Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Our second X470 review is of ASUS's Crosshair VII Hero, and it's one loaded motherboard. At the original Ryzen launch ASUS also launched a Crosshair motherboard, which is part of their top tier ROG brand for AMD. ASUS typically has provided excellent support for AMD systems, and today we look at their best and brightest star, the Crosshair VII Hero.
The Crosshair VII Hero features dual M.2 slots, WIFI, Intel LAN, USB 3.1, and SATA6Gb/s.
The Crosshair VII Hero costs $279.99
Packaging and Crosshair VII Hero Overview
Packaging and Overview
The box and motherboard are very similar to ASUS's X370 Crosshair products, they are very high-end and offer excellent protection.
The accessory package includes four SATA6Gb/s, SLI HB Bridge, WIFI antenna, RGB extension cable, 4-to-3 pin digital RGB converter cable, Q-Connector, ROG coaster, case badge, stickers, M.2 screws, driver DVD, and manuals.
ASUS put in a crazy eight fan headers, all of which can operate as PWM or DC mode headers. Two headers circled in yellow are rated for up to 3A, and both pump headers operate at full speed by default. Some headers share control. There is a fan extension header so you can use your older ASUS fan extension card to expand fan control. There is one external temperature input header at the bottom of the motherboard. The motherboard's aesthetics are designed to allow the motherboard to fade into the background and just offer up RGB control and lighting, which is what many people like. The back of the motherboard doesn't carry much ICs, except some VRM control hardware.
The rear IO panel features clear CMOS button, BIOS flash button, WIFI antenna outputs, PS/2 keyboard/mouse, two USB 2.0 ports (one for BIOS recovery), eight USB 3.0 ports, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, 1Gbit LAN, and 7.1 gold-plated audio outputs with S/PDIF out.
The PCI-E layout is a bit interesting, for starters you get three x16 slots and like most other X370 and X470 motherboards, the first two slots are connected to the CPU and operate at x16/x0 or x8/x8 while the last x16 slot is wired x4 PCI-E 2.0 to the chipset. However, ASUS has integrated support for two x4 PCI-E 3.0 slots, the one without the heat sink is routed to the CPU and doesn't interfere with anything. However, the top M.2 slot with the heat sink will reduce the two top slots to x8/x4 mode if it is in use with a PCI-E x4 M.2 drive. So you should use the bottom M.2 slot first. Otherwise, you won't be able to run your PCI-E slot at x16.
The six SATA6Gb/s ports are connected to the chipset. The motherboard features an 8+4 pin power connector for the CPU VRM.
At the top right corner of the motherboard we find our POST code display, Q-LEDs, an RGB LED header, an addressable RGB LED header, power button, and restart button. The CPU socket has a whole in the center to allow for a probe to be inserted under the CPU for more accurate temperature readings when doing LN2 overclocking.
Behind the 24-pin power connector is the voltage read points, and below it is a USB 3.1 type-C internal header. In the bottom right corner of the motherboard, we find water cooling headers that can monitor input and output temperatures and flow rate of your water loop if you have these sensors. We also find another set of RGB and addressable RGB headers near a USB 3.0 internal header. The ROG extension header doubles as a USB 2.0 internal header.
There is a USB 2.0 internal header at the bottom of the motherboard near an LPC debug header (which looks to double as a TPM header). A slow mode switch sits under an LN2 jumper; they sit near a Retry button, a Safe Boot button, and an external temperature input header. The heat sinks on the motherboard are all firmly screwed into the motherboard.
ASUS Crosshair VII Hero Circuit Analysis
The Crosshair VII Hero shows us the goods with the heat sinks removed.
We see the VRM here is in a 10+2 phase mode and uses an ASP1405I PWM which is most likely an IR35201. It's in 5+2 phase mode doubled to 10+2 through five IR3599 doublers on the back of the motherboard.
Each phase for the VCore and SoC uses an IR3555M 60A PowIRstage, and a Micro-Fine Alloy choke. ASUS did something interesting this time; they positioned the two SoC phases in between VCore phases to break up thermals a bit since the SoC phases are loaded a lot less. The top six phases are VCore, and the bottom four in the "L" (if the motherboard is upright) are VCore. The memory VRM is in a 2-phase configuration and uses a Digi+ ASP1103 PWM with integrated drivers and some ON Semiconductor mini MOSFETs.
ASUS Crosshair VII Hero Circuit Analysis Continued
Crosshair VII Hero Circuit Analysis Continued
The audio section uses the Realtek ALC1220, and it seems this is the one with improved microphone input SNR. We also find an ESS Sabre ES9023P DAC to improve audio quality, and a Texas Instruments RC4580I amplifier. We also get a physical PCB divide and Gold series Nichicon audio capacitors.
We find the tried and true Intel i211AT wired NIC on the motherboard. Wireless-AC is provided by a Realtek RTL8822BE WIFI card.
An ASMedia ASM3142 is used for rear USB 3.1, and an ASMedia ASM1543 type-C chip is used. A Pericom PI3EQX USB 3.1 Gen 2 re-driver improved the USB 3.1 signal for the type-C internal header.
We find an AURA chip for RGB LED control, as well as an ST Micro STM32F microcontroller used for addressable RGB, LED support. Two clock generators, an ICS 9DB633AGILF and ICS 9VRS4883BKLF, are switched by an ASM1480 depending on the operating mode of the system. It seems that this system allows you to change the CPU BCLK without changing the base clock used for generating DRAM/PCI-E/FCLK.
We find a 256Mbit BIOS ROM on the motherboard, which is twice the size we find on other X470 motherboards. ASUS says they are using only 16MB of the 32MB ROM, and that the extra space is to ensure future CPU support, in case AMD expands the BIOS size. A BIOS chip is used to facilitate USB BIOS recovery. The ITE IT8665E is used as the main SuperIO and handles monitoring and produces the PS/2 on the rear IO.
We find a ROG chip that seems to expand fan control and other ROG features and a TPU chip that should enhance monitoring and OC features.
We find multiple ASMedia ASM1480 PCI-E quick switches that move around PCI-E bandwidth. On the right, we find a differential operational amplifier, which is used to increase voltage monitoring accuracy.
BIOS and Software
The UEFI for the Crosshair VII Hero is similar to that of the Crosshair VI Hero, but it does have some cool features. There are multiple CPU overclocking profiles, more automatic overclocking profiles with differing levels, and even a large amount of memory overclocking profiles that ASUS is known for. We do get fan control in the UEFI both as a GUI and a manual input menu. There are also two BIOS operating modes, an EzMode and an Advanced Mode.
ASUS offers a lot of software including Ai Charger, AURA, Dual Intelligent Processors 5 (which includes many other software applications), AI Suite 3, GameFirst IV, RAMCACHE II, Clone Drive, and EZ Installer.
You should use either AI Suite or the BIOS for more accurate readings of voltage.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- MotHeroboard: ASUS Crosshair VII Hero
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
- Cooler: Corsair H110i - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance (2x8GB) 3000MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Kingston Predator 240GB
- Storage - SATA6G Drive: Micron Generic 240GB / Read our review
- Storage - USB Drive: Corsair Voyager GS 64GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 900D - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Corsair HX1000 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: ASUS PA328 ProArt 32" 4K - Buy from Amazon
- Keyboard: Corsair K70 LUX - Buy from Amazon
- Mouse: Corsair M65 PRO RGB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Headset: Corsair VOID RGB Wireless - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Network: ASUS XG-U2008 10Gbit Switch
- BIOS: 508
There are RGB LEDs that illuminate both the PCH heat sink and the IO shield area, and for those of you who don't like RGB LEDs, there is a mode to disable all LEDs, including the POST code display. Overall, the motherboard will fade into the background with style, or if you prefer you can light up your rig with ease.
I set D.O.C.P to the default profile, set memory to 3600MHz through the multiplier, set all cores to 4.275, VCore to 1.35v with the second highest level of LLC requested in 1.32v or so, and that's all I needed to do to get the above overclock. The motherboard can also facilitate much more complicated overclocks with BCLK or higher speed memory, but this overclock was easy to achieve through traditional methods.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
The Crosshair VII Hero's performance is top notch, and we can see that it's neck and neck with the other X470 motherboard in the charts. We will soon have more motherboards in our charts, but for now, it's just these two. Overall, performance was solid.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The Crosshair VII Hero's storage and networking performance were very solid, and pretty much where they should be for the controllers used. The M.2 performance was very nice, some of the best I have seen.
Audio RMAA 5.5:
I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.
Sound Judgment by Ear: Excellent. There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent
Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption
System power is measured at the wall with an AC power meter.
Note on Thermal Images: In the temperature section, we use our Seek Thermal imaging camera to capture the surface temperatures of major components on the board. I look at the VRM and then all other things that light up the screen. If there is something to worry about, then I will state it. Otherwise, I will just show the hotter running parts of the board for fun. Unless some component is over 80-90C, then there isn't anything to worry about.
All systems will act differently, so I will look for commonalities, such as how far from the VRM the heat spreads through the PCB and the difference in temperature between the front side and backside of the PCB. Keep in mind, the majority of the heat from the VRM goes into the PCB as it is a giant soldered on copper heat sink. A larger difference in temperature between the back and front of the PCB points towards a more effective heat sink.
Thermal Testing at Stock Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans above the VRM that cool the CPU cooler's (Corsair H110i) radiator are turned on to high (12v).
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
The Crosshair VII Hero has one of the best VRMs on an X470 motherboard, and that is reflected in the VRM temperatures. Topside temperatures are very low, while the backside isn't high at all. Overall, this is an excellent VRM. Anything under 60C is great, 60-80C is acceptable, and anything above 80C is a bit worrisome (if at stock).
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Strong VRM: With 60A power stages, a digital PWM, and ten phases just for the VCore, the VRM on this motherboard is top notch and should handle any Ryzen 2nd Generation overclock with ease. ASUS also put the SoC phases in between the CPU phases to help balance out thermals.
Dual x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2: The Crosshair VII Hero is one of the only AM4 motherboards with two M.2 slots that both offer x4 PCI-E 3.0. There are many that offer one M.2 slot operating at x4 PCI-E 3.0, and some with a second slot operating at x4 or x2 PCI-E 2.0, but I haven't seen one yet with PCI-E 3.0.
Lots of USB: The rear IO offers up a whopping twelve USB ports. Eight of them are USB 3.0, two are USB 3.1 (one is type-C), and two are USB 2.0. The motherboard has some of the most rear IO USB I have seen in recent times.
Lots of RGB and Fan Control: You get a total of four RGB LED headers, two are addressable, and two are RGB. You also get multiple built-in RGB LEDs that are integrated in a sleek manner. The motherboard also offers up a whopping eight fan headers, and it has a header for the fan extension card. The motherboard also carries watercooling sensor headers.
Using top M.2 slot will reduce GPU bandwidth: The top M.2 slot is the only M.2 slot with a heat sink, but it's also the slot that will reduce the two x16 slots connected to the GPU to a solid x8/x4 from x16/x0. While the performance difference between x16 and x8 isn't that huge, most people will install into that M.2 slot since it has a heat sink and not notice the bandwidth decrease.
Pricey: At $299.99, it's one of the most expensive X470 motherboards.
The ASUS Crosshair VII Hero is one of few high-end motherboards with a solid legacy, and it definitely fulfills its legacy. ASUS went above and beyond to include many of its latest OC features such as slow mode switch, retry button, safe boot button, and temperature probe hole in the socket.
However, they also went above and moved around phases to decrease VRM temperatures, increase voltage reporting accuracy by adding a differential OP amp (currently available through BIOS or ASUS software), and even went ahead and added in technology allowing users to change the CPU's BCLK separate from that of other components (like DRAM or PCI-E).
ASUS also used a BIOS ROM twice the normal size, to "future proof" the motherboard. All of these enhancements to the Crosshair VII Hero make it one of the most unique X470 motherboards, and an excellent choice if you want a solid high-end X470 motherboard.
The Bottom Line: The Crosshair VII Hero is one of the most well-equipped X470 motherboards with many custom unique features you won't find elsewhere.
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