Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review

Manufacturer: Asus
UK price (as reviewed): RRP £286.39
US price (as reviewed): $399.99

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Cast your minds back to our Maximus VIII Hero review back in 2015. To save you reading through the whole review to find a specific quote concerning the RGB lighting, here it is:

...we'd like to see Asus go further here and allow enthusiasts to truly colour-match their motherboard to the rest of their system, instead of just one heatsink.

Either Asus was listening or we happened to precisely predict it's next big ROG launch for Skylake systems. The Maximus VIII Formula, folks, is exactly what we asked for when it comes to customisation because, as you can see, there are no red logos here to mess up your desired colour scheme.

The only colours you'll see, in fact, are from the RGB lighting system that sits beneath that large shroud on the PCB, and this means that as the rest of the board is a mixture of black and silver, whether you want your ATX board to be green, blue orange, or any other colour, including white of course, the Formula is perfect for this.

Now we've calmed down a bit, lets talk about the rest of the specification before we look at the lighting system in more detail. You may have glossed over the figures after the £ or $ signs above to get straight to the eye candy that sits below and if that's you, prepare for a shock. This Z170 motherboard will set you back no less than £286 - that's the RRP Asus has given us and it's available to order right now in the US for a whopping $400.

There's no getting around it - that is a huge amount for a Z170 motherboard. In fact, many X99 boards can be had for literally half the price and it's also considerably more that the two of the current heavyweights in the Skylake arena - the excellent MSI Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition and Asus Z170-Deluxe.

Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review
Click to enlarge


As well as the RGB lighting system, though, there's one other feature that eats into that price tag to help justify it - a full VRM waterblock. Not only is this CrossChill waterblock designed in collaboration by EKWB, but it actually makes direct contact with the VRMs too - the proof is below. A lot of integrated waterblocks we've seen make a half-hearted effort to straddle a heat pipe or two and are largely aesthetic but this is essentially a water-cooled heatsink that will do the job whether you hook your cooling loop up to the two G1/4in ports or go with air cooling.

Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review
Click to enlarge

In terms of cooling performance, once we'd hooked it up to an Alphacool-based water-cooling setup including a Laing DDC pump and 240mm radiator, it did indeed make a difference. With our CPU at 4.8GHz using 1.4V vcore, the VRMs were reported to be 5°C cooler than air alone as reported in Asus' included AI Suite software, while the top surface was 4°C cooler using an infrared thermometer. This was on an open test bench - inside a toasty PC case, the ability to get shot of this heat through a radiator could be even more beneficial. In addition to this, there's a huge metal backplate that not only protects the PCB, but provides additional cooling on the rear of the VRMs too.

Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review
Click to enlarge

The usual hardware specs are nothing to be sniffed at either. You get the standard six SATA 6Gbps ports powered by the Intel chipset plus a further two via the ASM1051 controller, along with two shared SATA Express ports. Sitting alongside these is a PCI-E 3.0 x4 U.2 port plus as you'd expect, a similarly sprightly M.2 port that accepts up to 110mm SSDs, which slot in underneath a removable section of the plastic shroud behind the SATA ports.

Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review
Click to enlarge

USB 3.1 doesn't come via ASMedia, though, instead, Asus has slapped on Intel's Alpine Ridge chip, although Asus has said there's no current support for Thunderbolt over the USB 3.1 ports with the Formula. As far as ports are concerned you get one of each - Type-A and Type-C, plus four USB 3 ports from the Intel chipset and another two from the ASMedia controller

As you'd expect from a high-end Asus board, there's a mass of overclocking and testing tools. You get three thermal probe headers, four chassis fan headers in addition to the usual two for the CPU plus one exclusively for powering all-in-one liquid cooler pumps. Asus leaves nothing to chance with onboard buttons either, with nifty covered and illuminated power and reset buttons below an LED POST code display, with the I/O panel offering a CMOS clear button and one for Asus' USB BIOS Flashback too.

Audio is provided courtesy of the Realtek-based ROG SupremeFX 2015, which offers SupremeFX Shielding Technology, an ESS ES9023P stereo DAC, 2VRMS drivers plus Nichicon capacitors as well as tying in with Asus' Sonic Studio II. Being an ROG motherboard, the Formula also sports numerous other software features such as RAMDisk and Keybot II - you can read more about them in our Maximus VIII Impact and Maximus VIII Gene reviews.

Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review
Click to enlarge

802.11ac WiFi is included along with a desktop aerial, while quad-GPU SLI and 3-way CrossFireX are supported, courtesy of two 16x PCI-E 3.0 slots (which operate at x8 mode when two GPUs are used) plus a third 16x slot that is limited to x4 mode. In addition to these, there are also three PCI-E 2.0 1x slots with one located above the primary 16x slot so should always be accessible.

Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review
Click to enlarge

Back to the lighting control and there are two channels available - the motherboard and a standard RGB strip light header - both of which can be controlled separately using the included Aura lighting suite. The motherboard has several RGB LEDs, which illuminate three portions of the board - the ROG logo on the PCH heatsink cover, two strips along the left side of the shroud and finally the Formula logo and strips beneath the CPU socket.

As well as colours and brightness, you're able to select from five modes including syncing the lighting with CPU temperature - or you could turn them off completely of course. It's easy to use, very effective and if you're in the least bit bothered about colour matching your motherboard to your case (lets face it, this is a lot easier than spraying your heatsinks), the Formula is rather compelling.

Asus Maximus VIII Formula Review
Click to enlarge

Specifications

  • Chipset Intel Z170
  • Form factor ATX
  • CPU support LGA1151 compatible (Skylake)
  • Memory support Dual-channel, 4 slots, max 64GB
  • Sound 8-channel ROG SupremeFX 2015
  • Networking Intel I219V Gigabit LAN, 802.11ac dual-band WiFi
  • Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps via Intel Z170, 2 x SATA Express, 2 x SATA 6Gbps via ASMedia, 1 x M.2 PCI-E 3.0 x4 (up to 22110), 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.1 Type A, 10 x USB 3.0 (6 x via header), 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out, HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
  • Extras Isolated audio circuitry, EK VRM waterblock, protective back plate, RGB lighting

Discuss this in the forums

QUICK COMMENT

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

WEEK IN REVIEW

TOP STORIES

SUGGESTED FOR YOU