A Closer Look at the Mini Maximus
As you might expect ASUS has used a smaller more fitting box for the Maximus IV GENE-Z.
In the box we have a long list of accessories, many of them unique to the ROG series.
- User's manual I/O Shield
- 2 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
- 1 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
- 1 x SLI bridge(s)
- 1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
- 1 x ROG Connect cable(s)
- 1 x Cable ties pack(s)
- 1 x ROG theme label(s)
- 1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
The lack of a USB 3.0 bracket is not surprising as it is pretty hard to find a sub $200 Z68 motherboard that comes with one.
The mini SLi/CrossFire cable is a nice touch.
As you can see the board's PCB is pretty packed, which is not a bad thing. It is better to have features that are supported by some sort of dedicated hardware, rather than just software emulation. The first PCI-E 16X slot is a full 16X slot, the second is a PCI-E 8X slot. We also have a PCI-E 4X connected to the PCH. Four ASMT 1440 PCI-E switches switch 8 PCI-E lanes between the first slot and second for 8X/8X SLI/CF which is the preferred way to run two way SLi on LGA1155, something its full-sized big brother the Maximus IV Extreme can do as well. We have two 4-pin fan connectors side by side on top of the board for dual fan configuration, something people demand these days. We also have 3 other 4-pin fan connectors, but none on the right edge of the board, but one is in the lower right-hand corner.
Two ASMedia ASM1042 controllers provide for a total of 4 x USB 3.0 ports, two are located on the back panel, and two can be provided by the single internal header, positioned in one of the best locations we have seen it, on the right hand edge of the motherboard which is perfect for a USB 3.0 front panel.
Back Panel I/O:
- PS/2 Combo
- 8 x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.0
- Clear CMOS
- ROG Connect
- RJ-45 LAN
- 2 x eSATA 3.0 GB/s
- S/PDIF Digital
- 7.1 HD Audio
The back panel is pretty standard, we like to see that clear CMOS button here, but a button on the board itself for benching wouldn't be bad location either.
Like its big brother, we see that the GENE-Z has a nice VR heatsink, styled in the same ROG fashion as the Maximus IV Extreme-Z, but missing a splash of red. The contact between the heatsinks and the MOSFETs is very tight, and the thermal pad used definitely had a strong impression left by the pressure, the best we have seen yet. ASUS opted to use the Lottes socket their Maximus IV lineup which have been proven to be generally more reliable.
On the power circuitry front we have a 8+4 phase voltage regulator design, 8 phases for the CPU Cores, and 4 for the iGPU.
We see a total of 12 inductors, but that is where the similarities between the Maximus IV Extreme-Z and the Maximus IV Gene-Z voltage regulators stops. Instead of the high quality copper top Infineon MOSFETs, Asus opted to use a 3 transistor design – Two PH5030AL TrenchMOS for the low-side and a single PH7030AL TrenchMOS for the high-side. You can see the rest of the low-side MOSFETs on the back of the board. The 4 phases for the iGPU just use the typical two transistor design, but with the same MOSFETs. The same design per phase is found on the P8P67-Deluxe.
Asus has used some customized ICs here to run the VR. Above we have a very special IC, probably specifically made for ASUS, it is a way of doubling the number of phases the PWM can output. In this case 4 PWM channels(phases) are turned into 8 channels, this little IC divides the switching frequency in half and then also has two integrated drivers to run two phases. So this little tiny IC can run 2 phases from one PWM channel. GIGABYTE uses a very similar method(such as on the G1.Sniper.2), the IC they use is made by Intersil, their PWM manufacturer, so this one is probably made by CHiL, as that is ASUS's PWM manufacturer.
That brings us to the ASUS EPU, a rebranded and probably modified CHiL PWM. The reason we say its modified, is becuase it has a total of 56 pins, 8 more than the CHiL 8326 (6 phase, 48pin), but the same as the CHiL 8328 (8 phase, 56pin). We see no reason to use the 8 phase PWM over the 6 phase becuase of the use of only 4 PWM channels, but this PWM should be the 8 phase beucase of the pin count. The PWM features phase dropping, as well as high switching frequencies up over 1mhz, which has a corresponding setting in the BIOS of up to 550khz, which is the result of the small IC that doubles the phases. All in all its a pretty nice VR, but it's missing the NEC Proadlizer capacitor which can be found on most ROG products, not that we expect that kind of equipment on a sub $200 motherboard anyway. ASUS claims up to 250A output with their design.
Moving on we have the VCCSA/VCCIO VR which provides power for the System Agent and IMC. It is two phases powered by the uP6203B. What we found odd, but kind of fitting was the fact that the VCCIO and VCCSA are combined into a single voltage in the BIOS, of course that makes sense coming from a single VR. We think this was done to save space on the board, and since no one really needs to tune the VCCSA, it should have zero performance impact.
Moving on we have the prominent GO button which can load a preset OC profile on in real time. This along with voltage read points are prominent features that every ROG series board has. Unlike its big brother, the Gene-Z lacks the cable connections that we usually find along with the read points. This board also has Q-LEDs which can tell you what piece of hardware is causing problems or missing. The memory is powered by a two phase uP6203B, and the same MOSFETs and inductors we have for the main VR.
Above we have the well placed USB 3.0 connector in red, as well as 6 SATA 3GB/s ports, the red ones are SATA 6GB/s from the Intel PCH. The eSATA 3GB/s on the back panel is powered by a JMB362 controller.
Here we have some more proprietary ICs, a TPU IC which works in unison with the EPU to provide real time hardware overclocking. The iROG IC is probably used for the ROG connect feature this board has.
The nuvoTon IC is a SuperIO. In this corner we have the power button, reset button, as well as a POST Code display, which is all too handy when troubleshooting a bad OC or hardware issue. On this board ASUS decided to include a PCI-E 4X slot, and this 4X slot is not connected to the CPU instead its connected to 4 of the PCH's 8 PCI-E 2.0 lanes. Instead of 1X slots, we get one 4X, which in this case might come in handy as it is not going to take away PCI-E lanes from the first two 16X slots.
In the ASUS advertising we see that they show a picture of this corner of the board with a Creative Audio IC, but that is clearly not the case, as is on most ROG boards. The Creative XF-I suite is in software form, and the board instead uses the Realtek ALC889 Audio Codec, which in itself is not bad at all. It can provide HD Audio along with 108dB SNR and Blu-Ray playback, commonly used on high end motherboards. We hope to see a board from ASUS with the Creative hardware we see with the Rampage 3 Extreme Black Edition and the GIGABYTE Sniper 2, as we think that would be pretty well paired with the LGA1155 platform. The audio codec is well taken care of by a plethora of solid capacitors.
The hardware on this board is nothing short of impressive, packed into such a small form factor, this board packs a large punch. At its target price its pretty hard to pass up the nice VR and the ROG features, but lets take a look at how it performs.