Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
The Crosshair from ASUS has been the gaming platform for AMD users since it was introduced in 2006. Within this platform, the Hero has been the mid-range board for the last eight generations to the top end Crosshair Formula that has a few upgrades of its own. That said, the Hero has been one of the most popular boards for gamers and enthusiasts building on the AMD X570 platform. With the release of the AMD Ryzen 5000 CPU series in early November, ASUS readied several new motherboards to complement this plethora of processors; one of these new boards is the ROG Dark Hero VIII.
Dark Hero is a complete aesthetics re-design of the Hero. This starts by blacking out the board's heat sinks and removing the chipset heat sink fan. This rids the board of any moving parts, making it dead silent in operation.
Specifications and Marketing
Comparing the Hero to the Dark Hero, the only real change we find is in the VRM. In this case, ASUS has swapped out the 60A power stages for 90A, keeping with the parallel design found initially in the original Hero. Outside of that, the Dark Hero supports the last three generations of Ryzen processors on the AMD X570 chipset.
Expansion starts with 2x PCIe 4.0 x16 slots tethered to the CPU, with another 17 lanes coming from the chipset. Storage offers up eight SATA 6Gb/s slots and three m.2 slots while networking is unchanged, with the Realtek RTL8125 giving us 2.5Gbe and the Intel AX200 supplying Wi-Fi.
Supreme FX handles audio with eight channels while an ESS Sabre DAC keeps it clean.
The ASUS Crosshair VIII Dark Hero carries an MSRP of $399.99 with a three-year warranty.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
Packaging has been changed to a darker colorway for the Dark Hero. We have the ROG logo centered and supported CPUs and features listed along the bottom.
Reading materials came with the motherboard. These include a user guide, sticker sheet, and a driver CD.
Included in the box, you will find the Wi-Fi antenna, SATA cables, and RGB extensions.
ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero Overview
Above, we have the front and back of the board. The heat sinks and plastic both taking on a black colorway.
Getting closer to the board, we start with the PCIe 4.0 slots, three that are full x16 physically but x16, x8, and x4 electrically in order. Along the bottom, you will find front panel audio, fan connections, and USB headers.
Spinning around the edge, we have all eight SATA ports and the USB 3.2 Gen 1 front-panel header.
Sliding down further, we find the Gen 2 front-panel header, 24-pin power, and the start and reset buttons.
Wrapping around the next edge, we roll into ARGB and RGB headers, CPU Fan, and the 8-pin and 4-pin CPU power connections.
The rear I/O includes BIOS Flashback and Clear CMOS at the top, followed by an antenna and a massive amount of USB ports.
PCB and Circuit Analysis
The VRM of the Dark Hero is an 8 phase design running 16x Texas Instruments X95410RR stages in parallel.
The Digi+ controller supports the 8 phase power design.
Below the VRM, you will find the ASMedia1074 for rear panel Gen 2 and the Intel i211AT near the edge.
A TPU KN37280 was brought in to handle Super I/O.
The AMD X570 chipset takes a large portion of the real estate on the Dark Hero, sitting just below the memory slots.
The RTL8125 can be seen above; this handles 2.5Gbe functionality.
UEFI, Software and Test System
The EFI hasn't changed apart from a few new features on the Dark Hero. The main menu gives an overview of the CPU, memory, and BIOS version. Extreme Tweaker is where all the work is done, setting DOCP for memory and overclocking. The advanced menu offers options for configuring system devices, including SATA and NVMe storage.
The Monitor tab allows you to set up your fans automatically or manually. At the same time, the tool menu gives you options for updating BIOS, erasing your storage devices, and setting up profiles.
One of the most talked-about features of Dark Hero is the BIOS option for Dynamic OC Switcher. This feature allows you to set an all-core overclock that your system will use under load until a certain temperature is reached. I set ours to 4.7GHz until we hit 75c.
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X (buy from Amazon)
- RAM: ADATA XPG 2x16GB Spectrix (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: EK Quantum Power Kit (buy from Amazon)
- Case: Primochill Wetbench (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0 (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair RM750 (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
WPrime, Cinebench and AIDA64
WPrime, CPUz, Cinebench, and AIDA64
WPrime is a leading multi-threaded benchmark. In our setup, we will manually set the number of cores for the CPU under test. The ROG Crosshair VIII Hero is our baseline motherboard for all charts.
We start with no issues in WPrime, the Dark Hero handling 32M in 2.4 seconds and 1024M in 63.3 seconds.
CPUz bench has been added to our reviews as a simple bench to tune your system. For the Dark Hero, we reach 665 single thread and 6667 multithread with our 5800X.
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
Cinebench testing has been moved to R23, the Dark Hero taking 1617 in 1T and 15616 in nT workloads.
Realbench uses both video and photo workloads to benchmark your CPU. We use the Heavy Multitasking workload in this setup. The Dark Hero crunched this workload with a time of 31.1 seconds.
AIDA64 has stayed as our means of testing memory bandwidth. The Dark Hero enjoys equal performance to the Hero and Taichi from ASRock.
Unigine and UL Benchmarks
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.
Focusing on workload scores, the Dark Hero takes narrow leads in each scenario.
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, with all of the FPS coming from the CPU.
Dark Hero takes a 1FPS lead over the OG Hero.
Timespy shows an overall score win for the Dark Hero at 16721.
Dark Hero does quite well with Firestrike scoring 42019.
Horizon Zero Dawn and Gears Tactics
With the DH, we run through some real gaming benchmarks. Horizon gives the board 182 FPS while we touch 166 in Gears Tactics.
System I/O Benchmarks and Power Consumption
System I/O Benchmarks
Storage with CrystalDiskMark
Storage tests are all handled by our Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0 SSD.
Starting testing, we hit the rear panel USB 3.2 ports to see how well they perform. Utilizing our WD Black P50, the USB-C hits 1057 MB/s read and 1028 MB/s write.
With CDM, we see 4931 MB/s read and 2517 MB/s write from our Rocket NVMe 4.0.
4KQ1 reaches 64.3 MB/s read and 292 MB/s write for the DH.
Networking with iPerf
Wired and Wireless throughput was quite good on the Dark Hero. Wired testing showed a peak throughput of 2351Mbps while the AX200 topped out at 1412Mbps.
System Power consumption idled at 157 watts for the DH. CPU load peaked at 375 watts, and gaming showed 630 watts.
Overclocking, Thermals and Final Thoughts
I've changed my methodology for overclocking over the last few reviews. After testing our Ryzen 7 5800X on a host of motherboards, I concluded that it simply won't go past 4.7GHz without sub-ambient cooling and much more voltage. Above is our verification of the 4.7GHz overclock.
On that same note, I've upgraded the cooling on our test bench with the help of EK sending over a Quantum Power Kit that I could customize for our Wetbench. This has dropped temps by nearly 10c when compared to our previous NZXT X73.
For our inaugural chart, I was able to test a few of the boards I have here. The Dark Hero was on par with all of them, allowing me to set 1.26v in BIOS, the voltage dropping to 1.21v under load.
Testing with our 5800X in stock conditions, idle temps were in line with past X570 platforms at 29c. Peak load temp hit 75c measured by CoreTemp.
Our thermal image of the VRM shows a good amount of heat buildup through the chipset area, peaking at 39c. VRM stays nice and cool, the mid-30s.
Dark Hero is an amazing-looking board and taking what we have learned from the OG Hero, it's likely to be quite reliable down the line as well. In that same vein, we expect the Dark Hero will sell very well for ASUS, and it's well deserved since ASUS has done its due diligence to offer some upgrades on this platform, including a beefed up VRM.
I think the niche for silent PCs is about to heat up with the Dark Hero. This offers that corner of the market an extremely high performing motherboard option for users looking to start fresh with Zen 3.
Consumers that are already enjoying the OG Hero won't likely see gains from the Dark Hero, but ASUS does entice with features like Dynamic OC Switcher. This is a Dark Hero only feature because ASUS says it needs additional circuitry only this new board has. I think this feature may be one of the best offered on this board as it eliminates the consequences of running high all-core overclocks.
What We Like
Power Delivery: The parallel design of the Dark Hero VRM gives a tremendously overbuilt platform that can handle overclocking even on the 5950X.
Dynamic OC: Dynamic OC Switcher sets the Dark Hero on a new level for enthusiasts.
Aesthetics: The Dark Hero is one of the best looking boards I've ever seen.
Silent: With no chipset cooling fan, this board is perfect for users going for silence.
What Could Be Better
Internal USB Headers: The Dark Hero is almost perfect, but we'd certainly like to see all internal headers angled for a cleaner look in custom builds.
Price: AMD X570 has been an expensive platform since day one. The Dark Hero is no different, with the MSRP at $399.
The Bottom Line
Gamers and enthusiasts looking to build with AMD Zen 3 should give the ASUS ROG Dark Hero consideration for its overbuilt VRM design, stacked I/O, and Dynamic OC, a feature that sets this platform apart from everything on the market.