Aristotle wrote that "Change in all things is sweet" and change is something that the Maximus IV knows very well.
Normally the ASUS range consists of an Extreme, a Formula and a Gene variant of the same basic design. The Maximus IV definitely changes this as the Extreme is two versions of the P67, the original and then the B3 revision which fixed the SATA issue and otherwise enhanced the basic model.
So we'd expect the Gene to be a P67 B3 based motherboard but in micro-ATX format?
Not so. The Gene is a Z68 based motherboard. So we've got a m-ATX Z68 board with onboard graphics, quite a departure from its bigger brother. However there is a Maximus IV Extreme-Z on the horizon which will be the actual bigger brother to this Maximus IV Gene-Z, rather than the current Maximus IV Extreme. It's confusing stuff indeed.
Anyway, let's see what is contained within this pocket powerhouse.
Despite its petite proportions the Gene-Z is stuffed to the gills with all the latest technology as befits a Z68-based board. We've got a couple of SATA-III ports that can handle Intel Rapid Storage Technology which uses a SSD to greatly enhance the performance of a standard mechanical drive. There are two USB 3.0 ports on the back with expansion capabilities for two more internally.
The big thing the Gene-Z has is integrated graphics. However unlike many boards that provide a plethora of outputs for IGP, the Maximus IV Gene-Z only has a HDMI output.
|CPU||Intel® Socket 1155 for 2nd Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3 Processors |
Supports Intel® 32 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
|Memory||4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 2200(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/1866(O.C.)/1600/1333 Hz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory|
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Due to CPU behavior, DDR3 2200/2000/1800 MHz memory module will run at DDR3 2133/1866/1600 MHz frequency as default.
|Graphic||Integrated Graphics Processor|
VGA output support : HDMI port
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
|Multi-GPU Support||Supports NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology|
Supports AMD CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports LucidLogix® Virtu™ Technology
|Expansion Slots||2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (dual x8) |
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
|Storage||Intel® Z68 chipset : |
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
4 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), gray
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Support Intel® Smart Response Technology on 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family
JMicron® JMB362 controller : *1
2 x eSATA 3Gb/s port(s), red
|LAN||Intel®, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)|
|Audio||SupremeFX X-Fi 2 built-in 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC |
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- X-Fi® Xtreme Fidelity™
- EAX® Advanced™ HD 5.0
- THX® TruStudio PRO™
- Creative ALchemy
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
|USB Ports||ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller : |
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z68 chipset :
12 x USB 2.0 port(s) (8 at back panel, black, 4 at mid-board)
|Overclocking Features||ROG Connect |
Extreme Engine Digi+ :
- 8 -phase CPU power design + 4 -phase iGPU power design
- 2 -phase Memory power design
ROG Extreme OC kit :
- Debug LED
UEFI BIOS features :
- ROG BIOS Print
- GPU.DIMM Post
Overclocking Protection :
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
|Special Features||ASUS TurboV EVO :|
- CPU Level Up
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- Onboard Button : Power/Reset/Clr CMOS (at back IO)
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS EZ DIY :
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS MyLogo 2
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
|Back I/O Ports||1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)|
1 x HDMI
2 x eSATA 3Gb/s
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
2 x USB 3.0
8 x USB 2.0 (white port can be switched to ROG Connect)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
|Internal I/O Ports||1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) |
2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
2 x CPU Fan connector(s)
3 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
6 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x ROG Connect switch(es)
1 x Go Button(s)
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
2 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
1 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
1 x ROG Connect cable(s)
1 x Cable ties pack(s)
1 x ROG theme label(s)
1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
|BIOS||64Mb Flash ROM, EFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS|
|Manageability||WfM2.0, DMI2.0, WOL by PME, WOR by PME, PXE|
|Support Disc||Support DVD:|
- Drivers and applications
* ASUS AI Suite II
* ROG CPU-Z
* ROG GameFirst Utility
* Sound Blaster X-Fi MB2 Utility
* ROG Mem TweakIt Utility
* ASUS AI Charger+
* DAEMON Tools Pro Standard
* Kaspersky® Anti-Virus 1-year license
|Form Factor||uATX Form Factor |
9.6 inch x 9.6 inch ( 24.4 cm x 24.4 cm )
As always with ASUS ROG products the box is instantly recognisable in the modern classic red with silver lettering. It's worth noting that the box is barely bigger than the motherboard itself, ensuring no wasted packaging.
Unlike many ROG motherboards there isn't a flap revealing the motherboard, rather the top flap opens to give an extended look at the many features. Opening this gives us our first glimpse of the Gene-Z which we'll look at in a moment.
As is always the case with ROG boards there is a plethora of accessories from ROG connect cables through stickers to identify your SATA drives and all the usual paraphernalia.
As expected the Gene-Z follows the design ethos of the ROG line-up perfectly, being a mixture of black and red. The mATX format always compresses things due to the smaller footprint, but the Gene-Z does appear to be more squished than normal.
We'll look closer on the next page.
Up Close cont
One major area the Gene-Z hasn't changed when compared to the earlier models is in the use of the PCI-e release latches and single-latch DIMM sockets. These are both far and away the most user-friendly solutions on the market and, having lost more than enough knuckle skin attempt to flick some tiny lever to release the GPU on other boards, we applaud it. The PCI-e slots themselves are x16 in single-card mode and x8 in Crossfire/SLI setups.
Your eyes don't decieve you, the audio ports really are that close to the top PCI-e slot. There is about 4mm clearance between the back of our stock GTX570 and our CPU cooler. This definitely is a tight squeeze.
Below the ATX24 pin power are the ProbeIt monitoring points and the 'Go' button that loads a specific BIOS setting of your choosing.
The Gene-Z comes with the ASUS Extreme Engine Digi+ Power phase, meaning 8 phases for the CPU, 4 for the iGPU and 2 for the memory. Storage is handled by four SATA-II ports and two SATA-III ones. Similarly to USB 2.0 there comes a point at which, because of the backwards compatibility of both, we wonder why manufacturers don't replace the whole arrangement with the improved respective version 3s.
Because of the compact nature the start and reset buttons are found below the PCI-e x1 slot.
The IO ports are the back are plentiful to say the least. 8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0, 2 eSATA and the audio ports are found alongside an external CMOS clear, GigaLAN and the HDMI for the integrated graphics.
The Maximus IV Gene-Z comes with the ROG UEFI BIOS that is seriously easy to use. If you've used it you'll understand exactly why we berate those companies who choose to retain the old legacy BIOS on their modern motherboards.
As with all ASUS motherboards the Gene-Z comes with a comprehensive suite of applications and monitoring tools. Everything is catered for from manual control of system fans, to overclocking from within Windows. There is even an auto-overclocking facility for those still learning the art. Whilst it will never produce the same results that manual overclocking can bring it is nonetheless a good jump-off point.
ASUS Maximus IV Gene-Z Motherboard
Intel Core i5-2500K Processor
8GB G.Skill RipjawsX 2133MHz CAS9
Be Quiet Dark Power Pro
Windows 7 64 Bit
Thanks to an array of memory settings the Gene-Z easily handles our G.Skill at its rated speed. It's surprising to see ASUS specifications include speeds that are architecturally impossible, but it has no problems with our speedy kit.
Overclocking the 2500K is easy on the Gene-Z and although we could obtain 4.9GHz it wasn't totally stable and so we had to settle at a 4.8GHz clockspeed at a decent 1.48 vCore to run our battery of tests.
In addition to the ASUS AI Suite of utilities there is also a ROG-branded version of CPU-Z included, and it would be a shame to waste the opportunity so here it is.
In the CPU tests of AIDA64 the Gene-Z is in the upper echelons of the motherboards we've tested, although just shy of the MSI Marshal and its bigger brother the Maximus IV Extreme.
There definitely isn't any issues with the bandwidth available to the DDR3 as the Gene-Z gives us the highest Copy speed we've seen in dual-channel testing.
Continuing where AIDA64 left off, the Processor Arithmetic test in Sandra is only average in the Whetstone test, but the Dhrystone test is absolutely huge, which gives a class-leading aggregate score.
After the heights of the Dhrystone test, the MultiMedia tests come as a disappointment with none of the results coming close to the best of the P67s, and the Double x4 result in particular being some way behind.
PC Mark Vantage
Despite the good synthetic performance in Futuremark's PC Mark Vantage the Gene-Z is left lagging a bit behind the rest. The Memory score is particularly average and the fairly good Productivity score can't save it from losing out to MSI Marshal as well as both its P67 stablemates.
PC Mark 7
PC Mark 7 is still fairly new to us and so our test sample is both smaller and different (but not yellow) to our PC Mark Vantage results. Indeed when compared to its contemporaries the Maximus IV Gene-Z turns the Vantage results on its head by giving an outstanding score.
3D Mark Vantage
Using the ForceWare 275.33 drivers the Gene-Z is just behind the other Z68 motherboard in our tests, the Gigabyte UD5. Certainly not a long way short, and nothing to be concerned about.
3D Mark 11
In 3D Mark 11 the Gene-Z once against settles in to its now familiar place just behind the very best of the P67s, but again close enough to not really be worthy of either praise or condemnation.
So is the change to the Maximus IV sweet as Aristotle prophesied or does it leave a bitter taste?
Probably the first thing to get your head around is the fact that the extra Z at the end makes all the difference. This isn't a cut-down version of the previously reviewed (to great acclaim) Maximus IV Extreme, but rather this is a distinctive version based around an as-yet unreviewed Maximus IV Extreme-Z.
The major changes with the Gene-Z are the same as those we've previously seen on Z68 boards when compared to their P67 predecessors. Firstly we have the inclusion of Intel Rapid storage Technology. There is also Lucid Virtu which can be used in two modes and transparently switches between your discrete (add-on) graphics card and the integrated graphics to save power in 2D situations. Given how most graphics cards de-clock significantly when in a Windows desktop environment this isn't really a deal maker or breaker, unless those few extra watts of power are critical to you. Finally on older H67 boards you couldn't overclock whilst using the integrated graphics, but with the Z68 chipset you can.
The BIOS is a UEFI number and the all the usability benefits that are prevalent in that solution. We cannot overstate how much nicer this is to use when compared to the keyboard-only BIOS of old.
Design-wise the Gene-Z is amazingly compact. We can't recall an mATX board in which the GPU has seemed so close to the CPU Cooler. Kudos to ASUS for ensuring the tolerances are so precise that there aren't any actual issues, but visually it's quite arresting if you're using an extra-large CPU Cooler to see the solder on the back of the GPU within a few millimetres of an equally metallic lump of aluminium. This aside it's a very attractive board, even if the plain black heatsinks and lack of lighting aren't as spectacular as the Maximus IV Extreme.
Performance is just a notch below the very best motherboards around. It couldn't quite push our 2500K to a stable 4.9 GHz, instead we had to settle for a 4.8 GHz clock. With the CPU at these speeds the Gene-Z was a bit of a mixed bag. In some tests the results were outstanding whilst in others, although never reaching particular lows, it wasn't quite up there with the cream of the crop.
At the time of going to press we haven't got a price yet, but judging from previous Gene boards we'd expect it to be around the £160 mark and assuming this is the case it's worthy of the OC3D Silver Award. If it's around £130 it would be good enough value for a Gold, and at £180 or above we'd thing a Bronze. The performance is that right on the money, if that money is where we expect.
Thanks to ASUS for providing the Maximus IV Gene-Z for review. Discuss in our forums.