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ASUS Maximus IV Gene-Z (Intel Z68) mATX Motherboard Review

ASUS shrink the latest ROG board with the new mATX Z68 Maximus IV Gene-Z. How is it? Let's find out!
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Jul 14 2011 11:06 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 97%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Package

Introduction

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I'm not sure why, but I'm such a sucker for the mATX format when it comes to computing. I say I'm not sure why because I don't have an mATX system, nor do I have a need for one, but it doesn't stop me from being interested in the layout. For years we saw companies release mATX formatted boards that had one thing in mind, low cost by sacrificing the stuff that makes the big boards so great.

ASUS stood up one day, though, and said "No more!" - For some reason I'm kind of picturing the CEO smashing his fist on the table while he says it. Anyway, we saw ASUS start to create mATX boards that could do just as much as their larger counterpart, but in a smaller form factor.

Today we look at the latest power mATX board from ASUS in the form of the Maximus IV Gene-Z. At first glance it looks like it does everything a user would want in a performance mATX board. Looks can be deceiving, though. Just because it can walk the walk, can it talk the talk? Well, we intend to find out today, but before we get into the fun stuff like overclocking and benchmarking, we have to first start off with the package.

Once that's done we'll move on to the board itself and see just exactly what ASUS is offering us when it comes to Maximus IV Gene-Z. From there we'll get into the BIOS and just before we start to get in to the benchmarking side of things, we'll check out the overclocking capabilities.

The Package

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As you'd expect in typical ASUS style, we've got a lot going on with the box thanks to the foldout bit that gives us a bunch more information. The main difference between this box and other ROG ones apart from the size is the fact that we don't have the normal see through panel that lets us see the product. There's actually not even a picture of the entire board on the box. Of course, there are pictures of bits of it and the back of the box gives us a wealth of information telling us all the specs including the size.

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For such a small box there are a whole lot of bits and pieces going on inside. We've got our manual, Driver CD, ROG sticker, SATA cable labels, SLI Bridge, easy connectors, I/O back plate, ROG connect cable and a total of six SATA cables with two being SATA III.

The Motherboard

Looking at the board, the first thing you notice is of course the small size that is associated with the mATX format. You're able to get a good idea of where everything sits, but let's move in a little bit closer and see just what exactly is going on as we move around the board.

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Looking at the bottom corner of the board, you can see we just have three expansion slots; two x16 and a single x4 one. Because there's no NF200 included, when you go for a dual card setup both will run at x8, but as we've seen in previous testing, the x8 x8 Intel setup seems to be stronger than the x16 x16 NF200 setup anyway.

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Moving to the bottom of the board, we can see that ASUS have still implemented the popular power and reset button along with the LED debug. One of the first things we see companies drop when they move to the mATX format is these little features and it's great to see they're still present on the ASUS offering. Moving over to the right, you can see we've got some USB 2.0 headers, fan header and our front system panel header.

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Turning the corner, you can see we've got a total of six SATA ports here which all run off the Z68 chipset. The four grey ones are SATA II while the two red ones are SATA III which are of course going to be your first choice when it comes to hooking up your hard drives.

The Motherboard Continued

As we start to move up towards the top of the board, you can see our four DIMM slots which support up to 32GB of DDR3 at speeds ranging from 1333MHz DDR to 2200MHz DDR. In the bottom right corner we have our "GO Button" which allows you to instantly switch over to a preset overclock.

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Continuing around this area, we've also got our main 24-Pin ATX power connector and next to that you can see we've got our USB 3.0 header in red.

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Moving around to the CPU area, you can see we've got our 8-Pin CPU power connector and around the CPU socket itself you can see the heatsink setup that ASUS have opted for. Like other parts of the board, the heatsink setup is extremely good quality and this is again an area that companies tend to ignore a bit when they move to the mATX format. The fact that this area can get so hot when using more basic heatsinks means that overclocking is limited on most mATX boards. Hopefully the option to go something stronger here means we'll get a strong overclock still.

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Moving around to the I/O side of things, you can see we've got a load of USB ports and that would have to be the one thing that stands out a lot. Starting from the left, we've got our combo PS/2 connector and six USB 2.0 ports with the white one being used for ROG connect. Next to this we've got a reset CMOS button and then two USB 3.0 ports via the ASMedia USB 3.0 controller and two eSATA 3G ports via the JMicron JMB362 controller.

Continuing to move across, we've got two more USB 2.0 ports, Intel Gigabit networking, HDMI and optical / auxiliary audio outputs coming from the Supreme X-Fi 2 controller. Feature wise, the Maximus IV Gene-Z is a very strong looking board, the use of Intel Gigabit networking and Supreme X-Fi 2 audio is what makes it really stand out as an awesome board not just for home, but for LANs as well.

BIOS

Being an ASUS board, we've of course got that graphics UEFI BIOS that we're used to seeing from them. Going into the BIOS, you're of course greeted by advanced mode because we're dealing with an ROG board. As for the lay out goes, there shouldn't be anything too out of the ordinary when it comes to going through it..

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As you can see, going through the BIOS the Maximus IV Gene-Z follows the same lay out we saw with the Maximus IV Extreme. The overclocking options are extremely strong and really we've got everything you'd expect to see from a typical ATX ROG board here in this mATX one.

Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

We're not going to make it easy for our Maximus IV Gene-Z today with the board lineup being full of big brother ATX sized ones. It will be really interesting to see just how this mATX version is able to go. Before we get into the performance side of things, we must first cover the overclocking potential of the board.

I want to say, I was a little surprised, but I wasn't really when it came to the maximum overclock. I expected the ASUS to perform well and it did. As you can see below, we ended up pushing our multiplier all the way up to 53x.

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Along with pushing the multiplier up, we also managed to give our BCLK a slight bump to 101 and what we ended up with was a CPU that was running at just over 5.36GHz. What ASUS shows us is that just because you opt for a smaller stature, it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the overclocking potential of your CPU.

With such a strong overclock offered, we should see some strong performance come out of our little mATX board.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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You can see under AIDA64 at stock the Gene-Z lines up with all our other boards. Crank up that multiplier, though, and you can see performance manages to sky rocket and so much extra bandwidth is on offer.

CPU Benchmarks Continued

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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We again see at stock the performance under Hyper PI lines up with our other machines. You can again see that when we overclock to over 5.3GHz, though, that we manage to shave a massive amount of time that equates to a reduction of over 30%.

AutoGK

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55

Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/

Download It Here

AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.

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AutoGK sees that the Maximus IV Gene-Z performs a little slower than some of our other Z68 based boards, but nothing too serious. When we overclock we see that the performance is increased considerably with our Maximus IV Gene-Z managing to shave 20 minutes off its speed at stock.

Storage Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at SSD and USB 2.0 performance, it lines up exactly as you'd expect with it performing in line with all our other testbeds here.

Memory Benchmarks

Sisoft Sandra

Version and / or Patch Used: 2011

Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net

Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net

Buy It Here

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Under SiSoft Sandra we can see memory performance is strong and when overclocked we get a nice little boost. We'll get a better idea of what's going on under AIDA64.

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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We can again see that with our system at stock our Gene-Z board runs in line with our other setups just as we'd expect. Like we've seen all along, though, when we crank up those clock speeds we get an extremely strong boost in performance, especially when it comes to write performance.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Across the board we can see that performance between most of the setups is extremely similar, especially when it comes to Aliens vs. Predator. Looking at 3DMark 11, we can see a bit more of a variance when it comes to the performance preset where overclocking yields an extra couple of hundred points.

Temperature and Power

Core Temperature

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At stock the Maximus IV Gene-Z is running a little warmer than some of our other setups, but nothing unusual. Overclocked we do see those temps jump up and that comes as no surprise as we always say due to the fact that we're running extra voltage through so many parts of the system.

Power Draw Tests

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Power Draw sits a little higher on these ROG boards as you can see both Maximus boards drawing a bit more at both idle and load when compared to our non ROG board like the P8Z68-V Pro and MSI Z68A-GD80. When we overclock you can see that power draw does indeed jump up, but it's not at any kind of scary level.

Final Thoughts

If we had to answer one thing the Maximus IV Gene-Z does, it's that ASUS show us just because you want to go for a mATX platform, it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice performance or features. The Maximus IV Gene-Z does exactly what you'd want from not only a mATX board, but from a ROG designed one which we know is designed to offer us strong performance.

The biggest shock in regards to the Maximus IV Gene-Z isn't the performance it offers or the features (which are both fantastic), but the price it comes in at. At $179.99 US the Gene-Z is just at such a strong price point and while it of course lacks features that are seen on the big brother Maximus IV Extreme and Extreme-Z, if you're going for a two card setup or even a single card one, this is simply an awesome board.

What the Gene-Z allows you to do is get in on the ROG action at an amazing price point. Thrown into a nice mATX case and using something like the Corsair H70 water cooling system, you'd have yourself such an awesome machine that could easily out power machines twice its size.

The biggest problem you're going to have when it comes to buying the Gene-Z is wondering what video card you're going to put in it. Considering the lower price tag associated with the board, you could well end up with room for a faster video card and if you wanted to go crazy and pair it with something like an ASUS Matrix GTX 580 Platinum, you'd have so much power on tap.

With features like Intel Gigabit LAN and X-Fi 2 Audio combined with the small stature, aggressive price tag and awesome performance, the Maximus IV Gene-Z isn't just a board that will suit someone who wants an mATX system; it will suit anyone who's interested in a performance motherboard. There's nothing stopping you from putting this in a full size case and with the performance it's able to offer; why wouldn't you?

There's plenty of mATX boards on the market, the problem is the market is limited by cut down versions of boards that offer less overclocking potential and less features than their larger counterparts. Sure, the Gene-Z is cut down compared to the normal extreme model, but ASUS has done everything possible to make sure the same performance is on offer and all those features that make other ROG boards so great are present here.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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