Motherboard and Video card
The meat and potatoes of the build are the motherboard and video card and as you might have guessed they are both Asus ROG. For the motherboard, I went with our ROG Maximus XII Extreme which is a Z490 motherboard and one of the craziest Z490 boards available. The Helios case supports the E-ATX form factor and ROG to me is extreme so why not go with the biggest badest one available on the chipset we were going with. I reviewed this board back in June so I’m not diving into all of the features. Frankly, we just don’t have time because there are so many. Check out the full review for that. Today I’m just going to run through a few pictures/features. The packaging still has the red and black theme of course, but I do wish this one had a real picture of the board on the front like most of the other ROG products have. The back of the box does have a few pictures though including zoomed in pictures of a few of the main features.
I think what I like the most about Asus’s highest-end motherboards and this isn’t something they seem to do with their high-end video cards anymore. But when you buy an expensive ROG motherboard you get a whole collection of accessories and even some swag. This board came with a sweet keychain, a USB drive, stickers, and so much more. That doesn’t even include the add-in boards that also come with it like the Thunderbolt 3 PCI adapter that adds more USB Type-C connections including a full speed Thunderbolt 3 connection. You also get a fan expansion board which adds six more PWM headers as well as three thermal sensor plugs to go with the included thermal sensors and three more RGB plugs which is nice on a build like this where you can hook the case and power supply up into the lighting. Then they have their DIMM.2 card which looks like a stick of memory because it comes with a nice black aluminum heatspreader. This adds two more M.2 slots to the board and keeps them up and away from all of the heat.
Like I said before, there are just too many features on the Maximus XII Extreme to go through in this build article. But Asus has it completely packed pull of headers and connections. You can see every open area that doesn’t have a heatsink is full, which is why they have additional break out boards. The number of PWM fan headers on this one is nutty with 14 in total. I’ve had issues in the past even with normal builds not having enough plugs for fans, even the Crushed build uses PWM splitters for two sets of fans to make everything work and that build only has 5 fans. You get two of the new Type-C headers, two USB 3.2, and two USB 2.0. Every plug, memory DIMM, and PCI slot has a metal shield to cut down interference and to hold tighter. Then there is an OLED screen below the CPU. For overclocking, it is all there including LN2 modes and voltage pickups for your multimeter. Even the back of the board has an almost full metal backplate as well.
For cooling they didn’t skimp, the VRM heatsinks are huge and also integrate into the metal rear I/O cover. Then most of the rest of the board is integrated into the chipset cooler and the M.2 heatsinks which all have a nice mirror finish on them.
Then for the rear I/O, this might be the only board that has everything I want to see. You get two stacks of four USB 3.2 plugs. Then there are four Gen 2 ports, two are Type-A and two are Type-C which is great. It has the normal Intel 2.5G NIC but they also include a full 10G NIC as well. Then WiFi6 is over on the side next to the audio connections which are all gold plated and have LED lighting built inside each plug that lights up the color of the plug it is to make it easy to spot even in the dark. Also over on the left, you have an easy to reach clear CMOS button and a BIOS button for updating the BIOS with a flash drive, even with no CPU.
Now for the video card, we have an Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 Ti. This card was planned for this build long before the new Nvidia cards came out or the AMD cards were announced. But more importantly, it is the biggest most badass Asus ROG card I have at this time due to the limited availability of anything and everything. This is the only ROG product that doesn’t stick with the same old black and red theme really and that is because it is a Strix card. It has the ROG logo with the rainbow/neon look in the background and it does at least include a picture on the front as well. Like all of the others, the back does have more detailed pictures and diagrams that help detail some of its features. Asus even included a line drawing of the rear I/O which is nice so in the store, you know what cables will work with it. When you open it up you have the card wrapped up in a static protective bag and sitting in a foam tray. With it, you get ROG Velcro wire ties and there is a top foam panel that has a small box with the documentation in it.
Now, this is a big card, in length, height, and thickness. But overall it still has the same ROG cooler design that Asus has been using for a while with its angular shapes and integrated lighting. I love that they use the RGB lighting as an accent on the front, not just for branding. Of course, the back of the card has a huge backlit ROG logo, so I can’t give them TOO much credit. It has three axial fans blowing down into the huge heatsink to keep the 2080 Ti cool. Like everything else ROG, it is all blacked out including the PCI bracket and the backplate as well which is made of thick aluminum, not the thin sheet metal that some cards get.
The side view gives a better idea of the thickness of the card and you can also see inside of the shroud how much of that space is filled with the heatsink. The plastic shroud has metal brackets up top and on the bottom that help hold it in place. Overall the card weighs more than the Founders Edition cards which have thick cast shrouds. The PCI bracket has wide vents for some of the air that might go in that direction, but most will go out the top and bottom. Then for connections, it has two DisplayPort, two HDMI, and one VirtualLink type-C connection which has already vanished sadly. On the other end, Asus also slips in two PWM fan headers and one RGB header. This is unique to them and more cards should have this. These let you plug in fans to control the fan speed of case fans dependent on the GPU temps, not your CPU temps. So if you have a fan that blows near the GPU this is a good way to keep things cool. The RGB header just adds another Aura controlled plug, which if you have an older board might not have any or enough RGB headers if you are crazy about your lighting.