7th Gen CPUs are here and ASUS has a host of new motherboards to take advantage of the latest Intel Z270 chipset.
ASUS has made the wise move to simplify their product lines to make our lives easier. The Z170 launch had every combination of “gaming”, “pro” and random numbers to make choosing a motherboard a bigger pain than it should have been.
Republic of Gamers are the elite boards, the stuff overclocked dreams are made of. They’re also packed with every feature ASUS can reasonably support, like EK waterblocks, extra power connectors for extreme overclocking and much more. Of course, ROG also continues the RGB 12v LEDs ASUS started on their Z170 Formula board exactly one year ago.
The new ROG Maximus IX boards include the Z270 Apex with a crazy anormal PCB shape, the Formula (shown) with EK waterblock cooling and thermal armor, The Code which is like the Formula minus the liquid, and finally the more toned down Hero.
See the ROG board in action-
Here, ASUS has chosen four lines with a total of 30 motherboards between them. Let’s break it down.
Strix is ROG-lite and part of ASUS’s attempt to brand Strix as core enthusiast line. You probably know the Strix GTX 1080 is currently ASUS’s top graphics card, that is until an ROG GTX comes out to take the crown and complete the lineup. The Strix boards, while not as extreme as the ROG boards, are probably going to be the most popular -- they look killer, feature the same software as the top ROGs and are priced right.
ASUS (like almost every manufacturer this year) ditched colors, save for the forest camo of the TUF line. So no red or copper accents -- it’s all black, white and RGBs. Myself and many others voiced their opinion for neutral colors to match custom builds and it seems ASUS listened.
Unlike the ROG series, the Strix boards have different letters to signify different boards. The top board is the Z270E which features DDR4 RAM up to 3866MHz (rather than 4133MHz of the ROGs), SupremeFX audio with an all new ESS Sabre DAC and amp, as well as a front USB-C header and all kinds of other upgrades.
The Z270F deletes wifi and the front USB-C header. The Z270G pops the board size down to mATX while the Z270I covers ITX sizes and includes a cool M.2 heat sink. There’s also the Z270H which is full ATX but even more toned down on the feature front.
The TUF series is like a parallel line to Strix. TUF dials back some of the RGB light show to focus on durability and longevity. Sure, there are still some LEDs on the board, but the real focus is on thermal management and beastly features for quasi-industrial use.
The two main boards are the Mark 1 and Mark 2. The TUF Mark 1 has the thermal armor with tiny hatches to add fans as well as caps to block off unused PCIe slots. The Mark 2 continues the digi camo theme but deletes the thermal armor. The “Sabertooth” brand has been shelved in favor of the Iron Man “mark” nomenclature. Maybe Marvel got to them.
Finally, the Prime Series replaces the ASUS Pro Gaming line of budget boards. Prime boards are easily identified by the white shrouds, similar to the X99 Deluxe II which, at $420, is hardly an entry-level board.
The “dash A” aka Z270-A is going to be the real seller and it’s hard to beat the features included in the entry level -- 12v RGB headers, 3866MHz RAM speeds, USB3.1 and all the same overclocking, fan and audio software found on the higher end boards.
The Primes save a few bucks by skipping the expensive ESS Sabre DACs, LEDs in every last corner, thermal armor, front USB-C headers and the like.
Let's Talk Looks
The new ASUS boards are simply the best-looking boards ASUS has released. Sure, special edition boards in the past had fancy looks, but the latest gen Strix with it hologram logo and angled heatsinks looks excellent.
More importantly, ASUS (like almost every manufacturer this year) ditched colors, save for the forest camo of the TUF line. So no red or copper accents -- it’s all black, white and RGBs. Myself and many others voiced their opinion for neutral colors to match custom builds and it seems ASUS listened.
Audio Around Back
A new change for ASUS is the inclusion of the DAC and amp on the back of the motherboard. Previously, the fancy audio equipment only worked on the front audio header. So if you plugged your high ohm audiophile headphones into the back, you’d have a bad time.
Now, the killer ESS Sabre DAC (and amp) powers both the front and back jacks.
More importantly, this means ASUS’s Sonic Suite 2 works to adjust the gain relative to the headphone ohms. When plugging in my Sennheiser HD 650s, Sonic Suite detects they’re 300 ohms and sets the gain to “high.”
ASUS’s latest offerings are pretty impressive and, thankfully, a lot less confusing than last time around. Expect to see Strix boards popping up in lots of killer RGB builds and, of course, ROG topping out some insane rigs.
Photos By: Denise Damian