Asus Max­imus IX Ex­treme

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Custom PC - - CONTENTS - ANTONY LEATHER

Can you jus­tify charg­ing £530 for a Z270 mother­board, even if does have a wa­terblock that looks like a cas­sette tape? We find out.

We’re usu­ally fond of Asus’ flag­ship moth­er­boards, but while they’re usu­ally drip­ping with fea­tures to make any en­thu­si­ast drool, very few people can af­ford them. Imag­ine, then, that both of those fac­tors were mul­ti­plied sev­eral times over and com­bined in a wal­let-crush­ing fea­ture-fest of a mother­board. That’s es­sen­tially what Asus has done with the Max­imus IX Ex­treme, its most fea­ture-laden and ex­pen­sive main­stream Z270 mother­board.

It’s so ex­pen­sive, in fact, that it out­strips the mighty X99based ROG Ram­page V Edi­tion 10, which costs around £515 inc VAT. Why on earth would you spend over £500 on a main­stream mother­board when a board such as the Rog Strix Z270-F Gam­ing costs £350 less? The an­swer comes down to fea­tures.

The most ob­vi­ous one is a huge wa­terblock, which was co-de­vel­oped with Bit­spower, a well-known wa­terblock and fit­ting man­u­fac­turer, and it looks amaz­ing. It cools the CPU and sur­round­ing VRMs, but un­like pre­vi­ous wa­terblocks we’ve seen that come with moth­er­boards, this one needs to be ac­tively wa­ter-cooled to work, so you’ll need to have a wa­ter-cool­ing sys­tem ready for it.

The whole con­trap­tion also has a sin­gle G1/4 in­let and out­let, sport­ing leak sen­sors that can be con­fig­ured to switch off your PC should the worst hap­pen. Of course, these sen­sors only de­tect leaks at this point, not any­where else. The block has in­te­grated RGB light­ing too, as well as its own flow me­ter with a spin­ning wheel, plus tem­per­a­ture sen­sors, with two ca­bles pro­trud­ing out the top, ready to con­nect to a nearby USB header and RGB LED header. In ad­di­tion, there’s also a bolton heatsink for the top M.2 port, which con­nects to the wa­terblock, so even your M.2 SSD can be wa­ter-cooled. Amaz­ingly, this fea­ture worked even bet­ter than MSI’s M.2 Shield heatsink, knock­ing over 20°C off the peak tem­per­a­ture of our Sam­sung 960 Evo.

The block isn’t ready to use out of the box – you need to re­move it to in­stall your CPU, as well as sev­eral ther­mal pads that sit on top of the CPU power cir­cuitry. In­stal­la­tion is straight­for­ward, but the block does make the Max­imus IX Ex­treme ex­tremely heavy. There’s also a large PCH heatsink and plas­tic shroud that cov­ers the se­cond M.2 port, which has its own RGB LED. The fi­nal bit of RGB light­ing comes in the I/O panel shroud, with the Max­imus IX logo light­ing up, but thank­fully the light­ing gen­er­ally isn’t too glar­ing.

The Max­imus IX Ex­treme also has the most fan head­ers we’ve ever seen on a mother­board – 12 on the PCB and more pro­vided by an in­cluded fan hub. They’re not all for case fans though; some are ear­marked for ra­di­a­tor fans and two can even power 3-pin pumps, such as the Phobya DC12-220 we used for test­ing, with the abil­ity to con­trol its speed too. There are separate flow rate sen­sors and tem­per­a­ture probes as well. Com­bined with Asus’ ex­cel­lent EFI and soft­ware fan con­trol, the Max­imus IX Ex­treme can act as the con­trol cen­tre for a mon­ster PC.

There’s a plethora of ex­treme overclocking tools, in­clud­ing an LN2 mode and slow mode, plus there’s a dual BIOS switch and ex­tra power con­nec­tors for the CPU and graph­ics cards. Mean­while, the rear I/O panel has a built-in shield, which looks ex­tremely neat and of­fers a clear-CMOS but­ton and USB BIOS Flash­back.

Asus in­cludes its USB 3.1 header too for fu­ture-proof­ing, but there are also USB 3 and USB 2 head­ers for cur­rent and older de­vices. It’s the first board we’ve seen with an an­gled ATX con­nec­tor for neat ca­ble rout­ing too – a fea­ture we’d def­i­nitely like to see more in the fu­ture.

Of course, there’s the usual eight SATA 6Gbps ports, plus six USB 3 ports on the rear panel and USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports. There’s also on-board 802.11ac Wi-Fi and, be­ing a ROG board, there’s ROG Supre­meFX S1220 au­dio – a tweaked ver­sion of the stan­dard Real­tek ALC1220 codec, which has per­formed very well on other boards such as the Max­imus IX For­mula.

The block has in­te­grated RGB light­ing, as well as a flow me­ter

Per­for­mance

The sys­tem score of 145,106 at stock speed wasn’t the fastest on test, with the ROG Strix Z270F Gam­ing and Max­imus IX For­mula man­ag­ing slightly quicker re­sults, and the same was true in Ashes of the Sin­gu­lar­ity. With all the para­pher­na­lia on the PCB, it wasn’t sur­pris­ing to see the Max­imus IX Ex­treme draw the most power at idle ei­ther, although only by around 10W.

As usual, our Core i7-7700K was lim­ited by tem­per­a­ture. De­spite be­ing wa­ter-cooled, we could only get it to the usual

5GHz, which re­quired a vcore of 1.34V, which isn’t par­tic­u­larly low ei­ther. Even rais­ing the vcore to 1.45V didn’t yield a sta­ble 5.1GHz overclock. This overclock did raise the sys­tem score rise to 157,387, but it’s a shame the wa­terblock didn’t yield much of an im­prove­ment here.

Au­dio per­for­mance was ex­cel­lent, though, with a dy­namic range of 115dBA and noise level of -109dBA, mak­ing it the best-per­form­ing Real­tek-based au­dio we’ve seen. There was no prob­lem push­ing our M.2 SSD to its lim­its ei­ther, and the wa­terblock seemed to make a small dif­fer­ence too, with the 1,835MB/sec write speed be­ing nearly 40MB/sec faster than any other mother­board we’ve seen.

Con­clu­sion

The abun­dance of fea­tures, in­clud­ing the gor­geous wa­terblock, makes the Max­imus IX Ex­treme a board we’d love to own, and it goes a long way to jus­ti­fy­ing its price tag. After all, far more ba­sic wa­terblocks re­tail for up­wards of £150 alone. As an all-in-one pack­age, it’s an ex­cep­tional mother­board with few flaws, although it still de­mands a hefty pre­mium, and you’re un­likely to gain any ex­tra overclocking head­room, even if your CPU is run­ning cooler. You can’t ar­gue with the huge fea­ture set though – this board has it all. If you want the best mother­board pos­si­ble, have no need for more than four CPU cores and have plenty of cash to spend, this board is for you.

Look­ing a lit­tle like a cas­sette tape, an EKWB wa­terblock cools your CPU A mas­sive to­tal of 12 fan head­ers are found on the PCB, with more on a hub The 24-in ATX power con­nec­tor is right-an­gled for easy ca­ble rout­ing

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