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ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero Review

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ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero Closer Look:

Back with the Z97 launch, ASUS revamped its entire set of utilities with a new look, as well as added features that work with the 5-Way optimization tool to deliver improved usability and functionality at the push of a button. 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, but just brought 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 IV, 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 gets me close to or over the max potential of my hardware. In this case, the board gave me a final core clock speed of 4150MHz on the Ryzen 7 1800X. This is above its daily ability of around 4090MHz. At 4150MHz, it was not fully stable in my testing, although it would run through most of the rendering tests I use.

 

 

The 5-Way Optimization tool worked flawlessly to deliver a nice overall tune, but we can always do better, or so we think, by manually tuning the system. 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, as well as 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, fan speeds, and set the desired temperature display by unit type, Fahrenheit or Celsius. By updating this tool from previous versions, the whole tool works together to give you a good sustainable overclock, adjusts the fan parameters and energy management to maximize the potential of each aspect of the installed hardware.

 

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, where power consumption is not a large concern; Max Power Saving; and Away modes that are designed to minimize the power profile by adjusting sleep timers, fan speeds, and the wattage level to run the processor at. Be aware that setting the wattage level will reduce the overall CPU speed and system performance, as you might expect.

 

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.

 

Fan Xpert IV 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 onboard 4-pin chassis fan headers, as well as the two 4-pin headers for the CPU fans, allows the utility to tune the fan speeds by finding the minimum and maximum values for the installed fans. This way, Fan Xpert IV 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 as well as manual tuning to suit your needs.

 

 

Once you get past the performance tuning 5-Way optimization tool section, you have a wealth of other features to use. EZ Update is used to check ASUS' servers for the latest CrashFree BIOS 3 BIOS and motherboard hardware drivers. Clone Drive is a new tool that lets you, well, clone a disk with an ASUS application. In practical testing, it did exactly as intended; creating a clone of the test drive I use and booted into Windows. 

 

 

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 prove 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. As a tool, it can come in handy if you manage to corrupt the BIOS from some spirited overclocking. PC Cleaner allows you to clean up system files with a tool in ASUS' AI Suite III package. It's simple to use and functional.

 

 

AI Suite III is a pretty substantial software package designed specifically for use with ASUS motherboards. What is missing are a couple applications that add in value to the end user. Added value software is included that, if purchased separately, would increase the end user costs. ASUS includes a full version of Kaspersky's highly rated anti-virus software with a one-year subscription. Daemon Tools disk virtualization software is also included to help save your game discs and make/burn disk images. Both are an added value that can save you upwards of $40 if they are tools you plan on using.

 

 

RAMDisk and RAMCache:  The premise with this set of tools is that access to DRAM is much quicker than accessing an HDD or SSD to load files that you need either working in the OS and/or during gaming. RAMDisk is a utility that takes excess DRAM capacity and creates a virtual disk so that you can drastically improve load times of applications or maps during gaming. ASUS makes this tool simple enough for even the novice to use. Most of us are not fully utilizing the 16 or 32GB of DRAM In our systems, so why not take advantage of a way to improve the computing experience? At this point, DRAM is still relatively inexpensive. Creating an 8GB virtual drive is as simple as choosing the capacity with a slider and applying the change.

After a reboot, you can click on the Junction tab and add the applications or maps or games you would like to accelerate and you are done. Newer solid state drives with the latest controllers can have sequential read/write results in the 500 to 550MB/s range, with that result at the high end of the spectrum. Running CrystalDiskMark on the RAMDisk virtual drive gives a graphic example of just how fast this solution can be using DDR4 3600MHz memory. It's just brutally fast. RAMDisk software can really speed up some performance metrics, but ASUS brings a little bit more to the table in the form of the RAMCache software that is used to improve disk performance, much like a hybrid drive does with the small amount of flash memory onboard. Here we just reallocate a portion of the DRAM capacity to beef up disk performance.

 

 

Aura Lighting Control: is a one-stop shop for all your RGB LED lighting needs. The ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero comes with a pair of LED lighting headers that can be controlled via the AURA application. Add in your AURA SYNC compatible devices and you can not only control the LED strips, but the motherboard LEDs as well. There are nine different ways to cycle the LEDs on the I/O cover, mid-board cover, Q-Slots, and the ROG logo on the PCH heat sink. It's a pretty cool feature that integrates well with the RGB trends going on right now.

 

 

Game First IV is ASUS' own traffic shaping tool to improve ping time and reduce latency by managing the traffic flow of ACK packets. You get an easy-to-follow EZ mode, as well as a more granular look in the advanced mode. The EZ mode has presets that allow you to set up the traffic management for VOIP, File sharing, Gaming, or Media Streaming.

 

 

KeyBot is a new tool designed to improve the functionality of your keyboard. To start, simply plug your keyboard into the ROG Connect (KeyBot) USB port on the I/O panel and enable the software. Once enabled, you get control at the hardware level to wake the system from an S5 state, use the F11 key for the CPU Level Up function, F12 to set the XMP profile of your modules, and the DEL key to boot directly to the UEFI BIOS. Those seem to be standard fare, but further on you get the ability to set macro keys, use the Smart Login feature to log in with a single keystroke, assign functions to the F keys, and set up shortcuts to open files or games. It all adds up to a tool that can make any keyboard you are comfortable with into a gaming powerhouse keyboard.

 

 

 

Sonic Studio II is an integrated software suite designed to take advantage of the SupremeFX audio solution used on the Crosshair VI Hero. Under the Sonic Studio tab, you have six options with which to enhance the listening experience. Surround is notable for creating a virtual surround configuration while listening to a 2-channel setup such as headphones. Perfect Voice is used to remove background noise and improve inbound and outbound voice signaling. Casting Enhancer lets you modify your streaming content by running it through the Sonic Studio software.

 

 

Sonic Radar is not a new tool in the ROG arsenal, but is in the package on the Crosshair VI Hero. Some have alluded to this software being used as a cheat, but if you are using surround sound speakers or a headset with surround capabilities you are doing the same thing; using the sound system and your ears. Sonic Radar is a graphic representation of the sounds you hear. The key is the visual interface that works to point out the sounds directionally; a bonus if you are not utilizing a surround speaker system or headset. There are separate modes that can be optimized for footsteps, bombs, or gunfire. Shortcuts can be used to move the interface or change the transparency level, as well as toggle through the user modes. Overall it's a pretty cool tool for those of us that are less than good at FPS gaming.

 

 

As you can see, ASUS puts a pretty comprehensive software package together that proves to not only be expansive, but fully functional. You get software that helps all across the board, from the casual overclocker to the more experienced tweaker. But best of all, it plays to the targeted market user, the gamer! 




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