The MAXIMUS VI EXTREME is the most high-end motherboard from ASUS for socket LGA1150 processors. It is based on the Z87 chipset and brings 10 SATA-600 ports, eight USB 3.0 ports, a Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac interface, and a Bluetooth 4.0 antenna. But the highlight of this motherboard is the overclock control panel, which can be used to monitor and control overclocking parameters.
The Intel Z87 chipset provides two important upgrades compared to its predecessor, the Z77: six USB 3.0 ports instead of four and six SATA-600 ports instead of only two. Another important difference between the two chipsets is where the video outputs of the motherboard are connected. While with both chipsets the video is generated by the CPU, on the Z77 the video signal was routed to the chipset, and the video outputs were connected to the chipset. On the Z87 chipset, the video outputs are connected directly to the processor. Both chipsets support up to three independent video monitors. The Z87 supports all other features provided by the Z77, such as Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.
You can see the ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12 x 9.6 inches (305 mm x 244 mm).
Figure 1: ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME motherboard
The MAXIMUS VI EXTREME comes with five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots and one PCI Express 2.0 x4 slot.
Usually, on motherboards based on the Z87 chipset, only the first two PCI Express x16 slots are controlled by the CPU. The other PCI Express x16 slots are controlled by the chipset, operating at a lower speed (x4 or x1) and only compatible with 2.0 specifications, which offers half of the 3.0 bandwidth. On this motherboard, however, the five slots are controlled by the processor, using a PLX PEX8747 switching chip, thus all slots are PCI Express 3.0.
The slot configuration of the MAXIMUS VI EXTREME is a little different from most motherboards we are used to see. If you are using only one video card, you must install it in the first PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot and it will work at x16 speed, but if any of the other slots are used, it will lower its speed to x8.
To install two cards, use the first and the third slots, and they will both work at x8 speed. The third PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots is disabled if the second, fourth or fifth ones are occupied, which means that the motherboard does not support five video cards.
When installing three video cards, you need to use the first, second, and fourth PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, which will work at x8/x16/x8 configuration, and to install four video cards, install them at the first, second, fourth and fifth slots, in x8/x16/x8/x8 configuration.
The motherboard slots support both four-way SLI and CrossFireX technologies.
The PLX PEX8747 chip, which allows this slot configuration, is shown in Figure 3, without its heatsink.
Figure 3: The PLX PEX8747 chip
There is also one Mini PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot at a riser card, which we will show later on.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1150 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASUS, the MAXIMUS VI EXTREME supports memories up to 3,100 MHz.
The MAXIMUS VI EXTREME has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GiB, you can have up to 32 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four identical memory modules. If using two modules, install them in sockets of the same color.
Figure 4: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z87 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME offers those six ports, plus four additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip, for a total of 10 SATA-600 ports. One of the ports controlled by the chipset is shared with an M.2 (NGFF) slot at the Combo II card, which we will show later.
Figure 5 shows the SATA ports, rotated 90 degrees so video cards will not block them. ASUS should have used different colors for the ports controlled by the chipset and the ports controlled by the auxiliary chip. As noted above, one of the ports must not be used if the M.2 slot is occupied.
The Intel Z87 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME offers eights USB 2.0 ports, two located on the motherboard’s rear panel and six available through three headers located at the motherboard; and eight USB 3.0 ports, six available on the motherboard’s rear panel and two available through a header.
The ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME does not support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC1150 codec, which is an excellent audio codec, providing 112 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specifications are good even for the user who wants to professionally capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.).
The motherboard comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output. It also has a header labeled “SPDIF_OUT”, where you can install an adapter to have a coaxial SPDIF output or to connect a cable to older video cards that required a physical connection to have audio on their HDMI outputs. The analog audio outputs are independent even if you use a 7.1 analog speaker set.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I217-V chip.
The MAXIMUS VI EXTREME comes with a Combo II expansion card, which we have already seen in the analysis of the MAXIMUS VI IMPACT motherboard. This card has one Mini PCI Express slot and one M.2 slot. The Mini PCI Express comes with an IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 card installed. The M.2 (a.k.a. NGFF, Next Generation Form Factor) slot is compatible with SSD units that use this format, and replaces the mSATA standard. Figure 6 shows the Combo II card and the Wi-Fi antenna that comes with the motherboard.
Figure 6: Combo II card and Wi-Fi antenna
In Figure 7, you can see the motherboard’s rear panel with the “Clear CMOS” and “ROG Connect” buttons, two USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, an optical SPDIF output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, and the analog audio connectors.
Figure 7: Motherboard rear panel
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The MAXIMUS VI EXTREME comes with several features aimed on overclock and tweaking. In Figure 8, you can see the on-board power and reset buttons, the “MemOK!” button, which allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed, four switches that disable each PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (to test which video card is failing without the need to remove any of them), a two-digit POST diagnostics display, two BIOS chips, and a “slow mode” switch that rises the chances of an extreme overclocking to work. There is also an “LN2” jumper, to be used with liquid nitrogen cooling that ensures the system will boot even at subzero temperatures, and probe points to directly measure the motherboard voltages using a voltmeter.
Figure 8: Buttons and switches
Figure 9 shows one of the coolest features of the MAXIMUS VI EXTREME: the “OC Panel,” which can be used to monitor and adjust overclocking settings. It can be used in “normal mode”, inside a 5.25” bay, as shown in Figure 10, or in “extreme mode”, with more controls and options, if you are using your system without a case. In the normal mode, it will show the temperature of the CPU, the speed of the CPU cooler, the CPU base clock and the CPU clock multiplier, and allow you to apply preset overclocking configurations.
Figure 10: OC panel in the bay adapter
In Figure 11, you can see the accessories that come with the ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The voltage regulator of the MAXIMUS VI EXTREME has eight phases for the CPU. It is controlled by an ASUS DIGI+ ASP1251 chip, which uses a digital design. Each phase is driven by a NexFET chip.
Figure 12: Voltage regulator circuit
The ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME uses high-end solid Japanese electrolytic capacitors from Nichicon on its voltage regulator circuit (a.k.a. “10K Black Metallic Capacitors”). According to ASUS, these capacitors have a lifespan five times longer than regular Japanese solid capacitors, and have a higher temperature tolerance (between -55° C and +105° C, making them military-grade components). This allows you to use liquid nitrogen on your CPU without damaging the capacitors. The coils are 60A ferrite-core BlackWing models.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (0605 BIOS):
- CPU Base Clock: From 60.0 MHz to 300.00 MHz in 0.1 MHz increments
- CPU Core Voltage: From 1.0500 V to 2.2000 V in 0.003125 V increments
- CPU Cache Voltage: From 1.0500 V to 2.2000 V in 0.003125 V increments
- System Agent Voltage: From 0.8500 V to 2.2000 V in 0.003125 V increments
- CPU Analog I/O Voltage: From 1.0000 V to 2.2000 V in 0.003125 V increments
- CPU Digital I/O Voltage: From 1.0000 V to 2.2000 V in 0.003125 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) Interface Voltage: From 1.0000 V to 1.60000 V in 0.003125 V increments
- Initial CPU Input Voltage: From 0.8000 V to 2.44000 V in 0.01000 V increments
- Eventual CPU Input Voltage: From 0.8000 V to 2.44000 V in 0.01000 V increments
- Memory Voltage: From 1.20 V to 2.40 V in 0.005 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) VLX Voltage: From 0.8000V to 2.0000 V in 0.00625 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) Voltage: From 0.7000 V to 1.8000 in 0.00625 V increments
- Memory Termination Voltage (VTTDDR): From 0.6000 V to 1.4000 V in 0.00625 V increments
- Memory CTRL REF Voltage (relative to DRAM Voltage): From 0.3950x to 0.6300x in 0.0050x increments
- Memory CTRL DATA Voltage (relative to DRAM Voltage): From 0.3950x to 0.6300x in 0.0050x increments
Figure 13: Overclocking options
Figure 15: Memory timing settings
Figure 16: Memory timing settings
Figure 17: Memory timing settings
Figure 18: Voltage regulator settings
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z87 Express
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5), four SATA-600 ports and one M.2 (NGFF) slot controlled by one ASM1061 chip
- External SATA: None
- USB 2.0: Eight USB 2.0 ports, two on the motherboard real panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Eight USB 3.0 ports, six on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard, extra ports controlled by an ASMedia ASM1074 chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- Thunderbolt: None
- On-board video: Controlled by the CPU; HDMI and DisplayPort connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC1150 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 115 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel I217-V chip, one IEEE802.11a/b/g/n/ac interface with dual antenna
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Five PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0/x0/x0, x8/x0/x8/x0/x0, x8/x16/x0/x8/x0, or x8/x16/x0/x8/x8), and one PCI Express 2.0 x4 slot
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-3100, 32 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: Two four-pin connectors for the CPU cooler, and eight four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: OC panel, BIOS flashback, dual BIOS, POST diagnostics display
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asus.com
- Average price in the U.S.*: USD 400.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
The ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME has plenty of power and features for the extreme overclocker. It has all the features we are used to see on motherboards targeted to enthusiasts, plus additional features that help liquid-nitrogen cooling. And there is the OC panel, which is useful for the hardcore overclocking enthusiast.
The motherboard is also excellent for gamers, thanks to the high-end slot configuration that allows four-way SLI and CrossFireX arrays with a PLX switch chip, which makes all slots to be controlled by the CPU and thus be PCI Express 3.0. The ten SATA-600 ports are more than enough for almost any user, and the high-end audio interface and the included Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adapter supporting the latest IEEE 802.11ac standard are always welcome.
The only “problem” with the ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME is its price: it is made for a hardcore overclocker carrying a stuffed wallet.
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