As I continue to check out some of the Z490 boards available after Intel’s Comet Lake-S 10th gen mainstream CPU launch we have the flagship model from Asus and their ROG lineup. The ROG Maximus XII Extreme has features like an OLED display 2.5G and 10G ethernet, and four M.2 slots but that only scratches the surface of what Asus packed into the board. So today I’m going to dig in and take a closer look at what else it has to offer. Put the board to the test and also see if that staggering price point is worth the money for those looking for the best of the best Z490 build.

Product Name: ROG Maximus XII Extreme

Review Sample Provided by: Asus

Written by: Wes Compton

Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE

 

Specifications

CPU

Intel® Socket 1200 for 10th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® Processors

Supports Intel® 14 nm CPU

Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 and Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0

Chipset

Intel® Z490

Memory

4 x DIMM, Max. 128GB, DDR4 4800(O.C) - 3000(O.C.) 2933 - 2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory *
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
OptiMem III
* 10th Gen Intel® Core™i9/i7 CPUs support 2933/2800/2666/2400/2133 natively,

Multi-GPU Support

Supports NVIDIA 2-Way SLI® Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology

Expansion Slots

Intel® 10th Gen Processors
2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
Intel® Z490 Chipset
1 x PCIe 3.0 x4 

Storage

Total supports 4 x M.2 slots and 8 x SATA 6Gb/s ports
Intel® 10th Gen Processors :
1 x ROG DIMM.2 Module supports 2 M.2 Socket 3 , with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)*2
Intel® Z490 Chipset :
1 x M.2_1 socket 3, with M Key, Type 2242/2260/2280 (PCIE 3.0 x4 and SATA modes) storage devices support*3
1 x M.2_2 socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
8 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s)
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology supports
Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready

LAN

Intel® I225-V 2.5Gb Ethernet

Marvell® AQtion AQC107 10Gb Ethernet

ASUS LANGuard

Wireless Data Network

Intel® Wi-Fi 6 AX201

2x2 Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax) support 1024QAM/OFDMA/MU-MIMO

Supports up to 2.4Gbps max data rate

Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz

Supports channel bandwidth: HT20/HT40/HT80/HT160

Supports CNVI interface

Bluetooth

Bluetooth v5.1*

*BT 5.1 function will be ready in Windows 10 build 19041 or later.

Audio

ROG SupremeFX 7.1 Surround Sound High Definition Audio CODEC S1220
- Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs
- Supports : Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking, up to 24-Bit/192kHz playback
- High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input
- ESS™ ES9023 DAC + RC4580 OP AMP
- Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback
LED-illuminated audio jacks
Audio Feature :
- SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
- Premium Japanese audio capacitors
- Audio Cover
* Due to limitations in HDA bandwidth, 32-Bit/192kHz is not supported for 8-Channel audio.

USB Ports

Rear USB Port ( Total 12 )
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 port(s)
3 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 port(s)(2 + Type-A +1 + USB Type-CTM)
6 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 port(s)(6 x Type-A)
2 x USB 2.0 port(s)(2 x Type-A)
Front USB Port ( Total 10 )
2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 front panel connector port(s)
4 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 port(s)
4 x USB 2.0 port(s)

Software Features

ROG Exclusive Software

- Mem Tweakit

- RAMCache III

- ROG CPU-Z

- GameFirst VI

- Sonic Studio III + Sonic Studio Virtual Mixer

- Sonic Radar III

- DTS® Sound Unbound

- Overwolf

- BullGuard Internet Security (1-year full version)

ASUS Exclusive Software

Armoury Crate

- Aura Creator

- Aura Sync

- OLED Display

AI Suite 3:

- 5-Way Optimization with AI Overclocking

TPU

EPU

Digi+ Power Control

Fan Xpert 4

Turbo app

- EZ update

AI Charger

WinRAR

UEFI BIOS

AI Overclocking Guide

ASUS EZ DIY

- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3

- ASUS EZ Flash 3

- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode

FlexKey

ASUS Special Features

ROG Extreme OC kit

- EZ PLUG

- FlexKey button

- LN2 Mode

- Probelt

- ReTry button

- Safe boot button

- Start button

- Slow Mode

Extreme Engine Digi+

- 10K Black Metallic Capacitors

- Infineon TDA21490 Power Stage

- MicroFine Alloy Choke

ASUS Q-Design

- ASUS Q-Code

- ASUS Q-Connector

- ASUS Q-DIMM

- ASUS Q-LED (CPU [red], DRAM [yellow], VGA [white], Boot Device [yellow green])

- ASUS Q-Slot

ASUS Thermal Solution

- Aluminum M.2 heatsink cover

- Steel backplate

ASUS EZ DIY

- BIOS Flashback™ button

- Clear CMOS button

- Procool II

- Pre-mounted I/O shield

- SafeSlot

AURA Sync

- ROG Aura sync backplate

- Standard RGB header(s)

- Addressable Gen 2 RGB header(s)

LiveDash OLED 2"

Back I/O Ports

1 x LAN (2.5G) port(s)

1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 port(s) (1 x USB Type-C®)

3 x USB 3.2 Gen 2

6 x USB 3.2 Gen 1

2 x USB 2.0

1 x Optical S/PDIF out

1 x Clear CMOS button(s)

1 x USB BIOS FlashBack™ Button(s)

1 x ASUS Wi-Fi Module

5 x LED-illuminated audio jacks

1 x Aquantia AQC-107 10G LAN port

Internal I/O Ports

1 x CPU Fan connector(s)

1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s)

2 x Chassis Fan connector(s)

2 x W_PUMP+ connector

1 x WB_SENSOR

8 x Radiator Fan Headers

1 x W_IN header

1 x W_OUT header

1 x W_FLOW header

1 x Node Connector(s)

1 x AAFP connector

2 x Aura RGB Strip Headers

2 x Addressable Gen 2 header(s)

2 x USB 3.2 Gen2 connector support additional USB ports

2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1(up to 5Gbps) connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 3.2 Gen 1 port(s)

2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)

1 x M.2 Socket 1 with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)

1 x M.2 Socket 2 with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE mode only)

8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)

1 x Thunderbolt header(s)

1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)

2 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)

1 x 4-pin EZ_PLUG Power connector(s)

1 x Slow Mode switch(es)

8 x ProbeIt Measurement Points

1 x Thermal sensor connector(s)

1 x BIOS Switch button(s)

1 x LN2 Mode jumper(s)

1 x Safe Boot button

1 x ReTry button

1 x System panel connector

1 x Speaker connector

1 x DIMM.2 Slot supports 2 M.2 drives (2242-22110)

2 x RSVD Switch

1 x Start button

1 x FlexKey button

Accessories

User's manual

1 x ROG logo plate sticker

3 x M.2 Screw Package

1 x MOS Cooling kit (fan bracket and 40mm x 40mm fan)

1 x Fan Extension Card II (6 x 4-pin Chassis Fan connectors, 3 x RGB headers, 3 x 2-pin Thermal sensor header)

1 x Fan Extension Card II power cable

1 x Fan Extension Card II NODE connector cable

1 x Fan Extension Card II screw package

2 x mini DisplayPort Cable

1 x ROG big sticker

1 x Q-Connector

1 x Wi-Fi Antenna(s)

1 x Extension Cable for RGB strips (80 cm)

1 x Extension cable for Addressable LED

3 x Thermistor cable(s)

1 x USB drive with utilities and drivers

8 x ROG weave SATA 6G cable

1 x ROG DIMM.2 with heatsink

1 x M.2 Pad for ROG DIMM.2

2 x 2-in-1 Rubber pad

1 x ROG Multi-Bit screwdriver

1 x THUNDERBOLTEX 3-TR Card

1 x ASUS TB header cable

1 x USB2.0 Cable

ROG key chain

BIOS

2 x 256 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS

Manageability

WOL by PME, PXE

Form Factor

Extended ATX Form Factor

12 inch x 10.9 inch ( 30.5 cm x 27.7 cm )

 

 


Packaging and Accessories

The ROG Maximus XII Extreme comes in a big a heavy box, but beyond that, the box has the same styling that all of the ROG boards have. This includes the flat black background with glossy lines in it and the brushed finish in the top right section. The model name is the largest font used on the front and they also used a holographic reflective material for it as well so it stands out on the dark background. Asus and ROG branding is in the corners and down along the bottom of the front you have the required badges from Intel that indicate this is a Z490 board and what CPUs are supported, Nvidia and AMD branding for SLI and Crossfire and then Asus includes an Aura Sync logo as well as Gamefirst which is a feature as well. The only thing I will say is that not having Z490 in the name or somewhere more visible than Intel’s small icon could make things a little confusing for anyone shopping in person. But I like the look overall, though having a picture of the board would still always be nicer IMO.

image 1Asus does include a picture of the board on the back. In fact, the main picture is two pictures so it can show the entire top of the board as the rear I/O. On both sides of that, they have a specification listing basically that lists features and has the board dimensions which is important. Up along the top, they also take a few of the key features and include pictures to go along with them.

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The box flips open with ROG branding on a display on the underside of the top and a clear plastic tray that sits on top of the board holding it in place but letting you see it as soon as you open up the box. There isn’t a static protective bag or anything in the way. The board then sits in a cardboard tray which when you lift up all of the documentation and accessories are tucked away in multiple smaller compartments with lids on them.

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All of the documentation for the Maximus XII Extreme came all packed up in its own envelope which has a small thank you on the inside. You get a user manual of course and because the board comes with a thunderboltex 3 expansion card they also include a user guide for that as well. The same goes for the Fan Extension Card II, only it is an installation guide and it is much smaller. Beyond that, you also get a sticker set which has color-coded cable labels and a bunch of ROG stickers.

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Diving into the accessories included with the Maximus XII Extreme is crazy. This is one of the things about expensive motherboards, especially from Asus. In addition to features on the board itself, you get a LOT of stuff to go with it and it isn’t all just screws and cables. Through there is a lot of that. This first badge has all of the screws for the M.2 drives, printable accessory mounting screws, and screws for things like fan mounts. But you also get a front panel helper adapter to make hooking that up easier and rather than include a DVD for software and drivers ROG uses a cool ROG USB drive for their high-end boards like this. You get an ROG logo metal case badge and they even included an ROG keychain which while not worth a lot, is a cool piece of swag that most people can put to use.

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Starting off with the biggest of the accessories that Asus included. The Maximus XII Extreme comes with a Thunderbolt add-in PCIe device. Specifically, it is the ThunderboltEX 3-TR which is different than the normal ThunderboltEX 3 that Asus sells independently. For one this is a taller card. It also really good looking with the metal shield over the top and a backplate on the back of the PCB which are both flat black and have gloss black accents. Their other card doesn’t require power where this one has a six-pin power plug on the end, just like a video card. The ThunderboltEX 3-TR has a few more ports as well. You get two Type-C connections and then two Mini DisplayPorts which add to the Maximus XII Extremes already good I/O. The original ThunderboltEX 3 sells for $70 and this is a significantly better card so it is adding a lot of value to the Maximus XII Extreme.

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That isn’t the only expansion card included with the Maximus XII Extreme, Asus also includes of their fan extension card II’s which I’ve seen on previous high-end models like their Threadripper board and X299 boards but I’ve never seen one with what would be considered a mainstream board. Then again there normally aren’t THIS high end of boards for the mainstream chipsets. The fan extension card has a power connection that uses an adapter cable for a 6 pin PCI power. Next to that are a node in and nose out ports, this is what hooked the card up to your motherboard, and with the out also available you can still hook up other Asus node devices. Then you get three sections of hookups. In total, you get six PWM fan headers which from the name you can tell is the main reason for the expansion card. Asus still goes above that with three four-pin RGB connections which are the white headers. Then three thermal sensor headers for external temperature probes. For really crazy builds, this doubles up and more for these connections or gives you an option to keep your wiring cleaning by hiding this PCB back behind things and not have as many fan headers, RGB, and thermal probe connections all over your motherboard.

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For Asus’s third and final expansion board they include one of their DIMM.2 adapters. They have used these on a lot of their boards for adding M.2 slots and in some cases, it is the only M.2 option but this specific one is a little nicer than the plain PCB cards that some of the boards come with. That is because Asus includes a heatspreader for both sizes of the card. It ends up looking like a tall stick of ram that perfectly matches the board aesthetics. This raised M.2 option is also better for cooling because it doesn’t end up trapped up under a video card and it is up into the airflow as well.

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The ROG Maximus XII Extreme does come with an Intel AX201 wireless NIC which supports WiFi 6 so it does need an external antenna. Asus went with their standard antenna, there isn’t anything different for the Maximus XII Extreme. It comes in two pieces and you have to slip them together but honestly, they still are loose. There isn’t a magnet like the other Z490 boards had and the base isn’t wide so it is easy for it to fall over.

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You get an additional fan and fan brackets. There is also a tube that comes with a sweet ROG screwdriver with different bits.

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For cables. The Maximus XII Extreme comes with a lot. You get four bags with a total of eight SATA cables. But these aren’t the standard black SATA cables, they are sleeved which is a nice upgrade. There are two DisplayPort full size to mini-DisplayPort cables for the included Thunderbolt adapter. The cable next to the DP cables is the power adapter for the fan extension card II as well as the data cable next to that. The last photo has pictures of the three thermistor cables for external temperature readings as well as an extension cable for RGB strips and an extension cable for addressable LEDs. There is also a cable for the thunderbolt add-in card as well.

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Board Layout and Pictures

The ROG Maximus XII Extreme, being Asus’s highest-end Z490 board is packed with hardware. So much so that they went with an eATX layout which is wider than standard ATX. The board measures at 12 inches tall and 10.9 inches wide. Being a high-end board it is also extremely heavy which is a combination of the multiple heatsinks and the large shield's front and back but also higher-end boards like this tend to have thicker PCBs with a higher copper percentage as well. This board specifically has an 8 layer PCB, the Aorus Master and MSI Carbon that I’ve taken a look at both had 6 layers. It all adds up to a board that will surprise you when you pick it up, even before you install any hardware on it. It has the standard flat black PCB but from the top point of view, you can hardly see the PCB at all. It is covered in heatsinks which are all in a flat black aluminum with V shape gives in the top with the exception of the mirror finish on the chipset cooler. Overall the board looks mostly blacked out with mirror finishes used as accents

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Like I mentioned before, the ROG Maximus XII Extreme has a lot of passive cooling built-in in the form of heatsinks. SO much so that they make the board extremely heavy. This includes three different heatsinks that are around the CPU socket. These are tied together with a heatpipe and all three help handle the VRMs and power circuitry. The Maximus XII Extreme has 16 Vcore VRMs which are teamed, as well as two VCCSA’s and two VCCIO but Asus did decide to skip out on any for the onboard GPU as well which if you think about it using a $750 motherboard with onboard video does seem a little crazy. 16 is a little crazy as well, but it does match the highest end board from Gigabyte but overall is most likely more than should be needed. The three heatsinks for power circuitry have grooves cut into them for additional cooling as well as an extruded shape that adds groves on the sides as well.

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The cover of the rear I/O is also integrated into the cooling as well and it is aluminum, not plastic like all of the other boards. It also has the mirror finish at the top and bottom where they have the model name. There is also a small strip of addressable RGB lighting up under the Maximus XII branding that ties in with the rest of the board's lighting.

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The rest of the cooling covers up nearly the entire bottom half of the board. This includes the chipset cooler which is on the right side with a black finish and a mirror ROG logo cut into it. Then on the left, there is one large removable panel that covers all of the M.2 slots and helps distribute their heat. The left side is thick aluminum with a flat black finish with the exception of three of the ribs that have a chrome finish.

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So let's take a closer look at the board features a little closer to see what all is hidden starting up in the top left ¼ of the board. This area is always packed full with the rear I/O and the CPU socket but with the three heatsinks, it is tighter than ever, not to mention the I/O cover also hanging up over top of the VRM cooler. Below all of that there is a reflective area and Asus integrated one of their Livedash OLEDs. Asus has been putting these on their more expensive boards for a while now but they are getting bigger and bigger. I will say I did notice that ours came in damaged in the right corner but the screen itself works well. It can show post codes and temperatures as well as other information like frequencies, other temperatures, and even gifs or images. Being up above the video card it should be visible in a traditional vertical case layout as well. Up on the top edge, they also have a four-pin fan header that sits next to the two CPU power connections which are two 8-pin power plugs. These are Asus’s Procool II connections which have that metal shielding around the outside and pins that are solid and they say fit tighter. Loose connections cause additional heat and that heat will melt things down when you are pushing the limits.

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In the top right, we start getting into a lot more, but before that, I have to point out just how packed every bit of the OCB is in between everything. Like between the four DDR4 DIMM slots (which have metal shielding as well as the single latch design that Asus likes to use) and the DIMM.2 slot. The DIMM.2 slot works with the included riser card to give the ROG Maximus XII Extreme two more M.2 slots which are out away from the heat and more in line with airflow. Do up on the top edge the two white headers are for RGB lighting, one is a four-pin traditional RGB connection and the other is a three-pin for addressable RGBs. There are two PWM fan headers to the left for the CPU and optional CPU fans and then there are FOUR more in the top right corner which are labeled for radiator fans. Just below that there is a POST code display in addition to the livedash which does the same and right above that if you look close you can see four surface mounted LEDs that light up during the boot process to give you a clue if you have a boot failure. Then between that and the 24-pin motherboard power connection you -will find a whole array of switches and buttons. The three switches turn on overclocking features for LN2 like slow mode. There is also a jumper next to those for LN2 mode. Then below that is the large backlit start button for power and a flax button which is also backlit that can be programmed to do multiple things. The small buttons are for safe boot and a retry button that will reboot with your previously failed overclock. Then down at the bottom, there are two of the new USB 3.2 Type-C headers.

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Down in the bottom right portion, we once again have a large heatsink covering up a lot of the board. But along the right edge, there are eight SATA ports which all face out at a right and then two USB 3.2 headers that do the same as well. There is also a 4-pin PWM fan header as well. Then down on the bottom edge, you will see another whole line of 4-pin fan headers. This is the water cooling zone as they call it and you have four more fan headers and two water pump headers as well which when combined with the others (these are the last we will find) far puts us up to 14. Which is more than I’ve ever seen. I’ve built systems where I had to add fan breakout boards to power the fans, I wish I had 14 back then! Also in the water cooling zone are a pair of 2-pin headers for water in and out temperature readings and a three-pin header next to those which is for a water flow sensor. The front I/O connection is in the far right corner and Asus did include their Q connect to make that easier but it does also have labels under the header if needed. The small button in that area is the BIOS switch which has two LEDs next to it to show you which BIOS chip you are currently running on. There is another 2-pin thermal sensor plug in black as well. Along the bottom on the left, there are two USB 2.0 headers, which I have to admit is good to see with there still being devices like fan controllers and lighting that sometimes used them. Then the Asus Node connection can be used with a few Asus devices but specifically for this board, you would most likely use it for the fan extension card II which gets you six fan headers, three temperature probe headers, and three RGB headers that can all be hooked up back behind your motherboard tray. Now I’m sure you are wondering why you would want this with the 14 fan headers the board already has, well you could be building a wind tunnel or hovercraft or maybe you just want to keep your wiring cleaner and hide it all.

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Last but far from least we have the bottom left portion of the Maximus XII Extreme. This of course has the big heatsink that covers the M.2 ports which I will touch on in a second. But that also goes around all of the PCIe slots and you might think a crazy board like this might have 10 maybe 20 PCIe slots but Asus has kept things simple, mostly thanks to Intel’s lack of CPU lanes with just three slots. Up top is a x4 slot that has a unique design that Asus likes to use which is open-ended and could technically fit a longer card if that big heatsink didn’t black that. Then there are two x16 length slots which are spaced out with two slots between them so even with a 2.5 slot video card there will be a little airflow room between it and the bottom slot. Now all three slots are PCIe 3.0 which is what Z490 officially supports. Asus isn’t marketing PCIe 4.0 support, but they have at least confirmed that many of their Z490 boards “have been engineered with PCIe 4.0 readiness” and I would like to think their flagship would be included in that readiness. The lane breakdown is x4 for the top x4 slot and the first x16 slot gets full x16 if the bottom slot isn’t in use and if they are both being used they both get x8 which is the standard layout on most Z490 boards. Down on the bottom edge, there are also a few more connections. Namely the front panel audio connection on the left and the TB header next to it. There is a Molex power connection for feeding additional power to the PCIe slots and then two more RGB headers, one being a four-pin traditional style and one 3 pin addressable. Which gives the Extreme a total of two normal RGB headers on the board, three more on the fan extension card and two addressable RGB headers as well so if lighting is your thing you should be good to go!

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Taking the M.2 heatsink and shield off is only a few screws away. Pulled off you can see that the heatsink does use thermal pads to help the thermal connection. They also have both M.2 slots in that large gap between the two PCIe x16 slots which does mean both are up under any large video cards you use and that heat from the video card will affect them. The DIMM.2 riser card is the better choice. Both are PCI 3.0 and x4 as well as the DIMM.2 slots as well but only the top M.2 slot also supports SATA as well. Those are getting rarer to see with cheaper NVMe drives being available for a while now.

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For onboard audio, everything is covered up including the controller down at the bottom. Asus did still split everything on to its own separated PCB with the resin gap between them. It also has an ESS ES9023P DAC capable of 112db DNR /-94dB THD+N. They are running the S1220 Codec which along with the DAC provides 10 channels to allow the rear 7.1 playback, an independent 2.0 channel, and multiple stream stereo to the front panel as well at the same time. The gold Nichicon CAPS aren’t visible but they are up under the shield as well. They also went with switching MOSFETS that allows impedance sensing to be used on the rear jacks or the front panel connection.

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The back of the Maximus XII Extreme has a large metal backplate which helps protect it from damage and adds even more strength (and weight) to the board. But the bottom right corner is still left uncovered so we can still see the split PCB for the onboard audio well here and the black PCB which looks packed even on this side with all of the traces visible.

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The rear I/O is one of those make it or break it areas for me. I personally have to have a lot of USB connections and a lot of expensive boards skimp in that area to make room for more marketing tag lines. Asus didn’t do that here though, in fact, they completely cut out onboard video and opened up more room for USB ports. You get two full stacks of ports, six of which are blue USB 3.2 ports. The two black ports are older USB 2.0 and one has the BIOS name next to it because this is the port you use when you want to update your BIOS without even having a CPU or memory installed. You use the BIOS button which is on the left. Also with that is the clear CMOS button which is nice to have on the outside of your build. Over in the middle, there are two USB Type-C connections which are nice to see. Not just the one that most boards have (plus the two headers inside as well and two more on the included Thunderbolt 3 card). The bottom right Type-C is a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 or a superspeed 20Gbps port which is the fastest USB port you can get (and still have the speed of the two Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports on the included card). Then the other Type-C is a normal SuperSpeed 10 or Gen 2 port. The two red Type-A plugs are also Gen 2 as well. Above that are two network ports. The one on the left is a 10G NIC running on the Marvell AQtion AQC107 10Gb NIC and the other is the stock Intel I225-V 2.5G NIC that comes with Z490. Next to that are the two WiFi 6 antenna plugs which run on the Intel AX201 controller. Then on the far right is the audio layout which looks a little cramped but is a normal 5+optical layout. Each plug is labeled and has gold connections but when the board is powered up they also have color-coded LEDs inside which are amazingly helpful in the dark at a LAN or back behind your PC under your desk.

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BIOS

We used to get lots of pictures to show some of the BIOS functionality but I’ve found that it is a lot easier just to have a video clicking through all of the options where you can pause and check anything out. When you first boot into the BIOS on the Maximus XII Extreme you are dropped right into the advanced mode which given the high-end nature of the board isn’t too big of a deal. I normally hate that a lot of the boards have an easy mode but then don’t start you there so this is an exception. The main page lists off the BIOS version as well as information on what CPU you are running and memory with just the system language and date and time settings being things you can change. Asus does have the EZMode option on this and every page as well as a hardware monitor over on the right that lists off clock speeds, temperatures, and voltages as you change things. Then up top you can get into the Qfan control, AI overclocking, and Aura lighting where you can turn things on and off without installing any extra software.

It is the extreme tweaker tab up top which is where Asus had focused all of the overclocking options altogether. Right up top, you can see if LN2 mode is on or off and see the CPU target frequency as well as the DRAM and cache. From there they have XMP up at the top and the most basic overclocking options like BCLK and PCIe frequency as well as the MCE or multicore enhancement option which does some auto overclocking on its own. Scrolling down from there you get into memory overclocking options and then you run into multiple pages that can be opened up. This is where Asus starts to get crazy with the level of detail you can get into with your overclocking. They split the advanced features up by the are so memory, the VRM, internal CPU power, V/F Point Offset, Tweakers Paradise, and AI Features. There is a reason this board's BIOS video is three times longer than any of the others, every single tiny thing has an option. Most come set to auto of course but the option to dive in deeper is there and frankly, it is way beyond my capabilities even. Even the AI options help you let the AI know how good your cooling is and to tell it how crazy to get when it comes to power usage.

The advanced tab gets you a full-page list of other pages you can open up and like with the overclocking options Asus goes well above and beyond compared to the other boards for options. You can dive into CPU specific features or different platform-specific things like the USB, PCI subsystem, network cards, PCH, and the Thunderbolt card configuration as well. You can relabel all of the ports and turn each off as well to speed things up all the way down to individual USB ports which can be turned on and off as well. All of the other devices like the onboard audio, specific NICs, and USB controllers can also be turned on and off as well.

The monitor tab up top lists off every single sensor available which includes all voltages, temperatures, fan speeds, flow rates, etc. You can also get into a special Q fan config here as well which lets you add some of the water cooling headers into Q fan. You can also set up profiles per fan for things like base speeds, wrap up and ramp down times and set different fan profiles per fan. Q Fan itself also lets you tune those profiles completely and lets you select which thermal sensor you want to use to control the fans which is nice. Not everything needs to go off of CPU temperatures. In fact, sometimes your CPU may not be under load but something like your GPU may be.

The boot tab is simpler than the rest but it does have what you would expect. You can select boot options and override boot options immediately as well. You can also set up secure boot options. Then next to that is the tool tab which is where Asus has tucked away a few important tools like their EZFlash 3 utility used to reflash the BIOS. You can also do secure erases on hard drives and get into options for the armoury crate which lets you turn it on and off. On one hand, the armoury crate is helpful for anyone who doesn’t know how to install drives and software. But if you don’t want to use it, it's nice to turn off and not get the in windows popups.

I did also jump into the EZMode to check it out. You get a simple page with all of the important info like temperatures all visible. You can see which fans are hooked up as well as memory slots. Then you have drag and drop options for the boot priority, a drop down to turn on XMP, and a quick option to turn AI overclocking on and off. Basically everything someone who isn’t experienced might look to change.

 


Test Rig and Procedures

 

Test System

CPU: Intel Core-i9 10900K – Live Pricing

Cooling: Noctua NH-U12S for cooling - Live Pricing

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste - Live Pricing

    Memory:     Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB 16GB 3000 MHz – Live Pricing

Storage:     WD Black SN750 1TB – 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

 

     

Motherboard Testing

Passmark Performance Test 9.0

Overall PCMark score

PCMark 10

PCMark 10 standard test, not the quick or extended versions

3DMark

We run the 2013 Fire Strike test on the performance setting and Time Spy on its regular setting

In Game Tests

The Division 2

1080p, In-Game benchmark, Ultra detail with v sync turned off

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands

1080p, built-in benchmark run at the high setting

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

1080p, In-Game benchmark, High detail setting

Far Cry 5

1080p, In-Game benchmark, High detail setting

Subsystem Testing

Passmark

Passmark Advanced network test

VRM Temps

Temperatures tested using a Flir One Pro while running AIDA64 stress test on the FPU setting


Performance

For testing, I have been saying for years that motherboard benchmarks don’t hold much weight because you are still using the same CPU, memory, and GPU and those are what play big roles in how fast your PC is. But I do run a few tests just to make sure everything is running the way it should and it also lets us see what the system can do. In this case, it is the i9-10900K and an RTX 2080 which is a potent combination. While I test with MCE turned off, we can also get a look to see if any of the boards are going significantly beyond the “standard specs”. The Maximus XII Extreme did step out ahead of the other two boards in 3DMark Fire Strike on the overall score but it was right with the MSI on the CPU dependent physics score with the Aorus board, on the other hand, sticking out like a sore thumb showing they are running a little hot even without MCE. Time spy was similar but PCMark 10 had all three boards in the same range. Passmark on the other hand again had the Aorus sticking out with the other boards right together. The in game tests didn’t have as much of an issue, the Extreme did well.

So I set out to test the one aspect that does have some variation, network performance. For this one, I tested a few different ways. I tested the WiFi of course which given all three boards have the same controller it shows how good or bad the antenna performed which in this case the Asus antenna could use some improvement. I also tested the wired networks and with more than one NIC I did test both the 10G Aquantia NIC and the Intel 2.5G. I also did something a little unusual and tested them on a 1G network because this is our main network and this is also how most users will be using 2.5G and 10G until they are available more in home routers and switches are cheaper. The Maximus XII Extreme was a hair lower than the two other boards but not enough to be a concern. I also finally setup a basic way to test the higher speeds going PC to PC without a switch until we get one in for future testing. The Aquantia 10G was right up there at 9488 Mb/s and the Intel NIC wasn’t far from 2.5G with 2375 Mb/s as well.

3DMark – Fire Strike

Motherboard

Overall Score

Graphics Score

Physics Score

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

20727

23120

29879

Z490 Aorus Master

20396

22915

31001

ROG Maximus XII Extreme

21168

23177

29574

3DMark – Time Spy

Motherboard

Overall Score

Graphics Score

CPU Score

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

11179

10907

13021

Z490 Aorus Master

11142

10807

13524

ROG Maximus XII Extreme

11175

10874

13261

PCMark 10 Score

Motherboard

Overall Score

Essentials

Productivity

Content Creation

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

8041

11286

9964

12548

Z490 Aorus Master

7878

11298

9342

12570

ROG Maximus XII Extreme

7978

11169

9894

12471

Passmark PerformanceTest 10.0 - Overall Score

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

8981.5

Z490 Aorus Master

9129.2

ROG Maximus XII Extreme

8921.1

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands – High Detail - Average FPS

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

114.24

Z490 Aorus Master

113.15

ROG Maximus XII Extreme

113.98

Shadow of the Tomb Raider – High Detail - Average FPS

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

150

Z490 Aorus Master

148

ROG Maximus XII Extreme

149

Far Cry 5 – High Detail - Average FPS

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

147

Z490 Aorus Master

149

ROG Maximus XII Extreme

146

Average Network Speed- Wired on a 1G Network - Mbits/Sec

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi - Realtek RTL8125B

950.9

Z490 Aorus Master – I225-V

950.9

ROG Maximus XII Extreme – I225-V

949.4

ROG Maximus XII Extreme – Aquantia 10G

947.4

Average Network Speed – WiFi 6 - Mbits/Sec

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi – Intel AX201

616.5

Z490 Aorus Master – Intel AX201

811.7

ROG Maximus XII Extreme – Intel AX201

614.6

Average Network Speed – wired on 10G Network - Mbits/Sec

ROG Maximus XII Extreme – Intel AX201

2375

ROG Maximus XII Extreme – Aquantia 10G

9488

VRM Temperatures

On Heatsink

On VRM

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

131.1F

159.7F

Z490 Aorus Master

139.6F

161.1F

ROG Maximus XII Extreme

109.9F

113.7F

           


I did also run AIDA64’s FPU Stress Test long enough to get the VRMs nice and toasty and I then took a few thermal images. I wanted to see if there were any hotspots on the Maximus XII Extreme and at the same time to see how hot the VRM cooling was and how hot the area around the VRM in general was. What I found was that the triple heatsink design was working well. The overall temperatures were significantly lower than the other boards. You can also see how the heat does reach out to on the cover over the rear I/O which helps with cooling to a lesser extent as well. Beyond that, there weren’t any hot spots on the rest of the board.

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other 2

While I had a camera out I was also checking out all of the lighting on the board. RGB lighting for some is extremely important and for others, it is a waste of money. The Maximus XII Extreme does have more lighting than most other Asus boards although at first glance it isn’t all noticeable. The rear I/O cover has a hidden strip that lights up, as does the chipset cooler with a similar design. The chipset cooler also has the large ROG logo that lights up as well. The power and programable buttons both light up to make them easier to see and of course, you have the POST LED readout as well. But I was surprised by the full underglow that the Maximus XII Extreme has with addressable lighting around where the backplate is.

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other 4

other 5

other 6

Then there is of course that large Livedash OLED screen below the CPU and above the PCIe slots. You can see that while running it settled on showing us our CPU temperature but what it displays can be changed even as far as showing custom pictures and animations. For example, if you give your PC a name you could have it show here or your own username.

other 7

 


Overall and Final Verdict

In the past, the highest-end boards for Intel’s mainstream lineup of CPUs have been closer to a mid-range board when you start comparing them with Intel’s higher-end x299 chipset but things have changed this time around. Along with the 10 cores and high clock speeds of the i9-10900K, the new Z490 chipset has a full range of boards now including boards like the ROG Maximus XII Extreme that I am taking a look at today and Asus has gone full-on crazy packing this thing full of features. They have learned from the past when it comes to the VRMs, going what I would consider to be overboard with 16 + 2 + 2 and their cooling which while it isn’t a sheet metal style of cooler like I would prefer still did a good job of keeping things cool. The cooling also ends up helping with the styling as well, when the rear I/O cover is integrated and the chipset cooler ties into an M.2 heatsink that covers most of the bottom half of the board.

The number of options available in the BIOS was intimidating. You can overclock and tweak with all of the normal stuff but if you want to push the limits they have pages and pages of fine details that you can get into. But it is all of the connection options that sets the Maximus Extreme apart, especially once you add in the DIMM.2 riser card that adds two more M.2 slots for a total of 4, the Thunderbolt 3 card that gives you two 40Gbps Type-C connections, and the fan extender that adds three more RGB connections to total 7 and 6 more fan headers for a whopping 20 fan headers in total! Then you have dual front panel Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2 headers on the board as well as dual 3.2 and 2.0 headers as well and all of the rear I/O options. This is one of those rare boards that I wouldn’t need to run USB hubs like I do currently. You also get a proper 10G NIC on top of the Intel 2.5G and the LED lit audio connections on the rear I/O.

Now even a high-end board can have issues. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the two main M.2 slots being up under where you would install your video card. Thankfully the DIMM.2 gives you another option there. The plastic on our LiveDash display which is the OLED display right on the board that shows status information, postcodes, and pictures/animations came in chipped. But that was a small issue. The WiFi antenna on the other hand was surprisingly cheap given the quality of everything else and when I tested the wireless there were other Z490 boards that did perform faster even with the same wireless NIC.

I also can’t write about a $750 motherboard without considering the price to be expensive. That could be a full PC. When you have other Z490 boards running at nearly a ¼ of the price you do have to look at this as a rather exclusive and limited market product. That isn’t to say that Asus doesn’t include a lot with the board in accessories, swag, board quality, and of course features. But clearly, this is only really for those crazy money doesn’t matter to me builds or people who need the quality and all of the overclocking adjustability in the BIOS. Often branding like ultra, super, and extreme gets used too much. But this time around having Extreme in the name is fitting.

fv5editorschoice

Live Pricing: HERE

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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