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Asus Maximus VII Gene Review

Asus Maximus VII Gene Review

Manufacturer: Asus
UK price (as reviewed): £148.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $209.99 (ex Tax)Asus Maximus VII Gene Review

We're almost overwhelmed by the number of features modern motherboards are equipped with. As well as generally excellent EFI's (we've yet to see a bad one on a Z97 board, although MSI and Asus are exceptional), we've now got M.2 or SATA Express or both, any one of several implementations of on-board audio, and a whole host of software and EFI-based features too.

Asus probably leads the pack with the latter, with its Z97 ROG motherboards sporting an EFI-based SSD secure erase function, a fully-featured fan controller plus the ability to add your favourite tuning options to a dedicated section for easy access.

This, of course, is in addition to the host of current and new features that we saw Asus introduce on its Intel Z87 and more recently Z97 chipset-based motherboards.

You can read more about these in our ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview article. However, one key feature (excuse the pun) is KeyBot. This allows you to assign macros to function keys on a standard USB keyboard as well as turn ordinary keys into media controls, shortcuts and tap into Asus' CPU Level Up.

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RAMDisk is another, which can dynamically allocate free memory to help speed up load times and reduce SSD read/write cycles and finally the aforementioned Secure Erase, which is an EFI-based Secure Erase feature that allows you to wipe your SSD, returning it to out-of-the-box performance.

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Going through each of these features one by one would obviously result in a 30 page motherboard review, which isn't practical, but while some you'll likely use once or not at all, there are certainly those that many will find useful and use regularly. There's also a new sound card with the Maximus VII Gene that we're looking at today. The SupremeFX Impact II will also make an appearance on the ROG dinky board, the Maximus VII Impact, although there it's possibly of more importance given you only have one PCI-E expansion slot (which is likely to be taken up with a GPU).

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With the Gene, though, Asus has likely found it easier to include a vertically mounted daughter sound card than to include an electrically isolated area of PCB. This is clearly fairly easy on boards such as the Hero and Ranger, with the Hero also sporting some nifty illumination, but with the Gene being a micro-ATX board, space is much more of a premium.

That said, the Maximus VII Gene does sport an exceptionally good layout, whereby a single 4X PCI-E slot is located right at the base of the PCB, so as long as you're not going for a CrossFire or SLI setup (incidentally, each slot will be running at x8 here) or sporting some monster triple-slot GPU, then you'll be able to use a discrete sound card anyway. Even so, at £150, you'd expect some kind of boost over your average on-board audio and this is Asus' answer. The daughter board needs to be mounted manually, not being fitted as standard.

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As you'd expect with a ROG board, there are plenty of overclocking-centric features such as on-board power and reset buttons, an LED POST code readout and a rear I/O panel-based CMOS clear switch. Next to this is a ROG Connect button, which allows you to hook up the Gene to a laptop using an optional USB cable to be able to overclock the board without actually touching the main system.

The Gene sports Asus' Extreme Engine Digi+ III with an 8+2 phase power design, 60A Ferrite Chokes, 10K Black Metallic Capacitors plus NexFET Power Block MOSFETs. Like its predecessor, the Maximus VII Gene offers probelt voltage measuring points and an LN2 mode, yet the EFI offers several automatic overclocking features - Asus really is aiming at all kinds of enthusiasts here.

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We mentioned the layout was excellent, and our only qualms are the proximity of large graphics cards to the SATA ports and of the heatsinks to the CPU socket although our Corsair H80i pump section fitted in any orientation and the tubes didn't foul the heatsinks. As these heatsinks have a maximum height of 30mm, they're unlikely to interfere with any CPU coolers either. Everything else is pretty much perfectly-placed, including the eight right-angled SATA 6Gbps ports (two via an ASMedia ASM1061 controller), although the M.2 port sits between the two 16X PCI-E slots, so will require removing your graphics card to get at it.

As well as the M.2 port, Asus has included a mini PCI-E slot in place of the Combo II card it's predecessor was equipped with, although this only supports half-height cards such as WiFi modules. Illumination is a big feature here too - as with the Hero, the chipset heatsink sports an ROG logo and with the illuminated buttons, LED module and typical but still mean-looking ROG colour scheme, this is certainly one of the better-looking boards out there.

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If you're daily computing tasks are memory-hungry and you can see the need for 32GB during the life of your shiny new Z97 system, it's worth noting that most if not all of the mini-ITX offerings only support 16GB of RAM. So if it's currently a toss-up between a mini-ITX and micro-ATX system for you, the Gene's support for up to 32GB is worth remembering.

Specifications

  • Chipset Intel Z97
  • Form factor Micro-ATX
  • CPU support LGA1150 compatible (Haswell, Haswell Refresh/Devil's Canyon, Broadwell)
  • Memory support Dual-channel, 2 slots, max 32GB
  • Sound SupremeFX Impact II 8-channel Realtek ALC1150 Codec
  • Networking Intel Gigabit LAN
  • Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps via Intel Z97, 2 x SATA 6Gbps via ASMedia ASM1061, 1 x M.2, 6 x USB 3.0 (2 x via header), 6 x USB 2.0 ( 4 x via header), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, HDMI
  • Dimensions (mm) 244 x 244
  • Extras LED POST code read-out, power and reset buttons, clear CMOS button, ROG connect button, discrete Supreme FX Impact II sound card, probelt voltage measuing points, thermal sensor port, Asus OC Panel support