The ASUS Maximus VIII Impact Z170 ROG Mini-ITX Motherboard Reviewby Ian Cutress on December 29, 2015 9:00 AM EST
ASUS Maximus VIII Impact Conclusion
The ROG line is a long standing brand of ASUS, approaching its 10 year anniversary in 2016. At CES during the early part of January, we are syncing up with AnandTech's senior motherboard editors from the last decade for a round table mixed with readers’ questions on the Republic of Gamers. Part of that discussion will be directed to the ROG Impact motherboard line, in which ASUS essentially stands alone in the premium Mini-ITX form factor market.
But therein lays a crucial part of the discussion. The Impact is premium; matching the price of a mid-to-high ATX sized motherboard while providing less expandability. In order to counteract this, the Mini-ITX product had to offer something more than the small size, and ASUS has done this over the Maximus VI, VII and now the latest VIII version. All of these have been award winning in various ways due to a high level of engineering prowess, but also a lack of competition in that premium space. The Mini-ITX form factor, although an exciting topic, is only a small chunk of the market, and perhaps gets a disproportionate amount of attention.
So if you're the sole premium player in a market, and the product is successful, how do you innovate each generation? On some level you can't keep adding or upgrading parts, purely due to space constraints and rising cost. Each generation has to offer something new - either hardware or software. In some respects the Z170 chipset takes care of this: DDR4, PCIe storage through U.2, and the move to USB 3.1.
But what ASUS specific improvements are there? The SupremeFX audio gets a full on EM shield to reduce external sources of noise, and it also gets internal LEDs making it easier to see where the ports are in a dark environment behind the system. Some may see this as an easy gimmick, but others will find it useful. We also had a great overclocking run, hitting 4.8 GHz at only 1.375 volts in the BIOS. As for DPC Latency, the Impact sits as the best board we've ever had, showing that on some level ASUS is keeping DPC Latency as a mental note during design.
On performance, the Impact implements MultiCore Turbo, which increases power consumption at default frequencies but puts CPU performance ahead of motherboards with MCT disabled on anything that can use multiple threads. In our benchmarks, all the CPU results are #1 for the Impact, the audio results of the Impact come out on top of all the motherboards we have tested, and the aforementioned DPC Latency is great. One downside on the BIOS we tested (v1101) was POST time, coming in at over 20 seconds. Aside from this, the BIOS and Software tools (which includes items such as RAMCache, RAMDisk, GameFirst III and Free Space) mark an ever evolving platform.
The main competition for the Impact comes from ASUS’ mainstream motherboard line, and the mini-ITX models, which have many of the features of the Impact except U.2, daughterboards and ROG software, but is also cheaper. Or any sub-$160 mini-ITX motherboard with ‘gaming’ in the name can offer similar stock performance for much less cost. When it comes to high priced motherboards, it comes down to the value-adds, and it becomes a user-focused question as to how many will be used. Playing Devil’s Advocate, something like U.2 could arguably be used via an M.2 to U.2 converter on other mini-ITX boards, and not a lot of users are enthused by onboard audio these days. Either Thunderbolt 3 support, or HDMI 2.0 through the Alpine Ridge as an LSPCON, could have put the Impact far over the edge for premium. But over the years, we’ve reviewed the Maximus VI Impact, the VII Impact and now the VIII Impact . Reading through those reviews, they all have sat at the top of the mini-ITX motherboard stack for both price but also feature set, and the Impact line has become difficult to ignore when building a premium small system. The extra features on the Impact are certainly worth the increased cost, but it’s all a question of use. Thankfully, when we did use it, it came top in pretty much all our system/CPU benchmarks in our Z170 motherboard testing so far, and that is quite hard to ignore.
Recommended by AnandTech
The ASUS Maximus VIII Impact
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jasonelmore - Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - linktake out the sound card then, and install a high end xonar one. it's removable.
edzieba - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - linkm.2 is the glaring omission here for an ITX board. SFF PC's (the whole point of ITX) benefit more from m.2 than u.2, and m.2 to u.2 adapter boards are readily available. u.2 to m.2 adapters are not currently available (or even announced), and would introduce cable spaghetti due to the need for a power injector along with the actual adapter.
Great_Scott - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - linkWhile an M.2 slot is a great idea and a strange omission, the sound solution is more glaring.
WTH is a RealTek solution being used here? Given the price of the board, a XONAR-branded solution makes a lot more sense.
Vatharian - Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - linkXonar is a C-Media rebrand. Still I'd like it more. Or IDT+decent Wolfsons...
Flunk - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - linkMissing M.2 does make this less attractive than some of the other offerings on the market. This is a surprising omission considering the Maximus VII Impact has one. I may be in the minority, but I can't see a reason for the onboard Wi-Fi, if you're building a high-priced gaming machine wired ethernet is a requirement. The LED and buttons on the back are pretty useless too. If you're running without a case they could be anywhere on the board and if you're running with a case you don't need the buttons.
ciparis - Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - link"if you're building a high-priced gaming machine wired ethernet is a requirement."
An expensive gaming machine that lives in the living room (a big reason for going mini-ITX to begin with) might well have to rely on wifi. A good 802.11ac implementation is no slouch.
DanNeely - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - linkWhat's the power output limit for the USB3.1 C port? The new power delivery spec allows up to 5A at 5, 12, or 20V; but I find it unlikely that desktop systems would provide the maximum possible power; so what the port can output needs to be added to the review somewhere. (If for no other reason, the hardware to make 20V power would take up a decent amount of space.)
FelixDraconis - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - linkThis is totally not a big deal, as I can still extract useful information from your review.
However, I found the text of it to be confusing and riddled with typos and grammatical errors. This seems like a good opportunity for you to improve in the coming year.
All over the place you use the wrong word, as if you're relying on spell check and not reading what you write.
- The analogy of Senior/Sophomore/Freshman was baffling when applied to motherboards. Is this the age of the motherboard - that somehow a Freshman motherboard is newer (younger)? Or do Senior motherboards have more features? Interlacing this with a bunch of meaningless marketing terms makes it incomprehensible. You could have taken this text out and sorted the 100-Series list directly below by whatever buckets you were considering.
- "Overal, the nature of Skylake makes our CPUs"... What 'nature' of Skylake? You don't specify. So, I have to decipher it and figure you mean 'Skylake as a whole'. This is redundant nonsense. Overall is also redundant. Also, Skylake IS the CPU. Just say 'Skylake gets 4.5 GHz'. Less is better.
- "To read specifically about the Z170 chip/platform and the specifications therein, our deep dive into what it is can be found at this link." - This isn't wrong, but is so flowery that it feels like you're padding out the words. Just say "To read more about the Z170 chipset, our deep dive is here." (If you really want to say link, I understand, but most of the rest are junk words that confuse.) Also, the Z170 is the chipset. Not the chip or the platform.
- "The overclocking methodology from ASUS comes in several formats." - I know what you're trying to say, but this is awkward. It's as if someone was running directly through google translate.
- "For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage" - Manual overclocks, based on previous testing, start off at a nominal voltage.
I could go on, but that's your job! Hopefully this makes you sit back, go 'whoa', and then feel inspired to go on a studying rampage. :D
Your words, more than anything, indicate to people your value. I mean that outside of reviews. You'll be writing resumes and blogs and who knows what else your whole life. Once you get the writing down, join us at Toastmasters for the public speaking. ;)
okashira - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - linkOh please, most of what you point out is a matter of opinion and personal preference only. The wording isn't perfect, but at least he's doing something of value... not toastmasters, ugh.
jasonelmore - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - linkthese are tech geeks trying to be writers. Most writers in the tech blog business never obtained a college diploma. Even if they do have one, they probably majored in CIS or some standard business degree.
Your right, it would not hurt for them to take a few Comp classes, if they are trying to be leaders in their field.