ASUS ROG Maximus VI Extreme Motherboard Review
The ASUS Maximus VI Extreme boards features the black and red color scheme unique to ASUS' ROG line of products. The board's layout is what we've come to expect from an ASUS ROG board - shock full of features with more than enough room around all the key components.
The back of the motherboard is surprisingly free of components, even around the CPU socket area. I say surprising because other manufacturers will use the board back for additional power components with a board as full featured as the Maximus VI Extreme. ASUS chose to integrate back plates for the VRM coolers on the top of the board to reduce flexing and help with cooling around those areas.
ASUS designed the following ports into the Maximus VI Extreme board: a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset (located below the PS/2 port), 4 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the ASMedia controller (located below the GigE NIC port and USB 2.0 ports), a BIOS reset button (upper button to left of USB 2.0 ports), a dual purpose BIOS FlashBack / ROG Connect button (lower button to left of USB 3.0 ports), an Intel GigE NIC port, an HDMI video port, a DisplayPort video port, an optical audio output port, and 6 analog audio ports. With the mPCIe Combo II device plugged into the mPCIe slot, Intel-based 802.11ac dual-port Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ports are added to the rear panel.
The ROG Connect button can be used to connect the system to a remote system using a dual ended USB cable attached to the upper USB 2.0 port. Once the two systems are connected via USB and the ROG Connect button is pressed, you can change settings on the Maximus VI Extreme board from the remote system using the ASUS TweakIt software. You must first install the ASUS TweakIt software on the remote system to change the settings on the Maximus VI Extreme board.
The USB BIOS Flashback button can be used to re-flash the BIOS without having to boot the system into the UEFI BIOS interface or DOS. Simply plug in a USB drive containing the proper BIOS file in the root of the drive into the upper USB 2.0 port to the upper right of the button, press the button for 3 seconds until the integrated LED begins to flash. As the BIOS is updated, the LED flashing frequency increases. Once the LED goes out, the flash operation is completed and the board can be booted. Note that if the BIOS Flashback LED flashes for 5 seconds and then glows solid, it means that something went wrong with the flashback operation. Check the USB drive for the the BIOS file in the root and make sure that the BIOS file is named correctly. BIOS Flashback looks for a specific filename and file format when attempting to replace the onboard BIOS. According to the user manual, the BIOS file in the root of the flash drive must be named ME6.CAP for the BIOS Flashback app to successfully re-flash the board's BIOS.
The Maximum VI Extreme board is designed with a total of five PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots and on PCI-Express x4 slot. The board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single, x8 / x8 bandwidth in a two card configuration, x8/x16/x8 bandwidth in a three card configuration, and x8/x16/x8/x8 in a four card configuration.
The EZ Plug 2 6-port and 4-port power connectors, two 4-pin fan headers, and a temperature sensor header are located to the upper right of the primary PCI-Express x16 slot. The EZ Plug 2 6-port power connector accepts a PCI-Express 6-pin power cable from the PSU. This port can be used for supplying additional power to the PCI-Express bus when using more than one video card. The EZ Plug 2 4-port power connector accepts a 4-pin floppy power cable from the PSU. This power port supplies additional port to the back I/O ports.
The CMOS battery is located in between the primary and secondary PCI-Express x16 slots. Its location can be an inconvenience if you need to access it or reset the board with a video card installed in the primary PCI-Express x16 slot.
The front panel audio header, the S/PDIF output header, CHA_FAN1 header, the Fast Boot switch, and the DirectKey button are located in the upper left corner of the board, along the upper outer edge of PCI-Express x16 slot 3. The Fast Boot switch forces an optimized system initialization when enabled, but can only be used when the HW Fast Boot setting on the BIOS Boot page is enabled. The DirectKey button forces system shutdown or power on when pressed. With the DirectKey Enable setting enabled (located on the BIOS Boot page), the system goes directly into the BIOS after the DirectKey button is pressed with the system powered off.
The Thunderbolt device port header, the OC Panel headers (labeled ROG_EXT) and the USB 2.0 port headers are located to the lower left of PCI-Express x16 slot 5. The bottom header in the ROG_EXT group can be used for two additional USB 2.0 ports if the OC Panel is not connected to the system. The OC Panel cable connects to the ROG_EXT ports, allowing the OC Panel device to interact with the board.
The OPT_FAN1 header, OPT_TEMP1 temperature sensor header, DirectKey header, front panel header, and BIOS Switch button are located in the lower left corner of the board. The DirectKey header can be used to connect to a case button to operate the DirectKey functionality from outside the case. The BIOS Switch button allows for user switching between the primary and secondary BIOS chips, useful for system recovery.
The Intel Z87 Express chipset is covered by a large aluminum, low profile heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is flat black in color with an ASUS logo prominently displayed.
ASUS includes a total of 10 on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports located just under the chipset cooler. The six SATA ports on the right are tied to the Intel Z87 chipset controller. The 4 ports in the left of the port block are tied to the ASMedia controller.
The four on-board DDR3 memory slots are located in the board's lower right quadrant. The primary memory slots are the black colored slots with dual channel memory mode enabled when modules are seated both slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at up to 2800MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications. The 24-pin ATX power connector, USB 3.0 header, a system fan header, and a temperature sensor header are located to the lower left the memory slots. ASUS also includes 2 dedicated power phases for use by the memory, with the power phase chokes located to the left of the memory slots.
The LN2 Mode jumper, the MemOK! button, the PCI-Express port switch, Reset button, Power button, Probelt voltage measurement points, Slow Mode switch, and CHA_FAN2 header are located to the lower right of the memory slots. The MemOK! button can be used to reset memory-related BIOS settings to defaults, useful when the system doesn't boot because of memory options set over-aggressively. The Probelt voltage measurement points allow for direct board voltage measurement using a volt meter.
For sub-zero enthusiasts, ASUS integrated key functions into the board's design to aid in getting the best performance possible. The LN2 Mode jumper enables a cold bug fix that can be encountered when attempting to boot a CPU at sub-zero temperatures. The Slow Mode switch can be used to automatically slow the system boot process and CPU frequency to help prevent system crashing at extreme cooling speeds. The PCI-Express port switch is used to individually disable the PCI-Express x16 slots.
The dual CPU fan headers and the 2-digit diagnostic display are located to the right and upper right of the memory slots. The 2-digit diagnostic display can be used for debugging system issues during system initialization. The displayed debug codes can be decoded using the table from the motherboard manual.
The CPU socket area has plenty of room for even larger coolers, even with heat pipe cooler boxing it in on three sides. ASUS includes a total of 8 power phases for the CPU's use.
The Maximus VI Extreme can easily accommodate larger coolers used in combination with tall memory modules, as shown with the Noctua NH-D14 cooler seated over the CPU in conjunction with Corsair Vengeance Pro memory modules. Because of the proximity of the memory slots to the CPU socket, the back of the cooler does sit above the memory modules, but both can co-exist (even if it is a tight fit).
ASUS designed the Maximus VI Extreme with dual ATX12V power connectors, a 4-pin and an 8-pin connector, in the upper right quadrant of the board. The 3-pin header below the ATX12V power connectors is a proprietary header used by ASUS for internal board debugging and testing.
The mPCIe port is located in the upper right corner of the board, used to seat the mPCIe Combo II card. Note that if you use an M.2 SSD drive in the Combo II device, SATA slot 5 is automatically disabled.