ASUS Maximus V Formula ThunderFX Review Page: 1

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  

Introduction

Having looked at the fully-featured Maximus V Extreme, it's time to take a look at the model that is more likely to be finding a home in the average users rig, the ASUS Maximus V Formula. 

But before we all leap up and throw our money at ASUS, it's worth noting that the Formula comes with a USB sound card which, along with the ROG branding, moves it firmly into the upper price bracket, and a lot more expensive than similar offerings from Gigabyte or, in the form of the Sabertooth, ASUS themselves.

So is the performance and ROG features enough to justify the price, or is this the middle child, destined to be ignored? Let's find out.

Technical Specifications

Surprisingly there has been very little removed from the Formula when compared to its big brother the Extreme. The main change is the removal of a single PCI Express socket, which won't be of much concern to many given how few people run a quad-GPU setup. Other losses are even less concerning. The OC Key included in the Extreme is missing, but such is the ease with which you can overclock with either the BIOS manually, the BIOS automatically, or the ASUS AI Suite it's not something that is likely to see much use anyway. The last main removal is the Intel Thunderbolt technology. This is potentially more of a drawback, but by the time the market fully adopts this technology we'll be on to the next round of chipsets anyway.

So in total you're missing a PCI Express slot, and nothing else of consequence. You still have Bluetooth, WiFi, ROG Connect, LN2 support and the excellent ASUS BIOS, along with the various ROG branding items.

CPUIntel® Socket 1155 for 3rd/2nd Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 22 nm CPU
Supports Intel® 32 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
* Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
ChipsetIntel® Z77
Memory4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2600(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/1866(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs. 
* Refer to www.asus.com or user manual for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
GraphicIntegrated Graphics Processor
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort ports
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Multi-GPU SupportSupports NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports AMD CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports LucidLogix® Virtu™ MVP Technology *1
Expansion Slots3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4) *2
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1
1 x mini-PCIe 2.0 x1 *3
StorageIntel® Z77 chipset :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
2 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), black
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port(s), red
1 x mini-SATA 3Gb/s port(s) , black
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology, Intel® Smart Connect Technology *4
ASMedia® PCIe SATA controller : *5
4 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
LANIntel®, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Wireless Data NetworkWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
BluetoothBluetooth V4.0
Bluetooth V3.0+HS
AudioSupremeFX IV built-in 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted): 110 dB
- Output THD+N at 1kHz: 95 dB
- TI 6120A2 high fidelity headphone amplifier
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
- ELNA premium audio capacitors
- 1500 uF Audio Power Capacitor
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection 
- DTS Ultra PC II
- DTS Connect
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
USB PortsIntel® Z77 chipset :
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z77 chipset :
8 x USB 2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, black+white, 4 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
2 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue)
Overclocking FeaturesmPCIe Combo™ (mPCIe/mSATA combo card)
ROG Connect :
- RC Diagram
- RC Remote
- RC Poster
- GPU TweakIt
Extreme Engine Digi+ II :
- 8 -phase CPU power design + 4 -phase iGPU power design
- 2 -phase Memory power design
ROG Extreme OC kit :
- Slow Mode
- LN2 Mode
- EZ Plug
ProbeIt
UEFI BIOS features :
- ROG BIOS Print
- GPU.DIMM Post
GameFirst II
iROG
Extreme Tweaker
Loadline Calibration
USB BIOS Flashback
Overclocking Protection :
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special FeaturesASUS TurboV EVO :
- CPU Level Up
ASUS EPU :
- EPU
ASUS Wi-Fi GO!
- Wi-Fi GO! Function: DLNA Media Hub, Smart Motion Control, Remote Desktop, Remote Keyboard & Mouse, File Transfer, Capture & Send
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- AI Suite II
- Ai Charger+
- USB Charger+
- USB 3.0 Boost
- Disk Unlocker
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- ASUS Fan Xpert 2
ASUS EZ DIY :
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Code
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
Back I/O Ports1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0
4 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
1 x Optical S/PDIF in
5 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x ROG Connect On/ Off switch(es)
Internal I/O Ports1 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)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
2 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
2 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
3 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
3 x Optional Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
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 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
1 x Slow Mode switch(es)
8 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
3 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x LN2 Mode header(s)
1 x EZ Plug connector(s) (4-pin Molex power connector)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x Go Button(s)
1 x mPCIe Combo header(s)
AccessoriesUser's manual
I/O Shield
2 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
4 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 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
1 x mPCIe Combo card(s) with dual band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n module + Bluetooth v4.0/3.0+HS module
1 x 2-in-1 RF Cable(s)
2 x Wi-Fi Ring Moving Antenna(s)
BIOS64Mb UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS
ManageabilityWfM2.0, DMI2.0, WOL by PME, PXE
Support DiscDrivers
Kaspersky® Anti-Virus
DAEMON Tools Pro Standard
GameFirst II
ROG CPU-Z
Mem TweakIt
ASUS AI Suite II
ASUS WebStorage
ASUS Utilities
Form FactorExtended ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 10.1 inch ( 30.5 cm x 25.7 cm )
Note*1: LucidLogix Virtu MVP supports Windows 7 operating systems.
*2-1: PCIe 3.0 speed is supported by Intel® 3rd generation Ivy Bridge Core™ Processors.
*2-2: x8/x4/x4 mode is supported by Intel® 3rd generation Ivy Bridge Core™ Processors.
*3-1: The mPCIe 2.0 x1 slot is located on mPCIe Combo™ expansion card.
*3-2: The mini-PCIe slot is pre-installed with an Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module.
*4: Supports on Intel® Core™ processor family with Windows® 7 operating systems.
*5: These SATA ports are for data hard drives only.


ASUS Maximus V Formula ThunderFX Review Page: 2

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

Up Close

Besides the regular ROG design the two big changes with the Formula variant are the inclusion of the ThunderFX module and the inclusion of a Diablo III mousemat. This is the only Diablo III element to the package, not even a trial code or anything in the box, so it's an odd choice but every little extra is a bonus.

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  

Similar to the Extreme there are a lot of accessories within the Formula package. A reduction in the amount of multi-GPU bridges is balanced by the inclusion of the ThunderFX module and the necessary cables. Besides that the regular WiFi antennas and ROG connect cables sit alongside the mPCIe/WiFi combination addon.

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  

The ThunderFX itself is a headphone amplifier that allows you to plug almost anything in to the module and use your PC headphones. Whether it's the PS3, XBOX 360, or even any iDevices, the ThunderFX has you covered. How useful this actually will be in practise is up to debate, but if you have a particular headset you love and a lot of consoles then it might be just want you need.

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

And here is the Formula itself. Besides only having three fullsize PCI Express slots it's nearly indistinguishable from its Extreme counterpart. 

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  



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ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

Up Close - Features

There is a lot of hardware packed in to the bottom-left hand corner of the Formula. As well as the excellent Supreme FX IV audio chip, we have the PLX 8608 to provide extra PCI Express bandwidth and the traffic-shaping GameFirst, that keeps your online gaming prioritised regardless of what your OS wants to do.

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  

The heatsink is a clever dual purpose one dubbed Fusion Thermo, with built in potential for water-cooling should you so desire, as well as being very robust if you're merely using air-cooling. It's well designed enough that even our huge Silver Arrow fits between the barbs with plenty of room to spare.

Around the RAM slots are the ROG standards of the ProbeIt monitoring points, MemOK which helps boot stability, and the CPU Slow switch if LN2 is your weapon of choice.

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  

The rear is well appointed with eight USB ports alongside the HDMI and DisplayPort outputs and usual audio and LAN connectors. The gap between the CMOS clear and ROG Connect buttons on the left hand side of this photo is where the mPCIe/Bluetooth/WiFi module sits. Storage is handled by six SATA 6Gbp/s ports and two of the older SATA 3Gbp/s ones.

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

 



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ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

BIOS

The BIOS is fully loaded with all the features and tweaks you could desire. Just like the one on the Extreme it's very easy to use, with all the options where you'd expect to find them and clearly labelled. It's exactly what we like to see from a BIOS and really highlights how far they have come since we first saw UEFI BIOS' being used.

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review  



ASUS Maximus V Formula ThunderFX Review Page: 5

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

Test Setup

ASUS Z77 Maximus V Formula
Intel Core i7-3770K
8GB G.Skill Trident 2400 @ 10-12-12-31
Sapphire HD7950
Catalyst 12.4
Cougar CM1000 PSU
Corsair F80 SSD
Thermalright Silver Arrow
Windows 7 x64

 ASUS Maximus V Formula Review     ASUS Maximus V Formula Review 

The Supreme FX lights up the whole left hand side of the motherboard. If you like a red glow this is absolutely the motherboard for you, but you can turn it off in the BIOS.

Overclocking

With such a user-friendly BIOS on hand, and as we've said just now, all the elements are exactly where you'd expect to find them, it makes overclocking a breeze. The Formula isn't quite up there with the Extreme, but we wouldn't expect it to be, still 4.9GHz for most applications, and a 4.8GHz stable 24/7 overclock are right up there and certainly as hard as we'd want to push our i7-3770K on air in daily use.

ASUS Maximus V Formula ThunderFX Review  

ASUS Maximus V Formula ThunderFX Review  



ASUS Maximus V Formula ThunderFX Review Page: 6

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

AIDA64

In the AIDA64 CPU benchmarks the Formula performs very well at both the overclocked and stock settings. Despite the Extreme managing a higher overclock there is very little to choose between them. Although such is the quality of the Z77 chipset that there isn't much to choose between any of the motherboards we've tested.

One area the ASUS Maximus V is clearly ahead of the rest of the pack is in the Memory bandwidth testing. The Extreme just shades the Formula, but they're both topping the charts. 

CPU Benchmarks

 

Memory Benchmarks

 



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ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

SiSoft Sandra

With the Processor Arithmetic benchmark the Formula is just edged out by the Extreme at stock, albeit by the tiniest margin. When overclocked the higher speed we obtained from the Extreme clearly shows, but the Formula still slides in as the best of the rest behind the two Flagship boards from ASUS and Gigabyte. Things are much tighter in the Processor MultiMedia test, with the Formula in second place at stock and equal to the other 4.8GHz overclocks.

Processor Arithmetic

 

Processor MultiMedia

 



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ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

PC Mark Vantage

The fully rounded test that is PC Mark Vantage shows some strange results, with the Productivity score being particularly poor, which affects the overall score, especially when compared to it's bigger brother. The memory and gaming scores are right on a par, it's just a shame that the average of our three runs didn't yield a more positive Productivity score.

 

PC Mark 7

Things flip completely around in the more modern PC Mark 7, with the Formula being right up there with stock settings, and the overclocked result only just shaded by the Maximus V Extreme and MSI GD65. 

 



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ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

CineBench R11.5

The stock performance is the highlight here, only just edged by the Extreme, but ahead of the rest of the Z77 motherboards that we've tested. The overclocked performance isn't quite up there with the best, being a tenth of a point shy of the Extreme and .8 behind the the MSI GD65 and Gigabyte Sniper 3. Extremely close all round though.

 

POV-Ray

Once again the results are very close between all of the Z77 motherboards, but the Formula is just shaded by both the Extreme, and the MSI GD65. Although the stock performance is better, but you don't buy a ROG motherboard to run at stock, do you.

 



ASUS Maximus V Formula ThunderFX Review Page: 10

ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

wPrime95

wPrime continues the trend we saw with our rendering tests. The Maximus V Formula is by no means bad, but it isn't doing anything to stand out from the crowd either.

 

Unigine 0xAA

Things improve with Unigine as the Maximus V Formula nestles in just behind the Maximus V Extreme as the second best that's been tested with this particular GPU.

 



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ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

3D Mark Vantage

As expected Vantage is heavily reliant upon the Sapphire HD7950 instead of the whole package, but the results are still pretty good, with the P score being more impressive than the X score, but all of them are fine.

 

3D Mark 11

The more up-to-date 3D Mark 11 is even closer, and it's clear how much of a benefit the larger overclock available to the Extreme is when compared to the rest of the Z77 motherboards. The Formula stock performance is again more impressive than the overclocked result.

 



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ASUS Maximus V Formula Review

Conclusion

The ASUS Maximus V Formula is a very difficult motherboard to come to a conclusion about.

It's available in two versions, the plain motherboard which is priced at around £230, and the one we have on test today that comes with the ThunderFX unit, which is a whopping £280. Now usually we leave the price to the end and try not to think about it when summing up our thoughts, but because today's model is definitely in the enthusiast bracket, and even the vanilla version still counts as pricey when compared to other Z77s, it becomes impossible to ignore the elephant in the room.

Performance wise the Formula is more impressive at stock than it seems to be when overclocked. That isn't to say that the overclocked performance is bad, indeed it's right on a par with just about every other Z77 motherboard that we've tested. Instead the majority of the graphs show its excellent performance when comparing a stock setup to the other stock setups.

Design wise it's very good, and very easy to work with. All the fan headers are well located, the DIMM slots have the excellent single-latch system and the PCI Express slots have the usual ASUS large tab for removing graphics cards. This is a vast improvement upon the side-latch that we've seen, and lost skin off our knuckles on, so often. The heatsinks are chunky, but in an entirely good way. The dual-purpose nature of them is a boon to anyone who enjoys water-cooling and will save you a chunk of change in sourcing a specific waterblock for this design. If you, like us, love rugged engineering then you'll definitely like the Rampage IV Formula.

The ThunderFX, which is worth a good £50 of the price-tag, is harder to like. Yes it provides good quality audio and is compatible across a range of hardware applications, but the Supreme FX IV audio is very good, and if you're the kind of person who owns both a PS3 and a XBOX 360 alongside your Apple device, then it's very likely you already have dedicated audio solutions. This is one of those things that would be a nice bonus but likely to be left in the box in most scenarios, but almost becomes a source of frustration when it's meant you have to pay so much for it. Of course if you don't want to you can buy a non-ThunderFX Maximus V Formula, and that would be our recommendation between the two versions, unless you're desperate for a headphone amplifier.

Would we recommend the ASUS Maximus V Formula above other considerations though? Realistically, no. In pure performance terms it just doesn't do enough to justify its lofty price-tag. It might be ripe with features, but so are most Z77 motherboards and there aren't any on the Formula that are so desirable it becomes a clincher. The kicker for us is that the MSI Z77A GD65 is £100 cheaper, and yet equals or outperforms the Formula. Sure you might be willing to pay a premium for the red and black colours and the ROG branding, but £100 of a premium? That's too steep for us to seriously recommend. If it was £160ish for the regular model and £200 for the ThunderFX one, then it's probably edging a Gold. As it is it's much more expensive than its rivals for very little discernible gain, and for that reason we can only award it our OC3D Silver Award.

     

Thanks to ASUS for providing the MVF ThunderFX for review you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.