ASUS' ROG website introduced an updated member this week - a new motherboard based on Intel's Z170 which comes with a factory-installed CrossChill EK hybrid cooling block from EKWB for the power delivery. The Maximus VIII Formula platform belongs to the Republic of Gamers (ROG) family and is intended for enthusiasts with custom-built liquid cooling systems as well as for demanding gamers. This sounds similar to previous motherboard designs with combination air/water cooling, except previous versions by motherboard manufacturers are typically done in-house. For this model, ASUS and known water-cooling firm EKWB has teamed up to combine resources and product into one to satisfy customers who typically employ high-end multi-stage water cooling.

The factory-installed CrossChill EK hybrid-cooling block from EKWB has standard G1/4-in threading and covers the VRM as well as some other parts of the motherboard. This means 10-phase power delivery, a custom power controller, solid-state inductors, MOSFETs with extended durability and the power delivery also comes with solid-state 10K hour titanium capacitors. According to the marketing materials, the CrossChill EK can reduce MOSFET temperatures by up to 23˚C when in a cooling loop. This has potential benefits for overclockers or users who like cool and quiet systems. 

Since the Maximus VIII Formula is intended for high-end gaming machines, it has a multitude of storage connectors, including one U.2 port for SSDs next to the SATA ports, similar to the Maximus VIII Extreme, Z170-WS and the Impact (we reviewed the Impact this week), which operates at PCIe 3.0 x4 supporting Intel's SSD 750 drives with NVMe. Aside from U.2, there is one PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 connector for SSDs (2242 to 22110 are supported), two SATA Express connectors and eight SATA 6Gbps ports for storage devices (two of these use an ASMedia ASM1061 controller).

The motherboard is equipped with Intel’s Alpine Ridge USB 3.1 controller that enables one USB 3.1 type-A and one USB 3.1 type-C connector on the rear panel. In addition, the mainboard supports ten USB 3.0 ports (six rear, two headers) and four USB 2.0 ports (two headers). Even though ASUS uses Intel’s Alpine Ridge chip, it does not declare full support for the Thunderbolt 3 technology at this time. (Both the Impact and Extreme use Alpine Ridge as well, and ASUS has formally declared that the Extreme does Thunderbolt 3, but the Impact will not, due to signaling.)

The Maximus VIII Formula also features a Intel's I219-V gigabit Ethernet chip with ROG software for network traffic prioritization; a 2x2 Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac controller with MU-MIMO (most likely the same Qualcomm Atheros QCA61x4A we saw on the Impact); 8-channel audio powered by Realtek's ALC1150 codec in SupremeFX dressing (PCB separation of analog/digital signals, ESS ES9023P digital-to-analog converter (DAC), shielded audio circuits and a 2VRMS headphone amplifier capable of driving headphones from 32 to 600 ohms). The board features a standard complement of four DDR4 slots (up to DDR4-3733 modules are officially supported), two PCIe 3.0 slots for graphics (x16 or x8/x8), a PCIe 3.0 x4 slot from the PCH (AMD GPUs can be used for Crossfire) and three PCIe x1 slots for add-in-cards, two of which are open ended.

Like other ASUS Republic of Gamers generations, the Maximus VIII Formula sits between the Extreme and the Impact/Gene, designed primarily for gamers due to some hardware choices (SupremeFX) and the software package, but also for overclockers and system builders. The motherboard also comes with a backside plate for reinforcement (it turns out that the Sabertooth line that uses these is well received) as well as with RGB lights to allow users to pursue other color schemes than just black and red. ASUS isn't the first to do LED lighting, but it seems that as their primarily gaming focused board, the Impact has to have them as it is competing against high end gaming models from MSI and GIGABYTE. 

Although the ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Formula is one of the most feature-rich Intel Z170-based motherboards available, it is not officially the company’s top-of-the-range offering. Back in October the manufacturer introduced its Maximus VIII Extreme, which is more focused for overclocking with more PCIe slots for graphics cards (x8/x4/x4 with another x4 for quad-CrossFire) and an external overclocking console included in the bundle. While the Maximus VIII Formula is not going to cost the same as the Extreme at $500, it is expected fit in that $400-$500 bracket. If it gets full TB3 validation, it would be another plus point to note. We expect full US launch details during CES, as well as a look at the board in action.

Source: ASUS

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  • jasonelmore - Thursday, December 31, 2015 - link

    Who here wants to bet it's gonna be a $400 board?

    It's amazing looking, i give it that. But Formula boards are specifically marketed as Gamer boards and are usually around the $329 range.

    Its getting really expensive to stay a ROG fan, but they do keep pushing the limits.
  • Parablooper - Thursday, December 31, 2015 - link

    ...the limits of superfluous motherboard design
  • Flunk - Thursday, December 31, 2015 - link

    ASUS did start releasing "Gaming" boards that slot in under the RoG line for price conscientious consumers. When they started putting the plastic cladding on everything I think they really jumped from "all the features you can pack on a board" to "all the features you can pack on a board whether or not they make any sense".
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, January 2, 2016 - link

    Not exactly. They put in the Thunderbolt 3 chip but didn't make it work.
  • jasonelmore - Saturday, January 2, 2016 - link

    The ROG hero should not be the only Sub $300 board they make tho... Asus needs more boards at the $300 range, and not all of these $370-$500 models. Hell, we can't even buy the chips i7's at MSRP, and it looks like we wont see a MSRP 6700K until kaby lakes about to come out lol.
  • jmantoo - Sunday, January 3, 2016 - link

    ROG doesn't need to do anything that's not their market. Asus boards already cover that segment. ROG is design for higher end gamers and enthusiasts. Bu I would guess since the Formula VII as at $329 at release it will be closer to that number than $400.
  • jasonelmore - Sunday, January 3, 2016 - link

    Their Competitors gaming series motherboard are almost always a flat $100 cheaper, with the same components, minus the proprietary TPU and OC panel stuff.

    They need to price at least in the same ballpark or they won't sell to many boards.

    I'm glad you think it will be $329, but i'm sorry, it'll never be that cheap.. When MSRP is announced we shall come back here and see who was right.

    Look at Maximus VI Extreme Price vs Maximus VIII Extreme... $100 difference And the older VI had Expensive PLX chips and 4 way SLI support, and the new VIII does not, yet is $100 more MSRP at launch.
  • Gadgety - Thursday, December 31, 2015 - link

    I like that there preinstalled waterblock version of motherboards both to save time, minimize potential damage during install, and having a full warranty. Great.
  • Gadgety - Thursday, December 31, 2015 - link

    *there are... versions...
  • Chaitanya - Friday, January 1, 2016 - link

    Compared to this crap, Asus's very own Hero Alpha has a better feature set.

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