Asus Maximus VIII Ranger Motherboard Review
   
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Asus Maximus VIII Ranger Motherboard Review

November 30th, 2015 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

So MSI and ASRock have had a stab at the best Z170 based motherboard we’ve seen so far, but now it’s the turn of heavy hitter Asus. The Asus Maximus VII Ranger impressed me some nine months ago, but it wasn’t the perfect partner back then, have Asus upped their Game even further, I guess we shall see. This then is the latest Asus Ranger the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger a Z170 based motherboard ready for the latest Intel Skylake processors. The Maximus VIII Ranger is obviously equipped with an LGA1151 socket, and is also equipped with four DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of Dual channel RAM with speeds up to 3400MHz (OC). In addition to this the board supports both Nvidia’s SLI and AMD’s Crossfire multi-card technologies. There’s also a single M.2 socket supporting both SATA and PCIe (something missing from the previous board) with support for speeds up to 32GB/s. The back IO panel also features USB 2.0, 3.0 and 3.1 with the latter supported by way of x1 Type-A and x1 Type-C ports. The board also features Intel Gigabit LAN and the latest version of Asus’s SupremeFX now in 2015 guise.

NOTE: The Intel Z170 Express Chipset supports 6th Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors, and Intel Pentium and Celeron processors for Socket LGA1151. The new Socket 1151 is not backward compatible with previous Intel Core CPUs and, at the time of writing only Skylake processors are compatible with these motherboards. Also another big change for Skylake is the fact that there’s no support for DDR3. DDR4 is now king, although there’s only support for Dual Channel memory and not Quad Channel; for that you’ll need to look at Intel’s X99 platform. The bottom line here is that a new Skylake based Gaming Rig’s going to comprise of a new Motherboard, CPU and RAM.

 

asus_logo-new ‘ROG provides you with the very best gaming-audio inputs and outputs, with special shielded designs, and a collection of carefully selected professional-grade audio components, including an ESS ES9023P digital-to-analog converter (DAC) with Hyperstream™ technology, ultra-low-jitter clock, Nichicon capacitors, 2Vrms headphone amp, and Sonic SenseAmp that automatically detects and optimizes any headset (32-600 ohms) for purest sound quality. SupremeFX 2015 also features intuitive Sonic Studio II for you to apply and enjoy different audio effects for perfect entertainment, plus Perfect Noise noise-cancellation technology for team conversations with total clarity.’

 

Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - box front Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - box back

 

The Asus Maximus VIII Ranger arrived at pcG in a smart, red box (obviously!), sporting that all important Republic of Gamers (RoG) brand. The front of the box is actually nice and subtle just showing the relevant brand and product names. At the bottom left we find a handful of images highlighting: Z170 Chipset, Intel Core, Nvidia SLI, AMD Crossfire, Ultra HD 4K and Windows 10 Ready.

Looking at the back of the box Asus is keen to highlight the following (SupremeFX 2015, USB 3.1 ports, Intel Ethernet and KeyBot II) found at the top of the box. Below this there’s a general specifications table (see Specifications/Features below) and a description and image of the rear I/O panel. It’s pretty useful yet subtle information, and that’s because…

 

Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - inner lid Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - lid

 

When you open the lid you’re bombarded (in a good way!) with a plethora of information and features regarding this latest Asus RoG board. The lower section provides a massive image of the board highlighting many of its most important features. Not only does it look good, but it’s really useful information too!

The upper section (somewhat difficult to photograph!) highlights various other aspects of the board via an image and a short description. The SupremeFX audio described as the best Gaming Audio (and I’ll tell you now it is very good!), but hold on apparently they have the best Gaming Networking and the Best Gaming Experience too! I guess we will have to wait and see about that… At the bottom there’s the Protections section (the Best Protection of course!) that highlights the following features: 0 pain!: Black Nickel-coated Q-shield, 1-sided: Q-DIMM, 1 additional: DRAM Over-current Protection, 2+: Backplates, 2x greater: ESD Guards and finally 3x longer: Stainless Steel Back I/O.

 

Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - box open

 

On opening the box we can see that the motherboard itself sits in a cardboard tray at the top of the box and is protected by an anti-static bag. Beneath this we have all of the accessories etc listed below.

 

  • IN THE BOX
  • Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - box contents   ACCESSORIES

    • Motherboard
    • User Guide
    • Door Hanger (GAME ON! YOU SHALL NOT PASS)
    • I/O Panel Shield
    • RoG Cable Labels
    • Stickers
    • Motherboard Layout
    • Drivers/Utilities DVD
    • CPU Installation Tool
    • x4 SATA cables
    • SLI Bridge
    • Q Connector

     

    There’s a fair bit in the box and most of it is useful stuff, it’s always nice to see the inclusion of a Q-Cponnector that makes the fitting of those fiddly Front Panel connectors so much easier. Less useful are is the door hanger, cable labels and stickers, but hey let’s not complain eh! 😉

    At the time of writing this review, the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger is retailing on Amazon for approximately £140 and comes with a 3 year warranty.

     

    Specifications/Features

    courtesy of Asus

    • CPU
      Build in Intel® Socket 1151 for 6th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
      Supports Intel® 14 nm CPU
    • Chipset
      Build in Intel® Z170
    • Memory
      4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 3400(O.C.)/3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
      Dual Channel Memory Architecture
      Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
    • Front Side Bus
    • System Bus
    • Thunderbolt
    • Graphic
      Integrated Graphics Processor- Intel® HD Graphics support
      Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort 1.2 ports
      – Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz
      Maximum shared memory of 512 MB
    • Multi-GPU Support
      Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
      Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
      Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
      Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
      Supports AMD 2-Way CrossFireX Technology
    • CUDA Core
    • Expansion Slots
      2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8, gray)
      1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (max at x4 mode, black)
      3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 (x1 mode, black)
    • Storage
      1 x M.2 Socket 3, black, with M Key design, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Supports both SATA & PCIE SSD)
      6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray,
      2 x SATA Express port
      Support Raid 0, 1, 5
      Intel® Rapid Storage Technology supports
      Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology
    • LAN
      Intel® I219V
      Intel® LAN- Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
      Anti-surge LANGuard
    • Wireless Data Network
    • Bluetooth
    • ThunderBolt LAN/Audio Combo Card
    • Audio
      – Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
      Audio Feature :
      – SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
      – DTS Connect
      – Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
      – Sonic SenseAmp
      – Sonic Studio
      – Sonic Radar II
    • ThunderFX
    • IEEE 1394
    • USB Ports
      ASMedia® USB 3.1 controller :
      1 x USB 3.1 port(s) (1 at back panel, +black, Type-C)
      ASMedia® USB 3.1 controller :
      1 x USB 3.1 port(s) (1 at back panel, red, Type-A)
      Intel® Z170 chipset :
      6 x USB 3.0 port(s)
      Intel® Z170 chipset :
      8 x USB 2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, +black, 4 at mid-board)
    • Workstation Feature
      3 x PCIe x 16 slot(s)
      USB BIOS Flashback
    • OC Panel
      – ROG_EXT port:1 x 18-1 pin data connection port
    • Overclocking Features
      ROG Extreme OC kit :
      – Start button
      – Reset button
      – LN2 Mode

    * Additional details available here

     

    First Impressions

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger

     

    First impressions are wow it’s not red ‘n black! And that’s a good thing I feel, the new gunmetal grey colour scheme is a refreshing change from the vast array of red ‘n black boards available. The colour scheme and the design seem to lend the board a touch of class in my opinion, although it looks a busy board when compared to the recently tested MSI Z170A GAMING M5. But overall it’s a good looking board with what seems to be a pretty good layout.

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - right Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - left

     

    Looking at what I would call the right side of the board and working left to right; we have the single M.2 connector supporting both SATA and PCIe devices followed by all of the SATA ports (x2 eSATA & x6 SATA 6GB/s). Next to this we have the first of four 4-pin PWM controlled chassis fan headers (CHA_FAN2), this is then followed by one of two USB 3.0 headers and the main 24-pin power connector. Then we have the second chassis fan headers (CHA_FAN4) followed by a handful of components and then in the corner we find the Debug LED, another very useful device! Just beyond this we find (common on Asus boards) a Mem OK button, this can be used if your system wont boot because of incompatible DIMMS. Hold the button down to begin automatic memory compatibility tuning. Beyond the main 24-pin power connector we find the four DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of up to 3400MHz (OC) RAM. Note that on Z170 these DDR4 slots are NOT quad channel like they are on Intel’s X99 platform.

    Looking at the opposite side of the board (the left) and again working left to right, we first find the main motherboard IO panel (more on this later) and then not very much. Behind the rights-hand side of the I/O panel we see the third chassis fan header (CHA_FAN3), looking along the edge again we eventually come to Asus latest SupremeFX 2015 on-board audio.

    Looking at the PCIe 3.0 lanes we see that there’s only six (instead of the usual seven) and these are wired up in the following way; the first slot is a x1 slot this is then followed (left to right) by a x16 slot (grey), a gap, another x1 slot, a second x16 slot (grey) and then another x1 slot and finally another x16 slot (black). If one Graphics Card is used then the first x16 slot runs at x16, if x2 Graphics Cards are used then the first slot AND second runs at x8. If three Graphics Cards are sued the slots will run at x8, x8 and x4 speeds, meaning that this board supports Dual SLI and Triple CrossFire setups.

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - top Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - bottom

    Looking at what is effectively the top of the board we can see that it’s dominated by the CPU Power phase heatsinks and the LGA1151 Socket, new for Skylake. We find the CPU 8-pin socket in its normal position, and just below the socket and heatsink, on the very edge of the board we find two CPU fan headers (CPU_FAN & CPU_OPT). Just beyond this working right to left we find a dedicated Pump header (PUMP) which is good to see, to be honest you just cant have too many headers… 😉

    Looking at the bottom of the board and again working from left to right, we can see that the corner is dominated by the SupremeFX audio, next to this we have the HD Audio header, a Thunderbolt header and then we find the main Start button (cool and purposeful it looks too!), followed by small Reset and Clear CMOS button. Next we have a TPM header (never used one!) and an Asus RoG header for connecting additional RoG devices. In between the RoG and the USB 2.0 headers and inbound of the edge of the board we find a small Jumper (LN2), this switch is for extreme overclocking and shows this Gamers board overclocking roots! Carrying on we find a USB 2.0 header followed by the second of two USB 3.0 headers and then the last of the four chassis fan headers (CHA_FAN3). Finally in the far right corner we can see the extended Front Panel header, luckily Asus supply a Q-Connector (dead handy these!) to help with the install of the normally fiddly Front Panel cables.

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - back

     

    Flipping the board over allows us to further appreciate the matte black PCB, this is also one of the cleanest boards we seen, with others showing signs of flux residue (greasy looking marks!). Note the backplates supporting the main heatsinks at the top of the board, that is good to see, especially as those heatsinks make such useful handles! 😉

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - SupremeFX Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - buttons Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - debug LED

     

    Taking a more detailed look at some of the more interesting features of the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger; let’s first take a look at Asus’s SupremeFX audio solution. This SupremeFX Codec based soundcard hidden beneath that silver shroud (it illuminates red also!) sports Nichicon capacitors, Shielding Technology and a Sonic SenseAmp. In addition tho this, to further aide in audio quality the setup also features an ESS DAC (ES9023P), a dedicated clock, a RC4580 2Vrms Driver and a de-pop relay. This relay (that incidentally can be heard clicking on the board) stop that audio pop in the headset when you power on and or restart.

    Next up let’s take a closer look at that Start button, it looks really smart on the board and I wished that I was using it all the time to start up our Test Rig! But alas this is used (normally!) when testing/overclocking when you don’t have the Front Panel cables wired up! Next to this we find a basic system Reset button and then a Clear CMOS button, useful if the board is having trouble booting.

    Finally we have that all important Debug LED, found in a rather unusual position as they’re normally on the bottom of the board. But I quite like it up here as it’s perfect for tower style cases with a window. The LED itself will provide vital debug information (by way of a code) should the Maximus VIII Ranger fail to boot. The code displayed can then be simply looked up in the User Guide.

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - south Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - LGA1151

     

    Taking a look at what one may call the South Bridge heatsink we see a smart cool looking yet subtle design, the various finishes/textures really look rather good. All this is rounded off with the RoG logo and just a little splash of Red!

    There’s a little more red (ish) found on the power phase heatsinks that surround one side of the new LGA1151 socket. These heatsinks look good but the red etching looks a little lacklustre, it might well be by design, but it does let the board down a little in my mind…

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger - IO & Shield
    • PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
    • x2 USB 2.0 ports
    • BIOS Flashback Button
    • x2 USB 2.0 ports
    • DisplayPort
    • HDMI Port
    • USB 3.1 (Type-A) port
    • USB 3.1 (Type-C) port
    • Intel Anti-surge LAN (RJ45) port
    • x2 USB 3.0 ports
    • Gold plated Audio Ports with Optical S/PDIF-Out

     
     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - M2 Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - BIOS Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - SATA

     

    The Asus Maximus VIII Ranger also features one of my favourite devices and that’s an M.2 port. This discrete device supports both SATA and PCIe based devices, which is nice to see as the last Ranger only supports PCIe. The beauty of this device is the RAW speeds available (especially when using PCIe) and the fact that there’s none of that pesky wiring involved.

    In the middle of the board near the battery we see that the BIOS chip has been fitted into a socket. This suggests that if all should go horribly wrong the BIOS chip could be replaced…

    On the right-hand side of the board we have all of the (horizontally mounted) SATA ports, these are all well placed and I ‘m warming over time to the new horizontal standard as it prevents those loops of cable that the vertical ports promote. There are eight ports in total x2 eSATA ports and x6 SATA 6GB/s ports.

     

    Hardware Installation

     

    A new build was put together to house the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger motherboard with a new Intel Core i5-6600K Skylake CPU and new DDR4 memory in the form of G.Skill RipJaws 2400MHz. The following components were also used:

  • Test Rig Setup

  • Case Cooler Master HAF XB Power Supply Corsair Professional Series AX 760i
    Motherboard Asus Maximus VIII Ranger CPU Intel Core I5-6600K Processor
    CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S RAM G Skill Ripjaws 4 8GB
    Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti Classified SSD HyperX FURY 120GB

     

    Installation of the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger was as easy as one would have hoped for, this was helped by a well thought out board layout. The motherboard assembly was simple enough consisting of the board itself, our test Intel Core i5-6600K Skylake CPU, a Noctua NH-U12S CPU Cooler and 8GB of G.Skill RipJaws 4 2400MHz memory. With the motherboard assembly complete it was secured to our test Case (Cooler Master HAF XB) by way of the regular nine screws.

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger  - motherboard assembly Asus Maximus VIII Ranger - installed

     

    All necessary SATA cables were connected to the motherboard, I used the ports nearer the 24-pin power socket (SATA6G_1 & SATA6g_2). The Seagate 2TB SSHD and HyperX Fury SSD test drives were then attached to the other ends of the cables. All of the relevant power cables from the Corsair Professional Series AX760i were then plugged into the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger along with all of the case fans. Final cables included USB 3.0 and HD Audio along with the always rather fiddly Front Panel wires, but this time around it was simple thanks to the Q-Connector Asus provide! That just left the installation of our new test GPU an EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti Classified. Now it’s time for some testing…

     

    Testing Methodology/Setup

     

    For all of our Z170 testing we will be using Windows 10 (DirectX 12), therefore a new installation of Windows 10 64Bit was performed and the following Drivers were installed. The latest Asus Drivers were used and can been obtained (here). Although the Asus MAximus VIII Ranger has its Drivers and Utilities available on the supplied DVD, we here at pcG try to keep up with the latest Drivers and software where possible.

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger - BIOS Update * The latest BIOS version (0801) was downloaded and installed via Asus’s UEFI based Flash utility and this version was used throughout testing. *

     

    Drivers installed:

    • Intel Chipset Driver (Intel Chipset Driver ver: V10.1.1.7)
    • Audio Driver ((Realtek Audio Driver ver: V6.0.1.7629) – (SonicSuite ver: V2.2.16))
    • Intel(R) Gigabit Ethernet Driver ver: V20.2.4001.0
    • Asmedia USB3.1/3.0 Driver ver: V1.16.26.1
    • Nvidia Driver 359.00

    During testing the following tools/benchmarks & games were used/played:

     

    Hardware Performance

     

    The Asus Maximus VIII Ranger booted first time and I was greeted with the UEFI Extreme Tweaker screen shown below. You may think that the UEFI would default to Main but no. There’s also an EzMode, shown below right; although this screen seems to be more about showing information than anything else. During initial testing at stock speeds 3.5GHZ (3.9GHz Turbo) I ran into no issues or anomalies and the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger performed flawlessly.

     

    Asus UEFI - Load Defaults Asus UEFI - Main Asus UEFI - EzMode

     

    I have to admit that although the Asus UEFI is well presented, I find it a bit like information overload, and I have made this criticism before. There are so many options and so many ways to do things, it’s a little too easy to get lost or dare I say (even worse) scared! You would hope that the EzMode would be the way forward and while it’s far easier to navigate there’s no way of overclocking manually in this mode. You have to use the EzTune wizard, which is actually pretty good TBH! The problem here (within the UEFI) is that Asus don’t seem to know whether the RoG brand is an overclocking brand or a Gaming brand, but when looking at the UEFI it looks like their foot is still firmly in the overclocking camp, LN2 mode anybody!? 😉

    Using the Extreme Tweaker I dialled in our test 4.4GHz overclock with XMP by setting the Ai Overclock Tuner to XMP, setting the CPU Core Ratio to Sync All Cores, setting the 1-Core Ratio Limit to 44 and the CPU Core Voltage Override to a fixed 1.25v. See image below. If you were to leave the CPU Core Voltage Override set to Auto this would dial in a slightly higher voltage of of 1.3v, but that’s still more than acceptable.

     

    Asus UEFI - 4-5GHz with XMP Asus UEFI - 4-5GHz 1-25v Asus UEFI - change log

     

    For our testing of Z170 motherboards using our Intel Skylake Core i5-6600K test CPU we will be testing at both Stock (3.5GHz) and at an overclocked 4.4GHz. The CPU-Z screenshots below show the various states (Idle, Stock & Overclocked) of the CPU and its associated voltage.

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger - 3-5GHz (Idle)

    CPU-Z – stock 3.5GHz (Idle)

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger - 3-5GHz (Load)

    CPU-Z – stock 3.5 GHz (Load)

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger - 4-5GHz (Load)

    CPU-Z – OC 4.5GHz

     

    Benchmark Resolution Result
    Metro Last Light 1920×1080 108.00
    Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920×1080 2365
    3DMark Firestrike Default 14611
    3DMark Firestrike Extreme 7851

     

    Benchmark Resolution Result
    Metro Last Light 1920×1080 115.00
    Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920×1080 2394
    3DMark Firestrike Default 15379
    3DMark Firestrike Extreme 8092

     

    As this the first motherboard test we have done with our new Graphics card (EVGA 980Ti Classified) we’ve not got much to compare it against other than our own test motherboard the ASRockFatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6. In all of the tests shown above the Maximus VIII Ranger performed slightly better than our ASRock board, but the percentage difference show the real truth. With less than 1% difference between the scores, as we have said before, when it comes to motherboard that very little in it, when it comes to Gaming!

    As you can see from the results above there’s a notable difference in the score between the Stock tests and the OC test. Normally we would not see much difference, but now we’re testing with a more powerful GPU, more strain is put on the Motherboard. We see an increase of around 7% in the Metro Test and an increase of almost 5% in the Unigine Heaven test. This proves that with a more powerful Graphics Card (especially SLI & CrossFire) a good motherboard sub-system is important and beneficial to frame rate.

    Sound wise (pretty important on a Gaming motherboard) the Asus SupremeFX 2015 performs extremely well. I paired it up with our headset of choice (HyperX Cloud (NOT Cloud II)) and not only was the quality of sound found to be very good, but there was plenty of it too! The SupremeFX setup really packs a punch with plenty of volume, good bass, great mid-range and clear and crisp highs. The long and short of it is: it’s one of the best on-board sound solutions I’ve ever heard (and I’m pretty fussy too!), respect! 🙂

     

    Additional Software/Features

     

    There are so many features and so much software that comes with (or is downloadable for) the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger, that to try and cover it would be a review in itself! I’m also not a big fan of software so for me the only software that I’m likely to install is Asus’s Ai-Suite utility and that in itself is a portal to a handful of other Apps and options. Let’s first then take a look at this Ai-Suite utility, with its Dual Intelligent Processors 5.

     

    Software (Ai-Suite)

     

    On launching Ai-Suite we are greeted with a rather cool looking screen in the old fashioned (now!) RoG colours, it looks impressive, but it looks kinda busy too, and that’s because it is! Here you can monitor the sate of the system with the lower section showing; CPU Frequency, Voltage, Temperature and Fan information. Above this we have a raft of other options allowing you to have further control over fans, and the potential Greenness of your Gaming Rig, via Fan Xpert 3, Turbo App and EPU.

    Navigation of this App is not as apparent as you might think but obvious one you have discovered the small arrow on the left of the Window. This brings up the menu shown above right.

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger - DIP5 (main) Asus Ai Suite - options

     

    On launching Ai-Suite we are greeted with a rather cool looking screen in the old fashioned (now!) RoG colours, it looks impressive, but it looks kinda busy too, and that’s because it is! Here you can monitor the sate of the system as the lower section shoes; CPU Frequency, Voltage, Temperature and Fan information. Above this we have araft of other options allowing you to have further control over fans, and the potential Greenness of your Gaming Rig, via Fan Xpert 3, Turbo App and EPU.

    Navigation of this App is not as apparent as you might think but obvious one you have discovered the small arrow on the left of the Window. This brings up the menu shown below right.

     

    Asus Maximus VIII Ranger - DIP5 (TPU)

    Asus Ai Suite - Fan Xpert 3

     

    An area of more interest to us Gamers is the Turbo Processing Unit (TPU), where you can see that we’re already running 25% up on stock performance thanks to that 4.4GHz overclock. Clicking the TPU option takes us to another smart looking screen where we can manipulate the Base Clock, CPU Ratio, CPU Cache Ratio and choose which Core we wish to manipulate. With each Core being represented by one of the four cylinders in the centre. There’s also a raft of differing voltages that you may also wish to mess with. Again here in the Ai-Suite we see the Ranger’s overclocking roots, great if you bought the board for overclocking but not so good if you just want to get on and just overclock and Game!

    Another screen of interest is the Fan Xpert 3 screen here you can mess with your CPU and Chassis fans to your hearts content. You can run the Fan Tuning wizard that will analyse each fan and give you a basic profile (temp/speed) to work with, these Profiles can then be saved should you wish to have more than one!? Basic Profiles are already in-built with Silent, Standard, Turbo and Full Speed.

     

    Software (EZ Update & Sonic Studio II)

     

    Asus EZ Update Asus Sonic Studio II

     

    While you weren’t looking though Asus sneakily installs another couple of Apps that are of interest. First up there’s a nice an easy to use update tool EZ Update that scans all of the software, Drivers and BIOS that’s installed and lets you know what’s up to date and what’s not! Quite handy really…

    The last App that we will take a look at is the Sonic Suite 2 (Sonic Studio II). This App is installed as part of the Audio Driver installation and is therefore running by default. This App is a one stop shop for all of your Audio needs, allowing you to manipulate the sound signature produced by the SupremeFX soundcard (and damn good that sound is too!). There’s various Profiles to choose from, various Equalizer settings and you can control the level of Bass, Smart EQ, Reverb and Voice Clarity.

     

    Initially when we tested this board I came across a problem with the Sonic Studio II software that was affecting the performance of the board and caused stuttering in some of our benchmarks. After working with Asus over the last month or so this problem has now been rectified. PLEASE NOTE: To ensure that you don’t run into this problem make sure you are running both the latest Audio Driver (V6.0.1.7629 or higher) and the latest version (V2.2.16 or higher) of the Sonic Suite Studio II software.

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    There’s a lot to like about the new Asus Maximus VIII Ranger, this Z170 based board seems to have it all; great classy looks, a well laid out PCB, SLI & Crossfire support, terrific Audio and an M.2 Drive. If you’re looking for a real Gamers board, then well, you get the idea…

    The Asus Maximus VIII Ranger arrived at pcG in a smart (RoG red) box that initially didn’t seem too exciting, that was until the lid was lifted. Lifting the lid of the box helps showcase the many features that this new Z170 based board offers. Highlights (for me) includes, SLI and CrossFire support, M.2 socket (supporting PCIE & SATA), Debug LED, SupremeFX Audio and the new gun metal colour scheme.

    Once out of the box the new gun metal colour scheme can be appreciated and it’s nice to see a RoG board that’s not red for a change! On further analysis of the board we find what appears to be a good layout, with most of the ports and headers where you would want them. It’s also nice to see four PWM chassis fan headers, 2 PWM CPU fan headers and a dedicated pump header (for AIO Liquid coolers).

    The Maximus VIII Ranger booted first time and after a quick look at the UEFI, I found my only real gripe with this Asus motherboard. As far as I’m concerned the UEFI is really primarily designed for overclocking and not Gaming. Yes there is an EZ Mode but this is more of an information mode than a functional UEFI alternative. This then forces you into the Advanced UEFI which is awash with options that are likely to confuse or worse still scare people off!

    Both stock and overclocked performance were rock solid and I experienced no issues with the board from a stability point of view, even when overclocking. General performance in Gaming of the Asus Maximus Ranger VIII was also very impressive. In fact it beat our own test motherboard (ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K6) in all of the benchmark scores, albeit by less than 1%.

    The AI Suite software is also pretty slick, providing a one stop shop for overclocking, tweaking and monitoring. In fact there’s so much on offer you probably don’t need to install anything else. Other software that seems to get installed alongside of AI Suite is EZ Update and Sonic Studio II. The first of the two allows you to check all of the Drivers and Software (even BIOS) installed and update as necessary. The final piece of software is Sonic Studio II installed to support the impressive sounding (no really, it sounds great!) Supreme FX audio. Note that the early version of this software (prior to V2.2.16) caused problems manifesting itself as stuttering in our benchmarks. This has now been fixed by Asus, just make sure you’re running the latest version of both the Audio Driver and the Sonic Studio software (see Testing Methodology/Setup for more detail).

    To be honest I’m very impressed by the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger, it’s got everything a Gamer needs, from a good looking well laid out board, to the SLI/CrosFire and M.2 support. Only the price and the overclocking centric UEFI let it down and that’s just me being picky to be honest… 😉

     

    Verdict

    Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…

      Design/Quality pcGameware awards the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger a Gold
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

     

    Many thanks to Asus for providing this sample for review

     



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