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ASUS Maximus VII Formula Review: The Flagship Recipe

Introduction

Asus has adopted the policy of releasing a board for every form factor or niche since the release of Z87 chipset by Intel

We have

  • Impact for Mini ITX
  • Gene for Micro ATX
  • Ranger for Entry level Full ATX with most of the essential features of ROG lineup without breaking the bank.
  • Hero for those people who don’t want or can afford a Formula but do not want to miss up most of the features of the Formula.
  • Formula for those people who don’t want to to break any overclocking record but wants to have the full ROG Experience.
  • And last we have the Extreme for the one who wants to overclock to squeeze the last ounce of performance form his computer.

Today we will be covering the Maximus VII Formula : the current ROG flagship for now since Asus has not yet decided to release an Extreme for the Z97 chipset.

We already covered the Maximus VII Ranger  and the Impact lets take a look at the what the current flagship has in store for us.

SizeATX
CPU InterfaceLGA 1150
ChipsetIntel Z97
Memory slots4 DIMMS upto 32GB
1333MHz – 3300 MHz(OC)
Video OutputsHDMI
DisplayPort 1.2
Network ConnectivityIntel® I218V
Onboard AudioROG SupremeFX Formula 2014
Expansion Slots2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode)
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1,
1 x mini-PCIe 2.0 x1
Onboard StorageIntel® Z97 chipset :
1 x SATA Express port, compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
|1 x M.2 Socket 3, , with M Key, type 2260 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
4 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 *3
ASMedia® SATA Express controller : *4
1 x SATA Express port, compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
ASMedia® ASM1061 controller : *4
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
USB 3.06 x via PCH
2 x via Asmedia Controller
Onboard1 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)
2 x SATA Express connector: red, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)
1 x TPM header
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x Thunderbolt header(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
10 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
1 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x mPCIe Combo III connector(s)
1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header(s)
1 x KeyBot Button
1 x Sonic SoundStage Button
Power Connectors1 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)
Fan Headers1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
6 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (6 x 4 -pin)
IO Panel1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
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(es)
Warranty3 Years
Product PageLink

 

Close look of the Maximus VII Formula

Before going into the benchmarks lets take a tour of the Maximus VII Formula,We have given a “naked” picture of the board to accustom our readers with the board components which in case of the Formula are covered with a thermal armor.

P_20150227_163845
Even without the ROG Armor the board looks absolutely stunning

Now let’s start a visual tour of  the board.

P_20150227_163906
Upper section of the Maximus VII Formula

The top left hand corner of the motherboard has a 4-pin fan header, and 8-pin+4-pin CPU power connectors. Starting from the middle we have the Memok! button which helps in the booting up the system with any type of DDR3 memory.Besides that we have the ever helpful Q Code LED which displays a code in case of a system failure;between the memok! button and QCode led we have the voltage measure points useful on testing the board and in case of sub zero overclocking.

A closer look at the probe points are given below

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Close look at the Voltage measuring points
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Left side

Just under the LED panel we see the Big Start and reset buttons which has become a trademark of ROG series,. The main attraction of the left side are however the four Ram slots supporting upto 32GB of Memory,memory speeds are supported upto 3300 Mhz(OC).ASUS’ T-Topology design is used here meaning that the trace paths to the CPU and therefore memory controller are equal. Beside the ram slots we see two power phases dedicated to the memory subsytem only.To round of this section we see the main ATX 24Pin power connector and the front USB 3.0 connectors. The power connectors hides the device leds which offers a quick reference guide in case the system fails to boot.

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Device Leds

Coming further down we have the storage section and the Z97 Chipset hub

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Z97 chipset hub and Sata Ports

There are 8 SATA 6Gb/s ports and 2 SATA Express ports. These are controlled by the Intel Z97 Express chipset, an ASMedia ASM1061 controller and an ASMedia 106SE controller for SATA Express support which alternatively provides two additional SATA 6Gb/s ports if SATA Express slot is not populated.

P_20150227_164539
Plenty options of storage

Coming further down the we see the Nuvoton I/O controller chip along the TPU chip.

lower_right_end

The section also consists of the onboard KeyBot button,front panel connectors,Front USB2.0 connectors and ROG extender connectors(for hooking up a ROG Front Base) along with a fan header.

lower_left_end

Coming to the lower left side we can find a fan header,a TPM(Trusted Platform Module) header,A TB header(thunderbolt),and lastly the AAFP connector commonly known as the Front Panel Audio Connector(don’t ask me why it was named as such!)

P_20150227_165314
Supreme FX Audio

Next up in the left side we have Supreme FX Audio solution which in essence an ALC1150 with ASUS secret sauce.
The features  included

  • Physical PCB isolation for minimal interference
  • Stainless Steel EMI protection .
  • ELNA premium Japan-made audio capacitors
  • Cirrus Logic® CS4398 DAC with 120dB signal-to-noise ratio
  • Sonic SenseAmp : a ROG invention that detects headphone impedance and adjusts the built-in amp automatically without needing to do any hardware amplifier exchanging, designed for pitch-perfect listeners.
  • Sonic SoundStage

The Maximus VII Formula have no shortage of fan connectors, the board has in total eight fan connectors all of which can be controlled individually by the bundled AI Suite 3 software.

The below picture shows all the fan connectors marked in red

P_20150227_163845_edited
MS Paint FTW!
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Expansions

On the graphics side of things the board has 3 PCIe Slots with the top two running in both PCIe 3.0/2.0 mode and the bottom one running at only PCIe 2.0 mode. All the slots run at full x16 speeds when individually populated.

The board supports Three way CrossfireX at x8/x8/x4 speed and Quad SLI(Two Dual GPU cards) at x8/x8 speed since there isn’t any PLX chip onboard.

Do note The PCIe 2.0 x16 slot  shares bandwidth with SATAExpress_E1 (bottom one)connector. The default setting is in Auto mode that automatically optimizes the system bandwidth. If you install PCIe 2.0 x4 device, the system will automatically detect and disable SATAExpress_E1 connector.

There are 3 PCIe 2.0 x1 slots for peripherals such as sound cards etc.

P_20150227_164845
Aint no kill like overkill..right?

On the VRM side of things Asus used its hugely successful DIGI+ design which is in its third revision by now. The revision scream “overkill” and what we have here is really overkill;we have a 8+2 phase design for the CPU,NB and Dram.

The full implementation consists of special black metallic Nichicon GT series caps are  up to 10,000 hours at  105C operating temperatures along with gold plated “Blackwing” units which have a very unique look with a fin design running vertically on the outer shell of the choke allowing for even better thermal capabilities and ensuring minimal power loss and maximum power delivery.To round it off we have special mofset which is upto 50% smaller(according to Asus) ensuring 90% more efficiency(again as said by Asus).

Running the whole implementation is the Digi+ controller which provides different modes of power delivery as the the situation warrants form optimized mode to full power mode.

That concludes the board layout,let us move on the Bios and software bundles which at times can make or break the board

Maximus VII Formula BIOS

As earlier i will let the pictures do the talking mostly.

Extreme Tweaker

This is where you should be if you are interested in overclocking.

I will do a proper Bios guide if I get more chance but for now pictures will suffice since they are pretty much self explanatory

extreme_tweaker_1
Extreme Tweaker 1
extreme_tweaker_2
Extreme Tweaker 2
extreme_tweaker_2
Extreme Tweaker 3
extreme_tweaker_4
Extreme Tweaker 4
extreme_tweaker_2
Extreme Tweaker 5
extreme_tweaker_2
Extreme Tweaker 5
extreme_tweaker_dram
Extreme Tweaker Dram Timing Control
extreme_tweaker_gpu
Extreme Tweaker GPU/DIMM Post Info
extreme_tweaker_digi+
Extreme Tweaker Digi+
extreme_tweaker_tp
Tweakers Paradise
150206221430
CPU Power Management 1
150206221445
CPU Power Management 2
150206221454
CPU Power Management 3

Bios Main Screen

150206221501
Bios Main

Advanced Menu

Advanced Main
Advanced Main
Advanced CPU Settings
CPU Settings
Advanced PCH Configuration
PCH Configuration
Advanced PSH Storage Configuration
PSH Storage Configuration
150206221548
System Agent Configuration
150206221553
USB Configuration
150206221558
Platform Misc Configuration
150206221611
On-board Device Configuration 1
150206221622
On-board Device Configuration 2
150206221627
APM Configuration
150206221632
Network Stack Configuration
150206221639
ROG Led Effect

Monitor Menu

150206221645
Monitor 1
150206221651
Monitor 3
150206221811
Monitor 3
150206221823
Monitor 4

Boot Menu

150206221828
Boot 1
150206221833
Boot 2

Tools Menu

150206221843
Tools 1
150206221912
Tools 2

Exit Menu

150206221920
And thats all folks!

and that concludes the Bios portion.

next stop benchmarks.

Test setup and Benchmarks

First lets give you an overview of the full overview of our test rig for this review.

  • CPU : Intel Core i7 4790K ES
  • Motherboard : Maximus VII Formula
  • Ram: GSkill Trident X 2400MHX CL10(running XMP)
  • SSD: Corsair Nova 2
  • Cooler: Antec Kuhler 1250
  • PSU: CM V1000

With that aside lets take a look at the benchmark results.

We ran the Processors at 4.1 GHz,4.3GHz and 4.5GHz;anything after that was unstable for benchmarks and normal running.Although the board was running flawlessly with any amount of stress put upon it we figured out it was the CPU which played spoil sport with us.

For the inquisitive ones here are the CPU-Z validation links

4000MHz
9n3p1f-4.png

4100MHz
buvzvz-4.png

4300MHz
4h2lj4-4.png

4500MHz
qksxlq-4.png

With that aside lets dive into benchmark numbers.

First in our list is one of the most non biased Synthetic benchmarks i have seen : Aida 64

Part one of the CPU suite consists of the Queen and PhotoWorxx Benchmark.

a brief description of the benchmarks will help the readers to understand more

CPU Queen Benchmark

This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic “Queens problem” on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard. At the same clock speed theoretically the processor with the shorter pipeline and smaller misprediction penalties will attain higher benchmark scores. For example — with HyperThreading disabled — the Intel Northwood core processors get higher scores than the Intel Prescott core based ones due to the 20-step vs 31-step long pipeline. CPU Queen test uses integer MMX, SSE2 and SSSE3 optimizations.

CPU PhotoWorxx Benchmark

This benchmark performs different common tasks used during digital photo processing.

It performs the following tasks on a very large RGB image:

  • Fill the image with random colored pixels
  • Rotate 90 degrees CCW
  • Rotate 180 degrees
  • Difference
  • Color space conversion (used e.g. during JPEG conversion)

This benchmark stresses the SIMD integer arithmetic execution units of the CPU and also the memory subsystem. CPU PhotoWorxx test uses the appropriate x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, 3DNow!+, SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4A, AVX, AVX2, and XOP instruction set extension and it is NUMA, HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

aida_cpu_1

Part two of the CPU Suite consists of Hash,Zlib and AES benchmarks.

CPU ZLib Benchmark

This integer benchmark measures combined CPU and memory subsystem performance through the public ZLib compression library. CPU ZLib test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

CPU AES Benchmark

This benchmark measures CPU performance using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) data encryption. In cryptography AES is a symmetric-key encryption standard. AES is used in several compression tools today, like 7z, RAR, WinZip, and also in disk encryption solutions like BitLocker, FileVault (Mac OS X), TrueCrypt.
CPU AES test uses the appropriate x86, MMX and SSE4.1 instructions, and it’s hardware accelerated on VIA PadLock Security Engine capable VIA C3, VIA C7, VIA Nano and VIA QuadCore processors; and on Intel AES-NI instruction set extension capable processors. The test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

CPU Hash Benchmark

This benchmark measures CPU performance using the SHA1 hashing algorithm defined in the Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 180-4. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate MMX, MMX+/SSE, SSE2, SSSE3, AVX, AVX2, XOP, BMI, and BMI2 instruction set extension. CPU Hash benchmark is hardware accelerated on VIA PadLock Security Engine capable VIA C7, VIA Nano and VIA QuadCore processors.

aida_cpu_2

Now coming to the benchmarks which stresses the FPU, we have

FPU VP8 Benchmark

This benchmark measures video compression performance using the Google VP8 (WebM) video codec Version 1.1.0 (http://www.webmproject.org). FPU VP8 test encodes 1280×720 pixel (“HD ready”) resolution video frames in 1-pass mode at 8192 kbps bitrate with best quality settings. The content of the frames are generated by the FPU Julia fractal module. The code behind this benchmark method utilizes the appropriate MMX, SSE2, SSSE3 or SSE4.1 instruction set extension, and it is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

FPU Julia Benchmark

This benchmark measures the single precision (also known as 32-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of several frames of the popular “Julia” fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x87, 3DNow!, 3DNow!+, SSE, AVX, AVX2, FMA, and FMA4 instruction set extension. FPU Julia test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

 

aida_fpu_1

Coming to the second part of FPU benchmarks we have,

FPU Mandel Benchmark

This benchmark measures the double precision (also known as 64-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of several frames of the popular “Mandelbrot” fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x87, SSE2, AVX, AVX2, FMA, and FMA4 instruction set extension. FPU Mandel test is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

FPU SinJulia Benchmark

This benchmark measures the extended precision (also known as 80-bit) floating-point performance through the computation of a single frame of a modified “Julia” fractal. The code behind this benchmark method is written in Assembly, and it is extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing trigonometric and exponential x87 instructions. FPU SinJulia is HyperThreading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

aida_fpu_2

With the mainstream synthetic benchmarks out of the way,lets try some benchmarks that is used in competitive benchmarking.

Enter Super PI and WPrime

 Super PI

Super PI is a single threaded benchmark that calculates pi to a specific number of digits. It uses the Gauss-Legendre algorithm and is a Windows port of a program used by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 to compute pi to 232 digits.

superpi_1M

superpi_32m

WPrime

wPrime uses a recursive call of Newton’s method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we’re sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.

wprime_32m

wprime_1024m

CineBench

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D.

cinebench_115

cinebench_15

X264 FHD

This benchmark encodes a full HD (1080p) video into a high quality x264 video. This is especially CPU intensive and prefers more cores.

x264

3DPM benchmark is made by Ian J Cutress of Anandtech. In his own words

The algorithms in 3DPM employ both uniform random number generation or normal distribution random number generation, and vary in various amounts of trigonometric operations, conditional statements, generation and rejection, fused operations, etc.  The benchmark runs through six algorithms for a specified number of particles and steps, and calculates the speed of each algorithm, then sums them all for a final score.  This is an example of a real world situation that a computational scientist may find themselves in, rather than a pure synthetic benchmark.  The benchmark is also parallel between particles simulated, and we test the single thread performance as well as the multi-threaded performance.

3dpm_st

3dpm_mt

That concludes the benchmarks.Overall every score are in line as expected from a a board like Maximus VII Formula. However the 3DPM multithreaded results are kinda confusing even after multiple re runs.

Conclusion

Asus Maximus VII Formula is indeed a good board. From SupremeFX sound solution to DIGI+ VRM implementation and LN2 mode for overclockers,the board starts with a plan of catering to every niche and it executes the plan with utmost precision.Throughout our testing we found the board to be a dream to work on and easy to operate.

The only downer is that the MPCIE combo is not compatible with 80mm full sized M.2 SSD. The problem is only magnified by the fact since the 60mm or the 40mm SSD ‘s are not available in good number yet.

I would be nitpicking, but at times ASUS’ exhaustive UEFI is pretty intimidating. However the overall experience remains pleasing as ever. This is ASUS’ best Z97 board, but getting the best does come at a price.

Buying link :
Amazon
Flipkart

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