Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
ASUS' Maximus line of boards has always been a special breed with the Extreme being the XOC variant. Now, the Apex takes the XOC spot while the Extreme becomes the top model intended to show the ROG teams engineering prowess with cutting edge features indicative of what they think would benefit enthusiasts level rigs.
This changeover is not new as it happened a few generations ago at this point. The Maximus Extreme series has always been a highly featured, like let's say an exotic hypercar. As contenders for OC crown from GIGABYTE and ASRock started to show up with the LN2 Force from GIGABYTE and the OC Formula series, ASUS knew they needed a 1DPC board to match what the competition offered. A Stripped down hypercar. Now that the XOC king's responsibilities have been lifted, ASUS can go even more balls out on the Extreme.
ASUS Touts some rather respectable memory support for the new Maximus XII Extreme. The board is rated at up to 4800MHz+, which is not a small feat when considering that this is a four DIMM slot board. The board is also rated for up to 4600MHz with dual-rank DIMMs, which is another major advantage as newer DIMMs are consistently raising densities, and ASUS is ready to push those as well.
The I/O is comprised of a myriad of high-speed ports, including triple USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps ports, with one being Type-C. The Extreme also comes with a single USB 3.2 2x2 20Gbps port, which is Type-C and one of the fastest available USB interfaces available. ASUS did not forget about those wanting to run Thunderbolt 3 as they put an add-in card in the box, which allows for up to two Thunderbolt 3 ports with DisplayPort pass-through for displays.
The LAN ports are a dual wield affair with an Aquantia 10Gb RJ45 on the rear I/O and an Intel 2.5Gb port found on the I/O as well. Rounding out the network connectivity, we have the wireless, which is Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201, with integrated Bluetooth 5.1 support. Needless to say, you have a robust mix of connectivity options.
The VRM can be deservedly be referred to as extreme, with sixteen 90A Infineon power stages. ASUS has focused on the quality of VRM components for a long while when communicating with them for new board reviews, and this board looks no different. The power stages are teamed instead of using doublers, which ASUS claims will help alleviate the inherent delay in the responsiveness of using doublers, which can have a positive impact on transient response.
PCIe layout is two full-length x16 PCIe slots, which, when using two cards, will run at x8/x8. The top slot has been moved down one place so that an x4 slot can reside at the top. This top slot can run various add-in cards such as PCIe SSD's or even audio cards should you feel the need. I think the intention is to run the Thunderbolt card in that slot though, but you do not have to, it all depends on your build needs.
The Maximus XII Extreme comes to market at $799, and just like the GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme, this places it in a rough space, as most mainstream chipset users opt for this platform for its lower cost of entry. However, we will see on the following pages if the feature set justifies or at least softens the blow of the price point.
Motherboard Features and Marketing
Here we give space to the motherboard manufacturer to talk about their marketing points, and we assess them and provide our point of view on the claims.
ASUS employs several features on the extreme such as the high-end VRM, which we mentioned along with the full front cover of the board, which works double duty as a heat sink as well. The inclusion of a DIMM.2 means the Extreme can support up to four M.2 drives.
Next up is the gaming and connectivity. Gaming features such as SupremeFX audio are great, but as most all of the top-end boards are now using the same ALC1220 codec, the ancillary component choices matter more than ever. ASUS does a good job here of employing a stout solution. The Armor is the front covering of the board, which doubles as a supplemental heat sink. Also, there is the OLED, but this time bigger than the Maximus XI Extreme.
The connectivity, as you can see, is stuffed with everything from USB 3.2 2x2, to triple USB 3.2 Gen 2, and six USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports. The Dual LAN is 2.5Gb and 10Gb, so Networking ios at the top of its game and matches any top-end contender in the space. The Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 is also top of the game, so no matter your connection preference, you should not be left wanting in the throughput department.
Here ASUS shows a visual representation of two phases, both with a doubler and employed in a teamed solution. ASUS claims that the teamed solution will help with a better transient response while also balancing the thermal of the VRM well. I will say that with sixteen 90A power stages, I don't see how the VRM would have any heating worries even when heavily overclocked.
Next, ASUS covers the select or choice components they use for the VRM, including the Infineon power stages. The Extreme also sports dual EPS connectors, which are metal shielded. The chokes are alloy units rated at 45A, while the output bulk capacitance is barrel-style solid-polymer type Japanese units rated at 10,000 hours.
ASUS has several levels of cooling for the Maximus XII Extreme. The top plate, as I mentioned previously, is mostly metal and works as a heat sink for both the VRM and the M.2 devices. The VRM heat sink, while being part of the IO cover, also has a top portion which cools the top VRM row and is connected to the larger side heat sink via heat pipe. Like we saw on the Aorus Xtreme, the Maximus Extreme has a high conductivity thermal pad in place for the VRM heat sink, although they did not list specifics on its W/mK rating like GIGABYTE disclosed.
ASUS has a plethora of fan headers on the board, both top, and bottom. The board has Fourteen headers in total. Two above the CPU RH side of the socket, which are CPU and CPU_OPT. There is a grouping of four at the top right, which is designated for Radiator support but can be set up as needed via software or UEFI. Two chassis fan headers are at the top left and the mid-board right. The bottom has a grouping of four more radiator fan headers and two water pump+ headers to round out the offering.
ASUS also includes the Fan Expansion Card II, which is an SSD mounting capable PCB that offers up to six more fan headers along with three additional RGB headers, along with three other thermal probe headers. It communicates with the motherboard via the integrated NODE connection header, which is proprietary to ASUS.
ASUS prides itself on a lot of the features they add, including the following, which is a dedicated IC that polls the voltage data from better read points. The differential sensing IC is a major plus, in my opinion, based on the fact that it will provide more accurate data to software monitoring applications, which can help with fine-tuning without nearly as much work with a DMM. I always try to discuss in the OC section set vs. actual voltage, and that is where you may see the disparity of what is reported in software such as AIDA64 or HWWMonitor.
The connectivity we already addressed, but since ASUS touts it on their marketing page, we will discuss it here briefly. The network connectivity is stuffed with wireless being Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201, while the wired network starts at 2.5Gb with an Intel chipset or the standard 10Gb port powered by Aquantia.
ASUS has USB 3.2 2x2, which is a substantial advantage as the other board at this price point, the Aorus Xtreme did not, and therefore the Maximus Extreme, we have to judge accordingly. This inclusion, along with the dual Thunderbolt 3 ports on the included card, means that the Extreme has every form of connectivity offered available, and the Thunderbolt does not need to be added if you do not have devices that support it.
ASUS employs up to four M.2 slots, with two being under the board covering/cooling. There is also a DIMM.2 adjacent to the memory slots, which supports up to two M.2 PCIe SSDs. The two slots onboard support PCIe, and M.2_1 supports SATA as well. The two DIMM.2 slots are direct CPU lanes and must be enabled in the UEFI, while the onboard M.2 slots run through the PCH/DMI.
Lastly, we will cover two of the aesthetic features of the Maximus XII Extreme. First up is RGB, which the board has two ARGB headers and two standard 12V RGB headers. The ASUS Aura software seems to have gone by the wayside in favor of users employing the armoury crate software to control the board features and driver installation.
Another exciting feature is the mid-board Livedash OLED display. This Livedash display can be used to display animated or custom logos along with important system information such as thermal or voltages. We made a small video covering the function of the Livedash OLED you can see below.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging is what we are used to for ROG boards for probably the last 3-4 chipset generations at this point. The box is mostly covered in a matte finish with angular styling cues that match a lot of the ASUS onboard cover styling. The board name is in reflective iridescent foil. The top right has the ROG eye logo while the bottom has seven icons for feature, chipset, and CPU support.
The rear has a full board shot, along with a list of features and specs.
The main smaller accessories we see here, and it is quite a full array. There are some more significant parts we will be looking at next, but we wanted to get the smaller ancillary components out of the way.
- Screwdriver with two Phillips bits and an extended magnetic tip
- 6x woven braided SATA cables
- NODE cable for the fan extension card
- Six-pin PCIe power to fan extension card power
- 2x 12V RGB header extension
- 2x 5V ARGB extension
- 2x DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort cables
- Thunderbolt header to card cable
- Wi-Fi Antennae
- VRM fan
- VRM fan bracket and fasteners
- Qconnect front panel header
- ROG Eye Badge
- ROG USB drive with drivers and software
- ROG keychain
- 4x paper manuals
Here we have the DIMM.2, which is a card that slots into what is mostly a DDR4 slot. There is a notch to avoid accidental insertion of DIMMs into the slot. It is dual-sided, allowing for two PCIe SSD's to be installed, and the metal housing you see here is the stylized heat sink fo the drives.
Here we have the fan extension card which can mount in a 2.5" drive bay or tray to help with locating it. IT has six fan headers, three 12V RGB headers, and three thermal probe connectors. It is powered by the six-pin PCIe cable and connects to the motherboard via an internal NODE cable connection.
Here we have the Thunderbolt 3 card, which slots into an x4 slot. The card connects to the thunderbolt header via a cable along with a USB 2.0 header. There is a six-pin PCIe cable connector to provide power to the card. The I/O side of the card has two mini DisplayPort inputs and two Type-C ports supporting not just Thunderbolt 3, but USB and even Video pass-through via DisplayPort Pass-through.
Now that the accessories are out of the way let's take a look at the board itself.
Maximus XII Extreme Overview
Here we see the Maximus XII Extreme, and it is mostly covered by the previously mentioned covering, which doubles as cooling plates or heat sinks. The fan headers I circled in blue, but each is also named with silkscreen to help better match them to the name in the UEFI. There are also two-pronged white connectors that correspond to water in/out sensors and even a white three-pin header at the bottom right, which is made for a flow meter to plug into.
The rear of the board has a backplate that covers most of the board but makes an angled cutaway where the PCIe slots start. The backplate is more for style and stiffening the PCB, as there is no thermal interface between the PCB and the backplate.
The I/O on the Maximus XII Extreme is as follows:
- BIOS Flashback Button
- Clear CMOS Button
- Wi-Fi Antennae Connectors
- 2x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
- 6x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports
- USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) Type-C port
- USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20Gbps) Type-C port
- Analog 7.1ch audio with gold connectors
- Optical SPDIF port
- 2.5Gb RJ45 Intel LAN port
- 10Gb RJ45 Aquantia LAN port
ASUS opted with the addition of the Thunderbolt card, to leave no stone unturned or no box unchecked. The Maximus XII Extreme offers a form of every modern high-speed communication you would want on a new motherboard.
The slot arrangement for the Extreme is two full-length x16 slots, which will run at x16 for a single card or x8/x8. Above the primary slot is an x4, which runs through the PCH. This slot is likely intended for the bundled Thunderbolt card; however if you opt not to use it, and AIC SSD or other x4 or lower device should fit here. One thing to note is that if using the DIMM.2 with two installed SSD's, then your top GPU slot will drop to x8, and the second slot will not be usable. If using a single SSD in the DIMM.2, the second slot will be x4.
Here we see the lower cooling plate removed; this is the one that cools the two onboard M.2 devices. We also see the two M.2 slots seated below it. The upper M.2 slot or the one closer to the CPU socket supports SATA, while the one below it is PCIe only.
The cooling plate is large, and it has thermal pad strips on both locations to ensure thermal transfer from eth drives to the heat sink.
The lower edge of the board carries various connectivity as follows:
- Front panel audio header
- Thunderbolt header
- 4-pin PATA power connector
- 12V RGB and 5V ARGB headers
- NODE Connector
- 2x USB 2.0 headers
- 4x radiator fan headers
- 2x Water Pump+ headers
- Water in/Out headers
- Water flow header
- Onboard BIOS switch
- Front panel and speaker header
The lower appointment has as many fan headers as some full motherboards. Overall everywhere you look, there is a connector for something, as this board has tons.
The 24-pin side of the board hosts various connectivity as follows:
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 headers
- 8x SATA 6Gb ports
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 header
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 headers
- 24-pin main ATX connector
- Safe Boot button
- Retry Button
- Flex Key (reset) button
- Start (power) button
- 2x RSVD Switch
- Slow Mode switch
- two digit Q-code display
The VRM on the Extreme is powered by two EPS 8-pin connectors. The connectors have an outer metal shield labeled ProCool. I don't know if I would consider the shielding helpful as the connectors are plenty strong at spec, but it does add a more premium feel to the board.
Here we see the top-down of the upper edge or where I have called "overclockers corner" on ASUS boards for several years now. Here you will find most of the controls you will use during an XOC bench session, and the board has several features for when you are using the board on an open testbench in an XOC role. Note that adjacent to the RSVD and Slow Mode switches, you also have an LN2 mode jumper tucked in there.
Here we get a shot of the CPU area, including the VRM. We can see the 10K capacitors and 45A rated microfine alloy chokes. The VRM cooling is massive, as you can see, but there is more.
Here we see the I/O cover, which is traditionally plastic and LED-lit. ASUS has opted to make the I/O cover part of the VRM cooler, which helps spread heat load with far more surface area.
The backplate for the board you can see here, I was surprised, but I was incorrect in my initial assessment as the contact area is minimal, but there is thermal contact behind both VRM sections, which means this plate is indeed a passive heat spreader of sorts. The board edge, you can see a PCB and diffuser for the ARGB lighting. The connectors you see connect to the rear of the motherboard.
Next up is all of the cooling heat sinks, and you can see that the power circuits below the socket are cooled by the heat pipe connected heat sink from the PCH. These lower rails look to be the VCCIO and VCCSA. The main VRM heat sink, we see a small thermal pad toward the I/O side, this is for the Aquantial 10Gb chipset.
Now, I think it's about time we move on to the PCB and circuit analysis of the Maximus XII Extreme.
PCB and Circuit Analysis
Here we have the bare motherboard, and it is stuffed with features. We will be taking a quick peek at some of the components and how they are set up in the following.
Here, we get a peek at the massive VRM on the Maximus XII Extreme. This VRM, much like the Aorus Xtreme, starts with a massively overkill and overbuilt VRM. The reason I say this is that the 10-core 10900K that we have at the moment as the flagship processor for LGA1200 is nowhere near enough to push this VRM to its limits, or even close to. Even in XOC scenarios, you will be hard-pressed to push this silicon enough to reach the capabilities of this VRM.
As we can see here, the VRM is constructed of TDA21490, which are 90A power stages and need I mention there are sixteen of them to feed your LGA1200 CPU. The PWM controller is an ASP1405I, which is just a rebranded IR35201, which is running in 8+0 mode with each PWM signal split into two power stages to make their 16-phase solution. There is no iGPU power or iGPU ports on the Maximus XII Extreme, which means that we will not have QuickSync functionality, which some users may miss if you plan to do hardware-accelerated video transcoding.
Here we have the VRM near the memory slots, which is controlled by the ASP1103 and is two phases with integrated drivers.
Next up, we have the SupremeFX audio solution, which is based around the ALC1220 codec found under the metallic SupremeFX EMI shield. I will note that the ASUS board is the only one of the Z490's that includes an EMI shield or cover over the codec. I am not sure if this is purely a branding play, as I have not heard any apparent noise or aberrant noise in any of the other onboard audio solutions. The audio solution also has ESS ES9023P DAC and Nichicon audio capacitors.
The 10Gb NIC is the Aquantia AQC107 chipset, which is a well-known solution, and every board I have seen with 10Gb thus far have employed this solution.
Here we have two of several ASMedia controllers to the bottom left-hand side of the VRM section. First up is the chipset at the bottom right of the image, which is an ASMedia ASM1074, which is a USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) hub. Ther other ASMedia chipset is an ASM3142, which is also USB but gen 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps this time.
Here we have the USB BIOS Flashback controller. This chipset enables the BIOS to be updated or flashed without a supported CPU or memory in the motherboard.
Here we have the SuperIO controller, which is a Nuvotron NCT6798D and is used for fan control along with several of the sensor readings.
The Pro Clock II (R77775PY) chipset is in place to allow control of the CPU BCLK along with PCIe clock separately so that the CPU clock can be adjusted independently without causing a fuss with PCIe which may have issues over around 103-105 MHz. Decoupling the base clocks is essential for those trying to get an extra edge of performance via BCLK overclocking. Regularly CPU BCLK can push quite a bit, but other system clocks that are traditionally tied to the BCLK can become unstable and crash the system before the CPU ever reaches its limit.
Here we have two more ASMedia chipsets starting with the ASM1074. The ASM1074 is once again a USB 3.0/3.2 Gen 1 hub. The other is an ASM1061, which takes a PCIe x1 interface and converts it to a pair of SATA 6Gb ports. Looking over the Z490 block diagram, we notice that ASUS has a mislisting on their spec page as of the time of writing, as they list that Z490 chipset has 8x SATA 6Gb ports when in reality the chipset only supports six directly. This means that this ASMedia chipset supplies the other two.
The Aura chipset does precisely what you would expect; it controls the RGB functions.
First up, we see the TPU chip, which is a specialized EC used by ASUS to provide various overclocking and even power saving functions. These chipsets typically work with multiple settings made within UEFI and software to fine-tune power management or overclocking features.
Another ASMedia chipset found on the rear near the I/O is the ASM3242, which is the chipset for the USB 3.2 2x2 solution. This is the chipset which feeds the fastest USB connectivity feature to the type-C on the rear I/O.
On the rear of the CPU socket, we find a pair of what appear to be Vishay Tantalum ceramic capacitors along with a vast array of multilayer ceramics. ASUS did not quite go ham on the tantalums as GIGABYTE did on the Aorus Xtreme, but they do still have a reliable and robust solution. Also, here we have a small hole in which you can insert a thermal probe to measure the under CPU thermals to give another point of reference. I know ASUS employed a pin solution on X299 for Kaby Lake X CPUs to increase XOC capabilities, but now the hole seems to be more for monitoring usage.
Between the slots, we have Pericom PI3DBS, which are demux ICs for high speed I/O lanes. Also, here we have the PI3EQX16, which are PCIe 4.0 redrivers. Even though ASUS has not blasted PCIe 4.0 readiness, their board is set up to support the reported upcoming Rocket Lake chipset, which is stated to have PCIe 4.0 support and will be drop-in compatible with LGA1200 Z490 boards.
The S0103L21 chipset from Intel I cannot find any data when searching online, and I have to assume it may be the intel 2.5Gb LAN chipset, but I have yet to confirm the identity with complete certainty.
I think we have dug pretty deep into the Maximus XII Extreme, now is the time to get into the UEFI and see what the software and UEFI solution offers.
BIOS/UEFI and Software
Spamming the delete key gets you into the UEFI, and you are greeted by the red-themed ASUS UEFI, which all ROG boards use. By default, it starts in this easy mode screen but can get to advanced mode with F7.
This is a small representation of the number of menus and options you have for setting, tuning, and tweaking your system form the ASUS UEFI. Now, boards with lesser features may have less here as well, but the UEFI is stuffed with options to set up the Maximus XII Extreme to exactly how you need it.
First, up for software will be the ASUS Armoury Crate; this is a software that allows you to control which drivers are installed or motherboard software as well. The Armoury Crate also is a control panel to enable adjustment and control of several features on the board.
The Armoury Crate is one of those things that I like because it can allow installation of a NIC driver, which means it can then grab the newest drivers for you, and you are not necessarily stuck with an older driver version from the inbox USB drive.
Here we have the inbox USB flash drives menu for installation of software and drivers.
I know there's a lot to unpack, but ASUS has several options all built within the AI Suite control panel.
ASUS has its skinned version of CPUID's CPU-Z app, and its one of the better-looking skins as several board vendors have their skinned versions as well.
Test System and Configuration
My testbench is strictly controlled with a fresh OS for any platform or component change. The system uses all the same components whenever possible to maintain comparable results between platforms. The ambient in the test lab is rigorously controlled at 22C +/- 1C. Thermal paste is Arctic Cooling MX-4 to ensure a consistent result on every test. All tests are run a minimum of three times, and any outliers are discarded, and a replacement test run will be completed to achieve our average results. The use of a TITAN RTX for the testing is to ensure that the GPU is not the bottleneck for performance results, and will best represent the scaling across CPU and platforms.
- Motherboard: ASUS Maximus XII Extreme (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i9 10900K
- Thermal Paste: Arctic Cooling MX-4 (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Alphacool Eisbaer LT 360mm (buy from Amazon)
- Memory: Corsair Dominator RGB 3600MHz 16GBx2 (buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: NVIDIA TITAN RTX (buy from Amazon)
- Storage - Boot Drive: Corsair MP600 (PCIe 4) 2TB (buy from Amazon)
- Network Switch: Buffalo Multi-Gigabit BS-MP2008 (buy from Amazon)
- Testbench: DimasTech Easy XL (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Thermaltake 1200W (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
- Monitor: ASUS XG438 43" 4K (buy from Amazon)
- Video Capture: Elgato 4K 60 Pro (buy from Amazon)
- Keyboard: Logitech G910 Orion Spectrum (buy from Amazon)
- Mouse: Corsair Logitech G502 (buy from Amazon)
WPrime, SuperPi, Cinebench, and AIDA64
WPrime is first up and being a multi-threaded benchmark. We know it will scale with any CPU we throw at it. You can manually set the number of workers or threads you want to allocate to the calculation, which we did the total thread count for each CPU to ensure we measure the maximum performance the CPU can offer.
The 32M test is the shorter one and shows how each CPU performs with a quick burst multi-core loading. Here the Maximus XII Extreme falls a slight bit off the pace, and this could be based upon the tuning form the UEFI and its performance and boosting profile.
The 1024 test is the more extended version and can take form as short as under half a minute up to several minutes depending on thread count and frequency of the CPU being tested. Here we see the Maximus tie for the top spot, which is the type of performance we expect from a board of this caliber and price point.
SuperPi is a much older test, but it's worth including as it is a single-threaded computation workload that really can show in granular detail differences in the computational ability of the silicon being tested. One thing to note is that this is an aging application that tends to favor intel architecture, so don't be surprised when you see much better results by some chips, as those same chips you will see get beaten in other tests.
With SuperPi, it is a single-threaded workload, which can show the base efficiency of a platform. Here we see that the Maximus XII Extreme falls off pace ever so slightly to the tune of two seconds or about one half of a percent. This was consistent across all runs and spoke to a more aggressive tuning from the Aorus Xtreme, along with the Taichi.
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 which uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU
The multi-core test for Cinebench shows the Maximus XII Extreme on the heels of the Taichi, which topped the charts by 11 points over the extreme. The Maximus Extreme also beats the Aorus Xtreme by a more significant margin here at 68 points.
Moving to the single-threaded test and once again, we see the Extreme lag slightly behind, which speaks to a potential efficiency issue in small bursts. Some of this can be accounted for with the test prep time when the test is started, but it was consistent, which means it is slightly slower on some single-core loads.
Moving to Aida64, we start with memory performance. The memory performance seems to need a bit of love as we run it via XMP profile with no tuning, and I can only assume that sub and tertiary timings are run intentionally looser to accommodate weaker ICs. This leads to lower performance by a mostly small margin here. We observed similar performance disparity with the Aorus Xtreme, which leads me to believe that the more simplified or stripped down boards will have a slight advantage here.
The AES encryption test gives a result in MB/s, and here we see the Maximus XII Extreme matching the Aorus Xtreme, which is at the bottom of the chart but by such a small amount it's considered within the margin of error. I must mention it was repeatable through numerous runs, though.
For FPU testing, we have 32-bit single-precision first. Here we see that the three top boards perform well and very close to each other, with only the Supermicro falling off the pace.
Now with the next level, we have the 64-bit double-precision test. Here the 64B test shows more of the same with similar performance, except the Aorus Xtreme gives its lead up to the Taichi.
Lastly, we have 80-bit extended precision, which equalizes the results with all boards falling within a few points of each other, even the Supermicro tightened up its position to be much closer to the pack.
Handbrake, Blender, 7-Zip, and WebXPRT
Handbrake, Blender, POV-Ray, CoronaRender, 7-Zip, and WebXPRT
Handbrake is up next, and we are transcoding a 4K MKV to MP4. Here we see that the Maximus XII Extreme is only beaten by the Taichi, which pulls an approximate 5.5 second lead over the entire run. The Aorus Xtreme is another four seconds behind the Maximus Extreme.
Moving to Blender, and we see that the Maximus XII Extreme pulls a win of .272 seconds over the Aorus Xtreme, which is a sliver of a victory, but once again consistent across runs. The Taichi falls a little over three seconds off the pace in this one.
7-Zip is an open-source and free compression application. It works well with multi-threading and also can see gains from clock speed as well.
Moving to the 7-Zip compression suite, we see our suite result as time in seconds to complete the run. Here we see the Taichi takes a solid lead of almost thirteen seconds, while the Aorus Xtreme falls a little over two seconds behind the Maximus XII Extreme.
WebXPRT is a browser-based test, and we like this test as this is one of the areas not many think to test. This also happens to be a real-world usage test that can be impacted by the mitigations which have recently rolled through and were patched.
WebXPRT sees the Maximus XII Extreme battling for the top spot with the Supermicro board. The Taichi and Aorus Xtreme are matched at 260points or three points behind the Maximus.
Unigine and UL Benchmarks
Superposition from Unigine is a DX12 based benchmark. We test with the 720P LOW preset as this removes all but the most basic GPU loading, and all of the FPS performance comes from the CPUs ability to push frames to the GPU. This test is far more efficient and speed based rather than being highly threaded.
Unigine Superposition is one of our 3D gaming loads, and we test it at the 720P low preset to remove the GPU from the equation as much as possible and show the impact of the system on graphical performance. Here we see the Maximus XII Extreme at the bottom of the list, which is a bit surprising. This test does not seem to fair very well, but this may be signs of the single-threaded efficiency shortcomings we observed on other tests.
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.
The overall result, the Maximus XII Extreme, is right behind the Taichi for the top spot. The Supermicro falls well off the pace with the Aorus Xtreme falling in line behind that. The Maximus XII Extreme takes a top-two position on every observed test except the Digital Content creation, where it falls to third.
3DMark Firestrike is our second graphics or synthetic gaming test. Here we see the Maximus XII Extreme take the top spot in every test, except CPU, which it gets edged out by the Aorus Xtreme.
3DMark Time Spy
Time Spy is another 3DMark test variant, but this one is for DX12 based systems. This test can be quite stressful, and since its an entirely different load, you may be surprised to see how the results shuffle when compared to Firestrike.
Moving to the newest graphical and gaming benchmark in the UL suite, and we see the Maximus Xii Extreme takes the second-place spot behind the Taichi in every one of the three results.
System I/O Benchmarks
For storage performance, we test the platform using a PCIe 4.0 Corsair MP600 2TB M.2 NVMe drive. It is tested in CrystaldiskMark 7.0.0 x64, and we average the results to ensure a good cross-section of expected performance. Do note that some platforms do not support the new PCIe gen 4, and therefore will cap out around 3400-3500MB/s.
M.2: MP600 2TB
Here, with the MP600, we see the highest sequential read result of the four Z490 boards we have tested thus far. Sequential read is strong, but below what the Supermicro could do and the Randoms, we see the Maximus XII Extreme take a second place to the Aorus Xtreme.
SATA: T-Force 2350GB SSD
SATA performance sees the Maximus XII Extreme taking a second-place position behind the Aorus Xtreme with the Maximus taking the top spot in sequential writes.
USB: WD P50 1TB
For the external storage, we select the fastest port to test the P50, which is the USB 3.2 2x2 port. This port is rated at up to a theoretical 20Gbps. Here we see that the sequential read is a bit underwhelming when compared to the result we observed on the Aorus Xtreme. The sequential writes were also below what we have seen on the competing 2x2 equipped boards. The randoms do pick up and show good performance, but I can only assume that the DMI link is quite busy and, therefore, a bottleneck for communication.
Network testing: Iperf
We use IPerf for network throughput testing; the server is an 8700K based DIY rig with an Aquantia 10Gb interface.
Here we see that all three of the 10Gb equipped boards perform very closely to each other.
The next part of network testing is a file transfer test. We use the same endpoint, but we are transferring data from the internal SanDisk Extreme Pro 1TB NVMe SSD.
Here we see the file transfer test, which shows equivalent throughput between the Supermicro and the Maximus Xtreme. Ther completion time is where the Maximus takes the top spot finishing almost half a second faster than the Aorus Xtreme, while the Supermicro falls a little over two seconds form the top spot.
Here we see the actual throughput from windows reporting at an uninterrupted 1.06GB/s.
Clocks, Overclocking, Thermals, and Power Consumption
Here we will look at the physical and functional performance metrics for the new Z490 motherboards. This includes out of the box clocks, thermals, power consumption, and of course overclocking.
Out of the Box Clocks
The Maximus XI Extreme has an option upon BIOS clear or first boot, which asks if you want to follow intel guidance for the performance and to press the corresponding function key. Or you can push the other to allow higher performance.
First up, we selected the standard performance, which follows intel specified guidelines on boost duration TAU and PL settings. Here we see that partway into the test, we have the CPU drop from its 4.9GHz turbo stet down to around 4.3GHz.
Next, we cleared CMOS again and selected the higher performance option. The only change on both tests was to enable XMP for the memory. Here we see that the CPU stays at the higher 4.9Ghz and holds there.
For power consumption tests, we use a wall meter to test the full system draw. The reason for this is it will represent what the entire system pulls versus our meter, which shows power draw on each PSU cable. The reason for this is that measuring the power draw from the EPS cable, for example, does not take into account VRM losses and, therefore, can show a much higher power draw for the CPU or other device due to an inefficient VRM design or loading range.
Idle power with the full system and TITAN RTX discrete GPU in place, we see the system pulling 76W, which is six higher than the other two top boards. This is likely due to the immense amount of ECs integrated into the design by ASUS. These ICs are used to control the various functions and features built into the board.
Loading up the CPU with a full FPU load, and we see the Aorus Xtreme jump ahead with a 291W pull from the wall while the Maximus XII Extreme settles in at 289W average for the same loading scenario.
Testing synthetic GPU stress only is an excellent way to show the overhead the CPU adds, as the GPU does not pull more power after it reaches steady state. Here we see the Maximus jump to 429W, which is 21W over the next competitor, which is the Aorus Xtreme.
Idle temps for the 10900K in each board are quite similar, but much to my surprise, is when the CPU is inactive, the CPU was 2C lower than the other three boards, which tells me ASUS is aggressive with their voltage for the CPU at idle.
Loading each CPU up with a full burn-in FPU load, and we see the Maximus fall in line with the others within less than half of a degree average.
Here we see the Maximus XII Extreme under our thermal imager with a full load on the CPU for over an hour. We see the heat sinks leveled out to 40C above the socket and 42C to the side VRM heat sink. The heat sink covering the VCCSA/VCCIO rails sits at 42C as well, which is well within manageable. And one thing to note is that the ASUS board does not have any active cooling on the VRM.
Overclocking with Comet Lake has been a lesson in limitations, both thermally and architecturally. As intel squeezes the 14nm node for all it has, the frequency is now under several boosting algorithms, which help enhance single or dual-core performance to the nth degree. However, it does not leave much on the table for overclocking.
The Maximus Extreme pulls the same 5.2Ghz clock at 1.28VCore. With LLC, we see it jump a bit under load to around 1.298-1.305VCORE, but it shows similar performance scaling on multi-core loads. However, as TVB does offer a bump, you will notice a small loss in single-threaded workloads, along with higher thermal dump and power draw for marginal gains. Much like with Ryzen, overclocking is slowly fading into obfuscation for most users. It is simply based on the fact that the boost algorithms can deliver similar or even superior performance for most gaming and regular day to day workloads that it makes more sense to leave it alone.
ASUS Maximus Extreme model boards always offer a top-shelf option with a vast and powerful feature set that will appeal to the more extreme enthusiasts users. ASUS also happens to make a plethora of boards across the stack, so that you will likely find one equipped with precisely the features you want.
What we like
Thermals: The Maximus XII Extreme has plenty of cooling across the VRM and the M.2s; even without an active cooling fan, the VRM stays plenty cool even when overclocked.
PCIe 4.0: ASUS did not tout PCIe 4 compliance in its marketing in as heavy of a way as some others, but finding the PCIe 4 redrivers tells us the extreme is ready for when PCIe 4 arrives.
Beefy VRM: The Maximus XII Extreme has a 16-phase teamed VRM which uses 90A power stages and is overbuilt even if the board was to push the 10900K on LN2. I do wonder if this overbuilt nature will come into play on the refresh where the rumored rocket lake will drop in.
DIMM.2: The Maximus XII Extreme has the DIMM.2, which I showed, and these are direct CPU attached lanes. This means direct-attached SSDs, which means optimal performance at the expense of PCIe expansion slot lanes.
Liquid Cooling Compatibility: The Maximus XII Extreme has dedicated fan header zones for radiator fans, along with water in and out sensor headers and even water pump headers. They also have flow meter headers to ensure you can monitor and control your components from a single cohesive interface. That's an excellent advantage for those looking to do an extreme liquid cooling setup.
What do we think could be better?
Armoury Crate: The Armoury crate is something I have had a love/hate relationship with as it is integrated into the firmware and communicates with the OS directly. This always has me question whether it can be exploited to compromise the UEFI and therefore become a significant problem. The software is a very cohesive interface, but I would like to see stand-alone options for the Livedash OLED for those who choose to disable Armoury crate.
1T performance: The Maximus XII Extreme has shown some shortfalls in single-threaded performance. I hope that with a UEFI update or two, they can help boost that as it is one of the areas where I observed it consistently faltering by varying levels.
The Maximus XII Extreme is a top-notch board with features to match. IT is not perfect, but for someone looking for every feature, ASUS could come up with to stick on a board, then the Extreme may be for you. However, if you do not need all of the bells and whistles the Extreme offers, stay tuned as we have several other ASUS boards coming soon, which may fit your needs at a less strenuous price tag.
The Bottom Line
ASUS has once again created a behemoth of a board with the Maximus XII Extreme. The features are numerous and the performance is solid. If you are liquid cooling, this should be on your short list.