SO FAR ASUS has been fairly unchallenged in the so called gaming motherboard market, although its R.O.G. series of motherboards are potentially more for high-end overclockers than gamers these days. The latest addition to the series is the Maximus IV Extreme which has taken a slightly different approach to other more recent models.
It’s pretty clear from the onset that this is Asus’ flagship product, since as long as you’re happy using the LGA-1155 platform; this is about as feature packed as it goes. So ok, it’s not that different from say Gigabyte’s P67A-UD7, but with the addition of the typical R.O.G. series features that only MSI so far has provided its own version. Sadly Asus decided to re-design their chipset heatsinks and have moved away from the really nice looking angular ones used in the last couple of R.O.G. boards in favour of something a lot more plain looking. We’re sure the cooling performance isn’t really affected, but the angular heatsinks made for a very distinctive look on the R.O.G. boards.
Asus has also come up with a few new features which we’ll cover briefly before we go into more details about the board itself. First up is a new feature called GPU.DIMM Post which allows you to see that all of your memory modules and graphics card(s) are properly inserted into the board at BIOS, sorry UEFI level. We’ll talk a bit more about Asus’ UEFI implementation in another article, but suffice to say, all of its new motherboards for Sandy Bridge will support UEFI. However, one feature that may or may not be unique to the R.O.G. series of boards is the ability to press the F12 key inside in the UEFI while having a USB storage device attached, as this will grab a screen shot of what’s currently being displayed, a great feature for overclockers and troubleshooters alike.
ROG Connect has also been updated to add support for overclocking the graphics card, something that wasn’t possible with older versions. You get a separate sub menu for the graphics cards and you have the option to adjust the core and memory clock speeds as well as the Voltage. Finally we have a new addition called ROG iDirect which is an iPhone/iPod/iPad app that allows you to overclock your system via Bluetooth. Asus said that they are considering other platforms as well for this app, but for now it’ll be exclusive to Apple devices and it should be available in the App store by the time the Maximus IV Extreme becomes available at retail.
So what about the board then? Well, for starters it’s got four x16 PCI Express slots thanks to an Nvidia NF200 chip which is hidden under the heatsink next to the CPU socket. The board also has one x1 and one x4 PCI Express slot. Due to the board only having six slots, you’re limited to using three dual slot graphics cards. There are eight SATA connectors of which four are SATA 6Gbps as Asus has fitted a Marvell controller which adds an additional two ports over what the P67 chipset offers.
Asus has also added measuring points for various board Voltages, a set of small switches which seems to be related to the PCI Express slot configuration and one that’s labelled LN2_MODE which should be related to extreme overclocking. At the top right corner is a small POST80 debug LED display and Asus has of course also fitted power and rest buttons to make it easy to boot the board when it’s not in a case. There’s even a button labelled BIOS_SWITCH for quick switching between two BIOS versions, something overclockers should find handy.
Around the back you’ll notice one interesting thing; there are no USB 2.0 ports. We’re not sure that this is going to a popular feature with overclockers, although it’ll all depend on how well it works when the motherboard is being pushed to its limits. The eight USB 3.0 ports are using a similar setup to that of the Gigabyte P67A-UD7 as it too employs a pair of NEC/Renesas USB 3.0 host controllers and a pair of VLI 810 USB 3.0 hubs. The board also has a PS/2 port, a pair of eSATA ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports – more on that in a little bit – 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out, an ROG Connect USB port, a CMOS reset button and a small Bluetooth module to use with ROG iDirect.
There’s a pin-header for two front USB 3.0 headers on the board, as well as four pin headers for up to eight USB 2.0 ports. There are also a pair of Molex connectors on the board, one above and one below the expansion slots. These are there to provide additional power to the graphics cards when multiple cards are being overclocked. Oh yes, the Ethernet controllers. As you can see from the picture below, the Maximus IV Extreme uses a pair of Intel Gigabit Ethernet controllers. The downside here is that neither supports Jumbo Frame, as Asus decided to go with budget models from Intel. This is most likely not going to be an issue for the target market, but it seems a bit odd on a high-end board like this.
All in all the Maximus IV Extreme seems like it’s more of a high-end consumer offering than a board that targets overclockers and gamers. This is without a doubt going to be an expensive board, but then again, the R.O.G. series has always been Asus’ high-end, high-cost models, so why should this be any different? We’ll have to wait and see exactly how expensive it’ll be, but not until January at the earliest.S|A
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