ASUS Z170 ROG Maximus VIII Formula Motherboard Review

ASUS Z170 ROG Maximus VIII Formula Motherboard Review 3

Introduction & Closer Look


Brand: ASUS
Model: Z170 ROG Maximus VIII Formula ATX
UK Price: £289.99 @ OcUK (At time of review)
US Price: $399.99 @ Newegg (At time of review)

The ASUS Republic of Gamers brand is synonymous with quality, performance and of course style. It’s no surprise that the ROG brand of ASUS products has been popular with gamers, enthusiasts and overclockers over the last decade, but does the hype match the actual quality? That’s a question of personal opinion, although when professional overclockers across numerous platforms scream praise towards the ROG army, it kind of speaks for itself.

So what’s on the test bench today? Well if you haven’t read the title (I suspect you will have), we will be taking a look at the latest high-end Intel Z170 motherboard from ASUS; the Maximus VIII Formula. You might ask yourself, why does this board cost a whopping £290? Well you might be shocked, flabbergasted and your jaw might be hanging from your face, but with the VIII Formula, you get things other boards simply don’t have.

Taking a look at the Z170 VIII Formula from a birds-eye view, I think it’s safe to say where the bulk of the cost has been spent; it is clad in gorgeous dark grey thermal armour. With a similar look to a beefier, but more stylish ASUS Sabertooth motherboard, the Formula VIII also features RGB lighting built into the heat sinks! A motherboard which could potential fit any chosen colour scheme is something not to be sniffed at!

With a higher price tag than MSI’s flagship MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium motherboard, it will be interesting to see the difference in performance between the two, but what the ASUS board lacks in value, it certainly makes up for in features and style. ASUS have teamed up with EKWB to infuse their CrossChill waterblock into the fold which makes direct contact with the boards VRMs; overclocking increases the VRM temperature and enthusiasts now have the option to either water cool them (2 x G1/4 threads are supported) or just leave them passively air cooled. One would imagine anyone buying this board and splurging close to £300 will most likely be water cooling too, but not everyone is as confident in do so.

ASUS Z170 Maximus Formula VIII Review 1

ASUS Z170 Maximus Formula VIII Review 2

ASUS Z170 Maximus Formula VIII Review 3

For those wanting to run quad-SLI or quad-fire graphics cards configurations, there are only 3 x PCIe x16 slots available. You can still technically run quad-SLI with a dual GPU graphics card such as the GTX 690, but there is only support for 3 way CrossFire with AMD graphics card options. Spaced out evenly between the x16 slots, ASUS have included 3 x PCIe x1 slots for devices such as soundcards, networking adapters and supported RAID cards.

ASUS Z170 Maximus Formula VIII Review 4

A 10 digital power phase configuration can be found around the CPU socket and MOSFET/VRM block; plenty of power to those overclockers wanting to push their Intel Skylake CPUs to their limits. Just to the right of the top row of power phases, there is 3 x 4pin fan headers designed for the primary CPU cooling fan; as well as 2 proprietary fans in case you have a monstrous tower cooler. It should be worth noting that these heads support PWM fans and can also be controlled within the BIOS/via the ASUS Suite software.

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ASUS have integrated a diagnostic POST LED along with a start and reset button into their “armoured” design; these can be found in the top right hand corner of the motherboard or if you’re mounting it inverted, just next to the 4 x DIMM slots.

The slots themselves support DDR4 memory up to speeds of 3733MHz (OC) with a maximum total capacity of up to 64GB; the board supports quad channel kits, but Skylake only currently supports dual channel memory, not that it makes a massive difference in performance, if any.

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The Z170 Maximus Formula VIII has a massive array of storage options available with many different types of port equipped. First of all we have the 6 x SATA 6Gb/s native ports controlled by the chipset with a further 2 x SATA 6Gb/s ports controlled by the ASMedia ASM1061 controller. Unlike the Maximus Impact VIII which we previously reviewed, the Formula VIII comes with 1 x M.2 socket 3 which includes M Key as well as 1 x U.2 port with support for PCIe 3.0 x 4 which means NVM express storage is supported. RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 are all supported on this model, so if storage redundancy is required, you have the options available.

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The ASUS Z170 Maximus Formula VIII has a well-equipped and well-presented rear I/O which includes the following connections/inputs:

  • 6 x USB 3.0 Ports (4 x Intel Z170 + 2 x ASMedia)
  • 2 x USB 3.1 ports (1 x Type A + 1 x Type C)
  • 2 x Wi-Fi 802.11 Wireless Antenna Connectors (a/b/g/n/ac)
  • 1 x Intel RJ45 Ethernet Port
  • 1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Port
  • 5 x 3.5mm audio inputs (8 channel HD audio)
  • 1 x SP/DIF Optical Audio Input
  • 1 x DisplayPort Input
  • 1 x HDMI Input
  • 1 x BIOS Flashback button
  • 1 x Clear CMOS button

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Lots of USB 3.0 action on the rear of the motherboard, with more supported via additional headers (4 x USB 3.0 extra). Nice to see both USB 3.1 Type A and Type C ports being included as more and more devices are currently being released; no point paying for a high-end motherboard and not being able to use the latest and greatest technology available. The additional headers can be found around the edge of the board and on top of that, USB 2.0 headers can be found on what I like to call, “the header strip” at the bottom of the motherboard. Here you can also find a MemOK button as well as various fan headers and even a ROG_EXT header for external ASUS made ROG themed devices

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One of the most notable features of the Formula VIII’s design is the thermal armour which actually extends to the rear of the motherboard. Not only does this look good, but it protects the rear PCB from any mishaps; it also features plenty of ventilation for those worried about the PCB choking on the heat.

ASUS Z170 Maximus Formula VIII Review 10

To show off the RGB functions of this motherboard (we know you love it and that’s one of the main reasons you are here), we decided to not only show off the different modes as well as different colours, but we also gave the ASUS AURA software a small overview to showcase what we believe to be a fantastic feature.

ASUS AURA Software

ASUS AURA Software 2


CPU Intel® Socket 1151 for 6th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
Chipset Intel Z170
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 3733(O.C.)/3600(O.C.)/3500(O.C.)/3466(O.C.)/3400(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory, Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Onboard Graphics Outputs Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort ports
– Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz
– Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 512 MB
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
PCI Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8, gray)
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode, black)
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1 (black)
Storage Intel® Z170 chipset :
1 x U.2 port, support PCIe 3.0 x4 NVM Express storage
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s)
2 x SATA Express port,
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
ASMedia® ASM1061 controller
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), black,
USB Intel® Z170 chipset :
8 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at mid-board)
Intel® Z170 chipset :
4 x USB 2.0 port(s)
Intel® USB 3.1 controller :
2 x USB 3.1 port(s) (2 at back panel, , Type-A + Type-C)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
2 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue)
Audio ROG SupremeFX 2015 8-Channel High Definition Audio
LAN Intel® I219V Gigabit LAN
WIFI/Bluetooth Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
Supports MU-MIMO
Bluetooth V4.1
Form Factor ATX Form Factor – 12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )


Testing Setup

Motherboard: ASUS Z170 Maximus VIII Formula
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K @ 4.2 GHz
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D15
GPU: GALAX GTX 980 SOC @ 1228 (1329 boost)/1800
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 2x8GB C14
PSU: Cooler Master V1200 1200W 80PLUS Platinum
OS: Windows 8.1 Professional x64

Previous motherboard reviews:
ASUS Maximus VIII Hero
ASUS Maximus VIII Impact

MSI Z170 XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition
MSI Z170I Pro Gaming AC

All benchmarks are done on a fresh install of Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit that is fully up-to-date with Windows Updates to ensure that the performance reflects a real-world scenario and not that of a tweaked benchmarking system. Every benchmark runs for a total of three times and then an average is taken of those results.

2D Benchmarks:
AIDA64 – CPU Queen/CPU Photoworxx/CPU AES/Memory Read/Memory Write
Cinebench 11.5 – CPU
Cinebench R15 – CPU
SiSandra – Processor Arithmetic/Processor Multi-Core Efficiency/Cache & Memory Bandwidth

3D Benchmarks:
3DMark 11 – Performance
3DMark Fire Strike – Normal

Gaming Benchmarks:
Company of Heroes 2 – Maximum Settings 1080P/1440P
F1 2015 – Ultra Preset 1080P/1440P
Total War: ROME II – Extreme Preset 1080P/1440P



This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic “Queens problem” on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard. At the same clock speed, theoretically the processor with the shorter pipeline and smaller misprediction penalties will attain higher benchmark scores. For example — with HyperThreading disabled — the Intel Northwood core processors get higher scores than the Intel Prescott core based ones due to the 20-step vs 31-step long pipeline. CPU Queen Test uses integer MMX, SSE2 and SSSE3 optimizations.

AIDA64 CPU Queen

AIDA64 CPU Photoworxx


AIDA64 Memory Read

AIDA64 Memory Write

AIDA64 Memory Copy

AIDA64 Memory Latency


Cinebench 11.5

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

Cinebench 11.5 CPU

Cinebench 11.5 OpenGL


Cinebench R15

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

Cinebench R15 CPU

Cinebench R15 OpenGL


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.

SiS Sandra Processor Arithmetic

SiS Sandra Multi Core Efficiency

SiS Sandra Memory Bandwidth

SiS Sandra Cache & Memory Latency


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.

3DMark 11 Performance


3DMark Fire Strike

3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool created and developed by Futuremark Corporation (formerly 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.

3DMark Fire Strike Normal


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.

COH 2 1080p

COH 2 1440p


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.

F1 2015 1080p

F1 2015 1440p


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.

Total War Rome II 1080p

Total War Rome II 1440p



Although we do all of our Z170 motherboard testing at a solid and consistent 4.2GHz, it doesn’t exactly show any enhancements to overclocking potential; the Intel Core i7 6700k we use for testing boosts up to 4.2GHz at full load anyway. So how does one tell the difference between a potently dangerous board at overclocking (in a good way), or a flat out non-starter? Well first of all efficiency is key. What I mean by this is obtaining as high a frequency as possible with the least amount of voltage at what we call “bench stable”. Bench stable is pretty easy to work out; if the benchmark run crashes, then it isn’t stable!

Our chip is capable of 5GHz stable on air/water so it was the obvious starting point for us today. We easily hit it with a core voltage of 1.45v; CPU-Z shows 1.472v, but this is due to the increased Vdroop which offers extra voltage redundancy when overclocking. The VIII Formula has a plethora of overclocking features and we love the ASUS BIOS UEFI layout. Unlike MSI boards, ASUS allow the option to change the LLC (Load Line Calibration) settings which do in our opinion really help with overclocking; turning off Intel Speed Step is another of our favourite tweaks, although negligible at best.

ASUS Z170 Maximus Formula VIII Overclock - 5GHz

To see what the Maximus VIII Formula had up its sleeve, I went for the maximum frequency using the multiplier that I could and I was impressed to say the least! This board is an overclocking monster and although 1.5v is a tad high for 24/7 use (1.52v with max overclocking settings enabled), it certainly shows the potential for some sub-zero benching goodness. It was semi-stable at 5.2GHz, but it was certainly solid enough at 5.1GHz with the same voltages; please note overclocking varies per sample/CPU/silicone and we take no responsibility for people trying to emulate our results.

ASUS Z170 Maximus Formula VIII Overclock - 5.2GHz



I think it’s safe to say that the ASUS Z170 Maximus VIII Formula is an exceptional motherboard and really raises some talking points about high end motherboards. The first thing I noticed was the sheer beauty of the thermal armour that ASUS have attached to not only protect the PCB, but to make this board stand out. It isn’t the first Formula motherboard to feature this, but it’s certainly the first to feature ASUS’s newly integrated RGB LEDs which gives the Formula a new lease of life. Having the ability to customise the colour scheme of your motherboard is a huge thing to us and we feel that the consumer can use this motherboard with virtually any chosen colour scheme; red/black, orange/black, green/black etc. The ASUS AURA software is of course intuitive, easy to use and more importantly, its stable!

With this particular sample being very fresh out of the stalls, I had to test it on the release BIOS which isn’t a bad thing, but I felt it did hinder performance in synthetic benchmarks a little. Performance was average at best and I would have certainly have liked to have seen more from a £280-300 motherboard. That being said, we do know that BIOS releases are quick and frequent and we haven’t experienced one which hasn’t enhanced performance in some shape or form. Gaming performance however was very strong and in games, the VIII Formula certainly dominated the rest of the pack; that’s where it counts right? In the real world situations!

Another high point of this board is the EK CrossChill MOSFET/VRM hybrid water block which not only gives this board more style, but is designed to offer exceptional aesthetics and of course, VRM cooling performance. This is the kind of board which enthusiasts will buy and aside from the top tier Maximus VIII Extreme, this is essentially the best of both worlds. It works well passively cooled too, so don’t go thinking you HAVE to water cool them, it’s totally optional.

ASUS have given a lot of emphasis to different features including sound and of course storage on the VIII Formula. ASUS have included a newly adopted U.2 port for superior storage performance; it should be noted that there aren’t many options available currently for U.2, but this year we expect that to change. Also included is an M.2 with a proper PCIe x4 link which offers up to 32GB/s of performance. We did gripe about the lack of an M.2 port on the smaller ASUS Z170 Maximus VIII Impact and ASUS have redeemed themselves this time with the Formula. The sound is essentially the same as the VIII Impact with fantastic performance; you can read more here.

If you haven’t already spied the current price of the VIII Formula, it comes in at a whopping £289.99 at Overclockers UK and just under $400 at Newegg. That’s a serious amount of money to be spending on a motherboard and even X99 motherboard models pale in comparison to this Z170 megalithic board. Do we feel it represents value for money? Not so much, but what you are getting is a unique piece of ASUS ROG research and design; the EK CrossChill block will be adding a fair chunk of cost onto the price so take that into consideration. When you take the performance (or expected performance), the design, the ROG armour, the RGB LED lighting and all the other fantastic ASUS related features such as RAMDisk, Sonic Radar II etc., it gives this board a lot of clout!

Would we buy the ASUS Z170 Maximus VIII Formula? In a short answer, yes we would; it’s by far the best-looking motherboard we have seen in the last 2 years here at Play3r!

Huge thanks to ASUS for sending in a sample for review.



  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value



- Best looking motherboard we have seen for years
- EK CrossChill VRM heat sink is unique
- ROG Armour looks fantastic
- RGB LEDs offer many different colour combination possibilites
- On-board sound is among the best on the Z170 chipset
- Lots of ASUS features such as RAMDisk, Sonic Radar and MEMTweak
- Good overclocking performance/potential


- Very expensive
- Only 3 PCIe x16 slots available; would have expected 4 given the price!


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