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ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Nov 9, 2015 9:10 pm
TweakTown Rating: 95%Manufacturer: ASUS

Packaging and Overview

 

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The Maximus VIII Extreme's box is quite heavy, and packaging is solid.

 

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The Maximus VIII Extreme comes with a lot of accessories; 3x thermistor cables, 4x SATA6Gb/s cables, SLI Bridge, CrossFireX Bridge, 3T3R Wi-Fi antenna, IO shield, CPU installation tool, Q-connector, manual, DVD, cable labels, ROG stickers, ROG case badge, and door hanger. More exciting accessories include the fan extension card (with cable) and the OC Panel II kit ( which includes OC Panel II, cable, screw pack, and case bay housing).

 

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The ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme has seven on-board fan headers (circled in blue) which can operate in both PWM and DC mode. Each fan header on the board and the three on the extension card (port circled in green) can be configured in the UEFI or Windows. ASUS allows you to choose from a wide selection of temperature inputs to control the fans, and that includes input from any of three temperature input headers (circled in orange). The extension card also has three thermistor inputs near each header. ASUS does provide three thermistor cables, so you don't need to buy them.

 

The motherboard has a sleek red/black/gun metal color theme that adds to its aesthetic appeal. It looks very elegant in person; the pictures do not do the motherboard justice. There are LEDs built into the motherboard; red LEDs are located below the audio divide and RGBs are located inside the PCH heat sink. The back of the motherboard has extra heat sinks protecting the drivers for the CPU VRM, and there is a support brace added to the back of the PCH area of the PCB used to balance the motherboard if you decide not to use a case.

 

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The IO panel features a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, HDMI, DisplayPort, 4x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 3x USB 3.1 Type-A (red ports), 1Gbit Intel NIC, 3T3R Wireless AC/BT4 antenna ports, clear CMOS button, BIOS Flashback button, and S/PDF with 7.1 gold plated audio outputs.

 

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At first glance, it looks like the Maximus VIII Extreme has a PLX chip to expand PCI-E lanes, but the motherboard has an ASMedia chip under there which expands some of the IO such as extra SATA and USB that I will cover later. The Maximus VIII Extreme supports a maximum of 4-way CrossFireX at 8x/4x/4x/4x and 2-way SLI at 8x/8x. The first three full sized slots are connected to the CPU, and the last full-size slot is connected to the PCH and shares two PCI-E lanes with two SATA ports. The slots can operate in the following configurations: 16x/0x/0x/4x, 8x/0x/8x/4x, or 8x/4x/4x/4x. The two PCI-E 1x slots are from an ASMedia switch chip that is directly connected to the PCH. A MOLEX power receptacle is located at the bottom of the board and provides extra juice when running 3 and 4-way CrossFireX. You might have also noticed there seem to be voids in the PCB near the tip of each PCI-E slot where the PCB is translucent; this is for an LED to indicate suggested slot usage when using the SLI/CFX button.

 

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Starting from the left of the SATA ports, there is a U.2 connector for the latest NVMe SSDs like Intel's 750, two SATA Express ports which can be used as four SATA6Gb/s ports, two SATA 6Gb/s ports from the PCH, and finally two SATA6Gb/s ports from an ASMedia controller. The M.2 slot and U.2 connector use the same bandwidth, so they are mutually exclusive, and if you are going to use an SATA-based M.2 drive, you will lose SATAExpress_1 SATA bandwidth. If you use the two SATA ports from the Intel PCH that are not connected with an SATA Express connector, then the last full sized PCI-E slot will run at 2x instead of 4x.

 

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ASUS provides both vertical and horizontal USB 3.0 internal headers located right below the 24-pin PSU connector that is better in larger cases where the internal USB 3.0 cable is shorter. An extra 4-pin CPU power plug is provided for extreme overclocking sessions.

 

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ASUS provides a ton of overclocking features, including a few novel ones. For starters there is a power and reset button followed by switches to disable the full sized PCI-E slots, jumpers to disable DIMM channels, a "Mem OK!" button for easy memory booting, a "Safe Boot" button for easy OC recovery, a "Retry" button to avoid platform BIOS inconsistency, a "Slow Mode" switch to switch between high and low frequency, an "LN2 mode" jumper, and the trusted "Q-Code" (POST code display). Voltage read points are also present along with multiple LEDs that can help troubleshooting and indicate whether or not slots are disabled or enabled. Two DIP-8 sockets hold the BIOS ROMs, and a momentary switch is used to switch between them. The SLI/CFX button is used to help figure out the best slots for SLI or CrossFireX; if you hit the button, then an LED will illuminate near each full sized PCI-E slot to let you know the best slot configuration.

 

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The OC Panel II is used as an external/mounted remote control for the motherboard. Not only is it capable of changing everything from multipliers to voltages on-the-fly, but it also provides a lot of features not found on the motherboard. For starters it has two K-Type thermocouple ports and can be used for LN2 benching, VGA Hotwire support for VGA modding, a "Pause Switch" that literally "pauses" the OS and program you are running, and can act as an external fan controller. The OC Panel II isn't very complicated to use, but there are multiple operating modes that are clarified through the manual. In these different modes, the buttons do different things. The panel itself can also be swiveled 90 degrees to fit into the case enclosure so it can be used as a fan controller.

 

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ASUS has made great strides towards upgrading the specifications and components in their audio section, and the little cutaway in the shield allows a glimpse of what's to come in the next section of this review. There are two tiny holes in the back of the CPU socket which can be used to route a thermocouple to measure the CPU temperature more precisely.

 

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Removing the shields and heat sinks reveals excellent heat sink-to-component contact and high-quality craftsmanship.

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