Introduction & Closer Look
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.