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Asus Maximus IV Gene Z Motherboard Review

Martin has managed to sink his teeth into the Asus Maximus IV Gene Z a small but powerful mATX motherboard based around the Intel Z68 Express chipset

Today, I’ve got with me the Asus Maximus IV Gene Z. I’ve always been a fan of Asus motherboards, especially those with the ROG branding and currently own the bigger brother of this motherboard; The Maximus IV Extreme. I’ve wanted to have a play with Maximus IV Gene Z for a while, as I wanted to see if it was able to deliver the same type of quality as my own board, in a smaller form factor. Going into the review, I was hopeful that the Maximus IV Gene Z would impress me and boy was I right to be hopeful.

One thing I must note is that this motherboard was open box, for a lack of a better term, it came as you’d expect an OEM product, so sadly I don’t have the I/O plate or any of the accessories, which isn’t too much of a problem as it allows me to strictly talk about the motherboard.

As I mentioned earlier, I have the bigger brother of this board, and from the initial impression I got of the Gene Z, was that it looked like a shortened version of the Extreme, it had the same type of heat sink design around the CPU socket (Which a few variations, not quite as extensive and with a slightly different colour scheme), the same RAM DIMM’s, however used a drastically different South Bridge heat sink. I actually preferred the Gene Z’s south bridge design personally.

One noticeable point of interest on the Gene Z was the inclusion of the SupremeFX X-Fi 2; this is one feature that the Asus Maximus IV Extreme never had, so I was quite surprised by that. While I’m aware that it’s not a full fat chip such as the one on the Gigabyte Assassin G1 Z68, it’s still a very welcome addition.

Another noticeable impressive design feature on the Maximus IV Gene Z was that the USB 3.0 header was in a much more suitable position than the Extreme, being quite close to the SATA headers, with made for much easier cable management whereas the IV Extreme had the header close to the I/O connectors.

Looking around the board, I can see 5 fan headers, which is very impressive on an MATX board as you tend to find that they only have around 3, and with cases expanding the way they are, such as the Fractal Arc Midi, you’d be able to fill it with fans ran from the Maximus IV Gene Z’s fan headers, as opposed using splitters etc.

Looking at the I/O connectors, it reminds me of the Maximus IV Extreme. It has the following connectors;

Rear I/O Connectors.

Rear I/O Connectors.

1x PS/2 Connector (For keyboard or mouse).
7x USB 2.0 Inputs.
1 x ROG Connector input.
1 x Clear CMOS button.
2 x ESATA Connectors.
2 x USB 3.0 Inputs.
1 x Gigabit LAN port.
1 x Optical out.
1x HDMI out.
5 x Audio Outputs.
1 x Microphone in.

As you can see, it’s quite an extensive I/O, with lots of connectivity.

Going around the board, for power the Maximus IV Gene Z has an 8 pin, with a 4 pin cover (Which would be fine to run the board with CPU as long as there’s enough wattage being supplied on the rail with the 4 pin) However if you were going for beefier overclocks, you’d likely need to use an 8 pin to supply the power to the CPU.

Continuing around the board, you’ve got your 24 pin, followed by 6 SATA ports, with 2 of these (The red ones) being SATA III from the Intel chipset, and the other 4 grey ones being SATA II, again from the chipset, this is plenty and you get the feeling that they were running out of real estate on the PCB with the lack of 2 Marvel SATA III ports.

Lastly, the board has 2 USB 2.0 connectors to support up to 4 USB 2.0 inputs, be that from a case front panel, or from an expansion card, along with the Fpanel connectors, such as power, the HDD LED, the power LED and the microphone and headphone in.

Moving on to none standard affairs, the Maximus IV Gene Z, like other ROG boards sports a “Mem OK” button, along with points of voltage readouts for when you’re going for that extreme overclocking under liquid nitrogen etc. Like the IV Extreme, the Gene Z also has an LED which displays numbers and or letters to display during post as diagnostics for any problems. If working fine, the LED display will show AA. Lastly, we have the start and reset buttons on the board itself, which are handy if you’re running the board on a test bench, which is what many enthusiasts would do during extreme overclocking.

Moving onto the PCI-E lanes, the first thing I’ll say, is that in this sample of the Asus Maximus IV Gene Z, it wasn’t a gen 3, thus it wasn’t running the same switches that you’d see on the gen 3 boards, which is applicable if you’re running PCI-E 3.0 cards in Crossfire/SLI.

On the board, we’ve got a simple 2 PCI-E 2.0 slots 16x, along with an open ended PCI-E 2.0 4x slot. With this board you’d be able to run SLI or Crossfire perfectly fine, however the cards would be sandwiched together, or alternatively you’re able to run a single card and a PCI-E sound card perfectly fine.

There is one potential problem with the board’s size and features. Due to how jam-packed the board is in the MATX factor, the first PCI-E lane is rather close to the CPU socket, so if you’re using a CPU cooler that has larger than average fan clips, you may see that the fan clips interfere with the GPU in the first PCI-E lane, which is a problem I encountered when running a DC II 6950 along with an Alpenfoen Himalaya.

Using the board was simple, it was pretty much straight forward in installation, the board was nice and sturdy, a nice build quality to it, it looked stylish with a fair bit of weight to it due to the heat sinks, you could see the quality of the DIGI VRM’s.

Booting up the board, the first thing I did was to go into the BIOS, to my pleasure the BIOS was laid out exactly as the BIOS on my Maximus IV Extreme, with pretty much the same amount of options, along with some features for the IGP on the 2500k that I was using.

When it came to overclocking, I was comparing the board to my Maximus IV Extreme, I was immensely impressed with the Gene Z, it was able to take the 2500k into Windows at 5GHZ, running 1.35v, which was the same as what my Maximus IV Extreme was capable of, unfortunately, it wasn’t stable, neither was my Maximus IV Extreme, so it wasn’t a limitation of the board.

Going into stable clocking, I was aiming for around 4.8GHZ without going too far, I settled upon 4.8GHZ at 1.4v using the LLC options at 75%. While stressing with Prime 95, I did notice one with that was different than my Maximus IV Extreme, and that was that the load voltage seemed more stable, perhaps that was just a limitation of the software in reflecting the voltage fluctuation, I couldn’t say.

After running Prime for 10 hours, I was pretty happy to accept the 2500k as stable running under the Gene Z at 4.8GHZ. This was a very impressive result I felt, the board remained completely stable throughout and never toppled at all.

The day afterwards I chucked the 2500K under my Maximus IV Extreme, with my watercooling, I was surprised that I wasn’t able to get 4.8GHZ stable at less volts used in the Maximus IV Gene Z, and to get the 2500k to run for 10 hours in Prime, I had to have the same settings in my Extreme, this is a major positive for the Gene Z as it’s like half the price of the IV Extreme, and I feel that it has the same overall overclocking and usability feel to it.

From my view, the Maximus IV Gene Z is a tremendously good board, they’re available for around half the price as the IV Extreme as I’ve stated, and if you’re only after an MATX board and an E-ATX or ATX board would be wasted on you, then you seriously couldn’t do any better than the Gene Z.

If I was building an MATX board, I’d have no hesitation in creating the build around a Gene Z, with a nice 79XX GPU and a sound card, it would make for a very beastly, but smaller form factor PC. Overall, I’m very impressed with this board, and it’s hard not to be.