Board Layout and Pictures
So the Z370 Maximus X Hero looks a lot like the Z270 Hero board, but that isn’t a big shocker, none of the boards between Z270 and Z370 have been huge changes. The most obvious change is the new heatsink covering the top M.2 slot. Overall though this is a great looking board with a flat black PCB, the black and gray plastic used on the memory and PCIe slots as well as the power and SATA ports. That black and gray also matches all of the cooling that is mostly CNCed aluminum and the black rear I/O shield that runs the full length of the board on the left. Speaking of the full length, this is a full ATX board that comes in at 12-inch x 9.6 inches.
The heatsinks that Asus designed for this board are surprisingly stout. Initially, they look to be completely CNC’ed because they are thick and not anything like a traditional heatsink design but when looking close I think they might be extrusions initially that are then CNC’ed. Either way, they have a lot of meat on them, especially the two around the CPU socket to keep the VRMs cool. They are both gray with black trim but the top heatsink also has the Hero branding on it. The left heatsink integrates right in with the rear I/O shield. This is a plastic cover that hides all of the less aesthetic looking metal covers over the rear I/O then it also runs all the way down the left side of the Hero covering up some of the audio as well. The I/O shield does have a Maximus X logo in it and that part is backlit with RGB lighting, just like on the previous Hero board.
Down at the bottom of the CPU socket, the new heatsink is this M.2 cover/heatsink with the ROG branding on it. It is held in place with two screws. It sits over the top M.2 slot and as you can see on the board itself this is an x4 PCIe slot with SATA support and it should be used first. The last heatsink is the chipset cooler and it has a similar design to the VRM heatsinks only it is wider and lower profile to be able to sit up under long cards in the PCIe slots. This has a second darker gray plate on top of it as well as the lined black styling and the reflective ROG logo is backlit when the board is powered up.
Starting up in the top left ¼ of the board, let's take a look at what features the Hero has. Now this section has a majority of the space covered by the rear I/O and shield as well as the VRM cooling and the CPU socket. But up along the top edge, Asus did slip in a few things. Right at the tip of the left VRM heatsink, there is an 8-pin CPU power connection. Then over along the top of the top heatsink, there are three 4-pin fan headers. This includes an All In One pump header that has a little more amperage support and then the CPU fan and an optional second CPU fan header. Then just past those is a 4-pin white RGB header for traditional RGB lighting to be hooked up and controlled by Asus Aura. There is also a PWM fan header all the way at the bottom left tip of the CPU socket area for a rear fan in your case.
The top right corner has a lot more going on. For starters, we have the four DDR4 ram DIMMs. Asus has support for up to 4133 MHz listed in their specifications. From there the right edge has a lot packed into a small space. The status LED is up in the top corner next to the screws and just under that, there are a few other LEDs, all with small labels to show where you are in the boot process and to help point to where an issue might be if you don’t boot. To go with that this is also where the MemOK button is, this will restart your PC if you are having memory issues and downclock the memory over and over again until it will boot. That comes in handy when you have a fast set of memory that won’t boot. Sliding down there is a small mounting location for some of Asus’s 3d printable designs and then below that is the 24 pin EATX power connection. Lastly, there is an internal Gen 2 USB 3.1 header for the new style front panel USB connections to allow for Type-C with the ultra-fast Gen 2 speeds.
Moving down to the bottom right corner, the chipset heatsink is in the middle of this area, but there is a lot going on. Starting along the right edge at the top there is a 4-pin fan header turned sideways. This is labeled as the H_AMP, well that stands for high amperage, so if you want to hook up a high powered fan or a custom loop pump this is the header to use. There are two more regular PWM headers down lower as well but the six right-angled SATA ports are in between. Down below the fan headers, there are two 2-pin headers for hooking up thermistors to read temperatures and then a 3-pin connection that looks like a fan header. This is actually a water flow meter header, you can hook a flow meter up to this or the pump readout cable. Right next to those on the left is a second M.2 socket, this one supports full length as well but this one will only support PCIe based SSDs, no SATA. There is also another 3d printed part mount right next to the M.2 on the right.
Still down in the bottom right corner, the bottom edge has enough going on that I had to split it from the rest. Asus has most of the main connections down here. This includes the front panel connections that start in the right corner. They are labeled on the PCB but I do wish they were color coded as well to make things even easier. Next to that is the second RGB header and our eight PWM fan header. There are two internal USB 2.0 headers and then one Gen 1 USB 3.1 header to go with the Gen 2 port up in the top right section. Lastly, there is a TPM header, this is the trusted platform header. Most people won’t need it but they are used for bitlockers.
The bottom left portion of the Hero mostly has all of the PCIe slots but first, let me run through the last few things along the bottom edge. So this is where Asus put the power button. I still prefer them along the right edge but I’m just happy there is one. It looks like a car start button and is backlit. There is a reset button next to it as well as a safe boot button. The Safe Boot button is for when an overclock fails but you want to boot with stock settings but save the overclock you had to be able to make a few small changes. The retry button next to that is related as well, letting you retry your overclock boot. Then you have slow mode and the LN2 jumper. These are tied together as well, LN2 mode turns things down during boot to get past weird bugs that happen when you are sub-zero and the slow mode only works with LN2 mode is on, allowing you to quickly turn the CPU clocks down to their bare minimums. Now next to all of the buttons is the Hero’s one addressable LED header and next to that the front panel audio connection.
As for the PCIe slots, the Hero has a total of 6, Three are 1x length but with an open end to allow for longer cards if you want. Then the other three are x16 length. The x1 slots all run at x1 but the x16 slots are a little more complicated. The two gray slots are x16 if you run only one card or x8 with both filled, they also have a metal shield to cut down interference and to strengthen those slots to hold heavy video cards. The bottom x16 length slot runs x4 all of the time, if you look closely you can actually see how there aren’t pins on the right half.
Now the onboard audio looks jammed into a tiny space but a lot of it is up under the plastic I/O cover that runs the length of the board. There is also the metal cover with the SupremeFX branding on it that shields from interference. This is all for the ROG SupremeFX 8 channel audio that the Hero has. It is running an S1220 Codec and it has a few nice features. For starters, you can see the high-quality caps, but what you can’t see is the ESS ES9023P DAC. It has a 120 dB signal to noise ratio on playback and 113 dB signal to noise ratio on input, this isn’t amazing if you were looking at high-end external DACs but that is great for onboard. There is also front and rear impedance sense for headphones in the built-in headphone amps. Then Asus split the PCB up, as usual, they pioneered this, to give that gap between the audio PCB and the rest of the motherboard to keep noise down.
Okay, so I’m a little bit of a sucker for the pre-mounted rear I/O shields and the Maximus X Hero has one. It is one less thing to worry about when building your PC and for some custom mods, it also means you don’t have to build the ring that will hold the panel in place. Beyond that, the Hero does have a clear CMOS button over on the left and a BIOS upgrade button. There is a big gap from there where the wireless would normally go (they sell two versions of this board, one with and one without). Then we have an HDMI and a DisplayPort connection for use with the onboard video. Next, there are two standard USB 2.0 ports, these both have secondary functions as well. The top one is a keybot port, so if you plug your keyboard into this one you can get macros that can turn on overclocks in the BIOS and when paired with the software you can also program F key macros or functions, here is more information. The bottom USB port is where you plug in your USB drive with your new BIOS update if you want to use the push button update. From there you have four USB 3.1 ports from the Intel controller in blue. Then next to that there are two faster USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports. One is red and the other is a Type-C connection. Then above that you have the NIC, Asus used the Intel I219V and the red plug means it has Asus’s Anti-surge LANGuard as well. Then from there, the audio layout is a standard 5+optical configuration.
The back of the Hero has a few things going on. For starters, it does give us a better look at that black PCB. But more importantly from back here, we can see that Asus did mount all of their heatsinks with screws from behind and they labeled them with a white ring around them. The I/O shield that runs down over the audio is also marked with smaller rings around them as well. All of the branding and required certification logos are hidden back here as well to keep things clean up on top.