3 years ago, I bought an ASUS motherboard for my then new i7 6700k. A bug in the motherboard's BIOS resulted in damage of my CPU and RAM, which were automatically set to the wrong voltage, which led me to writing my original article against ASUS spending all their effort on gaming trash and not enough on things that actually matter.
Fast forward to a few days ago, and I found myself looking for a mATX motherboard that could take my shiny new i9 9900k. The only high end option, as of November 2018, is the ASUS Maximus XI Gene, at a whopping 350 euros.
Very reulctantly, I decided to give ASUS another chance. Surely after 3 years, they have improved, right?
The Maximus XI Gene comes in a pretty heavy box, with ROG, gaming and RGB printed all over it.
Usually I don't buy "gaming stuff", but I had no other choice.
Inside, we find the motherboard and its accessories: a wifi antenna and some cables.
And there's also this very interesting thing that allows you to plug in a third M.2 SSD by sacrificing the third RAM slot (yes, it only has 3). I've never seen anything like this, pretty neat.
Under the motherboard we have a sheet of cringy ROG stickers. Seriously, who ruins their case with these?
We also have what seems to be a ROG coaster? I don't know, it's a piece of poorly cut out cardboard with a QR code on it that I didn't bother to scan.
And last but not least, a decent manual, driver disc and warranty card.
I was very happy while assemblying the machine, the board feels like good quality, lots of metal, heatsink for M.2 drives, lots of VRMs.
The hinge on the CPU socket is somewhat hard to close, and also creaks a bit, which had me worried at first that I was bending all the pins, but it was fine.
The board fits nicely into my now 5 years old Corsair 350D case, and it has the IO shield built-in, which is a very nice touch, I always cut myself with them.
The only bad thing here is that I had to look at the manual to connect the the case buttons and LEDs, since they put the connector on the side instead of the top, making the text on the board unreadable.
As I turn on the machine, I'm greeted with an extremely loud cacophony of fans spinning at 100%. Pretty normal for a first boot, except they don't slow down. A bad omen of what I'm about to discover.
Having learnt from my previous experience with ASUS, I enter the BIOS settings and make sure that this time the memory voltage is correct, and it is, well done ASUS.
Surprisingly, the BIOS doesn't have much of a _xXGamerBoy2004Xx_ aesthetic, however, the back of the motherboard is full of RGB lights that make it look like a christmas tree, and you can't turn them off without installing proprietary garbage software, but since my case is fully closed, I don't care.
What I do care about however, is that the board does not seem to support XMP! Can you believe it? The most cheap ass 40 euro motherboard that you can get on Amazon supports XMP, and I had to waste 10 minutes putting in latencies and shit like it's 1999 on a motherboard that costs almost as much as an entire computer.
The second problem I faced is that fan control is EXTREMELY limited: the CPU fan speed can only go from 60% to 100%, and the case fans can only go from 20% to 100%. Sure, there's a nice chart that you can edit, but there's a hard limit on how low you can go.
This is an absolute dealbreaker for me. I have 7 fans in my case, even at the lowest settings allowed by the motherboard, it is well above 50-55db of noise, and at full load it's almost 70db. This is unacceptable, it sounds like a fucking plane taking off. It sounds like there's a vacuum cleaner in the front of the computer and a leafblower in the back. It woke up my cat when this thing turned on it's so fucking loud!
I need to point out how this is NOT some kind of safety precaution: even if you remove all your fans, your system will not die, modern CPUs can thermal throttle, they simply slow down to prevent damage. This is also what allows manufacturers to put i9 CPUs in ultra slim laptops.
At this point, I had seen enough. No way I can use this thing.
Note that these problems refer to the BIOS version that's current as of 2018-11-30 (version 0602) and future updates may fix this, especially if they read this.
A few good things caught my attention.
If you're an overclocker, you might like this board, it really has loads and loads of settings for both CPU and RAM overclocking, and the high VRM count will definitely improve stability. It also suggests overclocking settings, which is cool, and it even has built-in profiles made by famous overclockers.
With that being said, this is a mATX motherboard, so it kinda defeats the purpose because you won't be able to fit a big enough cooler in your case to do any extreme overclocking.
The BIOS also has a very nice tool that creates the fan profile for you, depeinding on your cooler (it gives it a score) and how noisy you want your computer to be (albeit, on a scale from very noisy to unbearably noisy). I would definitely like to see this on other motherboards as well.
I sent the motherboard back to Amazon and used the money to buy a new case and an MSI motherboard that costs about the same and has proper fan controls in the BIOS.
ASUS, please, if you're reading this, your BIOS sucks and desperately needs XMP and better fan controls. Whoever is in charge of it doesn't know what he's doing and needs to be flogged.
Thank you. See you in another 3 years.