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Asus Unveils ROG Lineup Of Z170 Motherboards For Skylake CPUs (Surprise: RGB Lighting)

Asus launched a set of three new Republic of Gamers Maximus motherboards. The Maximus VIII boards are based on Intel's new Z170 Express chipset with support for DDR4 and Intel Skylake processors. The Maximus VIII Hero and Ranger are full-sized ATX boards, while the Maximus VIII Gene is an mATX offering.

All three boards include very similar features, including 5-way optimization, which uses a combination of firmware, software and dedicated hardware to automatically tune the PC based on the components installed in the system. Asus said this provides better stability compared to generic pre-sets. Asus ROG boards also feature T-Topology motherboard traces, which provide time-aligned signal transfers. The company said the custom layout increases stability and compatibility at all frequencies, allowing for overclocked DDR4 running as fast as 3733 MHz, even when all DIMM slots are filled.

Asus Maximus VIII motherboards make use of Pro Clock technology. Pro Clock is a dedicated base-clock generator which allows for BCLK frequencies beyond 400 MHz. ROG's TurboV Procoessing Unit (TPU) has been designed to work along with Pro Clock. Asus said using this combination reduces boot times and jitter at high BCLK clock speeds.

ROG Maximus VIII motherboards come equipped with Supreme FX 2015 audio, featuring a shielded design and professional-grade components including an ESS ES9023P digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Supreme FX 2015 comes equipped with Nichicon capacitors, a 2V RMS headphone and Sonic SenseAmp, which automatically optimizes outputs for and headset between 32 and 600 ohms.

Asus has also included Sonic Studio II software, which can apply different audio effects and includes Perfect Voice noise-cancellation technology. Perfect Voice filters out unwanted noise from incoming and outgoing communications. Casting Enhancer is another included feature of Sonic Studio II. It reduces noise artifacts and stabilizes voice volume when streaming or recording audio. Sonic Studio II includes a virtual surround mode that emulates 7.1 audio even on a stereo headset.

All ROG Maximus boards feature advanced fan headers. All of the headers support both 3- and 4-pin fans in both PWM and DC modes. Each header has its own dedicated thermal sensor, but each one can be assigned to react to different diodes. All of the headers can be controlled from the UEFI, or through Asus' Fan Xpert 3 software, including the dedicated water pump header, which is set to full-speed by default. ROG Maximus motherboards are compatible with the Asus Fan Extension card that can be purchased separately. This accessory adds three more fan headers, as well as temperature probes that can be controlled by Fan Xpert 3.

Asus has included Intel's latest gigabit Ethernet controller, i-219V, on all three ROG Maximus VIII boards. The company said this controller takes the networking workload away from the CPU. GameFirst technology is found on each of the boards as well, and it can be used to prioritize packets for specific applications. Pre-sets exist for gaming, streaming media and file sharing.

Asus added some extra protection features. Maximus VIII motherboards feature electrostatically-guarded and surge-protected components that can take a surge up 15 KV. TrueVolt USB ensures stable 5V power delivery to the USB ports, and Asus has implemented Over-current Protection for the DRAM slots that features a resettable fuse used to protect the memory modules from damage caused by too much current.

Included with the ROG Maximus boards are a set of features Asus is calling Smart DIY. Smart DIY consists of a CPU installation tool meant to prevent damage to socket pins, a one-piece Q-connector to connect the front panel wiring, and Q-DIMM memory slots that have single-sided clips. Asus also included dual backplates to prevent flexion, and Q-Shield, which Asus said helps prevent nicks and cuts while building.

Along with the smart DYI features, Asus has included RAMCache technology on all Maximus VIII motherboards. RAMCache keeps your favorite games and apps cached in RAM to launch them quicker. Asus has also bundled KeyBot II with the ROG boards, which is a dedicated microprocessor that can record macros from any keyboard on multiple profiles. Maximus VIII motherboards include free access to Overwolf. Asus said Overwolf can be used to access instant messages, streaming, recording gameplay or browsing the Web without interrupting gameplay.

All of the ROG Maximus boards come equipped with RGB lighting that can be customized to display multiple colors at once. The lighting can be set to change shades with different CPU load, or it can be set to pulse to the beat of music.

The ROG Maximus VIII Hero, Ranger and Gene motherboards are available now through various retailers. Asus stated that more Maximus VIII boards are coming soon.

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Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews of graphics cards and virtual reality hardware.