric motherboard, something wicked should be in this slot!
Working around the PCB, the right side is pretty packed. There are a quartet of SATA 6Gb/s slots that support RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and Intel's storage technologies. From the left is a USB 3.0 header that supports up to two USB 3.0 ports for a total of six on-board through the Z170 PCH. One of the two on-board Fan Xpert III controlled fan headers is right next to the front panel connection header. ASUS includes an extention harness to make connections to this header much easier. Think of it as a Q-Connector with a 4-inch wire dongle on it already. Both the 24-pin and 8-pin power connectors are at the top right side of the custom PCB. Last but not least are the two Q-DIMM sockets that support dual channel memory configurations of up to 32GB of DDR4 at 4133MHz speeds(O.C.). I did find that things do get a bit tight when trying to swap memory modules with a video card in place in the 16x PCIe socket.
Along the top end of the PCB ASUS goes vertical with the Impact III power solution to gain the needed room to deliver a kick ass power control using the Extreme Engine Digi+ system. To the left of the Impact III Power solution is the CPU fan header and 5-pin header used to run to the off PCB mounted extension board that controls up to three additional fans.
ASUS uses its Extreme Engine Digi+ power supply circuitry to manage the power sent to the CPU and DRAM through the upright Impact Power III. This method of locating the power control circuits makes room for a full implementation of the 6+2+2 phase power system. Included in this solution are PowIRStage® MOSFETs, MicroFine alloy chokes that run up to 31% cooler than chokes with a larger granular structure, and 10K black metallic capacitors that have a 5x improved lifespan with a 20% boost in temperature tolerance to offer improved efficiency and voltage control. It gives this board that nastly little kick in the pants it needs to deliver top notch overclocking.
Cooling the Z170 PCH and Extreme Engine Digi+ VRM circuit are a pair of heat sinks. The lower, flat heat sink covers the Z170 PCH. Keeping the Impact Power III cool are a couple of plate style heat sinks that mount on the front and back side of the circuitry to keep it both rigid and cool. A tool included as part of the accessory package is ASUS' CPU Installation tool to prevent the end user from dropping the processor and damaging the pads in the LGA 1151 socket. It's a value added addition to not only help ASUS out, but to ultimately give the DIY consumer some help locating the processor in the socket.
Some of the features you would think are missing are just hidden. The V-Checkpoints are hidden under the SupremeFX Impact Audio while the LN2 and Slow Mode Jumpers are just above the sound solution. It's all a matter of where to look and the Maximus VIII Impact is sure to surprise you.