Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 7.5
We’ve already taken Asus’s P8Z68-V Pro motherboard for a spin and came away impressed with its performance. While it was a bit on the expensive side, the features it offered did compensate for it. Today, we’ll be looking at the Maximus IV GENE-Z motherboard, another one based on the Z68 chipset but this is from their Republic of Gamers (R.O.G) lineup which means it’s geared for enthusiasts who love to tinker and fine tune every setting, right down to the last detail.
Design and Layout
The GENE-Z may be a micro-ATX motherboard but Asus has crammed every last inch of the PCB with components. Since this is from their R.O.G lineup, we have a striking black PCB with red PCI expansion slots. It’s even a tiny bit smaller than a standard micro-ATX board which means there are fewer PCI slots. The rear I/O ports include a PS2 combo port, 8 USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit LAN, Optical SPDIF audio-out, HDMI and 8-channel onboard audio from SupremeFX X-Fi 2. The CMOS reset switch is also placed here and is backlit making it easy to see in the dark.
A little too small for a micro-ATX board
The motherboard accepts all Socket 1155 CPUs from Intel and is reinforced with a 8-phase CPU power design along with a 4-phase design for the iGPU. There’s even a two phase power design for the RAM. Having multiple phases for the power delivery ensures any/all spikes from the PSU is eliminated before it reaches the components. These VRMs are cooled by a chunky heatsink that surrounds the CPU area. Due to the small size of the board, installing the stock Intel heatsink was a little tricky since there are many capacitors in the way. There’s not a lot of wiggle room to screw it on with your fingers. The memory slots almost touch the graphics card but thankfully, the retention clips are placed only on one side so it’s easy to swap RAM once installed.
Few expansion slots
Expansion slots include one PCIE 2.0 x16 slot and another x8 slot. There aren’t any PCIE x1 slots or legacy PCI slots, just one PCIE 2.0 x4 slot. There are a total of six SATA ports natively supported by the Z68 chipset. Four are SATA II while the remainder are SATA III. Asus have also included two JMicron eSATA ports in the rear I/O panel. What sets this board apart from their standard offerings are the enthusiast grade features added starting with the backlit ‘Start’ and ‘Reset’ buttons. These are most useful in an open bench environment which overclockers will certainly appreciate. Debug LEDs give you a real-time status of your system and in case somethings wrong, you can simply match the code with the one in the manual to know exactly what’s wrong. Despite the small size, Asus has also managed to cram in four PWM fan headers, other than the CPU fan. The contents of the box include cable ties, labels for SATA cables, six SATA cables, SLI bridge, Q-connectors for the front panel headers, I/O shield, ROG Connect cable, drivers, manual and some cool case badges. Unlike their other high-end boards, you don’t get Bluetooth in the GENE-Z.
Overall, the PCB is built well and doesn't flex much after installing all the components. The black lacquered finish against the red expansion slots is definitely visually appealing and would go great with a windowed cabinet. In the quest to save space, the Maximus IV feels a little cramped when building the rig and plus the fewer expansion slots may be a put off for some.
The UEFI BIOS has undergone a slight face-lift and features a red themed R.O.G backdrop. The Digi+ VRM option gives you much more control of how the power should be delivered to the components and you can tweak the VCore Phase, VDRAM, etc. You can either select from one of the preset profiles (Regular, High, Extreme) or manually tweak it yourself. You can even take a screenshot of the BIOS page you’re in simply by hitting F12, in case you wish to send the settings to a friend or simply for your record. The RAM slots can handle memory speeds up to 2133MHz which means there’s plenty of headroom for overclocking. BIOS utilities include EZ Flash 2 for updating the BIOS, SPD Info gives you every detail about your memory modules, Asus O.C Profile can save up to eight profiles allowing you to quickly switch to them and finally Go Button, which allows you to set an overclock profile and then activate it by pressing the physical button on the board.
Get all your stats through RC TweakIt
Perhaps the most unique feature is the ROG Connect which lets you monitor the status of the system from a laptop. Once you install the ROG Connect Plus and Connect on the main desktop and laptop, all you have to do is hit the switch on the motherboard to enable it. You then connect to the notebook and desktop via the bundled cable and through the utility, RC TweakIt, you can monitor and adjust the settings on your local PC. RCPoster shows the status of the local system during POST as well. All this data can be monitored and recorded.
Test Rig Specifications
We setup the Maximus IV GENE-Z motherboard with a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate. All the drivers were updated to the latest version as well. We didn’t update the BIOS since we didn’t really feel the need to as everything was running rock solid.
The Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3-iSSD fared better in the ‘Productivity’ and ‘HDD’ tests of PCMark Vantage due to the Intel solid state drive onboard. In the other tests though, the GENE-Z manages to nudge ahead of its own smaller sibling, the P8Z68-V Pro. The P8Z68 might seem like it’s lagging behind in the graphics benchmarks and that because we tested that using the GTX 570. So apart from that, the rest of the scores regarding memory, CPU and hard disk can be directly compared to the Maximus IV.
The DIGI+ VRM at work
Asus bundles along a host of software suites that's accessible through a single interface, the AI Suite II. The DIGI+ VRM tool allows you to adjust the VRM voltage and frequency modulation directly from the OS, without having to go through the BIOS. It also lets you perform Load-line calibration set the threshold for the maximum CPU voltage during overclocking. TurboV Evo is an overclocking utility similar to AMDs Overdrive. You can either do it manually or let the software do it for you. In auto mode, the program does tend to bump up the voltages even when not needed so it’s advised to do it manually.
SATA ports face outwards making it easy to add HDDs
EPU makes a comeback as well, allowing you to set what mode your PC will run in. You can choose between Performance, Tranquility, Convenience, Reliability and Energy Saved. Each of these settings can be further customised to your liking. Fan Xpert lets you control the speed of your case fans but remember, this will only work if your fans have PWM function which usually come with a four-pin header instead of a three pin.
The Asus Maximus IV GENE-Z motherboard is priced at Rs.13,110 which is a grand more than the P8Z68-V Pro motherboard from the same company. We understand it’s designed for enthusiasts and overclockers but there’s no straying away from the fact that it is quite expensive for a micro-ATX motherboard. If you are into competitive overclocking and benchmarking, then this Z68 is a solid contender for that purpose. But, for an average user, most of these features will go unused and plus, the motherboard does not have enough expansion slots to make it future proof.
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Jan 22, 2017