ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Apex Motherboard Review

We get our hands-on the ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Apex motherboard, an overclocking focused platform. Join us as we check it out.

@TylerBernath
Published Mon, Mar 28 2022 9:10 AM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: ASUS (ROG MAXIMUS Z690 APEX)

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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Maximus Apex, alongside the OC Formula from ASRock, Tachyon from AORUS, Kingpin from EVGA, and Unify-X from MSI, have for years been aimed at setting the bar for overclocking with each respective generation. Apex perhaps has the most history behind it with five generations, and for Intel Z690, ASUS is certainly looking to maintain its market share when it comes to enthusiast platforms.

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For the most part, Apex specs out like any other high-end Z690 platform. It's built on the LGA1700 socket and, like other OC-focused boards, has two DIMM slots. With these two slots, we have a maximum capacity of 64GB with speeds ranging from 4800MHz to 7000MHz. Additionally, the Apex offers one of the most robust VRM configurations on Z690 with a 24+1 phase digital setup using 105A smart power stages.

The expansion includes two PCIe x16 slots both on Gen5 lanes, operation at x16 for the top slot alone or x8x8 if both are in use. A third and fourth slot are available operating at x1 and x4, respectively. Storage expansion includes four onboard m.2 slots - the top slots pulling Gen5 lanes from the CPU while the others come from the chipset.

Connectivity is stacked for an OC-focused platform, PS2 for keyboard mouse, four Gen1 and four Gen2 give plenty of USB 3.2, and an additional USB-C is added on for Gen2x2 connectivity. We have the typical Intel network suite with 2.5Gbe LAN and AX211 for WiFi6e. Audio comes from the ALC4080 from Realtek with a Savitech amplifier.

Pricing

Pricing for the ASUS ROG Z690 Maximus Apex comes in at $719.99.

Packaging, Accessories, and Overview

Packaging and Accessories

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The box theme goes along with what we have seen the last several years, with ROG branding at the top and chipset/ CPU support along the bottom. Board branding, including the model, can be found in the middle.

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We find the board layout to the left on the back of the box, specs listed out below. To the right are some of the features of the Apex.

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Accessories include Wi-Fi Antenna and SATA cables alongside the DIMM.2 module and Gen5 M.2 AIC.

ROG Z690 Apex Overview

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Aesthetically, the Z690 Apex does carry over design elements from the Z590. We have near full board armor that covers everything from the VRM with a large heat pipe solution to the M.2 slots and chipset. This board has two full-length PCIe slots, both shielded, as are the DIMM slots to the right of the CPU.

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The back of the board houses several ICs around the VRM and a few between the Gen5 PCIe slots.

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Rear I/O starts with a PS/2 port for legacy installations. We then move into USB 3.2 ports, Gen1 in blue and Gen2 in red. The single USB-C port is Gen2x2 with a BIOS recovery port above it. Network connectivity is the norm, 2.5Gbe on the RJ45 port and Wi-Fi antennas below, audio the same six ports we have had for years.

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Running around, we have front panel audio starting things off, followed by RGB and Thunderbolt header.

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Further down, we have internal Gen1 expansion for USB 3.2 and several USB 2.0 port headers as well.

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Around the edge, we run into the SATA ports alongside the 6-pin power for additional PCIe power and another Gen1 header.

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24-pin power takes the focus here, but next to it, we have Gen2 expansion and power/reset buttons.

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Across the top, we have fan outputs and RGB headers.

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Last, two 8-pin power connections.

UEFI, Software and Test System

UEFI

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This BIOS should look familiar for anyone that has used a ROG platform in the last few generations. That said, for 12th Gen, we have CPU information in the right panel, BIOS info in the center.

Extreme Tweaker includes current CPU and memory clocks at the top, tuning for both down below. The Advanced menu includes options for SATA storage and PCH along with Thunderbolt and NVMe. CPU config includes the ability to enable/disable cores, including E cores and P cores separately.

Monitoring is included alongside fan control, while the tool menu allows you to control RGB and Secure Erase storage devices.

Motherboard Software

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ASUS AI Suite includes software for the motherboard for tuning as well as monitoring.

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This allows for Auto overclocking and optimization.

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You can also manually tune the system within AI Suite.

Motherboard Testing Supporters

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Sabrent supports our storage testing with the Rocket 4 Plus.

TweakTown Intel Motherboard Test System

Cinebench R23 and AIDA64

Cinebench and AIDA64

Cinebench R23

Cinebench is a long-standing render benchmark that has been heavily relied upon by both Intel and AMD to showcase their newest platforms during unveils. The benchmark has two tests, a single-core workload that will utilize one thread or 1T. There is also a multi-threaded test that uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU.

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R23 1t is where we begin our testing, the Apex falling in line with what the average result has been; 1996.

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nT showed 27748, about 100-150 points above the running average.

AIDA64 Memory

AIDA was recently updated to version 6.6, which improved performance in both AES and SHA3 workloads for Alder Lake CPUs. You will notice this performance jump in the charts below when compared to any previous Z690 reviews.

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In AES, we see 207948, just above average what we get from the list of Z690 boards above.

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SHA3 tapped in at 6034.

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Memory throughput was slightly above our Z690 platform average, 81K read, 77K write, and 79K copy.

PCMark10, 3DMark and CrossMark Benchmarks

PCMark 10

PCMark is a benchmark from UL and tests various workload types to represent typical workloads for a PC. Everything from video conferencing, image import, and editing, along with 3D rendering, are tested.

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Overall, we see 6641 from the Apex. This is slightly above the last few platforms we have tested and closer to the ROG Hero and Strix solution we tested at launch.

CrossMark

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Crossmark turned in a score of 2321. This is on par with the average across all platforms tested.

3DMark

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At the top with 6-threads, the Apex is at 10568. This is on par with the likes of the Tachyon but a bit under the AORUS Xtreme.

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Timespy showed the Apex on par with all other platforms, the score came in at 929 using the UHD graphics.

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Firestrike, like Timespy, shows performance on par with other Z690 motherboards.

Storage Benchmarks and Final Thoughts

3DMark Storage Benchmarks

UL's newest 3DMark SSD Gaming Test is the most comprehensive SSD gaming test ever devised. We consider it to be superior to testing against games themselves because, as a trace, it is much more consistent than variations that will occur between runs on the actual game itself. This test is, in fact, the same as running the actual game, just without the inconsistencies inherent to application testing.

In short, we believe that this is the world's best way to test an SSDs gaming prowess and accurately compare it against competing SSDs. The 3DMark SSD Gaming Test measures and scores the following:

  • Loading Battlefield V from launch to the main menu.
  • Loading Call of Duty Black Ops 4 from launch to the main menu.
  • Loading Overwatch from launch to the main menu.
  • Recording a 1080p gameplay video at 60 FPS with OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) while playing Overwatch.
  • Installing The Outer Worlds from the Epic Games Launcher.
  • Saving game progress in The Outer Worlds.
  • Copying the Steam folder for Counter-Strike Global Offensive from an external SSD to the system drive.
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With several motherboards now tested under the new storage benchmark, we are starting to get a good idea of where our Rocket Plus should run. At its peak, we see scores in the range of 510-514. With the Apex, we hit the top end of this at 512 MB/s.

Final Thoughts

As with Apex platforms of the past, Z690 solutions teeters between a pure enthusiast OC board with its huge 24+1 VRM design and top-end heat sink solutions and a premium gaming motherboard with its mind-blowing options for connectivity.

There simply isn't another OC-focused solution that carries this level of expansion. Rear I/O alone, we have a staggering ten ports of USB 3.2, giving way to another six ports internally if your chassis supports them. Additional Thunderbolt expansion is also available when Maple Ridge AIC becomes available.

As far as testing, the Apex did take top honors in a few scenarios, most notably were in multi-threaded R23 and memory throughput. Futuremark workloads saw results just above average, including CPU Profile. 3DMark Storage showed results near the top of what we have seen with our Rocket Plus at 512 MB/s bandwidth, and our Crossmark runs showed identical results when compared to past Z690 motherboards.

Above all, most of us will look at pricing when shopping for our next motherboard. This would perhaps be the single place where the Apex doesn't shine. At its MSRP of $719.99, it's the most expensive enthusiast solution on the market, with the Tachyon at $549 and Unify-X at $499.

Buy at Amazon

Performance

95%

Quality

95%

Features

95%

Value

75%

Overall

90%

The Bottom Line

The ASUS ROG Maximus Apex for the Intel Z690 platform offers a stacked I/O with class leading expansion and performance to go with it, but you will pay a premium as MSRP is several hundred over the competition.

TweakTown award
90%

ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Apex Motherboard

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* Prices last scanned on 12/31/1969 at 6:00 pm CST - prices may not be accurate, click links above for the latest price. We may earn an affiliate commission.

Tyler joined the TweakTown team in 2013 and has since reviewed 100s of new techy items. Growing up in a small farm town, tech wasn't around, unless it was in a tractor. At an early age, Tyler's parents brought home their first PC. Tyler was hooked and learned what it meant to format a HDD, spending many nights reinstalling Windows 95. Tyler's love and enthusiast nature always kept his PC nearby. Eager to get deeper into tech, he started reviewing.

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