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ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula Intel Z390 Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction, Technical Specs, and Motherboard Overview

Introduction

Part of the ROG (Republic of Gamers) product line from ASUS, the Maximus XI Formula is a high-end Intel Z390 motherboard option that combines support for the latest Intel processors with a host of premium features.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS used the Intel Z390 chipset launch to enhance the existing design of their Maximus Formula board, reconfiguring the board layout with dual NICs, a GigE NIC and a 5G NIC, and moved the location of the integrated M.2 slots for better access and cooling. Further, they enhanced the design of the armor overlay to integrate RGB LED effects into its surface.

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Courtesy of ASUS

The Maximus Formula board line is considered a premium product by ASUS and comes with a premium price with an MSRP of $449.99. The premium price point is more than justified by its EK custom designed VRM cooler, integrated 5G NIC, and premium board design enhancements.

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ROG Maximus XI Formula motherboard was designed to ensure you of the optimal gaming experience. Its 10-phase digital power delivery system helps to stabilize the board under any overclocking conditions. The board contains the following integrated features: six SATA 3 ports; two M.2 PCIe x4 capable ports; an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC; an Aquantia AQC111C 5G NIC; Intel 9560 802.11 AC controller; three PCI-Express x16 slots; one PCI-Express x1 slots; an 8-channel audio subsystem with S/PDIF port support; integrated LiveDash OLED display panel; integrated HDMI port; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula motherboard!

Technical Specifications (taken from the ASUS website)

CPU Intel® Socket 1151 9th / 8th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 14 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0

* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.

Chipset Build in Intel® Z390
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 4400(O.C) / 4266(O.C.) / 4133(O.C.) / 4000(O.C.) / 3866(O.C.) / 3733(O.C.) / 3600(O.C.) / 3466(O.C.) / 3400(O.C.) / 3333(O.C.) / 3300(O.C.) / 3200(O.C.) / 3000(O.C.) / 2800(O.C.) / 2666(O.C.) / 2400(O.C.) / 2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)

* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.

Graphic Integrated Graphics Processor - Intel® UHD Graphics support
VGA output support : HDMI port
- Supports HDMI 1.4b with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 30 Hz
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
Expansion Slots Socket 1151 for 9th / 8th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® processors
2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16, x8/x8, or x8/x4+x4)

Intel® Z390 Chipset
1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (max at x4 mode) *
* The PCIe x 16_3 slot shares bandwidth with SATA6G_56 ports. PCIe x 16_3 slot is set at x2 mode by default.

1 x PCIe 3.0 x1

Storage Socket 1151 for 9th / 8th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® processors:
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)*2
*2 When M.2_1 Socket 3 is operating in SATA mode, SATA port 2 will be disabled.
When an 22110 M.2 SSD is installed in M.2_1, M.2_2 will be limited to an 2242 M.2 SSD.

type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s)
Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready

LAN Aquantia AQC111C 5G LAN
Intel® I219V
Anti-surge LANGuard
ROG GameFirst V Technology
Wireless Data Network Intel® Wireless-AC 9560
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4 / 5 GHz
Supports channel bandwidth: HT20 / HT40 / HT80 / HT160
BLuetooth Bluetooth® 5.0
Audio ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220
- Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input
- SupremeFX Shielding Technology
- ESS® ES9023P
- Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback *3
*3 Due to limitations in HDA bandwidth, 32-Bit/192 kHz is not supported for 8-Channel audio.

Audio Feature:
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel

USB Ports Intel® Z390 Chipset:
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 front panel connector port(s)

Intel® Z390 Chipset:
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 port(s)

Intel® Z390 Chipset:
8 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 port(s)

Intel® Z390 Chipset:
4 x USB 2.0 port(s)

ASMedia® USB 3.1 Gen 1 controller:
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 port(s)

ROG Exclusive Features ROG RGB Armor
ReTry Button
Start Button
Extreme Engine Digi+:
- MicroFine Alloy Chokes
- 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
Extreme Tweaker
Crosschill EK III
ROG Patented Pre-mounted I/O Shield
ROG Exclusive Software
- Mem Tweakit
- RAMCache III
- RAMDisk
- CPU-Z
- GameFirst V
- Sonic Studio III + Sonic Studio Link
- Sonic Radar III
Special Features 5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors 5
- 5-way Optimization tuning key perfectly consolidates TPU Insight, EPU Guidance,and Turbo app
2” LiveDash
AURA:
- Aura Lighting Control
- Aura RGB Strip Headers
- Aura Lighting Effects Synchronization with compatible ASUS ROG devices
- Aura Addressable Strip Header(s)
ASUS Exclusive Features:
- USB BIOS Flashback
- MemOK! II
- AI Suite 3
- Ai Charger
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- Armoury Crate
- Pre-mounted I/O Shield
- ASUS NODE: hardware control interface
- OptiMem II
- ASUS EZ Flash 3
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
- BUPDATER
- BIOS Flashback Button
- Clear CMOS Button
- Reset Button
ASUS Q-Design:
- ASUS Q-Code
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
Back I/O Ports 1 x HDMI
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 2
6 x USB 3.1 Gen 1
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
1 x ASUS Wi-Fi Module
5 x Gold-plated audio jacks
Anti-surge LAN (RJ45) port
1 x AQC-111C 5G LAN port
Internal I/O Ports 2 x Aura Addressable Strip Header(s)
2 x Aura RGB Strip Headers
2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M key, type 2242 / 2260 / 2280 / 22110 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x4 mode)
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M key, type 2242 / 2260 / 2280 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x4 mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s)
1 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
1 x Optional Fan connector(s)
1 x AIO_PUMP connector
1 x H_AMP fan connector
1 x W_PUMP+ connector
1 x 4-pin EATX 12 V Power connector
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin EATX 12V Power connectors
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x 5-pin EXT_FAN(Extension Fan) connector
1 x MemOK! II switch(es)
1 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x Node Connector(s)
1 x 5-pin EXT_FAN(Extension Fan) connector
1 x ReTry button
1 x System panel connector
1 x T_Sensor Connector
1 x W_IN header
1 x W_OUT header
1 x W_FLOW header
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 front panel connector
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 port(s)
1 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x Start button
1 x Reset button
1 x Q-Code
Accessories User's manual
1 x ROG logo plate sticker
1 x 2-Way SLI bridge(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x M.2 Screw Package
1 x Supporting DVD
1 x ASUS 2T2R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant)
1 x Q-Connector
1 x Extension Cable for RGB strips (80 cm)
1 x Extension cable for Addressable LED
1 x Thermistor cable(s)
1 x ROG coaster(s)
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Header to USB 2.0 adapter cable
2 x ROG weave SATA 6G cable
1 x ROG Thank you card
BIOS 1 x 128 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI3.0, SM BIOS 3.1, ACPI 6.1
Manageability WOL , PXE
Operating System Support Windows® 10 64-bit
Form Factor ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

Features

Courtesy of ASUS

  • LGA1151 socket for 9th/8th -gen Intel® Core™ desktop processors
  • CrossChill EK III and Water Cooling Zone: Keep your system cool when the action heats up
  • ROG Eco-System: ASUS-exclusive Aura Sync RGB lighting, including headers for both standard and addressable RGB strips.
  • Gaming connectivity: Aquantia 5G LAN, Intel Gigabit Ethernet, LANGuard, 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Dual M.2, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A and Type-C™ connectors.
  • Change to : 5-way Optimization: Automated system-wide tuning, providing AI Overclocking and cooling profiles tailor-made for your rig
  • Gaming Audio: SupremeFX and Sonic Studio III – High fidelity audio that draws you deeper into the action.

Motherboard Layout

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The ROG Maximus XI Formula motherboard follows the modern ROG branding, featuring an all black coloration with the board name embossed on the rear panel cover and the ROG logo over the chipset cooler. Note that the grey colored panels are actually glass bits covering the armor LEDs reflecting the light tent background. The board surface and underside are covered by an armor overlay, giving the board a clean and uniform appearance. The CPU VRMs are cooled the EK Crosschill III hybrid block, capable of both air and liquid cooled operation. The board's ATX form factor provides more than enough surface area to house the integrated components, as well as giving the board compatibility with most available gamer-friendly enclosures.

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The board's back is covered by a metal armor overlay, completely protecting any sensitive components as well as providing a secondary heat dissipation path. It also adds quite a bit of heft to the board. The area surrounding the CPU is free of any components with a cutout in the armor for mounting you coolers backplate. You should not run into compatibility issues with any but the largest of back plates with this board.

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ASUS integrated a 10-phase digital power system into the ROG Maximus XI Formula board, capable of providing more than enough power to the CPU for whatever you choose to throw at it. The board's MicroFine alloy chokes are encased in metal shells for optimized cooling with 10k Black Metallic capacitors used for the CPU power circuitry. The VRMs are cooled by the custom designed EK Crosschill III hybrid cooler which can be effectively used with air or liquid cooling.

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Courtesy of ASUS

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The EK CrossChill III VRM block is a copper block encased in a plastic overlay that covers the VRMs to the top and right of the CPU socket, forming an L around the socket. The block contains inlet / outlet G1/4" ports on each end of the L, giving you a wide variety of fittings to choose from. The inside ofr the block contains a series of finned channels sitting over the VRMs, adding surface area to exchange the heat from the VRMs to the liquid medium. The base plate seals to its top plate with a rubber o-ring that sits in a channel along the outer edge of the block.

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The LiveDash OLED display, located to the left of the CPU socket, is a two inch diaplay capable of displaying use customized logos or hardware monitoring information. During system startup, LiveDash displays detailed system post related status and error messages. The LiveDash display can be configured using the ROG LiveDash applet from within Windows.

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The board's 8-pin and 4-pin ATX12V power connectors are located to the upper right of the CPU socket, in between the EK Crosschill block and the rear panel cover.

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ASUS designed the board with two M.2 slots, oriented in a vertical line in between the secondary and tertiary PCIe x16 slots. The both M.2 slots are covered by a full length port cover with thermal tape along the inside. In previous reviews, such plates where found to reduce M.2 card heat by over 10C when used in a strict passive configuration with optimal cooling obtained when used in conjunction with active air-flow over the port plate.

The lower M.2 slot (M.2_1) supports cards up to 80mm in length, while the upper slot (M.2_2) supports cards up to 110mm in length. Both M.2 ports a keyed with an M-key slot devices with port M.2_1 supporting standard SSD, PCIe x2, and PCIe x4 type M.2 drives and port M.2_2 supporting PCIe x2 and x4 type M.2 drives only. Note that the port M.2_1 and the SATA slot 2 share bandwidth resulting in the SATA port being disabled with a SATA-type M.2 device seated in port M.2_1.

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The board has a total of four DIMM slots with Dual Channel memory mode active with modules in slots 1 / 3 or 2 / 4. The board supports up to 64GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 4400MHz. Note that memory speeds above 2666MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications.

Directly below the memory port block are a USB 3.1 front panel port header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, power and reset buttons, a 4-pin 12V RGB LED header, a 4-pin system fan header, and a 2-digit diagnostic display. To the upper right of the DIMM slots are the primary and secondary 4-pin CPU fan headers, and a 3-pin 5V addressable RGB header. 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.

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The Intel Z390 chipset is covered by a low profile black chrome heat sink with an RGB-enable ROG logo embedded it its surface. The ROG logo's RGB LED can be configured via the UEFI or Windows Aura applet. In addition to the two PCIe x4 M.2 slots, the board features six SATA III ports in the port block directly below the chipset. To the right of the SATA port block is a USB 3.0 header rotated to sit parallel to the board's surface. All SATA ports are usable in conjunction with a drive seated in either the M.2 port with one exception. If an M.2 SATA device sits in the M.2_1 port, SATA port 2 will be automatically disabled by the system.

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The board contains a total of four PCIe slots - three PCIe x16 slots and one PCIe x1 slot. The PCIe x16 slots can be used in x16 / 0 / x4 or x8 / x8 / x4 modes. Notice that ASUS designed the primary PCIe x16 slot to hold a triple slotted video card without impeding the secondary PCIe x16 slot. Also, the primary and secondary slots has been steel-reinforced to prevent damage to the slot when using video cards with larger coolers when used in a vertical mount orientation. The bandwidth for PCIe x16 slot 3 is configurable via the UEFI for eitehr x2 or x4 operation. With the PCIe x16 slot 3 set to x4 operation, SATA ports 5 and 6 are automatically disabled. SATA port operation is unaffected with PCIe x16 slot 3 operating in x2 mode.

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The board's integrated audio components are located just above the PCIe ports. The audio subsystem lives on an isolated PCB to minimize line-noise and distortion caused by other integrated components. To ensure balanced audio performance using headphones or external speakers, ASUS integrated their SupremeFX audio system into the board, featuring the Realtek ALC1200 CODEC, an ESS® ES9023P DAC, and premium Japanese-sourced Audio capacitors.

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ASUS integrated support for connecting RGB LED strips directly into the board using the RGB LED headers located in the upper left quadrant and lower right quadrant (by the DIMM slots) of the board. Both 4-pin 12V RGB and 3-pin 5V addressable RGB LED headers are integrated into the board. Connecting an RGB LED strip to the header synchronizes the LED strip color and activity with that of the motherboard's integrated LEDs. The board is shown with an external RGB strip connected to one the headers in the board's upper left quadrant.

In addition to the two RGB LED headers, the front panel audio header and ReTry button are located in the upper left corner of the board. The ReTry button forces the system to reset without activating the BIOS fail safe settings, ensuring that all previous UEFI settings remain intact during the next system post.

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Along the mid and lower left side of the board are multiple 4-pin fan headers, the Node header, the USB 2.0 headers, the MemOK! switch, the CMOS batter, a USB 3.0 header, the front panel headers, a temperature sensor header, the external fan module header, and headers for monitoring input flow, output flow, and pump speed for your liquid cooling loop. The MemOK! switch can be used to reset memory-related BIOS settings to defaults, useful when the system doesn't boot because of memory options are set over-aggressively. The Node header is used to control fan operation for a compatible PSU or fan controller device. The external fan device header can be used to add additional fan and temperature ports by connecting the external fan board to the header using the included cable. Note that both the OC Panel II device and the external fan board are available for purchase from ASUS.

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The rear panel assembly is covered with the board armor and an integrated shield plate for added protection. The glass area to the right of the board name illuminates when the board is powered via the embedded RGB LEDs. The ROG Maximus XI Formula motherboard contains the following integrated ports in its rear panel assembly: six USB 3.0 ports (blue), three USB 3.1 Type A 10Gbps ports (red), a USB 3.1 Type C 10Gbps port, an Intel I219-V GigE RJ-45 port, an Aquantia AQC111C 5G RJ-45 port, dual antennae ports for the Intel 9560 802.11 AC controller, and HDMI port, the Clear CMOS button, the BIOS Flashback button, an S/PDIF digital audio output port, and five analogue audio output ports. The two USB 3.0 ports above the HDMI port are controlled by the ASMedia controller. The four USB 3.0 ports to the left of the Aquantia 5G port are controlled by the Intel Z390 chipset controller.

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 a command-line mode interface. Simply plug in a USB drive containing the proper BIOS file in the root of the drive into the lowest Z390-controlled USB 3.0 port (marked as BIOS on the rear panel sheild). 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 on-board BIOS. According to the user manual, the BIOS file in the root of the flash drive must be named M11F.CAP for the BIOS Flashback applet to successfully re-flash the board's BIOS.

Included Accessories

The ROG Maximus XI Formula motherboard comes with all the components necessary to get the board up and running, as well as some other nice to have components giving the board added value.

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The ROG Maximus XI Formula package included the motherboard manual, driver DVD, ROG-branded case stickers and cable labels, an ROG-branded case badge, an ROG-branded coaster, and a coupon for 20% off of the purchase of CableMod power cables. The included manual gave an in-depth description of the board components and setup as we've come to expect from ASUS.

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ASUS bundled in six black sleeved 6Gb/s rated SATA cables for use with the integrated ports. The cables have integrated port locks and a mix of straight and 90 degree connectors. For multi-GPU use, ASUS included a single two-way NVIDIA SLI HB (high bandwidth) bridge connector. For use with the on-board front panel header, ASUS included one of their Q-Connector header plugs. You simply plug the front panel case leads into the Q-Connector, then plug the Q-Connector into the appropriate board header. It makes the installation of the front panel plugs much easier. ASUS also bundled in an ROG-branded 2x2 802.11AC antenna, both 3-pin and 4-pin RGB LED extension cables, and a USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 header converter.

CPU Cooler Fit

To test the amount of space surrounding the CPU socket, we mounted the Noctua NH-D15 cooler to the CPU socket. This behemoth CPU air cooler sports a dual fan construction and two huge vertical cooling towers.

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When oriented in its default configuration with air blown towards the rear panel of the case, the Noctua cooler fits into the CPU socket area of the ROG Maximus XI Formula without issue. Further, the spacing between the CPU socket area and the primary PCIe x16 slot are sufficient to seat a video card with the cooler mounted.

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The Noctua hold down mechanism is large enough to qualify the socket space for use with the majority of mount methods included with a CPU cooler. The Noctua mount fits the CPU socket with some minimal contact between the left bracket and the LiveDash module. However, it did not impede proper seating of the mounting bracket nor affect the contact between the cooler and the CPU.

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The cooler's backplate rests on the socket backplate, minimizing the risk of direct board contact. Further, there is no circuitry around the socket which could impeded cooler back plates with a larger footprint.

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February 25, 2019 | 04:14 PM - Posted by Ripersnifel (not verified)

I was under the impression that this board has the same VRM as the lower cost z390 maximus boards - which is not a true ten phase, but a 4 phase with doublers +2 for power to the igpu - or something along those lines.

February 25, 2019 | 08:19 PM - Posted by Marc M. (not verified)

Actually it's a 4 + 2 phase VRM. Four phases are for the CPU, and each phase has two power stages. The problem with that is the efficiency that goes out the window, and the inductance gets cut in half. The other two phases are for the iGPU. And it's not like ASUS uses some kind of super high end VRM components, or they know something that no one else does. ASUS just wants to save money, and when you can save $30 per motherboard on VRM design, it quickly adds to millions. If you want a motherboard with decent VRM, get the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme. I never liked Gigabyte much, but damn, they stepped up their game!

February 27, 2019 | 07:15 PM - Posted by Brett Hood (not verified)

Thanks Morry great write up this is a seriously attractive M/B highly quality all the way through

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