ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula Intel Z390 Motherboard Review
ASUS bundled the ROG Maximus XI Formula motherboard with the latest revision of their ASUS UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) implementation, a customized version of the AMI baseline UEFI BIOS replacement. The UEFI offers full keyboard and mouse support while using the BIOS pages. ASUS changed the way mouse right-click functions in their UEFI implementation with right-click having no impact on the screen. By default, the user sees the EZ mode screen when entering the UEFI. The Advanced mode screens accessible via the Exit/Advanced Mode button at the upper right corner of the screen or by hitting the F7 function key. Advanced mode screens can be set for the default user interface via the UEFI Boot menu as well.
As we've stated in previous reviews, the ASUS UEFI implementation remains among the best out there. The UEFI is very responsive to both keyboard and mouse input with almost no lag or questionable click-space evident anywhere. The UEFI is designed in an intuitive manner so that both novice and advance BIOS users can quickly find what they are looking for. The EZ Mode screen lays out everything in a highly readable format, while the Advanced Mode tabbed layout displays as you would expect from a traditional BIOS. ASUS also gives you the ability to taken screen captures from within the BIOS by pressing the F12 key with those screen-caps saved in a 1024x768 bitmap format to an attached USB device. From the Tools menu, ASUS houses their collection of of BIOS-related tools and applets, ranging from an UEFI-based updater (EZ Flash3) to their full UEFI profile load and save utility.
UEFI Notable Features
ASUS continues to revise and enhance their UEFI interface, exposing several new features specific to the Coffee Lake processor and Z300 series board lines. Updated and notable features include the EZ Mode page, the Advanced mode My Favorites tab, Shortcut screen, a graphical fan tuning interface, a graphical EZ Tuning Wizard interface, the AI Overclocking Guide interface and wizard, a keyword setting search feature,and a list of recent changes listed on the Save popup.
EZ Mode page
The EZ Mode page presents information organized into sections in an easy-to-read manner for those users who do not want to be bothered with the labyrinth of the Advanced Mode settings. ASUS enhanced this interface with an animated background, making for an interested effect.
My Favorites tab, populated
My Favorites & Shortcut setup popup
The My Favorites tab houses user selected settings for access to these from a centralized location. To access, select the My Favorites tab from within the Advanced Mode interface. Note that if a menu or sub-menu is added to this page, all fields on that page will be added. The real strength in this My Favorites tab implementation comes with the ability to mix and match commonly used options in a central location, rather than having to hunt them down through multiple sub-levels of menus.
Advanced mode, Search by Keyword page
The Search page, accessed from a link at the top of the Advanced mode page or by pressing the F9 function key, displays all settings that match the entered search terms. This can save the user a huge amount of time, especially when trying to find that one key setting buried under numerous sub-menus within the UEFI.
Q-Fan Tuning page
The Q-Fan Tuning page allows for graphical configuration of fan operation based on predefined threshold levels. The interface is similar in nature to the Windows-based Fan Xpert 4 fan configuration interface and is a nice touch in-lei of the text-based configuration approach. The Q-Fan Tuning page is accessed by clicking on the Manual Fan Tuning button within the EZ Mode page.
Easy Tuning Wizard - RAID Page
The EZ Tuning Wizard can be accessed by clicking the EZ Tuning Wizard link in the page header from within the EZ Mode page or the Advanced Mode interface. This wizard can be used to drive RAID setup based on user selections made within the wizard interface. BIOS automated overclocking function for the Maximus XI Formula are covered via the AI OC Guide interface or settings within the Extreme Tweaker page.
AI OC Guide
The EZ Tuning Wizard can be accessed by hitting F11 function key or via the AI OC Guide link in the page header from within the EZ Mode page or the Advanced Mode interface. The AI OC Guide page describes in detail how to use and configuring the AI Overlocking feature implemented in the UEFI.
Advanced Mode, Tools tab, ASUS Overclocking Profile page
ASUS allows for storing up to eight UEFI profiles through the ASUS User Profiles page within the Tools tab in the Advanced mode interface. The saved profiles contain all user configured settings from the UEFI, and can be saved to or restored from any attached storage device.
Advanced Mode, Tools tab, ASUS EZ Flash 3 page
The ASUS EZ Flash 3 utility was updated, allowing for BIOS update via an attached drive or through a network connection. When selecting the network update method, the utility launches a network connection wizard for getting the most up to date BIOS file from the ASUS servers.
Advanced Mode, Save & Reset popup
The Save & Reset page displays to the user a scrollable list of all UEFI changes made since the last save. Listed changes are not committed to BIOS memory until saved by the user. Note that the same list displays when the user chooses any of the save settings from the Exit page or the Last Modified option with Advanced Mode active.
AURA ON/OFF popup
The settings for configuring the onboard RGB LEDs via the UEFI is limited to various versions of enabling or disabling the LEDs only. This can be done by click the AURU ON/OFF link in the header of the UEFI or by click on the F4 function key. However, there is no interface in the UEFI to configure the behavior and color of the integrate RGB LEDS (or attached LED strips). You are forced to use the Windows-based AURA applet to configure the behavior of the RGB LEDs.
Advanced Mode, Extreme Tweaker tab, Tweaker's Paradise page
Advanced Mode, Extreme Tweaker tab, Tweaker's Paradise page continued
To cater to the extreme overclockers, ASUS exposed many esoteric board settings not normally exposed to the end user and housed them in the Tweaker's Paradise menu. This menu contains voltage, timing, and bus settings for those of you trying to squeeze every last ounce of speed and stability out of you overclocked board. It contains settings for tweaking everything from CPU internal settings to PCI-Express bus related settings. Enjoy your time in the Tweaker's Paradise.
Advanced Mode, Extreme Tweaker tab
The Extreme Tweaker tab houses the settings controlling all board overclocking settings. The AVX Instruction Core Ratio Negative Offset setting allows the user to control the CPU core ratio when running programs using the AVX instruction set. This is to reduce processor heat since AVX processing is some of the most processor intensive operations.
Advanced mode, Extreme Tweaker tab, Overclocking Presets page
ASUS included several presets for overclocking your processor via the Overclocking Presets page, accessed via the link within the Extreme Tweaker tab. The presets include speed specific targets as well as base clock specific targets.
Advanced mode, Extreme Tweaker tab
Nested within the CPU voltage settings on the Ai Tweaker tab is a setting named BCLK Aware Adaptive Voltage that enables UEFI-enhanced voltage regulation based on the currently active base clock value. Also in the voltage section is the enhanced Adaptive Mode voltage settings for the CPU Core and Cache voltages.
Advanced mode, Extreme Tweaker tab, AI Features page
The AI Features page, accessed from a link within the Extreme Tweaker tab, houses settings used by the AI OC Guide wizard for UEFI-enabled overclocking and board regulation.
UEFI Walkthrough highlights - Advanced mode interface
Extreme Tweaker tab
The Extreme Tweaker tab houses various sub-tabs and settings for controlling motherboard performance settings. The other settings are logically divided up between the linked pages - DRAM Timing Control, External DIGI+ Power Control, Internal CPU Power Management, Tweaker's Paradise, AI Features, and DRAM REF Voltage Control .
Extreme Tweaker tab tab
Extreme Tweaker tab, frequency settings and sub-menu links
Extreme Tweaker tab, CPU cache and voltage settings
Extreme Tweaker tab, voltage settings continued
Extreme Tweaker tab, DRAM Timing Control page
Extreme Tweaker tab, DRAM Timing Control page, Memory Presets page
Extreme Tweaker tab, DRAM Timing Control page, Memory Presets page, Memory-specific presets page
Extreme Tweaker tab tab, DIGI+ VRM page
Extreme Tweaker tab tab, DIGI+ VRM page continued
Extreme Tweaker tab tab, Internal CPU Power Management page
Extreme Tweaker tab, DRAM REF Voltage Control page
The Main tab displays board model and BIOS version information, as well as housing the language selection and system time and date settings.
The Advanced tab houses settings owithin linked sub-tabs for controlling the various subsystems and devices integrated into the motherboard, like the PCIe M.2 slots, SATA ports, USB slots, etc.
Advanced tab, System Agent (SA) Configuration page
The Monitor tab contains settings related to BIOS monitored temperature, voltage, and fan speed settings. Additionally, fan header operation can be configured via settings at the page bottom (in addition to using the graphical based Qfan Control functionality).
Monitor tab continued
Monitor tab, Q-Fan Configuration page
The Boot tab contains settings related to system initialization and boot, including the boot override settings. CSM (Compatibility Support Module) and Secure Boot settings can also be configured via the links at the bottom of the tab.
The Tool tab houses all ASUS-specific customizations to the UEFI, logically grouped in the linked sub-pages. ASUS customizations include a BIOS flash utility, SSD secure erase functionality, a UEFI profile load and save app, memory-based SPD information display, the ability to enable/disable the ASUS Armoury Crate functionality, and graphical PCIe-based card information. The Armoury Crate function automatically installs all board drivers and utilities without the need for a driver disk.
Tool tab, SSD Secure Erase page
Tool tab, ASUS SPD Information page
Tool tab, ASUS Armoury Crate page
Tool tab, Graphics Card Information page
Tool tab, Graphics Card Information page, GPU Post page