I know you’re probably assuming that the ASUS Z170 Maximus VIII Hero Alpha is a solid and top tier Socket LGA 1151 motherboard… and you’re exactly right! It does have a lot to offer and although it’s not as “perfect” as the VIII Formula we previously reviewed, one could of course argue that it’s pretty much the same board with a couple of removed features.
What’s so special about the Hero Alpha that makes it a better purchase than the regular Hero model? Well first of all, the addition of 2 x NVMe U.2 ultra-fast storage ports which not only adds an element of performance to the Hero Alpha, but it also future proofs users for U.2 taking off; believe me, we think it’s the future of high performing data storage. Add the new RGB lighting into the equation and things get a lot more bling, this is something we can get behind due to the versatility of the aesthetics due to this. One day you could completely decide that you no longer like red and black, in which with the Hero Alpha you could say change it to a green and black, or pink and black if you like to be tickled pink! The possibilities are endless, well not endless, but certainly the next best thing!
On top of the already included RGB lighting, ASUS have included a couple of RGB headers which allow for maximum compatibility for modding and system backlighting; this can be synchronised with the ASUS AURA software, although you can control them separately if you so wish. Audio is also a huge focus by ASUS on the Z170 chipset and have included all the same audio marvels as the other high end ROG boards; this is powered by the ESS ES9023P DAC alongside the Texas Instruments RC4580 2VRMS. This makes for a potent combination, especially for on-board audio and the only thing matching this is a dedicated setup such as an external DAC or internal PCIe soundcard such as the ASUS Essence STX range; maybe even the XONAR D2X!
The performance of the Hero Alpha is good considering the release BIOS and judging by the results, this board is a solid contender, although this sample didn’t do as well overclocking wise as the VIII Formula, I still can’t fault it. It seemed to pull ahead in gaming related benchmarks although the difference between any of the synthetic results is marginal at best; memory latency seems to be ASUS’s strong point however!
Coming in at around £50-60 cheaper than the Maximus VIII Formula, it does offer pretty decent value for money, although for around the same price, you can pick up the flagship MSI XPower Gaming Titanium which is also a very strong performer. If I have to pick an ATX motherboard out of the VIII Formula, VIII Hero Alpha or the Xpower Titanium, I would pick the VIII Hero Alpha based on the features to price ratio! Sure, the VIII Formula is my favourite Z170 Skylake motherboard to date, but the VIII Hero Alpha just gives you more bang for buck! That doesn’t mean I’m discounting any of the Z170 motherboards on test, but the ASUS Z170 VIII Hero Alpha seems to be the pick of the bunch if you want a solid board with great dynamic aesthetics! Can’t deny that the VIII Formula is still the nicest looking motherboard in the last few years though!
If you have £227/$314 budgeted for a new motherboard and it has to be on Intel’s Skylake Z170 chipset, then the ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Hero Alpha is the one for you!
Huge thanks to ASUS for sending in the Maximus VIII Hero Alpha for review.
– Good looking motherboard
– Packed full of useful features
– RGB; everybody loves RGB right?
– Quite a bit cheaper than the Z170 Maximus VIII Formula
– Great features for overclockers
– 2 x NVMe U.2 ports give awesome future proofing
– Like the VIII Formula, only 3 x PCIe x16 lanes are featured
– A lot of competition in the £200-250 price bracket
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