Asus Maximus VIII Hero Review

Manufacturer: Asus
UK price (as reviewed): £169.40 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $228.99 (ex Tax)

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While Intel Z97 boards are still in plentiful supply, Z170 is quickly taking over as the major motherboard manufacturers ramp up their supplies. The main battlegrounds are forming and one fiercely fought over is aesthetics. Lighting, big flashy heatsinks, shrouds and PCI-E slot covers are all on the menu and the new Asus Hero is vying for the top spot too as the ever image-conscious ROG range looks to bolster its feature set in other areas.

As we saw with the Gene, the new ROG boards sport a slightly different colour scheme to their Z97 counterparts, with a grey and black theme with splashes of red. There's a huge plastic shroud surrounding the I/O panel too; it does liven up the PCB although it did look and feel a little tacky from some angles.

Thankfully, once the board is powered on, there's plenty more pizazz on show with a full RGB lighting module under the PCH heatsink and numerous other lights besides. It's an interesting step for Asus as it tries to allow the board to be customisable to your own system's colour scheme, although there is room for improvement.

For instance, there are plenty of other red details on the PCB so if you prefer a black and blue or black and yellow colour scheme, these will stick out. Clearly the goal here should be for all the colour details to be customisable, either with lighting or removable decals - not just a single LED, but it does mean the Hero is one of the most customisable motherboards we've seen in this regard.

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£170 does sound a lot for what is one of Asus's more budget-conscious offerings in the ROG range, but equally its predecessor cost just £5 less at launch last year, and Z170 board are typically more expensive than their Z97 counterparts. Still, the Ranger will be worth looking at if you want to save a few notes and aren't fussed about the lighting etc.

Asus Maximus VIII Hero Review Asus Maximus VIII Hero Review
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In terms of raw specs. the Hero stands well against its rivals. There are three 1x PCI-E slots, with one located above the primary 16x PCI-E slot and thus always accessible. There are three of the latter in total, with your typical two-way GPU setup getting a x8/x8 lane configuration courtesy of the two grey slots, which are double-spaced to aid air-cooled cards. Quite a few of the Hero's competitors sport two M.2 ports, while the Hero itself only has one. This is a disadvantage in two ways - firstly you're not able to RAID two M.2 SSDs - something that's possible with an Intel Z170 system, but also one of the slots will likely still be accessible if you opt for the two-way GPU setup.

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As you can see here, the M.2 port, while it does offer support for full-length 110mm SSDs, will be blocked by a second dual-slot graphics card. That said, the likelihood you'd need to remove the SSD after your system is up and running is fairly remote, while people that want to RAID two M.2 SSDs are probably few and far between as well.

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As you'd expect with an ROG motherboard, there is the full complement of overclocking and testing tools, including power, reset and CMOS clear switches as well as an LED POST code display and handy EFI-related tools such as USB BIOS Flashback - the ability to flash the BIOS with no CPU installed - and SSD secure erase embedded into the EFI too. This is complemented by Keybot - a program that allows you to create and run macros from a macro key-less keyboard plus a lot more, as well as RAMcache, both of which you can read more about here.

Asus Maximus VIII Hero Review
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The Hero uses two additional ASMedia controllers - one adding two SATA 6Gbps ports in black to the six available from the Z170 chipset with another providing USB 3.1 support on the rear I/O panel with both Type-A and Type-C ports in the mix. There are only two USB 3 ports in addition to these, so if you have lots of SuperSpeed devices, you may find the Hero a little lacking. There are four USB 2 ports here as well so if you're just dealing with lots of peripherals, its combination of 7 USB ports will keep most people happy.

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Layout, on the whole, is excellent, with plenty of space around the CPU socket despite the huge heatsinks and shroud, plus you get angled SATA ports. There's a trio of 3/4-pin fan headers at the top of the PCB too and one of these, as we've seen on the Gene and Deluxe, is a dedicated AIO cooler pump header, which is always handy.

Specifications

  • Chipset Intel Z170
  • Form factor ATX
  • CPU support LGA1151 compatible (Skylake)
  • Memory support Dual-channel, 4 slots, max 64GB
  • Sound ROG SupremeFX 2015 8-channel ALC1150 Codec
  • Networking Intel® I219V Gigabit LAN
  • Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps via Intel Z170, 2 x SATA 6Gbps via ASM1061, 1 x M.2, 2 x SATA Express, 1 x USB 3.1 (Gen2) Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 (Gen2) Type-C, 6 x USB 3.0 (4 x via header), 8 x USB 2.0 (4 x via header), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out, DisplayPort, HDMI
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
  • Extras LED POST code read-out, isolated audio circuitry, power, reset and CMOS clear switches, USB BIOS Flashback, RGB chipset lighting, AIO cooler pump header

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