Software And Firmware
Asus Aura RGB lighting controller, GameFirst IV network packet prioritization, Sonic Studio III audio application, and Sonic Radar III noise source locator (for games), are all carried over from other ROG-series motherboards, such as the previously tested Strix Z270E.
Asus’ Dual Intelligent Processors 5 (DIP 5) application is also unchanged from the previous review, and its 5-way optimization automatic overclocking function pushed our Core i7-7700K to 5.0/4.9 GHz (2/4 cores loaded) at 1.375V. Dropping to 1.33V under load, Prime95 crashed before the processor had a chance to reach its 100°C thermal threshold (where it would have forced a lower multiplier).
Other DIP 5 applications include the previously unmentioned Keybot II macro programmer, Asus RamCache II, and Asus RAMDisk.
Maximus IX Hero Firmware
This Core i7-7700K sample regularly hits 4.80 GHz at 1.30V, and the Maximus IX Hero was no exception. The big news was in DRAM overclocking, where the board blew straight past DDR4-4000 to achieve record setting overclocks.
Various motherboards produce various measured DIMM voltage levels at various firmware settings. Keeping the measured voltage of G.Skill’s 1.35V-rated DDR4-3866 below 1.355V gives all motherboards an equal opportunity for an overclocking prize. The Maximus IX Hero’s 1.340V DIMM setting reached just over 1.350V measured, though the motherboard reported 1.344V.
Found within the Maximus IX Hero’s External Digi+ Power Control menu, CPU Load-Line Calibration compensates for reductions of CPU core voltage under load, commonly known as “vdroop.” While the board’s Level 5 setting still allowed this CPU’s core voltage to sag below the targeted 1.30V, its Level 6 setting pushed load voltage beyond baseline voltage. Dropping the motherboard’s baseline voltage to 1.295V while retaining its Level 6 calibration setting allowed the fully loaded processor to reach 4.80 GHz at its expected thermal, voltage, and wattage readings.
The Maximus IX Hero also includes some very well devised integrated overclocking profiles, including a Gamer’s OC Profile of 4.6 to 4.8 GHz at 1.325V, with XMP enabled. The DDR-4000 profile also worked at full stability with all four DDR4-3866 DIMMs installed, but called upon excessive voltage levels of 1.50V DIMM, 1.30V VCCIO and VCCSA. Unfortunately, the 5GHz profile allowed a Prime95 crash at 1.408V, even before that extra voltage could push this CPU to its thermal threshold. Some CPUs overclock better than others.
DRAM tuning fanatics are welcome to try their hand at optimized timings through the Maximus IX Hero’s full range of latency settings.
Tuners are also welcome to choose their own power limits, thermal limits, and DRAM reference voltage settings.
Full fan control is available through firmware, including manually switching between automatic detection, PWM, and Voltage control modes.
Tools include Asus EZ Flash GUI for flashing firmware, on-board storage of up to eight firmware configuration sets (profiles), plus the ability to export these to a USB flash drive, and “H-Panel” overclocking hot key functions.
Anyone afraid of messing with the Maximus IX Hero’s advanced settings can press their keyboard’s F7 key to switch back to EZ mode. On the other hand, those who want their systems to enter EZ mode by default must find that setting within the boot settings menu of . . . Advanced mode.