In this section, I am going to cover all of the unique features of this board in detail. To start off, this is a “feature map” showing the location of all of the hardware supporting the features described.
Unlike ordinary digital VRM design, the Extreme Engine Digi+ combines the advantage of both the digital and analog VRM design, delivering less switching delay while offering better accuracy at the same time. Not only it offers finer spacing of PWM power frequency interval, the choke used also sustains 25% more current than ordinary design, capable of delivering up to 40A. This enables better permeability and less power loss, meaning less heat will be produced under the same configuration. Furthermore, thanks to the nature of being digital, the power solution can also be fully customizable by the user in real time, making system optimization easily achievable by its users.
If I learned anything from the X58 platform, it’s that while good VRM design is essential to achieving overclocking success…over the top VRM design isn’t required from an overclocking perspective. Some designs make significant impacts on power consumption and heat, but I’ve yet to see a top-end VRM design convince me from an overclocking perspective. This one looks great on paper, but I’ll reserve my final judgment until after I compare it with the competition (later this month).
One observation in my testing is that the VRM does need direct airflow when pushing the CPU to high levels, despite the fact that my testing was performed on an open test bench. This isn’t uncommon or surprising, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
The remote control, overclock, as well as hardware monitor capability of RC Bluetooth has made its way to the MAC platform. With the new ROG iDirect, users can now gain the full control of the keyboard-free overclocking and debug tools through the USB, Bluetooth or WiFi connections via their very own handhold devices from MAC such as the iPhone, as well as the iPAD, transforming your handy everyday gadgets into a power OC Remote.
I borrowed a friends iPad in order to test this feature with iDirect. I first installed the Bluetooth module in the motherboard, then I installed the AI Suite II onto the test system. I then installed the Bluetooth drivers on the test system and finally turned on the iPad, went to the app store, and searched for “ROG iDirect” and the correct app showed up right away.
I installed the app and then enabled the Bluetooth module in the iPad. Then I went back to the test system and attempted to get the two systems connected via Bluetooth. Below are two screenshots showing my attempts.
And this is what I saw on the iPad screen.
Now, I’m not a regular Apple user, but I thought this was supposed to “just work!”? I fiddled with all sorts of stuff for about two hours, and uninstalled everything, then reinstalled everything…but I could not get the two devices connected no matter what I tried. I only had a few hours with this device to test the feature, but honestly even if I had more time with the iPad, I wouldn’t have wanted to continue trying anyway.
*** Note – I assumed all of the information that I needed was in the owners manual, later I discovered supplemental information regarding iDirect setup in the supplementary “ROG Exclusive Feature Guide.” However, I was unable to retest because I had already returned the loaner iPad to its owner.***
~~ For iPad users, use ASUS ROG iDirect through Wifi connection. ~~
~~ Tethering through Bluetooth may be unavailable or disabled by default depending on your territories. ~~
ROG iDirect is the same technology as RC Bluetooth extended for use with Apple products. I was unable to test RC Bluetooth, due to the lack of a compatible device.
Now, I really like the concept of iDirect and RC Bluetooth, but I would not use it myself unless it was reliable and consistent. I think most enthusiasts would agree, we do not trust software to take care of our expensive hardware without the utmost confidence in it’s fundamental operation. Assuming Asus works out the kinks, I believe this technology has potential. Until then, I would not base your purchasing decision on these features.
BIOS update has always been a trouble for some users. The update procedure may be rather complicate, unsafe under some very rare circumstances, and most importantly, the system needed the update has to be on and alive to allow BIOS update. With the revolutionary USB BIOS Flashback technology, users can now update the system BIOS via any USB pen drive with a simple press of ROG Connect button without even the need to switch ON the system. BIOS update and recovery has never been easier when USB BIOS Flashback around.
When Gulftown first debuted, many motherboards required a BIOS update to support the new processors. The problem was, in order to flash the BIOS, the user needed to posses an older Bloomfield CPU in order the flash the BIOS for the newer Gulftown CPU. But for those users who were purchasing their first LGA1366 based system and did not have an older CPU, this created a massive issue. Asus customers were saved because of USB BIOS Flashback (on supported motherboards), so they could update their BIOS without even powering on their systems.
Despite this great example, I can think of very little practical purpose for this feature aside from emergency scenarios. However, there is always the possibility of the same scenario occurring in the future with this platform as well. In my testing, the USB BIOS Flashback worked as described.
As recognized by overclockers worldwide, the Asus TweakIt Technology always come with full of surprises. This new implementation is no exception. Unlike the early design with the need to open up the chassis while dodging through series of cables to reach the onboard buttons, while having the limited display and control capability without the need to install additional software on the working system, users can now kiss goodbye to the limitations of the past, and enjoy the joy of overclocking with the new and improved TweakIt technology, namely the “ROG Connect”. Though it is known that ROG Connect is the one and only solution that allows users to use any separate system as the control terminal of the ROG system to be overclocked, and conduct the last mile overclocking, or watch POST status of the system since the launch of this technology, the development did not end there. With the newly improved ROG Connect, users are now be able to conduct real-time remote monitor of system health status together with the control capability of the key functions remotely, and of course, the ability to update BIOS remotely even when the system needed such update is not powered up. Finally, and not the least, the GPU Tweakit, allowing its users to tweak the “GPU Frequency”, “GPU Vcore” and “GPU RAM Frequency” remotely, overclocking the VGA card on the fly…
This feature has intrigued me since I had first heard about it, but this has been the first chance I’ve had to test it out. It’s pretty simple to set up, simply install the server app on the target system and install the ROG Connect software on the remote system. Then connect the two systems with a USB cable and press the ROG Connect button on the IO panel to enable/disable the connection. Pulling up all of the components on the remote system looks something like above. Real-time monitoring, and adjustment are capable on the fly. I was fairly impressed, especially with the GPU TweakIt app, which worked without any problems. The GPU voltage had the same limit as with the MSI Afterburner software I was using on the test system, but otherwise the app was flawless. Overall this application has a ton of appeal for me, and any real geek, and could be setup and used in many ways.
I did have one minor quibble about the graph RC Diagram app; the graph’s do not allow a large enough range. I was trying to monitor CPU current draw and it was constantly exceeding the 100A maximum on the graph. The only real problems I found with the app were a failure of RC BIOS Flashback to recognize a compatible BIOS, and therefore refused to update it. Asus reported back that they aware of the issue and that it will be resolved with a future update.
Cold-boot bug is a barrier which overclockers often need to face when conducting subzero overclocking with LN2 (Liquid Nitrogen). When cold-boot bug occurred, CPU will no longer POST till it has been warmed up again. The LN2 Mode exclusively supported by Maximus IV Extreme enables users to remedy this limitation, delivering non-stop smooth extreme overclocking capability, which makes Maximus IV Extreme the perfect choice for all overclockers under LGA1155 platform.
I found this “feature” a bit confusing, but hopeful at the same time. On the one hand, Asus reports that Sandy Bridge CPUs do not respond favorably to extreme cooling. On the other hand, they’ve planned ahead just in case? Despite these initial report about Sandy Bridge not doing well with extreme cooling, I do plan to test this soon and verify these claims myself.
Extreme overclockers may sometimes face the hard decision between whether they should reset or force power down the system when the
extreme overclocked rig half once in a while, as the press of reset button does not always work, while force power down may often result in freezing the components under S5 mode. This is where Q Reset comes in. With the exclusively design Q Reset button at the top left hand corner of the board, users will be able to clear CMOS then power up in a flash to bypasses S5 mode to avoid the need to face either of these limitations.
This should be a very nice feature if it is ever found that extreme cooling could be useful. I tested the button under normal operation and it did indeed work as described, resetting the system (without powering down) and simultaneously clearing the CMOS. However, I never needed to use it under the circumstances mentioned in the description above. But I definitely give Asus a thumbs up on this one for being simple and effective!
The Maximus IV Extreme comes with two additional set of 4-pin Molex plug, delivering extra power to both the USB 3.0 ports as well as the VGA cards. This enables not only better compatibility with USB 3.0 devices, it is also ideal for the power hungry monster VGA card when conducting extreme overclocking.
It’s a known fact by now that running two or more high powered GPUs in a system can sometimes overwhelm the power delivery system for 12V current to the PCIe devices. These are not only a good feature, but they are a required feature in a system which supports tri-SLI or X-fire configurations. Now if USB3.0 is also going to be needing a lot of current, then even more reason to have these additional connections present. My only suggestion is to use a PCIe type connection instead of these molex connections as PCIe connections can supply more current, and they look better since you have less loose ends dangling about.
The five PCIe x16 Lane Switches found at the right hand side of the DIMM slots can be used to disable the PCIe expansion cards installed
onto each individual PCIex16 slots. This is ideal for benchmark tests when comparing the difference in performance under different configurations, as it allows quick changes without the need to remove each individual card.
The lane switches are nice when overclocking in extreme conditions, but I think their presence is a bit overrated. Not much to say, turn your lanes on and off on demand, if you need it is great. For 99.9% of users, it raises the cost of production, but doesn’t give anything back.
The Asus exclusive Inter-switchable Dual BIOS design allows user to keep two different BIOS versions for different purposes. Users can keep one version for extreme OC, while the other for stable use. BIOS configurations set on the two BIOS chips can also be kept separately, and inter-switchable with simple one touch BIOS switch, making Maximus IV Extreme an ideal choice for all extreme overclockers.
This is a very nice feature. I have always liked the idea of dual BIOS ever since Gigabyte started the trend almost a decade ago. But for the user to finally have control over which BIOS gets used is one of those “Duh!” moments. Why hasn’t it always been done this way? Bravo Asus, great feature here!
Asus has been long known for its rich available BIOS option, the Maximus IV Extreme is not an exception. However, considering the adjustments of the BIOS options has always been a difficult task for the entry level users when building their very own system for the very first time, Asus has hence implemented the most user friendly BIOS interface named EZ Mode. Featuring a simple, clean, yet intuitive user interface listing only the most vital options for everyday usage, the BIOS adjustments become something that is available to all users. Furthermore, the nature of being an EFI BIOS also ensures its future-proof for the new technologies to come.
The EFI BIOS is really the star of the show here, and that goes for the whole range of users. But the beginners, or as I affectionately call them “noobs”, this is especially great. To have direct BIOS HW control with an easy to use interface is priceless. I’m actually really excited about this change, not so much for myself, but for all of those times I’m called by my mother in dire-straights because she forgot to pull the USB drive out when she rebooted. With this, she’d even be able to figure out how to change up the boot order so she could boot to the HDD while the thumb drive is still in the machine! Excellent!
The dump of the BIOS setup screen often involves highly trained photographic technique, while the outcome may not always be as satisfactory as it can be. Users can create the BIOS screen dump with a simple press of the F12 key, and the BIOS screen shot will be stored to your USB storage device automatically. ROG BIOS Print, your best friend when sharing BIOS screen with your friends.
Once again…why hasn’t this been standard practice for years? This seems like such a simple, yet profound feature, it baffles me that manufacturers are just now implementing it. Great innovation Asus, this is a must have feature for all boards from this point forward in my opinion, well done! All BIOS screens shown in this review were easily captured using this method.
Troubleshooting is a long and tedious job, especially when you don’t know what actually fails. Asus GPU.DIMM Post scans through the PCI Express slots for available graphic cards, as well as the presence of DIMM modules installed during POST stage, and displays the result in the BIOS setup screen. This helps the users to find out if anything has gone wrong with the installation as well as the detection of the device without the need to try and error on their own, allowing users to troubleshoot for the cause of errors with ease.
This is another impressive feature that I approve of. In my testing, it worked as described, and I’d imagine if I had issues during my testing, it may have been pretty helpful. Plus I love features like this that can be implemented with minimal manufacturing cost (or none at all).
As the numbers of CPU socket pin increases with each new generation of new processors, the CPU became less tolerant to improper installation. In worse cases, the CPU socket may even burn out in the result of short circuiting due to improper installation. CPU Socket Monitor enables the motherboard to detect the temperature of the CPU socket, preventing the CPU socket been burnt due to short circuiting.
On the one hand, I think it is pretty difficult to perform an “improper installation” of the CPU, and yet successfully operate the system. So I’m not sure I buy into the “need” for this feature, on the other hand I like data points, and the more temperatures available to monitor the happier this geek gets. Also, I’d speculate that manufacturing costs have negligible impact.
AI Suite II is a user friendly interface combining all popular Asus applications in one single package for flexible use. With the full customization capability covering the add / remove of application module, the change of colour and skin and how the software should auto hide itself when not been used. AI Suite II integrates a large variety of applications covering features from all different, including:
TurboV EVO: To enable the instant access to the performance related BIOS options aimed to provide a little more edge when conducting extreme overclocking. TurboV EVO worked very well, although I prefer a simpler interface. What is most important is functionality and stability, and TurboV is both.
DIGI+ VRM: Allows making direct alteration to the behavior of the on-board digital VRM in real-time.
EPU: Allows access to the intelligent power saving engine on-board, which helps to save every last penny on your power bill. To me, both of these features are fairly similar, but the whole idea of a smart VRM (via EPU) is that it makes adjustments automatically to give you power when you need it and save energy when you don’t. So to have the ability to change this on-the-fly seems a bit silly.
Fan Xpert: Allows the full customization of how the CPU and chassis should work with just a few clicks on the mouse. There is little need for adjustment in the operating system, other than for initial testing. Once you figure out how you like your fans set, they should be set in the BIOS and forgotten about. This seems a bit redundant since the BIOS fan control is very robust. On the other hand, be sure you have PWM fans if you intend to use the built in fan control as it will not adjust the speed of non-PWM fans.
Probe II: Allows the real-time monitoring of the key voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds together with warning capability to warn the users when any of the readings exceeds the threshold set by the user. Probe II is probably the best part of the AI Suite II. The problem with all manufacturers monitoring software has always been that its just so poor in it’s accuracy and reliability. I’ve been very impressed with Probe II, and it seems like Asus has really done a good job with the fit and finish. I also like the inclusion of the three thermal probes which can be added onto the system for additional heat source monitoring.
Sensor Recorder: Allows the user to show the key voltages, temperatures and fan speeds in a graph for a quick tracking of the system status. Furthermore, a historical record can also be kept for later reference if needed. This feature is quite handy for all of the geeks out there (myself included) who really like to be tuned into their system’s operation. However I wouldn’t consider it a deal-breaker as there are plenty of 3rd party apps that do a good job with these tasks as well. This can just be considered added value on Asus’ part.
Side Bar: There is the display of the sensor and CPU status at the right hand side of AI Suite II to allow instant monitor of the system status when fiddling around with other applications. Does this really need it’s own place on this list?
System information: To quickly show the CPU and DRAM info without the need to install any additional third-party applications. Any real enthusiast will be double checking in CPU-Z anyhow, but it really wouldn’t be a complete package without this.
Though there is unfortunately only x16 lanes of PCI Express Lanes available from the Intel Sandy Bridge CPU, resulting in limited expansion for high-end applications, there is a cure via the use of PCI Express expansion bridges such as the NVIDIA NF200. However, this also leads into a performance bottleneck in PCI express transfer due to the additional latency introduced. To overcome this unwanted trade-off, the PCI Express lanes has been uniquely arranged to go through such bridge only when absolutely necessary, ensuring both expansion and performance are not to be compensated by each other.
I have never been a big fan of the Nvidia NF200 chip, so it is nice to see here that it’s only implemented when absolutely necessary for triple graphics card configurations.
*** Note – OK, I’m done quoting the marketing blurbs from Asus, if you don’t know what the rest of this stuff is, google it ;-) ***
While I’m all for the latest and greatest, this is overboard…why? Because some devices don’t need the bandwidth. Why pay for an additional controller that you’re going to be running your USB2.0 mouse and keyboard off of? I could understand 2 or 3 controllers (4 or 6 ports), and I love the fact that they’ve put a front USB3.0 header on the PCB for front mounted jacks. But 5 controllers eat a lot of PCB real estate, and drives up manufacturing costs unnecessarily.
The board has the two native ports and two extra through a 3rd party controller, allowing for dual RAID arrays. Probably useful for only a small handful of users, but a solid feature nonetheless.
It’s always nice to have a backup if one dies on you, but I’ve never understood all of the hype. Again, this is probably useful for only a small handful of users.