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ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula (Intel Z97) Motherboard Review

ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula (Intel Z97) Motherboard Review

Today Shawn checks out the sexy looking ROG Maximus VII Formula Z97 motherboard. Let's see if its performance can match its deadly looks. Read on.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Aug 27 2014 9:08 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula

It feels like it has been ages since we've had a chance to check out a Republic of Gamers based motherboard. We checked through the motherboard category, and it looks like our last victim was the Z87 based ASUS ROG Maximus VI Impact from the latter half of August of last year. It came as no surprise that we absolutely loved the board, as it showed us exactly what ASUS is capable of doing, even when giving the tiny platform that is Mini-ITX.

Today we're kicking it up a notch. Not only are we dealing with a board that is based on the Z97 chipset (the one that replaced the Z87 platform), but we're also dealing with a larger sized ATX motherboard. We've had a chance to look at a few Z97 motherboards from ASUS, and we actually have a couple more to look at over the coming weeks.

The ROG name has always meant performance, and we're sure that today isn't going to be any different with the Z97 based Maximus VII Formula. Performance is the name of the game, and it's an area that ASUS tends to do very well in when it comes to the ROG line of products, whether they are motherboards or video cards.

If the past has taught us anything about ROG based motherboards, it's that we're probably dealing with quite a large bundle. So, let's leave it all here, and move forward to see just what ASUS is bringing to the table with the Republic of Gamers Maximus VII Formula Z97 motherboard.

Package - What comes inside the box

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VIEW GALLERY - 46 IMAGES

Looking at the front of the box, you can see we've got an awesome box design based on the popular game, Watch Dogs. We've got the ROG branding across the top, and the model is indicated in the middle, along with mention that a copy of Watch Dogs is included inside. Across the bottom, you can see some rating information in regards to the game. Below that is the normal array of logos, including support for SLI, CrossFire, 4K, and Windows 8.1.

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Upon opening the front of the box, we get our first look at the motherboard. We must admit, we were immediately taken back by just how cool it looks; we'll take a closer look at it in just a moment. While the right hand side gives us a look at the motherboard, you can see the left hand side explains some of the major features that are offered. Starting from the top, first we have the cooling solution that supports both liquid and air cooling. With the help of barbs, which aren't included, you can make use of water cooling to cool the MOSFET area. Looking to the right of this, we have the KeyBot interface software that offers the ability to upgrade your system at the push of a key, via the built-in microprocessor.

Moving down, you can see a big push on the audio features that bring Supreme FX Formula 2014 to the table. Sonic Studio is offered, which brings virtual surround sound; Sonic Soundstage offers hardware level audio profiles, and the Sonic SenseAmp auto detects headphones, and helps optimize the audio for them. Finally, the last features pushed are the networking options, which include Intel Ethernet, LANGuard for surge protection, and support for the GameFirst III software to help optimize networking performance.

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After turning the box over, you can see some of the highlights on the board, which include the mPCIe Combo III card, Extreme Engine Digi+ III, SATA Express, and ROG Armor. Below that, you can see the main specifications, and get a look at the I/O panel. We won't go into much detail here, as we'll cover this in greater detail on the next page.

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Moving into the box, you can see we've got a fair bit going on. Starting from the top, we've got our User Guide, Driver CD, and a sign that can be hung from your door knob. Moving across, we've got our I/O backplate, along with some EZ Connectors, and a small SLI bridge. In the middle, we've got a bunch of stickers that can be used to label your hard drives, and the right hand side sees a total of eight SATA III cables. The main part of the bundle finishes off with a card that gives us the ability to download a full version copy of Watch Dogs.

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Outside of all that, we've also got the MPCIE Combo III card, and an antenna that goes with it for the wireless networking feature. Via this Combo card, we've got a pre-fitted mPCIe card that offers us 802.11ac Wi-Fi, along with support for Bluetooth 4.0. On the other side, we've got a M.2 slot for the latest in storage technology.

PRICING: You can find the ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula retails for $339.99 at Amazon.

Motherboard Details

Close up with the ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula

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After looking at the motherboard, I instantly find myself smiling, and thinking just how damn cool it looks. Thanks to the ROG Shield, most of the PCB is hidden, and you have this awesome looking cover going over most of the motherboard with just the necessary gaps for your components to be installed. Overall, it makes for a very slick looking motherboard.

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By moving in closer, you can see we've got three PCIe x1 slots, along with three PCIe x16 slots. As for the configuration of these slots, it's all very typical. With just a single card installed, you will get x16. If you install two cards, they'll both be running at x8. The final slot is wired at only 4x. Down here you can also see the SupremeFX shielding, which is, of course, for your audio.

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Looking at the bottom of the motherboard, you don't see anything too out of the ordinary. You've got all the normal headers, including fan, USB 1.1 and USB 2.0, TPM, and front panel. We also have a button for KeyBot and SoundStage down here.

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By turning the corner, you can see we've got a ton of SATA ports offered here; there are ten SATA III ports, and two SATA Express ports to round things off. As for what runs off of what, the M.2 Socket, one SATA Express and four SATA II ports that are all to the left of the motherboard run off the Intel Z97 chipset. The other SATA Express and two SATA III ports run off the ASMedia SATA Express controller, while the final two SATA III ports run off the ASMedia ASM1061 controller.

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You can see we've got a fair bit going on at the north end of the board, as usual. We have our four DIMM slots supporting 32GB of DDR3 ranging from 1333MHz DDR to 3300MHz DDR. We also have our main 24-pin ATX power connector across the bottom, a USB 3.0 header to the left of that, and a fan header to the right. Up in this corner, we can also see our start and reset button, along with a LED Debug reader, and our MemOK button tucked away in the corner.

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Moving around to the back corner, you can see our CPU power connector setup. Being a high-end ROG board means that ASUS offers not only the standard 8-pin CPU power connector, but also a 4-pin connector next to it. Using both won't be necessary for most people. However, if you're looking to do some serious overclocking, the second connector is handy, as it helps make sure the power to the board is as stable as it can be. Also, to the right you can see the connector for the COMBO card that is seen in the bundle.

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Moving back, you can see the CPU socket area, which is super clean. Thanks to the ROG Shield, and a generally clean CPU area, you've got a socket that just looks very nice. You can see our main heat sink setup here, and if you remove the two plastic ends, then you will expose the area for your water cooling barbs to be installed, if you want to make use of them. This is a really nice looking motherboard with a bunch of really nice features that help separate this board from the rest of the competition.

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Finishing up our look at the motherboard, we head over to the I/O. Starting from the left, you can again see where the COMBO card sits, which will have a spot for our wireless antenna to be plugged in. Moving next to where that would be, we've got two buttons; one button is to help clear the CMOS, while the other button is for ROG Connect. Moving on, we've got a combo PS2 port, with two USB 2.0 ports below it.

Video out options are offered via a DisplayPort and HDMI connector, and above that we've got an optical port. The optical port, along with six auxiliary ports, give us audio via the ROG SupremeFX Formula 2014 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC. Along with that, we've got six USB 3.0 ports, and a gigabit networking port that runs off the Intel I218V controller.

BIOS Images and Information

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It's been a while since we've seen an ROG based UEFI BIOS from ASUS, but looking above, you can see that not too much has changed in terms of the overall design. You've got that typical black and red color theme that matches the motherboard. As always, if you're going to be in the BIOS, then you're probably going to be overclocking; if so, you're going to want to be in the Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS, which is the default area when going in.

Looking through here, you can see we've got an absolute ton of features offered that give us the ability to overclock. We're hoping we can get ourselves quite a strong overclock in typical ROG fashion. We'll find out about that in just a moment, though.

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As we move through the rest of the BIOS, you see all the normal features. Looking above, you can see everything is fairly self-explanatory. For this reason, we'll finish up here, and move forward to cover the boards in our graphs today, along with the overclock we managed to achieve with the ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula.

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, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital, MemoRight, and Corsair.

First and foremost, we have our ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula, which will be run at stock and overclocked; the latter will be addressed in a moment. Alongside of that, we've got the ASRock Z97X Killer, GIGABYTE Z97X GAMING G1 WIFI-BK Black Edition, ASUS Z97-A, and GIGABYTE Z97N GAMING 5. All of these are using the i7 4790K processor. We've also got the Z87 based ASRock Z87 Killer, which uses the i7 4770K.

Before we get into the performance, we need to take a look what went on with overclocking. When going into the BIOS, the first thing we do is move to a 47x multiplier, and adjust our voltages to where they should be. Heading into Windows, we found everything was working just fine.

So, we headed back into the BIOS and moved up to the 48x multiplier, and kept our fingers crossed we might've finally found a board that could run our i7 4790K this high. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be, so we moved back to the 47x multiplier, and started to mess around with the BCLK.

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With the multiplier set to 47x, we moved our BCLK up to 102 to see what would happen. We got into Windows no problem, and started to do a bit of testing, but found the system to be a little unstable. We headed back to the BIOS accordingly, and moved the BCLK slightly down. In the end, as you can see above, our BCLK finished up at 101.5, alongside our 47x multiplier. This results in a 4771MHz clock speed, or 4.77GHz as shown in our graphs today. This is the best clock we've received to date on our i7 4790K.

CPU & System Benchmarks

CPU Test - HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

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CPU Test - AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

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Starting out with our CPU benchmarks, you can see out of the box the performance on our ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula is pretty standard, and lines up with our other motherboards here. When it comes to overclocking, you can see that the increase in performance isn't too bad thanks to that overclock being a little stronger than usual.

System Test - PCMark 8

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

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System Test - MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

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Looking at the performance of our ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula under PCMark 8, and MediaEspresso, we can see that out of the box, the ROG board performs pretty normal.

After bumping up the clock speeds, you can see a nice little boost in performance. Under MediaEspresso, you can see we're almost able to sneak under that fourteen minute mark.

USB 2.0, USB 3.0, & SSD Benchmarks

USB Test - AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

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USB 2.0 performance is pretty standard, with the numbers looking pretty similar on most of our platforms. USB 3.0 performance random is a little down, but the beginning and end results are pretty similar to our other boards here.

SSD Test - AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: v4.30.2900

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SSD Test - PCMark 8

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.191

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SSD Test - HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 5.50

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While PCMark 8 shows strong SSD performance that lines up with our other boards, you can see under both AIDA64 and HD Tune Pro that SSD performance is slightly down overall in comparison to our other setups.

We tried changing the SATA connectors, and SATA cables, and rebooted a number of times, but apart from a little bit of fluctuation, the performance was pretty much the same. With that said, we can see that the overall performance of the system was not really affected, as benchmarks like PCMark 8 and MediaEspresso showed strong numbers.

Memory & Gaming Benchmarks

Memory Test - AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

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Memory performance didn't look bad out of the box, and for the most part, you can see it lined up towards the middle of the pack. When it came to overclocking, though, it was interesting to see that the copy and read numbers seemed to take a slight dip in performance. The write number remained the same.

Gaming Test - 3DMark 8

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

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Gaming Test - Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Looking at gaming performance, you can see that the numbers across the board are pretty similar when it comes to our stock clocks. Overclocking helps give us a bit of a boost at the lower resolution. However, moving to the higher resolution, you can see as the pressure is placed mainly on the video card, there's not too much difference.

Temperature & Power Testing

Power Consumption Test

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Power draw out of the box is up on the board, and sits higher like the GIGABYTE Z97X G1 WIFI-BK Black Edition. Considering both boards are heavy on features, it comes as no surprise that they're going to have higher power draw.

When overclocked, you can see the load jumps up a bit, but on the other hand, the idle doesn't change too much.

Core Temperature Test

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Temperature numbers are solid; out of the box they sit at around the middle of the pack, which is pretty standard. Although, once overclocked, you can see the idle jumps up only slightly.

While the load does jump up to just over 80C, it's a good looking number considering we managed to get the highest core clock to date with our i7 4790K.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

Since this board is working its way towards the near $400 mark, this isn't a cheap motherboard. Instead, we'd say it's an expensive one, as it easily sits in the top ten when it comes to pricing. Whenever we're talking about a motherboard at this price point, the one thing we need to figure out is: Can the price be justified?

As soon as we saw the Maximus VII Formula, we immediately loved what ASUS had done with it. We've always been a fan of the shield concept that ASUS has offered, and today you can see just how great it looks in black on the Republic Of Gamers based board.

In the end, though, looks aren't enough to justify the high price tag. When it comes to performance, the numbers are pretty standard for the most apart. Out of the box, at stock, you see the numbers line up with other boards running at the same speed. With that said, we did see that SSD performance was down compared to our other boards under both AIDA64 and HD Tune Pro. While we'd thought this would have an overall effect on our system performance, you can see that outside of the synthetic SSD benchmarks, everything looks good.

What really shined, though, was the overclocking, which is where you'd hope a ROG board would shine. At 4.77GHz, we're dealing with the highest clock speed we've managed to obtain so far on our particular version of the i7 4790K. Looking through the benchmarks, you can see we do get a nice little bump in performance, but not a huge amount due to the simple fact that out of the box, the i7 4790K offers a 4.4GHz clock via turbo.

Aside from performance, the features and bundle are both really strong. What makes the bundle really stand out is the addition of the full version download of Watch Dogs, which is really a blast to play. Alongside that, we've got the COMBO card, which offers 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0, along with the option to install a M.2 drive.

This board isn't for everyone. At nearly $400, it's not an option for a lot of people, as they simply can't justify the associated cost. On the other hand, if you do have the money, and the desire to go for a high-end Z97 motherboard, then this might be just what you're looking for. Throw in the full version download of Watch Dogs, and you really add some value to the board. ASUS has brought us a great looking board that offers some awesome overclocking performance, and a ton of features.

PRICING: You can find the ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula retails for $339.99 at Amazon.

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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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