ASUS Z170 Maximus VIII Formula Review
Allow us to go off tangent slightly. Such has been the consistency of recent Intel chipsets, since about the Z77, your choice of motherboard has been largely dependant upon price or features or even colour, rather than actual capabilities. Even with the latest Z170 chipset, such as the one which is at the heart of the Maximus VIII Formula, you discover that nearly all of them have identical stock results, similar amounts of overclocking and - because SATA, M.2 and USB is built into the chipset - very similar levels of connectivity. If you'll pardon the pun the formula is very much a case of buying whatever you want and they'll all be very similar.
The Maximus VIII Formula not only tears up this rule book, but moves usability and performance a step beyond anything we've seen thus far. Yes, anything. We've lost count of the amount of times we've looked at a build and wished we'd picked a different colour, or even seen a motherboard that ticked all of our boxes but limited us to a particular hue (usually red). Considering that it's the success of the Republic of Gamers brand that has led to red being the default colour for hardcore hardware it speaks volumes about the bravery of ASUS to have such an identifiable brand and then dispense with it. It would have been easy to go down the route of the old black editions and just have everything like a coal hole, but instead they've taken the concept of a neutral scheme, as we first saw on the Hero Alpha, and refined it. This hasn't been a generational shift starting with gunmetal colouring and refining it over many iterations either. This is one model as an "(Hero) Alpha" and then boom, finished article.
We adore the looks of the ROG Armor in its many guises, and here it looks as good as it ever has. There have been plenty of tweaks to the idea too. We now have similarly armoured power and reset buttons, the M.2 slot (previously a pain in the posterior to get at) is now well within reach and yet also neatly hidden away. Add to that the partnership with EK Water Blocks which has led to the best designed hybrid power phase cooler, and you can be certain the design is 100% on point. That's before we've even discussed the AURA lighting. We saw this on the Hero Alpha but this is far beyond that thanks to the addition of LEDs dotted around the board which make the whole system glow with the hue of your choice, or cycle through colours, or react to CPU temperatures, or your music, or or or. Suffice to say that this absolutely changes the game. No longer do you have to throw away a ton of single-coloured bits and bobs. Instead you just buy RGB compatible hardware and the world is your multi-hued oyster.
Even if the Maximus VIII Formula just had the plentiful technologies in place and performed averagely it would easily win our Gold Award. However, the performance is pretty eye-opening. The stock performance is a particular highlight with the Formula appearing at the top of the stock charts in almost every single graph, and usually by a decent margin too. The overclocking is super-easy on the always reliable ASUS UEFI and the results bear benchmark fruit too, rather than just being something which looks good in CPUz. Speaking of CPUz the Formula comes with a raft of software that is far more useful than the bloatware of old installations, with even a cloud storage option that is very nice.
It looks amazing, it performs brilliantly, and the colour options are divine. It's rare that you find a humble motherboard changing your possibilities so comprehensively, but the Maximus VIII Formula is one such item and that's why, in a first for OC3D, it wins the ultra-rare White Gold Award.