The Hero has been present in the Maximus range for several generations now. It represents the most affordable of these models, but still promises a powerful base on which to build a striking and highly-capable system. Of course with the Z270 chipset and Kaby Lake entering the fray, the bar needs to be raised again. As such we expect to see a bit of an evolution here; the bare minimum required to maintain a respected position. Name alone won’t win anyone over, and with that established let’s crack on.
First things first, the Maximus IX Hero looks the business. The Maximus VIII range dialled down the red ROG livery, and on first look new boards have done away with it completely. Unpowered, the Maximus IX Hero has a mean black and grey design. It’s a look adhered to by its machine-like heatsink and IO cover, and it’s a style we really like. Black, grey or silver components would carry off a simply stunning look.
It is still possible to inject some colour using Asus’ Aura RGB software, controlling the LEDs situated in the aforementioned PCH heatsink and I/O cover. It’s not a huge amount of illumination, but it’s attractive. Plus, with Aura support of future Asus case and GPU fans, more light could be added.
Everything is well spaced on the board, and as expected there were no issues during our build. A closer look at the board picks out the key enabling components, and we have a hint of potential efficiency too: An Extreme Engine Digi+ design is backed by MicroFine alloy chokes, 10K Black metallic capacitors and Texas Instruments NexFet MOSFETs. We said ‘efficiency’, and these parts should supply it.
Layout and features
The Maximus IX Hero utilises four single-clip DIMM sockets supporting a maximum 64GB up to a theoretical 4133MHz, with a MemOk! Button and Q-code display in close attendance. There are three PCIe x16 slots, with the top two reinforced by Asus SafeSlot structure. Two Gen 3 M.2 slots featured on the Maximus IX Hero, and that’s pretty standard. However, Gigabyte’s Aorus Z270X-Gaming 7 also features a U.2 slot, making provision for a triple NVMe RAID setup. Some seeking a Z270 board may prefer that feature, an it’s not present here. Internal buttons sit at the base of the board, and include Start, Reset, Safe boot, and Retry.
In spite of a lack of U.2, for overall connectivity the Maximus IX Hero is certainly not short-changing users. The board features USB 3.1 (Type A and C) connectors, including a USB 3.1 front header. There’s also a plentiful selection of back I/O ports. DisplayPort, HDMI audio and Optical S/PDIF connectors are present. So too are USB 3.1 Type-A and C connectors and an Intel I219V LAN connector. Notably, the Hero packs in two hefty stacks of USB connectors. It’s 4x 2.0 and 4x 3.0 to be exact, so it’s unlikely you’ll be short of peripheral ports! Finally, there’s an external clear CMOS button added to the Maximus IX Hero, sitting alongside the USB BIOS Flashback button previously found on the VIII.
Briefly returning to internals, audio comes by way of the latest SupremeFX Audio CODEC S1220. And for added luminosity (and synchronicity), the Maximus IX Hero has two 4-pin strip headers. For cooling there’s even more flexibility on offer: space for ROG’s ‘Water Cooling Zone’ handily offers dual water-temperature as well as flow-rate data directly in Asus Fan Xpert 4. If air is preferable on the other hand, six fan connectors include one available for an AIO pump and one water pump.
Topping off a truly deep well of features is the fact that the Maximus Hero VIII is ‘3D printing-friendly’. Whether viewed as a gimmick or desirable, the three 3D mount spaces around the board will certainly add an extra level of potential customisation – something we can applaud.
Clear, easy to use, and true to ROG colours and styling, we had no problems at all with the Hero VIII’s BIOS. We managed a modest 4.5GHz manual overclock of our 7700K, but found an even greater boost using Asus EZ Tuning Wizard. Having specified PC usage and cooling type, the board bumped the Kaby Lake processor up to 4.8GHz; upping the BCLK from 100 to 103MHz and dropping the voltage core from 1.26v to 1.18V.
We might have used Asus’ own 5GHz OC profile, but were keen to keep a check on temperatures. Needless to say though, this is a motherboard which (processor dependent) will benefit overclockers, and which can keep you well informed about performance.
- Samsung 850 Pro SSD
- 16GB Crucial Ballistix DDR4-3000 kit
- Windows 10 Home Edition
- Noctua NH-U12S
*No graphics card installed
Maximus IX Hero – Conclusion
It’s clear this is a fully featured, and striking motherboard. Yet given the capabilities offered to anyone picking it up, it’s also clear just how good it is across the board. Essentially, Asus has delivered an Z270 Maximus product that’s hard to beat. High-quality components and strong specifications match striking design and great performance – if other Maximus products perform to relatively high levels Asus can be proud.
The Maximus IX Hero will provide an excellent platform for a new Z270 system. Available for around £240 it does enough to warrant a small amount of extra expense over competitors. And, given the lighting, cooling and customisation options available, the board’s flexibility is truly impressive. It should prove to be bested by other products in the Maximus range, but at this price it deserves nothing less than our Gold Award.