The ASUS Maximus series of motherboards are at premium end of the range - they are heavily featured and well engineered, making them both highly desired and also out of budget for the many gamers. We managed to get our hands on the ASUS Maximus VI Gene as the centrepiece for our main test bench at the end of last year and thought it appropriate to review ASUS' premium micro-ATX offering.
Personally, I've always liked the look of the Maximus range and the latest Z87 series is no exception. ASUS has provided us with a Maximus VI Gene Micro-ATX board to use with our Intel 1150 socket test bench so we thought we'd kick things off with a review before we started re-baselining our CPU coolers.
The GENE is the ASUS offering for those who want a smaller rig but also want to roll with a Republic of Gamers (ROG) board. They didn't skimp on features when designing the GENE - even providing a few that are at this stage of limited use like the mPCIe Combo II. Next generation technology is great but playing the "waiting game" for a M.2(NFGG) Socket 2 SSD might be a bit much for some people. Thankfully, there is an abundance of current technology on-board and it's all class.
Like many of the gaming boards available today, ASUS has got ticks in the following boxes:
LAN prioritisation with GameFirst II
Upgraded Audio via SupremeFX
BOTH SLI and Crossfire support
Top Shelf Software Utility (there are several included)
Fully featured UEFI
Aesthetically, the board looks 'heavy' and tough. The heat sinks have a black matte finish and the PCIe slots also look bulkier than other boards. There is red LED lighting to highlight the PCB where the sound components live and the inclusion of Start and Reset buttons on the board make it clear that this is aimed at an enthusiast. It just looks both mean and premium.
The complete specifications of the ASUS Maximus VI Gene are listed below. When working with the review sample, we didn't have any compatibility or clearance issues with our components. As with all boards that feature an on-board power switch, it's great for the review testing although I'm not sure how often it would be used by the average gamer. Personally I like having an onboard power switch but I have my boards out in the open more than most people.
The utility bundle that ASUS included also provides extensive functionality and a very easy to use RAMDISK utility - there is something in the bundle for everyone at all skill levels. For the hardcore enthusiasts there are also 10 ProbeIt measurement points for checking voltages with a multimeter and for the neat freaks out there, ASUS also included a sheet of cable labels.
Intel® Socket 1150 for 4th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 3000(O.C.)/2933(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2600(O.C.)/2500(O.C.)
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
|Expansion Slots||2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
1 x mini-PCIe 2.0 x1
Intel® Z87 chipset :
|USB||Intel® Z87 chipset :
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z87 chipset :
8 x USB 2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, black, 4 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue)
|Audio||ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- High quality 115 dB SNR stereo playback output (Line-out at rear) and 104 dB SNR recording input (Line-in)
Audio Feature :
- SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
- ELNA premium audio capacitors
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Sonic Radar
- DTS Connect
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
|Network||Intel® I217V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)|
|Multi-GPU||Integrated Graphics Processor
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
Supports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
|ROG Exclusive Features
||mPCIe Combo II (mPCIe/M.2 combo card)
Extreme Engine Digi+ III :
- 8 + 2 phase power design
- NexFET™ Power Block MOSFET
- 60A BlackWing Chokes
- 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
UEFI BIOS features :
- ROG BIOS Print
- GPU.DIMM Post
- Tweakers' Paradise
- ROG SSD Secure Erase
|Internal I/O Connections||- 1 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)
- 1 x TPM connector(s)
- 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
- 1 x CPU Fan connector(s)
- 1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s)
- 3 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
- 1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
- 1 x 8-pin EATX 12 V Power connector
- 1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
- 1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
- 1 x System panel(s)
- 1 x DirectKey Button(s)
- 1 x DRCT header(s)
- 1 x MemOK! button(s)
- 10 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
- 1 x LN2 Mode header(s)
- 1 x Power-on button(s)
- 1 x Reset button(s)
- 1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header(s)
- 1 x mPCIe Combo II connector(s)
|Rear Panel I/O Connections||- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
- 6 x USB 3.0 (blue)
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 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)
|BIOS||64Mb UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.7, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI5.0a Multi-Language BIOS|
|Dimensions||mATX Form Factor
9.6 inch x 9.6 inch ( 24.4 cm x 24.4 cm )
|Manageability||WfM 2.0, DMI 2.7, WOL by PME, PXE|
ROG GameFirst II
ROG Mem TweakIt
DAEMON Tools Pro Standard
|Special Features||ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way Optimization :
- The tuning key perfectly consolidates ASUS-exclusive DIGI+ Power Control, TPU, EPU, and Fan Xpert 2 optimize the digital power setting, system performance, power saving and whole system cooling configuration
CPU Level Up
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- USB BIOS Flashback
- AI Suite 3
- Ai Charger+
- USB Charger+
- USB 3.0 Boost
- Disk Unlocker
ASUS EZ DIY :
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Code
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
Overclocking Protection :
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
ASUS also include the following accessories in the package:
- User's manual
- I/O Shield
- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
- 1 x SLI bridge(s)
- 1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
- 1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
- 1 x mPCIe Combo II expansion card(s)
- 1 x ROG Door Hanger(s)
The user manual is worth noting - it's about 200 pages long and has a QR code to access the ASUS DIY photo guide. We didn't use it but it's there.
The cable labels might seem like a gimmick but once you have finished your cable routing it can be tricky to remember which hard drive goes with which SATA cable at either end so I think this is going to be an underrated addition to the accessories.
The Maximus VI Gene has a logical layout with almost all of the internal headers and switches located around the outside edges of the board. The exception to this is the rear Chassis 4-Pin fan header. Whilst I can understand the convenience of having a 4 Pin fan connector close to where the rear fan is going to be, personally, I'd route the cable behind the board and connect the rear chassis fan to one of the headers along the edge of the board to keep things neat. The CPU and Optional CPU 4-Pin fan headers are at the top of the board for easy connection along with the LED readout for Error codes and MEM-OK button for memory compatibility issues. There are micro LEDs in front of the 24 Pin power connector that light up during the boot process to help troubleshooting and there is also an orange LED for hard drive activity near the SATA connectors. These lights are not overly bright but they are easy to see and identify. There are also a row of ProbeIt points for using a multimeter to check voltages when overclocking. Unless you are using an open air test bench, these are going to be almost impossible to access as they are along the top edge of the board, near the right corner.
ASUS has gone with a black board and highlighted it with red connections for one RAM channel, USB 3.0 header, all 8 SATA 3 6G connections and the PCIE X16/x8 ports - it isn't excessive but it's more red than the MSI Z87M Gaming that we reviewed earlier this month.
As with most boards that have an upgraded audio solution, the audio section of the board is isolated and highlighted by an LED lit channel and chipset branding - in this case it's the ASUS SupremeFX.
The top corner has a connector for the mPCIe Combo II adaptor. This allows the connection of a mini-PCI Express 2.0 card like the Centrino Advanced-N 6235 or Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 7260 network/bluetooth adaptors as well as a Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) M.2 SSD. If a NGFF M.2 SSD is fitted, the SATA_5 connector is disabled - this is not unusual for onboard mSATA so NGFF is not much different in the 'sharing' respect. The ASUS implementation of the mPCIe Combo II also means that the on-board SSD takes up less real estate on the board in contrast to an mSATA SSD that has a bigger footprint. Although M.2 SSDs are not as widely available as mSATA, they can be found online in Australia and are likely to become more widely available as the year goes on. I would have preferred to see a WIFI-GO! connector here instead of the mPCIe Combo II offering - a WIFI/BT mini PCI Express card can be bought for under $30 and easily installed so it isn't the end of the world if WIFI is required for your build.
The matte finish is effective on the heat sinks and they don't get overly hot to touch. The battery is located above the PCIE x16 slot so depending on the selection of CPU cooler, it might be possible to remove the battery without having to also remove the graphics card. It's a moot point though, ASUS has included a Clear CMOS button on the rear IO panel and they also have the USB BIOS Flashback that allows you to flash the BIOS without POSTing.
The DirectKey button allows you to boot straight into BIOS from a powered down state - great after an overclocking misadventure or if you have fastboot turned on and just want to tweak quickly without having going into windows to trigger a restart into BIOS.
When running SLI or Crossfire, the graphics cards are sandwiched close together which means that they will run hotter and louder than on a full sized board where there is usually a slot gap between the PCIe 16/8x slots. The other issue that this spacing presents is the difficulty in accessing the PCIe clip to release the cards. This is not a criticism of this motherboard but just something to be aware of if you intend to use dual graphics cards on a micro-ATX board. The upside is that all of the IO connections along the bottom edge of the motherboard are accessible when using 2 dual slot graphics cards. This also means that you can extend the gaming life of the board/CPU platform by adding second graphics card for SLI or Crossfire down the track rather than undertaking a full upgrade. As you can see below, the cards are tight - out right hand card hit 84 degrees on the open air test bench and the left card with unobstructed airflow maxed out around the 60 degree mark. As good as the Gigabyte Windforce 3 cooler is, it got loud trying to breathe with another card in the slot next to it. SLI/Crossfire capability is great in a micro-ATX board, however it isn't as forgiving as a full sized board where you get at least one slot of 'breathing space'. It worked really well but you need to pick your cards carefully.
Rear IO Panel
ASUS appears to have made a conscious decision not to focus on the graphics output and included an excessive amount of USB 2.0 (x4) and 3.0 (x6) connectors as well as leaving room for the mPCIe Combo II card. The reality for anyone who buys this board is that they will install at least one discrete graphics card and would be unlikely to use the onboard HDMI. We tested the onboard HDMI port with our 2560x1440 display @ 60Hz and while the i5-4670K didn't have the GPU grunt to power any games at that resolution, general use was crisp and clear without any issues at all. USB connectivity is excessive. 10 USB ports on the rear of their PC as well as the 2 on the front panel via the internal header seems like overkill to us. One of the USB ports is available for ROG Connect, USB Charge+ (increased power delivery for portable devices) and USB BIOS Flashback. The ROG connect feature will probably appear to a small minority but the USB Charge+ and BIOS flashback features are really handy. Anything that charges my phone faster is a welcome addition.
There are no eSATA ports on the rear I/O panel and the trade off seems to be the 8 internal SATA connections (including the shared SATA_5 / NGFF). With USB 3.0 drives now becoming the standard for portable large storage devices this is unlikely to be an issue for the progressive gamer but it's something to consider as there are a lot of people out there with eSATA backup drives.
Included Software Utilities
- ROG GameFirst II
- ROG RAMDisk
- ROG CPU-Z
- ROG Mem TweakIt
- Kaspersky® Anti-Virus
- DAEMON Tools Pro Standard
- ASUS WebStorage
- ASUS Utilities
ROG GameFirst II is a network traffic prioritisation tool. This software was intuitive and seemed effective in our testing with torrents competing with Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4. We didn't notice any issues with ping times or rubber-banding. There are screen shots below to give an idea of the level of configuration available. It also has the ability to help you manage your quota via the "budget" feature.
ROG RAMDisk does what you expect, it sections off a portion of RAM as a virtual disk for speedy access - but it has a real value add in that it also manages junctions for you. This was one of the real stand outs for me - the RAMDISK utility allows you to temporarily move a directory to Memory, access it, write to it and then it syncs it with the source directory on shutdown with minimal user intervention. Sure, you won't be able to fit a lot in there but if you use 16GB RAM, it goes a long way. This also saves your SSDs from copping a thrashing - think about it, you boot and the ASUS RAMDISK utility creates a drive for your internet temporary files or video editing files. All the writes occur in RAM and then the contents are written back to the SSD at the end of your session ONCE, rather than hundreds or thousands of times - saving write cycles to the NAND in your SSD and potentially extending it's life. It all depends on how much of a flogging you give your SSD but it's great to get this utility in the software bundle.
After testing the MSI Z87M's sound solution, I was expecting similar things from the ASUS Maximus VI Gene. The sound clarity, driver implementation and gaming experience was impressive, not noticeably different to the also impressive MSI Z87M Gaming but certainly an improvement over other onboard offerings like the ALC892 and ALC 898. I'm no audiophile but for gaming, movies and listening to music, this solution negates the need for a dedicated sound card unless you are looking to do some professional audio work. The sound software interface is similar to other offerings, allowing the selection of acoustic sound effects and the audio jacks are auto sensing so the system knows when you plug something in.
One other feature that ASUS has is the Sonic Radar - it's been interesting to hear what some people say about it as well. I first saw it at the EB Games expo in Sydney last year at the ASUS booth and felt conflicted. Basically, there is a radar overlay on the screen that tells you where the sound of gunfire, footsteps, voices etc is coming from and because it's an overlay, there are some people that consider this an unfair advantage (read: cheating). I'm not so sure that it's an "unfair" advantage because it is also an added distraction as most competitive FPS games already have one radar or minimap without this overlay but it is pretty cool and it does work as advertised. It will be interesting to see if other sound card/motherboard vendors also start to provide similar software in the future.
ASUS AI Suite 3
AI Suite 3 is the one stop shop for performance tweaking - you can overclock or underclock here, monitor system performance or change FAN settings. The software worked perfectly in our testing - the average user probably won't venture in there much but for the tweakers out there that don't want to live in the UEFI BIOS, this is going to make life easier.
The ASUS Maximus VI Gene will become a fixture in our test bench moving forward thanks to ASUS Australia. We have an i5-4670K that can hit 4.6GHz before things get unstable and our Noctua NH-U12S does a good job of supporting our overclocks even though it's not one of the biggest coolers we have in the cupboard. The Corsair HX-850 is overkill but it allows us some headroom for SLI configurations and the Lian Li Pitstop T60 open air test bench makes it easier to both relocate and keep our testing area "neat-ish..."
|Memory||16GB Corsair Vengeance Low Profile - Black (4x4GB)|
|Case||Lian Li Pitstop T60|
Seagate Barracuda 2TB & Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
Gigabyte GTX670 OC 2GB Windforce3 (in SLI)
Tested without a discrete GPU for a number of scenarios
Level 10M Gaming Headset &
Direct connection to the cable modem &
|Optical||Samsung SATA2 BluRay drive|
I was able to achieve a manual overclock of 4.6GHz with our i5-4670K @ 1.31v on air cooling. The ambient temperature was 24 degrees and the maximum temperature we saw on the cores was 83 degrees with an average maximum temperature of 79.5 degrees Celsius. Overclocking manually through either UEFI BIOS or the AI Suite 3 software was dead simple.
ASUS don't have any TPU switches on the Maxiums VI Gene so overclocking is all done via UEFI BIOS or AI Suite 3 "4 Way Optimisation". There are overclocking presets for 4.2GHz, 4.4 GHz, and 4.6 GHz and we were stable at 4.6GHz. In previous testing with the MSI Z87M Gaming, we were unable to push the i5-4670K any higher and the same scenario played out with the ASUS Maximus VI Gene. Whilst we saw 4.7GHz, it wasn't stable under load for more than about 20 mins and the temps were pushing 90 degrees.
The UEFI BIOS really is a tweaker's paradise - everything from the standard configuration options through to detailed overclocking s covered. You can even turn the LEDs on the motherboard on or off. We didn't experience any compatibility issues with our Logitech G110 USB keyboard or Corsair M65 USB mouse.
I've embedded a video of the UEFI flow and options below, captured via an AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable. There is no commentary, it's just included if you wanted to look at the configuration options available.
See the photos below to get an idea of how the board looks with some components in it including dual GPUs. Note the clear access to the internal headers along the edge of the motherboard and also the clearance between the 120mm Noctua NH-U12S and the first PCIE slot. As we have seen before, if you buy a micro-ATX motherboard you need to make sure that you don't go too wide on the CPU cooler but 120mm is usually a pretty safe bet.
The pricing of the ASUS Maximus VI Gene has recently dropped from $285 to $269 at a prominent local e-tailer. This takes the board from the 'pretty expensive' bracket to the price point where more system builders might consider stretching their budget to own one. That said, the Gene is still a pricey option for a micro-ATX board compared (on price alone) with its competition. This places it price-wise as below:
- ASRock Z87M Extreme 4 at $159
- ASUS Gryphon (not including option armour kit) at $185
- MSI Z87M Gaming at $235
- ASUS Maximus VI Gene at $269
- Gigabyte G1 Sniper M5 at $275
The above list are all considered "gaming" or "enthusiast" micro-ATX motherboards - certified for NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire, most with upgraded sound chips (*excluding the Gryphon which has ALC 892). Cost is the biggest hurdle for the Gene and it shouldn't be a negative because the board itself in isolation is worth it. The thing is that when you are building a system, other options like the Z87M Gaming also come into play when working to a budget. That said, if you are looking to treat yourself, intend to use the majority of the reatures and can afford to spend a little more, the ASUS Maximus VI Gene isn't going to disappoint.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the ASUS Maximus VI Gene - in fact it's near perfect. This board is well engineered and has all the trimmings you could ask for with uncompromising aesthetics in line with it's ROG siblings. ASUS has cheaper boards to suit those on a tight budget and if you are in the market for an SLI capable micro-ATX Z87 board but can't afford the Maximus VI Gene, then they have the Z87 GRYPHON for $84 less. The Maximus VI Gene is designed, marketed and sold as a premium product that doesn't pretend to be anything else.
Although it's a board that looks to the future with little legacy support for older connectivity, I'd be happy to trade some USB 2 connections on the rear I/O for a DVI port as 2 of my screens don't have HDMI - in real life, this would only be useful for troubleshooting as I would never run a board like this without at least one discrete graphics card.
I really liked testing the Maximus VI Gene, specifically the attention to detail with the POST status LEDs on board, DirectKey, UEFI options and even the ability to make the board 'dark' if you wanted. Overclocking was solid and easy, the audio perfect for gaming and the PCIE Combo II add on card means that you could add WIFI and Bluetooth to the board for an additional ~$30. There is a lot to be said for the software bundles that come with motherboards and in the case of the ASUS, The GameFirst II and RAMDISK applications had some simple but really effective tweaks and configuration options that I could really see myself using beyond novelty value.
|ASUS Maximus VI Gene Motherboard|
Fully featured board for gamers, overclockers and enthusiasts
Limited rear video outputs might be an issue for some