the Hero Alpha is clearly designed to operate overclocked, but even at stock speed it was fairly potent with some aggressive numbers in PCMark 8, and most of our game tests. However, it was a little slow in our rendering tests, albeit by usually small margins. Power consumption was a little on the high side at stock speed too at idle, with Gigabyte topping the podium here. However, Asus was in control of the load power graphs, and the Hero Alpha performed well here too.
Once overclocked, things still weren't chart-topping in the rendering tests, with the original Hero managing a time 10seconds quicker in Terragen, and 50 points higher in Cinebench too. However in most other tests the clock speed bump saw it keep its high chart places. The storage results were as expected - and within a few MB/sec of the other results we've seen, both for the SATA ports and M.2 port.
If you're considering using the onboard Supreme FX audio then you'll be glad to hear that it all but matched the best results we've seen, but offers nothing in addition to the standard Hero. As per usual with a premium Z170 board, it outperformed Asus' own Xonar DGX 5.1 PCI-E sound card in RightMark's Audio Analyser too.
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As well as the fact that for similar money, you could opt for a cheap X99 board and have money left over to bump up from a Core i7-6700K to a Core i7-5820K, there are also Z170 boards out there from other manufacturers that offer some competition for the Hero Alpha. MSI's Z170A XPOWER Gaming Titanium Edition
for example, looks fantastic and is perhaps a little better-geared towards hard-core overclockers, but is looking a little dated, lacking USB 3.1 Type-C, U.2 and WiFi and is only £10 cheaper plus it lacks RGB lighting of any kind.
There's also Asus' own Z170-Deluxe
, which sports a very similar feature-set but lacks RGB lighting control. The Maximus VIII Formula is also worth considering. It's more expensive, but if you're already spending nearly £250, another £40 nets you one of the most desirable boards on the market.
In short, the Hero Alpha is late the to party, and we're also late looking at it, but this shouldn't dissuade you from adding it to your shortlist if you're building a premium Skylake system. There's some stiff competition now we're eight months down the line from Skylake's launch and many will be better off with the cheaper standard Hero. However, the Hero Alpha has just about carved out a small if slightly extreme niche for itself thanks to its premium features and unmatched lighting control.
Asus Maximus VIII Hero Alpha