Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Part of the official media kit for Intel for the launch of 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs was the ROG Maximus Hero. This board has been widely regarded as the go-to gaming motherboard for several years. With the Z690 platform, we have all of the standard upgrades; this includes Thunderbolt 4, PCIe 5.0, and of course, DDR5. Outside of this, ASUS has beefed up their board to support five m.2 slots, WiFi6e and 2.5Gbe are added as standard.
Specifications give us the LGA1700 socket with compatibility with 12th Gen Core Processors alone. The ROG Hero is built on the Z690 chipset with DDR5 support. Max memory capacity is 128GB with speeds from 4800MHz through 6400MHz+ with an OC.
The PCIe slots offer 16 lanes of Gen5 support; this can be set up as a single x16 at the top or 8x8 if using both. The bottom PCIe x4 slot comes from the chipset at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
Further connectivity includes seven USB 3.2 Gen ports, two USB 2.0, and a single USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 on the rear panel. You will also find antenna connections for WiFi6e and 2.5Gbe. This board offers five m.2 slots, three at Gen4 and one at Gen3; the M.2_1 slot supports PCIe Gen 5.0 speeds.
Audio comes from the Realtek ALC4080 with support for 7.1 output and Supreme FX support.
The ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero carries an MSRP of $599.99 with a three-year warranty.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
Packaging is on point and hasn't really changed in several generations. We have ROG branding at the top with board identification. Along the bottom, supported platforms and features.
Accessories include the ROG Hyper m.2 card, SATA cables, Wi-Fi antenna, and drivers on USB.
ROG Maximus Z690 Hero Overview
Taking our first look at the board, the Hero has undergone an aesthetic redesign, ROG logos on the chipset heat sink, and rear I/O cover. Black heat sinks cover most of the board real estate, including a heat pipe solution for the VRMs.
The back of the board is mostly bare, Maximus branding silkscreened onto the middle of the board.
Rear I/O is well laid out, BIOS Flashback and Clear CMOS at the top; HDMI for onboard video follows. Further down, we run into Thunderbolt along with a full complement of USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, including one set up with TYPE-C. Audio rounds out the bottom of the board but not before we find two antenna connections.
Starting our run around the board connections, the bottom includes a set of RGB headers in white, followed by chassis fan connections.
Further down, we have USB 2.0 headers and front panel connections.
Around the edge, we have two USB 3.2 Gen 1 headers with SATA ports stuffed between.
Gen2x2 starts this image off, followed by supplemental power for the board and the 24 pin connections.
Across the top, we have the debug LED, four fan connections.
Dual eight-pin power connections wrap up this board.
UEFI, Software and Test System
This BIOS should look familiar for anyone that has used a ROG platform in the last few generations. That said, for 12th Gen, we have CPU information in the right pane, BIOS info in the center.
Extreme Tweaker includes current CPU and memory clocks at the top, tuning for both down below. The advanced menu includes options for SATA storage and PCH along with Thunderbolt and NVMe. CPU config includes the ability to enable/disable cores, including E cores and P cores separately.
Monitoring is included alongside fan control, while the tool menu allows you to control RGB and Secure Erase storage devices.
AI Software is included with ROG boards; this software will allow you to auto -OC your processor; our 12900K was tuned for a 68% gain.
Additional menu options include settings for TPU and VRM control.
Motherboard Testing Supporters
Sabrent supports our storage testing with the Rocket 4 Plus.
TweakTown Intel Motherboard Test System
- CPU: Intel Core i9 12900K
- GPU: NVIDIA RTX A5000
- RAM: Crucial DDR5 5200MHz 32GB CL38 (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 1TB (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: ASUS Thor 1200W (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 11 (buy from Amazon)
Cinebench R23 and AIDA64
Cinebench and AIDA64
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 that uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU.
Alongside our launch review board and the recently reviewed Unify from MSI, the ROG Hero lands slightly ahead of the Strix at 1983 in 1T R23.
Nt score comes in at 25604, behind the Strix by a few points and in front of the Unify.
AES comes in just over 140K at 140889.
SHA3 tapped in at 5145.
Memory throughput pushed 81K read, 77K write, and 79K copy.
PCMark10,3DMark and CrossMark 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.
Overall score in PCMark was at its best with the Hero; at 9639, we are nearly 200 points faster than the Unify.
Score breakdown shows a significant boost in productivity and digital content with Hero.
CrossMark showed a close 2nd for the Hero, 2320 points overall.
Breakdown of CrossMark showed higher results in Creativity for the Hero.
CPU Profile showed equal performance between all boards; in all scenarios, the Hero did score the highest.
Timespy nods to the Hero with a 200 point advantage.
The Hero offers a 300 point advantage over Unify in the breakdown, both CPU and GPU showing increased performance.
Gaming and System I/O Benchmarks
Tomb Raider showed equal performance for all boards tested; Hero offered 195 FPS in 1080p and 145 FPS at 1440p.
FCND showed similar performance here as well, 172 FPS for 1080p and 1440p tapping 152 FPS.
Storage with CrystalDiskMark
Storage performance was fantastic, NVMe topping 7028 MB/s with our Sabrent Rocket Plus; Gen 2x2 at 2011 MB/s followed by Gen 2 at 1071 MB/s and Gen 1 at 459 MB/s.
Power consumption for the Unify idled at 92 watts, and full load with R23 peaked at 364 watts.
Once again, as they have done for generations, ASUS has delivered a reliable well-endowed motherboard platform with the Z690 Maximus Hero. Connectivity is stacked from USB 3.2 to Thunderbolt and even M.2; a plethora of ports suitable for any consumer wanting to build a top-tier gaming machine are available. Adding to this, the latest Wi-Fi and 2.5Gbe solutions are integrated, and the latest Realtek chipset handles 7.1 audio.
In testing, the Hero did quite well matching the competing MEG Unify platform from MSI in most scenarios. 1T R23 showed both boards at 1983 points, while the Hero did take a 200 point win in multi-threaded. Memory throughput was higher on the Hero; this is due to better XMP compatibility that Unify did not have when we tested.
Gaming scenarios with Tom Raider and Far Cry showed nearly identical performance between boards; the Hero did pull 195fps with our A5000 and 172fps in Far Cry, 1080p, of course. Storage performance was on point, but even across the boards tested, we did see 7021 MB/s with our Rocket Plus.
Pricing is seemingly rough for most mid-tier boards like the ROG Hero, and at $599.99, this board isn't cheap by any means. ASUS does attempt to offset the cost by offering add-ons like the Hyper M.2 card for deploying Gen5 NVMe solutions (Coming Soon) and a relatively packed rear I/O, and plenty of expandability with internal chassis connections.
The Bottom Line
An all-around fantastic platform that offers plenty of connectivity and enough grunt to push even top tier CPUs to their limit.