[nextpage title=”Introduction”]
The ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER is a mid-range SOCKET LGA1151 motherboard based on the Intel Z170 chipset, supporting the sixth generation Core i “Skylake” processors. It brings high-end audio interface, three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, six SATA-600 ports (allowing two SATA Express connections), six USB 3.0 ports, and two USB 3.1 ports, one of them Type C. Let’s take a good look at it!
The new Intel Z170 chipset was launched with the LGA1151 socket, targeted to the sixth generation Core i “Skylake” CPUs. The main difference between LGA1151 and LGA1150 platforms is the compatibility with DDR4 memories.
The Z170 chipset is the first model to be launched on the new 100-series and it is also the higher-end chipset of this family. The main differences between the Z170 and its predecessor, the Z97, are the DMI 3.0 bus to communicate with the processor (it offers twice the bandwidth, that goes from 2 GB/s per direction to 4 GB/s), the presence of ten USB 3.0 ports (against six on the Z97), and the support to 20 PCI Express 2.0 lanes controlled by the chipset (Z97 has only eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes.)
Like the Z97, the Z170 supports six SATA-600 ports, 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 VIII RANGER motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (305 x 244 mm).

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 1: ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]
The ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER comes with three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots and three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots. There is also an M.2 slot supporting both PCI Express 3.0 x4 and SATA-600.
The two first PCI Express x16 slots work on x16/x0 and x8/x8 configurations, which means the first slot work at x16 if the second one is unused, but if it is occupied, they will both work at x8.
The third PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot works always at x4 speed.
The motherboard supports CrossFire with up to three video cards and SLI with two video cards.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 2: slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1151 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.
These CPUs are compatible with both DDR3L (up to 1,600 MHz) and DDR4 (up to 2,133 MHz) memory. So, it is the motherboard that defines which memory type (DDR3 or DDR4) can be installed, since DDR4 slots are physically different from the DDR3 slots. According to ASUS, the MAXIMUS VIII RANGER supports DDR4 memories up to 3,400 MHz.
The ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER has four memory sockets. You can install up to 64 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 16 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER, the first and third memory sockets are black, while the second and fourth are dark gray. When installing two memory modules, use two sockets with the same color.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 3: memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z170 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), and the motherboard offers those sex ports only. One of those ports is shared with the M.2 slot. The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards will not block them.
Notice that four of the SATA-600 ports are grouped in pairs and each pair can be used as two independent SATA ports or as a SATA Express port.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 4: the six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset

The Intel Z170 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and ten USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are six USB 3.0 ports, all of them controlled by the chipset: two at the rear panel and four through two headers. There are also two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1142 chip.
The ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.
According to the manufacturer, a highlight of this motherboard is the SupremeFX 2015 audio circuit (7.1+2 channels, no more information provided), using also an ESS ES9023 auxiliary codec (112 dB signal/noise ratio for the analog outputs, 24 bit resolution, 2 Vrms amplifer, no more information provided) for the headphones output. The main chip is covered by a shield and entire the audio section is physically separated from the other circuits by a line that lights up in red (there is a line of LEDs on the solder side of the motherboard, near a translucent line). All the capacitors on this circuit are bipolar audio ones from Japanese manufacturer Nichicon. The audio outputs are independent for 5.1 analog speakers and gold-plated, and the motherboard comes with an optical SPDIF output on the rear panel.
Figure 5 shows the audio section of the motherboard.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 5: audio section

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I219V chip.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, two USB 2.0 ports, a “BIOS flashback” button, two more USB 2.0 ports, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, two USB 3.1 ports (one Type A and one Type C), two USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 6: motherboard rear panel

[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
This motherboard comes with a POST diagnostics display, so you can see – through a two-digit code – which component is preventing your computer from turning on. There are also a “MemOK!” button, which tests memory compatibility.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 7: POST diagnostics displays and MemOK! button

The MAXIMUS VIII RANGER has power, reset, and cleaCMOS buttons, shown in Figure 8.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 8: power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons

In Figure 9, you can see the accessories that come with the MAXIMUS VIII RANGER. One of them is a plastic frame that helps to install and remove the CPU with no risk to damage the socket pins.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 9: accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER has 10 phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses a Digi+ ASM1400B controller chip (digital design). Each phase uses a TI NexFET CSD87350Q5D chip.

ASUS MAXIMUS VIIIFigure 10: voltage regulator circuit

The ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER uses solid capacitors and all coils on this motherboard are ferrite ones.
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 VIII RANGER include:

  • Socket: LGA1150
  • Chipset: Intel Z170
  • Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6793D
  • Parallel ATA: none
  • Serial ATA: six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) supporting two SATA Express connectors
  • External SATA: none
  • USB 2.0: eight USB 2.0 ports, four on the rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: six USB 3.0 ports, two on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers, controlled by the chipset
  • USB 3.1: two USB 3.1 ports, one Type A and one Type C, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1142 chip
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
  • Thunderbolt: none
  • On-board video: controlled by the CPU; one DisplayPort and one HDMI connectors
  • On-board audio: produced by the SupremeFX 2015 chip (characteristics not available) and an ESS ES9023 (two channels, 112 dB SNR for analog outputs) auxiliary codec for the earphones output, on-board optical SPDIF output
  • On-board LAN: one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I219V chip
  • Buzzer: no
  • Infrared interface: no
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0 or x8/x8), one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (working at x4), three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots, and one M.2 slot compatible with PCI Express 3.0 x4 and SATA-600 SSDs
  • Memory: four DDR4-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-3400, 64 GiB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: two four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, one four-pin connector for liquid cooling pump, and four four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
  • Extra features: POST diagnostics display, MemOK!, power, reset, clear CMOS and BIOS flashback buttons.
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
  • Programs included: motherboard utilities and drivers
  • More Information: https://www.asus.com
  • Average Price in the U.S.*: $190.00 USD

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
The ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER is a solid motherboard, with no bells and whistles, aimed at the user who is building a gaming computer or workstation using a sixth-generation Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7, and does not want to spend too much money on a high-end motherboard.
Among its highlights are the high-end audio interface, the USB 3.1 ports, the SLI and CrossFire support, the POST error code display and the overclocking-focused buttons. However, the fact it has relatively few USB 3.0 and SATA-600 ports justifies its price, lower than the high-end models.
In short, if you want to build a computer using a “Skylake” CPU, with high quality on-board audio and one or two video cards, the ASUS MAXIMUS VIII RANGER is a good motherboard.