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With the MAXIMUS VI IMPACT, ASUS proved that a Mini-ITX motherboard can be as powerful as high-end ATX motherboards. This tiny socket LGA1150 motherboard based on the Intel Z87 chipset is part of the ROG (Republic of Gamers) series and brings high-end audio interface, high-end voltage regulator circuit, and a lot of other features. Check it out!
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 IMPACT motherboard in Figure 1. As mentioned, it uses the Mini-ITX form factor.
In Figure 2, you can see the trick used to build a high-end voltage regulator circuit on a Mini-ITX motherboard: the use of a second PCB soldered to the main board.
As any Mini-ITX motherboard, the ASUS MAXIMUS VI IMPACT comes with only one expansion slot. In this case, it is a PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, as expected.
There is also a Mini PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, used by a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth card that we will show later, and an M.2 slot (new kind of slot that replaces the mSATA slot).
[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 IMPACT supports memories up to 3,000 MHz.
Due to size restrictions, the MAXIMUS VI IMPACT has only two memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GiB, you can have up to 16 GiB with this motherboard if you use two 8 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two identical memory modules.
[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 IMPACT offers four of those ports, as shown in Figure 5. Another of those ports is used as an eSATA-600 ports at the rear panel of the motherboard, and the last one is available in the M.2 slot.
The Intel Z87 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS MAXIMUS VI IMPACT offers six USB 2.0 ports, four located on the motherboard’s rear panel and two available through one header located at the motherboard; and six USB 3.0 ports, four available on the motherboard’s rear panel and two available through a header.
The ASUS MAXIMUS VI IMPACT does not support FireWire ports.
This motherboard comes with a separate high-quality audio card. It uses the eight-channel SupremeFX codec with an electromagnetic shield. According to the manufacturer, this codec provides 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, and a 110 dB SNR operational amplifier for the headphone output. Unfortunately, the specifications of signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs are not available.
This sound card, shown in Figure 6, uses a proprietary connector and has only three analog jacks.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I217-V chip.
The rear panel of the MAXIMUS VI IMPACT is unique, because of the presence of four buttons and the two-digit POST display that shows an error code in case of a boot failure. The buttons are: Clear CMOS, ROG Connect, MemOk!, and DirectKey.
Obviously, the Clear CMOS button clears the BIOS setup data. The ROG Connect button turns on and off the overclock control via a USB port. The “MemOK!” button allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed. And the “DirectKey” button allows you to enter directly into the motherboard setup program.
In Figure 7, you can see the motherboard’s rear panel with an optical SPDIF output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, four USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA-600 port, four USB 3.0 ports, and one Gigabit Ethernet port.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
Figure 8 shows the “Combo II” expansion card, which 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 9 shows the Combo II card installed on the motherboard, next to the sound card.
In Figure 10, you can see the accessories that come with the ASUS MAXIMUS VI IMPACT.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
As we mentioned before, the CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS MAXIMUS VI IMPACT is mounted on a second printed circuit board that is soldered to the main board, at a ninety-degree angle. It has 10 phases for the CPU.
The voltage regulator is controlled by an ASUS DIGI+ ASP1251 chip, which uses a digital design. Each phase is driven by an IR3553 chip.
The component side of the voltage regulator board (with the heatsink removed) is shown in Figure 11, while Figure 12 reveals the solder side.
The ASUS MAXIMUS VI IMPACT 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 models.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASUS MAXIMUS VI IMPACT include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z87 Express
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Four SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5), plus one M.2 connector
- External SATA: One eSATA-600 port controlled by the chipset
- USB 2.0: Six USB 2.0 ports, four on the motherboard real panel and two available through one header on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Six USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard
- 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 SupremeFX codec (eight channels, no more information provided), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel I217-V chip, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi interface
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: One PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot
- Memory: Two DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-3000, 16 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, three four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: Bluetooth 4.0, MemOK! button, BIOS Flashback button
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asus.com
- Average price in the U.S.*: USD 225.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
This tiny motherboard offers almost all the features usually found on high-end motherboards, which explains why it is part of the ROG (Republic of Gamers) series. At one hand, it still lacks a set of PCI Express x16 slots (having only one expansion slot practically defines the Mini-ITX form factor) and has only two memory sockets, but on the other hand, ASUS managed to include a high-end voltage regulator, which allows the installation of a high-end CPU and helps with overclocking.
The high-end audio interface is another great feature, as well as the included Wi-Fi module based on the new IEEE 802.11ac standard and room for the new M.2 slot.
If you are planning to build a high-end gaming PC based on an Intel socket LGA1150 CPU using the Mini-ITX platform, the Maximus VI IMPACT is an excellent choice.