After what seems like a long wait, the Asus Maximus is finally here. Well... it's already with a few people, but we felt we needed a few weeks with both the Maximus Formula SE and Maximus Extreme to get to know them well enough. We've needed such a time because these boards are very feature packed, as is expected of the Republic of Gamers brand.
After every new high-end chipset launch, Asus discontinues the previous version and launches a new one - that's why you can still buy the Striker Extreme but not the Blitz. After meeting with Asus Republic of Gamers product manager in London recently, we have a greater understanding of why the products are as they are, although we didn't agree with every aspect of the way things are done. However, Asus was keen to point out how it readily acts on user wants and experiences for changes to future products.
As admirable as that is, you can't please everyone in every region, so how has Asus changed its usage model with the Maximus? Is it still a winning formula or has it finally become too niche?
We've reported on the Maximus before, really just to poke fun at the name, but that's not because we dislike it at all. It shows a certain brass arrogance at Asus, which it can certainly afford, as it's very much the current market leader for enthusiast branded boards since the DFI LANParty brand appears to have gone AFK.
Unlike the Blitz Formula and Extreme, the Maximus variants are largely different in design, hence why we're covering both. DDR3 may still not warrant the attractive price:performance bracket that is appealing, however the Extreme tried to make up for it in extra features. There's very little difference between the Formula and limited edition Formula SE however: the latter simply has a waterblock for a northbridge cooler, and like the Blitz, it is still an option.
Support for Intel LGA775 processors, including the latest 45nm with 800MHz, 1,066MHz or 1,333MHz front side bus
Intel X38 Northbridge
Intel ICH9R Southbridge
Support for up to 8GB DDR2 1,066MHz memory
Two PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slots with support for ATI CrossFire technology
Three PCI-Express x1 slots
Two PCI 2.2 slots
Six SATA 3Gbps ports with Intel Matrix RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5
JMicron JMB368 chipset providing one PATA port
Two Marvell PCI-Express x1 Gigabit Ethernet with teaming functionality
Asus SupremeFX II Audio Card with ADI SoundMAX 1988B HD audio codec
Two Firewire and 12 USB 2.0 ports
Fusion Watercooling Northbridge Block (for Special Edition only)
Asus EPU, LCD Poster, AI Gear 3, AI Overclocking, AI Booster, OC Profile, Voltimeter LED, Asus C.P.R, Asus Q-Connector, Asus Q-Fan 2, Asus EZ Flash 2, Asus CrashFree BIOS 3 and Asus MyLogo3
Maximus Formula SE Box Contents
Fusion waterblock accessory kit
LCD POST readout
Optional heatpipe fan
SupremeFX Audio card
One IDE cable
One floppy cable
Six SATA cables, three with 90 degree connectors and three with straight connectors
One Molex to two SATA power cables
PCI bracket with two USB and one 6-pin Firewire connector
A backlit, metal rear I/O shield
Driver CD, Manual, Quick Launch and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. PC game
While we never did get round to reviewing the Blitz, such is life sometimes, the contents are very much the same. The metal rear I/O plate isn't the spongy style that we had with the Asus P5E3 Deluxe WiFi AP@n, unfortunately it's plain old pressed metal. There's only a single PCI bracket thrown in with two USB and one Firewire socket and the rear I/O has just six ports so you're still missing the support of the other four out the box.
The LCD Poster which we have complained about in the past, because it resided on the rear I/O, has now been removed so you can put it just about anywhere you want. It plugs into a 2-pin socket at the top corner of the motherboard and it has enough cable to reach the desk. It's an exceptionally useful little piece of kit that certainly helps diagnose boot problems quickly, and moving it so you can easily see it rather than having to contort your neck around the back of your case was a necessary revision.
That said, it's not the first time this has been done - Abit's AV8 3rd eye, for example, had an LCD that told you your clockspeeds, temperatures - the whole shebang. Asus' little POST display isn't exactly that, yet, because there's an economic trade off between extra cost to consumer and perceived value of such a device.
The watercooling parts give you inline adapters and hose clips to seal it all, rather than just assuming the end user will use a certain sized barb. It still requires a certain level of competence to install it, but if you've invested in watercooling it's assumed you've at least thoroughly researched what you need to do (if not, I recommended doing so).
There's even S.T.A.L.K.E.R. thrown in too, although it has been out a while and I'd hazard a guess that there are few who wanted to play it have yet to do so.