The ASUS Republic of Gamer line of motherboards pull out all the stops and the Maximus VI Impact is no exception. This Haswell mini-ITX board is filled to the brim with features both big and small to entice gamers, enthusiasts, and anyone with deep pockets.
December 16, 2013 by Lawrence Lee
|ASUS Maximus VI Impact
LGA1150 mini-ITX Motherboard
The Asus Maximus IV Impact is the newest model in the Republic of Gamers (ROG)
series of motherboards for the niche gaming/enthusiast market. This iteration
has a more limited target demographic as it uses the mini-ITX form factor, prized
for its smaller size. As miniaturization of consumer high tech continues, Asus
is betting that the demand for small gaming PCs growing as well.
The new board is based on the high-end Intel Z87 chipset, so it has all the
usual goodness like SATA 6 Gbps, USB 3.0, RAID, and unrestricted multiplier-based
overclocking. It also boasts support for high memory speeds outside of JEDEC
specifications (via overclocking), a wireless module with both WiFi 802.11ac
and Bluetooth 4.0 capability, eSATA, a dedicated sound card card, an advanced
voltage regulation scheme, and a long laundry list of ROG exclusive features
we’ll get into later. On paper, the Maximus VI Impact is the most sophisticated
mini-ITX motherboard on the consumer market.
ASUS Maximus VI Impact: Specifications
(from the product
Intel® Socket 1150 for 4th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
|2 x DIMM, Max. 16GB, DDR3 1333-3000(O.C.)
Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
* Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
|Integrated Graphics Processor
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort ports
– Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
– Supports DisplayPort with max. Resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 3840 x 2160 @ 60 Hz
Supports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
|1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16
1 x mini-PCIe 2.0 x1 *1
|Intel® Z87 chipset :
4 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology, Intel® Smart Connect Technology *2
Intel® Z87 chipset :
1 x eSATA port(s), red
Intel® Z87 chipset :
1 x M.2 (NGFF) Socket 2 on mPCIe Combo II expansion card(s), black
Support M.2 (NGFF) Type 2242/2260/2280/22110 SSD card (up to 110mm in length), support PCI express 2.0 x1 and SATA 6Gb/s standards
|Intel® I217V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
|Wireless Data Network
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
|ROG SupremeFX Impact 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC *4
– Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
– Lineout DAC playback Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-weighted, Differential output): 115 dB
– Headphone DAC playback Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-weighted, Differential output):110 dB
– TI LM4562 high-fidelity audio OP AMP(s)
Audio Feature :
– SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
– ELNA premium audio capacitors
– Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
– Sonic Radar
– DTS Connect
– Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
– Music PnP
|Intel® Z87 chipset : *5
6 x USB 3.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z87 chipset : *6
6 x USB 2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, black, 2 at mid-board)
|ROG Exclusive Features
mPCIe Combo II (mPCIe/M.2 combo card)
Impact Power :
– 8 + 2 phase power design
– 60A BlackWing Chokes
– 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
UEFI BIOS features :
– ROG BIOS Print
– GPU.DIMM Post
– Tweakers’ Paradise
– ROG SSD Secure Erase
|ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way Optimization :
– The tuning key perfectly consolidates ASUS-exclusive DIGI+ Power Control, TPU, EPU, and Fan Xpert 2 optimize the digital power setting, system performance, power saving and whole system cooling configuration
CPU Level Up
ASUS Wi-Fi GO!
– Wi-Fi GO! Function: Cloud GO!, Media Streaming Hub, Smart Sensor Control, Remote Desktop, Remote Keyboard & Mouse, File Transfer, Capture & Send
– Wi-Fi Engine for network sharing and connection: Client Mode, AP Mode
ASUS Exclusive Features :
– USB BIOS Flashback
– AI Suite 3
– Ai Charger
– USB Charger+
– USB 3.0 Boost
– Disk Unlocker
ASUS EZ DIY :
– ASUS O.C. Profile
– ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
– ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS Q-Design :
– ASUS Q-Shield
– ASUS Q-Cable
– ASUS Q-Code
– ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
– ASUS Q-DIMM
Overclocking Protection :
– ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
|Back I/O Ports
|1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x eSATA
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
4 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
3 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x ROG Connect On/ Off switch(es)
1 x Q-Code LED
1 x DirectKey button
1 x MemOK! button
|Internal I/O Ports
|1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s)
1 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x TPM connector(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s)
3 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
1 x 8-pin EATX 12 V Power connector
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
1 x DRCT header(s)
10 x ProbeIt Measurement Points
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x LN2 Mode jumper(s)
1 x FastBoot jumper(s)
1 x SupremeFX Impact connector(s)
1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header(s)
1 x mPCIe Combo II connector(s)
1 x ASUS Q-Cable
1 x SupremeFX Impact audio card(s)
1 x Optional 4-in-1 washers for CPU cooler backplate
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x ASUS 2T2R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant)
1 x 12 in 1 ROG Cable Label(s)
1 x mPCIe Combo II card(s) with dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth v4.0/3.0+HS module
|64Mb UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.7, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI5.0a Multi-Language BIOS
|WfM 2.0, DMI 2.7, WOL by PME, PXE
ROG GameFirst II
ROG Mem TweakIt
DAEMON Tools Pro Standard
|Mini ITX Form Factor
6.7 inch x 6.7 inch ( 17 cm x 17 cm )
|*1: The mini-PCIe slot is pre-installed with a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module on mPCIe Combo II expansion card.
*2: The functions support depends on the CPU types.
*3: The module is pre-installed on mPCIe Combo II expansion card.
*4: 8-channel audio output is supported by jack-retasking using a chassis with HD audio module in the front panel.
*5: Support ASUS USB 3.0 Boost, UASP standard on the Intel native USB 3.0 is only supported under Windows® 8.
*6: 2 x USB2.0 ports at mid-board shares with ROG extension (ROG_EXT) port.
The board ships in a thick cherry red container with a separate container for
the motherboard protected by a plastic cover. Underneath it is another compartment
holding an impressive amount of extra gear. It’s jam-packed with accessories
including a locking data cable for each of the board’s four SATA ports, an extension
cable (Q-Cable) for the front panel connectors, the WiFi/Bluetooth adapter and
antenna, the SupremeFX Impact sound card. Also, tucked inside the manual is
a driver/utility disc and a sheet of stickers for labeling the cables inside
your case (not pictured).
The 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.0 NIC is mounted to a mini PCI-E module that plugs
into the board via a special header near the back panel. It uses a Broadcom
chipset complemented by an angular external antenna that can be rotated to find
a better signal if need be, and 80 cm cables.
The board actually lacks native audio functionality so a separate sound card that hooks up to proprietary connector near the wireless adapter so the PCI-E expansion slot remains free. The card boasts a 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio, shielding to limit EMI, and four operational amplifiers to help filter out noise and interference. It also supports Music PnP, a feature that turns your PC’s mic port into a passthrough for any audio device with a 3.5 mm output to connect to your speakers even if the PC is powered down.
Most Intel-based mini-ITX boards released in the past few years use a layout
with the CPU socket very close to the PCI-E expansion slot, creating interference
with larger CPU coolers. Today, there are quite a few models going against this
trend, the Maximus VI included. Given the enthusiast nature of the Maximus series
it’s a no-brainer.
The Maximus VI Impact has a similar UEFI/BIOS interface to the regular ASUS
boards of the current generation with many more settings and tweaks to make
the experience as user-friendly as possible.
The UEFI BIOS is littered with all sorts of voltage and frequency settings,
too many to detail. If you’re skeptical about software voltage readings, there
are specified spots on the motherboard you can probe with a multimeter. There
are also a host of smaller touches that make life for the hardworking enthusiast
a bit easier. You’ll find preset settings for popular memory kits, a favorites
menu where you can bookmark settings that are changed often, and before exiting
out, it displays a list of everything that’s been altered for you to double-check.
It even allows you to leave a quick note about each setting — that’s right
— you can leave your own annotations.
Most mini-ITX motherboards have only two fan headers. The Maximus VI Impact
is designed for enthusiasts who often use specialized enclosures with plenty
of cooling so it has four fan headers. Each header can be controlled individually
with three different presets or a manual option with designated minimum/maximum
fan speeds and temperature thresholds (the system reacts to CPU temperature
While this is impressive, it does have some restrictions. First of all, only the CPU fan offers both PWM and voltage control; the other three fan headers, despite having 4-pins, treat the fans connected to them like 3-pin models. The CPU fan’s lowest speed limit is 40% while the Chassis fans can only drop down to 60%. Also, the Chassis fans’ minimum temperature is grayed out and stuck at 40°C, while the CPU fan can start reacting at 20°C.
To test boot time the BIOS/UEFI was optimized by setting the hard drive recognition and other delays set to minimum, taking care not to disable common functionality like full USB support, POST messages, etc. and measured the time it takes to reach the Windows loading screen (we stop here because this is the point where the O/S, CPU, and drive become factors).
The Maximus VI Impact’s level of sophistication may work against it when booting
up. At 17.1 seconds, the process was noticeably slower than the last few Intel
boards we’ve reviewed. If you’re constantly tweaking the UEFI BIOS settings
this delay adds up over time.
- Intel Core i7-4770K
processor – 3.5 GHz, 22nm, 84W, integrated HD 4600 graphics
- Scythe Kabuto
CPU cooler – stock fan at 800 RPM
- Kingston HyperX LoVo 4GB memory – 2x2GB, DDR3-1600, 9-9-9-24
Digital Scorpio Blue notebook hard drive – 500GB, 5400RPM,
BC-08B1ST Blu-ray drive
SS-400ET ATX power supply
Windows 7 operating system – Ultimate, 64-bit
Measurement and Analysis Tools
to monitor CPU frequency and voltage.
CPU stress software.
CPU stress software.
GPU stress software.
- Media Player Classic – Home Cinema to play H.264 video.
Firefox and Adobe
Flash Player to play Flash video.
- CrystalDiskMark benchmarking tool for storage devices.
to monitor system temperatures and fan speeds.
AC Power Analyzer 380803 AC power meter, used to measure the power consumption
of the system.
- Infrared Thermometer to measure heatsink temperatures.
- Digital Multimeters to measure voltage drop.
- Icy Dock MB981US32-1S eSATA/USB 3.0 dock to test storage subsystems.
- Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB solid state drive to test storage subsystems.
Video Test Clips
H.264/MKV 1080p: A custom 1080p H.264 encoded clip inside an Matroska container.
Flash 1080p: The Dark Knight Rises Official Trailer #3, a YouTube HD trailer in 1080p.
Estimating DC Power
The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Seasonic SS-400ET used in our test system:
Seasonic SS-400ET Test Results
DC Output (W)
AC Input (W)
This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our test
system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power input
based on this data. We won’t go through the math; it’s easy enough to figure
out for yourself if you really want to.
If available, the latest motherboard BIOS is installed prior to testing. Certain services/features
like Indexing, Superfetch, System Restore, and Windows Defender are disabled
to prevent them from causing spikes in CPU/HDD usage. We also make note if energy
saving features like Cool’n’Quiet, SpeedStep or S3 suspend-to-RAM do not function
Our main test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power consumption
at various states. To stress the CPU, we use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces higher system power consumption. After 10~15 minutes of load (when temperatures stabilize), We also measure the hottest points on the external heatsinks using an infrared thermometer. To stress the IGP, We use FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility.
Finally, storage subsystems are tested briefly using CrystalDiskMark (1000 MB of 0x00 fill test data) and a Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB solid state drive. For USB and eSATA we use an external eSATA/USB 3.0 dock to connect the drive.
Boards with advanced voltage regulation can sometimes give up some efficiency
at lower levels. The Maximus VI Impact keeps it fairly tight overall. It used
a couple more watts at idle compared to other Haswell models. Power consumption
during video playback was comparable.
By default the board’s UEFI BIOS set Turbo Boost to push the multiplier to 39x for a clock speed of 3.9 GHz regardless of how many cores were in use, producing very high power consumption numbers. To make things fair, we dialed it back with similar settings we’ve used previously with the i7-4770K (39x/38x/37x/36x for 1/2/3/4 core operation).
The Maximus VI Impact’s power usage with more demanding tasks was roughly on
par with the Intel DZ87KL-75K, an ATX board which shipped with our original
Haswell review kit. Both the TMPGEnc and CPU load test use all available cores
but inexplicably low consumption was noted during video encoding. It fared more
favorably against the Gigabyte
GA-Z87N-WIFI, a more affordable mini-ITX LGA1150 board.
Unfortunately it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how much of the energy draw
is generated by the processor alone, as the amount of power pulled from the
AUX12V/EPS12V connector depends on how board power regulation has been implemented.
Like the Z87N-WIFI, the Maximus VI Impact relies heavily on the +12V line.
To test the board’s cooling, the CPU was stressed for ~15 minutes with Prime95. Temperatures of the boards’ chipset heatsinks were recorded using a spot thermometer. The highest temperatures were taken for comparison.
While the chipset heatsink doesn’t have much surface area, the temperature
was lukewarm, peaking at just 22°C above ambient on full CPU load. On the
other hand, the VRM heatsink got toasty, measuring 32°C higher than the
DZ87KL-75K, though it does appear that the Maximus VI Impact has more circuitry
to cool and the orientation of its heatspreader makes it more difficult to dissipate
heat in our horizontal open testbed.
Software & Fan Control
Like all ASUS boards, the Maximus VI Impact ships with AI Suite, a collection of utilities to control and monitor various settings. However, as a ROG variant, it uses a special version with some fairly high-end features.
Neophytes may want to try ASUS’ built-in 4-way optimization function which automatically determines suitable settings for overclocking, not just CPU frequency and voltage, but also power regulation to ensure stability during load, and also a separate profile when the system is idle, tuning the system to be fast and free of tweaking-related issues, while maintain an efficient power envelope. Fan control is also bundled into this process, checking fan speeds adjusting the curves accordingly to fit the rest of the settings. Manual control is a journey through a deep rabbit hole similar to what you find in the UEFI BIOS. Everything can be tweaked with a high level granularity, including load-line calibration and phase control. You can even detail how CPU voltage shifts in response to load in a dynamic fashion.
There are other software add-ons included with the board but the only thing that really stands out as notable is ROG RAMDisk, ASUS’ own ramdisk software which can use up to 80% of the system memory as a high performance cache. It’s not new technology but the application is free and is comparable in capability to paid alternatives. The process involves making a virtual drive using a preset amount of RAM and directing it to sync with a folder of an often-used application. It’s a nice extra but it’s better suited for larger motherboards with more DIMM slots — the 16GB cap on system memory hampers its effectiveness with large modern gaming titles.
Fan Xpert 2, the most advanced first party fan control software makes an appearance here with a more refined iteration than previous boards. The same functionality remains but you can now also dictate fan spin/up down time to adjust how long it takes for the fan to make speed changes, altering how smoothly the fans ramp up and down. The UI has also been consolidated to make it easier to navigate. Fans are scanned to determine usable speeds and each header can be individually controlled dynamically in response to CPU temperature or statically with a single non-changing setting according to the user’s specifications.
It’s a killer app in our opinion but the same limitation of the UEFI BIOS
carries over. Regardless of the characteristics of the fan, it doesn’t allow
you to slow them down below the designated 40% and 60% speed thresholds for
the CPU and Chassis fans respectively. The system basically doesn’t want to
bring the fan speed down to anywhere near the point where it will stop spinning
completely, making the minimum speeds artificially high. Lower speeds may be
achievable in the future via SpeedFan, but the current version of this utility
does not support the Maximus VI.
Storage Subsystem Performance
To test storage subsystems, we used CrystalDiskMark, the 1000 MB setting with
0x00 fill test data, and a Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB solid state drive (compressible
data produces the best possible speeds out SandForce drives). The drive was
connected using an Icy Dock external dock which supports eSATA and USB 3.0 (limited
to 3 Gbps and 5 Gbps respectively).
SATA 6 Gbps
As the Maximus VI Impact relies on the native Intel chipset for SATA and USB 3.0 functionality, its performance is more or less identical to most series-8 boards, so we’ve used the results of the Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI to represent the entire chipset.
Intel’s SATA controller hasn’t really changed from the previous generation,
like the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H and Intel
DQ77KB. AMD’s controller is definitely a step behind in both sequential
and random read/write performance when working with large block sizes. Fortunately
for AMD, switching to Intel can only achieve notable measurable gains if a very
fast SSD is used; in day-to-day operation it’s unlikely you’ll notice any difference.
The Z87’s USB 3.0 solution is also a bit faster overall than AMD but the difference
is not significant. Both controllers represent a significant bottleneck despite
the much higher theoretical throughput limit of 5 Gbps (625 MB/s) throughput
For the WiFi performance test, we sent a large file transfer (700MB) over 802.11n to and from a machine connected via gigabit ethernet and timed the operation to calculate the average transfer rate. We also checked signal strength to the various wireless networks in our area by going to the MS-DOS command line and using the the "netsh" tool.
It should be noted that the 802.11n router servicing our lab is not the greatest, an Actiontec combination router/gateway from our ADSL provider. It is located in a central location, about a few feet away with only one wall between it and our test systems so it should produce ideal results.
Despite all the impressive specifications of the included Broadcom wireless
adapter, they did not translate into superior real world performance. Downstream
performance was similar to NICs currently shipping with a pair of Gigabyte mini-ITX
mainboards. Upstream speed was about 40% worse and middle of the pack by comparison.
The reported signal strength was similar to the Intel Centrino 2230 and both
adapters failed to detect two of the five SSIDs in the lab’s vicinity. However,
it’s possible that they simply drop these less reliable connections from the
list to avoid the possibility of hooking up to a network with low signal strength
and risk dropping the connection.
Like other members of ASUS’ Republic of Gamers series motherboards, the Maximus
VI Impact is specifically designed for enthusiasts willing to put in the time,
effort, and money to tweak their systems for peak performance. For this purpose,
it delivers in spades, offering a mother lode of settings to play with, and
a highly customizable power regulation system to help ensure stability. The
CPU socket location is prime with enough clearance around it for a nice big
cooler, and up to four fans can be controlled on an individual basis. It simply
goes above and beyond what anyone would expect to get, not just from a mini-ITX
motherboard (which typically is rather basic), but from any board of any form
We’re impressed with the attention to detail by the designers. There people
responsible for the ROG program appear to be enthusiasts themselves, rather
than a bunch of engineers instructed to throw a ton of features together into
one high-end package. We’ve seen the DirectKey, MemOK, and diagnostic display
on other models but they’ve always been on the board themselves. The Maximus
VI Impact moves them to the outside making them easily accessible once the system
is fully assembled. Features in the UEFI BIOS make things more convenient, like
the favorites menu, presets, review before exit, etc. The inclusion of ramdisk
software is appropriate for the target demographic, though a lack of memory
slots limits its potential. The ability to output audio from a device through
the system to the connected speakers without the PC being turned is a nice bonus
that extends beyond their specified market; it would nice to see this on regular
The ASUS Maximus VI Impact doesn’t have any notable flaws and its feature-set
is expansive, making it highly desirable. That being said, it’s not for everyone.
If you don’t plan on playing with clock speeds, installing a big cooler, and
controlling multiple fans, it’s hard to justify the expenditure. The current
street price of US$220 makes it the most expensive consumer mini-ITX
board on the market. However, if you plan to use the board’s extensive capabilities,
it may well be worth the price.
Our thanks to ASUS for the Maximus VI Impact motherboard sample
* * *
ASUS Maximus VI Impact
is Recommended by SPCR
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* * *