ASUS Maximus VII Hero Review
Pricing and naming conventions in hardware are always a funny thing. In the same way that people aren't too keen on buying the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu, so it proves with Hardware. Put out a £40 motherboard and nobody would buy it because they assume it's rubbish. A £500 motherboard would only get a niche audience because of the price, but there would still be more people interested in it as, for that price, it must be worth it. Naming is similar. Call a motherboard the "ASUS ROG Sheep" and it's unlikely to sell. Call it the "Extreme Gaming Black Edition" though and it'll fly off the shelves. Que sera sera. We gladly told anyone who would listen that the sweet spot is, in the case of ASUS, their Formula range. The Maximus VII Hero is aimed squarely at that audience and price-point, and what a stunner it is.
The looks are minimalist, bordering on disappointing, when it comes to the amount of things soldered onto the PCB, but the combination of the minimalist black PCB with red accent points and red plastics continue to be as gorgeous as they have been since the first caveman mixed charcoal with cochineal. No matter which angle you look at it from the Hero is a pretty board that lights up in all the right places and will blend with many systems, we think that this version of the ROG motherboard design could be their.
It certainly isn't bereft of features to match those looks. The use of the Intel I217-V LAN with the ASUS Game First software must have sent tremors through a certain other LAN company who strive for low ping traffic shaping suitable for gaming. SupremeFX 2014 Audio is some of the best onboard audio we've ever heard and it definitely risks putting the Xonar arm of ASUS out of business. Why buy an external soundcard when the supplied audio is this good? We love the BIOS which has been refined from the early days of UEFI ones to something which works with high DPI gaming mice, has everything clearly labelled and has a plethora of tweaking options.
It's with those tweaking options that we have to start with our performance assessment. Rock solid 4.9GHz with dual-channel 2933MHz memory is enough to make even the most jaded of users need a napkin to wipe up the drool, and although we couldn't get our CPU sufficiently stable for our full battery of tests we saw 5GHz with 2933MHz memory too. This is the first time we have seen 2933 with two sticks with just a simple flick of the XMP button, we had thought without a great deal of time tweaking the IMC in our CPU just didnt have it in it, thanks the Hero the gauntlet has been thrown down! The benchmarks back up this blistering potential with the Maximus VII Hero regularly topping our graphs, and often by a big margin. 3D Performance in particular was outstanding with a big gap from the Hero down to the next best. Everywhere you looked the results were loud and proud. About the only negative we can find is the PC Mark Vantage test where the Hero exactly matched the Z97A, which makes us wonder if it's something about the way ASUS design their motherboards that affects that particular test. Certainly PC Mark 7 had the Maximus VII Hero back at the top.
A great looking motherboard with monumental performance both in overclocking capabilities and actual results, the Maximus VII Hero is everything you could want from a Republic of Gamers motherboard but with an affordable price tag. We love it, and we're sure you will too. Gold. Our first Z97 Gold too.