Asus ROG Maximus XI Gene Review: Dual Capacity RAM Meets DIMM.2

Asus seems to be going all-out with its ROG Maxiumus X1 Gene to help users who want a compact Micro ATX board, but don’t want to sacrifice features or the ability to plug in lots of high-speed storage. The company has ditched two RAM slots in favor of a DIMM.2 connector for plugging in an extra pair of NVMe SSDs.

That means the board only has a pair of RAM slots. But the company also worked with a few memory firms to develop proprietary double-capacity (DC) DIMMs, so you can still install up to 64GB in two slots, provided you’re willing to track down proprietary memory.

That makes the ROG Maximus XI Gene a great board for a very particular kind of builder looking for a compact, no-compromise PC. Just know that it won’t be cheap, as this board currently sells for around $400 in USA (UK gets it for only £300 inc. VAT) . And you may not be able to carry over your double-capacity RAM, as it’s based on an Asus-derived spec that’s currently only supported by a few motherboards like this one.

Specifications

SocketLGA 1151
ChipsetIntel Z390
Form FactorMicro ATX
Voltage Regulator12 Phases
Video PortsHDMI 1.4b
USB Ports10Gbps: (1) Type-C, (3) Type A
5Gbps: (4) Type A: (2) USB 2.0
Network Jacks(1) Gigabit Ethernet
(2) Wi-Fi Antenna
Audio Jacks(5) Analog, (1) Digital
Legacy Ports/Jacks(1) PS/2
Other Ports/JackCLR_CMOS, BIOS Flashback Buttons
PCIe x16(1) v3.0 (x16, x8/M.2/M.2)
PCIe x8
PCIe x4(1) v3.0 (full bandwidth)
PCIe x1
CrossFire/SLI
DIMM slots(2) DDR4 (Double-Capacity Capable)
M.2 slots(2) PCIe 3.0 x4 by PCH, (2) PCIe 3.0 x4 by CPU*
(*Converts PCIe x16 slot to x8 mode)
U.2 Ports
SATA Ports(4) 6Gb/s
USB Headers(1) 10Gb/s Type-C, (1) v3.0, (2) v2.0
Fan Headers(7) 4-Pin, (1) 3-pin Pump, (1) Asus NODE
Legacy InterfacesSystem (Beep-code) Speaker
Other InterfacesFP-Audio, (2) RGB-LED, Thermistor, (2) Water Flow
Diagnostics PanelNumeric
Internal Button/SwitchPower, Reset, Safe Mode, Boot Retry / MemOK, Slow Mode, Pause
SATA ControllersIntegrated (0/1/5/10)
Ethernet ControllersWGI219V PHY
Wi-Fi / BluetoothIntel 9260 802.11ac (1.73Gb/s)
BT 5.0 Combo
USB ControllersASM1042A
HD Audio CodecALC1220
DDL/DTS Connect
Warranty3 Years

We know the old myths about Micro ATX being cheap, running hot (or both), yet two decades have passed since the retail market was flooded with boards that met that description. Asus has catered to the compact performance market through most of that time, from the early days of SLI-packed four-slot oversized cubes to the most recent trend of three-slot mini-towers. Yet somehow, Micro ATX boards remain a niche market among performance enthusiasts.

Single-graphics-card builds ruled the performance market through 2018, thanks to the high-price of cards and the fact that both Nvidia and AMD seem to be de-emphasizing multi-card rigs. So the Maximus XI Gene’s inclusion of a single PCIe x16 slot is more acceptable than it might have been to enthusiasts in the past. Moreover, the layout of the board increases storage support to five NVMe SSDs, with three sharing the usual Z390 chipset path and the other two directly connected to the CPU!  That latter part is a boon to storage enthusiasts, since the Z390’s DMI has the equivalent of a PCIe 3.0 x4 connection.

That said, Intel’s LGA-1151 platform doesn’t give you anything without taking something away: Enabling the two CPU-connected M.2 slots steals eight lanes from the PCIe x16 slot. Enabling them means installing the included Asus DIMM.2 riser card seen in the promotional photo. Each side of the adapter holds a single PCIe-interface M.2 drive under a thick aluminum heat spreader. This also happens to be the only way to install 110mm M.2 drives (aka 2210 form factor), as the PCH-connected slots are limited to drives of 80mm or less.

The two PCH-connected M.2 interfaces are hidden under another aluminum heat spreader, between the DIMM.2 riser card interface and two DDR4 slots. Installed drives point toward each other so that two 80mm drives will use the same attachment screw where they meet in the middle. The bottom of the above photo shows the board’s front edge, where a Gen2 USB 3.1 and a USB 3.0 header are found to the left, while one (of two) RGB headers, a MemOK-enable switch, and a two-digit status code display are found to the right. Between those are overclocking-friendly features such as Safe Boot, Retry, Reset, and Power buttons, Slow Mode and LN2 Mode switches, and a row of LEDs to indicate initialization of the CPU, DRAM, Graphics, and Boot ROM, as well as Condensation Detection.

MemOK is enabled by default and allows the board to boot at reduced memory settings following a memory hang at initialization. Slow Mode helps users of extreme (LN2) cooling to overcome “cold bug” boot issues. LN2 Mode extends the available range of several firmware voltage settings, and the Retry button instructs the board to retry booting at current settings without allowing safe-boot mode.

We mentioned that users could install up to five NVMe SSDs but only mentioned four M.2 interfaces: That’s because NVMe supports PCIe expansion slots as well as the M.2 interface. A PCH-supported PCIe 3.0 x4 slot is located above the CPU-based PCIe x16 slot, and it’s even open ended…just in case your card is longer than the traditional x4 for factor. A longer card still gets only four lanes, so that a multi-drive passive M.2 adapter card can still only feed a single M.2 slot.

The ROG Maximus XI Gene includes a special ASIC that allows firmware to be flashed using nothing more than a power supply and USB drive, which is important for those who’ve purchased a board that was manufactured prior to the launch of a newer CPU model. The button to enable this feature is found on the I/O panel, right below a CLR_CMOS button. Next to those are a PS/2 and two USB 2.0 interfaces for your keyboard and mouse, a pair of USB 3.0 (3.1 Gen1) ports, a solitary HDMI 1.4b port, Gigabit Ethernet, two more USB 3.0 and four Gen2 USB 3.1 ports (of which one has a Type-C connector) a pair of antenna ports for the Intel 1.73Gb/s Wi-Fi PHY, five analog audio jacks, and a digital optical output port.

One design feature that does harken back to the ‘90s is the use of two slots on a 9-inch PCB: Though the Maximus XI Gene short retains the 9.6” depth of Micro ATX (and ATX) boards, Asus cut its lower edge 0.6-inch short of the maximum spec to provide additional case space below its downward facing headers, which are meant to assure that any style of cable connector will fit under the cooler of any graphics card. We’re not going to say that you can’t use the board to resurrect your Flex ATX case, only that you probably won’t have room to plug the cables in if you do.

Downward-facing headers include front-panel audio, Asus Node, two front-panel dual-port USB 2.0, one (of two) RGB, a four-pin fan with increased current (3A) for water pumps, and an Intel-standard nine-pin button/LED group. Just above that last connector, a 3-pin fan header is designed to work with two adjacent flow meter headers to adjust pump speed via this alternative method. Tuners whose graphics coolers don’t overlap all those headers have access to a row of voltage detection points (GND/PCH/DRAM/ST/iGPU/PLL/CPUIO/CPUSA/vCore), above which are a perpendicularly-oriented thermal sensor header and two jumpers for disabling the motherboard’s onboard lighting.

The installation kit includes the DIMM.2 dual-M.2 riser, two SATA cables, an RGB extension cable, a dual-band Wi-Fi antenna, a Q-Connector cable end bundler for the front-panel button/LED group, a driver disc, a beverage coaster, a discount code for cablemod.com, a printed user manual, and a shiny ROG sticker pack.

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  • jpe1701
    I usually kind of like the ROG boards but this one is ugly with some pretty unusual design choices.
  • jpe1701
    Just noticed the audio codec is the alc1220 not the one listed in the chart. Had to take another once over the ugly duckling. lol
  • Crashman
    1934870 said:
    Just noticed the audio codec is the alc1220 not the one listed in the chart. Had to take another once over the ugly duckling. lol

    Thanks for the help.
  • readnews4000000
    waste of money , PLX chip solution is way better than this garbage board , Where the PLX chip gives you full share of 16 lanes on all devices including GPU which will end up better
  • Crashman
    2858244 said:
    waste of money , PLX chip solution is way better than this garbage board , Where the PLX chip gives you full share of 16 lanes on all devices including GPU which will end up better
    How? Are you misunderstanding exactly what the PLX bridge does?

    The CPU has 16 lanes to the graphics card. Those can be divided into x8/x8 or x8/x4/x4.

    If you add one of the big "broadcast mode" PLX bridges, you break one x16 lane set into a pair of x16 lane sets with identical signals, at best. It's not x32, "broadcast mode" is simply a repeater function, one signal goes in two come out.

    If you added such a device to this board, "broadcast mode" would not apply because the drives and the graphics card have different data. So the big PLX bridge would be nothing more than a hub, and you'd still have the two added M.2 slots competing with the GPU for bandwidth.
  • mlee 2500
    I have a Maximus V Gene from 2012 with an i7-3770K that's still running great after nearly seven years. In fact, with an updated GPU it can still play all of today's game titles at 2K resolution no problem. One of the best PC's I've ever had.
  • PapaCrazy
    1791309 said:
    I have a Maximus V Gene from 2012 with an i7-3770K that's still running great after nearly seven years. In fact, with an updated GPU it can still play all of today's game titles at 2K resolution no problem. One of the best PC's I've ever had.


    I built a computer for someone with a 3550k and Maximus V Gene, and it's still running well. It cost half the price it does now though, and the Ivy Bridge chips had really low power. The VRM temps on this one are concerning, as is the price.
  • derpfromabove
    It is alsways quite cute how they always bundle a DVD with a driver with even the most recent motherboards, despite how less and less PCs have such a drive in the first place.

    I mean for real, can't they just bundle the software on an USB stick instead? You can get an 8GB one for under 5€ these days.
  • bit_user
    The proprietary DIMM has me worried it'll become a trend. I sure hope not.

    And how many people really need > 32 GB at all, much less in a mini-ITX board? Sure, for servers and professional applications, I can understand. But this isn't a workstation or server board, and most of those folks can surely live with a > mini-ITX system.
  • Crashman
    328798 said:
    The proprietary DIMM has me worried it'll become a trend. I sure hope not. And how many people really need > 32 GB at all, much less in a mini-ITX board? Sure, for servers and professional applications, I can understand. But this isn't a workstation or server board, and most of those folks can surely live with a > mini-ITX system.
    This is a Micro ATX board, which means it has as much room on the top as ATX. And Asus also has an ATX board with two slots that supports those proprietary DIMMs.

    Asus says that it's a better design because two slot boards overclock memory higher. Of course, if you want more than 16GB, you'll need double sided DIMMs...which puts you back to square in overclocking with a set of four single-sided DIMMs. And if you want more than 32GB...you'll be stuck with the proprietary memory which probably won't overclock as far as four double-sided DIMMs would have.

    So really, they're counting on best overclocking of 16GB sets to promote these boards. But the DIMM.2 adapter really is pretty slick.
  • readnews4000000
    8708 said:
    2858244 said:
    waste of money , PLX chip solution is way better than this garbage board , Where the PLX chip gives you full share of 16 lanes on all devices including GPU which will end up better
    How? Are you misunderstanding exactly what the PLX bridge does? The CPU has 16 lanes to the graphics card. Those can be divided into x8/x8 or x8/x4/x4. If you add one of the big "broadcast mode" PLX bridges, you break one x16 lane set into a pair of x16 lane sets with identical signals, at best. It's not x32, "broadcast mode" is simply a repeater function, one signal goes in two come out. If you added such a device to this board, "broadcast mode" would not apply because the drives and the graphics card have different data. So the big PLX bridge would be nothing more than a hub, and you'd still have the two added M.2 slots competing with the GPU for bandwidth.


    PLX Switches will allow you to have better bandwidth for graphic card in case the NVME is idle and not in use or simply not using full bandwidth in read write operation.

    For example, Lets Assume your M2 card is reading at 2000MB/s not saturating full 4 lanes , The extra bandwidth will go for the GPU ...

    also assuming your two NVME drives are installed they will never work together at the same time While Gaming which will aso free some bandwidth for the GPU

    and Vice Versa as well

    PLX switches are alot better than dividing lanes into x4 x4 and x8

    because alot of bandwidth will be lost and not used in real life , either for the NVME not saturating the 4 lanes , or simply the three not working together at the same time .

    PLX switches gives you total Virtual lanes that can be fully used ...

    for example , x4 (bandwidth) for nvme and x12 (bandwidth) for GPU this can only happen using PLX switches

    because they share all the bandwidth between cards Virtually
  • Crashman
    2858244 said:
    8708 said:
    2858244 said:
    waste of money , PLX chip solution is way better than this garbage board , Where the PLX chip gives you full share of 16 lanes on all devices including GPU which will end up better
    How? Are you misunderstanding exactly what the PLX bridge does? The CPU has 16 lanes to the graphics card. Those can be divided into x8/x8 or x8/x4/x4. If you add one of the big "broadcast mode" PLX bridges, you break one x16 lane set into a pair of x16 lane sets with identical signals, at best. It's not x32, "broadcast mode" is simply a repeater function, one signal goes in two come out. If you added such a device to this board, "broadcast mode" would not apply because the drives and the graphics card have different data. So the big PLX bridge would be nothing more than a hub, and you'd still have the two added M.2 slots competing with the GPU for bandwidth.
    PLX Switches will allow you to have better bandwidth for graphic card in case the NVME is idle and not in use or simply not using full bandwidth in read write operation. For example, Lets Assume your M2 card is reading at 2000MB/s not saturating full 4 lanes , The extra bandwidth will go for the GPU ... also assuming your two NVME drives are installed they will never work together at the same time While Gaming which will aso free some bandwidth for the GPU and Vice Versa as well PLX switches are alot better than dividing lanes into x4 x4 and x8 because alot of bandwidth will be lost and not used in real life , either for the NVME not saturating the 4 lanes , or simply the three not working together at the same time . PLX switches gives you total Virtual lanes that can be fully used ... for example , x4 (bandwidth) for nvme and x12 (bandwidth) for GPU this can only happen using PLX switches because they share all the bandwidth between cards Virtually
    Has it also occurred to you that the big PLX bridges also induce latency?
  • readnews4000000
    8708 said:
    2858244 said:
    8708 said:
    2858244 said:
    waste of money , PLX chip solution is way better than this garbage board , Where the PLX chip gives you full share of 16 lanes on all devices including GPU which will end up better
    How? Are you misunderstanding exactly what the PLX bridge does? The CPU has 16 lanes to the graphics card. Those can be divided into x8/x8 or x8/x4/x4. If you add one of the big "broadcast mode" PLX bridges, you break one x16 lane set into a pair of x16 lane sets with identical signals, at best. It's not x32, "broadcast mode" is simply a repeater function, one signal goes in two come out. If you added such a device to this board, "broadcast mode" would not apply because the drives and the graphics card have different data. So the big PLX bridge would be nothing more than a hub, and you'd still have the two added M.2 slots competing with the GPU for bandwidth.
    PLX Switches will allow you to have better bandwidth for graphic card in case the NVME is idle and not in use or simply not using full bandwidth in read write operation. For example, Lets Assume your M2 card is reading at 2000MB/s not saturating full 4 lanes , The extra bandwidth will go for the GPU ... also assuming your two NVME drives are installed they will never work together at the same time While Gaming which will aso free some bandwidth for the GPU and Vice Versa as well PLX switches are alot better than dividing lanes into x4 x4 and x8 because alot of bandwidth will be lost and not used in real life , either for the NVME not saturating the 4 lanes , or simply the three not working together at the same time . PLX switches gives you total Virtual lanes that can be fully used ... for example , x4 (bandwidth) for nvme and x12 (bandwidth) for GPU this can only happen using PLX switches because they share all the bandwidth between cards Virtually
    Has it also occurred to you that the big PLX bridges also induce latency?


    PLX motherboards reviews for years showed that it is minimal and not noticeable ....

    The benefit is worth it , like the lets assume you have 2 NVME cards and a GPU , When the two NVME are Idle the GPU will work full X16 bandwidth. and we know that read write operation is never continuous in gaming PC and never the two SSD at the same time so Why waste lanes ?

    This motherboard should be cheap. for that price it is better to add the $50 PLX chip
  • bit_user
    8708 said:
    Asus says that it's a better design because two slot boards overclock memory higher. Of course, if you want more than 16GB, you'll need double sided DIMMs...which puts you back to square in overclocking with a set of four single-sided DIMMs. And if you want more than 32GB...you'll be stuck with the proprietary memory which probably won't overclock as far as four double-sided DIMMs would have.

    I always run 1 DIMM per channel, if I can. I guess even having another pair of empty slots could compromise the signal integrity, slightly.

    It's a shame they had to even go down the road of making those large DIMMs. You'd think having only 2 DIMM slots could become a selling point of OC-friendly boards, kind of like how some sports cars make a point of no having a sunroof (as it makes the roof thicker and raises the car's center of gravity). As you point out, packing so many chips on just 2 DIMMs really isn't much different, electrically, than having 4. So, it kind of defeats the point, you're buying a 2-slot board for OC.
  • bit_user
    8708 said:
    Has it also occurred to you that the big PLX bridges also induce latency?

    Did you guys ever test that? If not, might be a good idea for an article.
  • Crashman
    328798 said:
    8708 said:
    Has it also occurred to you that the big PLX bridges also induce latency?
    Did you guys ever test that? If not, might be a good idea for an article.

    I don't remember. I just remember a board that had a direct pathway slot and two bridged slots because the direct pathway slot was faster. That was a while ago.
  • mlee 2500
    641776 said:
    1791309 said:
    I have a Maximus V Gene from 2012 with an i7-3770K that's still running great after nearly seven years. In fact, with an updated GPU it can still play all of today's game titles at 2K resolution no problem. One of the best PC's I've ever had.
    I built a computer for someone with a 3550k and Maximus V Gene, and it's still running well. It cost half the price it does now though, and the Ivy Bridge chips had really low power. The VRM temps on this one are concerning, as is the price.


    Yeah, I shouldn't suggest that the Maxiums V Gene platform seven years ago necessarily infers anything about the latest in that line of mobo's, and to expand on your point, it's likely that part of what made it great back then was the silicon available at the time to pair with it. The lastest 9th gen processors push the power limits of the 14nm node sufficiently enough to make it a whole 'nother ball game.