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ASUS ROG Maximus IX Apex (Intel Z270) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Feb 20, 2017 2:10 pm
TweakTown Rating: 95%Manufacturer: ASUS

Packaging and Overview

 

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ASUS's box design is very similar to that of the Maximus IX Formula I reviewed at launch; it's simple and sleek. The motherboard's accessories are individually packaged, and the motherboard itself sits inside a well-padded box.

 

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The accessory package includes ROG coaster, ROG cable labels, four SATA6Gb/s cables, IO shield, ROG stickers, Manual, Driver DVD, SLI HB bridge, RGB extension cable, CPU installation tool, Q-Connector, DIMM.2 card, M.2 mounting screws, and a nameplate with three black Mylar tags.

 

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ASUS offers auto-sensing to determine if the fan is DC or PWM on all their headers except the full speed (FS) headers circled in red. All fan headers output 1A except the W_PUMP+ header that is circled in green, which outputs 3A. The CPU and CPU_OPT headers, as well as the AIO_PUMP and W_PUMP+ headers, offer shared control. The motherboard has multiple surface temperature thermistors on the motherboard that can be used for fan curve reference, and the motherboard provides two external temperature sensor inputs circled in orange.

 

The motherboard's PCH design is unique, it's made to resemble a large "X" shape, and is a cool talking point. The VRM and PCH heat sinks are designed to resemble a plane, and you can actually fit the PCH heat sink into the corner of the VRM heat sink to form the shape of a plane. ASUS's gun-metal gray is a very sleek aesthetic, and with the built-in RGB LEDs and headers, you can choose whatever color theme you want. The ROG tag in the center and a name-plate that mounts between the second and third x16 PCI-E slots can be swapped, and RGB LEDs illuminate them from below. The name-plate can be customized to whatever you want. Other than some VRM drivers and RGB LEDs, there isn't much on the rear of the PCB other than condensation detection points I will cover later.

 

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The rear IO panel features a BIOS FlashBack button, Clear CMOS button, PS/2 keyboard, PS/2 mouse, DisplayPort, HDMI, six USB 3.0 ports, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, Intel LAN, gold plated audio outputs, and S/PDIF optical.

 

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The PCI-E layout is what we have come to expect from overclocking motherboards. The top three x16 slots are all reinforced in the x, y, and z-axis directions, and operate at x16/x0/x0, x8/x0/x8, or x8/x4/x4. The last PCI-E x16 slot (electrically x4) and the two x1 slots are connected to the PCH. All PCI-E bandwidth is PCI-E Gen 3, which is 8Gb/s per lane. The motherboard offers only four SATA6Gb/s ports, a single right-angled USB 3.0 internal header, and a MOLEX power receptacle to enhance PCI-E power for multiple GPUs.

 

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When we were first teased by the DIMM.2 slot, many people thought that it was for DDR3 memory or maybe a single DDR4 slot for high-speed single stick world records. It is a DDR3 slot, but it has been heavily modified. For starters, a metal bracket keeps you from installing a DDR3 DIMM, and it routes PCI-E and SATA from the PCH to a riser card. Each side of the riser card can accept one M.2 SSD. The first M.2 slot only takes PCI-E M.2 drives; the second card takes a PCI-E or SATA based drive. Each M.2 slot gets a maximum of x4 PCI-E 3.0. The reason for the M.2 riser is for cooling; the idea is that your memory cooling fan can cool both the DIMMs and the M.2 drives.

 

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The motherboard has more overclocking features than you can count. For starters, you get the power button, reset button, voltage read points, and POST code display, but you also get a bunch of very unique features. Not only can you disable any of the x16 PCI-E slots, but you can also disable each of the DIMM through the DRAM jumpers.

 

For liquid nitrogen overclocking, you get an LN2 mode jumper, and the reserved (RSVD) switch is designed to help overcome Cold Boot Bug (CBB) issues. You shouldn't use the RSVD switch unless you are overclocking with LN2. A new and unique feature are the C_DET LEDs that illuminate if multiple pads on the backside of the motherboard detect condensation in the CPU VRM, memory, or PCI-E areas.

 

The Pause switch allows you to literally pause the system and the slow mode switch allows quick down clocking to x8 on the CPU and cache multipliers to ensure you capture the screenshot. A Safe Boot button loads failsafe booting in case your settings cause a boot failure. The ReTry button will reapply your CMOS settings that might have failed to boot and try to boot again. They found that with the newer CPUs, re-applying CMOS settings and trying to boot again actually might make a difference when you are on the edge, and the button simplifies the process. There is also an RGBLED header and QLEDs all the way on the top of the motherboard.

 

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The motherboard offers two 8-pin power connectors to increase the amount of current to the CPU VRM. A MemOK! button is located above the MOLEX connector used to supply the PCI-E slots with more power.

 

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ASUS is focusing on all types of overclockers, including water coolers. For water cooling, they have included a W_FLOW header meant to be attached to a water flow tachometer. The W_IN and W_OUT pins are supposed to be attached to water temperature probes to measure temperature differences. The BIOS Switch button will allow you to switch between the first and second BIOS ROMs. The motherboard offers three USB 2.0 internal headers, one of them is shared with the ROG_EXT two-part header.

 

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The second RGB LED header is located at the bottom of the motherboard. The PCH and VRM heat sinks are held down with long screws and bolts. The aesthetic of the heat sink's screws is part of the entire motherboard's aesthetic appeal.

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