The Formula range has usually been the affordable variant of the Extreme. Retaining the performance whilst stripping away the frippery to keep the price low has been a successful venture. However, given our feelings about the Extreme we're hoping that the Formula is anything but formulaic, but rather is a complete overhaul.
Those of you who pay attention to our reviews know that we usually are aware of what we think before we start writing, having already tested. So if you've got your ASUS fanboy fingers ready to flood our forum with vitriol, thankfully the Formula is a vast improvement and everything that the Extreme should have been when it arrived. So we've spoilt the ending somewhat, but the journey is still a fun one.
As you would expect from a ROG motherboard, the Formula is absolutely bursting with features. Indeed it speaks volumes about ASUS' desire to rectify earlier mistakes that they have crammed quite so much into the lower end ROG model.
There is no other way to say it, the Maximus VI Formula is gorgeous. It has all the usual ROG hallmarks of black and red, with the excellent tabbed PCIe and Memory slots. However the inclusion of the shield that first appeared on the Sabertooth really brings it to life, covering all the uninteresting capacitors and things with sleekness.
The sound solution on the Formula is one of the best around, with all the major components of the Phoebus soundcard included. The days of crackly and horrible sound couldn't be more in the past. Everything is exactly where you'd hope to find it, and the red and black contrast has never looked so inviting.
The heatsink around the power phases and surrounding the CPU socket is a particular work of art. We've seen hybrid offerings before, but never so beautifully crafted. Normally the need for water cooling makes the air-cooling merely average, but here ASUS have gone overboard with something so attractive that you don't feel left out if you're on air, but nor is it clearly going to need replacing anyway if you're on water.
One of our biggest gripes is the lack of USB ports on modern motherboards. With nearly every peripheral we use utilising a USB connection, and in the case of some keyboards two of them, you can quickly fill up even the most well stocked motherboard, especially if you're using them to charge your iPod and/or phone. It's fantastic to see so many on the IO portion of the Maximus VI Formula and we hope that other companies follow suit. Speaking of suits, the shield on the Maximus VI Formula isn't merely a frontal affair, all fur coat and no knickers, but rather an all encompassing arrangement that ensures the PCB stability under even the most demanding scenarios. And it looks fantastic.
ASUS Z87 Maximus VI Formula
Intel Core i7-4770K
Club3D HD7970 Royal Ace
Corsair Vengeance Pro 2400MHz
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
Considering that this is allegedly the lesser of the two big ROG boards from ASUS we're delighted that it attained a rock solid stable 4.9GHz on our Core i7-4770K at a very reasonable 1.26v on the VCore. With 2400MHz memory and 4.9GHz on the CPU, there is no doubt that the Formula is a good overclocker.
The Formula is one of the higher power drawing motherboards that we've tested, although of course they are all within 20 Watts of each other so we're hardly talking deal-breaking territory, even if you never turn your system off.
Things start off well in AIDA64 with both the stock results and the overclocked results proving highly competitive in all of the CPU benchmarks. The memory ones are even more impressive with the copy speed second only to the excellent MPOWER MAX at a mighty 31GB/s.
The excellent performance continues in Maxon's CineBench R11.5. From the stock settings the Maximus VI Formula manages to give us a new record of 8.61 CPU Pts. The overclock has to just give second best to the Gigabyte UD4H, but it's still no slouch at an excellent 10.74.
Consistency certainly seems to be the watchword for the Formula, with both the overclocked and stock results up there with the best that we've seen. Not quite at the very top of the graph but certainly close.
If there is one thing that we've learnt it is that excellent synthetic performance doesn't always mean that the real world performance will match up. AIDA and similar tests are good at putting you in the ballpark, but not always a guarantee of success. Thankfully with the Maximus VI Formula we have extraordinary PC Mark results to go with this theoretical speed. In Vantage it's up there with the best Z87 motherboards we've tested, whether you're running at stock or making use of the overclock. PC Mark 7 is where the Formula really shines though, with the best overall performance we've yet seen. Impressive.
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark 7
Moving on to the 3D tests we know that the margins are always tiny. In general we're looking more for a potential pitfall than a sudden boost, so it's good to see that the Maximus VI Formula is second only to the MSI Gaming when it comes to CatZilla in the low resolution test, and top of the heap in the stern 1440P benchmark.
Again a mere glance down the graph would indicate that all the motherboards, even between stock and overclocked, are similar enough to not be worth worrying about. So they are, but the Formula has, by 2 tenths of a frame, got a new highscore.
The performance of the ASUS Maximus VI Formula is relentless. Once again we have a new motherboard topping the graphs in Unigine Heaven. Both the overclocked and stock results are excellent, whether you have no anti-aliasing or 8xMSAA.
3D Mark Vantage
As expected the results in 3D Mark Vantage are fantastic. If anything the stock result is even more impressive than the overclocked. We didn't think something would challenge the stock GD65 Gaming, yet here we are.
3D Mark 11
Another benchmark and another victory for the Formula. With a P-score of 10867 from the overclocked i7-4770K it's another record. At stock the P-Score is 200 points better than anything else we've seen. You can't argue with the facts.
It would be easy to spot that the Ice Storm test isn't the finest hour of the Formula, but to be honest if you're still playing games at that level of detail then you're missing the point. Casting your eyes to the Fire Strike Extreme results, far closer to the image quality and resolution that people play at, and you'll see that the stock Formula is 100 points ahead of any other result, and the overclocked one 200 points ahead. That's a big jump in performance on such a stern test.
Let's start with the looks. To some degree it's the typical black and red you would expect to see from ASUS, and particularly their Republic of Gamers arm. However, the inclusion of the vanity cover that we first saw back on the P67 Sabertooth, and the metal riser on the reverse, means that this is one of the most gorgeous motherboards it's been our pleasure to review. It's extremely good looking.
Looks without anything to back it up though would move the Formula in to art territory, and as we're not an art critic then the performance must be looked at. Indeed the performance of the Maximus VI Formula is so striking that you can't help but look at it. In a world where Intel have honed the Z87 chipset to within an inch of its life, finding any performance differential is a challenge, but the Formula is relentlessly good. No matter whether we were testing synthetic bandwidth, actual use, or just gaming potential, the Maximus VI Formula at stock lit up our graphs with tremendous performance. Overclocking was a breeze too and in no time at all we'd managed a rock solid 4.9GHz from our i7-4770K. This wasn't all show and no go though, as nearly every benchmark saw a new OC3D Z87 record taken by the Maximus VI Formula. It is a stunning piece of kit.
If we had to find a negative, and we do else we'd be in advertising, the Maximus VI Formula is, perhaps, a tiny bit expensive when compared to some of the other motherboards if you don't require the many features it has to offer. But really, you're getting so much for your money that it's actually good value. We haven't even mentioned the outstanding sound quality thanks to the Texus Instruments headphone amplifier. Or the hybrid heatsinks that mean you don't have to buy a separate waterblock. Or the dual-band WiFi, or RAMDisk or. Well we could go on.
In short the ASUS Maximus VI Formula is outstanding, and could easily pass for the Extreme version such is the high level of performance and array of features. It looks amazing and goes like a scalded rat. We unhesitatingly award it our OC3D Gold Award. Welcome back, ROG.
Thanks to ASUS for supplying the Maximus VI Formula for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D forums.