With all of the launches stacked, when I covered the Ryzen launch of the 3000 series of CPUs I only really had the chance to touch on the X570 chipset that was launching with it for a little while. The motherboards that AMD sent with their launch kit were put to use immediately for testing and only over the last few days have I had to a chance to finally take a closer look at them and do motherboard specific testing. Today I want to check out the Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Hero WiFi that has been pulling double duty as our CPU test platform and our GPU test platform. The Hero isn’t Asus’s highest-end X570 board, but it is close so I’m excited to see what they have packed into it.
Product Name: Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Hero WiFi
Review Sample Provided by: Asus and AMD
Written by: Wes Compton
Pictures by: Wes Compton
Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE
Packaging and Accessories
The box for the Crosshair VIII Hero WiFI kind of fits with the style that Asus has been going with recently with the black and dark grey. They accent that with the ROG red along the bottom, on the ROG logo in the top right, and a red glow that goes in between the black and grey sections. In the background of the black, they have a line drawing that you can barely see and the grey has a brushed aluminum look. The model name is in huge letters across the front and they used a reflective hologram like finish on that that really stands out. Then down along the bottom, there are a few of the required logos for things like the Ryzen logo, one that shows the socket and chipset, Crossfire and SLI support, PCIe 4, etc. There is also one that shows that the board has Asus Aura lighting support.
Around on the back, the model name is up on top in that same reflective finish again with the ROG logo in red next to it. Asus has photos of the board here with a large on in the center from two angles that show the top and the rear I/O together. On both sides of that photo, they have a big specification listing which is really cool. Then above that, there are four photos that highlight a few features like the number of VRMs, PCIe 4, the WIFI and dual LANs, and Optimem III.
The box opens up a little differently than a lot of motherboard boxes, Asus features the board a little with the clear plastic tray over the board so you can see it as soon as you open it up and the ROG logo on the underside of the top.
Inside all of the accessories and documentation is up under the tray that holds the motherboard. In normal Asus fashion, they didn’t skimp too much on accessories. So you get a user guide for the motherboard along with a full page sticker sheet. The stickers include a few cable labels should you need them and a bunch of different ROG sticks, all with a metallic like finish. They toss in a round ROG coaster and a small paper with the ROG social media accounts on it. There is a driver/software disk and also a paper with a coupon code for CableMod. I’ve included our paper code showing to share the love, feel free to use it!
For accessories Asus has everything tucked away in its own clear bag. You get four black SATA cables. Then to two other cables are both for RGB lighting. One is an extension cable for the normal 4-pin RGB header and the other is for addressable RGB lighting. There is a tiny bag with a small Q Connect connector that you can use to make hooking up the front panel connection easier and then a small bag with all of the standoffs and screws for M.2 drives.
Lastly, Asus includes one wireless antenna with the Hero WiFi model. The antenna design is the same as Asus has used for the last few generations of boards with a shark fin styling. It comes with a base to hold it up, I’ve already got that attached in the photo. It is also magnetized as well to stick it on your case.
Board Layout and Pictures
With X570 being a progression from X470 and X370 before that, I wasn’t expecting any huge changes with the design on the Crosshair VIII Hero but right from the start, you can see a few. So the change from the X370 to X470 for the Hero was mostly a change from grey to black. But the Crosshair VIII Hero, on the other hand, looks like a much higher-end board. The heatsinks are larger and they added a heatsink/cover that handles the chipset as well as the M.2 drives which also has active cooling. Active cooling on the chipset for X570 is on just about every board, but in general, this looks a lot like the crazy Alph/Omega boards making the older Hero models look like budget boards in comparison. They also have the Hero branding a lot more prominent on top of the I/O shield.
So one of the big additions for X570 boards is a big bump in power for the new CPUs, similar to what Intel boards had to do with the push to high clock speeds and core counts to keep up with AMD. You can see around the CPU socket on this board that Asus has loaded the board with as many VRMs as they could. They are running a 7x2 configuration of IR3555 VRMs which Asus lists as 16 (and you can see 16 in this picture) with two large heatsinks across them. You can also spot a heatpipe that runs between them. Then for the chipset, the heatsink is larger than before. It spreads out up un between two of the PCIe slots and has the two M.2 drive slot covers that match it. In the picture below I have those off though. The cooler has a small fan which reminds me a lot of the older X79 boards from Asus and is a custom delta superflo fan designed for 60,000 hours or more of use. This part of the cooler has an RGB backlit ROG logo as well. The cooler under the cover is designed to blow down and to the left, aimed directly at the bottom M.2 slot which will get some cooling as well.
I love the I/O cover and Asus went larger on this one, you can see that it goes up over top of the left VRM heatsink partially. The cover has a mostly black finish with a silver strip across it. Just above that they have Crosshair VIII etched into the cover and then the HERO part lights up with Asus Aura RGB lighting.
Looking a little closer at some of the features starting in the top left corner. This area is mostly dominated by the two VRM heatsinks, the CPU socket, and the rear I/O cover but Asus did slip in the CPU power connections up in the corner. The Hero has one 8-pin and then a 4-pin for CPU power. The 8-pin is interesting because they put a metal shield around the plug. This might be related to the ProCool II connectors. I’ve seen ProCool in the past where they keep the connection tight against the PCB to try to dissipate heat which is what can cause a connection like that to heat up and melt in high power situations. Right behind the I/O shield down towards the M.2 drive Asus also slipped in one 4 pin PWM fan header.
Now the top right corner of the Crosshair VIII Hero has a LOT more going on. The biggest are the four DDR4 DIMMs. They are in black plastic with metal shields on each DIMM and in normal Asus tradition, they only have clips on one end for easier installation. Above those slots, there are three 4-pin PWM fan headers. Two are CPU fan and CPU fan optional then the last header is for an AIO pump if you are running an AIO water cooling setup. Next to the fan headers and right by the top right corner screw is the two-digit status LED readout. Below that the two small white headers are for RGB lighting, the top is a normal 4 pin and the bottom is an addressable 3 pin header. Below those is a Start button for power which has an LED built in to light up the start text and with that a reset button. Then next to the memory slots is the 24-pin motherboard power which has small holes that you can stick a multimeter into to read the live voltages, each of those is labeled as well. Last but not least is a new style USB Gen 2 header so you can get a Type-C connection with proper Gen 2 speeds on your cases front panel if it is supported.
A majority of the bottom right corner is filled with that large low profile heatsink for the X570 chipset. There is still a lot of other stuff going on in this area though. Over on the right edge, there is a USB 3 header which is positioned at a right angle along with 8 SATA ports that are also all at a right angle. There is a 4-pin fan header just above that and down below the SATA ports, there are two more. One of those is a water pump header which is designed to handle the increased amperage of a pump. Next, to that, the 3-pin white header is where you can hook up a water flow meter and next to that are two 2-pin headers for thermal sensors for the water temperature in and out of your radiator. There is another temperature prob header down on the bottom as well. That is above the slow mode switch for overclockers who have boot issues to run a lower clock speed during boot. That has the front panel connections next to it. There are two older USB 2.0 headers and then an Asus Node port. This is a serial header connection for hooking up a small LED screen that will output system status information including boot codes when booting and information from Asus’s LiveDash software.
The bottom left corner is, of course, come to all of the PCIe slots first and foremost. This includes three x16 length slots and one x1 length slot. The x1 slot is notable because it is open-ended meaning you could actually install devices with a longer slot into it as long as you are okay with only getting x1 bandwidth. The top two x16 slots will run at PCIe 4.0 if you have a new gen 3 Ryzen CPU but they do split up to x8 speeds if you use both at the same time. The last X16 which you can spot because it doesn’t have a metal shield on it only runs at x4 speeds. This corner also has the audio chipset which is partially covered by a shield but you can spot the gold caps sticking out. Asus went with their ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC. It includes jack detection and impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs. It is rated at a 120 dB SNR for output and 113 dB SNR for input. It has a ESS Sabre ES9023P DAC with support for up to 32-bit 192kHz playback but that isn’t supported in 8-channel mode. Down along the bottom the audio header is on the left with a small split in the PCB filled with a resin that splits the audio chipset apart from the motherboard for less signal pickup. There is one last PWM fan header which gives a total of 8. There is a trusted platform module header along with two more RGB headers, one 4-pin normal RGB and one 3-pin addressable. Then for overclockers, there is an LN2 mode jumper then a safe boot and boot retry buttons.
Slipped in between the PCIe slots the Hero also has two M.2 slots. Each has its own cover which holds the M.2 down and is also a cooler. With the heatsinks off you can see they both have heat transfer tape on them. Getting them off does require you to pull more off though. The fan cover runs up across the top M.2 slot for some reason which is really annoying. Especially if you decide to use one of the many SSD designs now that have their own heatsink. Both support 2242/2260/2280 length drives and are both PCIe 4.0.
Now the rear I/O for the Crossfire VIII Hero, just like past Hero boards is completely stacked. I really wish all boards had this many connections. On the far right, you have the standard audio layout with 5 plugs and one optical connection. The audio connections are easy to spot with colored rings around each of them. On the far left, there is a BIOS update button and a clear CMOS button to make things a lot easier than having to dig into your PC. Then the middle is filled with USB connections. There are four blue USB 3.2 plugs. Then below that 8 Gen 2 ports with 7 of those being Type-A and one Type-C connection. There are two wifi antenna jacks running on the Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 controller. This gets you 2 x 2 Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax) with MU-MIMO supports dual-frequency band 2.4/5GHz. Then there are two wired network connections. One if an Intel I211-AT which is the red plug and the black is using the Realtek RTL8125-CG 2.5G LAN.
The back of the Hero does a good job of showing just how packed the board is. Beyond that there isn’t too much going on, there aren’t any hidden M.2 slots or anything back here. You have the standard AMD backplate for the CPU. The PCB is flat black with some gloss black accents back here as well. You can also better see the split PCB for the audio with the lin running around the front panel connection at the bottom around the sound chipset then along the edge up to the rear I/O where the rear audio jacks are.
To take a look at the UEFI on the Crosshair VIII Hero I put together a basic video that goes through and opens up all of the options in the BIOS. I did this rather than just having a few pictures to allow everyone to see what options you have and to be able to pause at any point to get a closer look. I was surprised that my first boot in didn’t take me to the EZ mode that Asus has provided. The EZ Mode lets you turn on XMP which for AMD CPUs Asus calls DOCP. You can drag and drop your boot devices to change those around quickly and see all of the important hardware info as well as fan, voltage, and temperatures all on one page. The idea is that anyone with less experience can get most of what they want to be done including running the auto overclock without gaining access to options that could actually break things. You can check out the EZ Mode at the end of the BIOS video.
So in the advanced mode, the first page you land on is the main tab which lists off the BIOS revision and information as well as your CPU and memory clock speeds. You can also change system time. Over on the right on this and other paged you have CPU and memory clock speeds, voltages, and other information like capacity and ratio on the CPU. There are a few other voltages down at the bottom as well.
Most people will be looking for the extreme tweaker tab, this is where Asus has put most of the overclocking settings. Right at the top, they show the target clock speeds if you save this BIOS and they start with the DOCP options for memory overclocks then let you get into basic CPU and memory clock speed settings. Moving farther down you have a lot more control with full pages you can open up to get even more detailed memory timing control and then they have all of the voltage settings.
The advanced tab is where almost all of the other settings are tucked away at. This is where you will find subsystem settings like all of the M.2 and SATA settings, PCIe, and every other chipset or PCI subsystem setting. What I don’t like however is that the AMD CBS, AMD PBS, and AMD Overclocking settings are tucked down at the bottom here. These honestly are more needed for overclocking and should be over on that tab. Not only that but both open up their own pages but don’t have an arrow next to them to indicate that and they can be easily missed.
The monitor tab is basically a list of every sensor on the entire board, which is a LOT. It shows voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. It also has the options for the Q-Fan which is a little weird to me. The options for q-fan would be easier to use if you could get to them in q-fan all together. You can change the ramp up and ramp down speeds, low limits for fans and force specific fan profiles on to different plugs. Most importantly you can also tell it what temperature source to listen to, so you can set fans near your CPU heatsink to listen to that and change other fans to ramp up to other sources. The boot tab is exactly what you might expect. This is for all of the startup options as well as setting the boot order. You can turn off the boot logo, set boot delays, and tell it how to handle boot after a power loss for example.
Then you have the took tab and this is where Asus has tucked away all of their exclusive stuff. The main thing here for me is the EZ Flash 3 utility that you can use to update your BIOS from the internet, from a USB drive, or my favorite right from a drive on the PC. I use this a lot to use the BIOS file I downloaded in windows without having to mess with getting a USB drive out or anything. Secure erase can wipe hard drives for you. The user profile page is where you can save and load different BIOS profiles to swap between overclocks or to save settings that you are still adjusting. If you have an office that gets hot in the summer you can use this to save your winter overclock in the offseason. Asus SPD and the GPU information pages just give more information. The Speed page shows detailed information on each stick of ram including the JEDEC and different XMP profile details. The Asus Armoury Crate page is where you can turn that feature on and off. If you don’t know what it is, when you first install a fresh windows install, the BIOS can push a basic installer to get you up and running for drivers and Asus software without a driver disc or downloads. It is nice, but the downside is having this option on is also a security risk and Asus recently had problems with exactly so if you know how to download your drivers you can turn this off and do it manually.
Up top, there are a few options like being able to turn the Aura lighting on the board on or off without having to install software. The Qfan Control option is where you can set up fan profiles for each of the fans hooked up. Then you have the EZ tuning wizard which is an auto overclocking tool. Asus has options that ask you what kind of load you will be doing, because sustained loads are a lot harder on overclocks. They also ask what kind of cooling you are running as well and depending on those options they give you an estimate on what kind of overclock you can expect. I saw from a 2% on CPU with no memory overclock to 11% CPU and 3% memory on the gaming option with water cooling.
Overall I really like Asus UEFI’s. They navigate smoothly without the mouse or keyboard and splitting overclocking options up from everything else makes sense. Asus does need to do some updating and consider moving the AMD CPU options over to the overclocking tab. Beyond that, I don’t think you will find any other board with the level of options available. Now hopefully Asus works out some of the bugs that they have been having with X570 BIOS’s like some locking up on a few options which have caused some drama on Reddit.
Test Rig and Procedures
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X- Live Pricing
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12S for cooling - Live Pricing
Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste - Live Pricing
Memory: G.Skill 16GB DDR4 Trident Z Royal Gold 3600 MHz - Live Pricing
Storage: Corsair 2TB MP600 PCIe Gen 4 SSD- Live Pricing
Video Card: Nvidia RTX 2080 SUPER FE - Live Pricing
Power Supply: Corsair TX750M - Live Pricing
Case: Dimastech Test Bench - Live Pricing
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit - Live Pricing
As I always like to mention as a reminder for everyone. Motherboard performance differences between boards with the same chipset aren’t really a thing. They all run the same chipset and performance differences in benchmarks more typically show the small variability in the tests themselves. But I do run a list of benchmarks on all of our motherboard reviews to keep an eye out for obvious performance issues or for weird performance boosts like auto overclocked CPUs. With this being the first X570 board I’m testing it is a little hard to get an idea of that. Now BIOS updates are also incoming with new AGESA updates as well to fix some of the very public known issues that Asus especially has been dealing with. That said the results below still give a good look at what you could expect for performance with the 3900X paired up with the new Nvidia GTX 2080 SUPER which is a monster combination. In game performance in all of the games tested were up around or above 120 FPS as well.
Network performance is what I was most interested in. This is an area that can fluctuate with different controllers being used on different boards. Not to mention on the wireless side you have different controllers as well as different antenna’s from brand to brand. The wireless antenna that Asus is using hasn’t changed and I have has some issues with it in the past but the 369.1 Mbit per second result isn’t too bad. More boards tested later will better show how good that ends up being though. Then with the two wired connections, I tested. I should point out however that my testing was done on a 1G network including to a PC so that fancy 2.5G NIC in the Hero doesn’t stand out like it should, in fact, it ended up a little slower than the Intel I211-AT which means the Intel might get you better performance if you are like me and not running on 10G or similar yet.
I also took a look at how the heatsinks were handling thermals. For this, I used our Flir camera. I was curious how the X570 chipset was doing for thermals given the need for active cooling on basically all of the motherboards. I also wanted to check out the VRMs. I measured the hottest temperatures up under the heatsink and then on top of the heatsink to get an idea of the overall thermal drop. This was actually a lot better than I thought. The last Z390 board I tested with the 9900K was running in the 140-150 range on both so even without a fan facing down the Hero wasn’t running too bad. As for the chipset, it was running cool with the hottest area, of course, being the exit area for the air from the fan which was running at 104.8F, about 10 degrees hotter than the PCB in general..
I also took a look at the lighting on the Crosshair VIII Hero as well. The two areas with lighting were the top of the I/O cover where they had the HERO wording. Well with things lit up you can see there is also a strip along the top and left side edge that also lights up. Asus is using addressable LEDs which give it that fade effect between colors. The ROG logo on the chipset cooler was less in your face and there was a slight glow from under the cooler were the same lights were glowing a little.
Overall and Final Verdict
After a nice break after the crazy 5700 and Ryzen launch, I’ve been back at it taking a look at the Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Hero WiFi that I used for the launch. Having taken a look at the Hero boards before I knew I would be happy with this one but I was impressed with what the Hero has become. Back with X370 our Hero board was packed with features and had more USB ports than I had ever seen on a motherboard before. Asus kept all of that, the number of connection options is insane and now a majority of them are running at Gen 2 speeds as well. What they changed, however, was the styling and with that the cooling. All of the X570 boards have stepped things up on cooling and the Hero board is in the upper class of X570 boards. The old Hero boards look old and dated next to this one thanks to a large chipset heatsink that also ties in with the M.2 drives. Combine that with the rear I/O cover that is larger than normal and the large VRM heatsinks and a majority of the board is covered in shields and heatsinks. This makes the Hero look more like the ultra-high-end Alpha and Omega boards, its really only missing the gratuitous lighting and on board screens. Basically, they have cut off the fluff from a high-end board to make the Hero.
Performance testing was impressive, especially when it came to cooling performance. The VRMs were running 30-40 degrees lower than on the last Intel board I tested and the chipset with all of the hype of every board having active cooling was running not far from room temperature for me with that fan helping things. Asus also didn’t’ skimp on VRMs with high-quality VRMs and more than enough to handle overclocking on this board. A lot of the overclocking and water cooling features are on the Hero as well including thermal sensors and hookups for water speeds and temperatures as well as voltage pickups and LN2 overclocking options.
Features like the new 2.5G NIC are finally pushing network speeds forward which is huge, the only downside is that I know now I need to upgrade my own network just so I can test those in the future. I wouldn’t mind a second Type-C connection if I were nitpicking but with 7 type-A gen 2 ports, it really isn’t worth making a big deal about. My main complaint was just that to get to the top M.2 slot you have to remove the fan cover and a mess of screws in addition to the M.2 heatsink. If that is my main complaint for features, the Hero is doing very well. Now on the software side, I am looking forward to updates on the BIOS side. I didn’t run into any lockups or issues but I have heard of others having those issues and the launch BIOS this time around didn’t really help with the higher wattage and higher temp issues. Some of that is on AMD, but it seems Asus is having more issues than most and they are also a little more careful on launching new updates where in the past it felt like they were the first out. Asus does support their BIOS’s a lot longer than most other companies, they are the only one that I can expect to see updates past a year frankly. So they will get things worked out on that front, just like every other Ryzen launch.
My last complaint is more a complaint with X570 boards in general. They have gotten a lot more expensive, they actually remind me a lot of the X299 boards that everyone used to complain about in pricing. You are getting lots of features so it isn’t unjustified and this is an amazing board. But it is going to be a big hit in addition to the other hardware you need for your new build. But would I use it? Well, I decided to use it for our Ryzen testing and in addition to that, this is the same board I am using for our GPU test bench for the next year or two so yes I would still highly recommend it. The only downside is that I won’t get to take advantage of all of those USB ports when using it at a test bench where my personal PC can NEVER have enough ports. I have 10 devices hooked up right now and that doesn’t include anything I might be testing!
Live Pricing: HERE