As we considered how to best upgrade our Intel benchmarking and video editing rig, one of our biggest considerations was the motherboard. We knew we would need something that would offer excellent performance and also allow us to expand out, easily adding and removing components to accommodate our tests. We also needed lots of IO, easy overclocking, as well as SLI/Crossfire and M.2 support. We reached out to ASUS for help and they sent over the Z370 ROG Maximus X Hero. In the world of Z370 boards, it’s developed a reputation as one of the best, so we put it through its paces to see for ourselves. This is our official review of the ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero Gaming Motherboard.
The Maximus X Hero is the big brother to ASUS’s current crop of Z370 Strix motherboards powering Intel’s 8th generation of Coffee Lake processors and comes in at a $50 premium, retailing at an MSRP for $259.99 (though can currently be had for less). What’s on offer, though, may just be one of the best sub-$300 Z370 boards on the market, especially if you’re interested in overclocking and being able to quickly diagnose any problems that may arise.
When it comes to high performance PC building, the Maximus X Hero is primed to deliver on anything you might need. It features plentiful cooling options with six PWM fan headers, a dedicated pump header, a header for a 3A/36W flow meter, a thermal probe connection, and even an LN2 mode. Whether you’re building in an airflow case, taking it easy with an AIO, or going all-in with a custom hardline loop, the Maximus X Hero stands ready.
ASUS have made this motherboard somewhat of a love letter to overclockers. It uses high quality capacitors and a 10-phase VRM for stable power delivery. What’s more, the heatsinks used over the VRMs are some of the most heavy duty I’ve encountered, ensuring the VRMs will stay cool far longer than many competitor boards.
The board also features two M.2 slots for high speed storage, one featuring one of the best M.2 heatinks I’ve ever seen (pictured below). The sink is necessary, however, as the placement between the CPU and discrete GPU causes the drive to swelter without it. You also have your standard six SATA 6GB/s for mass storage, able to be integrated in RAID 0/1/5/10 formations.
It also features exceptional connectivity, with eight rear USB ports, including four USB 3.1 Gen 1 and two Gen 2, one Type-A and one Type-C. This is expandable with internal connections that support an additional four USB 2.0 slots and two USB 3.1 slots.
When it comes to memory, the Maximus X Hero is capable of blistering speeds through its X.M.P. profiles. We were able to set our 64GB Crucial memory kit - the maximum supported memory - to the recommended 3200MHz profile quickly and with no issues booting. If you’d like to push things further, the Maximus supports overclock speeds up to 4133MHz+.
Multi-GPU users are also catered to here. On the Nvidia side of things, the mainboard provides SLI support for up to two GPUs. If you’re an AMD user, three-way CrossFire is supported. ASUS also includes a high bandwidth bridge in the box, though you’ll need an extra if you opt for three-way scaling.
In a personal high-point for me, the Maximus X Hero includes SupremeFx audio with the excellent ESS Sabre Hi-Fi ES9023P DAC, supporting up to 32-bit/192kHz playback. It’s powered by a Texas Instruments RC4850 op amp capable of driving most headphones cleanly and clearly. It also features eight-channel audio with an optical input on the rear IO. The system boasts 120 dB SNR stereo playback and 113 SNR recording input, making it a great fit for content creators looking to kill line noise.
For this kind of high-end build, ASUS has also included a number of diagnostic options to help diagnose and recover from the inevitable failed boots when testing new overclocks. MemOK! will help you recover from memory related boot failures and get you back into the BIOS. BIOS Flashback and Clear CMOS buttons on the rear IO will do the same, undoing any changes you may have made preventing you from booting correctly. Since the most intense overclockers will likely be working with access to the board itself, there’s also Reset, ReTry, and Safe Boot buttons. It also features an extremely helpful debug LED that displays an ASUS Q-Code, telling you what may have gone wrong during boot.
In other odds and ends, it features Gigabit ethernet and plentiful RGB support. On the board itself, the rear IO shield, M.2 shield, and PCH heatsink all feature customizable illumination. There are also three AURA RGB headers, one of which is fully addressable allowing you to add to customize your own LED strips.
With all of that out of the way, it should be clear that this is a high-end motherboard for intense users. Let’s take a look at some test results.
Test system: Intel Core i7-8700K at 3.7GHz, ASUS Maximus X Hero motherboard, Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti Founder’s Edition, 32GB Ballistix Elite DDR4-3200 DRAM, Samsung 960 EVO system drive, 10TB Western Digital Gold mass storage, Corsair HX-1050 1050-watt PSU, Noctua NH-D14 dual fan CPU cooler, Nanoxia DS-1 case
Before we begin, note that our data below is not comparative with other Z370 motherboards. We know... it’s a data set we’re working toward as we develop our performance database on our benchmarking systems. However, if you would like to see how many of these results compare to our previous Core i7-7700K and an AMD Ryzen 7 RX1700X, you can read more here.
Without further ado, here are the results:
For this test, we used RightMark Audio Analyzer. We used a 24-bit, 192kHz track customized to fit the guidelines of the test, running a 3.5mm cable between the line-in and and speaker line-out.
Without a bevy of Z370 boards to show data against, these results can be a little hard to parse. I would encourage you to view the excellent work of our friends over at Overclock3d to see how a similarly outfitted system stacks up; however, in sum, the Maximus X Hero performs admirably, particularly in the audio department. In general, however, it’s clear that it performs exceptionally well as a gaming system and has the processing power to adequately support our benchmarking and editing demands as well.
Overclocking and Temperatures
We covered this fairly well in my review of the Intel Core i7-8700K and what I said there remains the same. When it comes to overclocking, I admit to being no expert. That said, I’ve successfully overclocked systems for most of the last decade and know my way around pushing a core clock. As always with overclocking, your mileage will vary depending on the chip you’ve received, but I was quite impressed with how easily I was able to overclock the 8700K.
I began with a target of 5GHz; a nice round number that’s a fairly modest bump over the default boost clock. The BIOS is very easy to navigate and is well explained, so getting off the ground in setup was quick and easy. Since I’m on air cooling with the two-spire, dual-fan Noctua D14, I began by changing my fan profiles to dissipate the extra heat. After changing my multipliers, I set to tweaking my voltages and stress testing. With little difficulty, I was able to achieve a stable 5Ghz with only 1.28V, LLC Level 6, MCE disabled. Wanting to see how far I could go, I pushed it a bit further up to 5.1GHz at 1.32V and was able to remain stable after two hours stress testing under Prime95, but temps on both were too far out of my personal comfort level to stay with for day to day use.
Under load at 5GHz overclock, temps peaked at 82C. This is very close to the 7700K which peaked at 81C at 4.8GHz. In normal use, both CPUs hover right between 35-40C and in games between 65-75C. This is a bit alarming at first but shouldn’t be as concerning as if it were the case on pre-Kaby Lake CPUs.
I spent hours researching this issue, concerned that I may have had a faulty heatsink on my 7700K. What I found was that both Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake have higher maximum temperatures; they won’t even throttle below 100C. Intel, for its part, has reassured a number of forum-posting customers who’ve taken the time to call and express their concern load temps in the 80s are nothing to be concerned about. That won’t stop people from delidding or wanting to lower them - I know peaking in the 80s makes me uncomfortable - but you shouldn’t have to worry about doing any damage to the lifespan of your system running under these temperatures.
Though the ROG Maximus X Hero does cost slightly more than other entries in ASUS’s Z370 line, it’s worth considering for a number of reasons. The overclocking potential of the board is fantastic thanks to high quality capacitors and a 10-phase VRM power delivery system, shielded and thermal managed by heavy duty heatsinks. Support for advanced tweaking and monitoring through its thermal probe header, flow control, multiple diagnostic features, easy recovery options, and even an LN2 mode just begs to be pushed. Other features, such as the built-in IO shield keep it looking good and the excellent SupremeFX system has the juice and resolution drive audiophile level sound. All of these features combine to make the ROG Maximus Hero an excellent board for a high performance system and one of the easiest recommendations we could make.
- Great overclocking capabilities
- Excellent diagnostic and recovery features
- Easy to navigate BIOS
- Many fan headers for chassis cooling
- ESS Sabre DAC and SupremeFX deliver very good audio quality
- Well considered heatsinks on M.2, VRM
- Extra functionality and quality materials come at a premium
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.