So far we've looked at some affordable Z87 motherboards that all provide excellent, and in some cases amazing, performance. The quality and uniformity of the Intel Chipsets has reached a point wherein it's extremely difficult for a manufacturer to make a significant performance difference solely by the design of their motherboard.
One of the consistently high performance motherboards is the Maximus range from ASUS. The Maximus has always been a serious proposition for anybody who wanted to get the very most from their CPU. Although the Maximus IV was brilliant, with the Maximus V we started to see that although it was still great, everyone else had caught up and it no longer provided value for money.
Today sees us reviewing the Maximus VI Extreme and the question on everyone's lips is, is the M6E still the king of performance motherboards or has the chasing pack finally caught up?
According to the ASUS website the Maximus VI has five PCIe 3.0 slots, which obviously isn't the case. Someone needs to proof read. That aside, the Maximus VI Extreme has everything you could hope to find on a motherboard. WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, ten SATA 6Gbps ports (yes 10), eight USB ports on the rear with a further eight available internally. As well as the regular ROG features the Maximus VI Extreme comes with an OC panel, for instant control. So let's take a look at the board itself.
|CPU||Intel® Socket 1150 for 4th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors |
Supports Intel® 22 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 3000(O.C.)/2933(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2600(O.C.)/2500(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)
/2200(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1866(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600/1333 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
|Graphics||Integrated Graphics Processor |
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort ports
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 3840 x 2160 @ 60 Hz
Supports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Supports NVIDIA® 4-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD CrossFireX™ Technology
|Expansion Slots||4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x16/x8 or x8/x16/x8/x8)|
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
1 x mini-PCIe 2.0 x1
|Storage||Intel® Z87 chipset : |
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology, Intel® Smart Connect Technology
Intel® Z87 chipset :
1 x M.2 (NGFF) Socket 2 on mPCIe Combo II expansion card(s), black
Support M.2 (NGFF) Type 2242 SSD card (22mm x 42mm), Support PCI express 2.0 x1 and SATA 6Gb/s standards
ASMedia® ASM1061 controller :
4 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
|Network||Intel® I217V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller|
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
|Audio||Realtek® ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC |
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
|USB Ports||Intel® Z87 chipset :|
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z87 chipset :
8 x USB 2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, black, 6 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue)
|OC Panel||2.6 " LCM display|
EXTREME/NORMAL mode switch
EXTREME Mode for subzero OC benching:
- VGA Hotwire
- Subzero Sense
- Slow Mode
- Pause Switch
- VGA SMB header
- 4 x 4-pin extra fan connectors
NORMAL Mode for in-chassis usage:*8
- CPU Level Up OC button
- FanSpeed control button
- LCM backlight on/off button
- POWERï¼š1 x SATA power connector
- ROG_EXT portï¼š1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
|ROG Exclusive Features||mPCIe Combo™ II (mPCIe/M.2 combo card)|
ROG Connect :
- RC TweakIt
- RC Diagram
- RC Remote
- RC Poster
Extreme Engine Digi+ III :
- 8 + 2 phase power design
- NexFET™ Power Block MOSFET
- 60A BlackWing Chokes
- 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
ROG Extreme OC kit :
- Slow Mode
- LN2 Mode
- PCIe x16 Lane Switch
- EZ Plug
UEFI BIOS features :
- ROG BIOS Print
- GPU.DIMM Post
- Tweakers' Paradise
- ROG SSD Secure Erase
|Back I/O Ports||1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port|
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port
6 x USB 3.0 (blue)
2 x USB 2.0 (one port can be switched to ROG Connect)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x ROG Connect On/ Off switch
|Internal I/O Ports||1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) |
3 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 6 USB 2.0 port(s)
10 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector
3 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
3 x Optional Fan connector(s)
1 x S/PDIF out header
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 x 6-pin EZ_PLUG Power connector
1 x 4-pin EZ_PLUG Power connector
1 x Front panel audio connector (AAFP)
1 x System panel
1 x DirectKey Button
1 x DRCT header
1 x MemOK! button
1 x Slow Mode switch
10 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
3 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x LN2 Mode header
1 x Power-on button
1 x Reset button
1 x BIOS Switch button
1 x FastBoot switch
1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header
1 x mPCIe Combo II connector
10 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x ASUS 2T2R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant)
1 x 3-Way SLI bridge(s)
1 x 4-Way SLI bridge(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x CrossFire cable(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 II card(s) with dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth v4.0/3.0+HS module
1 x ROG Magnet
OC Panel Kit:
- 1 x OC Panel(s)
- 1 x OC Panel 5.25-inch bay metal case
- 1 x OC Panel Cable(s)
|Manageability||WfM2.0, DMI2.0, WOL by PME, PXE|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor 12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )|
As we would expect the M6E follows the regular ROG design with a combination of red and black plastics, as well as the single-sided RAM retainers. The CPU socket has a lot of heatsink surrounding it, which will be a boon to standard overclockers and a bit of a pain for those who prefer their cooling on the extreme sub-zero side. Considering the price we'd have liked to see a little more flair in the heatsink design too, rather than just a heavily-finned black lump.
The PCI Express lanes are nicely spread as you'd expect to find on a full ATX motherboard. The placement of the legacy PCI is slightly obscured if you were planning on running dual graphics cards, but by now very few people should have a PCI card left and by moving the PCIx1 slot down it allows the use of modern sound cards. As every single one of the ten SATA ports is the 6Gbps type they are all in red plastic.
Up by the DIMM slots we have the power and reset switches, along with the dip switches to turn off PCI lanes to allow you to fault-find a multi-card setup without having to pull cards in and out. Useful if you've got a well-sorted water-cooling arrangement.
With Z87 motherboards natively supporting triple screen goodness, the rear of the M6E is positively bristling with ports. In the place where we'd usually find the combined PS2 port and USB ports for our input devices, we find the adaptor for the WiFi.
ASUS continue their drive towards external motherboard controls with the Maximus VI Extreme. With the Rampage IV we saw the OC Key, which was an average idea implemented in an average manner that never really saw much use in the real-world, and we fear that the new OC idea will suffer from the same 'nice on paper but leave it in the box' fate. It looks cheap. It requires SATA power even if you're using it externally rather than in a drive bay. If you use it internally the cable is too short to allow it to be hidden away, leading to untidy internals. If you use it externally the cables stop it sitting flush with the desk so it constantly falls over. Not helped by the pointless height and having all the controls at the peak. Someone needs to teach the R&D department about levers and the centre of gravity.
As befits a motherboard designed for the ultimate enthusiasts and extreme overclocker, the BIOS of the Maximus is awash with every option you can think of and many you didn't. It looks fairly plain when compared to the beautiful skins of the latest Gigabyte BIOS, but functionality trumps looks to a certain degree.
We love the fact that when you save the BIOS it shows you which of the settings have changed since the last save, and therefore what you're about to write. Useful if you're playing about and haven't noticed you'd accidentally selected the Memory to run at 4GHz or similar.
ASUS Maximus VI Extreme
Intel Core i7-4770K
Club3D HD7970 Royal Ace
Corsair Vengeance Pro 2400MHz
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
This is the big test. An extreme motherboard, one that costs twice as much as any other we've looked at, really needs to deliver here. To get things up and running firstly we needed to obtain a custom BIOS from ASUS, because the supplied one was bugged to say the least. We'd unhesitatingly suggest you update your BIOS before beginning to use the M6E. It's something you should always do, but doubly so here.
Even with a special BIOS the loadline calibration was anything but stable. We saw a lot of variance in voltage which is particularly problematic given that the Maximus is designed for running on the ragged edge and that the i7-4770K is quite a hot chip in the best of scenarios.
If anything we're slightly disappointed with our results. Of course the Maximus is designed for immense overclocks rather than just the best you can do on air (or at least a H100), so the fact it requires a higher voltage than we saw from, for example, the MSI GD65 even at just 4.8GHz doesn't bode well for how the motherboard will perform under more extreme overclocks.
At the wall the Maximus VI Extreme is very similar to all of our other Z87 test setups.
Not exactly an auspicious start for the Maximus. At stock it's barely on a par with the D3H, and when overclocked both the GD65 and Sniper M5 are roughly equal to it in the CPU tests and miles ahead in the Memory benchmarks.
The situation continues in Sandra. Very average at stock, and the overclock doesn't bring much extra to the party. Indeed it's edged by just about everything. The only graph in which the results aren't close is the Cryptography Bandwidth test, where the Maximus VI Extreme is very poor. The worst overclocked Z87 motherboard we've tested so far.
PC Mark brings us a couple of variances. In PC Mark Vantage at stock the Maximus pales when compared to the excellent MSI GD65 Gaming. Although it does just pull itself back near the front with the overclock. PC Mark 7 is much closer and in the computation test the Maximus VI Extreme finally hauls itself to the top of a graph, even if it's beaten in the other results.
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark 7
Despite scoring well in the PC Mark 7 calculation test, the Maximus VI Extreme doesn't do so well in wPrime95. At stock it's just a shade quicker than the reference Intel board and £100 Gigabyte D3H but a way behind the MSI Z87 GD65 Gaming. When overclocked the Sniper M5 creeps ahead and the Maximus matches the MSI offering.
x264 Benchmark v5
This continues into the video transcoding test that is the x264 benchmark. The Maximus VI is alright. Not good. Not awful. Just alright. We expect more from such a high-end motherboard.
With the 3D testing of CatZilla placing such a burden upon the HD7970, all of the motherboards perform equally well, regardless of CPU clock speed.
CineBench R11.5 performs equally well on the ASUS Maximus VI Extreme as it does on our other motherboards, although again the Sniper M5 just edges ahead.
At both stock and when overclocked the M6E is on a par with the rest of our motherboards. Nothing special, but nothing shocking either.
At stock it's a couple of tenths of a frame behind the MSI GD65, and with the overclock it's a couple of tenths of a frame ahead. Realistically though everything pushes the HD7970 as hard as possible.
Resident Evil 6
Same as ever. Move along.
3D Mark Vantage
The first of our 3D Mark tests is fairly standard on the overclocking, but the rather average performance of the Maximus when at stock is borne out by the low P-score. When you're being bested by the reference Intel board you know something is up.
3D Mark 11
The sterner test of 3D Mark 11 narrows the gap between all of the Z87 motherboards we've tested, and although the gap is only tiny it is worth noting that the M6E is 100 points behind both the GD65 and Sniper M5.
Finally the latest version of 3D Mark, and the results bear out every other result we've seen. When the motherboard can make a difference, the Maximus is a bit behind the rest. When the GPU is completely maxed out then the scores are all the same.
The abiding feeling we have when dealing with the ASUS Maximus VI Extreme, is that it's old-fashioned.
Let us explain. From the days of the P67 motherboards and the stunning Sabertooth, ASUS led the way in proving that you could produce a motherboard that had all the performance and features but at a very affordable price. With the Z68s and Z77s the other manufacturers took up that gauntlet and produced a range of motherboards that were everything to everybody, without breaking the bank. The three that stick in our mind are the MSI Z77 MPOWER, £150s worth of incredible performance; the Z87 Sniper M5 from Gigabyte and Z87 MSI GD65 Gaming, both of whom overclock brilliantly, perform well, look the business, and rock in around the £160 price point.
ASUS though seem to have forgotten what you can get for your money in the days since Intel produced a bomb-proof chipset with the Z series. The Maximus VI Extreme at an eye-watering £330 seems stuck in the past. That merely throwing a load of frippery in the box and sticking a ROG logo on it allows them to charge twice the price of a similarly performing motherboard. You're not really getting much extra to be honest. Yes this has 10 SATA ports instead of 6 or 8, but have you got 10 drives? Yes it has a load of options for the LN2 brigade, but how many of us count amongst that number? Further, anyone who is using sub-zero cooling to attain world records gets their gear free from their sponsors, so the 'high price because it's extreme' argument doesn't wash.
It hasn't even got outstanding performance to justify the price. When the £100 Gigabyte D3H is running it close at stock, and the Sniper M5 and MSI GD65 Gaming (both half the price) out overclock it and out-perform it when overclocked, we're left scratching our head as to what exactly the Maximus offers. Yes the MSI GD65 matched it with a 4.8GHz CPU speed, but the Maximus required more volts to get there. More volts equal more heat and the i7-4770K already is thermally limited on regular cooling, and this will only get worse as you attempt to extract more from it. The BIOS is full of options but totally lacking in design flair. The benchmark is definitely the Gigabyte 3D BIOS and the ASUS can't compare.
Speaking of design, the Maximus VI itself is a bit bland. Yes it's got the red and black stuff which is on every ROG motherboard around, but we could have drawn a picture of it before we ever saw it and been 99% accurate. Look at the two heatsinks on the GD65 Gaming, shaped like a dragon, and then compare it to the regulation lumps of metal on the Maximus VI Extreme. Hardly awe-inspiring. This lack of design is emphasised most in the external OC device. It can be used in a drive bay or on your desk, but it requires SATA power in both cases. Have you got a SATA power cable hanging out your tower? Us neither. Also when that's plugged in the thing falls over all the time. Poor design. You can put it in a drive bay but the cable is too short to route anywhere, spoiling the lines of your internals. For tuppence of cable it's worse than useless.
So it isn't good at stock, and only par when overclocked. Perhaps it's for gamers then? Obviously not as the 3D results are all nearly identical whether you're using the little D3H or overclocked Sniper 5. In fact the only thing that would make a difference to the 3D scores is using a GTX780 instead of our HD7970. But of course a GTX780 costs around £180 more than a HD7970. Luckily the Maximus VI Extreme also costs £160 more than better motherboards such as the Gigabyte Sniper M5 or MSI GD65 Gaming.
The answer is clear. Save your money, buy a better but cheaper motherboard from the above two, and then spend the difference on the awesome GTX780. If it's a choice of GD65 Gaming and GTX780, or Maximus VI Extreme and HD7970, you know where we'd put our money. Of course the Maximus has enough performance and bits and bobs that it will still perform alright. It would be nearly impossible to make a Z87 motherboard that wasn't any good, and for that reason we award it our Bronze..... Just.
Thanks to ASUS for supplying the Maximus VI Extreme for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.