ASUS’s previous-gen motherboard launch for Intel was memorable for introducing their teaming power delivery design which saw the Maximus XI Hero criticized for its VRM configuration. We understood on the get-go was ASUS was getting at since marketing means a lot of things to people, a lot of things were said and the X570 rolled-in and all was forgiven. Today, Intel is launching their 10th-generation Comet Lake-S processors, still fabbed on the same 14nm process we’ve seen all those years ago. But with endurance comes growth, and while Intel struggles with their new process, the 14nm has been refined over time that it has been wringed to death by Intel.
And we literally mean death as this is Intel’s last dance with 14nm, hopefully, otherwise they’ll meet the Piledriver faith.
To compliment this launch, motherboard makers are again unleashing their top-end motherboars to support the LGA1200 processor packing the Z490 chipset. In this review, we’ll take a look at ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME, the one overclocking series board, now aimed at premium watercooling enthusiast but still maintains its pedigree of pushing performance to the limit. Read on to see how ASUS ROG is bringing the EXTREME this time around in this review. Let’s begin!
Intel 400 series Chipset – Z490
Let’s be honest Intel, I’d usually do a full breakdown of the chipset for this generation but truth be told, it’s pretty much the Z390 with WIFI6 and LGA1200 socket. Intel cites that the new motherboards required a new power configuration hence the new socket but then again, that’s for the socket, the chipset itself is left with just WIFI6. Intel could’ve released second-gen Z390 but it wouldn’t make motherboard makers happy, would it? For motherboard makers though, they have full freedom to explore newer power implementations. With experience from AMD’s high core-count chips, the Z490 should inherit a lot from the X570 of last-generation in the power delivery side and have some space to play around with the features.
Intel Z390, B460, Z370 and Z270 Chipset Comparison
ASUS packs the ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME in its standard ROG box. Its actually the same box we’ve seen for around 2 years now and nothing much has changed. Over at the back we have details about the board which we’ll talk about in this article.
This box has a lot of compartment so we’ll just walk through the inclusion. First-up: the Bluetooth and WIFI antenna. Together with that we have a 3omm miniature fan along with a mounting arm. This is similar to the cooling solution used on the first Zenith motherboard ASUS has released from time to time for boards that may need supplementary cooling on their VRMs which seems to be the case with the Maximus XII Extreme.
You get a bunch of M.2 screws to hold your device to the slots as well as pad stickers for support. You also get a Q-connector which allows easy placement of front panel headers to the board. You get some extra screws which I believe are for the Fan Extension Card II and you get a logo badge and USB installation flash drive.
ASUS has included a Thunderbolt III expansion card with the Maximus XII Extreme: the ThunderboltEXT3-TR. This card required 6-pin PCIe power as well connection to a Thunderbolt header on the motherboard as well as USB. The card support two (2) mini-DisplayPort input and two (2) Thunderbolt3 Type-C output.
ASUS has also included a Fan Extension Card II daughtercard with the M12E which allows expanding the already rich array of fan headers with 6 more plus a pair of RGB headers. The extension card can be connected via ASUS Node cable for further control and monitoring.
Most high-end Extreme boards from ASUS support the ROG DIMM_2 module which is a special M.2 host card for the Extreme boards. Underneath the heatsink, you can mount two M.2 devices.
Cables included with the ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME are 3 pairs of sleeved SATA cables, two DisplayPort to mini-DisplayPort, RGB headers, thermal probes, a node cable, a USB internal header and a Thunderbolt internal header.
In terms of extras, ASUS has included a screwdriver with a replacement head as well as a nice little tag.
Rounding up the package are the manuals, a sticker sheet and the power cable for the fan hub.
ROG Maximus XII Extreme – Closer Look
The ASUS ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME is an EATX motherboard that means you’ll have to make sure your case can fit a wee bit longer board. The board has a backplate and has a large cutout at the bottom and behind the socket area.
ASUS continues the legacy of using their teamed power delivery design on the M12E. This board has a 16-phase VRM for the task ahead of delivering stable power to the 10-cores it has to house come launch. The VRM is cooled by a large and dense heatsink which are interconnected via heatpipe.
This board has a large space just beside the DIMM slots. The DIMM slots themselves are rated to support up to DDR4-4800 (OC) and can support new double-density sticks at 32GB or more with ASUS touting that they can support fully populated slots with double-density sticks up to DDR4-3600. We also get the DIMM_2 slot in this area as well a large array of fan headers.
ASUS points out that their ATX+12v and EPS12V sockets use solid pins which we have no idea what it adds aside from the obvious rigidity of the ports. The connectors themselves are reinforced to give a more premium feel.
The bottom half of the board is most concealed by the shroud on the Maximus XII Extreme. If you haven’t noticed, this board only has a single x4 PCIe slot and two x16 slots. The bottom of the board is lined with fan headers and other connectors.
Removing the bottom shroud, we get access to two more M.2 slots on this board.
Moving back to the front we have 8x SATA ports and a pair of USB3.1 front panel headers and a pair of USB3.0 front panel connectors.
At the back we have a rich assortment of connectivity with USB2, USB3.1 and USB3.2 with a paid of USB3.2 Type-C and a 10G LAN and a 2.5G LAN. Last up we have the WIFI antenna connector and the audio ports.
RGB is a bit bare on this board and surprisngly not as gaudy as previous boards. The lightbars are well-placed on the IO shroud and PCH heatsink and the back with LiveDash OLED being the most visible light on this board.
ASUS is still retaining the same look and feel from their BIOS from the past 3-4 years and its a nice layout and feel. There’s nothing new added here except for some unique features of this board as well as minor details like the return of SP under the overclocking prediction which we are sure stands for Silicon Points, and older predictive scoring system from ASUS that intends to grade your CPU but has no real world nor Intel-certified counterpart and is just ASUS doing they’re AI thing.
ASUS is heavily investing in their software ecosystem in recent times and most of their enthusiast products will be accompanied by the Armoury Crate app. A unified control center for controlling your devices as well as RGB and fans, etc. ASUS builds a lot of things into Armoury Crate and is nice enough now to ask before installing it. It’s a nice little software suite that has improved over time and some people sleep on it, but ASUS has a nice little promotion tab on this thing where you can score some sweet deals and freebies.
AI Suite III is still ASUS’s go-to performance and power control software that is yet to be integrated into Armoury Crate. AI Suite III allows you control over memory timings, CPU clocks, voltages and all of those things straight from Windows and you can overclock straight from Windows as well. You can tell a different team handles AI Suite development and Armoury. They just feel different and with regards to AI Suite III, it’s been stale for so long with no development on it that its just a piece of novelty that average-joes install without second thought. Nobody loves you AI Suite III.
Much of the newer features are in audio and network, albeit GameFirst is quite mature at this point, ASUS’s implementation of “AI” into the software makes it a more dynamic tool for network management. Integration of ASUS router pairing makes it so that your router knows which devices needs the most priority while your device handles internal outgoing and incoming traffic.
Sonic Radar and Sonic Studio are still with us in this release. Sonic Studio now includes a virtual mixer tool which allows some nifty audio control intended for streamers to handle their audio. Sonic Radar is a visual augmentation for converting 3D and directional audio into spatial guides by showing you where sound is coming from which ASUS intends to be an “advantage” for gamers who can maximize the tool in their gameplay.
All tests are performed in an open bench with ambient room temperature kept at 35*C (Because its summer in the Philippines.)
Motherboards are updated to the latest BIOS during time of testing kept at their out-of-box settings aside from XMP frequencies when running stock benchmarks.
As many already know, most motherboards will have varying frequency multipliers and this may affect performance overall. As this is part of their out of the box configuration we see it fit to use them as is. All data presented here in are with the default motherboard settings for stock performance. Overclocked performance will be indicated where needed. For non-Z series motherboards, all benchmarks are performed on DDR4-2133 default settings.
As always, we’ll let the numbers do the talking.
Same thermal paste and same application method used on all cooler mounting. A pre-benchmark stress test is performed to let the TIM settle. We use Noctua NT-H1 for all our testing.
A fresh install of Windows 10 Pro is used for every sample testing. The OS image contains all benchmarks and games. Drivers are installed after image is installed.
An average of 3 benchmark runs is used for test sampling.
Maxon Cinebench R20 – Multi-threaded CPU benchmark
Blender 3D – BMW 2.7 CPU Render benchmark
POV-Ray 3.7.1 – Multi-threaded Render benchmark
HWBot x265 – 4K x265 CPU encoding benchmark
7zip Benchmark – a compression benchmark
wPrime 1024M – multi-threaded prime benchmark
SuperPI 32M – single-threaded prime benchmark
PugetBench for Photoshop – an Adobe Photoshop benchmark developed by PugetSystems
Adobe Media Encoder – an encoding benchmark
Corona Bench 1.3 – a rendering benchmark
V-ray 4.10.07 – a raytracing benchmark
3DMark Time Spy – a DirectX12 gaming benchmark
3DMark Fire Strike – a DirectX 11 gaming benchmark
PCMark10 Extended – a complete system benchmark
PCMark10 Digital Content Creation – the content creator sub-score from the Extended test
Latest LAN Speed Test via LST Server
Latest AIDA64 (Stress Test) -or-
Prime95 26.6 non-AVX version – Custom 12K (Stress Test)
Flir One USB Thermal Camera via Thermal Imaging+ app
HP-9800 AC wattmeter with USB interface for app logging
Sound level meter
ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 Router
We would like to thank the following for our reviews:
Thanks to UL Benchmarks for providing access to their benchmarks for our reviews.
Understanding Intel CPU Behavior Based on Motherboards
For the past couple of years, Intel has introduced Turbo Boost and Turbo Max and now we have Turbo Boost Velocity. While Intel sets a defined standard on how these values affect CPU performance and how long they stay active, motherboard makers were always given rights to comply with these standards. With quad-core CPUs, this wasn’t much of a concern but with newer 6-cores and more-cores CPUs, this has exponentially added to the power draw of these CPUs.
You see, the way this works is that Intel sets the TDP or Thermal Design Power for CPUs at a certain level, in the case for the 10th-gen 10900K, 125W. With Turbo Boost 2.0 active, that will increase until a workload is finished or the CPU meets certain thresholds. On top of this, there is also Turbo Boost Max and Turbo Velocity Boost. These values are set by Intel for the CPU and will take advantage of lifting performance if certain conditions are met. In most cases, especially for gaming or enthusiast boards, companies assume that gamers will be using more exotic cooling that meets or exceeds the TDP rating of the CPU. This means, gaming boards from ASUS, AORUS/GIGABYTE, ASRock, MSI, EVGA, and everyone else that markets themselves as a performance board, in assuming the user has good cooling, will set their own values for Turbo.
Now this has a direct effect on benchmark results, temperatures and power draw, of course. With the higher clocks, power drawn from the outlet increases as the TDP rating increases and so does temperatures. This are usually out-of-box settings for specific boards hence their default settings. While advanced overclockers used to tuning these timings and values can configure the boards to meet a satisfactory setting, most casual consumers will just set XMP and go. This means that in exchange power absolute performance, these boards are assuming users can meet the cooling standards that their settings induce.
Here in Back2Gaming, I test motherboard with out-of-box settings, noting in our conclusion if the BIOS is tuned right, etc. In reading these reviews, we highly urge readers to have an understanding of this behavior as they are not directly Intel’s decision to make which may lead to misinformation about the power draw and temperatures of these CPUs. This, in turn, has its upside besides performance as it shows us a good balance of how much confidence a board maker has on its products if and they do implement an unrestrained Boost on motherboards that are relatively lighter on its VRM cooling, VRM design, lower price, etc. but we will be critical if board makers are just doing this to increase review scores
To measure power draw, we hook-up our power meter on another system via USB. Our power meter is capable providing a chart of power the watts currently being consumed by the unit plug into it. We take the average of 15 minutes idle and 15 minutes load to show our power daw. Our load test is SuperPI 12K. A power virus scenario which you will never encounter on regular use. This is a worst-case scenario but is lighter on power than our previous AIDA64 stress test which is an AVX test, which draws more power than normal. The raw data from app is gathered and we get our results. Temperatures are also captures during this time.
Various configurations will play a factor on how much you are consuming and the same applies to our test. We try to keep our test bench uniform at all times (same memory, graphics card, board if possible, etc). All tests are done with the motherboard or CPU on out-of-box settings as indicated in our Test Setup page with only XMP applied.
When tested on motherboards, this shows how motherboard companies tune their BIOS to affect performance which in turn affects power draw and temperatures.
Here’s a good example of the difference removing TDP restrictions will do to your CPU. With the Core i9 10900K already doing a balancing act to keep its 10-cores at bay with lower voltages and clock speed acrobatics, removing that to keep the CPU at 4.9Ghz means we’re leaving it to the motherboard to do the hard work which in turn leads to a lazy assumption that everything is covered from cooling to voltage settings, etc. We’ve asked ASUS’ are they sure they want to compete with enthusiast boards with these settings and they are. In the case of the MAXIMUS XIII EXTREME, we asked them 3 times to be sure. With the board shipping with Intel limits in-place, we can see from the charts that we are restricted by the power limits hence the similar power draws across the board from the outlet.
Here’s thermal images of the MAXIMUS XII EXTREME VRM area under load with Prime95 12K stock settings.
And here’s a a shot of the back of the board during load:
We discussed in our 10900K review about the expectations of overclocking the processor and much like AMD’s, there’s not a lot you can go unless we go LN2. The good thing is that we’re playing in the 5Ghz domain and while it is a novelty, any overclocking enthusiast will appreciate pushing past 5Ghz on enthusiast cooling solutions. In our case, our CPU was capable of doing 5.1Ghz but not without its heat limitation. Still, on non-AVX Prime95 12K loads, this thing can handle it and with the VRM barely scraping past 52*C.
As the Maximus XII Extreme packs all of the finer controls of its overclocking competition days, there is a lot to play around with for anyone who wants to be a little more adventurous. The Gene or APEX have recently been more favorable for competitive use but with the EXTREME transitioning to a more watercooling/luxury role, it still has the controls of a competition board.
I highly urge readers to read through our review of the Core i9 10900K and Core i7 10700K before reading these motherboard reviews to get an idea on how the processors place themselves and how much value a board holds for this release. Also, these reviews assumes that you, the buyer, has decided to go with the Intel 10th-gen CPUs, and will not factor a what-if-AMD scenario unless when necessary when making a point.
Let’s start with the obvious, this is a premium motherboard and with a price of $800 or almost PHP46,000, is asking a lot of money but with what Intel is putting to the table, the motherboard is focusing on offering the most it can be for this platform: a content creator board for watercooling enthusiasts and gamers. Now there exists this genre of people. Film editors/gamers is a notable example of this type of user. The key factor here is that you need to be able to afford this kind of platform, not just as a hobby but part of a workflow to really justify the cost of the board. In a purely functional sense, the ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME offers a great motherboard for watercoolers first because of its ability to mesh an entire multi-rad setup by powering more than 6 fans and a pair of pumps straight from the board. This unifies the cooling ecosystem by adding a control module for the watercooling in one place and allowing the board to react to CPU temperatures excellently. Still, it’s not a “need” kind of thing and a loop powered off the MOLEX can easily be just as good. The argument, again, is control. Which brings us to the UEFI BIOS aspect of this board and its pedigree, the EXTREME line of boards were always overclocking boards and the MAXIMUS XII EXTREME retains that, allowing anyone capable and daring enough to push their Comet Lake S CPUs to the utmost limit of what 14nm can offer.
The content creator part of this equation though is a bit murky. While the board readily compliments the 10th-gen’s CPUs multitasking capability, there’s a two lines of thought that needs to be addressed here but first I’ll need to mention that ASUS has shipped the ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME with Multi-core Enhancement turned off. That’s right. This high-performance board has the high-performance option turned off. This is in stark contrast to previous releases which saw Multicore Enhancement enabled and unrestrained that performance getting a little boost in exchange for power and temperatures. This is quite odd. As a watercooling board with a high acquisition cost, why does this motherboard go with stock settings? Now on first boot you’re given the option to choose which mode you want to run in and you can also change this in the BIOS, but given that the every-Joe does not know this, ASUS could’ve done a better job highlighting in the boot-up or BIOS option.
Going back to the content creator discussion, the slight boost in performance is obviously appreciated most of the times but the Thunderbolt accessory feels forced at this point especially with Thunderbolt built-in to the ProArt Z490 Creator 10G motherboard. Perhaps a late addition by ASUS to justify their price tag but there is simply no way, an optional daughter card will sway anyone to go with this board when it exists as a stand-alone product already. Why not just sell the ThunderboltFX-less version for less cost? The Extreme boards peaked at $500 and I see no reason for ASUS or GIGABYTE or anyone else start this 1000$ motherboard trend just because they’re motherboards have this extra fancy card I may or may not need.
Those previous statements are meant to frame the value situation of the ASUS ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME. It’s a motherboard that aims to be a lot of only excels in one thing. Ultimately, it’s price is what hurts its situation and with Intel’s 10th-gen Core processors existence in immediate jeopardy because of an imminent Rocket Lake arrival, the only use-case I am recommending this board if you are 1) heavily overclocking, 2) watercooling and 3) do hobby video editing. Because you won’t be going this route if you’re doing this for work.
So, with those out of the way, the ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME is an excellently built motherboard and quality-wise, usability-wise and aesthetically, it’s an awesome motherboard. Its overbuilt VRM, and heavy shroud makes this one of those boards that has more metal in it than it should. So do you this motherboard? Of course not but its a status symbol and luxurious functional motherboard that’s luxuriously priced as well… and as a luxury product, the choice is up to the user.
Its an excellently built board with not much in terms of innovation but I’ll dock those points on Intel rather than ASUS as they force them to do some desperate things despite the stagnancy that Intel CPUs are maintaining during these times. The ASUS ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME is a great board in terms of its offerings and the choice falls to the user.
ASUS is still at fault for the unnecessary baggage that is Thunderbolt card on this package.
ASUS backs the ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME with a 3-year warranty. We give it our B2G Silver Award.
ROG MAXIMUS XII EXTREME LGA1200 Motherboard Review
A luxury motherboard for Intel's 10th-gen that pushes pricing a bit too much for most users but if you can get past that, you get a feature-rich, overbuilt motherboard that is robust and capable than any other boards we've tested.
Excellent build quality
16-phase power delivery design
Overbuilt cooling shroud
A lot of fan headers
Onboard pump power and monitoring
ROG DIMM.2 makes M.2 mounting easier
Extra fan controller hub card
Thunderbolt3 card for faster direct-access storage and devices
Less RGB on random places
LiveDash OLED screen
Thunderbolt3 card should be optional for price reduction
OLED screen may get blocked by larger GPUs
Reduced PCIe slots
EDIT: 05/21/2020 10:24am – Corrected final rating as initial publication had both Value and Final Rating as the same. This is a mistake and has been update to reflect our rating for this board.