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ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO (Intel LGA 1150) - Review

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by cadaveca, on Jun 30th, 2014, in Motherboards. Manufacturer: ASUS

ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO (Intel LGA 1150)

 
Introduction

ASUS severely shook up their ROG product line with the launch of Intel's Haswell and Z87; new SKUs were introduced while old ones were re-hashed in ways most of us just didn't expect. ASUS's last HERO swung into action to save the day with Z87, but now that we have Z97 out on store shelves, we've also have a new HERO, the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO.

The ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO has a long-standing tradition to live up to, and while the first Hero board did well, it did have a few shortcomings and might have been overshadowed by some of the other new ROG boards, like the IMPACT. What an apt name that is too, IMPACT, as that board definitely made its mark on the OC scene. So who exactly did the HERO save?

I think people may overlook something with ASUS's HERO SKU. The idea of who it's suppose to champion may not be immediately obvious unless you know some of the OC scene's past history and ASUS's ROG branding. Like with the IMPACT, many users requested that ASUS release a trimmed down board, stripped of the features that were not needed while still packing all the awesome engineering ASUS is known for. To me, that is this HERO's main purpose. Capable of much, but much cheaper than HEROs of the past, the EXTREME, GENE, and FORMULA, it is to provide a decent and affordable platform to push performance limits on.


Specifications
Specifications
CPU SUPPORT: 5th/New 4th/4th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron processor family for the LGA 1150 Socket
POWER DESIGN: CPU Power: 8 Phases 
Memory Power: 2 Phases 
CHIPSET: Intel Z97
   
INTEGRATED GRAPHICS: Dependant on installed CPU
MEMORY: 4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB, DDR3 1333 to DDR3 3300+(OC)
BIOS: AMI UEFI BIOS with 64 Mb Flash ROM
SLOTS: 2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 slot (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (max at x4 mode)
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slot
   
HDD CONNECTVIITY: 6 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (Intel Z97 
2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (ASMedia)
1 x M.2 Socket 3 (Intel Z97)
NETWORKING: 1 x Intel Gigabit LAN (1x I218V)
PORTS: 6 x USB 3.0 ports (2 at front panel, 4 at rear panel)
7 x USB 2.0 ports (5 at front panel, 2 at rear panel) 
1 x RJ45 LAN connectors 
6 x audio jacks
1 x HDMI port(Supports 4k 4096@2160)
1 x DVI-D Port
1 x D-Sub
1 x PS/2 Port
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
1 x BIOS FlashBack button
AUDIO: ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
FAN HEADERS: 6 x 4-pin
FORM FACTOR: ATX Form Factor (305 mm x 244 mm)
EXCLUSIVE FEATURES: ·        Extreme Engine Digi+ III :
·        - 8 + 2 phase power design
·        - NexFET™ Power Block MOSFET
·        - 60A Ferrite Chokes
·        - 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
·        KeyBot
·        - CPU Level Up
·        - XMP
·        - Direct Key
·        UEFI BIOS features :
·        - GPU.DIMM Post
·        - Tweakers' Paradise
·        - ROG SSD Secure Erase
·        - Graphic Card Information Preview
·        ROG RAMDisk
·        GameFirst III
·        Extreme Tweaker
·        ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors 5 :
·        Gamer's Guardian:
·        - ESD Guards on LAN, Audio, KBMS and USB3.0/2.0 ports
·        - DRAM Overcurrent Protection
·        - 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
·        - Stainless Steel Back I/O
·        ASUS Exclusive Features :
·        - MemOK!
·        - AI Suite 3
·        - Ai Charger
·        - USB Charger+
·        - USB 3.0 Boost
·        - Disk Unlocker
·        ASUS EZ DIY :
·        - ASUS O.C. Profile
·        - ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
·        - ASUS EZ Flash 2
·        - ASUS USB BIOS Flashback
·        - Push Notice
·        ASUS Q-Design :
·        - ASUS Q-Shield
·        - ASUS Q-Code
·        - ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
·        - ASUS Q-Slot
·        - ASUS Q-DIMM
·        - ASUS Q-Connector
·        Overclocking Protection :
·        - ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
·        Media Streamer

 
 
Packaging
 
 

ASUS's box design hasn't changed with this generation of ROG products, and it really doesn't need to either. I like the rear I/O's diagram on the back because you don't have to pull the board out to find out what is there, and in what layout.
 
 

You can flip open the front to read through a bunch of wordy descriptions and look at a sweet plastic window that bares the board, teasing.

 
Open the box and you will see that the window is actually a lid to the inner box that holds the board itself, keeping it safe during its travels onto retail shelves. Under the lid are the accessories, although there isn't much here, HERO to your wallet this board aims to be.
 
Contents
 

All the usual stuff is here, including cables, manual, and driver disc.
 
 
The rear I/O cover is new in its swanky gun-metal-like coating, a bit of shiny bling ASUS padded on the side facing the board to save your fingers.




There are also an ROG door hanger, along with ROG cable labels, SLI bridge, and case badge.
 

The Board - Layout




As with the Z97 DELUXE, the MAXIMUS VII HERO features a new, more sophisticated esthetic theme that carries itself through the entire series. The board's matte black surface makes itself apparent in a big way once you turn the board around.




The socket area is pretty clean, and the large angular coolers are reminiscent of a certain Italian automobile. The rear of the socket, flanked by backplates for the board's MOSFETs, is almost as clean as the front of the socket, although the robust power delivery design has some bits which protrude off the board's surface. However, most common aftermarket CPU backplates should not cause any problems.




The slot arrangement is pretty standard for a Intel mainstream desktop board. A trio of PCIe x16 and a trio of PCIe x1 allow you to add devices to the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO. The DIMM slots can carry up to 32 GBs of memory, all the way up to record-shattering speeds that will leave your wallet ablaze.





 
The board's bottom edge comes with the usual stuff to plug things into, and some buttons. The ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO only comes with 4-pin fan headers ASUS equipped with pretty amazing configuration options through both the BIOS and software.



With USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, a single LAN, audio, and what are now legacy video outputs, DVI and D-Sub, the rear I/O section comes equipped with the usual stuff. There are also a USB BIOS flashback button, not to be confused with a CMOS clear button, and HDMI. Two added via an external controller, I was also surprised to find eight SATA ports in total on the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO.




Speaking of CMOS, the board's BIOS is socketed, which makes it easily replaceable if need be, although it does feature some robust restoration capabilities that should make doing so unnecessary. A main feature of the Intel Z97 platform are the new high-speed drive interfaces, M.2 and SATA Express. Much to my dismay, ASUS equipped the MAXIMUS VII HERO with an M.2 port to support high-speed drives, relegating SATA Express support to other ROG products. I really want to play with my ASUS Hyper Express drive on an ROG board, let me tell you.
 
The Board - A Closer Look




What does it take to be a HERO? We covered all the basics already, yet one of the first things that caught my attention when I first looked at the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO was the diagram that shows you which DIMM slots to use first, which saves you from having to pull out the manual to find out.
 



Up above is a close-up of the two buttons on the board's bottom edge I mentioned earlier. One enables a high-power mode for your headphone's audio output and the other is the actual CLEAR CMOS button. Every other usual ROG toy is in its usual place, by the POST display in the top-right corner. 

 

Much like past ROG audio designs, the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO uses an ALC 1150-based audio design. A clear line in the PCB isolates the audio circuit from the rest of the board and potential electrical noise.




The line of isolation is highlighted by a bunch of strategically placed LEDs along the line, making for a nice red glow that matches the glow from under the CODEC's metal EMI cover.






Another new feature is KEYBOT, a hardware-based device that overrides keyboard inputs and allows for macro options. This implementation uses a hardware controller, a hardware button to enable it, and software in the OS that allows you to customize the functions assigned to each key.
 


 



Clearly labeled, you can fortunately simply pull the plug shown above if you find the glow annoying. As seen on past ROG boards, there are also a series of POST LEDs to indicate the general phase of the board's boot sequence. This is extremely useful for quickly diagnosing boot problems when tuning that clock to squeeze as much as possible out of the board.
 





 
A self-branded Super I/O provides for ASUS's by now standard but fantastic fan control and monitoring set, while the TMDS chip for the HDMI port is the usual ASMedia part, as are most add-on devices ASUS uses. For all those Intel LAN purists out there, the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO comes with an Intel I218V rather than another controller people will complain about for sport. 




The front panel USB 3.0 header is specially fused to prevent electrical damage due to static, an issue in only a few global regions, while the board's electrical power supply for the CPU is the normal 8-phase design Z87 boards introduced. Although the actual controller and MOSFETs used might differ, those fancy ASUS-branded chokes with golden cores are here for sure, with an ASUS logo on top. Mmmm, yummy!
Test System
 
 
Test System
CPU: Intel 4770K 
3.5 GHz, 8 MB Cache
Memory: 16 GB DDR3 (4x 4 GB) Avexir Blitz 1.1 TechPowerUp! Edition
Cooling: CoolerMaster TPC812
Motherboard: ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO
Intel Z97 Express, BIOS v0224
Video Card: MSI GTX780 GAMING 3 GB
Harddisk: 2x Crucial 128 GB SATA 6 Gb/s SSD (OS & DATA)
Power Supply: Thermaltake TruePower Platinum 1250W
Case: Lian-Li T60 Testbench
Software: Windows 8 64-bit, Nvidia 335.63 WHQL

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ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO (Intel LGA 1150) - Review Continued

 
Initial Setup



Installing the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO into my test bench and equipping it with all of my parts was a run-of-the-mill task. The board has some decent heft to it, which makes it feel more powerful. There is plenty of clearance around its RAM slots, but a RAM cooler might knock against a capacitor close to the bottom's edge, so you will want to pay attention to that if you plan on using one.
 





Logo in clear view when it lights up, the large PCH cooler extends far below my installed video card. The VRM coolers also stick out a fair bit from underneath my cooler, which allows them to catch some of the air produced by the huge tower cooler's fan.
 


Here are the requisite CPU-Z screenshot and OC screen grab. With so many options in BIOS, there is a ton of potential for you to optimize your settings to your liking.
 
Power Consumption

We measure CPU power consumption since one of our first tasks is to truly verify system stability. I isolate the power coming through the 8-pin ATX connector using an in-line meter that provides voltage and current readings, and total wattage passed through. While this may not prove to isolate the CPU power draw in all instances, it does serve as a good indicator of board efficiency and effective VRM design. Total system power consumption is no longer reported as this figure can change depending on what VGA is installed. The sole board-only power measurements possible without physically modifying a motherboard are those taken via the 8-pin CPU connector, making it the only figure of value worth reporting. I use wPrime with eight threads selected in the options since it provides a consistently high workload throughout the full length of the test and runs long enough for the VRM and CPU to produce a fair bit of heat. Most average workloads will draw far less than that, although distributed computing applications are quite similar. This is not supposed to test stability since I use several other applications to do so, but merely to provide repeatable power draw numbers anyone can replicate. The meter used is an off-the-shelf Zalman unit that has been on the market for some time. It provides similar results in my test environment when compared with a FLUKE 337 clamp meter. 

 
Load Condition CPU Voltage Ring voltage Idle Power Load Power
Stock Clocks 1.040 V 1.158 V 13W 80W
Overclocked 1.285 V 1.125 V 18W 127W

The ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO performed admirably under load, but idle power consumption was a bit higher than expected. This is par for the course with gaming and overclocking boards and merely amounts to 10W or so, a minor difference most users will not quibble over.

Fan Control






One of the biggest changes ASUS offers in the wake of Intel Z97-based products is an excellent fan-control design that surpasses anything I have seen before. Simply run the software ASUS provides in the OS or use the profiler in BIOS to tune fan settings to their limits, both from a dead stop to maximum RPM. Options such as silent or to full speed become available after finding out where those limits are for each fan. You can also manually adjust each fan curve individually, which allows for a completely customized cooling set-up. Not only does ASUS offer this function to the main CPU fan header, but EVERY SINGLE FAN header works this way, so go ahead and throw that 5-port fan header away for good.

BIOS Walkthrough






ASUS put many hidden treats into the BIOS, including a full suite of tools geared towards those looking to optimize system performance. Just one of many ways to do so, there is a tool for you to update the BIOS. There is also an SSD secure-erase tool, so you can get that old drive of yours back to running factory speeds.






A tool lists GPU information and another allows you to save profiles. You could create several overclocking profiles, one for benchmarking, another for daily usage, and one you are still perfecting; it's all up to you. You can also save those profiles to a USB stick to share with others who have a build similar to yours.






There is also a tool that lists your memory's SPD information, so you can find the right timings and input them manually. Another tool allows you to configure one-button OC settings which are enabled via the H-key function. And there is also the ability to launch the EFI shell off a USB device for those who like to run Windows-to-Go.






I also found an automatic overclocking tool, one that adjusts settings in the BIOS based on your installed cooling and usage needs by prompting you to answer a series of question to help it decide which settings to use.




Once you answer those questions, the board will give you an idea of what it is about to overclock to, telling you to reset the BIOS should any issues arise. That is to say that there is no testing involved as the BIOS simply looks at what parts you have installed before applying those settings based on pre-defined rules. Making sure your system is stable is up to you. The board's settings were actually a bit conservative for my top-binned parts, but I was pleased to see much higher clocks set here than would have been set with the same hardware installed to a Z87-based ROG board.

BIOS Options
 
BIOS Main Clocking Options
Clocks Range Step Size
CPU BCLK: 80.0 MHz ... 300.0 MHz 0.1 MHz
Memory Dividers: x8 (800 MHz), x10.67 (1067 MHz), x13.33 (1333 MHz), 
x14 (1400 MHz), x16 (1600 MHz ), x18 (1800 MHz), 
x18.66 (1866 MHz), x20 (2000 MHz ), x21.33 (2133 MHz), 
x22 (2200 MHz), x24 (2400 MHz), x26 (2600 MHz), 
x26.66 (2666 MHz), x28 (2800 MHz), x29.33 (2933 MHz), 
x30 (3000 MHz), x32 (3200 MHz)
Voltages Range Step Size
CPU Vcore: 0.001 V... 1.920 V 0.001 V
CPU Cache Voltage: 0.001 V... 1.920 V 0.001 V
DRAM Voltage: 1.200 V... 2.400 V 0.005 V

Here are the other BIOS pages for you to peruse at your leisure. There are a ton of options available for you to tweak, so a ton of screenshots can be found below.




























































































Board Software

 





ASUS ROG platforms have for some time now had top-notch software to go along with your shiny new motherboard, and the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO is no exception. From RAMDisk software to the now hugely matured and refined AISUITE III, everything you need to tweak your system from within a Windows-based OS is here.




There is a tool to get you into the board's BIOS should it boot faster than you can push the proper key on boot, which I have struggled with a fair bit myself. There is also a tool for LAN traffic optimization, although it has to be set up manually. Good for checking memory timings and as such interesting if you play with memory, MemTweakIt also makes an appearance.

 
 
 

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ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO (Intel LGA 1150) - Review Continued






ASUS offers their users some online web storage and a utility to make use of it. WinZip software and Deamon Tool Pro licenses will also help you make the most out of your ROG experience.

CPU Performance Results

I spent a couple of weeks with the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO before beginning my performance testing, running various configurations and CPUs and checking hardware compatibility. I verified my power consumption numbers using different power supplies and played a few hours of games with some members of the TPU community to get an overall feel for the board and to verify stability. Once completed, I tore down the system, mounted my CoolerMaster TPC812 cooler, and put the board through the paces. I will, as with other recent reviews of mine, let the numbers do the talking.

SuperPi

 

wPrime
 

AIDA64
 





 

CineBench



3D Performance Results

Once we completed our CPU test suite, we took some time to play some games with the TPU community to get an overall feel for gaming on the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO. We settled in to complete our 3D benchmarking after a couple of days, feeling confident the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO was going to put on a good show. Let us take a look at the numbers the board provided.

3DMark and PCMark8








 

Metro: Last Light


Drive and Audio Performance Results

Our drive- and audio testing differs a bit from the rest of our testing for several reasons. First of all, when it comes to drive-performance comparisons, nearly every platform on the market is very close to all the others because most provide external drive controllers, making the numbers offered very platform agnostic. And finally, with audio, we do not list any numbers except for those reported by the product we are testing. This is to provide the most information possible, as each audio CODEC will behave quite differently. Many boards also employ a different CODEC. As such, there is no standard we can use other than the numbers themselves. You can always check our other motherboard reviews to make direct comparisons in audio performance.

We tested each drive interface separately in order to provide you with numbers that are as complete as possible. Employing HDTune Pro for all of the testing, we tested each drive outside of the OS environment through a separate OS on a separate drive. However, we put a fair amount of data on both the Crucial M4 drives(60% full) to simulate performance in real-world situations. Also new is that all USB 3.0 testing is done via the provided front-panel ports rather than the ports on the rear of the board since front-panel ports are more likely to be used. I also no longer test SATA interfaces using a SATA 3 Gb/s drive since SATA 3 Gb/s functionality is now a legacy item.


HDTune Pro (SATA 6Gb/s
 

HDTune Pro (USB3.0 Front Panel)

 

The ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO's SATA performance leaves something to be desired, yet USB 3.0 performance is through the roof. Some of the installed software may have affected SATA 6 Gb/s performance.


RightMark Audio Analyzer
 
As you can expect from an ASUS ROG motherboard, the audio testing results generated by RightMark Audio Analyzer are impressive, a sharp contrast to the results I got with ASUS'a Z97 DELUXE. Performance is not perfect, but pretty good considering it's an on-board solution, and we have that past result to compare its audio performance to.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

  ·         The ASUS ROG MAXIMUS VII HERO is available for around $210.


 
  ·         Packed with features and accessories
·         Excellent power consumption under stock and overclocked settings
·         Provided fan connectivity and control is second-to-none.
·         Well-tuned and fully functional software package
·         Wide-open BIOS ready for tweaking every part of your system to the limit
·         Fully functional AMI UEFI BIOS that includes mouse functionality and support for 3 TB+ drives

 
  ·         No Wi-Fi
·         No built-in memory OC profiling
·         Idle power consumption a bit high, but only by a small amount.
·         It's red and black. It has ASUS ROG branding on it. Otherwise, it doesn't really offer that much.

 
9.0 The ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO, as you should have expected, performs quite well, has decent features, and comes with all the capabilities it needs to match your ASUS ROG expectations. If you want to do some extreme overclocking, but don't need memory profiles or quad-GPU capabilities, this board has quite a bit to offer. For those, this board is a HERO to the wallet because it saves you from having to shell out even more money for either the MAXIMUS VII FORMULA or MAXIMUS VII EXTREME.

For all you gamers out there, the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO comes with a fair bit of options as well, including some decent automatic overclocking options and a host of software engineered to meet a gamer's needs. Yet, priced at $210, it doesn't really offer much other than its ASUS ROG branding and some flashy LEDs. I think there are better, more affordable options that have already covered these pages in the past few weeks you may want to consider.

I really didn't want it to work out in such a way, but I have to say it: We do not need another HERO. I am not exactly sure who this board is here to save given there are other options from amongst even ASUS's ranks that trump what this board has to offer. Without those memory profiles, etc., normal users might use, the ASUS MAXIMUS VII HERO is nothing other than a board with ASUS ROG colors, basic functionality, great audio, and a high-end power delivery design. It does work and overclock well, the software and its audio are great, and it uses an Intel LAN controller, which will keep all the buzzards at bay, but it simply lacks that high-powered finishing move other ROG products have. If you want the ROG experience, but want to save some money, you might want to take a gander at the MAXIMUS VII RANGER instead. If you consider yourself a more advanced user who wants to benchmark with this board, there is definitely a lot of appeal since it comes with high-quality power delivery and ASUS's fabled BIOS, although I fear there aren't many such users left.
   
 
 


 

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