When it comes to high-end gaming motherboards, Asus has established itself as a key player with a huge fleet of Republic Of Gamers (R.O.G) models. Today we have with us its flagship Z77 motherboard — the Maximus V Extreme. This ultra high-end motherboard is packed to the gills with features and is targeted towards enthusiasts, especially those who participate in competitive overclocking. Most of the features are lifted straight out of their X79-based Rampage IV Extreme that we previewed last October.

Design and layout
The motherboard comes well packaged with the board and the accessories securely packed in separate boxes. The Maximus V is a full ATX motherboard that uses Intel’s Z77 chipset. This means you have Socket 1155, which is compatible with new Ivy Bridge CPUs as well as the previous generation Sandy Bridge CPUs. The design of the board itself is very striking with a black PCB and a mix of black and red heatsinks and expansion slots. There are also plenty of debug LEDs for the GPUs, memory, BIOS, etc. scattered all over the board.

Good layout and design

Good layout and design

The rear port cluster includes a PS2 keyboard/mouse combo port, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, HDMI, 4x USB 3.0 ports, 4x USB 2.0 ports, a LAN jack, S/PDIF in and out, audio jacks, a clear CMOS button and an ROG Connect button. The latter is used to toggle the bundled OC Key accessory on and off. Other than these ports, we have plenty of headers for four additional USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, a total of six SATA III and three SATA II connectors, six 4-pin fan headers, a BIOS switch button, and power and reset buttons. Asus has also added VGA Hotwire connectors that allow you to directly overvolt your graphics card. There are four DIMM slots for a total of 32GB of DDR3 RAM. The Maximus V can support up to 2800MHz RAM as well as XMP profiles, so you can really push your hardware to the limit. The board also supports CrossFireX and 4-way SLI multi-GPU setups along with LucidLogix Virtu MVP Technology.

We have a total of five PCIe 3.0 x16 slots. You get the full x16 bandwidth if you use just one card, or the speed falls to x8/x8 for two cards, x8/x16/x8 for a three-card setup and x8/x16/x8/x8 for a four-card setup. We also have a single x4 PCIe 2.0 slot and a mini-PCIe 2.0 slot. Asus has also packed some very handy accessories like a dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth card with two external antennae that can be placed on your desk for better reception.

Very good set of connectors

Very good set of connectors

The layout of the RAM slots and the expansion slots is quite good. While there is a good amount of room around the CPU  for large heatsinks, fastening them could be a little tricky because of the additional heatsinks placed on the MOSFETS and VRMs. The RAM slots have fastening clips on only one side so it’s easy to swap them out even with a large graphics card installed. The SATA ports all face outwards so large GPUs are not an issue.

Good arrangement of SATA ports

Good arrangement of SATA ports

The bundle includes a total of 8 SATA cables, 3-way and 4-way SLI bridges, CrossFireX cables, Q-connectors, and a rear expansion bracket for one ESATA and two USB ports. There are also the ROG Connect cables, one Probelt cable set, the OC Key, and its cables. Overall, the Maximus V Extreme is very well designed and comes with plenty of accessories in the box to get you started.

Features
One of the highlights of this motherboard is the OC Key. We had a chance to see it in action back in October when Asus had their X79 preview in Singapore and it’s very simple to set up. The OC Key acts as an intermediary between your monitor and the GPU and is activated via the ROG Connect button on the rear panel. Once it’s on, you’ll be able to see readouts of the CPU’s current voltage, temperature, etc. over whatever's on your monitor, and you can directly overclock these values right through the OSD itself. Pressing the ROG Connect button toggles your keyboard's input between Windows and the overlay interface. This works very well and is super easy to set up, giving you real-time information about your CPU. Another good thing is that the overlay can be accessed from any screen, even while Windows is booting.

Four-way SLI and CrossFireX is possible

Four-way SLI and CrossFireX is possible

Asus has thrown in some exclusive features like VGA Hotwire that lets you directly play with the voltages of your graphics card without having to use any software. This can also be monitored through OC Key. The board also has a feature called Subzero Sense that lets you monitor the temperatures when using liquid Nitrogen, and can read temperatures as low as -195 degrees Celsius. You also get the Extreme Engine Digi+ II technology, which includes a full digital power system and Japanese Black Metallic capacitors. This digital system lets you make very minor adjustments when overclocking, resulting in a more stable system. Finally, the UEFI dual-BIOS system gives you a very nice graphical interface for tweaking settings.

Test rig configuration

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3770k
  • Memory: G.Skill RipjawsX 8GB (4GB x 2 @1866MHz)
  • Graphic card: AMD Radeon HD 6970
  • Hard drive: WD Velociraptor  300GB
  • Power supply:  Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
  • OS: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit

Performance
Before we began testing, we made sure the BIOS was up to date. This was as simple as downloading the most recent update from Asus and putting it on a pen drive, which the BIOS is able to detect. Despite this, we had a tough time getting our RAM to work in dual-channel mode. We tried G.Skill as well as Kingston HyperX modules and while they both worked in single channel mode, it was impossible to get to even the EFI screen with them in dual channel. The debug LEDs kept flashing ‘55’, which indicates no memory modules are installed. We had no choice but to run the tests in single channel mode.

The OC Key works brilliantly in providing real-time information

The OC Key works brilliantly in providing real-time information

In PCMark 7, we got a score of 3584, which is a little less as compared to when we did the Ivy Bridge platform review. This could be attributed mainly to the lack of dual-channel memory. Cinebench R11.5 returned a OpenGL score of 88.9fps, which is roughly 8fps more as compared to the Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard. The CPU score; however, was 6.98pts, which is a bit lower. In gaming, we received a similar score compared to our previous setup. In FarCry 2, with a resolution of 1600 x 900 and the Physics, Fire and Trees set to 'Very High', we got a score of 169fps. Dirt 2, with the same resolution and a mix of medium to low settings gave us a framerate of 146fps. Overall, the Maximus V Extreme could have performed even better had the dual-channel memory worked.

Verdict and Price in India
The Asus Maximus V Extreme can be yours for a street price of Rs. 29,800. This might seem like a lot of money for a motherboard, but then again you have graphics cards that cost Rs. 67,000, so that’s the price you pay for staying on the cutting edge of technology. As we mentioned earlier, this is no ordinary board  — in fact there’s nothing quite like it in the market. It’s designed solely for extreme overclockers and enthusiasts who are constantly trying to push the limit of their hardware to break benchmarking records. Asus has done an excellent job with the Maximus V Extreme, in terms of design and build as well as features and performance. Other than the snag we hit with dual-channel memory, the board is rock solid and its performance is very good as well. The OC key and VGA Hotwire are the highlights of the experience and if you are into competitive overclocking, this is one of the best motherboards money can buy right now.

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