ASUS Maximus VI HERO Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on June 5, 2013
The ASUS Maximus VI HERO is a top mid-range socket LGA1150 motherboard targeted to the “Haswell” processors (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors). Part of the ASUS Republic of Gamers brand, the Maximus VI HERO is targeted for users who want to build a gaming system. Let’s see what this motherboard has to offer.
The new Intel Z87 chipset provides two important upgrades compared to its predecessor, the Z77: six USB 3.0 ports instead of four and six SATA-600 ports instead of only two. Another important difference between the two chipsets is where the video outputs of the motherboard are connected. While with both chipsets the video is generated by the CPU, on the Z77 the video signal was routed to the chipset, and the video outputs were connected to the chipset. On the Z87 chipset, the video outputs are connected directly to the processor. Both chipsets support up to three independent video monitors. The Z87 supports all other features provided by the Z77, such as Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while it is in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.
You can see the ASUS Maximus VI HERO motherboard in Figure 1.
The ASUS Maximus VI HERO comes with two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 speed), and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.
The two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, with the first slot working at x16 when only one video card is installed, and with both working at x8 when two video cards are installed.
The third PCI Express x16 slot is 2.0 and works at x4, but it comes configured at x1, and you need to change this configuration manually at the motherboard setup program. If you plan to install a dual-slot video card in this slot, you will have to buy a case with at least eight slots. (Computer cases usually have seven.) One important detail is that this slot shares PCI Express lanes with the PCI Express x1 slots, and they can’t be used at the same time.
The PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies. It is important to note that, according to the motherboard’s manual, the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot doesn’t support these technologies and can’t be used to install a third video card under SLI or CrossFireX modes. If more than one video card is installed, you must attach a SATA power connector from the power supply to the motherboard. This connector is located near the SATA ports and will be shown in Figure 4.
Intel socket LGA1150 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASUS, the Maximus VI HERO supports memories up to 2,800 MHz.
The ASUS Maximus VI HERO has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GiB, you can have up to 32 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASUS Maximus VI HERO, the first and third memory sockets are black, while the second and fourth are red. When installing two memory modules, use the black sockets.
The Intel Z87 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). This motherboard has two additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip (no RAID support). Unfortunately, the manufacturer didn’t use different colors on the SATA ports to identify which ports are controlled by which chip. The ports controlled by the ASMedia chip are the ones labeled “SATA6G_E12.”
The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards won’t block them.
The Intel Z87 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS Maximus VI HERO offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four located on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. The portrayed motherboard comes with six USB 3.0 ports, four available on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header.
The ASUS Maximus VI HERO doesn’t support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the new Realtek ALC1150 codec, which is the best audio codec available today, providing an impressive 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. This means you are able to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) with this motherboard without adding any background noise.
Besides having a high-end audio codec, the audio section of the ASUS Maximus VI Hero is physically separated from the rest of the motherboard, there is a metallic shield around the audio section, and it uses premium Japanese audio capacitors, from ELNA. This ensures that the theoretical signal-to-noise ratios can be achieved.
The analog audio outputs are independent and the motherboard also comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output. It also has a two-pin header labeled “SPDIF_OUT” where you can install an adapter to have a coaxial SPDIF output or to connect a cable to older video cards that require a physical connection to have audio on their HDMI outputs.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I217-V chip.
In Figure 6, you can see the rear panel of the motherboard with a shared PS/2 connector for keyboard and mouse, four USB 2.0 ports, the “BIOS Flashback” button (more detail on next page), optical SPDIF output, HDMI output, four USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio jacks.
The ASUS Maximus VI HERO has a POST diagnostics display, so you can see, through a two-digit code, which component is preventing your computer from turning on. It also has a series of four LEDs next to the main power connector with the same function.
The “MemOK!” button, shown in Figure 7, allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed.
A button called “DirectKey” allows you to enter directly into the motherboard setup program.
There are other smaller features on the Maximus VI HERO. The “BIOS Flashback” button, shown in Figure 6, allows you to upgrade the motherboard BIOS by installing a USB memory on a USB 2.0 port containing the new BIOS file, without the need to turn on the computer and load the operating system or the motherboard setup program.
The Maximus VI HERO supports the installation of the ROG Overclocking Panel, which is sold separately, through two headers labeled “ROG_EXT.”
In Figure 10, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASUS Maximus VI HERO.
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS Maximus VI HERO has eight phases for the. The voltage regulator is controlled by ASUS DIGI+ ASP1251 chip, which uses a digital design. Each phase is driven by a CSD87350Q5D integrated circuit, which incorporates the “low side” and “high side” transistors. This integrated circuit provides efficiency above 93%, as it can switch at up to 1.5 MHz (usually voltage regulator circuits operate at 250 kHz or 1 MHz).
The ASUS Maximus VI HERO uses high-end solid, Japanese electrolytic capacitors, from Nichicon, on its voltage regulator circuit (a.k.a. “10K Black Metallic Capacitors”). According to ASUS, these capacitors have a lifespan five times longer than regular Japanese solid capacitors and have a higher temperature tolerance (between -55° C and +105° C, making them military-grade components). This allows you to use liquid nitrogen on your CPU without damaging the capacitors.
All coils on this motherboard are high-end models with gold-plated cores. According to ASUS, these coils support up to 60 A.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The ASUS Maximus VI HERO has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones:
The main specifications for the ASUS Maximus VI HERO include:
The ASUS Maximus VI HERO is clearly targeted to the enthusiast who wants an above-the-average motherboard based on the new Z87 chipset for the new “Haswell” CPUs (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processors).
The highlights of this motherboard include the presence of an extremely high-end audio section, six USB 3.0 ports, eight SATA-600 ports, two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, a voltage regulator circuit with high-end components, a POST diagnostics display, and more.
There are motherboards with a similar number of ports and slots costing less than the ASUS Maximus VI HERO. However, what makes this model from ASUS unique is the quality of the components it uses.
The audio section uses the new Realtek ALC1150 codec, which is currently the most high-end audio codec available, and is physically separated from the rest of the motherboard. Also, there is a metallic shield around the audio section and it uses premium Japanese audio capacitors, from ELNA. These features ensure that the theoretical signal-to-noise ratios can be truly achieved.
The CPU voltage regulator uses high-end components, with “10K Black Metallic Capacitors,” from Nichicon, which have a lifespan five times higher than regular Japanese solid capacitors and have a higher temperature tolerance (between -55° C and +105° C, making them military-grade components). This allows you to use liquid nitrogen on your CPU without damaging the capacitors. All coils are high-end models with gold-plated cores supporting up to 60 A.
In summary, if you are an average user looking for a motherboard with above-the-average features and price is, for you, the most important factor when picking a motherboard, then you may prefer to pick a cheaper product. However, for the savvy user who wants above-the-average features, quality, and life-span, the Maximus VI HERO is a good pick, especially if you are into overclocking.
There is, however, one drawback with this motherboard, but it shouldn’t affect most users. It is regarding the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, which works at x4 but comes configured as x1. This slot shares PCI Express lanes with PCI Express x1 slots, and they can’t be used at the same time. Also, you can’t use it with SLI and CrossFireX configurations, rendering it pretty much useless.