Maximus VII Ranger Review

[nextpage title=”Introduction and Specifications”]Hey everyone,
What we have with us today is the Maximus VII Ranger; the new entrant in the ROG lineup from Asus.


Lets take a quick look at the board and then we will dive into the number and features this board has to offer.
First let’s the major specifications then we will dive into specifics.

Size ATX
CPU Interface Intel® Socket 1150 for the 5th/New 4th/4th Generation Core™ i7/
Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 22
Chipset Intel Z97
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 3200(O.C.)/3100(O.C.)/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 *
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 3200
Video Outputs Integrated Graphics Processor
Multi-VGA output supportHDMI/DVI-D/RGB ports- Supports HDMI with max.
resolution 4096 x [email protected] Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz-Supports DVI-D with max.
resolution 1920 x [email protected] RGB with max.
resolution 1920 x [email protected] HzSupports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Onboard LAN ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retaskingSupremeFX Shielding Technology- ELNA® premium audio capacitorsAudio Feature :– DTS Connect- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel- Sonic SoundStage- Sonic SenseAmp

– Sonic Studio

– Sonic Radar II

Onboard Audio Intel® I218V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8, red)1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, black) *13 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Onboard SATA/RAID Intel® Z97 chipset :6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray,Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology,Intel® Smart Connect Technology
IO Panel Intel® I218V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)1 x Parallel PortVGADVI-DHDMI2 x USB 2.02 x USB 3,01 x Gigabit EthernetAudio Jacks (ALC662)

[nextpage title=”Product Showcase”]

Product showcase

Reviewers Note:
I apologize beforehand as some of the pictures have came really bad.I will fix them as soon as i get the boards again.

The boxes are standard fare ROG box with info all over them.
On opening the front flap we are presented with a full scale detailed picture of the board itself.

Now with the boxes aside lets see what we have in the box.

We have the board,Driver CD’s,couple of sata cables, SLI bridge, I/O shield,the manual,a set of stickers and a “do not disturb” sign.

First let’s take a look at the schematics of the board, after that we will take a small tour of the board

From the outset we can see the PLX chip that is used for multi gpu configuration is nowhere to be seen and the place is populated by a M.2 SSD Slot. This means the CPU provides all the necessary PCI e lanes for now.

To be honest the exclusion of the PLX chips makes the look very minimalist and clean.

The board is very well laid out, with the power and reset button along with post code leds near the memory slots along with the memOK button.

Bottom of the board houses the black sound stage button along with the CMOS reset button; on the right side we see the keybot button(we will be talking in detail about them in the features section so hold on!)

The board will be powered by a standard 24PIN ATX power plug and an 8PIN cpu power plug.
Also we can see the indicator Led. right beside the 24 Pin.
As a rule of thumb none of them should be blinking under normal course of operations.

The back I/O comes loaded as always.
We see a

  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
  • 1 x DVI-D
  • 1 x D-Sub
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
  • 4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF out
  • 6 x Audio jack(s)
  • 1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)

Coming to the graphics side of things

 

We have 3x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 running @ X16/X8+X8

The black slot operates at X4
please note If you install a PCIe 2.0 x4 device, the system will automatically detect and disable PCIe 2.0 x1 and M.2 slot.

In Maximus VII Ranger Asus used the TI NexFet MOFSET package with an IR3548 PWM.
However they did cheap out a bit and used a doubler and used inductors which are not in the same league of the ones used in Maximus VII Gene or Maximus VII Hero.

And last but not least the board comes 6XSATA III posts courtesy the Z97 chipset

[nextpage title=”Software Showcase”]

Software

Asus generally provides some added software in their ROG branded motherboards compared to their general consumer line. All the consumer board software is present too, albeit like the BIOS they get a red/black ROG paintjob. In this review, I’ll cover the bonus set that you get with the Ranger

GameFirst III

GameFirst is Asus’ network monitoring and packet prioritization utility. Previous iterations have been a direct facelift of CFOS, with a little Asus branding and GUI changes. But with this iteration we are seeing a truly in-house product, with revamped interface and added functionalities. But at its core we are still looking at a nice product which can be used to optimize your network connections.

RamDisk and KeyBot

RamDisk also makes a return to the Ranger, as a part of the ROG suite. This essentially does what its name says – i.e. help you to create a RamDisk. The process is simple and intuitive.


KeyBot on the other hand is completely new and introduced in the Z97 series of motherboards. This is something new we’re seeing here – Asus is effectively testing the waters. KeyBot allows you to program any USB keyboard’s F1 to F10 keys as macros or shortcuts. You can even choose from a range of pre-defined function keys if you aren’t confident enough to get into creating your own macros.


SoundStage and Sonic Studio

Also included are the audio software packages in the form of SoundStage and Sonic Studio. Again, this is an upgrade to what we saw in terms of Sonic FX in previous generation boards as Asus provides a complete suite of features including switching between four Hardware register level OP-AMP settings with a button press. This is similar to what we saw from Camp Gigabyte, yet in a much simpler level as it does not require you to bring out your tweezers and swap the Op-Amps in the motherboard itself.

Sonic Studio on the other hand is audio tweaking software, another Asus in-house effort, and works similarly to other offerings of this category, enabling users to use predefined as well as custom sound profiles.

[nextpage title=”Bios Showcase”]
BIOS Showcase

The BIOS for Asus Z97 motherboards (or should I say UEFI) has got a little makeover. The core components stay the same, but the fonts are smoothened out and look more modern rather than their previous ‘BIOS font’. The introduction screen is a nice summary of your essential components, temperature, operating frequency and voltages. Asus also adds a ‘My Favorites’ tab where you can add a page for quick access.

Beyond that, Asus has also included auto-level up options in the UEFI for people who don’t want to tinker with settings much. Most of the settings remain unchanged, and things like Asus Secure Erase appear here. The usual bits and pieces introduced in the high end boards trickle down to the Ranger as well, and we are happy to report that there’s no skimping from Asus’ part.

The Advance mode opens up the usual plethora of options. Extreme Tweaker is reserved to quick access settings for the CPU and RAM as well as a few GPU options in the mix. If you happen to have the GPU Hotwire handy, you can actually overclock (or underclock) your GPU from the UEFI. Neat.

[nextpage title=”Benchmarks”]
Test System and Benchmarks

Test System

Core i7 4770K
Maximus VII Ranger
Kingston Hyper X Beast 16GB running @ 1866Mhz 9-10-9-24-1T (courtesy Kingston)
Corsair NOVA 60 GB SSD
HIS r9 270x
Corsair AX 1200W
Open test bench

A few points when analyzing the graphs:

  • AIDA 64 Benchmarking suites:Higher score is better
  • SuperPi and Wprime:Lower score is better
  • POV Ray and CineBench : higher is better

First up the 2D Benchmarks

Aida 64 CPU Suite

Aida 64 FPU suite

The results look all in line albeit with about 5% increase from Z87 the chip-set doesn’t bring much to the table.

Now let’s take a look at some real world workloads

CineBench 11.5

POV RAY

And now to some synthetic workloads : Super PI and Wprime , the two most popular 2D benches in the competitive benchmarking world.

WPrime 1024M


Super Pi 1M

[nextpage title=”Conclusion”]

Conclusion

It is quite hard to justify buying a new chipset after Z87 and Haswell came out a year back. Enthusiasts with deep pockets are another story, but with a sub 16k price tag Ranger isn’t targeting those niche segments anyway. It aims for a more mid-end budget conscious kind, the ones who only build or upgrade their entire setup in a couple of years. So is it worth it?

The answer’s a little tricky. For people still using older chipsets like P67/Z68, the upgrade absolutely makes sense. Haswell is faster, runs cooler, and although it has never quite reached the OCing potential like earlier Sandy Bridge days, the per-core performance has increased incrementally. Plus upgrading to a Z97 board enables you to get support for Broadwell processors due out next year. For these people, Maximus VII Ranger is a very good choice to build upon.

But what about existing Z87 users? For people using the Z87 boards, especially ROG ones, there’s little incentive upgrading into Z97 right now unless you want to be at the bleeding edge of technology. Asus has updated quite a few things here – the superior audio package, the overall build quality and the components used, the PCB layout, the fantastic aesthetics – they all have been worked upon and results in a package which is competitive in pricing as well. At sub 16k pricing it also manages to steer clear of Gigabyte’s Z97X-SOC, but then the SOC is purely targeted at another section of the crowd altogether.

All in all, I can’t find many faults in the Maximus VII Ranger. It’s a solid offering from Asus, and the gradual change that we saw in introducing budget friendly ROG full ATX boards from Z87 (We’re looking at you, Maximus VI Hero) is flourishing into a brand in itself. Z97 is seeing two budget ROG ATX boards vying for your attention, and Ranger surely hits the sweeter spot amongst the two; although I would love to see a true 8 Phase VRM instead of a circuit using doublers.