ASUS Z170 Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly Motherboard Review

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[section_title title=”2D Benchmarks – SiS Sandra 2015″]

SiS Sandra

SiS SANDRA, in our opinion, is a pretty stringent benchmark, capable of testing your systems limit. It is a pretty extensive suite of benchmarks, but I have narrowed down the more relevant ones to compare the performance.

ASUS M8EA - SIS CPU Arith ASUS M8EA - SIS Multi-media ASUS M8EA - SIS Multi-core ASUS M8EA - SIS Mem Lat ASUS M8EA - SIS Mem Band

ASUS M8EA - SIS Cache Band

3DMark 11

3DMark 11 is a DirectX 11 video card benchmark test for measuring your PC’s gaming performance. 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of DirectX 11 features including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 consistently and reliably tests your PC’s DirectX 11 performance under game-like loads.

ASUS M8EA - 3DM11P

3DMark Fire Strike

3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool created and developed by Futuremark Corporation (formerly MadOnion.com and initially Futuremark) to determine the performance of a computer’s 3D graphic rendering and CPU workload processing capabilities. Running 3DMark produces a 3DMark score, with higher numbers indicating better performance. The 3DMark measurement unit is intended to give a normalized mean for comparing different PC hardware configurations (mostly graphics processing units and central processing units), which proponents such as gamers and overclocking enthusiasts assert is indicative of end-user performance capabilities.

ASUS M8EA - 3DMFS

Company of Heroes 2

You are a commander of the Soviet Red Army, entrenched in brutal frontline warfare to free Mother Russia from the Nazi invaders. It is 1941 and the beginning of what will become the bloodiest conflict of World War II resulting in more than 14 million casualties. Witness the struggles of the Red Army from near defeat through their incredible triumph over Germany in the most challenging and costly theatre of the war, the Eastern Front. Your military tactics hold the power to tip the very balance of this conflict. Engage in tactical combat that will define you as a military leader and wield the might of the Soviet Empire as you smash your way to Berlin.

ASUS M8EA - COH2 1080

ASUS M8EA - COH2 1440

F1 2015

Race like a champion in F1 2015 – get closer than ever before to the experience of racing in the world’s most glamorous, exciting and prestigious motorsport. F1 2015 puts you in the heart of the action with a stunning new game engine that recreates the blisteringly fast and highly responsive racing cars of FORMULA ONE™ and features all-new ‘broadcast presentation’ that immerses you in the unique race day atmosphere.

ASUS M8EA - F12015 1080

ASUS M8EA - F12015 1440

Total War: ROME II

Total War: Rome II is a strategy game developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega. It was released on 3 September 2013 for Microsoft Windows and is the eighth standalone game in the Total War series of video games. Rome II is a successor to the 2004 game Rome: Total War. The game suffered from significant technical problems upon release (some of which were fixed by the Emperor Edition) but proved a commercial success, surpassing all other games in the Total War series in both sales and number of concurrent players on its release day.

ASUS M8EA - Rome 1080

ASUS M8EA - Rome 1440

Overclocking

While the results that I gathered within the tests that we run for our reviews did not show the Extreme coming at the top of the board for every single test, there’s still a reason why this is one of the most chosen motherboards to overclock on when you are at the highest of levels and are competing with LN2. So what is that reason? Well, let me try to break it down a little and then you may be able to understand why it is so highly regarded.

First of all, you should be aware that the motherboard was not able to magically make my CPU go any faster than the 4.8 GHz bottleneck in which it is trapped, but I did not expect it to do so either. My CPU just happens to come from the junk pile of the silicon lotto… like always! Either way, that’s not the main topic which I wish to discuss in the overclocking section of the Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly’s review. I want to discuss my experience with this extraordinarily high calibre motherboard.

All overclocking should always be done from within the UEFI (BIOS to us legacy folk) as it gives you the best results. Software overclocking isn’t the best thing in the world, and I typically advise against it due to various reasons such as it setting the voltage incorrectly for example. In the past, when you applied the voltage on one of the pieces of software from the vendor (you know who you are!) that was provided with the motherboard, it would actually apply 2v to your CPU (the maximum it would allow you to set) and effectively slaughtering it there and then usually. The software has gotten better, but I would still advise against it. Either way, that brings me on to my next point which is regarding the UEFI itself. It’s fluent, efficient, and easy to find your way around. I will admit that it is helpful that I know my way around an ASUS UEFI, arguably better than any other, but it will all make sense if you are a newbie to their layout.

RAM overclocking was sadly a very similar story to any other motherboard ATX as well. Whilst the testing does reflect an increase in performance, it doesn’t provide any miraculous advantage compared to the other products that have been tested thus far. The Extreme has no issues in hitting some insane frequencies, but it struggles to get as high as I have seen on some of the smaller mATX and mITX motherboards out there. That is not the fault of the Extreme, though. All ATX motherboards suffer from this problem and it is to do predominantly with the trace length. Smaller motherboards naturally have smaller distances to cover, and therefore, the signal is less likely to get distorted or disrupted.

So, if what I have said isn’t particularly praising thus far, why do a lot of people opt for the ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme as their weapon of choice to tackle the world in competitive overclocking? Well, to be honest, I am not entirely clear. It didn’t seem to perform above and beyond in my testing, but I can see where the stability that it provides may prove useful. It may portray a different story when pushing things to the absolute limit with liquid nitrogen and when you are going the entire nine yards, but on air/water cooling, it doesn’t strike me as a particularly good bang for buck motherboard. Then again, when you are buying the most expensive motherboard on the platform, what you do end up with is something that we call diminishing returns. The top-end motherboards, alas the Maximus/Rampage products for mainstream/enthusiast platforms respectively, have always been the best in their class. ASUS are facing a lot of stiff competition, and it seems that they have arguably dropped the ball with this round in terms of efficiency. It’s a real shame, as the rest of the board is absolutely rock solid and it would take some serious foolishness to bring it to its knees. I definitely did try, but as with any modern board, it is literally impossible to stop it from booting due to its flawless recovery from failed overclocks.

Conclusion

The ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly is the most insane motherboard we’ve seen on the Z170 platform so far. The pricing itself is enough to question its viability in the marketplace, and you may require some assistance to get your chin off of the floor. Some of us have a lot of cash burning a hole in our pockets, so should this be the motherboard that you opt for when you are looking for the best of the best on Z170? Let’s explore that avenue and see whether or not this motherboard is the one for you.

First of all, let’s be absolutely clear that this motherboard is not looking to offer you the bang for buck that the majority of us look for when purchasing a product. It is an over the top, pure madness sort of product that will only be bought by a few of you who end up reading this. Whilst the £500 ($570) price tag is probably one of those ‘what the (insert expletive here)’ moments when you first glance over it, you have to bear a few things in mind. A 10GbE network card will set you back a minimum of £100 for the cheapest product on the market. I have no doubts that ASUS are using chipsets slightly above that price range, but let’s stick with it for now to continue with this reasoning. Secondly, an entirely custom Hi-Fi amp in the 5.25″ bay cannot be cheap to design or manufacture in such small quantities. I’d personally place a value of £75 to £100 on that as a separate component as well. When you take that into consideration, you’re then at a much more reasonable (albeit still very high!) cost of £300 for the motherboard, which is actually a little cheaper than the regular Maximus VIII Extreme. I know that for a lot of you, £300 is still a heck of a lot of money, and will be in the unaffordable products, but let me explain a little more as to why the board costs so much in the next segments; the performance and design aspects.

Okay, so in the performance arena where it was pitted up against some fierce competition, there’s no point in sugarcoating that it did not outperform every single product on the market. However, please do be aware that in the majority of our tests, all products (with the exception of a few) are within a margin of error of each other. I know that everyone cares about numbers, but they don’t always tell the entire story. Does the Maximus VIII Extreme perform very similarly to a board at half its cost? Well, yes, of course it does. There’s not much you can do about that, though. There are other things to factor in which make it incredibly difficult for a board to simply decimate anything else. Electronic signals are still sent, at a blisteringly high speed might I add, to the same components, in the same order, and in the same manor. The reason why the Maximus VIII Extreme is chosen as one of the most high-end and stable motherboards is because things that range from its component choice through to the actual design of the board. The Maximus range (and Rampage, for that matter) have always been rock solid for me, and I have never had any complaints. Under more extreme circumstances such as liquid nitrogen cooling for the absolute extreme overclocks, this motherboard would put plenty of other products into the ground, and still have enough fight in it to take on more.

ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme Assembly - Cover Image

You’ve got literally everything you could want in a motherboard. The Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly was designed and produced to be a motherboard with absolutely zero compromises, anywhere. You’ve got every connectivity option currently available to you, including some very new ones that are only just starting to creep into the consumer market with its 10GbE NIC. The other plethora of connectivity options come as standard with the higher spectrum of Z170 products, but it is rare that you get literally all of them on one product, unless you pay out and get a board such as the Maximus VIII Extreme or the equivalent from another vendor, although no one else offers the 10GbE card or Hi-Fi amp as an optional extra (to my knowledge.) Sure, you get your usual M.2 slots, USB 3.1 Type-C and all of that jazz, but you also get an award-winning audio system. For those of you out there who may not know, ASUS is actually in the audio industry themselves, so it gives them a step up over their competition as they are able to design their own system from the ground up, with the expertise to do the job well.

I don’t usually touch on this as often as I probably should, as most vendors share the same system across their product range, but I feel that I aught to speak about the UEFI that comes on the Maximus VIII Extreme. It is something which I would personally feel is spot on. Everything is where I would want to find it, and it just flows so smoothly that it is a joy to use. There are a few boards out there that I have used recently – the Sabertooth is one of them – where they have tried to the page swaps seem a little more animated, which just slows the entire lot down. Yes, you can turn it off, but I prefer that it isn’t in there at all. That is arguably just a personal preference, though … I like anything speedy and I am incredibly impatient, especially after NVMe found its way into my daily system.

So where does this leave us with a final verdict? In short, here it is: Well, it’s like I said just above, if you want a badass motherboard with literally zero compromises and arguably the best-in-class components, then you really must consider this motherboard. I won’t be lying here if I were to say that such a product is only a viable option to a select few of you (myself not included!) out there. That has nothing to do with anything else other than the price. It is available on Amazon which means you can probably get it almost anywhere on the globe. Even though the Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly costs an absolute bomb, I am still inclined to reward it with a design award, coupled with a Play3r Platinum Award for its innovative properties. There’s always that little guy in the back of my head pestering me and saying ‘but it is so expensive,’ but that’s just what have to pay when you are going all out. For many, X99 would be the more viable route, but I will leave that for you to decide.

The Play3r Platinum AwardThe Play3r Design Award

I’d like to finish off by giving ASUS big thanks for providing us with the opportunity to look at this insane product.

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value
4.5

Summary

Pros:

+ Unique features such as the included headphone amp
+ Included 10GbE PCIe card
+ Striking looks
+ Rock solid
+ Excellent UEFI
+ Innovative additions to the package

Cons:

– Very costly.

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